I know these stories tend to be a "thing" in the supernaturally, teenage-y kind of setting, but this one was really good. I think I liked it so much b...moreI know these stories tend to be a "thing" in the supernaturally, teenage-y kind of setting, but this one was really good. I think I liked it so much because it really pulled me back to the initial awesome feeling I had reading the first couple of Harry Potter books. Now, there's not any magic or wizardry, so I'm not sure why I relate them, maybe it's the telekinetic games that are played towards the end of the term as a test for the students who "specialize" in telekinesis -- it involves getting balls of varying size and weights into opponents' nets, but only using the mind to move the balls ... the winning pair is entered into the "Exceptionals" as a group of students who are the best at their "special" skill ... or maybe it's the stuff happening at the school involving mysterious disappearances and teachers going off to "figure things out" and the presumed lowly kid actually turning out be pretty kickass. I dunno, but it was good, and very short! Read it!(less)
This book was AMAZING. Alternating between Nao, Japanese 15-year-old girl preparing to kill herself, speaking about time and what is Time? and space a...moreThis book was AMAZING. Alternating between Nao, Japanese 15-year-old girl preparing to kill herself, speaking about time and what is Time? and space and particle physics and bullying and the economy and suicide and and and ... and Ruth, who lives in Canada with her husband, who she doesn't really understand, but who is beautiful in his own way, who found Nao's diary on the beach amidst seaweed and is reading it with a strange sense of displaced and fractured realities, as if Ruth is writing another fiction novel and getting so involved she misplaces time and events surrounding her ... this description really doesn't do this book justice. It's like an ugly baby plant, just getting its footing, which looks just like a weed you see all over, but instead of pulling it out right away, which is your instinct, you wait to see where it crawls, then wait and see what it has to offer the garden, neighboring flowers and plants, and you, and you discover it's more amazing than you thought a plant could be ... Enough of the aimless ramblings, here are some passages I was drawn to:
p. 124: "Tokyo is sixteen hours ahead, which means that it's daytime in Sunnyvale when it's nightmare here, and since I was living in a two-room apartment the size of Kayla's walk-in closet, it wasn't like I could get up in the middle of the night and turn on the computer and start chatting, so mostly me and Kayla were using email, which was a drag. I hate email. It's so slow. On email it's never now. It's always then, which is why it's so easy to get lazy and let your inbox fill up. Not that mine did anymore, but it used to. Right after we left Sunnyvale, everyone was emailing me like crazy and asking me all about Japan, but it took Dad a couple of weeks to get an Internet connection set up, and by then all my friends were involved with their summer vacations, and then school started, and they all kind of dropped me."
p. 125: "I tried to have a blog for a while. ... My dad helped me set it up before we moved, and I named it 'The Future is Nao!' because I thought that my future in Japan was going to be one big American-style adventure. How dumb was that? ... I kept it up for a while, making these cheerful, chirpy postings to 'The Future is Nao!' but I felt like a total fraud. And then one day, a couple of months after I got back, I happened to check my statistics, and realized that the whole time since I started my blog, only twelve people had ever visited it, for about a minute each, and I hadn't had a single hit in weeks, so that's when I stopped. There's nothing sadder than cyberspace when you're floating around out there, all alone, talking to yourself."
p. 167: "I mean, it's the kind of thing that's okay to do if you're in a temple on the side of a mountain, but you'd better not try it in your junior high school washroom, because if your classmates catch you bowing and thanking the toilet they'll try to drown you in it. I explained this to Jiko, and she agreed it wasn't such a good idea, but that it's okay to feel grateful sometimes, even if you don't say anything. Feeling is the important part. You don't have to make a bit deal about it."
p. 413: "The point is to illustrate the perplexing paradox of the so-called measurement problem in quantum mechanics: what happens to entangled particles in a quantum system when they are observed and measured. The cat and the atom represent two entangled particles [Footnote: Erwin Schrodinger came up with the term 'entanglement' in the course of devising his thought experiment. Einstein later called entanglement 'spooky action at a distance.']"(less)
Even better than the first one -- I really like Kitty, she's kickass. Also, Bartimaeus is getting better and better, while Nathaniel is still a spoile...moreEven better than the first one -- I really like Kitty, she's kickass. Also, Bartimaeus is getting better and better, while Nathaniel is still a spoiled annoying clueless bratty kid, ugh. I can't wait for his revelation about how corrupt the magician world is -- hopefully he gets this revelation! (less)
Some good quotes of the subtle creepiness that sort of lurks in dark places:
p. 16 "But it was not just the wind. There was also something wrong with t...moreSome good quotes of the subtle creepiness that sort of lurks in dark places:
p. 16 "But it was not just the wind. There was also something wrong with the sky, though they had trouble deciding the nature of it: as preposterous as it sounded, people were not sure if the curious arrangement of clouds made the sky feel too large, or perhaps too small. Others disagreed, saying that it was not the size at all, but the time: it was as if the sky had forgotten what hour it was and was now on the wrong schedule."
p. 17 "And though each room naturally had four walls, and so should have only four corners, some homeowners experienced the crawling suspicion that their residences were stuffed full of dark corners, sometimes with sixteen or seventeen to a room, as if the very nature of geometry had changed when the sun went down."
"... there'd been a series of evenings when the air seemed full of darkness, and everything felt thin, as if you could lick your finger and rub at the horizon and it would smear."
p. 21 "The man did nothing, as if thinking. Then he walked toward George with a bizarrely mechanical gait, arms stiff at his sides. As the man neared the queer silence grew, and George's impression of a picture of a man increased as well: his face was blankly handsome, his eyes a gray a shade lighter than his suit, and all of his features were clean and smooth and symmetrical. But though he seemed perfect, the man also seemed strangely indistinct, like your eyes would pass over him unless you were looking for him."
p. 144-145 "It was not a landscape in any conceivable sense of the word. For one thing, it did not obey any of the rules of physics that George was aware of and comfortable with: he was not sure if he was looking out, or down, or possibly even up, or maybe he was stuck to the side of a cliff and was looking along the precipice. But no matter the angle at which he looked, George saw an endless gray wasteland arranged out among the stars, riddled with abysses and canyons whose breadths were so wide it took George minutes (or was it hours?) to look from one side to the other."
"There seemed to be far too much sky in the places around him, and very little earth, like the horizon was eaten up by the gaps between the stars. It was a frigid, brittle, awful place, hanging in space without any sense of dimension of depth or purpose."
p. 268 "... the human mind is very good at recontextualizing the world when it stops making sense. When a person encounters an event that goes beyond their normal five senses, the mind filters the information and changes it so that the event is experienced in normal, understandable terms. In essence, it creates a realistic metaphor to relate what's happening. Sometimes the metaphor can be very different from the normal world, like suddenly switching things so it seems as though you are at the bottom of the sea; but then such changes may be necessary, if the event experienced is great enough."(less)
I liked the story, ultimately, and it got better as the book moved forward, but I think the flow of the story got a bit stuttered by the oral-traditio...moreI liked the story, ultimately, and it got better as the book moved forward, but I think the flow of the story got a bit stuttered by the oral-tradition-storyteller-as-narrator element. I can appreciate the attempt to address the significance of oral folktales, of course, and Shakespeare does this with his narrator characters in his plays, but a book has a bit more trouble when the narrator/storyteller interrupts to comment about something. I really liked Paama, and it was cool reading in an African setting -- you could really see some of the motifs and lesson-elements that tend to emerge from folktales especially in Africa (I'm thinking Anansi the Trickster, like some in this book). It was a cool experience, but a bit belabored. (less)
I'm not usually into anthologies, as they are usually kind of disjointed and spotty, but this collection was fairly awesome. Firstly, I LOVE Ekaterina...moreI'm not usually into anthologies, as they are usually kind of disjointed and spotty, but this collection was fairly awesome. Firstly, I LOVE Ekaterina Sedia's books, and wanted more more more by her, and stumbled across this anthology which she edited. That being said, I didn't love all the stories, but the ones that I did like compelled me to keep reading, rather than doing that frustrating-feeling-thing-wherein-one-gives-up-on-reading-said-anthology. Here were the stories I liked best:
"Courting the Lady Scythe" by Richard Parks "The Bumblety's Marble" by Cat Rambo "Promises; A Tale of the City Imperishable" by Jay Lake "Sammarynda Deep" by Cat Sparks "Tearjerker" by Steve Berman "The Title of this Story" by Stephanie Campisi "Painting Haiti" by Michael Jasper "The Funeral, Ruined" by Ben Peek
The stories that didn't grab me right away, or the ones in which I found myself floating around in my own head without a grasp on what I was reading, I just skipped over, which I found to be a good strategy. This happened with the first two stories, actually, but the third was cool, and so it went. Now I'll see if these authors have novels that I might like. (less)
As with any anthology, some stories work for an individual more than others. Some stories grip you, and some evade your snares. Some stories embrace y...moreAs with any anthology, some stories work for an individual more than others. Some stories grip you, and some evade your snares. Some stories embrace you, while others feels like a kissing a dead fish. In any case, this was quite a wonderful collection. Just think about it -- the range of what "circus" tales can actually be is quite vast -- optimistic, hopeful and childlike; dark, life-wasted in a circus, sideshow freaks mistreated, etc.; otherworldly, creatures making up the show from places outside Earth, etc.; humorous and adventurous through trials of young adulthood to a life in the trade, etc., and many more unexpected aspects of this particular story focus. I'll just share some excerpts that caught my eye:
From: "Welcome to the Greatest Show in the Universe" by Deborah Walker: "Jinkers entered the lapis lazuli palace of Nebuchadnezzar. She remembered the sense of awe that had struck her, the majesty of the spectacle had overwhelmed her twenty years ago. ... But now, as Jinkers walked through the palace, she didn't feel the same. She watched the punters stare in wonder at the spectacle of their collective past. She wanted to share their experience, to recapture the emotion she'd felt all those years ago. But all she could see was a facsimile of reality. When she looked at the throne, she didn't marvel at the luxury of wealth, instead she saw the cost of the gold plating and remembered the builders' overpriced estimates. ... She saw through the illusion of history. Her administrator's eye had spoiled the magic and the fantasy."
--sound familiar to anyone? Perhaps like that job everyone says, "it must be so fantastic to work there!" but you've seen behind the velvet curtain and the Great and Powerful Oz is after all just a man.
From: "Making My Entrance Again with my Usual Flair" by Ken Scholes ... for absolute hilarity, really reminded me of Douglas Adams: "When we crossed into Oregon, the monkey woke up. I knew this because he asked me for a cigarette. I swerved to the shoulder, mashing the brakes with one clown-shoed foot while hyperventilating. 'Just one,' he said. 'Please?' I couldn't get out of the car fast enough. After a few minutes of pacing by the side of the road, convincing myself that it was the result of quitting the booze cold turkey, I poked my head back into the car. 'Did you say something?' I asked, holding my breath. Silence. Releasing my breath, I climbed back into the car. 'I didn't think so.' I started the car back up, eased it onto the road. I laughed at myself. 'Talking monkeys,' I said, shaking my head. 'Monkeys can't talk,' the monkey said. Then he yawned loudly. I braked again."(less)
Russian history, industrialization, Russia+China, English=traitors, and one "unruly" recently debuted girl attending university for the first time tha...moreRussian history, industrialization, Russia+China, English=traitors, and one "unruly" recently debuted girl attending university for the first time that women are allowed to attend, in St. Petersburg, due to her unconventional, strong-willed "spinster" aunt 'bullying' Emperor Constantine in front of his countrymen. Add to this a handful of 'Chinamen' also attending the university, who begin to go missing, while sneaky plainclothes Russian secret police hang out near their quarters. Also, Sasha (girl previously mentioned) befriends the 'Chinamen' and learns all about their country's conflicts, between Manchus and Taipings, and hates the unfairness of the haughty male professors insisting all races not caucasian and also all women have brains and intelligence far below their fellow white male.
One night Sasha gets nabbed along with her Chinese friends by the secret police, and an Englishman inexplicably falls from the sky and manages to get her free. Thus begins Sasha's mission to make sure her Chinese friends are safe, uncover secret spies and untrue alliances between countries, and convince the Chinese emperor to align with the Russian Emperor (and vice versa) in a coming war with the English and Turkish. She rides a train all the way to Beijing, through Siberia, dressed as a Russian male "hussar" in the military, complete with mustache, to do what she must, along with her sympathetic, traitor-to-his-country Englishman with crazy jumping powers, making friends along the way with Chinese fur traders and a group of Russian military guys.
All that being said, this book was pretty cool, and like all Ekaterina Sedia novels, so well described and painted with words. (less)
First off, this book is not for everyone. That being said, I kind of loved it. The more I'm thinking about it -- the experience of it, the story itsel...moreFirst off, this book is not for everyone. That being said, I kind of loved it. The more I'm thinking about it -- the experience of it, the story itself, the creation myth within/creating the story -- the more I'm loving it. It's a short little book, broken into sections, and it really oftentimes reads like really lush prose poetry, other times it's a kind of Japanese "just-so" story told from the point of view of the fallen storm-god-turned-mortal-man, hunting for a dragon/snake/beast who has eaten a poor farmer's 7 daughters, and captured the 8th. Then, other parts are from the point of view of this dragon/snake/monster with 7 heads (a head for each daughter), with one head telling their tale, interspersed with the dragon/snake/monster's thoughts because they are joined. So that sounds pretty crazy, and it is, pretty much, but it's just so ... I don't know, strange and beautiful and lush and poetic that it somehow works. Catherynne Valente is way cool. (less)