Read "Sous les vents de Neptune" by Fred Vargas. Another fine work which leads me to include her among the best contemporary crime novelists now. Well, not quite on the same level as Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbo and the late Henning Mankell, but in the second tier.
Now reading the first part of J.M. Coetzees somewhat biographical work: "Boyhood".
I'm about halfway through. This is decent so far. I wasn't big on the first hundred pages or so, my biggest problem being the fact that our narrator knows a world before the extreme subjugation, which certainly isn't a flaw in its own right, but the choice proves to be rather detrimental with the way it's emphasized. For much of the book, it feels like every other line is, "So-and-so used to be goood, now so-and-so is baaad". It not only makes the reading experience somewhat bothersome, but it's also just so painfully unsubtle. The actual hardships of this universe would be far more impactful if we realized the differences ourselves, and didn't have every little detail spelled out for us. I also would be far more interested in a protagonist who actually didn't live in the world before this system was put into place, as that would open-up many fascinating nuances for characterization with a woman who knows that she doesn't exist out of love, but out of a cruel and loathsome system. That sort of identity crisis would make for a far more interesting read. Not to mention, it would aid some of the chronology problems by having this set a bit further along in the future (it makes little sense that Offred is clearly still a young woman in the present, but was nonetheless into her adulthood before shit hit the fan, and yet still exists within a seemingly well-established system).
The book has progressively improved as I've worked through many of its redundancies, as some of the characters are becoming more than mere names and presences, and there's actually a narrative forming (not that novels with little focus on narrative inherently bother me, but this one is far better when it has a story to tell than when it becomes swallowed up in the nostalgia and memory of the main character).
Also, anyone who considers this story to be "prophetic" or "relevant" (a comment which I have seen often) must be extremely cynical and have a wildly disillusioned view of gender relations in the present. That's not at all a criticism of the concept itself, which I do find interesting. But perceiving that this incredibly extremist version of the world could exist in so near a future in our world is somewhat baffling. Perhaps I have too much faith in humanity, but I highly, highly doubt that our immediate response to this situation would be *this* cruel.
Nearly finished with White Noise by Don DeLillo. It gets bogged down with repetition, especially with its preoccupation/obsession with death. And DeLillo has a tendency to turn his words into shopping lists. That said he cultivates a richly ominous atmosphere, and he's an inspired dialogue writer, the likes of which keep the pages turning.
Just hit the halfway mark of IT, jaysus this is fantastic
Same here, actually. Well, I'm not sure if I'm quite halfway through; I'm in the midst of the "Walking Tours" section. But that's beside the point. It's indeed great, but I'm not overwhelmed. I just keep having this feeling that the narrative may work better if presented in chronological order; it would make the descriptions of the characters as introduced in '85 all the more impactful had we actually known them prior, not to mention it would spare the reader from all the obnoxious side-stepping taken in the dialogue in the '85 section (the number of times a character says, "I don't remember so-and-so that happened that summer", and then another character responds, "You *will* remember", is actually absurd) if we as the reader knew that entire half of the story already. Still, it's otherwise pretty fantastic. The characters and setting are so wonderfully realized that you can feel King's passion for the novel oozing out of every page.