Read in 2005
List of the books I’ve read in 2006
- December 2005—Mémoires d’un paysan bas-breton (Memoirs of a breton peasant) from Jean-Marie Déguinet.
The transcript of the diary (this isn’t a novel) of a peasant from Brittany in the second half of the 19th century.
He educated himself, became soldier and went to Italy and Mexico, came back to Brittany, tried to change the traditions (agricultural and others) there. It is an engaging character, skinned deep, I love his “priest eater” tendencies.
- December 2005—Au temps de Botchan 4: Une pluie d’étoiles filantes (『坊ちゃん』の時代) from Sekikawa, Natsuo and Taniguchi, Jirō.
The follow-up or rather the enhancement of the history of the socialist and anarchist movement in Japan at the beginning of the 20th century, centered on the personalities of Shusui Kotoku and Sugako Kanno. Every book of the series is very interesting to me, allowing me to discover this period of the history of Japan.
- December 2005—Mojo the sock monkey: the story of Eh from Kevin Cornell.
Mojo the sock-monkey leaves his job and goes freelance. Anyone who’s been or is there will recognize the situation… a little while, because after that, Mojo is extremely creative. Eh.
A “self-published” book from the illustrator Kevin Cornell, whose website, Bearskinrug holds many treasures.
- November 2005—Expédition à l’île Maurice (The Mauritius command) from Patrick O’Brian.
A Jack Aubrey story, starting with Jack having to cope with life on the shore, and a least getting a command to fight the French on the Indian sea route. Doctor Stephen Maturin will of course make the trip with him. I found it less interesting than the first two books.
- November 2005—Le gourmet solitaire (孤独のグルメ) from Taniguchi, Jirō and Kusumi, Masayuki.
He is lonely, moves around and outside of Tokyo for his work. He often stops to eat, and every meal is a perfect story, tastes and memories. Do not read this book if you are already hungry, or you’ll run to find a Japanese restaurant.
- October 2005—Feet of clay from Terry Pratchett.
A Discworld story, this time there are golems, and corporal Nobbs must accept himself as the heir to the Ankh-Morpork ruling dynasty, which he does by offering free drinks to everyone… until he finds some people really want him to be king.
- October 2005—Tears of the cheetah: and other tales from the genetic frontier from Stephen J. O’Brien.
A popularisation book about biology and genetics, each chapter telling how these sciences can help understand problems like the threats endangered species face, or their evolutive history.
You read each chapter a story, and you learn lots of things about genetics, techniques used to make DNA “testify” in criminal enquiries or population studies, relations between species and viruses. Very interesting and “instructive”.
- September 2005—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix from J.K. Rowling.
I wait for these books to be out in paperback, so I’m not up-to-date with the adventures of the young sorcerer, but it doesn’t really matter.
This one starts a little slowly and got a little on my nerve (the part in the Sirius Black house), but afterwards I was caught by the book and devoured it very quickly.
- September 2005—The Life Eaters from David Brin and Scott Hampton.
A comic book whose scenarist is David Brin, an uchronia based on an ongoing second world war because the Nazis have repelled the Allies with the help of Norse gods… A weird story, a myth with a comics style (to differentiate with bandes dessinées), with a super-hero theme, but you need to get there once the gods start materializing among us.
- July 2005—Quicksilver from Neal Stephenson.
It took me two months to read this enormous book which has links to Cryptonomicon (the names of the heroes are the same), and is only the first of a trilogy.
An historic novel (about 17th century Europe), not science-fiction at all, but very interesting. The time it took me to go through the book shows it was not “gripping” me from beginning to end, some characters are less engaging than others.
- July 2005—La Hulotte #86.
This month, I delighted myself reading number 86 and former issues of La Hulotte, the most popular magazine in burrows.
If you read French, love nature, observing animals, know more about them, and you don’t know this magazine, I advise you to visit their website and get a subscription.
- Juillet 2005—Ceux qui vont mourir te saluent from Fred Vargas.
A strange detective story, set in Rome. Three young friends have decided to use roman emperors names as first names. Precious manuscripts and drawings disappear from the Vatican library, where they study. The father of one of them, a specialist of old books, comes to Rome to investigate, and is poisoned…
- July 2005—Neuromancer from William Gibson.
Reading one of my favourite books again, in English this time.
As usual, I had forgotten a lot of things, which has the good side of a new pleasure when re-reading. I really love the mood and style of this story…
- June 2005—Down and out in the magic kingdom from Cory Doctorow.
After civilisation has beaten death and the lack of resources, what is left to do? Live in Disneyland, of course…
A quite shallow book, not really interesting, maybe because I find it hard to believe someone would want to center his or her life on Disneyland.
- June 2005—Les conjurés de Florence (Pasquale’s angels) from Paul J. McAuley.
A steampunk uchronia, this is set in Florence, where the industrial revolution has happened along with the Renaissance. A Great Engineer has created all sorts of mechanics that drive the prosperity of the city. A young painter, Pasquale, gets involved in a mystery and encounters the journalist Nicolo Machiavegli.
They will have to investigate murders and Florentine intrigues. The atmosphere is really interesting.
- May 2005—Pattern recognition from William Gibson.
A sort of industrial and marketing espionage story, with a very stylish description of our consumption society, between London, Tokyo and Russia. Fantastic reading for someone who loves Gibson’s style, he is at his best.
The heroin, Cayce Pollard, has a physical sensitivity to brands and trademarks, and she is also a fan of the footage, a mysterious “movie” that is released bit by bit on the internet. She gets involved with this footage “in real life” too.
- May 2005—The dolphins of Pern from Anne McCaffrey.
The story of the rediscovery by Pern inhabitants of the dolphins which landed with the first colonists, and were subsequently forgotten. These dolphins remember how to communicate and work with them.
When you like water, and the Pern universe, you read this book very fast.
- May 2005—La nef des fous book 5: puzzle from Turf.
King Clément Ixvédeusi is free, he’ll be able to work for the restoration of red and blue stripes, which had been dethroned by red spots. Lots of parallel stories make you feel you are not progressing much, but the details and graphics are superb.
- May 2005—Le génie des alpages book 5: Les intondables from F’murr.
More sheepish craziness, like a silver roller-skater sheep… Excellent!
- April 2005—Revolution in the valley: the insanely great story of how the Mac was made from Andy Hertzfeld.
All Mac-lovers will be interested in this history of the creation of the first Mac, and all those who have an interest in computing history or man-machine interface will be too. Told through short chapters without following the timeline, with lots of captivating details, by one of the creators himself.
- April 2005—Le combat ordinaire (tome 2) Les quantités négligeables (Ordinary victories book 2) from Manu Larcenet.
Marco has succeeded in getting a collective exhibition of his photos in Paris, along with a photographer whose work he loves, and whose personality he’s about to discover. His father tells him about his illness.
As riveting as the first book, with lots of different topics handled very deftly. The fact that the same story is told in two different tones and point of views (Ordinary victories and Back to the country) is really an excellent and rich idea.
- April 2005—Le combat ordinaire (Ordinary victories) book 1 from Manu Larcenet.
An autobiographic B.D., a photographer who quits this trade, faces his anxiety crisis, and advances slowly in his personal story.
After reading Le retour à la terre, it’s very interesting to see the same characters in another version, let’s say, a more autobiographic version, certainly harsher, told in a single story and not in short scenes.
- April 2005—Maskerade from Terry Pratchett.
It’s time for the Phantom of the Opera to get the Discworld treatment. With real bits of old witches to boost.
Agnes Nitt tries to escape her destiny of being a witch, by taking an audition at the opera and changing her name to Perdita X Nitt. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg will try to catch her up, and discover the little world behind the red curtain, which is very interestingly described, the motto “The show must go on” is faithfully respected even if people fall like flies.
- March 2005—Prey from Michael Crichton.
Jack has been a house-husband since he lost his programming job and his wife is totally devoted to her job: managing a nano-machine production plant. All of this is bound to go awry.
It’s more like reading a screenplay than reading a book, the characters are very formulaic, predictable. The technical background is rather approximate, and the final explanation rather (very) far-fetched.
- March 2005—L’Échelle de Darwin (Darwin’s radio) from Greg Bear.
Three characters, a geneticist, a palaeontologist, and a virus hunter, see their fates come together as a terrible disease strikes pregnant women. Disease or evolution?
The book is well written, the characters are complex and you become attached to them, the issues and the reactions caused by such a problem are interesting, even if it’s too bad the point of view is only from the United States, without describing the reactions of the rest of the world.
- March 2005—Retour à la terre 2: les projets (Back to the country 2: the projects) from Jean-Yves Ferri and Manu Larcenet.
Between settling in the country and maternity, I had missed book 2, a phase of projects for Manu and Mariette. While Mariette settles and dreams of a baby, Manu does all he can to avoid this subject, is distressed, meets the villagers and the hermit, and draws the poster for the next pig festival.
- March 2005—La “Surprise” (H.M.S. Surprise) from Patrick O’Brian.
More Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin adventures, including spying and a trip to India and couple relationship issues. The characters are much more complex than their cinema adaptations, their adventures more down to earth but not less interesting.
- March 2005—Retour à la terre 3: le vaste monde (Back to the country 3: the wide world) from Jean-Yves Ferri and Manu Larcenet.
Manu has gotten used to the country well, eventually. But a challenge awaits him: Mariette and him are going to have a baby. Intense psychological preparation® ahead, and also surprising encounters with the neighbours, as usual.
- March 2005—Poulet aux prunes (Chicken with plums) from Marjane Satrapi.
Nasser Ali Khan, famous tar player (iranian string instrument), looses all taste for life since his instrument has been broken by someone, and he can’t find a suitable replacement. Marjane Satrapi’s black and white drawing and her superb way of telling stories are a jewel case for a wry story.
- March 2005—Shaolin Moussaka 2: contre le grand Poukrass (Shaolin Moussaka 2: against the big Poukrass) from Chauvel, Pedrosa and Araldi.
If you thought that the taking off of a wooden rocket at the end of book 1 meant the end of the adventures of the shaolin master, the slice of moussaka, vermouth the chick and the others, you were mistaken… After far-west it’s the galaxy that witnesses their antics. Very slightly less totally successful than the first, but it will stand being read and reread.
- February 2005—Au temps de Botchan—tome 3: la danseuse de l’automne (Botchan’s time book 3) from Sekikawa, Natsuo and Taniguchi, Jirō.
This Temps de Botchan book is centered on the life of Futabatei Shimei, of his friend Mori Ogai, and of the German dancer Ogai has fallen in love with.
The story shows the contradictions of a country and above all its inhabitants during a voluntary and violent transition between tradition and modernism. Captivating if you want to know Japan better.
- February 2005—Imperatriz (Impératrice) from Shan Sa.
The story of a woman with an extraordinary destiny, from the chinese countryside to the life of the Forbidden City concubines, who will become Emperor of China.
Shan Sa’s writing is as strong and determined as this woman, self-conscious from her mother’s womb to the grave, the description of life during the Tang dynasty is captivating. It’s too bad you never know where the limit between novel and history is.
- February 2005—Le cycle de Cyann tome 3: Aïeïa d’Aldaal (Cyann’s cycle book 3: Aïeïa of Aldaal) from François Bourgeon.
The follow-up to Cyann’s adventures are available after a long wait, Cyann is dropped on Aldaal, a very inhospitable planet, and bought by Aïeïa, sea merchant. Bourgeon’s drawing is realistic, not flattering, and the world depicted is without pity.
- January 2005—The memory of whiteness from Kim Stanley Robinson.
In the 33st century, the story of the ninth Master of the Orchestra (a music machine created by a physicist), the youngest master, who during a tour of the solar system, is chased by ennemies.
A very different book from “classic” science-fiction, full of poetry, a nice trip through the solar system, in the same universe as the Mars series by the same author.
List of the books I’ve read in 2004