I’ve read a lot of Adam Rothstein’s non-fiction work. This is is his first novel. It’s an alternate history thriller of a (more) technocratic twentieth century United States. The thematic trappings of the setting—bureaucracy, the occult, infrastructure, futurism—are right up my alley, but sometimes the descriptive flavoring derailed the forward momentum of the plot for me. I’d like to see more if these first novel kinks were to get sorted out.
I came across this book through Jason Kottke and thought it seemed interesting. I’ve been having a lot of hip flexor problems with my marathon training, so I was interested in the content itself, but I was also interested in the publishing phenomenon. I haven’t actually started the stretching program (although I still plan to), but the book as a published object definitely didn’t disappoint. The first third or so outlines the mechanics of the stretching program and actually does so in a really thoughtful and clearly presented way, but the final two thirds were the memorable part. The book ends with a fictional parable the length of a short novella about aging, keeping up appearances at the workplace, and other middle aged and middle class concerns meant to frame the shameful consequences of not being mindful about health and wellness. It is exceedingly difficult to imagine an American fitness book including the same content.
This is a relatively recent debut novel, but Ide’s second novel featuring this detective had already just come out in hardcover when I finally got around to reading it. Every library I’ve been in recently has been featuring the new book heavily in its recent fiction section, and I understand why. This is light fare, but very well-executed light fare: very readable, pretty decent verisimilitude in its L.A. setting, and a relatively unusual origin story for the detective protagonist. I expect I’ll continue reading the series as it develops.
This is the second novel in a series of historical detective novels set in the late nineteenth century. I haven’t read the first, but intend to go back to do so now. The bulk of the action is set in Bulgaria during the Russo-Turkish War, and the plot follows the hunt to identify a Turkish agent within the Russian camps. In the context of this kind of historical espionage fare, there is some formal ambition to presentation. The protagonist is not actually the detective who is central to the series, but a young progressive woman who has followed her fiancé in an modern, egalitarian betrothal from St. Petersburg to the frontlines where he has volunteered to be a cryptographer. The reader follows the efforts of the detective character, Erast Fandorin, through her eventual engagement as his assistant. Each chapter begins with fictional excerpted news reports and essays from newspapers around Europe. This device provides some continental context for events of the plot, but also insight into the characters as many of the clippings are written by journalist characters embedded in the Russian camp. This is genre fiction, but very high quality genre fiction. I intend to read the rest of them.
I ordered this immediately when I saw it reviewed by Rebecca Shuman, confident that the author’s experience as an American raising a young child in Berlin would make it a pleasant nostaliga read if nothing else. It was definitely that. Anecdotes about navigating the city’s child welfare bureaucracy in German or being admonished by random old ladies for not dressing a child warmly enough hit close to home. Descriptions of particularly spectacular playgrounds were immediately familiar. The book is not simply a memoir, however, but a critique of overanxious and overbearing American parenting in the context of the post-authoritarian late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century transformation in German childcare. The critique is interesting and helps to articulate some of the general sense of difference I witness between our approach and that of other parents in the States. Some of that difference must simply come down to personality, but I think there is also an element of our having first learned to be parents in this German context. At this non-personal level, I think the book would be interested to anyone interested in reading about child development; it’s a good blend of light personal anecdote and synthesis of expert opinion and research.
This was a perfectly readable light satire of contemporary Silicon Valley culture. There is a primary narrative thread in an omniscient narrator’s voice supplemented by a variety of other kinds of texts and narrative perspectives. The primary thread is generally engaging and some of the formal experiments are entertaining and effective, but not all of them are and collectively they make me feel like this long book does not really earn its length. The story about the acquisition a struggling social network company by a rising Silicon Valley behemoth and the gradual revelation to them of a super AI could have been a tight, fun pageturner in slightly less ambitious packaging.