I've found a new author to love.

I've been fairly busy for the last couple of weeks, and although I've done a reasonable amount of reading, none of it has really centered on a theme. This week, while I try to catch up a little, I'm going to give you a condensed version of the usual “Cassy's bookshelf” in the form of two mini-reviews of books I've read and enjoyed recently.

The first book is “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” by Michael Chabon. If you're thinking that the title sounds like some sort of goofy comic book, you're not too far off: “Kavalier and Clay” is a novel about a pair of historically inspired (but completely fictitious) golden age comic book creators.  The novel is a wonderful mix of vividly realistic historical details and extraordinarily improbable stunts that spans a large swath of 20th century American and European history.

The characters themselves are just real enough to believe and just fantastic enough for four-color immortalization. If you can't tell by this point, I should go ahead and confess that I loved this book to pieces: it combines all the “serious” elements of a lyrically written novel with the overdramatic staging of a comic book. It has even inspired a series of “real” comics based on the metafictional heroes “The Escapist” and “Luna Moth.” I haven't read any of Chabon's other work, but I've definitely got him on my list now.

The second book I read “just for fun” lately was (if you can believe it) a little bit weirder. Penned by Elizabeth Bear, it's called, simply, “Dust” and the author's Web site promises that it's the first installment of a science fiction trilogy. I'm paraphrasing intensely here, but the book is essentially a cyberpunk reboot of the science fiction stand-by multi-generation colony ship story. 

I know, I know, there I go with the foreign languages again. In normal words, Dust takes place on a giant, half-crashed space ship that has been away from Earth for long enough to develop into a completely unique society. Thankfully, “Dust” is a solid step above the average colony ship story, and re-paints the old trope with a shiny new coat of cutting edge speculative technology that borders (as all great tech should) on magic. Dust earns extra points b/c I couldn't put it down; it earns extra EXTRA points for having a fantastic female cast. Perhaps the best way to describe it is as the punky literary stepchild of “Dune” and “Neuromancer.”

As a readers' advisory, I should add that both books contain alternative relationships described in varying degrees of detail.  I didn't find any of it to be startlingly distasteful, but I'm not necessarily the best judge of what other people find offensive. I would recommend a parent pre-read if young readers are involved, but I'd also recommend that you keep your inner kid handy when reading either book, because both of them are just that much fun.