I so love these editions, which were my mother's. I have memories of reading them over and over. And then later, I read both editions of Martin GardneI so love these editions, which were my mother's. I have memories of reading them over and over. And then later, I read both editions of Martin Gardner's Annotated Alice. So much fun sharing them now with my own son!...more
I so love these editions, which were my mother's. I have memories of reading them over and over. And then later, I read both editions of Martin GardneI so love these editions, which were my mother's. I have memories of reading them over and over. And then later, I read both editions of Martin Gardner's Annotated Alice. So much fun sharing them now with my own son! ...more
My first foray into this well-respected writer's work, but it certainly won't be my last!
I will start by saying that there's a long-standing snobberyMy first foray into this well-respected writer's work, but it certainly won't be my last!
I will start by saying that there's a long-standing snobbery in circles that only respect lit-ra-chah that speculative (SF&F) fiction and every other "genre" category is somehow less than regular fiction; that it's all banal, badly written, a waste of time, the purview of the poorly-read, only fit for beach reading. Nonsense. I suspect most people who take this uppity stance haven't read widely in those categories, while they conveniently forget how much crap takes up space on regular fiction shelves. I defy anyone to read Butler's stories and tell me that they aren't some of the best writing out there. In general, I think speculative fiction has got to be the hardest fiction to write. Not only do you have to have a coherent plot, good character development, and believable dialog, you have to create a whole new world; one that doesn't fall apart when you push on it. Or at least to portray this world with some major differences. The best speculative fiction postulates what will happen in the future, how the present might be altered if history were different, how we might cope with alien cultures, and more importantly, explores our humanity in new and eye-opening ways by placing it in a completely different context.
Butler's writing is tight, intense, and in a few pages, takes you to a new reality. The first story, "Bloodchild," winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, is a horrifying coming-of-age tale of parasitism and love. How often do you see all of those adjectives in one sentence? I also loved "The Evening, the Morning, and the Night," which is about coping with degenerative disease and personal responsibility. For me, the weakest stories were "Near of Kin" and "Crossover." But even these were well-written; just not satisfying to me.
Not all of the stories are speculative fiction; there is also some straight fiction and essay. What I liked and hadn't expected was Butler's "Afterword" on each story. She says, "I like the idea of afterwords rather than individual introductions since afterwords allow me to talk freely about the stories without ruining them for readers . . . Before now, other people have done all the print interpretations of my work: 'Butler seems to be saying . . .' Obviously, Butler believes . . .' 'Butler makes it clear that she feels . . .' Actually, I feel that what people bring to my work is at least as important to them as what I put into it. But I'm still glad to be able to talk a little about what I do put into my work, and what it means to me." And I'm glad she did. After reading Bloodchild and thinking it was a parable of slavery, I was amused and chagrined to read, "It amazes me the some people have seen "Bloodchild" as a story of slavery. It isn't."
One final note: I was not surprised to read in Butler's online bio that Harlan Ellison thought highly of her work, encouraged her, and bought one of her stories. Like his, her writing is lean, often startling, and always uncompromising. From what I've read so far, she never panders, never dances around her point. She hits you right there. ...more
I don't usually like to be dropped into a story blind, where it's hard to tell who the characters are and what's being referred to. Not a fan. But thiI don't usually like to be dropped into a story blind, where it's hard to tell who the characters are and what's being referred to. Not a fan. But this author was somehow able to get me up to speed very quickly; in just a few pages, I'd gotten my bearings and the story, its inventiveness and urgency, drove me on. This skill of Okorafor's is key in a novella, where you have more space than a short story, but not much more, to develop characters (and in this case, multiple cultures), set the scene, get to the conflict, and resolve it in less than 100 pages. And the story! So interesting and compelling. I can't wait to read the next one. Okorafor has one many awards and although I've only read this one work, I can see that she's talented and a name to watch. ...more
I listened to this in the car with my son. Neil Gaiman is a wonderful reader; what a voice. I think my son and I were having quite different experiencI listened to this in the car with my son. Neil Gaiman is a wonderful reader; what a voice. I think my son and I were having quite different experiences listening to that voice. We loved the book. It was pretty much perfect. ...more
The inspiration for Freaky Friday, this book is about a Victorian man, Mr. Bultitude, and his son who accidentally change places. True to its subtitleThe inspiration for Freaky Friday, this book is about a Victorian man, Mr. Bultitude, and his son who accidentally change places. True to its subtitle "A Lesson to Fathers," the book is mostly concerned with how the father, having to cope with his son's life, grows and changes. One day, at the end of a term break, faced with his son not wanting to go back to the school, he rashly proclaims, "Perhaps you will believe me...when I tell you, old as I am and much as you envy me, I only wish, at this very moment, I could be a boy again, like you. Going back to school wouldn't make me unhappy, I can tell you." Ah, hubris. He just happens to be holding a stone from India, not knowing it's a wishing stone, and quick as you can say "I didn't mean it!" he's a boy on his way to boarding school. The boarding school is unpleasant (the food! Oh the horror of the food.), but what makes it truly terrible for Mr. Bultitude is the fact that while he looks like his son, he acts like his own pompous, grown-up, rigid, tattle-tale self, which doesn't endear him to anyone. He begins to make enemies the moment he gets on the train with the other kids on the way to the school. By the time he gets there, the tone is set. The book starts out as a light comedy, but becomes more serious and interesting as it goes. Mr. Bultitude makes absolutely no effort to fit in or make his own life easier:
"If it were not that it was so absolutely essential to the interest of this story, I think I should almost prefer to draw a veil over the sufferings of Mr. Bultitude during the rest of that unhappy week at Crichton House; but it would only be a false delicacy to do so. Things went worse and worse with him. The real Dick in his most objectionable moods could never have contrived to render himself one quarter so disliked and suspected as his substitute was by the whole school--masters and boys. It was in great measure his own fault too; for to an ordinary boy the life there would not have ahd any intolerable hardships, if it helf out no exceptional attractions. But he would not accommodate himself to circumstances..."
Instead, he tries to find opportunities to explain his situation, as though anyone would believe his story. Eventually, finding the situation more and more intolerable, he is left no option but to try to escape. When he finally manages to make it home to his family, he is a reformed man, one who can finally able to show love and kindness to his children.
C. S. Lewis had this to say about the book: "I spoke just now of Vice Versa. Its popularity was surely due to something more than farce. It is the only truthful school story in existence. The machinery of the [wishing stone] really serves to bring out in their true colours (which would otherwise seem exaggerated) the sensations which every boy had on passing from the warmth and softness and dignity of his home life to the privations, the raw and sordid ugliness, of school." -- C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, Ch 2....more
I knew the story of the Pied Piper as a kid, but I'd never read the Robert Browning text until I heard it used to great effect in the film The Sweet HI knew the story of the Pied Piper as a kid, but I'd never read the Robert Browning text until I heard it used to great effect in the film The Sweet Hereafter. I went right out and got myself a copy. Sadly, I didn't know my copy was "revised" from the Browning version and I need to get the real version at some point. Still, it is a wonderful poem, especially to read aloud. I read it aloud many times to my son when he was preschool age, just for the rhythm and the language. Then I read it aloud again when he was 9 or so and although he didn't remember it from earlier, he enjoyed it. We had been reading some fantasy books that referred to The Pipers Children, so it was good for him to find out what that meant. ...more
At page 75: Just getting into the book, but I have to wonder, as I did in the first book, Black Out, where the HELL is Willis's editor?? My gosh, if IAt page 75: Just getting into the book, but I have to wonder, as I did in the first book, Black Out, where the HELL is Willis's editor?? My gosh, if I have to read one more character wondering for the millionth time where the retrieval team is or whether they've changed history, I'm going to start crossing those parts out with a Sharpie. Someone needs to edit this down, even if it's me and I'm only editing this one public library copy.
Page 171: I'm done. The first book was pretty good, but I've ceased to care why they can't get back to their own time. Both volumes could have fit into one book if she'd had a disciplined editor. The tedium finally got too much for me. On to other books. ...more
I certainly wish I'd known that Blackout was book 1 of a pair. As I was nearing the end of this 491-page brick of a book, I kept wondering how on eartI certainly wish I'd known that Blackout was book 1 of a pair. As I was nearing the end of this 491-page brick of a book, I kept wondering how on earth she was going to resolve the mystery. Well she doesn't! No. It ends with a cliff-hanger and a smug little statement about being sure to check out the next installment, All Clear. Argh! 2 am and I'm having to scramble for my smart phone to put the next book on hold at the library. If I'd known, I would have checked out both at the same time. So let my experience be a cautionary tale for the next reader. That said, it was a fun book, a page-turner. I did have to finally write down all the characters and which time they were in. It was pretty confusing at first, especially since some of them go by different names when they time-travel. As always, Willis does a great job with what is a hackneyed SF device. Can't wait to get the next one!...more
Pretty dark rendition of Perrault's already-dark French fairy tale about incest called "Donkeyskin." I read this in my 20s and still remember it, butPretty dark rendition of Perrault's already-dark French fairy tale about incest called "Donkeyskin." I read this in my 20s and still remember it, but I didn't really like it. ...more