- The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. One of the most upsetting books I've read in a while. Written in the early 70s, a lot of the content seems pretty familiar. Brunner paints a picture of the world in environmental crisis, with the US at the forefront of the destruction, thanks to its economic position and a government that's spending more time and money on a foreign war than the devastation and collapse at home. Some things, Brunner gets right - we're living them now. Predictions that seem wrong - from my incredibly privileged position as a well-off white Canadian male, I think racism and sexism are less severe today than he paints them to be in the book. Brunner severely underestimates the forces of globalization - not only are the US and Canada still polluting like mad, the various large, populous "developing" nations like China are rapidly mobilizing themselves so that they'll be able to enjoy the same ecocidal standard of living we enjoy here. The scariest part, for me, is that the characters in the book are trying to make things better, trying to be "good consumers", buying organic foods, less toxic cars, etc. The sorts of things I try to do, and see my friends try to do. And it doesn't help. Nowhere near enough. The only solution for "how to improve things" presented on the book is pretty grim, though I suspect that it will not be enough. This book was unsettling before Katrina levelled NOLA and turned it into a toxic lake. Now? I can't help but read it as "You may already be this fucked."
- Grave Peril by Jim Butcher. A much lighter read, thank the gods. Butcher proves yet again that he can write better Anita Blake books than LKH can (which is to say, he's writing books about characters, with plot in them, and not just arguably hot sex). I caught a couple continuity errors early in the book - I've forgotten one, but the other really bugged me, for obvious reasons - if a girl is wearing combat boots, an observer will not be able to see the tattoo on her ankle. I worry slightly that Harry Dresden is going to start "levelling up" as I move through the series the way Anita Blake did, but this is book three, and the power creep has been pretty calm so far, and Dresden seems to be making his savings throw vs. Gary Stu-ism.
Next up, another Charlie Stross, then some serious thinking about Punk.