I'm starting to think I need a good reading icon. Since starting to read at lunchtime, I've really started going through books. This is a good thing, considering my reading list is gargantuan.
Slant by Greg Bear: After being enthralled by Blood Music, I thought I'd give another one of Bear's books a try. Sadly, it just didn't live up to the insane awesomeness that Blood Music was able to convey. Maybe I'm spoiled now. Anyway, it takes place in the future, where nanotechnology has Made Things Great, and any sort of mental imbalance is cured through the use of medical monitors implanted in people (also known as getting therapied). Now, though, people are starting to have mental breakdowns, which is where the story actually starts to pick up--about halfway through the novel.
I think the problem with Slant is that it's too big. Blood Music was a short book, based on a short story, so things moved fast and furious. Slant, on the other hand, seems to be crushed under its own weight. There are about five character threads being followed, with little relationship between each other until well into the book. The result, for me anyway, was that I had to keep flipping back to remind myself of who the characters are every time the perspective changes. It made reading rather difficult. I also found the amount of sex in the book off-putting. It felt like it was going on every ten pages, to the point where I felt like saying "Not now, I have a headache." to the book. It cleared up once the story really got rolling, but until then it felt like it was filler that, with a couple exceptions, had no real bearing on the book itself. The climax and conclusions felt rather lackluster, where it seemed it could've gone so much further, but didn't. Everything just sorta flopped into place at the end. From what I can tell, it's the middle book in a trilogy. In retrospect, it makes sense, as it seemed there were a couple plots that seemed they could've gone further. Still, if so, it probably was suffering a bit from Middle Child Syndrome.
In its favor, though, it showcased more of Bear's ability to think wild things, and featured some incredible ideas that made me go "ooh", much like the intelligent microbes of Blood Music. In general, though, and not having read the other two books in the apparent trilogy (which are on my reading list, at least), I get the feeling there are better Bear books out there than Slant.
Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison: I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into when I picked up this book. As the novel that spawned everyone's favorite movie about conspiratorial cannibalism, Soylent Green, it definitely wasn't going to be winning any awards for cheerfulness. Despite having been written in 1966, and having gotten past the book's setting of 1999, it still remains eerily plausible. It features a future where man has gotten too big for the Earth, has overpopulated too much, and so the Earth itself has collapsed under the strain. Famine and overcrowding run rampant, resources are scarce, and life, in a rather blunt understatement, sucks. It follows Andy Rusch, police detective, as he investigates a murder, and the events that transpire because of it, all while trying to survive in an overcrowded New York City.
The book definitely shines at establishing setting. More than once in the book I felt the need to take a shower just to wash off the imaginary grime I was feeling as I read about the squalid conditions 99% of the population is living in. When Andy visits the apartment of the murder victim, an upper class citizen, I was feeling his relief as he was exposed to air conditioning, a rare luxury, and especially welcome during an August heat wave. Despite Andy's mean temperedness, I found myself liking him much of the time. He seemed to be a good guy in a world gone bad, him and his roommate, Sol, an old relic from a world long lost, and the voice of reason in the book.
If you want a cheerful book, don't read it. The happy moments are few and far between, and last much too short before the next difficulty comes along for the characters. The world the characters is slowly dying, and the chilling part is that it could still become our world, if we don't take care of it. If you're feeling the need for a reminder to be thankful for what you have, read it. Seeing as I do most of my reading at lunch, I found myself feeling suddenly very grateful for my delicious soup and central heating. Things could always be a lot, lot worse.
...I just realized I wrote two book reviews. Go me, I guess?
Either way, after reading two rather depressing books, I think I need a change to something lighter. But keeping in my current theme of armageddon, I've started reading Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It's already making me chuckle out loud, despite the fact that I just started it, which is, well, a good omen. ^_^