The Core Dump

The Core Dump is the personal blog of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American pixel-pusher living in Phoenix, Arizona.

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[By Nic Lindh on Sunday, 16 July 2017]

Book roundup, part 23

Includes a mea culpa, Hillbilly Elegy, Gulp, The Stars are Legion, and The Kill Society.

Mea Culpa: Geting this book roundup written has taken way too long. I’ve read a lot of books since the last installment, but haven’t had the discipline to jot down my notes, so these are only a few of the books that have scrolled across my Kindle.

Most of my energies have gone toward my Swedish-language podcast about America. Turns out blogging and podcasting scratch the same itch, but podcasting is way more labor-intensive. And fun! Podcasting is a lot of fun!

I believe this is what’s called foreshadowing.

Nevertheless, I have scolded myself appropriately, and will take better notes going forward.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance ★★★★☆

A beautifully written memoir of growing up in a dysfunctional family of, not to put to fine a point on it, white trash, Hillbilly Elegy does a great job of showing the human cost of an honor culture out of touch with modern society.

Hillbilly Elegy is honest and raw, drenched in existential despair and hopelessness.

Gulp: Adventures in the Alimentary Canal ★★★★☆

Mary Roach has made her writing career by being utterly non-squeamish and having a breezy and approachable writing style. In Gulp, she manages to make your digestive tract both very interesting and not all that gross.

She also found a very plausible theory for the myths about dragons you’ll have to read the book to learn.

But above all, Gulp really brings home how our digestive tracts really are us:

The great irony is that in the beginning, the gut was all there was. “We’re basically a highly evolved earthworm surrounding the intestinal tract,” Khoruts commented as we drove away from his clinic the last day I was there. Eventually, the food processor had to have a brain attached to help it look for food, and limbs to reach that food. That increased its size, so it needed a circulatory system to distribute the fuel that powered the limbs. And so on. Even now, the digestive tract has its own immune system and its own primitive brain, the so-called enteric nervous system. I recalled what Ton van Vliet had said at one point in our conversation: “People are surprised to learn: They are a big pipe with a little bit around it.”

Fiction

The Stars are Legion, by Kameron Hurley ★★★★☆

The Stars are Legion turns space opera on its head by instead of imagining vast metallic space ships, it’s squishy and nightmarish, with generation ships designed as organic worlds. Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

The Stars are Legion takes place ages after the generation ships’ creation, long after most knowledge of how they function has been lost into myth. Hurley thrusts the reader straight into the action and does a fantastic job of letting the world building unfold organically—as it were—and there are times when you go, “Oh, of course that’s why things are this particular way!”

Like Hurley’s previous works, The Belle Dame Apocrypha and World Breaker, Legion is populated by strong women with agency. As a matter of fact, only women, which is one of those details that makes a lot of sense later on in the book.

It’s an engrossing take on space opera, but suffers a bit from a draggy middle where a trek flounders much too long and, as is par for the course for Hurley, you have to be in the mood for terrible, self-centered characters.

If you enjoy gritty novels or space opera, The Stars are Legion belongs in your reading list.

The Kill Society, by Richard Kadrey ★★☆☆☆

I am a huge fan of the Sandman Slim series—it’s one of the freshest, most irreverent gothic-slash-noir-slash-tattoos-everywhere series out there, but unfortunately this ninth installment just didn’t do it for me.

It feels like Kadrey is struggling with where to take our beloved Sandman next and The Kill Society kind of flounders around, searching. But—spoiler horn—there is a bit of a reset at the end, so the next installment could be great. Fingers crossed.

Note: The links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback, which motivates me to keep writing these reviews. It’s appreciated.

You have thoughts? I’m @niclindh on Twitter and I want to know what you think.


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