Thirty-six works completed for the year, by my current math. If I don’t completely flub my holiday time, I’ll notch forty this annum.
- Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, Peter Pomerantsev
- Survival of the Richest, Douglas Rushkoff
- Boomerang, Michael Lewis
Nothing is True… is an exploration of Russian life and culture circa 2014. Told in a series of colorful vignettes from Pomerantsev’s time in country as a television producer. I was just struck by the hollowness and emptiness of life in The Federation.
The bookstore and book jacket hook for Survival of the Richest is survivalist billionaires but the real insight is The Mindset, which would have been a better title. Unlike other Rushkoff books, this one has no prescriptions but the naming of the all-consuming capitalist, techno solutionism mentality will have to suffice.
Boomerang was an entertaining financial triptych across parts of the world, but ultimately fizzled for me. Winding things up with miserable municipal proceedings in Vallejo, CA just doesn’t feel commensurate with the financial destruction on offer. Definitely deserves an updated, post-pandemic second edition. It is however, quite funny in spots.
- Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer
- This is Not Propaganda, Peter Pomerantsev
- Quit Annie Duke
- The Haunting of Tram Car 015, P. Djeli Clark
- Black Kiss II, Black Kiss 2: XXXmas in July Special, Howard Chaykin
Annihilation received a Hollywood treatment featuring Natalie Portman, a movie which I actually enjoyed and saw before picking up the book. The novel was quite different and challenging. Mostly inner monologue and retrospection, I feel like it was great and one of the best books I’ve read this year, but it’s hard to say why.
I’ve enjoyed all of Annie Duke’s works on thinking about decision making. Quit also revealed a bit of her backstory on why she was forced to abandon her doctoral work. Best lesson I took away from Quit is that (to paraphrase) good quitting, and there is such a thing as good quitting, typically feels like something was left on the table.
Pomerantsev followed up Nothing is True and Everything is Possible with a deep dive into global schemes to weaponize misinformation and manipulative information, particularly in the political sphere. To my mind, This is Not Propaganda is a bit shallower than Nothing is True… but maybe that’s only because I’m more informed about this topic from the tech social media sphere.
…Tram Car 015…, a novella, is a nicely done supernatural mystery, set in an alternative Middle East history and with a feminist twist. Looking forward to reading more from this author.
The original Black Kiss was amazingly explicit, profane, and intelligently adult for its time, especially to an impressionable teen of the era like me. Many decades later, same goes for the Black Kiss II and the …XXXmas in July Special. The former requires careful rereading while the latter is a quite enjoyable, well crafted revenge tale.
Makeshift is a short story collection by a number of accomplished speculative fiction writers with a theme of post-pandemic visions. All are worth reading, many are quite good. A Necessary Being by Indrapramit Das really stuck with me. More climate change fiction than post-pandemic, the character and relationship development is amazing.
Had to go back and read the original Black Kiss which still holds up quite well. As is usual with a Chaykin work, once you’re finished you want to go back and reread the early issues to realign your understanding and rediscover things overlooked. Gets a little rushed at the end as too many threads need to be tied off, but definitely a visually distinctive, filthy, and fun ride.
What can one say about Jorge Luis Borges other than profound admiration for the way he can mix the fantastic and the philosophical? Of a different time, yet all times, each story will engage your focus, surprise you, and ultimately challenge how you think.