I wasn’t sure if I’d manage to keep this blog going for one year, let alone two; I lost track of the first anniversary since I was neck-deep in work, so I knew I wasn’t going to miss this one.
After college, I found myself with not as much to do and more free time on my hands, comparatively speaking, and after a while got to thinking about all the books I’d collected while in school under the pretense that I’d read them eventually. Well, now’s eventually, I have the time, let’s read! And read I did. I have several shelves full of books that I’d purchased with no immediate plans of reading: old science fiction and fantasy yarns from second-hand bookstores, a book-box full of Hard Case Crimes, several milk crates of assorted hardbacks and used paperbacks, and a shelf full of pulp reprints and graphic novels.
I’ve always been interested in science fiction, and to a (much) lesser extent, fantasy and horror. I also have a knack of walking into a town, finding its used bookstore, and walking out with an armload of books. Each summer, we’d go vacationing by this place with an amazing choice of SF hardcovers; right by the university, there was a fantastic bookstore that opened about a year before I left. I grew up reading dad’s secondhand thrillers, but became more interested in crime/mystery after finding Hard Case Crime; I remember seeing them making the rounds after Stephan King wrote The Colorado Kid, and when I actually bumped into some of them at a bargain bookstore, I couldn’t refuse those gorgeous covers. Since then, I’ve bought all but a dozen or so of the original run, and have tried to track those down as well as expand my horizons with other publishers.
After a while, I started to think about collecting my thoughts in the form of book reviews, after reading several god-awful books that really deserved savaging (and a few excellent ones in need of praise). This was around the time I was re-reading Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld novels, along with Frederik Pohl’s Jem, some of my earlier reviews. The ones I never got around to were China Mieville’s Kraken, which I apparently enjoyed more than the reviewers on Amazon or Goodreads; John le Carre’s The Tailor of Panama, which was brilliant; and Roger Zelazny’s The Dream Master, which like Philip Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, involved a lot of fascinating concepts meandering around an insubstantial (to the point of being nonexistent) plot.
I’d already done some reviews on my other blog for some paperback reprints, but decided I should make a new home for the reviews rather than create some unholy abomination between them. Focusing exclusively on fiction and book reviews on the new site, whereas leaving my old one centered around gaming and tech. I’m trying not to be as formulaic, but I noticed a long time ago that my reviews fall into the same structure that served me well with formal school essays. I also try to write a bit more professional and formal than on Logic: for example, I remember my high-school writing textbook had this great tidbit saying to be sparing when using obscenity, because profanity has more of an impact “if it’s the only one in the fucking book.” (How they slipped that one past the school board I’ll never know.)
I had several inspirations. The AV Club’s Box of Paperback Book Club got me started with the idea of just picking up an eBay lot and reviewing everything in it; for blogs, I liked the kitchen-sink approach to genres and styles read by Vintage Pop Fictions, along with the more hardboiled-focused (and since abandoned?) Vintage Hardboiled Reads and Pulp Serenade. Science Fiction Ruminations was a WordPress spotlight blog shortly after I started posting. The rest of the blogroll came with time; searching out more info about a book found many a cool blog. Rich Horton’s magazine retro-reviews over at Black Gate has since inspired me to read all those SF magazines I’d been accruing, for example.
Looking back, it’s been a long two years. I remember quite a number of the books I read, and thankfully have reviews to fall back on for the books I don’t. Has it been worth it? For the most part, yes; I’ve read more books that I’ve liked, though a small few were some of the most godawful boring or annoying pieces of fiction I’ve ever laid eyes on. The best reads were ones that have been lost to the mists of time; they stick out in my mind if only because so few other people have reviewed them online. Greener Than You Think and The Long Loud Silence stand out there as lacking popularity (and therefore reviews), nor have I seen many for reviews of E. Howard Hunt, Milton K. Ozaki, or George Harmon Coxe, the latter two authors having several works in my to-read pile I bought simply because they had cool covers.
I own more books than I can read in one year, so I won’t be thrifty when reading during the next one. I have a ton of ’50s SF books I picked up on eBay earlier this year waiting to be read, a veritable swath of the crime-mystery field from Prologue Books’ June ebook sale, and a number of “new” editions of old favorites. I have graphic novel reviews laying around that I don’t know what to do with—post, eventually, I guess—on top of some queued magazine reviews. I’ve got more Jack Vance I want to get to, and some Henry Kuttner, both SF and mysteries; William Tenn collections by the armful; a Library of America set of David Goodis crime novels; Dan Marlowe, Gil Brewer, Charles Williams, and Wade Miller. I have a number of Erskine Caldwell novels for some reason, and several dozen old manuscripts downloaded from Project Gutenberg.
So with luck, something for everyone, free, and let none be forgotten.