Sign up for my newsletter to receive news and updates!

Posts Tagged ‘other people’s books’

RIP

Things you’re unaware of while on the road: David Eddings has passed away.

Before I moved to California last year, I went through our fiction shelves, re-reading the various series I was keeping on hand out of childhood nostalgia. In many cases, it was a farewell, one last look back before they got culled from the herd. But the ones I found myself still enjoying got kept.

kniedzw and I had an interesting debate about Eddings: I wanted to keep the Malloreon, and he wanted to keep the Belgariad. I caved, because it didn’t matter to me all that terribly much one way or another — but it’s worth noting that I wanted to keep something. There are any number of flaws to both series (not least of which is that they tell essentially the same story, which then gets rehashed twice more in the Elenium and the Tamuli, in slightly shorter form), but when all’s said and done, I still really like the characters and their interactions, just as I did when I was thirteen.

There’s a piece I want to write someday, an adaptation of a paper I wrote in graduate school, about a particular way of looking at Tolkien clones. Yes, these books feature a motley assortment of characters traveling all over the map, accompanied by a wise old wizard, in pursuit of a powerful magic object that a dark god is trying to acquire — we’ve read that story before. But I saw very clearly in this re-read which things Eddings brought to the table, that Tolkien was never interested in: Politics (admittedly of a simple sort). Trade and economics. Relationships, not just in the romance stages, but onward to marriage and children; by the time you’re done with the Malloreon, Eddings has hitched up every major character from those ten books. (Even the eunuch settles down, in his own way.) He makes his own omissions — aside from the vaguely Asian look to the Angaraks, this is a melanin-challenged world, and underhanded things like spying get a very rose-tinted depiction — but I can still appreciate the additions. This isn’t just Middle Earth all over again.

So we still have the Belgariad on our shelves. The Malloreon, I think, was a more mature iteration of the story (and had the entertaining virtue of writing a justification for the rehash into the cosmology), but I’m okay with its predecessor being the one we kept. It means I can pick up one of the books, find a favorite scene, and spend a moment bidding farewell to David Eddings himself.

Reincarnation

An exchange with kitsunealyc has got me thinking about one of the aspects I really love in Changeling: The Dreaming, namely, the fact that the premise incorporates reincarnation as one of its fundamental elements. The faerie souls are born into a series of mortal hosts, and sometimes they remember their past lives, which means you can have all kinds of fun with patterns and echoes and change over time.

Hell, that was the precise notion that set the ball rolling for Memento.

And it makes me wonder — who out there has written fantasies that make use of this idea? Not just reincarnation, but remembering past lives, telling a story where the fixed and mutable characteristics of a soul are a central part of the tale. Katharine Kerr’s Deverry books come to mind, and Jo Graham has started a series of history-hopping fantasies that appear to feature the same souls incarnating as central and peripheral figures in various periods (the Trojan War, Ptolemaic Egypt), but those are the only ones I can think of offhand. The Wheel of Time, I suppose, but that’s one of a billion ideas swirling around in that series, and it doesn’t get the exploration I’d like to see.

I had fun running the idea in Memento, and I had fun playing with it via Ree, my long-term LARP character. What’s it like to remember — in your early twenties — that you generally don’t live to see your twenty-fifth birthday? What does it mean for friendships and enmities when the universe hits the “reset” button on your lives? How can you take something that appears to be a fundamental part of your nature, on a metaphysical level, and work around and with it so you don’t repeat the same mistakes you always have? I have no idea what kind of story I could use to explore those notions again, but I suspect I’ll think of one eventually, because clearly my brain isn’t done with it yet.

So where can I go to feed my brain? Kerr, Graham, Jordan — who else?

Dammit, I lost my bet.

I’ve been wagering since about 1998 that the Wheel of Time would end up being thirteen books long. Looks like I’m wrong.

Official Tor press release.

Brandon Sanderson, who’s finishing the series, on how he’s ended up doing four times as much work as he signed on for.

I never believed, from the moment Jordan announced the series would end at twelve, that it could wrap up that fast, and I was right about that. But my money was on thirteen, and even that turns out to have been optimistic. (There’s something hilarious about the line in the press release, that “somehow it seems fitting that what began as a trilogy will also end as one.” Trilogy, my foot.)

At some point, I will write a lengthy post or two about my history with this series. Suffice to say that I do intend to read the end, and in fact I will almost certainly re-read the series one final time on my way to that end. I have that much investment left in it, though not much more.

But man, I do NOT envy Sanderson, who almost certainly got paid a flat fee for finishing the series, and is now having to crank out three books instead of one, all of them longer than the original estimate. While also keeping up with his own books. The man is insane.

Meh.

Spent a chunk of this evening reading a YA novel . . . that I didn’t actually like or care about very much. The prose was painful, the characters were shallow, the world-concept interesting but not deployed very well at all, and I’m still not sure why I finished it. The obvious answer is that the author somehow got me to invest in the story enough that I wanted to know how it ended, but it didn’t feel like that was true while I was reading it, and then I got to the end and was not surprised to find it disappointing. I may have to chalk this one up to inertia, pure and simple: having started, I just kept coasting.

At least I was semi-skimming for the last half or so. It therefore ate less of my evening than it might have.

moonandserpent? ombriel? This one’s for you.

It’s rare that I look at a book and think, I know who needs to read that. A generalized, “oh, so-and-so might like this,” sure — but not the sort of surety where I would drag people into the store and push the book into their hands if only they weren’t two-thirds of the way across the country from me.

The book in question is Catherynne Valente’s Palimpsest, out as of today, and I’ve been waiting for the chance to plug it (since plugging seems mean when a book is not yet available). What’s it about? Well, it has an attention-getting tag line: it’s about a sexually transmitted city. Yes, you heard me right. But you know, I’ll be honest with you; when I first heard that, aside from thinking “holy jeebus do moonandserpent and ombriel need to read that, not to mention some other friends of ours” that concept didn’t really hook me. I am ambivalent about a lot of the New Weird grotesquerie — it just isn’t my cup of tea — and Palimpsest sounded a lot like that.

What won me over was hearing Cat Valente read from it at Vericon last month. The thing I can be a sucker for in the New Weird, if the grotesquerie doesn’t put me off, is awesome worldbuilding, full of fantastic weirdnesses that are not the same stale ideas you’ve read again and again. The passage she read, about a school for the upper-class children of the city of Palimpsest, hit a bullseye on my cool-worldbuilding target. Plus it did so with lovely language that wasn’t obtrusive in its loveliness; it had sufficient clarity that I could follow it aurally without any trouble at all. And that’s something I care about, too.

Anyway, Cat’s done some awesome promotional stuff for this book, the kind of promotion I wish I had the wit, energy, and social network to do — S.J. Tucker (sooj) recorded an album of music inspired by it, there’s tie-in art and a Palimpsest corset and chocolate and perfume and all kinds of awesomeness. You can find out about that stuff here, and let me see if I can embed the book trailer:

Continuing the theme of this post, I rarely like book trailers, but that’s among the best I’ve seen — thanks to good music and no cheesy-sounding voiceover, mostly.

(Also? I didn’t realize, a couple of months ago, when I came across the Tabula Rasa website via kniedzw‘s computer, that it was actually a piece of marketing for Palimpsest. But when your city is a tattoo passed from person to person, it totally makes sense . . . .)

My ability to witter on about the book more or less ends there, since I haven’t read it yet. But I have the car today, and various errands to lure me out of the house, so there may be a stop at the bookstore — and then I’ll have to bait myself through the remainder of this story I’m writing by promising I get to read when I’m done. It will make a lovely change of pace.

halfway to disappointment

I adore Robin McKinley’s writing; she is on that short list of authors whose books I will pick up without knowing anything about them except they’re written by Robin McKinley.

Chalice . . . is my least favorite Robin McKinley book.

I won’t say I didn’t like it, but I don’t know how much of me liking it was due to the author, rather than the book. Too much of it kept backtracking to tell me about things before the narrative began; for a while there it felt like two pages of present story, twenty pages of backstory. Too much of it was told in summary, the narration describing what happened when Mirasol talked with Clearseer or whoever, rather than actually showing me that interaction. Too much repetition — Mirasol lamenting her lack of apprenticeship, for example — for too little in the way of new development in character and plot.

I think there ultimately wasn’t enough here to fill out its length (and it’s a short book for all of that). It might have compelled me ten times more had it been a third as long.

There still would have been the inherent conservatism of the setting — the wholehearted embrace of the connection between family lineage and talent/magic/right — but I can be okay with that, inasmuch as I don’t require fantasy only to explore concepts I want to live with in real life. But it needed more exploration of that conservatism, or else less time spent dwelling on it. More story, or else less book.

It reminds me, though, that I still haven’t gotten around to reading Dragonhaven, which I remember people quibbling with back when it came out. Maybe I’ll make time for that one soonish.