May 31, 2012

Round Twelve…In which I’m all wound up.

Let me preface this post by squealing and jumping up and down.

For pick twelve in my Year of Reading at Your Mercy I got to shoot the electronic breeze with people whose words I have read and whose voices issue from the tiny speaker at the bottom of my iPhone on a weekly basis. I asked some of the writers and podcasters in my life for their book picks. And most of them actually answered!

More squealing now. Not as much jumping. It didn’t go so well last time.

A little over a month ago, in response to the fact that my challenge was drawing to an end and I still had way too many books to read and posts to write, I started contacting writers and podcasters I follow even though I hadn’t yet drawn that group for the challenge. I figured it couldn’t hurt to get a head start. Within two days, everyone who was going to respond to me had responded, and I was smiling full-time.

With needless trepidation, I asked my question to nine wonderful writers and podcasters. Six of them responded.

Mary Robinette Kowal from Writing Excuses told me I should read The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Actually, her pick came in via the mailbox at the end of our driveway back in February, during her amazingly fun postal challenge, LetterMo. I was secretly thrilled by her pick. (Shh, I thought. I was in the throes of that book back when I started this whole thing. Maybe I’ll get to finish now!)

Lani Diane Rich from StoryWonk emailed me back almost immediately. Squee! She told me to read Sunshine by Robin McKinley or The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold. Since I’ve read (and loved) Sunshine, I put The Spirit Ring in the drawing even though it wasn’t Lani’s first pick. (I already know that Bujold makes my reader heart swoon, so trust me, I didn’t cry about it.) Lani also suggested some nonfiction titles to try—Bonk by Mary Roach and Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, but since she listed those second, I put fiction on the hotseat.

John Anealio from The Functional Nerds said I should try The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire #1) by Clay and Susan Griffith. This series has been calling to me ever since, whenever I see one of its books on the shelf at the library. Grey is a word that reels me in. (More so than gray.) Plus, I imagine John Anealio singing about the skeptical man in goggles on the cover. (David K.—Robbie’s dad—if you’re reading this, I think you’d enjoy Anealio’s Christmas song, Batman Smells, A Rebuttal.)

Mur Lafferty of I Should Be Writing wanted me to read Sunshine by Robin McKinley too. Wow, that book scored two recommendations in one shot. As I mention above, I couldn’t put it in the drawing since I’ve read it, but I want to list it here since it’s a great read (vampires, cinnamon rolls & tattoos, oh my…) and since Mighty Mur and Lani Diane Rich both picked it. (I could have asked Mur for another pick, but that felt like bothering to me, so I didn’t do it.)

Lev Grossman emailed me back to ask if it would be cheating for me to tell him the last book I had read and loved. Well, since it was Lev Grossman, I found a way to justify it to myself and answered him with Lamb by Christopher Moore. He then offered up A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh, which he says is “an under-sung masterpiece of dark, social comedy.” I think you could have squeezed my heart after that and it would have turned to a handful of dazzle dust.

Keep in mind that much of this correspondence took place within half an hour of me having to leave my house for Dr. Who Wednesday with Honor. Poor Honor. She had to put up with my silly, squeaking smile and it wasn’t even related to Christopher Eccleston as usual. (By the way, we’ve just gotten to the David Tennant bits. It’s hard, you know. The switching part.)

So I suppose I should get on with it and let you know which book I ended up reading. David did the drawing for me once again, and out came The Windup Girl! I know it stinks of fixing, but look, I’m not that kind of person. (I experience way too much guilt for someone who could count on one hand the number of times she’s been to a Catholic church service.) I am, however, a lucky person. I got to correspond with some of my most beloved writers and podcasters, and I got to finish reading a book rather than starting from scratch. Trust me, I probably wouldn’t have finished the challenge in time otherwise.

Since this post is so long already, I won’t say much about The Windup Girl. I love it…although it’s one of those books that thrives on unease. It’s a dystopian novel set in a future Bangkok. The city and the world in which it tentatively stands strong are fearful and paranoid, on the reel back from a near-past environmental collapse. The title character, Emiko, is a New Person (a Windup), a genetically modified woman produced for a life of genteel service. She has been abandoned by her original owner and is stranded among a people hostile to her kind, her only option to take work as an indentured novelty sex object at a night club.

The world of The Windup Girl feels heartless and hopeless, yet so many of it’s characters have aching hearts and are driven by some kind of hope. The book sits you smack up close to a slew of complex people you’re never sure about but whom you root for, for the most part, as if they’re friends. These people and this world are so complexly real, I sometimes wonder if Paolo Bacigalupi is a visitor from the future. Yet I hope the future goes another way. I think I’d rather live on Deep Space Nine than in The Kingdom in this book.

Strangely, though, both futures include an ex-pat bar owner with dubious morals. (What future doesn’t?) But I doubt Quark will ever face the same fate as Bacigalupi’s Raleigh. I hope not anyway. I like Quark.

SunshineThe Spirit RingThe Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, #1)A Handful of Dust

I checked out The Windup Girl from the Knox County Public Library. I also recommend Ship Breaker, Bacigalupi’s YA novel, which I asked my book club to read last year. It’s set in the same kind of world as The Windup Girl, but it turns out more outwardly hopeful.