My feelings about Forever in an easy list of ten. No particular order,
1. Not only should Forever never appear on a banned book list, it should be reqMy feelings about Forever in an easy list of ten. No particular order,
1. Not only should Forever never appear on a banned book list, it should be required reading in all junior high schools (middle schools) as part of sex ed. More importantly, it should be read and written on by every single boy.
2. And speaking of boys, there is a need for a book about this subject written with all the skill of Judy Bloom but targeted at boys. The boys perspective on first love and losing one's virginity is desperately needed. If it is out there already, please point me in that direction.
3. Katherine, or Kath as she's mostly called, seems a little younger than 18 to me. About three or four years younger. Her actions, her job, her grade, her concerns for her university, they all match her age, but there is something in the way she behaves that just seems too damn young to me.
4. The infantilization of our children and prolonging of childhood is one of the most despicable changes I have witnessed in our society over the course of my life, but reading something like Forever makes me wonder how long the trend has actually been happening.
5. I wish that Blume had told us more about Artie's story. I feel an opportunity was truly missed there.
6. The handling of Sybil (view spoiler)[and her pregnancy (hide spoiler)] is another situation where I craved expansion, but I was pleased and impressed that Sybil was never shamed by the author or our narrator.
7. For a book that I liked so well, I am surprised that I didn't like the main characters, Kath and Michael, very well at all.
8. The honest language, the honest discussions, the actual sex, they made me long for more bravery from authors and publishing companies, and more tolerance and understanding from parents.
9. Relationships end in this book, as relationships are wont to do, and the way they did was realistic and refreshing.
10. So glad I got to read this with my daughter. The discussions have been amazing. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I am disgusted by this book. How dare Jeffrey Brown play fast and loose with Star Wars continuity?! Darth Vader was not a "single Dad" just trying t;)
I am disgusted by this book. How dare Jeffrey Brown play fast and loose with Star Wars continuity?! Darth Vader was not a "single Dad" just trying to be the best Dad he could be. He was the most vile, most villainous henchman of the Empire. He was responsible for multiple murders, took part in genocides, he was damn near irredeemable, and here Brown is trying to make us think he was somehow kind and playful, just a good Dad in a tough situation.
I'll tell you what this is: it is an insult to all the victims of Alderaan; it is an insult to all those enslaved to the evil, galactic Empire; it is an insult to the heroes of the Rebellion; it is an insult to that great hero of the New Republic herself, Princess Leia. Shame on you, Jeffrey Brown. Shame on you for giving a false, human face to this terrible Sith Lord.
p.s. I'm cheating on media blackout day. Don't tell anyone. ...more
For a few years now, I've been interviewing my twins after they finish reading their books, posting those interviews on their own goodreads profile. MFor a few years now, I've been interviewing my twins after they finish reading their books, posting those interviews on their own goodreads profile. My girl, Brontë, finished reading Little House in the Big Woods about a month ago, and I read it this week (I always read or reread the books they've read.) You can see that interview with me right here:
Brontë: So first ... did you like it? did you love it? or did you hate? did you think it was okay? or did you really like it?
Pa: I loved it. It was good. Much better than I expected.
Brontë: Who was your favourite character?
Pa: Hmmm ... that's a tough one because I loved Pa and Laura a lot, but I also dug Ma. Mary's a bit of pain, but to be fair, the story is being told by Laura, and little sisters don't tend to be too kind to their older sisters. So maybe I can't judge Mary on that. But I guess I like Pa the best because he's really the focus of the story for Laura. He's the one she talks most about. And he seems like a pretty good guy.
Pa: Did you expect something different? Did you think I'd like someone else?
Brontë: I thought you'd say Laura, but my second favourite was Pa.
Pa: So we're reversed.
Pa: I figured you'd like Laura best.
Brontë: What was your favourite moment and your favourite chapter?
Pa: My favourite moment was when Ma slapped the bear in the night. That was awesome. And my favourite chapter was the Maple Syrup dance on the day of the sugar snow. That was pretty cool. I loved how everyone really just had fun even with all the hard work that still had to be done.
Brontë: Did you like the Harvest chapter?
Pa: That must have been your favourite.
Brontë: It was one of my favourites.
Pa: Yeah. I liked it. It was awesome. Charley deserved to get stung by the bees.
Brontë: Yeah he did. When that happened I almost said, "Get off your lazy butt and do some work!"
Pa: Yeah he was lazy all right, and a total pain the ass. Pa didn't approve of the way Charley ignored his Dad, did he?
Brontë: No, he didn't. I thought the same thing. I love how in the picture when he was wrapped in the bandages all the girls were staring at him with mean faces on.
Pa: That's something else I loved, the art.
Brontë: Oh yeah, the art was beautiful.
Pa: But Laura's writing was even more beautiful. I was impressed.
Brontë: I agree.
Pa: It was so clear and descriptive, and I felt like I was there sometimes.
Brontë: Me too. Every moment I felt like I watched it in my head.
Pa: It's cool when you read a book like that.
Brontë: And then I could look at the pictures and think, that's what the boys and girls look like and watch it in my head as I read.
Pa: I think I could see what they looked like even without the pictures.
Brontë: Yeah, me too.
Pa: The writing was just that good.
Brontë: Especially what she said, like in the dance part when the girls were getting ready, and she described what the dresses looked like and you could totally see the dresses in your head.
Pa: Darn good book. Thanks for reading it so I could.
Brontë: No problem. Don't forget to say thanks to Auntie Marci too.
I was going to give this five stars, then I thought, "It's too much fun for five stars," so I clicked on four stars, then I thought, "Fuck that! FiveI was going to give this five stars, then I thought, "It's too much fun for five stars," so I clicked on four stars, then I thought, "Fuck that! Five it is." And so it came to be.
New Novella --
I have been tossing around an idea I have about the shift in novella writing from a thing unto itself into a portion of "larger" works (I first started talking about it here), and it seems to me that John Scalzi's quite marvelous Redshirts is just such a work.
I would split it into two novellas: Redshirts itself, and the three Codas. Redshirts is, after all, a mere 200-ish pages that read very quickly. Its length is similar to many of the classic novellas (many of which, like Heart of Darkness are densely packed into their slim editions); it gets going, gets its story told and gets out.
The Codas, then, make up the second novella. Though they work as narrative additions to Redshirts proper, they also work on their own, stringing together three short stories (a novella in short stories?) that make one cohesive unit, and I think they could be read as one piece minus Redshirts and be quite excellent in their own right. Moreover, they offer up first, second and third person perspectives, respectively, binding themselves together as one unit with a mechanical throughline that weaves together the narrative threads into a piece.
You may not consider it two novellas, but the idea works for me in my brain, and next time I read this book I am going to read the Codas all by themselves to see how they work.
Fun & Funny--
Novella talk aside, this is one enteraining piece of fiction. It hits that special place in my liver where my Trekkie love rests, it hits that special place in my hypothalimus where my Firefly love rests, it hits that very special place in my testicles where BSG rests, it hits that special place in my joints where Deep Space Nine rests, etc., etc.. Scalzi knows all the pressure points (and of course he would being the nerd that he is and having worked on Stargate too), and he pokes at those points with joyful abandon. I haven't had so much fun reading in a year.
Fuck yeah! Anyone who is interested in Baudrillard or Eco or spends their time seeing the removes in everything they perceive with enjoy their time down the wormhole or ten.
A Yeti in the Jeffries' Tubes. Seriously fun.
I know I am missing some things I wanted to say when I finished reading last night, but those can wait until the next time I read Redshirts. It is sure to come. ...more
A -- Alfheim: It's the place where the elves live. There's lots of elves there with bows, and they have long blonde hair and pointy years. The wear archer clothes and stuff.
B -- Balder: The God of Light (is he the God of Light? Maybe he's just goodness. No, he's the God of Light too). He was always happy. He was never mad. He just smiled the whole time. I can't remember a time when he was mad. He died because Frigg asked everything not to hurt him except mistletoe, then Loki, disguised as an old woman found out it was unsafe, then made an arrow out of mistletoe, gave it to Balder's blind brother, then Loki helped Hod shoot Balder, and Balder died.
C -- Chess and Chessmen: Almost everybody plays chess, the gods that is, and I didn't know that chess was made back then. The gods probably invented it, the god of gold that is because they were golden chessmen. Or maybe it was the Gnomes. They seem more like the building type.
D -- Draupnir: I think it would be cool to have a bracelet like Draupnir. It was cool that Odin put it with Balder in his funeral pyre.
E -- Embla: Embla is one of the first humans created by the Gods. She was the first woman.
F -- Fenris: He's Loki's son who is the big wolf who grows too big to control. He's not scared of anything, so he's fearless, and he's very big, and he can open his mouth so wide his bottom jaw can touch the Earth (Midgard), and he bites off Tyr's hand. Plus, he's stuck at the bottom of Yggdrassil.
G -- Garm: He's the dog who guards the gate to Hel.
H -- Hel: She's Loki's daughter who rules Hel, which is named after her.
I -- Ida: The green field of Asgard with a whole bunch of buildings that I expect are huge, and it is very busy.
J -- Jotuns: The Jotuns live in a very, very cold world on the tree. Instead of their beards being soft and furry, they're cold and hard like icicles. The Aesir and them don't agree with each other. Thor challenges every Jotun he sees, and kills it and stuff, declares war on it, I'd say.
K -- Kvasir: Wasn't that the drink that made people smart? Odin was wise after drinking it or something.
L -- Lidskjalf: That's the seat where Odin sits and he can see everything.
M -- Midgard's Serpent: It's scary. Very, very scary, and it's always angry, and apparently it's not too heavy for Thor.
N -- Nanna: She is the wife of Balder. She is pretty nice, and she is my favourite of all the ladies in Asgard.
O -- Odin: He is the All Father and the ruler of Asgard. He has a very, very, very fast horse with eight legs named Sleipnir. He only has one functional eye, and he pulls his hair down over his missing eye. In the Norse myths, he's my (Miloš') favourite.
R -- Rungnir: He was a pretty big Jotun, really tall, and he had the second fastest horse on the entire World Tree. He's pretty cool, and fairly strong, and Thor beat him in a duel, but his head isn't fairly strong becaues Thor smashed it, right?
S -- Sif: She is beautiful, and she has the best hair. If she was a Charlie's Angels she'd be Jill. Her hair was blonde but it became gold.
T -- Tyr: He is very brave, and he is pretty strong too. Fenris ate his hand, so he has only one hand. He is also pretty nice. He is one of Odin's sons.
U -- Utgardsloki: He was super smart. It was awesome how he made all the tricks, the illusions, to trick Thor. I thought Thor would win. I loved the fact that Thor didn't win and that Utgardsloki won.
V -- Vanir: The battle between them and the Aesir was pretty interesting. They were pretty cool, and some of them joined the Aesir.
W -- War: The Norse Gods fought too much, definitely. They were really violent. Whenever somebody died nobody even cried, except for Balder, or then their wives die too. It's weird the way they were with death and war.
Y -- Yggdrassil: It's a cool tree. I like how it is holding all the Nine Realms in place and stuff. It is there to keep everything in place. I like that Yggdrassil is so important, and trees are because they give us air and stuff, but this tree is more important because it is holding our worlds together in one space so Midgard, Asgard, Jotunheim and all the rest would probably spin off into space without the tree.
Æ -- Aesir: Whenever they said something they promised, they had to do what they promised, so instead of being fierce they did what they said they would, but when they failed to do what they said they would something bad happened, and eventually it caused Ragnarokk.
*I just finished reading this to my twins last night. We start the Greek Myths tonight. ...more
I know, I know, our fragmented culture is turning enough of our kids into ADHD pill poppers, but once in a while certain stories and characters need to be free to shift and shift and shift again. Frankie Pickle is one of those characters.
What I loved about The Closet of Doom was that Frankie bounced around from his Indiana Jones homage to super-hero love to disgusting room-alanche to lessons in hygiene to sandwich monsters in one coherent story that lived in the imagination of a little boy that I loved to love.
But The Pine Run 3000 lost that bouncy, spastic charm. There's a little bit of imagination going on, but not enough. There's really only one focus, which is the Pine Run car race -- and yes there are a couple of nice lessons and a mildly suprising yet satisfying finish -- but it's not enough to keep my love burning for Frankie.
I like him, though, and I liked this book. It was good. It just wasn't great, and I really wanted it to be great. I hope The Mathematical Menace embraces Frankie's wide-ranging spirit once again. That would rekindle my love. ...more
I've needed to read this for quite some time. Brontë finished it months ago, but my own books got in the way, and I never seemed to make it around toI've needed to read this for quite some time. Brontë finished it months ago, but my own books got in the way, and I never seemed to make it around to Franny and her mad science -- until last night.
Insomnia kicked in, but I didn't have the attention span for my other books, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Under Heaven, and I didn't want to start something significant while I was bogged down in those monstrosities, so Franny K. Stein won the night.
I was most struck by how far past this book Brontë is now. When kids are learning to read it really doesn't take long, does it? She bounced from Attack of the 50Ft. Cupid to Little House in the Big Woods, and now she is reading Stardust. Every stage from now on is growth ... if the child develops a love for reading.
As for this book, it was fun. It doesn't approach good literature, let alone great, but as a pseudo-graphic novel about pseudo-horror goes Attack of the 50Ft. Cupid isn't half bad. Franny is a mildly mad scientist. Igor is her brand new lab assistant (bought for her by quintessential Soccer Mom, who desperately wants to connect with her horror loving daughter), and Miss Shelley (love the name) is her much suffering teacher, trying to school Franny in popular -- normal? -- culture.
So on Valentine's Day, through much happen stance, a 50-Ft. Cupid appears in a Franny's house and tears around town trying to shoot people with giant, heart tipped arrows. Franny and Igor stop the loving rampage and all is well.
There are some fun jokes. There is an ass kicking Valentine's Day poem generator, that even you can use, and there are the same fun drawings we always get from Jim Benton. If you have a quirky little girl or two, you'll all love these books. They're pretty Scooby. ...more
Mad fucking madness! For sheer ballsy creativity this is the book you must read. For the coolest superpower ever (and this is the one I now officiallyMad fucking madness! For sheer ballsy creativity this is the book you must read. For the coolest superpower ever (and this is the one I now officially want) this is the book you must consume. For a post-contagion world this is the book you want. For blood and guts and gore this is the book you must want to read. For art that makes you snicker and your eyes bulge this is the book you must see. Devour this book like the putrefying flesh of a dead poodle. If you can keep it down you will love it. ...more
Your decade long run of Calvin and Hobbes was the greatest run of any comic strip in the history of comic strips, and you madAugust 7, 2011
Your decade long run of Calvin and Hobbes was the greatest run of any comic strip in the history of comic strips, and you made the right choice putting an end to it when you did. I can't believe it's been gone for 16 years now. Your precocious Calvin was what every kid with an overactive imagination is in their own heads, but you also gave us the view of what the rest of the world sees in these kids and does to try and beat the imagination out of them. There's implied sadness in the explicit joy you gave us, and it makes Calvin and Hobbes a true masterpiece.
I was fourteen when you started your opus, and I was close enough to my own hyper-imaginative childhood to connect at a visceral level. My youthful imaginary friends were still fresh in my mind, and my current imaginary friends were just taking hold, and your strip gave me something to relate to, someone to cheer for, a place where it was okay to turn dreary realties of the world into exciting fantasies and be proud of that ability all at the same time. It was also a fabulous way to relax my brain (though not too much) amidst all the literature I was devouring at a frightening rate.
But I have a request. Now that I am forty, and I have a precocious little Calvin of my own making explosive sounds with his mouth as he blows up his LEGO creations (as I write this, in fact), and my little Calvin’s twin sister, who happens to be a lot like Susie, I would love it if you came out of retirement and gave us just one year of Calvin and Hobbes and Son (or Daughter). I want to see where Calvin is now. I want to see Calvin as a Dad, and I want his son (or daughter) with a beaten up, super ratty, devilish-as-ever Hobbes. But I don't want this comic to be about the kids, I want it to be about Calvin. I want to see how well Calvin was able to fight off his indoctrination; I imagine he’s one of those rare folks who didn’t join the mainstream, who somehow continued to live on his own terms, but my imagination aside, I am dying to see what he became for you. Please, please, please come back, Bill. We could all use a bit of Calvin again.
I know that my request will never reach you, and that, if it did, you'd probably never even consider the possibility, but I know you could do the "parenting thing" better than all your peers, just as you did the "kid thing" better than anyone else.
So I'll just leave you with the firmest, most heartfelt thank you that I have in me: thank you for that little corner of joy you carved into my world. I’ll never forget it, and late at night, when I am dipping my peanut butter and jelly into my hot chocolate, I’ll have one of my Calvin and Hobbes books open so that I can stain the pages with the purple of some yummy Welch’s grape jelly. Just as Calvin would.
I know. You're looking at those five stars and thinking, "What the #$%@!" And I completely understand. It would appear I have gone mental. So here's tI know. You're looking at those five stars and thinking, "What the #$%@!" And I completely understand. It would appear I have gone mental. So here's the breakdown of why the five stars. Just so we're all clear.
★: The nostalgia factor is overwhelming for me with this one. I was a little too young to watch these movies in the theatre, but they were massive when I was a little kid and the apes were everywhere. We've sort of rewritten film history a bit to believe that Star Wars started the summer blockbuster and merchandising explosion, but I had a Dr. Zaius doll and remember one of my friends having a Planet of the Apes t-shirt. I even played Battle for the Planet of the Apes with my friend Duane (the same one Thomas and I chatted about in the comment thread) after our all day summer tv marathon. So when I saw this at the local used book store and passed over my shekels, it had already earned that first star simply based on my childhood flashbacks.
+★: There are things to be said, positive things, about movie-tie-ins. I know the prevailing wisdom is that they are the trashiest of the trashy, and that may very well be true, but there are two things about them I love. First, as a longtime screenwriter, I appreciate the cinematic quality that can't be avoided. These sorts of books are almost always based on a screenplay for the film (occassionally, though, they'll be based on a treatment), so the pace, the action, the dialogue is driven by the movie, and while I would rather read the actual screenplay, a movie-tie-in is an enjoyable (though diminished) alternative. Second, directors can change the work of screenwriters however they want, so it's nice to see a different take on a screenwriter's work and feel a little closer (even if this is illusory) to what their work was all about.
+★: Sometimes, as in this case where the movie was pretty pathetic, a movie-tie-in can be better than its on-screen counterpart. The film was saddled with poor effects (even the ape costumes had become less impressive, with so many apes needed to fill Ape City only the costumes of the stars were well done), poor performances, and an excruciating pace. But the books has effects imagined by me, performances imagined by me and a pace that was as fast as I wanted to make it. I can see now, having read the book, why this particular script would have been given the greenlight. It could have been good. Really.
-★: That being said, the big battle between the Mutants and the Apes went on way too long, even here in the book.
+★: And since I mentioned them already: nuclear fallout Mutants! Again, much cooler here than on-screen.
+★★: Last but certainly not least is the author David Gerrold (one of the great Hackosaurids). He cracked me up, and this exchange between Mutant leader Mr. Kolp and his "love interest" Mutant Alma contains his best insertion into the story (I know it's long, but I think it is worth repeating in its entirety)
"Do you know what that is?"
"Of course, Mr. Kolp. it's our nuclear missile."
Kolp went up to it and stroked its shaft. "It's operational. Did you know that?" He gestured to her, and she approached timidly. He kept stroking the shaft of the missile as he reached out and took her hand. Her heart skipped a beat.
"Come closer, Alma," he whispered. She did so. "Touch it," he commanded. She extended her other hand and pressed her fingertips against the cold metal surface, then her whole palm. She began stroking the weapon in time with Kolp. The smooth steel felt so clean and strong.
"If the impossible should happen, Alma," Kolp said. "If we're defeated by the apes, I will not surrender to animals. He squeezed her hand and held it tighter. "Neither will my soldiers. If retreat seems necessary, I shall send you a coded radio signal. Fifteen minutes after you receive it, you will range this missile on Ape City and activate it."
Alma breathed throatily, "Yes, Mr. Kolp, I will. I can do it from the main control console. What will the signal be?"
Kolp looked at her carefully. "Alpha and Omega," he said slowly.
Alma repeated, "Alpha and Omega."
He nodded. "You're a good girl, Alma."
She looked at him adoringly.
And at last he noticed her. "And a pretty one too."
They were still stroking the missile. Their hands moved together across its steel skin. neither seemed to notice it any more, though. Kolp leaved forward, closer and closer, and kissed her. She kissed him back. Deeply. She stepped closer and slid her arms around his wide frame. "Alpha and Omega," she breathed. "I will be your tool."
Then and only then did Kolp take his slowly moving hand off his weapon. He pulled Alma close against him and kissed her again. And again.
It seriously called it "his weapon." Not "the weapon" but "his weapon." That has to be one of the silliest uses of a phallic symbol I've ever read. Just awesome!
So there you go. Is it crappy? Kind of, but crappy in all the ways I wanted it to be, and it was so much darn fun that I think I am going to start hunting down movie-tie-ins to all the movies I loved as a kid. Come to think of it, I think I have a copy of the original Battlestar Galactica tie-in lying around. That's moving to the top of my pile right now. ... There!
Start raiding your used book stores for trash like this, my friends. You won't regret it.
WARNING: This "review" (if you can call it that) contains some veiled but serious spoilers. Only read this review if you've read Kraken or aren't planWARNING: This "review" (if you can call it that) contains some veiled but serious spoilers. Only read this review if you've read Kraken or aren't planning to read it for some time.
Star Trekiteuthis: The Original Series Episode: TOS 061 - Spock's Brain Season 3 Ep. 1 Air Date: 09/20/1968 Stardate: 5431.4
The U.S.S. Architeuthis is on a routine mission in its preservative bottle when a riffling, ink stained, paper tiger beams into the National History Museum. Without a word, the tiger reorders the ink of its pages and everyone is rendered unconscious. It moves around the Museum until finally it comes to Miéville. Smiling an inky smile, it lays a hand on the author's head, as if it's found what it was looking for.
When Wati Kirk awakes, Miéville is gone from the Museum. Before the labour organizer can find out where his author has gone, Dane Parnell calls, demanding his presence immediately. Miéville's body lays on a diagnostic table, on full life support. Dane Parnell explains that his brain is gone ... miraculously removed with some technology that the Kraken Agent has never seen before. Every nerve was sealed and there was no blood lost. However, Parnell tells him if the author's brain isn't returned to his body within 24 hours, Miéville will die.
Wati Kirk orders the city's familiars to pursue the paper tiger. By following its lack, the Architeuthis arrives at the Sea's embassy in Varmin Way. When Wati Kirk and party shift inside, they find a soaked, underwater world inhabited by two villains: Grisamentum, who is comprised of ink and paper, and the Tattoo, a crime lord tattoed onto the back of a man named Paul. While Grisamentum is resurrected in the liquid body of ink, he doesn't fully understand the power of metaphor. Only the "Great Prophet" -- a.k.a. Billy Harrow -- has this knowledge, and he was left behind by ancient squid cultists (or bottle angels) who once lived on the planet.
Dane, having borrowed a device which will control Miéville's body without the aid of his brain, goes with the author to join Wati Kirk and his party. They find Grisamentum, the tiger who came into the Museum. They quickly realize that Gris doesn't have the skill or knowledge to have understood the operation on Miéville, and the Londonmancers tell them about the Great Prophet.
Finally, Wati Kirk finds Miéville's brain. The Tattoo has hooked it up to control his main thug, Goss and Subby. The brain is now revered by the thug as the "Controller," which the thug hopes will fulfill his (its? their?) murderous thirst for the next 10,000 years. After trying unsuccessfully to get Gris to repeat the operation on Miéville in reverse, Dane submits to the Great Prophet and gains the knowledge of metaphor needed to restore Miéville's brain and save both the author's life and all their existences.
Without his Controller, Goss and Subby succumb to the wrath of Paul who conquers his Tattoo. Wati Kirk suggests the familiars go on strike once more, and Grisamentum's attack on Miéville never-was.
Kennilworthy Whisp's history of Quidditch is rather dry; nonetheless, it does contain some fine entertainments.
His chapter on "The Arrival of the GoldKennilworthy Whisp's history of Quidditch is rather dry; nonetheless, it does contain some fine entertainments.
His chapter on "The Arrival of the Golden Snitch" is particularly fun, especially when talking about the Golden Snidgets that gave rise to what we now call the Snitch. Another high point is his chapter on "Quidditch Teams of England and Ireland," which recounts each team's finest moments and illuminates the long time rivalries that are sure to spring up in any sporting competition.
Overall, Quidditch Through the Ages is a fair overview of the sport for those who are just learning, and a nice light read for those who are already die-hard fans -- even if they are long suffering fans of the Chudley Cannons.
Still, Quidditch Through the Ages doesn't quite reach the heights of Whisp's seminal work -- The Wonder of the Wigtown Wanderers -- which cannot be recommended highly enough (for everyone but fans of their greatest rivals, of course).
Every once in a while, when I am in a bookstore, I find myself needing to leave, but I have nothing in my hands. Sometimes it's because I am wanderingEvery once in a while, when I am in a bookstore, I find myself needing to leave, but I have nothing in my hands. Sometimes it's because I am wandering around while the kids are in ballet and I need to get back to pick them up; sometimes it's because I came for something specific and it isn't there; and sometimes it's because I am in the middle of an indecisive phase.
But I have an answer for all this. With time ticking away, I pick a section -- Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery, History, Biography, Fiction, whatever -- and I look for the first name or cover that captures my attention. If it is by an author I don't know I buy it.
I've found this method can turn up some gems, and Philip Palmer's debut novel, Debatable Space, is a particularly shiny example of my spontaneous luck. It sat on my to-read stack for over a year (and when I started reading Debatable Space it was only supposed to give me something to do while I brushed my teeth), but now I wish that I'd read it sooner.
Palmer writes in the classic space opera mode: alien races, bloody battles, interstellar travel, big ideas, even bigger technologies, hot sex, and an epic scope. And he does it with a joy I have seldom witnessed. It's one thing for me to enjoy a book and enjoy my time reading it, but it is quite another to actually feel the author enjoying the writing. I felt Palmer doing just that all the way through Debatable Space.
Palmer really loved writing this book. He loved his version of the universe, of course, and his imaginary technologies. But mostly he loved his characters, and that passion for Lena, Flanagan, the Cheo, Alby and the others makes Debatable Space one hell of a fun read.
Some reviewers have complained about Debatable Space's first person narrative and the way it shifts from character to character (sort of As I Lay Dying on speed), writing that it doesn't really work, but I think most of that frustration comes from their dislike of Palmer's characters. The biggest complaint seems to be that his characters are universally unlikable, which makes me cringe a little because I found them universally the reverse. Flawed, violent, occasionally nasty, but infinitely likable (I imagine that says something about me and the way I see the world)
Setting aside Palmer's love for his characters, though, if a reader doesn't connect with them, I can see how Debatable Space could be difficult to enjoy. Luckily, I didn't have that problem and, while there were some times early on when the characters' voices seemed too alike, I found the first person narrative and multiple viewpoints refreshing.
I was annoyed, though, by some of Palmer's more gimmicky moments -- such as a hang gliding sequence that used two otherwise blank pages to go "up up up" and "down down down" -- and I am not so sure this book will hold up to repeated readings. Still, I have great hope for his future works, one of which, Red Claw, is already out there.
I genuinely loved the time I spent in Palmer's universe.
I also love that if I hadn't been in such a hurry to get home that day all those months ago, I never would have found myself reading about Earth's next thousand years. Spontaneity is good. Try it sometime. ...more
WARNING: This review claims that historical novels are like porn movies, and I discuss porn throughout. Please avoid this review if porn offends you.WARNING: This review claims that historical novels are like porn movies, and I discuss porn throughout. Please avoid this review if porn offends you.
Historical novels are a bit like porn for me. I am always faintly ashamed to be a fan, I generally hide my taste for them, but I get off on what they have to offer.
There are high-end historical novels, like Aubrey-Maturin (the one series I am proud to be a fan of) or Wolf Hall, that are sort of like Deep Throat and other the classic porn movies -- if you have to admit to your tastes, they are the ones that are easy to claim as your own. Then there are the historical romances, like The Thorn Birds, that are akin to the new era of Jenna Jameson's plastic-porn hi-jinks. And there's the truly bizarre historical fictions, like I Claudius, that feel like titillating fetish porn full of stockings and S&M. It's easy to understand their readership (and viewership) even if they're not to one's own taste.
Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books, therefore, have their porn equivalent: the world of polished, pseudo-amateur, "dirty girl" driven porn. And I shamefacedly declare right now that I am a fan of both.
Sharpe's Eagle, my latest foray into the career of Richard Sharpe, is the installment that pushed this comparison into the front of my mind and doomed me to writing this review. I found myself hiding the cover of Sharpe's Eagle, folding the front cover over the back, while in a long Christmas shopping line. For some reason I didn't want anyone to see what I was reading. Maybe it's because I teach literature and I didn't want anyone to see me reading something lacking seriousness, maybe there's still some flirty, teenage boy part of me, the D&D geek from way back, that didn't want some pretty girl to catch me being a geek. I'm really not sure which it was, but whichever it was, I caught myself hiding Sharpe's Eagle and had to force myself to pry the front cover away from the back to display my silly shame to the world. And when I walked out of that store, it struck me that I always do the same thing when it comes to porn. I hide the few movies I own, and I don't really talk to anyone (except my wife and Ruzz) about the bits of porn that I like.
And once this idea occurred to me, I was surprised at the textual parallels that sprang up to solidify the concept in my mind. Sharpe's Eagle isn't the best written work. Its prose is occasionally sloppy, and it's inconsistently paced. It is violent, espousing questionable ethics while simultaneously taking its own distinct stance on some pretty important issues. And it is terribly fun to read. I was excited to reach the next battle or the next bit of intrigue, and I found myself instantly looking forward to the next installment. Not in any obsessive or overwhelming or unhealthy way, but fondly and warmly because...well...reading Sharpe is enjoyable, and who doesn't like enjoying themselves?
The same goes for my "polished, pseudo-amateur, 'dirty girl' driven porn" preference. It isn't the best filmed work. Its quality is occasionally sloppy, and it's inconsistently paced. It is hyper-sexual, espousing questionable ethics while simultaneously taking its own distinct stance on some pretty important issues (some of it really does, I'm not kidding). And it is terribly fun to watch. I am excited to reach the next scene or the next shift in position, and I find myself looking forward to the next viewing. Not in any obsessive or overwhelming or unhealthy way, but fondly and warmly because...well...watching porn is enjoyable, and who doesn't like enjoying themselves?
So there you have it. To me, the adventures of Richard Sharpe are historical novel porn. And whether I should be ashamed of my enjoyment or not, I will continue to read them, and now I will proudly display their covers no matter what line I'm standing in.
I think I'll keep my porn movies hidden away, though. I'm not sure I can put those out with the general video population just yet....more
0. No? 1. Have you ever clamped clothes pins on your genitals? 2. Do acid flashbacks accompany thoughts of the Gibb brothers? 3. Have you ever uttered "Zoinks" without intentionally referencing Saturday Morning Cartoons? 4. Have you ever fantasized about making love to someone in mouse ears? 5. Do you prefer your comedians tripped out on amphetamines? 6. Is your personal contact with sweatshops a weekend “Rollback” the prices excursion to Wal-Mart™? 7. Do you get all angsty when you hear the promo words “Who will be voted out tonight?” 8. Are you a fan of books that are “too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts”? 9. Gouda? 10. Do you see things in a Rorschach test? 11. Have you ever, either in this life or the next, made love to a mime after it mimed its way through a death match with Jewish hitmen? 12. Do you see the connection between “it” and “is”? 13. Pink banana hammocks? 14. Do you hide your reading problem from friends and family? 15. Satan Donuts? 16. Does bowling in and around seminal fluid turn you off? 17. Have you ever ridden a Zamboni (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more)? 18. Do you have a conscience? 19. Are you a superfreak?
If you answered yes to some of these questions Death By Zamboni is for you. Of course, if you answered no to some of these questions Death By Zamboni is for you. If you answered maybe to any of these same questions then Death By Zamboni is also for you -- maybe. But if you answered yes to some of these questions Death By Zamboni isn’t for you because you’re a half wit who probably can’t follow anything more challenging than a really challenging thing. And if you answered no or maybe to some of these questions then you should be ashamed of yourself, but you probably aren’t, so maybe you should just give your money to David David anyway because he’s earned it by being far cooler than you. Whatever...Death By Zamboni deserves to be read. Can you handle it? Are you man enough to handle it? Do you know what it takes to read Death By Zamboni? It takes brass balls to read Death By Zamboni. Now sway your hips. Do you hear that clickety clack? Death By Zamboni really is for you. ...more
I remember taking this book out of the library at my elementary school, Queensland Downs Elementary School, when I was in Mrs. Sanders' class for gradI remember taking this book out of the library at my elementary school, Queensland Downs Elementary School, when I was in Mrs. Sanders' class for grade three. We were in the library for a library period, and I asked Mrs. Dalgliesh, our groovy librarian, for a book. I can't remember if I was the one who suggested Greek Mythology or if it was she, but I do remember her aiding me at the card catalogues, then she sent me off to the shelves to track down "292 DAU [JUV]."
That little journey changed me irrevocably.
I devoured D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths in what was then record time, and within days I was debating my father on theology. I demanded to know why I couldn't worship Zeus instead of his God; I wanted to know why, if the Greek Gods came first, they had a flood, Heracles was resurrected, and Phrixus was saved from being sacrificed by his father by the presence of a golden ram, amongst other things. I wanted to know how Christianity could have such similar myths.
It was the beginning of the end of my religiosity and the penultimate blow to my catholicism. It was the end of my acquiescence to unjust authority. It was the end of acceptance without questions. It catalysed my constant search for understanding. It was the beginning of my father's disdain for me, and his fear of my mind (the latter, I've always suspected, was close to the root of much of the abuse I suffered at his hands). It was the moment of my enlightenment. And I've loved this book deeply from the second I first closed its cover until today.
I finished reading it to our twins last night. To hear them talk today, they are in love with the book themselves, though I doubt it can be felt as deeply as my love for the book. We encourage them to think for themselves, to question, to seek, to demand that authority earns respect, so their experience with the book isn't as revelatory as mine. They have parents who've been answering their questions -- about gods, life, death, where babies come from, about anything -- since they were asking questions. They haven't needed to find that power for themselves, we've pointed the way to that power from the start. Still, they love this book, and I hope they share it with their kids (if they choose to have kids) in turn.