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
The first time Merle Rasmussen played Dungeons & Dragons, he thought it was a Halloween game.
“It was October 1975, and I was an 18-year-old freshman at Iowa State University. My roommate got this game filled with skeletons and undead monsters. I had no idea.” The role-playing bug had bitten him, but fantasy wasn’t his genre. So that same year, he started writing a game set in a modern world, the spy game that would become Top Secret.
Janelle Shane trained a recurrent neural network with a data-set of more than 2000 ancient proverbs and asked it to think up its own: “A fox smells it better than a fool’s for a day.”
Jeff writes, “7 years after ‘grassroots mapping’ the BP spill when journalists were denied access, the open source community Public Lab is back with an even more accessible Do-It-Yourself way to take aerial photos: the Mini Balloon and Kite Mapping Kits.”
Although flagship smartphones are unlikely to adopt heavy-duty outer casing anytime soon, you can always prepare your device for the outdoors with a beefy case and and an external battery like this Nomad Tile Trackable PowerPack, available in the Boing Boing Store for $119.95.The Nomad Tile can fully recharge an iPhone 7 over three times […]
Even though credit cards now feature an EMV chip for securing transactions, they still have to include the magnetic strip for compatibility with older point of sale systems. Because of this, there’s no way for the chip’s new security capabilities to protect against card skimmers in the wild.How do you protect yourself from legacy-technology-induced fraud? […]
As the old saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for 30 minutes every day. Unless you are too busy, in which case you should meditate for an hour.” Since most of us have an endless list of things to do and people to see, carving out quiet time can feel impossible, especially when most […]