How about a book update?
The last few months have mostly seen me absorbed with George R.R. Martin's "Song of Fire and Ice" saga.... five books of around 1000 pages each haven't really left me much room for anything else. I managed to squeeze in a Paul Auster before the fifth book was published at the start of July, but apart from that, it's been dragons and all that shizzle all the way for me since I first picked up "A Game of Thrones" (or "It's Grim Up North", as C calls it....) at some point before Easter this year.
Some people have waited more than six years for the fifth book in the cycle, "A Dance With Dragons", to be published. Me, I only had to wait a few weeks, and still it seemed like an age. The books are hardly art, but Martin does rip a good yarn and he is an absolute master at keeping his plot threads up in the air. The scope of his imagination is vast: there is a part of the story that is first mentioned in the very first chapter of the first book, and after 5,000 pages, it still hasn't been resolved. The quality has dropped off slightly in the last couple of books; in part this is because each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the characters, and a regular cast return in each of the books. In books 4 and 5, Martin took the decision to split his cast and to tell the story from the point of view of half of them in "A Feast for Crows" and then from the other half over the same period of time in "A Dance With Dragons". It works okay, but it breaks the flow. By the end of "A Dance With Dragons", all the characters are back together in the narrative, but there are apparently still at least two books to go before we're done.
I've enjoyed the books enormously, and have been happily absorbed in the world of Westeros for most of the last four months... but all the same, it was something of a relief to be able to put that down for a while and to read something else.
I started out with something completely different: the three volume collection of Alex Ross and Jim Krueger's "Justice" series. As the title implies, this is a DC comic that features the characters from the Justice League of America: Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and all that. It comes highly recommended, but I'm more of a Marvel man at heart and I'm afraid that I rather struggled with the cast list of increasingly unfamiliar characters from the DC Universe. Truth be told, I also get bored of quite how powerful characters like Superman and Green Lantern really are. For me, it seems to be so much more interesting if the characters are flawed and not all-powerful. Even within the DC universe, it's his obvious vulnerabilities and his damaged personality that make Batman so much more interesting a character than his celebrated friend from Metropolis. I've got "Knightfall" on my reading list to look forward to.... (although if anyone wants to recommend a good comic that isn't about superheroes, then I'm all ears. I hear that there's loads of brilliant stuff out there, but I always get confused by the sheer quantity of stuff in Page 45....)
At the moment, I'm actually reading a book that was bought for me by some of our Austrian friends when we were in Vienna over Easter. Michi and Maria know that I'm a big Neil Gaiman fan, and they downloaded a copy of Jasper Fforde's "The Eyre Affair" onto my Kindle as we sat drinking wine on the balcony of Suzi and Peter's appartment in Grinzing on Easter Sunday. I've vaguely heard of Fforde, but have never read any of his stuff. I finally started "The Eyre Affair" when I was waiting for my appointment at the MS Clinic on Friday morning, and was quickly gripped. It's set in more or less the present day, but every chapter reveals a slightly new twist on reality that I'm finding fascinating. It's a good story, right enough, but the imagination being displayed by the author is positively Gaiman-esque and it positively sparkles off the page (even if the tone is somewhat different to the great man). It's a great read.
In fact, I'm off to read it now.... the perfect antidote to 40 minutes of hill interval running after work. Ugh (but check out that altitude profile.... very symmetrical, line ten condoms in a line.)
If you're sad like me and you like lists, the complete(-ish) book list is here. Fascinating, eh?