I'm a huge fan of dangerous books for boys. I love classic boys literature, whether Dumas's 'Count of Monte Cristo', Kipling's 'Jungle Book', BurroughI'm a huge fan of dangerous books for boys. I love classic boys literature, whether Dumas's 'Count of Monte Cristo', Kipling's 'Jungle Book', Burroughs 'A Princess of Mars', Tolkien's 'The Hobbit', or Heinlein's juvenile fiction. I love good stories that instruct boys in being adults. I love them for being persistently politically incorrect, not just now but then. I love them because they are stories by people who obviously know boys and know what they need. And, I love them for just being fun and exciting adventure stories. They abide, despite the distaste of limp wristed educators that would rather that little boys don't read them and are horrified when boys play with pretend weapons. I see that and I see someone that hates boys, and for that matter doesn't have a particularly high opinion of girls either. Far be it from me to be a child hater who insists that little boys and girls never be messy, smelly, or wild. You can't learn bravery or wisdom if you learn nothing about risk. You can't learn to be gentle if you aren't first strong.
But I don't have boys; I have two girls. That isn't to say that I don't intend to read to them all the great boy's literature, because I don't think that boys and girls are all so different as all of that. But, there just aren't a lot of dangerous books for girls. There aren't many daring books which feature female protagonists and address the question of growing up through a girl's eyes in ways that I approve of. Even Rowling's 'Harry Potter', features at its heart, a daring young man, not a daring young woman. And too much young adult literature for girls makes girls lives seem like they are all about boys and spend too little time on the other important things.
So of course, if you've read this book, you can imagine my joy at finding a story which is in the model of the best boy's literature but has as its protagonist - a girl. And what a girl! If you haven't read, 'The Wee Free Men', the protagonist is young Tiffany Aching, shepherd girl and cheese maker, who you'll fall in love with by the end of the first chapter. She's little, but she is doughty!
To give anything away about the plot would be unfair to the reader. The story is set on Pratchett's Discworld, but the connections are very loose and the reader gives up only a few easter eggs by not having read anything else in the series. There is no more need to read 'Lords and Ladies' or have an existing relationship with Granny Weatherwax than there is a need to read the Silmarillion before reading 'The Lord of the Rings'. So go ahead and open this story up, be you young or old, boy or girl, fan of fantasy or no; this is a treasure.
I love reading to my girls, but I sometimes get anxious for the probably all too quickly coming days when I can read something to them with more meat: something which is nearer and dearer to my heart. If I could only read them two fiction books, I'd read them Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' and Pratchett's 'The Wee Free Men'. It's of that stature.
Some of my readers - being who they are, or knowing who I am - may wonder that I'd so recommend this tale of 'witchcraft'. Well, for one thing, there isn't a lot of actual 'witchcraft' in the craft that Pratchett teaches. The problem with the word ‘witch’ is that it means so many different things to so many different people, that it really means nothing unless you know what it is pointing to. In Pratchett's case, the word 'witch' might as well mean 'nerd', because they are essentially pointing to the same idea. But, for people that don't know that words are merely pointers, and have no meaning until they are addressed and dereferenced, or who are uncomfortable with that, let me add this addition: I'm my children's parent, not a book. There isn't anything made by man which doesn't have a something in it which isn't fully edifying. I can round off the rough corners of my children's developing understanding fairly easily. I can talk with them about what they read. I would have to do that no matter what they read, for there is nothing written in the tongues of men that can't be misunderstood. What I can't do so easily is inspire children. I can't so easily make them care and make them excited so that they know something not just in their heads but also in their hearts. For that, I need the help of stories, and this is a good one filled with many things that are virtuous and true. I'm not going to let any minor confusion get in the way of that. ...more
I've done a lot of odd jobs over the years. At one point, back before I got my degree and I was still working to put my wife through school, I workedI've done a lot of odd jobs over the years. At one point, back before I got my degree and I was still working to put my wife through school, I worked as a delivery driver for a company that sold construction supplies - 50 lb boxes of powdered Kool-Aid, portable generators, hammers, safety harnesses, 2x4's, circular saws. It was one of those barely above minimum wage jobs generally populated by people who for whatever reason find themselves unable to get anything else and competing against a large number of similar people where the decisive advantage is often no more than you show up everyday.
My colleagues were an interesting mix: an ex-door gunner on a SOCOM gunship, a teenage kid dreaming of rapping his way off the street, the musician whose real job was Jazz and who’d played everywhere in N’awlins, a bow-kneed redneck that could still remember fondly when racism was acceptable but couldn’t manage to make his hatred stick because he didn’t really believe it, and the black racist ex-boxer would be preacher who once told me with an apologetic smile that white people couldn’t get into heaven because they had no souls. One of my colleagues was an aging chain smoking gray haired country boy missing half of his teeth and so learning disabled as to need my help with basic addition.
He probably knew more about literature than many of the professors I've had, or at the least he was more interesting to talk to and his opinions were less rote. I found this out after he came in one day aglow after seeing 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'. He absolutely needed someone to talk about the experience with, and by that time I was unable to hide the fact that I was an "egghead" so I was probably the only person he knew that was qualified. Turns out, he'd lived a rather interesting life. He was fluent in Spanish and had spent his youth working construction on hotels up and down the Central and South American coasts. And, he'd read everything. As I came to realize that this redneck knew something about books, despite as best as I could tell never completing high school, I started inquiring into his tastes. What I found remarkable was not so much that he'd read everything I'd ever read and then some, but that on those things we'd both read he shared much of the same opinion. At some point in one of the conversations Arthur C. Clarke came up, and he said, "Well, I liked 2001, but I really think that 'Childhood's End' is his real masterwork."
Not only do I agree, but I lack the ability to give a better recommendation.
I don't recommend the works of Clarke in general, and certainly not to anyone who isn’t a fan of science fiction. His works - even the better ones - always suffer from seeming to be short stories turned into novels. He also displays a strange combination of fascination with but complete incuriosity towards religion and spirituality that can probably be infuriating at times to the religious and non-religious alike. But this work rises above its defects and is well worth your time....more
One of the touchstone novels that seperates the true affectionado of science fiction from the more casual fan or the affectionado of pulp adventures wOne of the touchstone novels that seperates the true affectionado of science fiction from the more casual fan or the affectionado of pulp adventures with fantastic tropes.
I like pulp adventurers with fantastic tropes, but that's hardly the sum of either science fiction or fantasy.
Alot of people report being rather stunned by this book, as they didn't think science fiction was this broad or this well written. This is one of the books I turn to when pretentious literary snobs challenge my taste in books. Being Silverburg, it's very readable and approachable and you won't find the book to be quite the hard slog you'll find trying to read other ambitious works of science fiction.
Silverburg is a soft science-fiction writer and that tends to make him seem to straddle the divide between fantasy science-fiction which raises the challenging (if perhaps unimportant) question of what makes something science-fiction and what makes something fantasy.
My own personal definition of the divide is that fantasy is the branch of speculative fiction that addresses the question, "What is the nature of good and evil?" by representing abstract concepts as tangible things. Whereas, science fiction is the branch of speculative fiction that addresses the question, "What does it mean to be human?" generally by imagining things that are not human and comparing and contrasting humanity with these inventions.
By this definition, Silverburg is rightly shelved in the science fiction section. As with almost all of Silverburg's works, the real theme of 'Dying Inside' is the nature of personal identity - how we define it, how shallow those definitions prove to be in a crisis, how a sense of self may be gained and how it may be lost.