Wow, I’m actually trying to write a book review. I haven’t done that in months and months, but we’ll see how it goes.
Catherine Asaro is my favourite aWow, I’m actually trying to write a book review. I haven’t done that in months and months, but we’ll see how it goes.
Catherine Asaro is my favourite author and her Skolian series, of which Diamond Star is the latest chapter, is my favourite series. However, I often get incredibly anxious about reading her books, sometimes putting it off for months, and I’m never been completely sure about why. I am coming to the conclusion that it is a combination of the fact that I really connect with these books, meaning I tend to have a very intense reaction to them, and the fact I find her bad guys particularly nasty, so that the more they feature in a book, the more anxious I feel about reading it. But I love the books. The characters speak to me and I really respond to them. I care about them all and want to know what happens to them. If I was a writer (which I’m not, and certainly wouldn’t ever be one of Catherine’s talent) and I was trying to “write what you love and want to read”, these are they books I’d want to write. They just hit all my buttons, even if they terrify me a little bit as well.
Del was a rock singer. He was also the renegade son of the Ruby Dynasty, which made his career choice less than respectable, and gave him more to worry about than getting gigs and not getting cheated by recording companies, club owners, or his agent. For one thing, the Ruby Dynasty ruled the Skolian Imperialate, an interstellar Empire, which had recently had a war with another empire, the Eubian Concord. For another, Del was singing on Earth, which was part of a third interstellar civilization, and one which had an uneasy relationship with the Imperialate. Del undeniably had talent, and was rapidly rising from an unknown fringe artist to stardom. But, with his life entangled in the politics of three interstellar civilizations, whether he wanted that or not, talent might not be enough. And that factor might have much more effect than his music on the lives of trillions of people on the thousands of inhabited worlds across the galaxy.
As I read the book, I really wasn’t always sure if I liked Del or not. I certainly didn’t dislike him, but he could be an incredibly frustrating character at times. He could be pretty immature and needs to do some growing up. Most of her other characters have been much more mature and this is something new. It's done well, but I wanted to slap him occasionally. I think this is completely intentional, but he's still sometimes frustrating. Not annoying, because he's totally in character all the time, but frustrating because he has so much potential he isn't living up to yet.
Of course, that’s part of the power of the character. For a lot of complicated reasons I don’t want to spoil, he’s missed out of a childhood really and he’s a grown man who is still finding his way out of adolescence with all of an adult’s weight on his shoulders. I found it particularly poignant that, for him, all that his family has suffered (and we readers have suffered it with them through the earlier books) has happened all in one brief, crushing moment, where in reality it has been spread out over 40 years. For them, there has been time to come to some sort of terms with it all and move on, even if only to the next crisis. For Del, it’s all happened to him at once and I doubt he’s had time to work through any of it. That’s why he takes the action he does at the end of the book, full of anger and also confusion I think, and it works perfectly. It’s probably also the beginning of some healing of all the pain, so it will good to see where his character goes in the aftermath of that.
Apparently, Catherine’s next Skolian book is to be called Carnelians. “It's another stand-lone, like Diamond Star. However, it fits in with Diamond Star and another book called The Ruby Dice, because all three [sic:] involve the same characters and universe.” (Catherine Asaro on Paraoddity)
Firstly, I’m not sure what the third book mentioned here is as Catherine has only named two, but I’m not sure that I care. More Del, more Kelric, more Jai. Yay, I’m going to be happy (even if that whole anxiety thing happens again). But my real point is that I can see Del needing another book. His story doesn’t feel finished here. This chapter of it is, but he’s still got growing up and healing to do, probably quite a lot of both, and his character arc has plenty more places to go. But now that I have finished the book, I find that I do like him. I’m well established in his corner and I want to see him do that growing and become the man he can be. He’s made mistakes, but he learns from them and I want to see that keep happening. (Although a bit from Kelric’s point of view, to see his real feelings for Del, not his always stoic reactions as interpreted by Del in his frustration and anger, would be good too.)
One other small comment – it was nice to have an aspect of the family tree that has always been confusing finally explained. Maybe in the next book we could have an update of the family tree and the timeline (with the “location” of the newer books added to it ).
This is a slightly jointed review – I apologise. I started with a bang, then rather ran out of steam. Rather than leaving the draft sitting around for months, I decided to post what I had, so here you are. I hope it was interesting and/or useful. ...more
Okay, so I admit it; I decided to read The City of Ember after seeing a trailer for the movie. I still haven’t seen the film (I’m not sure if it was eOkay, so I admit it; I decided to read The City of Ember after seeing a trailer for the movie. I still haven’t seen the film (I’m not sure if it was even released here in New Zealand, but hopefully the DVD will turn up in due course), but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I bought the sequel pretty much as soon as I finished the first book, but it’s only now that I’ve had a moment to read it.
As the book begins, a group of just over 400 hungry, weary and footsore people arrive on the outskirts of the village of Sparks. These are the survivors of Ember, the ones who made it out of the dying city into the strange and amazing and terrifying world above ground. They’ve been walking since they emerged into the light, desperately looking for some sign of other human beings.
But Sparks is a small village, finally growing prosperous after generations of struggle since it was settled in the years after the Disaster. It’s population is smaller than the number of strangers who have arrived needing food and shelter, understanding almost nothing about the kind of life the villagers live. The leaders of Sparks agree to let the Emberites stay, but only for six months, while they learn what they will need to know to start their own village.
Inevitably, tension builds between the two groups of people. The villagers are unhappy to have to share their limited stores and frustrated by the apparently simple things the Emberites don’t know or understand, while the people of Ember are gradually coming to realise there is no way they will be ready to found their own settlement in six months, at which time it will almost be winter, a concept that terrifies them once they come to understand what winter actually is. Both Lina and Doon try to help in their own way. Lina takes the opportunity to join a couple of roamers who scavenge old-time towns and buildings for useful items, to go and look for the city she has seen in her dreams. Doon, on the other hand, remains in Sparks, caught between the need to find a way to live peacefully with the villagers and the increasingly strident and potentially violent leadership of a Tick, a charismatic young man from Ember.
It’s interesting that The People of Sparks, built on the conflict between two groups of people who are both right in their own way and yet can’t find a way to co-exist peacefully, reads as a simpler book than The City of Ember which had an apparently much simpler theme. It’s a good little book, but it doesn’t have the same atmosphere that the previous book did, and that is to its detriment. Or perhaps, I realise as I type this, it’s that the atmosphere is different. Everyone is out in the blazing sun of summer here and it shines a pitiless light on everything, clearly showing the lack of an easy solution in a way that makes a complex problem look strangely simple (if possibly one without a solution).
Yes, I think that’s it. Even for Lina, who gets away from the growing hostility in Sparks, the truth she leans about what she hopes may be a new home for her people is stark and harsh. The city is totally destroyed, beyond any kind of recovery and seemingly haunted by the ghosts of its many dead. If there is any truth to her dream of a living city, it must lie elsewhere as this is not it.
And ironically, in the end the solution turns out to be plain and simple as well. Perhaps not simple to keep living every day, but simple at a turning point moment which is where the book ends. The newly combined, 700-odd people of the enlarged Sparks will still face troubles as they try to integrate into a single community but now they have a warning of what can go wrong and an example of the right way to go, to help guide them along the journey.
With the introduction of a whole new community of people, this book obviously introduces a variety of new characters. While all the villagers are decently drawn, for me the new character who shines the most is Maddy. Not actually from Sparks, she left her failing home village with the nephew of Sparks’ doctor, who is a roamer. An apparently indifferent character when she is first introduced, she turns out to be wise and daring and a delight to read, and she will be a credit to Sparks now she has decided to settle there. She is the one who gives Lina the secret of how to stop the building hate between the two groups, the secret Lina passes to Doon and both of them act upon at the book’s climax to bring peace between the people of Sparks and the people of Ember.
The roamers are also a great addition to duPrau’s post-Disaster world. Apart from Lina’s trip with Caspar and Maddy, the story is focused in a small area, meaning what we see is a place that could be any village struggling to survive in tough conditions, giving us little feeling of a post-Apocalyptic world. But the roamers go out and hunt through the ruins of civilisation, showing us a glimpse of the world we know now that has fallen. The transportation of the roamers (and around the village as well) is very cool. With numerous hulks of dead cars and trucks about, the people have taken trucks mostly, stripped out the weight of their useless engines and hitched them to oxen to pull them. It’s a great image and one that really appealed to me. The other way to get around faster than a walk is to use a bicycle, and that is another common mode of transport. Lina, who loved being a messenger in Ember, quickly comes to love riding a bicycle and I’ll be interested to see if there is more message running (or rather message biking) in her future.
My immediate reaction to this book was that, while I certainly liked it, I liked The City of Ember better. But as a couple have days have gone past and I’ve further clarified my thoughts by writing this, I realise that I probably liked it just as much – just in a very different way. Both books were very much defined by their atmosphere – the darkness and sense of ending in Ember and the bright, merciless sun baking the earth in Sparks. That made for two very different books, but also two very good books and I recommend them both.
Being me, after finishing The People of Sparks, I jumped online and bought the next one, The Prophet of Yonwood. This one should be interesting as it is set 50 years before the founding of Ember as the world is suffering through the Disaster (which turned out to be protracted, painful and destructive rather than one short bang that destroyed everything. I’ve heard less positive things about this one, so I’m looking forward to making up my own mind. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get to read it.
The People of Sparks Jeanne duPrau The Books of Ember, Book 2 7/10
Reading The People of Sparks and then The Dreaming Place got me into a YA mood, making me conquer my I’m-so-worried-about-what-will-happen-to-ElspethReading The People of Sparks and then The Dreaming Place got me into a YA mood, making me conquer my I’m-so-worried-about-what-will-happen-to-Elspeth collywobbles and I picked up Ashling, the next in Isobelle Carmody’s Chronicles of Obernewtyn. This is a great addition to the story, flowing along at a steady pace and shifting location and focus several times. That meant I stayed interested and didn’t have time to stress too much about Elspeth, concentrating on the story instead.
Elspeth rescues a gypsy woman who is about to be burned by Herders and sets in motion a most unexpected adventure. When the woman fails to recover at Obernewtyn, the futureteller Maryon, dreams that Elspeth must venture to Sutrium and return the gypsy to her people within a week or die in the attempt. Joined by several others, Elspeth begins the journey south, along the way learning about the Twentyfamilies gypsies – who appear to have some kind of link to ancient Beforetime enemies of Talents – and eventually travelling to the neighbouring country of Sador to be tested to see if the Misfits can work with the growing rebels groups who want to overthrow the Council. Tied in to all this are growing hints about the Beforetime and what led to the Great White as well as indications of Elspeth’s future as the Seeker, destined to find and destroy the remaining Beforetime weaponmachines.
Oh, I loved this book. It was a perfect blend of thee things – a compelling current time adventure, reminders of the future that still waits for Elspeth and how she can reconcile it with the present, and a fascinating mystery about the Beforetime, what happened, what it all meant and how it will continue to affect characters in the present time. These things hit all my buttons beautifully, so the book was ideal for me. Personally, while actual apocalyptic fiction interests me, I prefer a more distant post-apocalyptic fiction where I get to enjoy the current story and figure out what the apocalypse in question was and how it happened. This book (and the entire series as a whole) gives it to me in spades.
Elspeth remains an interesting character; she’s strong and resourceful without being too perfect. She isn’t happy to be an instrument of fate, although she is working towards accepting it. Her developing relationship – or lack thereof – with Rushton is love and contains all the contradictions one might expect from a late teen. And through it all, she rises to the challenges that face her one by one and finds the necessary solutions.
The other characters in this book are less developed, more because they are not some much the focus of the tale than because Carmody has chosen to do less work with them. This book, and the entire series really, is Elspeth’s tale and the spotlight is on her, with the other characters acting in supporting roles.
The story of the Beforetime is also coming into focus. For me, this is huge part of the attraction to Ashling. As I said above, I really enjoy piecing together the remnants of the past to try to figure out what the world was like before. It’s more fun than just getting the directly told story of the apocalypse. Carmody is giving me everything I could want. So far, Elspeth herself is curious but not desperately interested in the Beforetime, but the book seems to be suggesting that it is going to become more and more important. This will certainly be true for the readers, but I suspect it may be for the characters as well. Of course, Elspeth and her fellow characters are more interested in the world they have to live in and its future, but to tell a complete tale, Carmody is building the story of the Beforetime and how it ending in the Great White, I am guessing to bring the tale full circle when Elspeth finally sets out on her quest to destroy the weaponmachines and prevent a new Great White. It would certainly provide an lovely symmetry to the thematic explorations of the series.
I found, as Carmody dropped all her hints, I was constantly annotating my ebook, mostly just highlighting passages, but also adding a few notes. While I hope to keep the annotations with the book, I know how easy it is for me to delete something easily (which is why I have a backup directly where I keep all my ebooks safe for future reading), so I wanted to copy those notes somewhere. I started out thinking of a Word document, but then decided ‘what the heck’ and started up a new blog where I’ll make a backup record of any notes and theories I might have. I figure it’ll also be a good place to use if I ever want to add spoilers to any of my reviews. If it sounds interesting to you (probably only if your read/are reading any of the books I discuss) the link is: Spoilers, Notes and Theories.
As I had already indicated, this series is pushing all my buttons and I’m really enjoying it. If your buttons are different, it may not resonate as much, but this is still an excellent series and well worth stretching your boundaries for. However, this is very much an on-going tale rather than a series of linked individual stories, for all that the action within each book is complete. I highly recommend starting with the first book in the series, Obernewtyn.
Ashling Isobelle Carmody Obernewtyn Chronicles, Book 3 9/10 Notes and comments for Ashling
**spoiler alert** Well, I wrote an entire review for this – and one I was rather pleased with too – and then accidently overwrote the draft when I sta**spoiler alert** Well, I wrote an entire review for this – and one I was rather pleased with too – and then accidently overwrote the draft when I started typing up my notes for the book for my Spoilers, Notes and Theories blog. Here’s hoping I can remember enough to recreate something similar.
I first read Julie E. Czerneda’s A Thousand Words for Stranger (isn’t that such an evocative title?) several years ago, but unfortunately I remembered very little about it. In an effort to encourage myself to a reread, I kept nominating it for the SF read of the month at [Beyond_Reality:] and finally it got picked for February. It took me longer than I expected to read it – about a week – but it was because it was a detailed and somewhat complicated book, not because it was a bad one.
A young woman is travelling with an escort on the planet Auord when they are attacked and she escapes, fleeing into the rain. Memoryless, she finds herself driven by hidden compulsions to get herself off planet, preferably in the company of human spacer, Jason Morgan. So begins Sira’s journey to find out who she is, what has happened to her and why, and why she is being chased by multiple groups of people for a variety of inexplicable reasons. She and Morgan must face mysterious (and not-so mysterious) enemies as they find themselves caught up in an attempt by the humanoid but alien Clan to save themselves from extinction. They must also deal with space pirates, Trade Pact enforcers, a variety of Clansfolk with differing agendas and, just to make things more complicated, their own growing feelings for each other.
The above is a relatively straightforward description of what is actually quite a complicated book. Czerneda is a biologist and the central theme of this book is a biological “what if” that is explored in great detail, all while the novel masquerades as an action mystery with a hint of romance. Author John Scalzi hosts a regular feature on his blog, Whatever, where he asks authors to discuss the “big idea” behind their novels, and Czerneda’s contribution, which discusses the origins of the Clan, and with them, Sira and Morgan, can be found here. It’s an interesting read that intrigues without spoiling the books and it’s what encouraged me to reread A Thousand Words for Stranger.
The book is primarily written in first person POV, telling the tale through Sira’s eyes as she slowly gathers enough information and experience to find out who she is, what has happened to her and why. It is a good way to tell an amnesia story as the reader and the protagonist solve the mystery together. As well as Sira’s POV, the story includes interludes told is third person POV, which Czerneda uses to tell parts of the story where Sira is not present. This worked well for me as those little extra pieces put me, the reader, a slight step ahead of Sira. That meant that as she then discovered something new I had a little bit of extra information to help me make sense of it all. However, one of the members of [Beyond_Reality:] really disliked it and I got the impression it significantly spoiled the book for her because she felt it was a cheat on the author’s part. This is one of those things that is going to be very much a matter of personal taste.
Be warned that this is not a simple book. It’s not impossibly complicated – there are other SF books out there that have confused me much more than this one ever did – but you do have to pay attention and study the clues and explanations carefully if you want to fully understand Czerneda’s Clan and their problems. For all that I have a BSc(Hons) degree in chemistry and biochemistry, biology has never been one of my strong points. I never studied it at school (always planning to be a chemist) and had to play catch-up when I started my biochem papers to get some of the basic ideas down pat. (I’m a reactions and pathways girl and not into the squishy biology stuff.) All the same, I wanted to understand – so I took a lot of notes. Fortunately, I was reading this as an ebook and there are multiple bookmarks all through it as I highlighted passages that either seemed important or were confusing. (Those notes are over on my Spoilers, Notes and Theories blog.) By taking time to highlight text and then typing it out earlier today, I feel I do pretty much understand what was going on in the book. There are only two things I remain puzzled about and while one is a case of mild confusion (why is the Council’s last step in their plan to erase Sira’s mind to escape the “dictates of Choice”?), the other is something that I hope will be addressed in a later book (if Sira has given her Power-of-Choice to Morgan, how has and will that affect him?). But all in all, I feel Czerneda put in everything the reader needs to understand what is going on, and the degree to which one wants to understand determines how much work one needs to put into it.
This is a book about ideas (or perhaps more the ramifications of a particular idea) than it is a book about characterisation, but I still found the characters interesting and likeable. Sira and Morgan, as the main protagonists, are by far the most developed characters, while the more satellite characters are less rounded. Personally, I was reading the book for Sira, Morgan and the idea, so this worked fine for me. The others are sufficient for the tale that is being told and certainly don’t hurt it in any way. I very much liked the way Sira slowly found herself as the book progressed – and then discovered that the person she had been before was not someone she particularly liked. Her conflict at being two people, the now-Sira she has been since she lost her memory and the old-Sira who is a stranger to her, is nicely portrayed as is her journey from wanting to stay who she is now, even if that means not being a fully integrated person, to being ready to take the risk to become a third Sira who is a combination of the other two. While this is not really a book about identity, Sira’s struggles with these issues are nicely done.
I wasn’t until I read the author’s introduction to Ties of Power, the sequel to A Thousand Words for Stranger, that I realised we know very little about Morgan’s past beyond a vague reference to having made some bad choices. For all that, I got a solid feeling for his character and I like him a lot – which makes me look forward to Ties of Power all the more where Czerneda implies in the introduction that his past while be explored further. I’d particularly like to know what inspired him to paint most of his cabin with flora and fauna and when and how he discovered he had the talent to do so. (Me, I struggle with stick figures, so I appreciate how much talent is required to do something like that.)
Julie Czerneda is currently writing the third book in a trilogy about the Stratification, the time when the Clan spilt into those who could touch the M’hir, the main source of their power, and those who could not. Hints about this time are tossed out in A Thousand Words for Stranger, and knowing about the new trilogy, I made a point of taking notice of them. It looks like an interesting time and it should cover the origin of the biological impasse that is the crux of this book. After that, Czerneda plans to come full circle back to Sira and Moran and I guess/hope that she will come up with the solution to that issue. I’m looking forward to reading Ties of Power and I do hope that books continue to hold my interest as I like Sira and Morgan and the ideas Czerneda is exploring. If they do, there’s going to be a lot of good, biological SF in my future and that will be a good thing.
As I said right at the beginning, I do love the title of this book. There is something just so evocative about it. Everyone has become a stranger to Sira, and she says this to a woman who claims to be her sister. Rael replies:
There must be a thousand words for stranger in the explored galaxy. Let one of them be sister.
It doesn’t really mean anything special – or maybe it means everything – but I like it.
This isn’t the best SF novel I’ve ever read, but it is far, far from the worst as well. It was Czerneda’s first novel and I look forward to reading more of her work and seeing how it has developed in the years since A Thousand Words for Stranger was first published.
A Thousand Words for Stranger Julie E. Czerneda Trade Pact, Book 1 8/10 Notes for A Thousand Words for Stranger
I really enjoyed Linnea Sinclair’s first book about Chaz Bergren and her growing relationship with Gabriel Sullivan (not to mention her involvement wiI really enjoyed Linnea Sinclair’s first book about Chaz Bergren and her growing relationship with Gabriel Sullivan (not to mention her involvement with political intrigue, ex-husbands, monster breeding programmes and difficult family relationships). So when I heard there was a direct sequel coming out that would continue Chaz and Sully’s adventures I was delighted. But then the reviews started coming out. They were pretty much uniformly positive, but most talked about it being a dark book and about Sully making bad choices and stupid decisions. My book fear (where I worry desperately about the characters and/or how much reading about what happens to them is going to stress me) came rising up and I kept finding excuses not to face up to reading the book. But the third related book (not about Chaz and Sully, but about Chaz’s ex-husband Philip) is due out in a couple of weeks and the random number generator picked Shades of Dark for me, so I figured it was time to take the plunge and read it.
Chaz and Sully have escaped after destroying the Jukor breeding lab on Marker, but they know there is another lab out there on a ship. While trying to track it down, they find themselves caught up in high politics. Chaz’s brother Thad, who helped them on Marker, is arrested by the conspirators behind the Jukor labs (and more) as bait to draw out the fugitives. Whether he co-operates or has his mind scanned, his knowledge that Sullivan is a hated telepath or Kyi-Ragkiril is sure to be discovered. Chaz and Sully have to deal with the reactions of their crew to this news, the discovery of traitors in that same crew, not to mention the potential fall of the Empire itself (along with the arrival of Chaz’s ex-husband, Philip) and the intrusion of an alien Storloth Kyi-Ragkiril onto their ship. The latter, Del, can train Sully, whose power is growing at a rate he can’t control, but his mentorship comes with oaths, traditions and complications that will strain Chaz and Sully’s relationship to breaking point.
For once, my fears about a book proved to be true. By its end, this was a disturbing book. A very good disturbing book, but a disturbing book all the same. Sinclair doesn’t ever choose to take the easy way out and she explores the adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely with a clear and unwavering gaze. Sully needs to come to terms with what he is, but as the only human Kyi-Ragkiril that he knows about, he has no guidelines except for scanty research about Storloth Kyi-Ragkirils. When Del enters the scene, he thinks he’s found a tutor and mentor, but the very things that make him human are not things Del, as a Storloth, sees as necessary or important. Chaz sees Sully changing and has to come to decide for herself how much of this is a good thing and how much, if any, is a bad thing.
Sully does indeed make some very bad and stupid choices, and Chaz’s responses are strong, brave and sometimes heart-breaking. I’m still processing exactly what happened and both Chaz and Sully’s choices. I’m not 100% clear how much of what happened was freely Sully’s choice and how much was Del manipulating him. Even if Del influenced things, the power inside Sully is a hungry, demanding thing and he must, as the story progresses, discover if he can stand up to it or if it will devour him too.
Chaz does not love blindly, and this makes her a strong and brave character that the reader can only admire. She’s fantastic as she walks her own path through the minefield of her relationship with Sully, further confused as it is by the presences of Del and Philip. She knows where her moral boundaries lie and she will stick to them despite what it costs her – and who can’t love a woman who’s prepared to shoot her lover because he’s crossing a line he shouldn’t cross and it’s the only way to get through to him?
Sully is lost and confused and his pain is heart-breaking, but at the same time both he and Chaz know, and Sinclair doesn’t let the reader forget, that we are still responsible for our actions and we must take the consequences for what we do. We must fight to stay human and in touch with those things that are the best in humanity. Sully tries and, in the end, he stumbles, but still he tries. And always, always he loves Chaz with all that he is.
There’s a lot more plot in this book as the Empire disintegrates and the Jukor breeding lab is found – and it’s very good plot that weaves neatly though the focus on Sully and Chaz’s relationship and Sully’s growing power in the Kyi and what responsibilities that does or doesn’t place upon him. But at bottom this book is an study of love, as it seeks to explore its limits and its limitlessness. Sully says frequently to Chaz that all that he is is hers. But sometimes we have to draw lines in the sand, and where Chaz chooses to draw hers and how much she loves despite that make for a painful and uplifting conclusion to the book.
The ending is downbeat, yet beautiful in its own way. It’s painful, but it’s right. These people and their situation and experiences could only end here. And despite everything, the reader can still believe in their happy ending. It might not be happy right now, and it might be totally different from what they (or we) originally imagined, but there’s a rightness to their relationship that nothing has yet destroyed and we can believe nothing will.
Like I said way back at the beginning of this review, this is a disturbing book. It’s disturbing because, through Sully, we are forced to face some of the darker shades to human nature – and we don’t have a hero who can automatically be assumed to stand strong against them, because real people often fail and if Sully is anything, he is very real, despite his great power. So it’s disturbing, but it is also very good. If you have book fear like me, don’t let it stop you. This is a book worth reading, and there’s a love here that is strong and true yet real in its complications and its pain. Trust in Linnea Sinclair; she’s taken on a hard challenge here and she’s succeeded.
All the same, I’m hoping the next book, Hope’s Folly, won’t be so hard on its readers. I can’t take books like this all the time.
Shades of Dark Linnea Sinclair Dock 5, Book 2 8/10
Oh, I loved this all over again. I think I resented Theo a little on first read because she was takingREREAD: 27 October 2014 - 4 November 2014 (9/10)
Oh, I loved this all over again. I think I resented Theo a little on first read because she was taking the story away from Val Con etc. Now, however, I recognise the world as the combination of all its stories, and it was lovely to get back into Theo's life.
I had the Wispersync version, meaning I could both read and listen. I did more reading overall, but it was great to be able to jump between the two depending on where I was or what my preference of the moment was.
Saltation (Theo Waitley, #2) is also a Wispersync book where I have both ebook and audio, so I shall enjoy reading that the same way. However, I've got a few other things to read first. Hopefully my break away from the Liaden universe won't be as long this time as it was last time.
ORIGINAL READ: 11 May 2010 - 18 May 2010 (8/10)
A lovely return to the Liaden universe and a long break. Theo is a delightful protagonist and I enjoyed watcing her grow.
It took me a little while to get back into the swing of thing, but once I did the book was a delight.
It did feel a little unfinished though. The overall mystery was never properly put to rest. Sure, a satisfying conclusion was reached, but the reader was left to figure out a lot of the details by inference rather that because it was written into the book.
A couple of characters got away and we still don't know the exact why of what was being done. I hope these things are concluded in the next book. (I have a copy of Saltation and will be starting it an a day or two.) But even if it isn't, I won't be very unhappy.
I really enjoyed Fledgling and it has confirmed by desire to reread the entire Liaden series, as I've only read it all once. I'm quite, quite sure these are books that only grow richer with rereading....more
I really enjoyed this. It was a lot of funa and one of those books you keep reading when you really should have gone to bed already.
I did have quite aI really enjoyed this. It was a lot of funa and one of those books you keep reading when you really should have gone to bed already.
I did have quite a bit of trouble keeping my head around all the time travel twists in the plot and the growing plethora of paradoxes and incongruities. However, I did especially love the potential twist thrown in at the end for good measure. I think as I digest the book a bit more it will all fall into place a bit better.
But mostly a great, fun read that I recommend....more
I’ve had this one since it was published at the end of last September, but somehow it took me until now to get to it. (Thank you, Carl, for your Sci-FI’ve had this one since it was published at the end of last September, but somehow it took me until now to get to it. (Thank you, Carl, for your Sci-Fi Experience, which focussed me on getting some long-waiting science fiction read in the first months of the year.)
It was way back in October 2008 that I read Wanderlust, the previous book in the series, so it had been a long time since I’d been hanging out with Jax and friends. To be honest, I couldn’t remember all that much of the storyline. I knew they’d been running around the Clan planet and that things had gone wrong with March and he was now both dangerous and pretty much emotionless. Oh yeah, and that Jax was supposed to be going to Vel’s planet as an ambassador. But that was pretty much all.
All that meant I was a bit nervous about how easy or hard it might be to get back into the series, especially since it is written in first person present test, and it tends to take me a little bit of time to adjust to it.
I was happily surprised by how easily I slipped back into Jax’s company and her world. I actually remembered enough to get by, even if I was missing some particular details.
A lot was made, in the blurb and at the beginning of the book, of the fact that Jax isn’t the kind of person to be an ambassador. She’s loud, brash and far from diplomatic. The thing is, I didn’t feel this was fair. Sure, the Jax we met at the beginning of Grimspace was all those things. But Jax has been through a lot since then and she’s learned a lot and grown a lot. She’s much better suited for the mission than anyone might think. And those who expect her to fail are likely to be quite surprised.
Sure, this book is about the diplomatic mission and how it progresses. Jax and her companions don’t dare let on just how desperate they are for this alliance to go through, and it soon becomes clear that there are two factions on Ithiss-Tor, each of which has pretty much already made up its mind already on how they are going to vote. The result is important and the reader is never going to be fully distracted from that by the other themes of the book, but those themes are very important too.
Because even more than being about the alliance, I found this book to be about Jax, her growth and especially her relationships with her friends. She comes to Ithiss-Tor unsure about how her relationship with Vel stands here on his home planet and learns a lot about herself, and even more about him, his past and his relationship to his own species.
An even stronger indication of how much Jax has changed is shown in her determination not to give up on Marsh. Traumatised by what he felt he had to do in the last book, he’s seriously psychologically damaged and has withdrawn inside himself. The old Jax would most likely have considered him too much work and cut him loose. The Jax we know now is willing and able to acknowledge that she loves him and isn’t prepared to let him go. She has no idea how to heal him, but she’s determined to try. And I thought Aguirre’s solution to the problem was brilliant. There was no way Jax was going to be able to repeat what Mair had originally done for March, and instead she comes to her own, wild and unexpected answer.
I had been a little concerned that the ending of the book might become sort of squashed as both the emotional and dramatic stories came to their conclusions, but I shouldn’t have worried. Aguirre wrapped things up nicely and effectively, with events flowing from plot point to plot point and I particularly liked the final rescue and resolution.
Then, on the last page, it all went to hell. Of course. All ready for the next book.
Happily, Ann Aguirre has announced that her publisher has bought the next (and last) two Jax books, meaning she will be able to finish up the story as she planned. Personally, I’d rather have a story with a beginning, middle and end, whether that is over one book or several, so I’m delighted with this news as the story will reach an organic end, rather than just rambling on and on.
I've been rather under the weather lately. I've done too much physically and my CFS has come along and thwacked me around the head to remind me it's sI've been rather under the weather lately. I've done too much physically and my CFS has come along and thwacked me around the head to remind me it's still there. As a result, my brain isn't running on full steam either. So I don't have this post quite planned out in my head and I don't know how coherent I'm going to be. However, I know that the longer I put it off, the more and more likely it becomes that I won't write anything at all. So here we go. I'll start typing and we'll see what happens.
This is a reread for me, being read as the part of the Vorkosigan Series Read with the Beyond Reality group on Goodreads. I'm not sure how many times I've read it - it feels like the answer should be "many" but I rather suspect it is less times than I imagine. All the same, it's a book I remember as a favourite and the point where the series turns from books I really enjoy to books I love.
All the same, I was nervous about reading it. For once, I even knew why. You see, as the book begins, one of the two main protagonists does something incredibly stupid. I've always been very embarrassed for characters than do this kind of thing. I'll put the book down and need to take a breather (a few seconds or a few days, sometimes it can run long enough the make the book a DNF). If it's on TV I'll get up and leave the room and I think the only time I ever walked out of a movie before it finished was for this reason.
And in this case, that character, he's very close to being my favourite character in the series. Miles is such a brilliant creation that he remains my favourite, but Mark is always right there behind him breathing down his neck. And yes, it is Mark who does the colossally stupid thing. What makes it worse is that he doesn't actually do it out of stupidity, but from inexperience and youth and a desperate urge to get out of Miles' shadow and be a hero in his own right.
The problem is that Mark isn't Miles, no matter how much he was conditioned to be so, and he can't be a hero like Miles. The triumph of this book is that Mark gradually discovers that he can be a hero like Mark.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I was talking about being nervous about reading the book. To do so, I was going to have to go through that with Mark and Miles and the other characters and watch it all unfold - and unfold badly. I tried to express this in a conversation on the group and was struggling to find the right words, and one of the other readers came back with "cringe". And yes, that's it exactly. If Mark had just being an idiot doing something idiotic, I could grimace a bit, but just think "well, you had that coming." But Mark isn't actually an idiot and he's trying so desperately hard (and is terrified the whole time but still keeps on going) and still he totally screws everything up. It makes me cringe.
In fact, it makes me cringe in advance, just when I start thinking that I'm going to have to read it soon. It doesn't help that Mark does something else awful, not out of meanness or maliciousness or evil, but out the situation of his very, very screwed-up childhood and upbringing. Yes, he's much more at fault in this case, but not competely and again, I cringe.
When I look at the dates I started and finished this book, I can break it down into the early "cringe" part of the novel and the rest. I would guess that it took me 4 days to read the first third of the novel and 2 to read the last two-thirds. Once I got past the hard bit, I couldn't stop reading and just kept going until I was finished.
Which brings me to the point of this very long ramble before I even move on to the meat of the book. I don't find the first part of the book cringe-worthy because it is bad; it is because it is just so damn good. You're right there with Mark; Bujold makes you understand his motivations right along with his dreams and his errors and his ignorance. If you start reading Mirror Dance and like me, find yourself cringing as you read this early part - please, please, please don't give up on the book. The payout at the end is so very worth it. In fact, you start getting payout on your uncomfortableness (yes, I know that's not a word but it best describes what I'm getting at) long before you get to the end of the book. Please stick it out. You'll be rewarded.
As for the rest of the book, on some levels it is another space adventure like earlier Vorkosigan books, but I think it is also something deeper. This is a book about identity. This has been a theme in earlier books in the series as Miles juggles Lord Vorkosigan and Admiral Naismaith, but here with the presence of Mark and the events towards the end of the book, it becomes so much more about identity than any of the earlier books have been.
For the first section of the book, Mark is never mentioned by name. We get several chapters entirely from his point of view, but still Bujold only uses "he" to identify her protagonist. While Miles gave him the name Mark back on Earth in Brothers in Arms, he hasn't chosen to claim it for himself, and sees himself essentially as without an identity. Or more importantly, if he doesn't identify with Miles himself, there's no-one left to be him. So he swans along to the Dendarii, posing as Admiral Naismith, and sends them on a mission of his own choosing, always angry with him that they don’t recognise that is, in fact, not Naismith. But all the same, he is not Miles and everything falls apart around him.
That's the cringe-worthy but good stuff. From there it moves on to the still good but no longer cringe-worthy stuff. With Miles out of the picture (I'm not going to tell you why or how as that's a spectacular spoiler), the remaining Dendarii, headed by Quinn, send Mark off to Barrayar. There he discovers he has a number of relatives, the most astounding of these being his parents (or grandparents, or parents-once-removed, or whatever you call people due to the tricky legalities of cloning). In her usual, clear-headed way Cordelia soon sets him straight that she would like to be, if he will let her, simply his newly-met mother. These people don't compare him to Miles (or not much), they don't expect him to do anything for them, they just want him to be a person in his own right - Lord Mark Pierre Vorkosigan. The problem, of course, as that he has no idea who that is or how to be him.
All the same, he slowly begins to learn.
There's a lovely part quite early on in his time of Barrayar, where Mark and Aral are talking and it is brought up that they have all studied each other and know a lot about each other.
"So what's the test?" [asks Mark:]
"Ah, that's the trick of it. It's not a test. It's real life." [Aral answers:]
And this is a core of the identity issue here. Mark can't study to be himself - or Miles for that matter. All he can do is accept the potential of Mark and slowly find out what that is and who he can become.
The lovely thing about the book is that he does. It takes a while, but he does. As the action moves away from Barrayar and back into the wider galactic sphere, that respite on Barrayar (despite having some high drama of its own) has given Mark some time to take tentative steps towards developing an identity of his own. He's beginning to realise he has a mind just as smart as Miles' is; it's just that he can and wants to use it in different ways. He's had people around him react with him directly as Mark instead of as a substitute Miles (whether they know the truth about it all or not). True, that identity isn't very far developed yet, but it's enough that he knows he wants to discover who Mark is, not get tossed back into being the no-one/anyone he was before.
Meanwhile, there's Miles. When we re-encounter him, he's lost his memory. (This is foreshadowed early in the book and relates to Mark's colossal blunder, so I'm going to mention it but work very hard to avoid any conspicuous spoilers.) That brilliant brain is still spinning at its usual rate, but without the background knowledge and information he usually has, he can't make the leaps of intuition he usually does to take control of the situation. Instead Mark reappears, steely and determined to rescue his big brother which leaves Miles, even memory-less, feeling like he's lost control of situation in which he should be in charge.
From there, all the strands begin to weave themselves back together again, to the point where Miles, memory returned, sets out to rescue Mark, only to find his baby brother has already done it for himself and perhaps, even with his personality back together, he's not quite so in control of things as he always imagined he was.
Bujold does do some pretty nasty things to Mark in this book (I'm not going to say what) but they are all implied rather than shown and I'm perfectly happy to leave it that way. We get the full force of Mark's triumph without needing the gory details. Personally, I find this much easier to read than the cringe-worthy first section.
It is also lovely to see Aral and Cordelia back on their own turf, so to speak. Cordelia is her usual, clear-eyed self and her outsider’s view helps Mark appreciate the ways the reality of Barrayar doesn’t match the lies he was taught by Galen. But mostly, it is her honest, not necessarily comforting assessments of her husband and both her sons that take me love her all over again. Aral, Barrayaran to his soul even with his galactic wife, struggles with the whole mess that is so outside his experience, but remains the solid, stubborn and honest man we know him to be. And the book is almost worth it’s cover price just for the fun of watching Cordelia face down Simon Illyan and defeat him absolutely.
Another thing I like about this book is that by the end, Mark isn't actually fixed. He knows who he is and he's at peace with that - but he also knows that he's very screwed up inside his head and needs to do something about it. With Cordelia's support, he voluntarily decides to head off to Beta Colony for some serious therapy (which is apparently pretty good if they're not working on false assumptions like they were with Cordelia back in Shards of Honor). There's even a hint that in a more distant future, when she's older and he's less damaged, he might get the girl (I'm still holding out for that to happen).
To finish on a fun note, my favourite line of the book comes when Miles tries to explain about Mark (although not the Vorkosigan part) and what he has done.
"You see," Miles explained in a hollow voice to the What-the-hell-are-they-talking-about portion of the room, "some people have an evil twin. I am not so lucky. What I have is an idiot twin."
This is an excellent book that sets us up for several more of my favourite books to come as I love Memory perhaps best of all, and love Komarr and A Civil Campaign especially for one of the new characters they introduce. I'm looking forward to it.
I love me a Vorkosigan book with Miles in it; but I love me even more a Vorkosigan book with both Miles and Mark in it. Mirror Dance is the reason why. The journey Mark takes in this book carries me along with it and leaves me exhausted and satisfied at the end. I cringe so much at the beginning because I so desperately want Mark to succeed and it hurts when he does the exact opposite. I don't know quite why I emphasise with him as much as I do, but the fact is that I do.
I love this book. I love this series. If you haven't, give it/them a try and stick with it through the cringe. I don't think you'll regret it....more
I first discovered this series long ago when it was only two books (which have now been reprinted in a single volume). I was proabaly a young adult orI first discovered this series long ago when it was only two books (which have now been reprinted in a single volume). I was proabaly a young adult or close to it at the time and I was delighted last year when Pamela Service picked up the series again and continued it.
Now we have the last volume of the series. This one focuses primarily on Merlin, with Heather as the secondary character. Welly has much more of a bit part, but he had found himself and his future by the end of the previous book and he fitted nicely into his smaller role in this one.
Not only do we have the science fiction-ish trappings of the post-nuclear world and mutated creatures, but in the last two books the remergence of a new kind of magic has become more and more prevalent. In fact, the series in its newly published form is now called the "New Magic" trilogy. And really that is what this book is all about as Merlin strives to return some kind of balance between good and evil in the world so that the creatures of the normal world and the various otherworlds can live together.
I liked this series and I was nicely happy with its conclusion. The concept of how humanity created the otherworlds and their inhabitants and then forget them was nicely done. And I loved the idea that stopping believing in someone doesn't stop them exisitng.
As Osiris says to Merlin, "A child is created by his parents, right? But when the parents die, does the child just fade away? No. He may change as he grows, and he will have been molded by his parents. But he exists and will until his natural time is up."
The future of the world is going to be very interesting and I'm just sorry that there's a good chance we'll never see the characters living in it. That's a difficulty with books where there is a big problem to be solved to create a new future. They tend to end at the point where that future is created. I want to see what living in it is like, but unfortunately, unless more troubles arise, there generally isn't a suitable story to tell after that point. I'm not a great fan of short stories, but I think this is a good case for them as it is a way to give us a sneak peek at the result of all the characters' hard work. I'd like to get to see what Service's world is looking like a few years down the track and I hope we'll get to do so.
This is a good little series. Yes, it's technically for older children; probably those approaching the YA range rather than young adults themselves. But it's still a fun read for adults and I'm glad I've read them. They'll be staying on my shelves (and my computer as I have the latter two as ebooks) and I suspect I'll be rereading them again a few years down the track.
I'm only sorry that combining the two original books means that we've lost the wonderful title of the first - Winter of Magic's Return - as it is combined with the more prosaic Tomorrow's Magic. Oh well, it is the content that matters most. Take the time to travel 500 years into the future, meet Merlin and King Arthur in guises you've probably never seen before, and enjoy a story about creating a new world out of the ruins of the old....more
This book got a lot of buzz on a number of blogs I read last year (well, I think it was last year) and it went into the back of mind as something I miThis book got a lot of buzz on a number of blogs I read last year (well, I think it was last year) and it went into the back of mind as something I might give a try. I can't remember what tipped the scales and got me to put it on hold at the library, but I picked it up last weekend and started reading it once I finished The Compass Rose. Like many others had said in their reviews, once I'd started reading I couldn't stop. I didn't actually read it in one sitting, but it took me less than 36 hours to get from start to finish. Then today, realising I couldn't wait however long it would take for me to climb from #12 to the top of the hold list for the sequel, I went out and bought myself a copy of The Ask and the Answer. So yes, I'm joining in with the crowds and highly recommending you give this book at try.
Right, so now that I've gushed about it, what else can I say?
I was a little nervous about the prose style, since I'd heard it was first person present tense and with the grammar and spelling of a poorly-schooled 13 year old boy. I don't do well with with things that are deliberately misspelled as I tend to stop to correct it. The wrong spellings in this book (for example, creacher for creature or preparayshans for preparations) were very like those of my five year old son when he tries to spell phonetically a word he doesn't know, so I actually discovered that I already had plenty of practice. Also, when a book's voice is well written, I find that it soon doesn't matter if it's different from usual. My brain switches over to the right state of mind for it and I just get on with reading. I still noticed the misspellings, but they were now part of the story rather than an impediment to it.
Todd is a excellent protagonist. He might not be well schooled (such things as reading and writing having been outlawed in Prentisstown) but he's quick and intelligent and surprisingly resilient. As the book progresses he slowly comes to learn that just about everything he's ever been told about the world is a lie and he constantly has to readjust his worldview. He balks at this at the beginning, but in a "this can't be true" kind of way rather than as a petulant child might do. His growing interaction with Viola is always very well done.
I've seen reviews saying she isn't such a well developed character as Todd, but that works perfectly for me. We only see her through Todd's eyes and since he's been able to hear the Noise of everyone he's ever known before this, at first he finds someone who is Silent very, very difficult to comprehend. The moment, at the end of the book, when he realises he can get to know a person without hearing their Noise, was just lovely.
The plot rolls on at a roaring pace, never really pausing for breath until the cliff-hanger moment at the end. (Yes, there's a cliff-hanger, so if at all possible, have the sequel at hand before you start. Unfortunately, I understand that it too ends on a cliff-hanger and the third book, Monsters of Men, doesn't come out until later in the year.) But even as the action rushes along, Ness manages to paint a clear picture of New World and the way it has fragmented both socially and culturally in the years since the colony ships landed. Prentisstown might be the most extreme case of this, but it is clear some communities have found better ways the deal with the consequences of the Noise germ than others.
Like many a first book in a series, in many ways The Knife of Never Letting Go is a set-up book plot-wise. We learn about the planet, the communities and slowly, as Todd learns the truths behind the lies he has been told, the history that has shaped its people. The blurb for The Ask and the Answer seems to suggest that the larger aspects of the plot begin to emerge in that book, and everything has been so beautifully and dramatically set up that we readers are more than ready for it.
I really liked this book. I highly recommend it and I'm really looking foward to picking up the sequel very soon.
Can you hear the but?
I had one major issue with The Knife of Never Letting Go. It uses the plot device of letting the protagonist (ie Todd) in on the answers to certain mysteries fairly early on, but makes a point of keeping the reader in the dark. This is one of my pet peeves and I really hate it. (It's part of why I love Catherine Asaro's books so much, because she does the opposite and lets the reader in on more than the characters know.) Especially if a book it told through first person POV, I feel that as the narrator learns something, I should learn it too. But instead, on three particular occassions, I'm kept out of the loop. And it left me feeling like I'd been manipulated to serve the story.
The thing is that now, as I'm a little further away from the book, I can see that it worked. Sure, by the time the answers were revealed I'd pretty much figured them out. But the thing is that Todd had pretty much figured them out too, but they were such huge truths behind such huge lies, that even though he'd pretty much picked it up already from other men's Noise, his brain refused to accept it at first. Slowly, as he changed from the Prentisstown boy to the man he's becoming (and such a better one that the Prentisstown definition of a Man), he became a person who could accept the truth and learn better from it. So while it annoyed me, telling me the answers sooner would have ruined the story and keeping them completely from Todd until the revelation near the end would probably have broken him when he had to face the truth. He needed that time to let it percolate in his subconscious before he acutally had to deal with it all.
So damn you, Patrick Ness, you are right and I am wrong.
If this is a plot device that annoys you too, here I am, warning you that's it's in there so you're prepared, but begging you to trust the author. (Oh, then he does it again right on the second to last page, dropping in a new mystery and not answering it. But this time, I'm going to go with it and trust.)
I really, really enjoyed this book. In fact, while I rated it 8/10 when I finished it, now that it's all sunk it, I'm going to be generous and up that to 9/10 because it really does deserve it....more
This was a favourite book - and the first in a favourite series - when I was a child. I'm sure I've read it several times over the years, along with AThis was a favourite book - and the first in a favourite series - when I was a child. I'm sure I've read it several times over the years, along with A Swiftly Tilting Planet which is my absolute favourite of the five.
I promised not to take on lots of reading challenges in 2010, but when I saw that Kailana at The Written World was holding a readalong for the series over the first five months of the year, I just couldn't resist. After all, surely I can manage to read one children's book a month for five months?
It's always something of a risk, rereading childhood favourites as an adult. You come to them with such a range of experiences that you didn't have when you first loved them. And not only that, but if your childhood is as long ago as mine was, they the book is going to be several decades old and there is also the chance that it may have dated terribly.
I'm very happy to report that I really enjoyed rereading A Wrinkle in Time. Yes, with adult eyes I could see that it was a book for children, but I didn't care. That delightful sense of wonder I discovered so many years ago was still there and I read it quickly and easily, really enjoying my trip through the universe with Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin.
I don’t remember a lot of details of my reaction to the book on first reading it. I remembered the story and I remembered loving Meg as the main protagonist, but not much more than that.
Firstly, let me say that I still love Meg. I guess she is one of the first characters I really felt I could relate to. I, too, was the different kid who didn’t properly fit in. I was more academic than Meg and didn’t get into such trouble, but I still felt, on reading her, that here was someone like me. Looking back now, I see that the superficial likeness isn’t all that great, but inside, inside I felt like Meg. And I can look back at my childhood self and look at Meg and still fell great sympathy between the two. The blessing given to Meg, “I give you your faults”, felt perfect. What child (or what adult) doesn’t want to be able to turn their faults into something powerful and positive like Meg did.
I also remember finding IT horrible, repulsive and scary. I still find the concept of IT and its control over Camazotz to be all those things, but the actual physical manifestation of IT no long scares me. Instead, I find myself wondering about size and scale and really, unless it was huge, it’s not all that frightening. I’m reminded of the Buffy episode, Fear, Itself where the demon seems terribly frightening until its scale is revealed and Buffy stomps on it. It felt to me that IT needed a good stomping. But because the power of IT remained so repulsive, this small failure didn’t damage my enjoyment of the book.
I did wonder, when I started, if the book would have dated. On the whole, really it hadn’t. Okay I did try to remember when Cape Canaveral turned into Cape Kennedy (1962, the year after A Wrinkle in Time was published I find after looking it up on Wikipedia). But really, the only time I stopped and thought, “Hey, this was written in the sixties”, was when the children walked into Camazotz Central Intelligence and the computer room was described as being full of enormous boxes full of reels of tape. That kind of technological dating is impossible to avoid in an old book – how could L’Engle (or anyone else) imagine what my computer experience would be in 2010 as I sit here with a laptop on my knees connected to you all by wireless broadband. I just noticed the old computers and moved on. Otherwise, the people remained real people, the problems real problems and the alien worlds were very nicely, if not exactly scientifically, portrayed.
I've already read some of the reviews posted by other "readalongers" and some points had been raised (points seen by adult eyes and at a distance of years as I mentioned above) that remained in the back of my mind as I read. Would I notice them too? Would they bother me too?
One in particular, mentioned by more than one reader, was the very Christian-centric view of the universe in the book. Several said that while they didn't mind the characters having such a belief set, they felt that the author was preaching to them by having the actual universe itself having that belief set. Being brought up in the Christian belief system myself, I certainly never noticed it when reading the book as a child. Or at least, I don't remember noticing it. Reading it now, I could see what the other readers meant - I felt there were two places in particular where Christianity was given as absolute truth of the universe rather than one of several possibilities. These were when Mrs Whatsit tried to translate the music on Uriel and later, when the children were asked to think of people on Earth who had fought against the Darkness and the first answer, given by Charles Wallace, was Jesus.
So yes, it was there. How did it affect my reading of the book. Well, it didn't really, I must admit. I thought for a second, "Oh, that's what they meant" and went on reading. Part of that is probably due to the fact I still hold that same belief set myself (if not with the absolute assurance I had as a child), but I also didn't feel that L'Engle was preaching at me. I couldn't say whether she wrote the book as she did because to her that's the way the world was, truth rather than choice, or because she chose to create her "universe" where that was the truth of things. Either way, it didn't feel to me like she was on any kind of soapbox, which would have annoyed me, but telling her story the way that was right for her. Of course, others who come to the book from a different background may not agree with me.
(It also helps that I'm quite capable of subscribing to the concept of each book I read belonging in its own alternate universe that exists alongside the real one - something that can be very useful when watching TV and film adaptions of favourite books as they often belong in totally different universes from each other. Although, as an aside, I admit that even I can't manage that when it comes to the atrocity that is the film of Susan Cooper's wonderful book, The Dark is Rising.)
Someone else mentioned that they felt the characterisation was choppy, especially with the way Meg's feelings jumped all over the place. I don't think I would have noticed that even this time if I hadn't already been aware it might be there. I didn't really find it choppy, but more as if everything was being shown right up front and centre. Subtle, Meg certainly wasn't. In an adult book this might have been a problem, but I didn't feel it was here. By that, I don't mean that L'Engle can "get away with it" because she was writing a book for children, but because subtlety is something we develop as we mature and spelling it out was probably appropriate for the reading audience. This is a book for children, not for young adults (a reading category that didn't even exist when this book was published in 1962) and I felt it fit the age group, especially considering when it was written.
Kailana asked us to come up with some questions for discussion. I've already addressed some other readers' points, so thought I'd thow out one of my own.
Do readers feel this book has a clear sense of place?
Because I do. For all that a significant portion of it occurs on other planets, this feels like a very American book to me. I don't mean that as a kind of judgement, just that the sense of place is very strong for me. And this is something I feel certain I picked up on original readings as well and it always stands out for me. I've been thinking about why that might be, and come to the conclusion that it is because most of the books available to me as a child living in New Zealand in the 1970s and early 80s were British books. The fiction world of my childhood was therefore very British. (There were a few New Zealand books available, noticably books by Margaret Mahy and Maurice Gee's Under the Mountain but I don't remember many others off the top of my head.) Then along came these wonderful books that felt so different. I couldn't say why then and I still can't put my finger on it now, but the sense of place for me stood out because it was quite unlike the other books I read.
There are some obvious things, like mention of different kinds of trees and Mr Murray working at Cape Canaveral, but it was more subtle than that. A sense that seeps through the pages to give me a delicious, different feeling.
I'm not sure that actually makes sense, but that's how it feels to me and I'm going to stick by it.
So overall, yes, you can tell this is a children's book, but I just don't care. I loved rediscovering it and it spoke to me as much at age 40 as it did when I was 10. There's got to be some kind of magic in that.
And besides, tesseract is just a totally cool word....more
I finished this book way back at the beginning of February, and it is only now, at the beginning of March, that I am finally starting to write about iI finished this book way back at the beginning of February, and it is only now, at the beginning of March, that I am finally starting to write about it. And that is largely because I haven’t been able to nail down what I want to say about it.
There has been all sorts of enthusiasm about this book, and the one before it, The Knife of Never Letting Go. I read The Knife of Never Letting Go in two days and was very impressed by it. I then rushed out and bought a copy of this one because I didn’t want to wait for as long as it might take me to get to the top of the library hold queue. I started reading it eagerly, and then I started to struggle. In contrast to the first book in the series, it took me twelve days to read this one and I could never decide if I liked it or not.
The thing is, this is a good book. The people who have said so are right. But I didn’t find it a nice book. Nice may not be the right word, as that seems to suggest something sweet and light, which this most definitely is not, but I can’t think of what the word I want actually is.
This is a good book. It raises important issues and tells a complicated story. But I didn’t enjoy reading it. And now, a month later, I’m still not sure if I liked it or not.
The pace is a lot slower than The Knife of Never Letting Go, which gives Ness the time to explore the issues he’s raising in the book. And boy oh boy, they are serious issues. He’s introducing things like fascism and terrorism and the rights and wrongs of both. There’s torture and terror and moral pitfalls everywhere. And as well written as it was, I didn’t enjoy reading about those things.
And then there was the Mayor. Really, I think he’s the crux of my issue with the book. I absolutely hated the Mayor. I detested him and I despised him. And I don’t mean that I hated the character because he was badly written; rather he was so well created and depicted that I hated the person in the pages as if he was a real person.
He had an absolutely clear insight into the hearts of all the other characters and he used that to manipulate them to the end of the world and back. It was just horrible. He separated Todd and Viola and then made them do exactly what he wanted – not through force or even fear (although there was a lot of fear) but by manipulating their very best characteristics to twist them into following his agenda without knowing they were doing it. It was heartbreaking to watch them trying so very hard to look out for each other and do the right thing and constantly have it turn back on them. By the cliffhanger at the end of the book (yes, there’s a cliffhanger but I’m not going to give away any of the details), the Mayor has achieved the result he has been working for all along (I totally don’t understand why that’s what he wants, but maybe it will become clear in the last book) and Todd and Viola are left in the same position they were in at the end of the last book. Or perhaps a worse position, as this time they’ve been vital in his achieving his ends, all while trying to oppose him.
It’s just awful and I was left aching for them both.
And it’s not just the psyches of Todd and Viola that he understands. It turns out he’s manipulated pretty much the entire population of the planet to do what he wants and I hated reading it. But I still had to keep on going.
I really, really, really want the Mayor to come to a very nasty and very sticky end.
So here I am, left not knowing what I thought of this book. It was good. It was very good. But I don’t know if I liked it. And I find myself eager to read the last book (thank goodness for library suggestions-to-buy) but not sure why about that either. Except that I want something awful to happen to the Mayor, and given the punches Ness has refused to pull so far, I find myself very afraid that may not happen. But I really hope it does.
You’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to read this. I really find myself unable to make a judgement call either way. Like I said, it’s good, but I didn’t really enjoy it. I guess you have to decide what your reasons are for choosing to read any particular book. If it’s to have fun along the way, this probably isn’t the right book. But if you want to be drawn into a fascinating world and challenged every step of the way, then maybe it is.
The Ask and the Answer Patrick Ness Chaos Walking, Book 2 8/10 Read: 21-1-10 to 2-2-10...more