Jo Walton is one of my favorite novelists; books like Among Others (which justly swept the field's awards in 2011) and the Farthing/Ha'penny/Half a Crown novels show incredible insight into people, a deft hand at explaining the struggle to do good in bad situations, and the ability to spin out moving, heart-rending conundra that make you ache for all concerned. (Not only that, but she's got a book due in May that is radioactively good, a book that kept me up all night weeping and laughing by turns, and that has sunk a barb in my heart ever since).
But she's also a spectacular literary critic. Her regular column on Tor.com, through which she re-reads her favorite books and explains what makes them work, is required reading for anyone seeking to understand how books do their magic trick. And now those columns have been collected into a single volume, called
What Makes This Book So Great.
Through dozens and dozens of essays, Walton introduces a spectacularly broad range of material, including material that is badly flawed, and finds in each book the kernel of artifice and art that makes it work. From Heinlein's Friday (The Worst Book I Love) and Pournelle's Janissaries (which Walton identifies as a cure for bad cramps) to forgotten gems like The Mindwarpers and classics like Dhalgren.
Walton's critical gift is her ability to help you love your favorites even more, and to be fascinating, at length, on books you don't give a damn about. This is a remarkable guided tour through the field -- a kind of nonfiction companion to Among Others. It's very good. It's great.
What Makes This Book So Great
Old-school bOING bOING editor Jon Lebkowsky invites everyone to Cyberpunk2017, the Annual EFF/EFF-Austin SXSW Afterparty in Austin, Texas, Saturday, March 11, 2017, from 5pm to 1am! It’s free! Jon writes: Our latest EFF/EFF-Austin event takes a cyberpunk perspective on 2017, exploring how our vision of the future has changed over the last forty years of […]
The fully-funded Macchina project on Kickstarter is an Arduino-based, “open, versatile” gadget that bypasses the DRM in your car’s network, allowing you to configure it to work the way you want it to, so you can customize your car in all kinds of cool ways.
I’m touring 20 US cities (plus dates in Canada and the UK!) with my forthcoming novel Walkaway; the full tour hasn’t been announced yet, but I’m delighted to reveal that the NYC stop on May 3 will be at the New York Public Library, where my interlocutor will be the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Tickets are […]
DJI is the world’s leading designer and producer of easy-to-fly drones and aerial photography systems. If you’re a drone enthusiast, you want a DJI. If you know absolutely nothing about drones and think they’re weird, if you win a DJI you’re going to become a drone enthusiast.Enter this giveaway (for free, yes) and you’ll get a […]
Although there will never be a consensus about the best way to make coffee, any coffee connoisseur will agree that controlling the grind of your beans and balancing water temperature are the keys to a tasty cup. Since your plastic coffee pot doesn’t really allow for that kind of customization, going back to the French […]