Week 42 – 2017

1. I’ve been reading one book of A Song of Ice and Fire per month since July, and although I will not ever call George R. R. Martin my favorite author, I have a better appreciation for his work. Not for A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the series–by far the worst, and one that I’m relieved to be done with–but for his epic series in general. To be able to evolve a character like Jaime Lannister from someone loathsome at best into a more redemptive persona (not a good person, but a better one)–well, that takes ever so much skill. I guess it’s also worth adding that I can count on one hand the number of books that actually made me feel nauseous, so there’s that. Generally, I’d say that I wouldn’t have lasted reading through the series if not for the television series giving me a starting point, which is a galling concession since my house words are “The Book Is Better.” But there isn’t anything quite like A Song of Ice and Fire, and I find myself actually looking forward to book five, A Dance with Dragons, which brings back all the favorite characters that do not appear in book four.

2. A short story collection like this one, with 20 different authors, is like a box of chocolates. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, edited by Karen Joy Fowler and John Joseph Adams, is a who’s who of current and up-and-coming genre authors that is not to be missed. Although, I’ve read the first six stories and only liked one. The rest were weird or incomprehensible or not actually genre fiction by my definition. If I have a choice between reading 1,000 pages and reading 10 pages, I will almost always choose the thousand (see Martin above). Nevertheless, I will press on with reading a short story between novels, because I’ve found this is the only way to keep myself from tossing down the whole box of chocolates at once and making myself sick on them. There’s the Ted Chiang story at the end that I’m sure will be a delight.

3. I lasted through less than 10% of The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss, and I’ll tell you why. (Hint: It has nothing to do with my low, low standards of what constitutes a Sherlock Holmes novel.) It was the metatext. One character, Caroline, appeared to be writing about another character, Mary Jekyll, but Mary and Caroline interrupted the text to comment upon the text. Mary: Why don’t you give them an example? Caroline: I just have. Only at the end of the first chapter is it apparent that Caroline has given the text to several readers who commented upon it, but she decided not to implement any of the changes–or delete the comments.  It was just too irritating. To say absolutely nothing of the character that slightly resembled Sherlock Holmes in name. The end.

4. I’m halfway through Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray, and it’s delightful. I’ve read fewer than ten Star Wars novels–but certainly the Timothy Zahn trilogy–and this one ranks right up there with it. It’s a classic YA novel in that Leia is 16 and finding herself through the three tasks she has set for herself before she can be named the Alderaanian heir. In the course of these, she brushes up against many familiar characters and places–Grand Moff Thrawn, Saw Gerrera, Naboo, C-3PO, etc.–all the while puzzling out why her parents are so busy and secretive. She gets into plenty of trouble, some caused by her and some not, but the voice feels true and the adventures are fun. Plus, adopted people are pretty awesome. I hope it ends as fun as it’s begun.

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