Sue Bursztynski's Blog

January 6, 2018

Found among my files from my old iPad, while transferring to the new one. I had been reading a lot of the more popular girls’ YA paranormal romances at the time I wrote this. You might spot one or more in the list below.
You know you’re a paranormal princess when...
*There’s a Prophecy and you’re the Chosen One. You have this family heirloom, see, and someone mysterious has interpreted the runes on it.
* Your Dad is missing and your Mum has been keeping something from you, e.g that he is/was the king of some otherworldly realm.
* The cute new boy at your school tells you he has come to warn you that you're in terrible danger now you're about to turn sixteen when you get your full powers. (It’s always sixteen!) You don't believe him at first, but you do have these memories of weird stuff you did as a child...And he is really very cute. And definitely not human.
*Minions of the dark start following you, especially when you’re alone and the last bus has left. 
*You find yourself suddenly wearing a prom dress you don’t own and running across dark windswept landscapes, even if you live in the middle of the city. 
*You sprout wings/horns/a fish tail when you stress out. That is very helpful in scaring off unwanted boys.
* The cute new boy at school says you have to marry him or there will be a major war in the vampire/demon/undersea world. The only way to save all your subjects is to marry him(Did I mention you’re sixteen?)You say no, but...he is so very cute...
*If you're a mermaid princess, the cute boy tells you he's a selkie prince(turns into a seal)despite being Hawaiian(come on, guys, this is a creature from Scottish folklore!). And by the way, you have to marry him. Well, he is a terrific surfer ... and very cute. 
*If you're a vampire princess, the minions of the dark are after you. They are serving a big-busted vampire queen with red hair who wants you dead because you’re the Chosen One of the  Prophecy, destined to replace her. By the way, you run around windswept landscapes - er, see above. 
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Published on January 06, 2018 23:37
Today the temperature in Melbourne soared into the 40s. I was spending the day with Mum, who was sleeping most of it. Both of us were in the  kitchen, the only part of the house with a cooling option.

I spent some time on Twitter and more on reading. It wasn’t much of a day for working, even my research. And I’m still learning things about my new iPad - including downloading from iBooks. It kept asking me for my fingerprint. I gave it. It said, “Done!” with a tick. And then didn’t give me my book. It didn’t take the money, but it didn’t download either. I’ll ask my friend Bart when
I see him Tuesday. Meanwhile I went to my phone, which just asked me for my password, and downloaded two early Ranger’s Apprentice volumes, The Ruins Of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge. I had forgotten how enjoyable the first book was. I rem mbered it as the slowest book of the series, there to set up  the universe. I guess when you go back after having read the others, it’s different.

I love this universe. It was written to show you can be a hero even if you’re not big and muscled. The author said it was for his son’s benefit. Will, the hero, wants badly to go to Battleschool and become a knight, but is just too small. What he is good at is climbing and being unnoticed. That makes him a perfect candidate for the job of Ranger. The author says his Rangers have no connection with the ones in Tolkien. They are, in f#ct, inspired by the Texas Rangers!

Thing is, these novels are not just adventure - they’re funny! Often hilarious. That’s something a lot of fantasy just doesn’t do, unless it’s deliberately funny like Terry Pratchett. But this isn’t Terry Pratchett, although if I had to compare, it might be the YA Tiffany Aching stories, which are funny, but also show a young witch growing up and learning about life.

Will and his mentor Halt ride tough little ponies that are a lot like the ones ridden by the Mongol warriors. That’s because they are. We eventually learn that Halt stole some for breeding by the Rangers from this world’s equivalent of the Mongols.

It’s sort of medieval Earth, but some things are different. For example, the food. There’s turkey and coffee. Halt is a coffee addict. And women seem to have more rights and play a vital role in this society. Lady Pauline, for example, is the head of the diplomatic service. In fact, most diplomats in this place are women, because they’re more...diplomatic...than men, who tend to want to solve things with their fists. All the female characters in these books are strong - and interesting. They don’t have to physically kick ass to be strong. And I’m pleased to say that these books appeal both to boys and girls.

The equivalent of the Vikings come from Skandia. At the start they are invading other countries in their wolfships, but later, in the spinoff Brotherband series, they decide it’s actually more profitable to   defend these countries from pirates and such. Meanwhile, there is a novel in which Will and Halt go to help out the Skandians, whose idea of battle is to rush off yelling, “Charge!” That, as I recall, is the one in which we find out about where those Ranger ponies come from.

I love what he does with names. It may be a coincidence that the Vikings come from a country mentioned in Prince Valiant, but Araluen, the England equivalent, is the name of a town in New South Wales, with an indigenous name meaning “place of the water lilies”. I don’t think that’s a  coincidence.

I’m thinking it might be fun to reread the lot and post about it. What do you think?
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Published on January 06, 2018 00:52 • 13 views

January 4, 2018

Okay, once more you have the chance to nominate your favourite Aussie wordsmiths. Sorry, Pamela and other fans outside this country, you can’t vote for this one, as there will be a random selection to win $1000 worth of Booktopia books, and that might be kind of expensive to deliver to, say, the US.

But you can follow along as the long list shortens and by the end of the month we find out who Aussie readers like best for this year. That’s fun in itself and I will be posting about it as usual. Remember, last year’s #147 on the list might be this year’s #1, so nominate and vote if eligible, or at least argue about who got the gong if not eligible.

Here is the link. https://blog.booktopia.com.au/australias-favourite-author-vote/. This time I’m nominating, and today is the last day for nominations, so be quick! 
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Published on January 04, 2018 16:42 • 8 views

January 3, 2018

Sorry, I missed this in my New Year’s post, just found out, so here it is!

First edition. Public domain


Two hundred years ago, on New Year’s Day, a novel was published that would make a huge change to speculative fiction. The novel was written by a young woman called Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, whose mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was one of the first feminists and had written a book about it. And I had a lot of fun including Frankenstein in a pile of books I showed my creative writing students. I invited them to have a guess at what all those books had in common. They were very different in genre and era when they were written, but they all had one thing in common: they were all written, I told my lovely class,  by teenagers. So they must not assume that they were too young to write something worth reading.

We probably all know about “that” boring, wet weekend in Switzerland where a bunch of British writers decided to see which of them could write the best scary story. Actually, only two of them were already writers, the poets Byron and Shelley. The other two were John Polidori, a doctor, and our girl Mary.

I’m not sure what the two wonderful poets came up with - perhaps a Google search will unearth that. Feel free to look it up and let me know in the  Comments box below.

But in the end, it was the two non-writers who came up with something special.

Polidori wrote a novella called The Vampyre. It’s not that nobody had ever written vampire fiction before. What Polidori did was to make vampires sexy! His villain, Lord Ruthven, is said to have been inspired by Lord Byron. Not sure how Byron felt about that, but let’s face it, he had a bad rep anyway. “Mad, bad and dangerous to know”! And, incidentally, an amazing poet and the father of the “mother of computer programming”, Ada Lovelace.



Anyway, Twilight fans can say thank you to John Polidori, though Ruthven is not exactly Edward Cullen. More like Dracula, perhaps, or at least allowed Dracula to be created. But before him, vamps were ugly critters you really wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley!

Frankenstein - well, what can I say? It has inspired so many books, films and plays. There are send-ups, of course, such as Young Frankenstein, a Mel Brooks film with Gene Wilder. The hero is the grandson of  Victor Frankenstein, who is embarrassed enough to pronounce his name Frankensteen. He goes to Transylvania, where he finds the notes to make another Creature, and meets an Igor who is the grandson of the previous Igor(there wasn’t an Igor in the book). When he offers, as a doctor, to fix Igor’s hunch, Igor asks, “What hunch?” A very funny film, though it probably has more in common with the film than the novel.

And any Terry Pratchett fan will remember an entire clan of Igors(and Igorinas - the women tend to be beautiful, with artistic stitching, while the men are patched creatures). The Igors work as doctors of one kind or another, because they have access to spare parts. The deal is, they help you out with spare parts when you need them and you agree to let them use yours when you die. In fact, they take self-improvement seriously. An Igor's funeral has the family members all going home with paper bags; when an Igor says, "I have my father's hands" he means it literally. They do tend to work for mad scientists if they can get a job with one, but never hang around till the peasants with flaming torches reach the castle, and one of the more modern Igors works as the police surgeon in Ankh-Morpork, where he experiments with such things as instant fish and chips, with swimming potatoes in a tank at the watch house...

Thing is, we tend to associate it with horror fiction. And I suppose it is, but it’s more. The Phillip Pullman play adaptation is on the curriculum at my school. One of the things the students have to do is write a letter from the Creature to his creator, letting him know how he feels about his treatment by Victor. They discuss it in terms of parent and child and also do some stuff about the Prometheus myth. There is definitely meat for class discussion here!

Personally, I think it’s also science fiction. The author asked, “What if...?”and went from there. That’s what you do with SF.

For two hundred years, Victor and his creation have affected us. We speak of “Frankenfoods.” When something that seemed a great idea at the time goes horribly wrong and it’s our fault, we say, “I’ve created a monster!” And everyone knows what we mean! All because a young girl and her friends got bored one wet weekend two centuries ago...

If you’d like to read either The Vampyre or Frankenstein, both of them are free on Project Gutenberg. Enjoy!


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Published on January 03, 2018 23:27
Ack! I have just discovered that yesterday was International Science Fiction Day(actually, National, but I don't see why Americans should have all the fun!). And I missed it.

Apparently, it was set up to celebrate the birthday of Isaac Asimov, which was January 2.



Let me tell you about me and Asimov. He was my sister's favourite SF writer(probably still is) when I was a teenager. She bought absolutely every piece of his fiction she could get her hands on, though she was not really interested in the non-fiction he said was his first love. So when I went to babysit my first nephew - who is now a grown man with two teenage daughters - there was a bookcase full of SF, mostly the works of Isaac Asimov.

It's not that I hadn't read any SF before, but the books I had read in my high school years were the classics, Verne and Wells, and an obscure writer called Donald Suddaby, whose two novels Prisoners Of Saturn and Lost Men In The Grass I had read when I was about twelve and just starting secondary school.



The rest of my fantastical reading was mythology - Greek for preference. I had also been reading historical fiction, including Arthur Koestler's The Gladiators and Darkness At Noon and the works of Howard Fast(who also wrote SF). So when I stayed up looking after little David and enjoying my sister's chocolate mousse, I opened her collection of Asimov books and read and read... That led to other SF. So in some ways, Isaac Asimov turned me into a science fiction fan. For that, I must thank him. I love other genres - historical, non-fiction, crime, both true and fiction - but for me, nothing says "sensawunda" like science fiction.

Thank you, Asimov!

And then there was today's birthday boy, J.R.R Tolkien. Happy birthday, Professor! It did take me a while to finish The Lord Of The Rings, but once I had, I found myself reading and rereading, and then finding any of his fiction and non-fiction I could get my hands on and reading that too.



In some ways, he is responsible for making me so very picky about fantasy. I love light and humorous fantasy like the works of Terrry Pratchett,  and I enjoy urban fantasy, like that of Charles De Lint. What I just can't read any more is the Fat Fantasy Trilogy. So many try to be like Tolkien and so far, in my opinion, anyway, none of them has succeeded. I'd mind less if there weren't so many book covers with "the best thing since Lord Of The Rings!" in big letters on them.

So - Asimov turned me into a science fiction fan and Tolkien turned me off most fantasy, even though I write the stuff (but not fat fantasy trilogies!).

Well done, both of you! And happy birthday!
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Published on January 03, 2018 03:20
So, after a number of hours at the Apple store in Chadstone, I finally staggered home with my new iPad. There was an attempt to back up to the Cloud, but that was just going to take too long. The Apple store is full up from the beginning of the day and that means the wi fi is slow.

The lady doing set-up for me went to consult a tech who knew more about this than she did and he checked my old iPad. He said I could get started on my new device without having to do the backup, as a lot of the stuff was already on the Cloud. So we got going and set up.

And a lot of it did download absolutely fine. All I have to do with the books is download them as I need them(although my lovely special edition of The Hobbit wouldn't, because it's such a big file. So I will have to wait till I can get to the library tomorrow in hopes that the wi fi will work)

The trouble was, the most important stuff, my documents, didn't. I thought they had, mostly, but they hadn't. The set-up tech suggested I go to iCloud.com for the photos. I did, although when I got home I found that the 200-odd photos that were on the Cloud had already downloaded. Most hadn't, so I will just have to select the ones I want most and and email them to myself.

iCloud let me email some of the documents, but not all. And I'm not sure all of them are on the Cloud anyway. Fortunately, my novel manuscript got where I wanted it.

And for some reason it made me go through FileBrowser!

So it looks like I will have to hang on to the old iPad for now. I will go to the library whenever I can for the wifi and email the files, one by one... The stories, anyway. Those are most important. And my Eugowra article, which I've started.

Sorry, Gary! You'll have to wait.
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Published on January 03, 2018 02:46

January 1, 2018

Today I'm heading for the Apple Store in Chadstone, lugging my laptop and my iPad, in hopes of buying a new iPad, since the old one is refusing to run my sim card. My nephew David, who knows his tech, agrees with me that it's just too old to do some things. I got a brand new sim card from Optus, my provider, which worked for a couple of days, then again, the "no service" message. So it's not the sim card, it's the place where the sim card is located that's the problem. It works fine with wifi, but I don't have wifi at home, and I need my device to work on the train and other places where there isn't any wifi. I write on my way to work or wherever I'm going.  I'm giving it to my brother-in-law, who only needs it to watch sport on Foxtel in bed, and has wifi at home, so doesn't need the sim card. So, one iPad not going to the rubbish dump!

I'm hoping to pick up one of the new 256 g models. My current one is 64 g. My first computer, an Apple 2E, had 4.5 megabytes. My next, one of those clamshell Apple computers, had 3 g. I was thrilled! It let me go on line. It did lots of stuff my poor little 2E just couldn't. The 2E still works, by the way, it just doesn't do what I need it to do now. And no USB sticks to move the files, it uses floppy disks. Fortunately, I moved the files important to me when I got the clamshell, which allowed me to attach a floppy disk drive. There was an entire novel I had written with a friend which really isn't publishable, but I would hate to lose it after all the work we did.

 It really brings home to me how technology has changed and improved since I was growing up, when computers filled rooms and nobody had one at home. I'm remembering Barbara Hambly's novel The Silent Tower, the first of her Antryg Windrose trilogy, in which a character has an impressive computer with 20 megabytes on it - wow! It's still available, of course, and she really can't change it now without a major rewrite. Not worth it - it's a wonderful novel that just has to stand as it is. (And if you haven't read it, but love Dr Who, get it! Antryg Windrose is basically Tom Baker's Doctor with cheap jewellery instead of a long scarf. Barbara Hambly loves that Doctor and hasn't denied that's who Antryg is.)

I'm rereading Ursula K. LeGuin's amazing The Lathe Of Heaven, in which a man has "true" dreams, one of which brings back the world after it was destroyed. It's set in the future, one with typewriters. Again - not worth it, for such a fabulous book. If she rewrote it to exchange typewriters for computers, the entire book would need reworking.

In fact, a lot of Golden Age SF would need rewriting. Mind you, some books predicted things we wouldn't have expected. For example, there's a short story, "A Logic Named Joe" by Murray Leinster, predicting the Internet; it was written in the 1940s. It was really just a humorous story centred around a glitch in a device - a "logic" - that enabled you to use it to look up stuff, such as how to commit a foolproof murder. Heck, it predicted Google, when you think about it! I'm sure Murray Leinster would have been surprised to think he was predicting anything. He just came up with a "what if...?" idea and ran with it.

By the way, go and check out Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, written in the 1970s(?) and filmed for TV in the 1980s. The Book looks like an ebook. I wonder if Douglas Adams considered that there might be a device that would store more than one book? Still, if there were ebooks in that time I don't know about them. I was around, studying librarianship and quoting bits from the novel with fellow students over coffee at the Druids' Duck Inn. The best I can recall, when I was already working in the early 90s, was the CD ROM, which you had to put into your computer. How excited we were over that!

 I was working as a replacement librarian in a school library which had a CD ROM computer for encyclopaedias and such. It was stolen one night, after my colleague and I left. The library was literally in the centre of the school(in the days when Principals declared that "the library should be the centre of the school"), so no windows. It was black when you turned off the lights. The careers teacher had an office in the library and wanted to work on when we left, so we left the door open. By the time he left, locking the door behind him, someone had crept in, stolen the computer and let themselves out.

Nobody in the pub would pay for that computer now.

I imagine even my new toy will be well and truly out of date in a couple of years, but I'm loyal to my toys. I haven't even thrown out the 2E, which I can still use to play basic games if I want, and which has a Star Trek screen-saver on it.  Sooner or later it will have to go, but it will be a long time before I dispose of the iPad I plan to buy today.

But it's probably just as well that my fiction is mostly fantasy. I have done a small amount of light SF - a very small amount, in a children's chapter book called Grey Goo, based on an article in New Scientist suggesting that a food replicator, like the ones in Star Trek, was possible.

 I would be so embarrassed if a story I wrote predicted the future and was completely wrong when that future happened.

Anyone out there know of some fiction that has what is now out of date technology in it?
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Published on January 01, 2018 15:45 • 6 views

December 30, 2017

Christmas Day, for me, is a day on the beach with whatever I'm reading at the time and a picnic lunch. This year, I was accompanied by my mother. We had a very nice lunch of fresh-baked bread, made by me that morning, as per my tradition - in a very good bread loaf tin I bought at London Stores, in my little fan-forced oven - hard boiled eggs, fresh summer fruit, smoked cheese and fruit cake and mince pie, cut into small pieces because Mum can't cope with even looking at a large piece of food, even if assured she doesn't have to eat it all. I prepared us each a small thermos of icy cold water, and had a large thermos of boiled water with a choice of tea or coffee. Mum had coffee, I had tea.

The beach was overflowing with people and we found a bench, because there was no space on the grass to spread a blanket and Mum had her walker, so no chance to go on the sand. After lunch, Mum took a nap in a limited space behind her favourite sea-gazing bench and I read my Christmas gift copy of Hidden Figures, a history of the African-American women who worked as mathematicians, known as "computers", during the early days of the space program.  I do have a copy in ebook, but it was nice to have a print copy, especially since I don't really like reading e-books at the beach, risking getting sand into my device. It is a wonderful story, which I recommend, whether or not you've seen the terrific movie(which I've just bought on DVD).

 I was relieved to know we had missed the riots that happened on my local beach after Mum and I left. There were apparently 5000 people on the beach, about ten times what I had thought.

We ended up having our dinner at Macca's, as nothing else was open near Mum's place and really, neither of us was up to cooking anything after the filling lunch we'd had. Mum enjoys eating there anyway.

Boxing Day: I went to see the Dr Who Christmas Special at the Village Cinemas in the Jam Factory. I still haven't re-viewed it on iView, but must do that before it goes. I enjoyed it very much. Afterwards, I went into town, to the Boxing day sales. My main aim was to buy a new pari of sandals, as I'm hard on my shoes and rarely wear closed shoes, even in winter. I bought two. They aren't cheap, but there is only one place I can find shoes to fit me - everywhere else is no longer selling narrow fittings, but this shop sells European shoes and they do have narrow fittings. I have found a couple of brands that are made to be comfortable. They aren't cheap, but to my delight, the shop was also doing Boxing Day specials. After buying them, I went across the road to spend some of my JB Hifi vouchers and got Hidden Figures(the movie) and some early Dr Who episodes. I just love Time Warrior, a Jon Pertwee story in which Sarah Jane Smith makes her first appearance, and so do the Sontarans. And I got three DVDs for $26!

Wednesday was hot and I went for my first swim for this summer, at St Kilda Beach.

Thursday I took my nephew's younger girl, Rachel, to lunch and the movies. I'd planned to go to the city, but it was just too hot. Fortunately, there was one session of Wonder, a film based on a book we had both read, about a little boy who has a facial deformity and finally starts school in Year 5, after being home schooled. It was a pleasant way to spend the day and nice to catch up with Rachel, who is heading back to Sydney this week.

We also went to Mum's place, where the family gathered to drink a toast to Dad, who passed away on December 28 eight years ago. My brother brought a six-pack of beer, my nephew a bottle of whiskey, which Dad loved. I had a glass of beer, but also a tiny sherry glass of whiskey.

Friday I tried to get stuck into some housework, but failed to do my fridge. Today, I swear!

Tuesday I hope to go shopping for a new iPad. My old one, alas, is refusing to let me use my sim card, and I really need to be able to do that. I'm giving the old one to my brother-in-law, who has easy access to wifi and will just use it to watch sport on Foxtel, in bed.

Before finally deciding to go ahead withe the replacement, I had a chat with my nephew, David, who knows more about tech than I do. He agreed with me that even though it was a newish device - I bought it from the Apple shop when I had to replace my broken original - it just wasn't going to do what I wanted any more. So I'm planning to get the newest model, with 256 g of space, and David, who can't afford one, asked to have a look at it when I get it.

Only problem is the backup. I don't have wifi  yet and I can't back up to the Cloud on my laptop. You need wifi. I have some ideas...

Tonight, New Year's Eve, I will spend with my sister and Mum. To be honest, I haven't done New Year's Eve since my father passed away.  It was only a couple of days before New Year. I remember that New Year's night there was a storm - wonder how that affected the fireworks? My friends were having a party, which I didn't attend, and I sent them a text early, wishing them well, so that they wouldn't text me at midnight, as was the custom when someone couldn't make it. I have been going to see Rocky Horror, then to bed before midnight,  but Mary and I go to Mum's place on Sundays, so that's where we will be tonight.

It will be a very different year for me, since I'm not going back to work. I feel strange, but I'm sure I'll get used to it and enjoy. And more writing time!

Have a great 2018, everyone!
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Published on December 30, 2017 15:44 • 16 views

December 28, 2017

Dear readers,

In January this blog will host an interview with debut writer Taryn Bashford, whose tennis-themed YA novel The Harper Effect has just been published by Pan Macmillan. If you love tennis, there is plenty to read. If you're not a tennis fan - and I'm not - you will learn plenty about how the game works, while following heroine Harper Hunter's romance with two very attractive boys, one a musician, one a brooding tennis player with family issues. I've put together the post but, this being a blog tour, it has a set date, January 24.

There will also be a guest post from Cat Rambo, current President of the SFWA, whose second novel in the Tabat quartet, Hearts of Tabat, is about to come out. Cat is the author of a lot of short stories and has edited as well. I am hoping, eventually, to do a proper interview, but first the guest post.

Something to look forward to in January!


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Published on December 28, 2017 16:14 • 9 views

December 27, 2017



There is a discussion happening on Twitter right now, using the hashtags #TheDarkIsRising and #The DarkIsReading. There are actually some people in the discussion who are discovering this wonderful Susan Cooper novel for the first time, but there are others, like myself, who have read it many times and are reading it yet again. Many of the readers are living in the northern hemisphere, where the weather is freezing right now and it just seems a good thing to read, due to its ambience. The story is set over several days from Midwinter Eve to Twelfth Night.

In some ways, it's a bit like Alan Garner's work, but the odd thing is, I re-read The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen a while back and I didn't enjoy it as much as I remembered, though I think I may go back and read it again, and the sequel, The Moon Of Gomrath, to prepare myself for the adult sequel written in recent years by Alan Garner. Like Susan Cooper, though, he manages to get the atmosphere of the place he is writing about. The place - Alderly Edge - works better for me than the characters, Colin and Susan.

Actually, it's more like the first novel, Over Sea, Under Stone than any of the others in this series. Kids go to stay in a gorgeous rural place and pick up an item the Dark wants. The bad guys go after them, while they solve the mystery of the item. They also meet people who aren't human, who help them, while they are helping the magical beings against the bad guys. But in Weirdstone, the parents aren't with them. In Over Sea, Under Stone, the motehr of the children, Simon, Barney and Jane, is with them, except not interfering. She is there to paint, thank you very much! The interesting thing is that their adult mentor, Merriman Lyon(whom they eventually work out is probably Merlin), knew their mother as a child, which is why they call him Uncle Merry. I wonder if she had some adventures with him, but perhaps was made to forget? It might make an interesting prequel.

That novel was set in Cornwall. The Dark Is Rising, which can be read more or less stand-alone, as can the first novel, is set in Buckinghamshire, not far from Windsor Castle. The young hero, Will Stanton, turns eleven on Midwinter Eve and finds out he is the last of the Old Ones, a bunch of people who have been fighting the Dark on behalf of the Light for centuries. Merriman Lyon - who, yes, is Merlin, though it's not confirmed until a later book - is his mentor. Merriman, it seems, is capable of making mistakes and he made a bad one about a hundred years ago, leading to a betrayal and making Will's life harder. But if that hadn't happened, there would be a lot less novel!

Will is the seventh son of a seventh son, which is an important thing in folklore. Terry Pratchett used it in his Discworld novels, except it was the eight son of an eighth son. The eighth son becomes a wizard and the reason why they are not encouraged to marry is that they might have eight sons of their own and that youngest will be a powerful Sourcerer, which is not a good thing. That happened in Sourcery.

The thing I found a bit odd about The Dark Is Rising is that we're told Will is the first Old One to be born in about five hundred years. So - weren't there any other seventh sons of seventh sons born in that time?  And does being a seventh son make you an Old One? What about the women - there are female Old Ones. Do you have to be the seventh whatever to be an Old One? And what about the Old Ones in this novel? We know Merriman has been around for centuries, but does this mean that all the other Old Ones have also been around for centuries? One of them is a local farmer. Another is a farmhand, who has a wife, and his son is a smith - one who can travel through time and be there in the fourteenth century when Will arrives, but are they all hundreds of years old? And given that they're more or less immortal, why do they age? And they do. Maybe they just age more slowly than we do, and maybe they're not actually immortal, just long-lived.

Or maybe it's simply a glitch? Even the best of writers can make them.

Anyway, it's still powerful stuff, the kind of "beautiful writing" that readers of adult fiction are always going on about, the kind you read and feel deeply moved by. The characters are ones you can care about. And when the Wild Hunt arrives on a night of rain and storm, it's wonderful!

I think I must visit Buckinghamshire next time I go to the U.K.


And here's something I have only realised on this reading. I think some of the scenes in my novel Wolfborn were inspired by this. Not plagiarised, but inspired. Go read it - or reread it - and you'll see what I mean. I have a scene in a forge, though the encounter is between my hero, Etienne, and the more-or-less likeable Queen of Faerie, Nemetona, instead of Cooper's evil Dark Rider. Nemetona returns later in the novel and helps Etienne.

And there's the scene where a storm arrives just when Etienne needs to save his lord from being stuck in wolf shape for the rest of his life. It's a dramatic scene with lots of rain and thunder and lightning and the Wild Hunt, though in my novel the Huntsman is the god Cernunnos. Some of his followers are Faerie, others are the dead, including a character who was murdered earlier in the novel. The prey is - well, let's say he deserves it. Read it without too many spoilers!

But I hadn't realised that I'd used elements of The Dark Is Rising! Forgive me, Susan Cooper! Look, you can't do drama with Wild Hunts on a fine night with the stars twinkling. It just wouldn't work.

I think this one is the best of the series, but I actually found I liked the third one, Greenwitch, better than on my first reading. That was a pleasant surprise.

The premise is that before the final battle between the Dark and the Light,  six items need to be found. The first and third novels feature the Drew children. In the fourth, The Grey King, and the fifth, Silver On The Tree,  they meet Will and work with him and a boy who turns out to be - no, read it, if you haven't. Spoilers, sweetie! The first three are more or less children's books. By The Grey King, they're turning into YA. Sound familiar?

They were written a long time ago. I remember the final book came out while I was in my first job, and I lent the teacher-librarian my copy, because she hadn't seen it yet(I was a full-time classroom teacher then). It was a very popular series in my school.

If you accept that no one is going to be using a mobile phone or going on-line in any of them - heck, Will's family don't even bother to have a TV, though they could - you have a good chance of enjoying this book and the rest of the series.

They are available in ebook, so why not buy them? Or find them in your local library.

If you have read these books, what do you think?


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Published on December 27, 2017 01:03 • 7 views