holiday reading wrap-up (2004 edition)

sock by penn jillette
this is a striking book, and a lot of that comes from the rhythm of the writing — it charges along not unlike penn’s patter during his act with teller. every paragraph (or nearly so) has a pop-culture reference tucked into it. and the narrator is the sock monkey of a new york police department scuba diver who investigates a serial killer, one of whose targets was an ex-girlfriend of his (the diver, not the sock monkey). and as a bonus, when my mom saw this book with my luggage, she was reminded that she had recently run across my sock monkey, and now he lives with me again.
the wild shore by kim stanley robinson
this is the first of a trilogy of books that (apparently) explore different futures for the area around orange county. it’s a post-apocalyptic take, set after someone (possibly the russians) basically knock the united states back into the last century by detonating a series of neutron bombs, and the world has decided to keep the states there by preventing the survivors from joining up. i’m not entirely sure what i think about this book — it really only tells a part of the story as compared to a novel like lucifer’s hammer or the postman. but it tells it well, and it is a well-imagined post-apocalyptic world.
the radioactive boy scout by ken silverstein
this is a non-fiction book, about an eagle scout in the detroit area who tried to build a nuclear breeder reactor in a potting shed in his mother’s backyard that eventually had to be cleaned up by the epa (by workmen in radiation suits — not something the neighbors liked to see, especially when they weren’t very forthcoming about why they were there). the book has a lot more setup than punchline, so i think it fell a little flat at the end. the reviews at amazon for this book are pretty funny — i guess some people took serious exception to the way the author covers the sort of blind boosterism that surrounded (surrounds?) the “atomic energy” industry, and his less-than-flattering (and likely accurate) capsule history of the boy scouts.

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