So I finally finished City of Thieves by David Benioff, and I think that I have to agree with my friend Abby’s assessment. The humor promised on the cover “is of the darkest black coffee variety!” Lev and Kolya live in WWII Leningrad, and are sent on a suicide mission as punishment for looting and deserting (respectively) – they are sent to find a dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter, for a wedding cake. As the two young men pursue this Herculean task, Koyla acts as an unlikely catalyst for Lev’s coming of age. The story is part tragedy and part dark comedy. It was very well written and I enjoyed it, especially for the glimpse into a part of WWII that I, as the grandchild of European immigrants, never hear about. I would only suggest it if you have a high tolerance for the sort of vulgarity common in high-school boys, however.
I also read WWW:Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer, at the recommendation of Sarah Z. It’s about a blind girl, who receives a miraculous implant that allows her to see the internet, and allows her the ability to discern something lurking in its background. This is tied together with two other stories, one about China cutting off its connection to the outside world in order to hide a terrible slaughter and another about an ape who knows sign language and begins to gain greater consciousness. It is the first of a trilogy, so I am sure that some of the loose ends will be tied in together in the future books. This was a very informative book, Sawyer ties a lot of information into his story, telling us about theories of consciousness as smoothly as he inserts history of cultural icons like Google. I thought his portrayal of a fifteen-year-old girl was a little unbelievable, trying a little too hard to catch the right tones with her mantra to herself about being “made of awesome” and her Livejournal entries. I also thought that it Sarah’s assessment of “a little Helen Keller heavy” was accurate, but I really enjoyed the different story lines and the easy flow of the writing. It reminded me a little of Michael Crichton’s writing (yes, I read Jurassic Park and Timeline, Next and Andromeda Strain, back in the day) with the multiple storylines that may or may not intersect, but are telling similar stories, each in their own way. I have decided that I am at least curious about the next in this trilogy.
Other than that, I have (rather guiltily) continued reading The Dark Tower books, and am solidly in the middle of the fourth one, now. It gets harder to break away from because the story gets more and more complex. These are not fantasy for the faint of heart, as King can be disturbing (although usually right on) with his descriptions, but he is extremely talented.
I also am reading Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, for work. I find his humanistic approach to effectiveness has some good points, although I think that they definitely lean towards being managing tools for those in positions of authority. What boss doesn’t want his employees told about someone who chose to counteract his employer’s ridiculous constant changing of position on things by attempting to understand and care about the same things as him, leading this employee to be the most effective and treasured of the entire company. Um. Yeah. Great. So even if your demands on me are ridiculous, I should choose to just invest more and care more and do more? Sounds like it works out great for you and pretty poorly for my relationships and hobbies and free time. I have a hard time identifying entirely with books that treat my job as the end-all and be-all of my life. Keeping my job entirely out of my personal life is hard enough as it is. Maybe this is my Protestant work ethic, as my aspiring atheist friend Parrish would call it, that drives me to near workaholic status, who knows.