The Autobiography of Mark Twain vs. The Magic Mountain
Winner: The Magic Mountain
Twain almost pulls it out, with his charming and sometimes brutally witty turns of phrase, but the autobiography, as befits a mass of papers left after his death is messy and meander-y. It's almost enough to lift it over The Magic Mountain, which at times I found very slow going, but in the end, there was enough underneath the pages of the seven years spent on top of the mountain to lift this one over the other.
Foundation and Empire vs. Cane River
Winner: Foundation and Empire
Cane River has some excellent moments, but it's a bit handicapped by its beholdenness to its subject matter. And Foundation and Empire may not be great literature, but it's a classic of the science fiction genre, in which Seldon's plans are thrown utterly awry by the inability of psychohistory to cope with strange individuals.
The Last River vs. The Hawk and His Boy
Winner: The Hawk and His Boy
This is not a battle of favourites, but among two enjoyable but not remarkable books, the fantasy tale of The Hawk and his Boy is slightly generic but enjoyable. On the other hand, The Last River also feels generic, and adventure stories of extreme sports are never going to be my favourite genre. So if it comes to white-water canoeing down a river in China and a thief finding out his opened more than he thinks in a certain box, we're going with the thief.
I Capture the Castle vs. The Scarlet Letter
Winner: I Capture The Castle
Interesting. A classic of repressed feeling and expiation vs. a very charming examination of the life of an eccentric and impoverished family in a castle in England. I really don't know which to choose. But I think I'd settle down more happily for a second time with I Capture the Castle, so it's going to win. And more than its charms, of which it has plenty, the examination of artistic block also grabbed me.
The Sixth Column vs. The Borgia Betrayal
Winner: The Sixth Column
Ugh. This is a match-up I'd rather not deal with, as I didn't like either of these. The Borgia Betrayal irritated me immensely, particularly with its constant apology for what it was, and while The Sixth Column is vastly more readable, it's heavily marred by racism. I don't want to pick either, but if I have to, despite how frustrated it made me with Heinlein in his early career, I will go with The Sixth Column, if only because it's interesting to see how some of the themes of invented religions had their seeds this early.