Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Halloween post, excerpted from my dad blog

Someday I'm gonna write sff for a living. For now I'm mostly living it with my two-year-old. Here's a Halloween post to tide you over until I review Perdido Street Station tomorrow.

Light seeps in through the slivered gaps between the window shades, dripping little splashes of obnoxious sunshine right onto your eyelids. You strain to listen, but hear no sounds from the munchkin's room, so you stretch and turn over. Just for a few more minutes.

But despite the cheery transition from sleep to wakefulness, from shadowy night to revealing day, something unsettling tickles the edges of your awareness. You turn again. And then again. Is that a cry you hear? A faint, almost feline sound, too far away to be your daughter. Or is it? It sounds again, seeming to echo forlornly on another plane, a reality just barely touching your own.

Sighing, you haul yourself out of bed. Your wife slumbers still, turned away from you, a pillow shielding her face from the light. You rub your eyes, faint recollections from the night seeping slowly through your consciousness. Something about being chased, and running in slow motion, and then a creature with teeth and claws . . .

You stand outside of the munchkin's door for a minute, head resting on the door jamb. No sound. No faint cries. No whines. You crack the door, just a little bit. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to the dimness of the room, and it seems you can just barely make out something glowing, hovering just above her bed. You squint, and crack the door a little further. And then you realize that it is her eyes glinting in the darkness, reflecting back the light in the hallway. She stands in her crib, motionless. Just watching you. Her eyes never seem to blink.

If you'd like to read more, you can read the rest of it at my dad blog, Raised by my daughter. Have a happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mountains of Madness

Just a quick post to point you to my comic over at the insatiable booksluts! It involves book stacking, which is like the literary version of Jenga.

And a teaser question, before you go: how tall is your current tallest stack of books?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shaking out the filler

I'm halfway through China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, and while it's not the worst offender I've ever encountered, I find myself just wishing things would go a little quicker, and not spend a whole 'nother page describing the filth and squalor in a whole new part of town. Otherwise, it's a pretty interesting read, and I look forward to finishing and writing its review.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Best books to curl up with in front of a fire

On October 1st, it hit 103 degrees where we live in California. Ridiculous, I know.

But things have gotten a little more reasonable since then. Today, the high is only supposed to reach 70 degrees, which suits me much better. I actually put on two layers this morning.

I don't have a fireplace at the moment, and frankly it would be ridiculous to have one in a place that never drops below 50 degrees . . . but with the change in the weather, I've been sort of day-dreaming about cold weather and the kinds of books that are best read lounging near the hearth.

Now, any good book is suitable to be read at just about any time, but I'd offer that books incline towards the seasonal. I'd suggest that beach vacations are ideal for something fast-paced, light, or consistently and immediately gripping. Reading in front of the fire, by contrast, is particularly great for books that you'd have a hard time getting through at other times. It's a time for plunging deep into a book, savoring it, and even enjoying the languid or desultory qualities that make it harder to fit in during the normal pace of life. I'm thinking that poetry probably fits best here, too.

To start with, here are the books I've reviewed so far that I think might be especially suited for cold-weather, hunker-down sorts of reading. You'll note that I'm not discriminating based on their recommendation score (Except for Wizard's First Rule and Eragon; I just. couldn't. do it.):

The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks. 
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien
A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer

You'll note that these are heavily weighted towards epic fantasy novels; there's just something about magic and castles and dragons that fits when you've got a fire blazing in front of you and snow blowing past the windows outside. 

Never Let Me Go is hardly a hefty tome, but there's just something about it that evokes something chilly, whether it's the subject matter or the English setting. And while Twilight is not one of my favorite novels, I'd say it also benefits from reasonably descriptive prose regarding the cold, rainy Washington weather.

I almost suggested Red Mars and 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson for the list, since they're such beasts to get through, but ultimately decided that they aren't actually all that suited (in my opinion) for multi-hundred page reading chunks. They're fascinating and intelligent, but I don't think they require the sort of immersive, forget-about-the-world quality that these others have.

I'd also suggest A. S. Byatt's Possession, Milton's Paradise Lost, Beowulf, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence, Asimov's Foundation series, Richard Adam's Watership Down or Shardik, and Frank Herbert's Dune. Dune might seem a funny choice, but it certainly takes some effort to get through, and I think there can be something interesting about trying the contrast of a desert world with cold-weather reading.

Do you think there are books best suited for certain seasons? Which ones would you choose to fit the dropping temperature?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Book Review: Carrie

Carrie (1974), Stephen King. Paperback, 208 pages.

Summary: A bullied teen discovers an outlet for her anger after harnessing telekinetic powers. It does not end well. For a more detailed summary, click here.

First Sentences: 
Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not at the subconscious level where savage things grow. On the surface, all of the girls in the shower room were shocked, thrilled, ashamed, or simply glad that the White bitch had taken it in the mouth again.

     When the girls were gone to their Period Two classes and the bell had been silenced (several of them had slipped quietly out the back door before Miss Desjardin could begin to take names), Miss Desjardin employed the standard tactic for hysterics: She slapped Carrie smartly across the face. She hardly would have admitted to the pleasure the act gave her, and she certainly would have denied that she regarded Carrie as a fat, whiny bag of lard. A first-year teacher, she still believed that she thought all children were good.

     Carrie looked up at her dumbly, face still contorted and working, "M-M-Miss D-D-Des-D-"

     "Get up," Miss Desjardin said dispassionately. "Get up and tend to yourself."
     "I'm bleeding to death!" Carrie screamed, and one blind, searching hand came up and clutched Miss Desjardin's white shorts. It left a bloody handprint.
     "I . . . you . . . " The gym teacher's face contorted into a pucker of disgust, and she suddenly hurled Carrie, stumbling, to her feet. "Get over there!"
     Carrie stood swaying between the showers and the wall with its dime sanitary-napkin dispenser, slumped over, breasts pointing at the floor, her arms dangling limply. She looked like an ape. Her eyes were shiny and blank.
     "Now," Miss Desjardin said with hissing, deadly emphasis, "you take one of those napkins out . . . no, never mind the coin slot, it's broken anyway . . . take one and . . . damn it, will you do it! You act as if you've never had a period before!"


Writing Quality: 6/10

Depth of Concept: 6/10

Rounded Characters: 6/10

Well-Developed World: 6/10

Page Turner: 8/10

Kept Me Thinking: 7/10

Overall Recommendation: 7/10