August 09, 2005

I HAVE been! Honest!

As a matter of fact, yes I have been reading. And reading. And reading, and reading and READING.

Short story collections, sci-fi, fantasy series, general fiction, you name it. I've even strayed into adult books... And I still haven't found much of anything lately to recommend to you, which sort of paralyzes me with horror, and gives me angst simultaneously. Do you ever have days when you're reading when you wonder HOW certain people get published?? They must know someone, or something sinister like that. Well. Just so you know I've not been doing slacking on the job, here are my hopeful-but-ambivalent ratings (books that are fair for entertainment purposes, but not stand-alone-smashingly-wonderful):

Phillip Reeve's
Mortal Engines, the first in the Hungry City Chronicles, rated a 'Hmm, Pretty Good' rating from me. The idea of moving cities is innovative and completely off the wall, I liked the characters and the action. There are some very Jules Verne-esque scenes of industry and commerce that really attracted me. I was disappointed that it ended so quickly-- with the characters flying off into the sunset. You just know they're going to have other adventures which may or may not include you. I love series books, but sometimes I wish people would finish the entire series before publishing ANY of them. (AHEM, Ms. J. K. Rowling!!!) But, that's just my reader greed talking.

Although some people don't consider the work of
Anne McCaffery as science fiction, even her flying dragons have basis in hard science -- genetic modification in the days before people really knew what was up with that. In more recent writing, she's started pairing her prodigious skills with other authors, and in the early 90's started publishing some great adventure reads -- with female protagonists! Yay! The first in the Planet Pirate Series, Sassinak, published by Baen Books paired McCaffrey's romantic bent with writer Elizabeth Moon's space exploration tales. Sass is a smart-mouthed twelve-year old when the story begins. Taken by pirates for a slave, Sassinak endures horrible treatment, but imagines she's Carin Coldae, Adventurer Extraordinary, a character from the vids who never gives in. Sass is gutsy. When she meets a Fleet operative, he teaches her all he can to help her survive. She escapes, contacts the Fleet-- and then makes it her life's work to give merry hell to the pirates for the rest of forever. Adventure, romance, and a swashbuckling space opera -- this book has the elements of a fun pass-the-time-in-an-airport novel - nothing too deep, but lots of fun. There are sequels, too, if your flight's delayed.

In one of my YA Lit courses at
Mills, I read the beginning of a story much like T.A. Barron's The Ancient One, which takes place in Oregon, among the huge old redwoods. I only hope my girl Dorothy finishes her book, because her storyline already gives this one a run for its money. The protagonist, Kate, spends her summer in rainy Blade, Oregon, with her Aunt Mel, and finds that Aunt Mel's hometown is the place of the magical Lost Crater, an old volcano with mystical powers that has been lost in a giant grove of redwoods. Of course, once it is rediscovered, the loggers want to cut it down. Kate and her aunt go to the woods to protect (with their bodies?) the trees, and through an accident Kate and a young logger are thrown backwards in time a thousand years... and magical battles with bird people and dark spirits ensue in order to protect the Ancient One, the oldest, largest redwood tree in the grove. Even in the past, the tree, and the way of life of the Native peoples surrounding it, are threatened by evil, with a bewildering penchant for animating stones and poisoning water and doing other environmental damage that previously was believed done only by modern mankind. The tree's protectors are owl-like beings with a strange affinity for oysters and peppermint candy. Don't...ask.

At any rate, eventually, Kate is tossed back to her place in the world... but the tree she fought so hard to save is cut down anyway. The environmental message, if there is one, is a muddy compromise between trying to understand that logging supports a way of life, but the ancient spirits in the trees should be protected. The book ends abruptly, with the tantalizing connections between Aunt Mel and the ancient Halamis Peoples only hinted at, but unexplored, the time lapse between disappearing from flaming woods in the 21st century and spending a few months a thousand years back, the oddly developing relationship between Kate and the relentlessly angry logger kid, and a bunch of other random details trailing about untied.

As I said, Dorothy, finish your book! Please!

So, now you know I haven't been slacking... Hope you've been reading too!
Lazy Days of August to you.


a. fortis said...

Like you, I've been doing lots of reading but nothing I really want to review yet...but I just went to the library today, and just finished a couple by Megan McCafferty, so I'll weigh in soon, I swear.

I remember reading Sassinak ages ago--sometime in high school, I think--and it's a pretty decent read. I'm not as into the "space opera" type of sci-fi, so I didn't read the sequels, but I recall enjoying it. McCaffrey's "Crystal Singer" series is another fun one I remember reading at the time. Also, Escape Velocity by Christopher Stasheff, and its sequel (whose name currently escapes me), created this quite entertaining journey from space sci-fi into a more fantasy-based world.

However, bear in mind that I haven't read these in years and they might not be as good as I remember...

a. fortis said...

Okay, I have a strange but true Anne McCaffrey story, thanks to my father-in-law. Apparently he may have made quite an impression on her. Some time back a few decades ago--around the mid-1960s or thereabouts--Rob's dad was a student at Berkeley and doing the 60s thing, which in this instance means attempting to hitch a ride back to campus in the middle of the night.

This VW van rolls to a stop next to him, and he gets in. Inside is a woman and her child. The woman is Anne McCaffrey, who talked about how she was just about to get her first Dragonriders book published and was really excited about it because at the time she and her child were living out of the van. Rob's dad converses with her until she drops him off, at which point he wishes the best of luck to her and her daughter.

"That's my son," she reportedly said, miffed.

My father-in-law notes that the son had a very androgynous bowl haircut, after which I said, "Well, as long as you didn't give the kid some kind of complex..."

tanita s. davis said...

OH my goodness!

How cool is that?!

Oh, wait. Are we all going to have to be divorced single parents and live in vans before we get famous? Because this is sounding very Rowling, too, and if so, I'm not sure I wanna play...