eruthros: Delenn building the crystal machine in season 1  of B5, captioned "foreshadowing" (B5 - Delenn incredible foreshadowing)
[personal profile] eruthros
It is 11:00 am and no-one on my friends list has posted since 6:00 am.

I mean, I know it's just barely 9 am for you folks on the West Coast, but still... not a post. Not from either coast. (And then I start sounding like Dr. Seuss.) Not even metaquotes! I started to wonder if someone had disabled metaquotes. Because that's five whole hours. Five hours! Someone's bound to post something not-funny to metaquotes every half hour! I start to worry about you all when no-one posts...

I finished my work for the day at 9:15 this morning, and have read many news sources. (I need to thank [livejournal.com profile] fiatlouis for the salon.com subscription he got me for my birthday -- salon.com is very useful for whiling away these hours.)

Irritatingly, my supervisor has suddenly declared that I can't read books at my desk when the db is down, because he's worried people will get tetchy at him for not finding enough work for me (no, really?). He decided this, of all times, when my entire computer was downstairs with IT. I fail to see how me not having anything to do without a computer would reflect badly on him, but whatever.

This is especially annoying because I've been reading a lot of fun books lately. I went through a brief Ursula K. Le Guin and Emma Bull phase, so I read a lot of books about being alone in a strange world, about alienation, about being strange and unique and misunderstood.

I'd never read Le Guin's other Hainish books (other than LHoD, that is), so I read everything in Worlds of Exile and Illusion, most of which I liked, and The Telling, which I did not. The atmosphere of The Telling was good, and the description, but it started slow and ended abruptly, which is a combination I hate. Finally, things were starting to become clear, we were starting to understand the history of the world and the meaning of the telling -- and then we killed someone off and the book ended. Quoi? (JKR is guilty of that a lot, too -- just when the story finally builds momentem, someone dies and it's over. But at least Le Guin's prose is fun even when the plot is slow.)

So, let's see -- first I nearly cried over Emma Bull's Finder. On the bus. Despite having read it about 10 times. It's a fabulous book, and that's a fabulous scene, and even though I know it's coming the prose is so gorgeous I nearly cry again. (Either that or I have mood swings. You be the judge.) I don't want to spoil the plot for those of you who haven't read Emma Bull; the book is beautifully written, despite being part of that whole "Borderlands" world. Emma Bull is number two on my list of under-rated women sf/f authors, right below Carol Emshwiller. Bull writes such sf/f cliches that people tend to dismiss her -- oh, she's writing in the Borderlands world. Oh, she's writing about fighter pilots. Oh, she's decided to do a post-apocalyptic book. But all of those have really inventive, interesting twists (despite her tendency to kill off secondary characters to let us know the plot's getting serious). Bone Dance, the post-apocalyptic one, is probably my favorite, and sadly I can't say a thing about it without spoiling the entire interesting twist. But I recommend it highly.

Then I re-read Left Hand of Darkness and nearly cried on the bus (that's the theme of the last few weeks, really). It's oft-reviewed and I have nothing to add. The three novels combined in Worlds of Exile and Illusion -- Rocanon's World, Planet of Exile, and City of Illusion -- should not be read together. I'm sorry, but they just shouldn't. You become hyper-aware of Le Guin's Hainish cycle themes -- blah blah alien blah blah alone blah blah nobody understands and then my best friend dies -- to the point where you're noticing them and getting distracted by them rather than actually paying attention to the plots, which are actually interesting and unique despite the common themes. My favorite is probably Planet of Exile -- it's unusual for Le Guin in that it has a pair of protagonists. A couple, even. City of Illusion is good but lacks emotional pay-off -- it's all very "having found the truth, now we may tell it to everyone, and then things will change." Which is a fine ending, but I think it needed a little more hope and a little less unemotional language. Rocanon's World -- eh. It's got invented myth, like Left Hand of Darkness, and then it's got a quest-style plot, with the characters traveling the land and meeting strange people and then getting kidnapped and so on. It's fine, but not great. And I already talked about the most recent of the Hainish books, The Telling, which dates to 2000.

I also re-read The Other Wind and Tales of Earthsea, which I found a lot more engaging on a second read. And they made more sense reading them the right way around -- Tales first, and then Wind. Wind is an interesting re-consideration of the Earthsea world, and turns all the stories Le Guin has been telling since Wizard upside-down. Still, I miss Ged in them; I know the point of the Earthsea stories is that the Archmage is "done with doing," but he's not done with telling, and I'd like Le Guin to spend a little more time with him. Perhaps she's worried that if she did, we'd remember how much we liked to read about him, and how little interested we are in some of the newer characters -- Tenar and Tehanu and Lebannen are engaging, but the king's advisers, for example, are flat. I can't remember their names, or what they said, and really I don't care, which isn't how it should be.

The book I read recently that surprised me most was actually one of Laurie King's Mary Russell mysteries -- Justice Hall. (I've actually been having this conversation with [livejournal.com profile] m_shell about the Mary Russell books -- I feel like, at this point, Holmes is more than just the first consulting detective. Holmes is an archetype of Holmes -- there's Conan Doyle's, the original, and then there are the movie versions, and the radio versions, and new compilations like Shadows Over Baker Street and that one I loaned [livejournal.com profile] copperbadge with Holmes in scifi worlds. And I can't read Laurie King's Holmes as exactly like "the" Holmes -- King's version falls in love. With a woman, but really I'd be surprised by Holmes falling in love with anyone. So. Fun, and a better Holmes than many, but not "the" Holmes. Digression over.) Honestly, I have difficulty swallowing a 60-year-old Holmes (King picks the latest possible date of his birth) marrying a 20-year-old woman who could be his granddaughter. Marriage of the minds notwithstanding.

In any case, Laurie King did a wonderful job in Justice Hall of making me sympathize with Ali and Mahmoud, the characters consulting with Holmes and Russell. Really, though, the thing that surprised me was her light touch on a character we never meet -- Mahmoud's nephew, killed during the war. We meet him only very tangentially through Russell's conversations with Mahmoud and his relatives, and then through a few paragraph excerpted from his diary, and I think two whole letters. Over the course of this entire 400 page book. And yet I kept hoping Gabriel could somehow be alive, that he could somehow take over, that there was some mistake with his death -- and I didn't feel manipulated, except for the excerpts from his diary, which were dubious. So that was an incredibly good job, because usually my attitude towards death in murder mysteries is "great! more clues!" rather than "oh, poor John." The mystery part of the murder mystery is well done throughout the first half but sadly requires deus ex machina to work out -- Holmes stories should never need coincidence to be solved. But I suppose these are really Mary Russell stories.

Date: 2004-04-07 02:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oralelk.livejournal.com
With a woman, but really I'd be surprised by Holmes falling in love with anyone.

Holmes/Watson slash potential notwithstanding, I think you underestimate Holmes. Have you read "A Scandal in Bohemia (http://www.gutenberg.net/etext99/advsh12h.htm#1)"? "And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory."

Well, if you want to call it "love". But given the chance ...

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eruthros: Delenn from Babylon 5 with a startled expression and the text "omg!" (Default)
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