Books in brief: Csordas for research; Greenwood, Unnatural Habits; Anderson, Bitter Angels, Pegau, Rulebreaker, Caught in Amber, and Deep Deception

I am immensely behind in logging my reading.

Thomas J. Csordas, The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing. University of California Press, 1997.

Charismatic healing among Catholic Charismatics in the USA in the 1980s. Cultural phenomenology. Interesting theoretical frameworks. If this is your thing, you will like this book. If it is not, you will bang your head against the nearest table and moan.

I enjoyed it after I got used to it. And left it full of sticky notes.

Thomas J. Csordas, ed., Embodiment and Experience: the existential ground of culture and self. Cambridge Studies in Medical Anthropology, Cambridge University Press, 1994.

A collection of interesting papers, some of them baffling, some of them working from referents with which I’m not familiar. But some of them really fascinating. Likewise full of sticky notes.

Kerry Greenwood, Unnatural Habits. Poisoned Pen Press, 2012.

The latest entry in the Phryne Fisher series. Hilarious and bitingly upfront about horrendous bits of 1920s society by turns: a much tighter entry in the series in terms of the logic of its scattered mystery-plot than the previous entry.

C.L. Anderson, Bitter Angels. Spectra, 2009.

Anderson is an open pseud for Sarah Zettel, and this is an interesting, complex work of science fiction. Brilliant characterisation and fascinating set-up, but it loses track of its loose ends a little too much to come off as a wholly good book: would’ve been, perhaps, better as a somewhat longer work with more room to breathe and develop (a trilogy, perhaps).

An interesting failure, though, and well worth reading.

Cathy Pegau, Rulebreaker, Caught in Amber, and Deep Deception. Ebooks, courtesy of the author.

Will probably end up talking about Rulebreaker and Deep Deception as lesbian skiffy romance elsewhere, I think. Pegau writes decent (if short) romance. Unfortunately, lacking in each of these stories is the eyeball-kick feel of science fiction: change a handful of references, and the basics of the background plot could carry on in any time during the second half of the 20th century. There’s not nearly enough what-if: it doesn’t feel nearly as science-fictional as the shit that pops up as news in my daily life. (“Natural nuclear reactor on Mars,” for example.) If one is going to take some science-fictional setting in which to set one’s romance plot, it helps an awful lot with the SF part if the skiffy is both integral and frontloaded, not just set dressing. SF is metal and flash and bang and futureshock.

More lesbians, please, but more flash and BOOM and (sod it though I hate the term) “sensawunda,” too.