User Profile

Brian Plunkett

plunkettb@books.theunseen.city

Joined 1 year, 5 months ago

I got back into reading at the end of 2021, and it has been really fun. Once again, books are a big part of my life. Historical fiction, science fiction, etc., etc. Interested in politics, feminism, climate change, antiracism, TV, movies, birding, biking, music, forest preserves, art museums, travel. UC Davis law grad, now in Chicago suburbs.

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Rebecca Makkai: I Have Some Questions for You (2023, Penguin Publishing Group) 4 stars

Literary mystery

I Have Some Questions For You

4 stars

Very good. 4.5 stars. It's well-written, with an interesting setting and an engaging mystery. I enjoyed the parts dealing with twitter, podcasting, and film (that took me back to my Film As Narrative class in college). There's a lot going on in the book, but for me its overarching concern is harassment of and violence against women.

At first, I wasn't sure about the second person narration. Then I got used to it, and ultimately I decided that it worked well. In thinking about why it's written that way, I realize that it's technically addressed to a particular character, but it also occurred to me that it's implicating the reader - me - on some level. As a man reading this, I found that to be appropriate, considering the subject. Maybe it's the feminist lens through which I tend to view things, but thinking about it that way added an …

Eleanor Davis: The Hard Tomorrow (Hardcover, 2019, Drawn and Quarterly) 4 stars

The Hard Tomorrow

3 stars

3.5 stars. I read this after seeing it recommended in Alissa Wilkinson's Syllabus for a new world. For the most part, I thought it was good. There were things I really liked, such as the protest scenes, and I enjoyed spending a while on the pages in order to appreciate all of the little details. But there were other things I wasn't too crazy about, especially the scene in which Hannah and Johnny end up hitting each other. I read through a lot of other reviews and finally found someone else who commented on this, calling it a strange moment of domestic violence. I agree.

reviewed Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton: Birnam Wood (2023, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 4 stars

Birnam Wood

5 stars

A+ political/environmental thriller about a guerilla gardening group that gets in over its head. Flawed, complicated characters, multiple perspectives, and interesting observations about New Zealanders and their country. Takes a sharp look at morality, working to change things, self-awareness/self-mythology, and relationships/power struggles. I thought the dialogue was particularly good. At one point, the group has a meeting where an argument starts, and it felt like I was in the room witnessing the verbal sparring. Kind of a crushing read overall for me, despite (or because of?) the satire/sense of humor. I did about 50-50 between actual reading and listening to the audiobook - great narration by Saskia Maarleveld.

reviewed The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (Three-Body Trilogy, #1)

Cixin Liu: The Three-Body Problem (Hardcover, 2014, Tor Books) 4 stars

Within the context of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a military project sends messages to alien …

The Three-Body Problem

4 stars

Imaginative and thoughtful "hard" science fiction. Fingers crossed that Netflix will do a good job with the series. The setting in China was interesting. Some parts were excellent, while others were a little tiresome (e.g., some of the military/police conversations), but I enjoyed it quite a bit overall. The chapter with Newton, Von Neumann and the human-formation computer was a fascinating and humorous highlight for me.

Bessie Coleman biography

3 stars

3.5 stars. I just happened to be in the middle of reading Great Circle, about fictional aviator Marian Graves, when I saw a reference to Bessie Coleman's birthday and decided that I should learn more about her. Considering what this book is - i.e., a youth/student-level biography - I think it's pretty good. Among other things, it includes a thoughtful discussion of systemic racism.

Jennifer Egan: A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) 4 stars

Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding interlocking narratives circle the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk …

A Visit From The Goon Squad

4 stars

This started to lose me in some of the middle chapters, but it came back with a strong finish. Connected stories: some were compelling, others were clunkers. Some of the plot lines were pretty ridiculous (the general, the fake boyfriend) and/or annoying (I really disliked chapter 9). Some of the style/format choices were interesting (e.g., second-person narration in chapter 10). I think the PowerPoint presentation was my favorite chapter, although the final chapter was great also.

Andrew Weiss, Brian "Box" Brown: Accidental Czar (2022, Roaring Brook Press) 3 stars

Accidental Czar

3 stars

3.5 stars. This covered a number of things I was somewhat familiar with (for example, the Pussy Riot arrests, the poisoning of Yushchenko, the Chechen school siege at Beslan, and the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine), but it put all of that -- and many other events -- into context, providing a better understanding of Putin and Russia. A lot of helpful background information about the country's history and Putin's rise to power. I read somewhere that it was supposed to be funny or witty, at least to some extent, but I saw almost no humor in this (which is probably not really surprising, considering the subject matter).

Octavia E. Butler: Parable of the Sower (Paperback, 2000, Warner Books) 4 stars

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful …

Parable of the Sower

4 stars

Mostly bleak and brutal, but very good. I didn't think I was in the mood for anything dystopian, but I basically couldn't put it down once I started it. Really interesting to watch Lauren Olamina discover/develop her worldview and then share it with others and advocate for it as the book progresses.