Three books for the ladeez

Perhaps by chance, perhaps as some sort of subliminal political backlash, I’ve read a handful of books with fabulous female perspectives lately. Let me tell you about them.

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If you only read one novel about a 19th century Scottish triple-homicide…


The fact that His Bloody Project is (mostly) fictional is either the most or least important thing you could know about it, depending on how much you care.

Framed as a memoir written by an accused murderer, coupled with court transcripts and another associated documents related to the crime, HBPβ€”down to its faux-bloody-fingerprinted coverβ€”wants very badly to sell itself as a true-crime adventure, an In Cold Blood for fans of 1800s homicides committed in remote and sparsely populated Scottish enclaves. That the book is in fact a epistolary novel marauding as truth makes it all the more ambitious and, like its main character, all the more tricky to pin down.

Said main character is Roddy Macrae, who opens his lawyer-prescribed written statement, i.e. the book, with a fairly direct confession:

“My life has been short and of little consequences, and I have no wish to absolve myself of responsibility for the deeds which I have lately committed. [My advocate] has instructed me to set out, with as much clarity as possible, the circumstances surrounding the murder of Lachlan Mackenzie and the others, and this I will do to the best of my ability….I shall begin by saying that I carried out these acts with the sole purpose of delivering my father from the tribulations he has lately suffered.”

And so with this rather dispassionate Inigo Montoya-ing, Roddy establishes the conclusion of a situation whose origin the reader does not yet know, and will spend the rest of the book finding out. Without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that Roddy’s father is a stern and downtrodden farmer, and Lachlan Mackenzieβ€”town police officer, of sortsβ€”is a douche of the most fable-ready order: petty, power-hungry, and loathsome from jump. But Roddy is no angel, and stacking his version of events up against the version outlined by other parties is one of the primary exercises in reading this slim and quirky book.

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3 thrillers to distract you from all of the things

It’s a good time to read a gripping book: The weather is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and it’ll be hard to maintain a decent library when climate change puts us all underwater. So here are a few page-turners that got me through the past week.

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5 books, reviewed real quick

Summer 2016 went by far too fast, distracted as we were byΒ Donald Trump and the return of the bare midriff. But even though my ST updates this year have been lackluster at bestβ€”it’s my 2017 resolution, I swearβ€”IΒ did actually manage to finish some books this summer. So before the frost fully sets in, here are a few thingsΒ I done read recently.

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Oryx and Crake is the future humanity deserves


I got my first taste of the apocalypse driving west on Route 50.

US-50 spans Maryland to California, and much of its Colorado/Nevada leg tracks I-70, one of several highways that have more or less rendered Route 50 obsolete. Sometimes they’re the same road, and sometimes I-70 is visible in the distance, its familiar green signage and rush of 18-wheelers a comforting talisman against the isolation of the elder thruway. But every so often the highway is miles off, and the visual lull of gas stations and rest stops give way to a different kind of lull: the thrum of tires on barely paved asphalt, the rush of breeze through open windows, vistas of untouched landscape in every direction.

Near Fruita, Colorado, Route 50 and I-70 part ways, and the former enters a stretch of near-total isolation (what I will come to know as one of many). The smooth surface of well-maintained blacktop gives over to worn, crumbling asphalt, and sometimes gravel. Lane lines fade and then disappear; desert shrubbery creeps in at the shoulders, threatening to overtake the pavement entirely. For 23 minutes, I didn’t see a single other car. Surrounded by mountains, vegetation, the mutterings of unseen wildlife, and one disintegrating road, it suddenly wasn’t hard to imagine a world in which people ceased to be, to imagine the planet reclaiming the land we colonized, bulldozing the evidence of humanity in the slow-motion manner of mother nature. It felt wrong, even, to be the only human thing, the only piece of civilization in sight. Like encroaching on someone else’s property, or stepping behind enemy lines.

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