Two Books in Brief
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. For such a morbid subject, the author has a quirky writing style punctuated by humor, odd juxtapositions, and a liberal use of footnotes. Of course, after finishing the book, I can’t help but think that there might not be any other way to approach the subject, as what’s death without a little laughter? There are a lot of interesting things cadavers are made to do aside from dissection labs, organ donation, or just plain being buried. They can be used as test subjects for accidents, targets for ballistics trials, medicine, or fertilizer. I think what made this book the most effective was the sense that the author was taking you (the reader) with her as she went to interview the people behind cadaver research, to witness actual dissections and tests, even to get sidetracked as she looked up various research papers.
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip. I am of two minds about this World Fantasy Award winner. On one hand, I can definitely see why this was a winner–McKillip has an interesting and lyrical flair with formal and archaic language. The character conflict of Sybel, the almost misanthropic sorceress who struggles with relating to those who care for her and for revenge, is something that can either be taken at face value or analyzed to death. This would have been the kind of novel I would have loved as a teenager–if I had discovered it back then. Having read it now, though, I can see it as a very well written book, but it doesn’t precisely engage my imagination in such a way that I felt immersed or personally invested in it.