The Den of Ubiquity

Thursday, December 11, 2003:

A Secret Burning Thread

Apparently I took another month off. But that's only an illusion. I was actually working on
NaNoWriMo, as my few LiveJournal entries at the beginning of the month might attest to.

In a nutshell, I did complete NaNoWriMo, writing 50,007 words towards my novel in the month of November, though unlike the last two times, the novel is not finished this time. We also acquired a second vehicle, which is proving to be quite convenient. Which I also mentioned in LiveJournal, redundantly even.

But right now I think it's time to go over the books I've read in the last month and a half or thereabouts.

When last I wrote, I was reading...Hybrids? Has it been that long? Well, I finished it, and I thought it was okay but not Sawyer's best, nor his worst either. It didn't feel like it had much of a plot, even though it had some tension near the end.

After that I read The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman, by Louis de Bernieres, who I believe also wrote Captain Corelli's Mandolin, though I'm not sure. I read a lot of this on the bus, because this was when Nicole was in Medicine Hat with the car, and before we had our second vehicle. It was a bizarre book, reminding me more than somewhat of Gabriel Garcia Márquez's One Hundred Years In Solitude, about a remote village full of bizarre characters. It also has some ugly things to say about religious fanaticism.

I spent a week and a half at the beginning of November reading Mary Stewart's The Last Enchantment. It wasn't filled with thrilling excitement or anything, and it didn't really pull me along. It had its moments, but not that many of them. Mostly, it seemed to have years. We don't actually have a copy of The Wicked Day, next in the series, and quite frankly I'm in no hurry to acquire one.

By contrast, I spent a cool two days reading each of my next two. First was Lemony Snicket's The Wide Window, third in the Series of Unfortunate Events. They are very amusing books, more for the authorial voice, and its constant explanations of words and phrases a young reader might not know. And, of course, it's a quick read.

Also surprisingly quick was Tanya Huff's Stealing Magic. It's a Tesseract Books collection of fantasy stories involving a couple of different characters. One of them is a lusty, earthy woman who happens to be the most powerful mage in the world. The other is a female thief who gets into a number of scrapes. I had read most of the former stories before, since they were reprinted in OnSpec magazine a few years ago, and they were mostly written for laughs. The thief ones were not always so light-hearted, and I found them quite inspirational for the portions of my NaNoWriMo novel involving a Thieves' Guild.

From there it was onto Tanith Lee's Gold Unicorn, sequel to Black Unicorn. They're both young adult novels, but with some interesting themes to them. They're not quite as deep or atmospheric as some of her other books, but she doesn't pull her punches all that much. I certainly didn't feel like she was writing for 'kids' as much as she was accurately portraying a girl in her teens in a fantasy world.

The entire rest of November--another twelve days--was taken up with Steven Erikson's Deadhouse Gates. This was not nearly so much of a plod as The Last Enchantment--it actually is that long, close to 1000 pages. And well worth it. It's the second in his "Malazan Book of the Fallen", and I just now realized that said book was actually mentioned in this volume. Heh.

Erikson's work, while epic in scope, continued to draw more on Glen Cook for inspiration than it does Tolkien. There are some decidedly Asian elements in this one--religious fanatics waiting for their prophet in the desert, and roving tribes on horseback. There a number of sets of characters moving about, sometimes intermingling, and a lot of interesting plot twists. It only involves a few of the characters from the first book--the rest will apparently take the stage in book three, Memories of Ice, which seems to be contemporaneous with this one. Probably even better than the first book.

After that, I wanted something a little shorter again. I moved on to Billie Sue Mosiman's Night Cruise. These days, Mosiman is a writer of vampire novels, but her earlier works were straight thrillers. This one is about a serial killer who picks up a young runaway as a 'witness' to his killings, which he has done several times before. This time, nothing goes quite as either of them plan. It's more psychological than really bloody, as you spend a lot of time inside the head of 'Cruise', the killer. It doesn't quite have the impact it could have had, especially the ending, and might have been served by being longer.

Finally, I reread Roger Zelazny's Sign of The Unicorn, third in the Amber series, just finishing that last night. I read the first five Amber books in a two-volume omnibus a loooong time ago--probably in high school, so at least fifteen years ago. I reread the first two a few years ago, but hadn't yet gone past that. The first one was always my favourite anyway, but I think I kind of got confused about what happened in the last three. So I'm rereading them, and while it can get a bit confusing keeping track of the thirteen Amber siblings(some of whom are dead, and some of whom are only presumed dead), I am once again intrigued. After rereading these I may go on to the second Amber series.

Now I'm reading Borderland, a shared-world anthology co-edited by Terri Windling. The Will Shetterly novel Elsewhere that I read a while ago is set in this universe, but apparently this one should have come first. Well, I'm reading it now. There's only four stories in this book, one of them by "Bellamy Bach", which they admit is a pseudonym, probably for Shetterly himself in this case. There's also a Charles de Lint story, an Ellen Kushner, and a Steven Boyett. So far I'm only in the second story, and the first story takes place some year earlier, so it's hard to say how much the world itself will jell.

I also read a few non-fiction and humour books in there. I just finished Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, which was an excellent introduction to string theory, taking me far beyond the vague memory of having heard about "seven dimensions curled up" for every point in space. A lot of the explanation in the text is done using three-dimensional or fewer analogues, so it only delivers some of the flavour of the full glory of Calabi-Yau manifolds and other esoteric mathematical devices. It's hard to me to gauge how accessible it makes the material, since I do have a Physics degree, but it uses a minimum of equations, and lots of helpful diagrams. And my eyes didn't glaze over once.

I'm sure there was more than that, but that'll have to do for now. Well, I know I read the latest Darwin Awards volume, and a few Worst-Case Scenario Survival Guides, but there's not much to say about those...

Lurching ever onward in that countdowny thing:

288. Prefab Sprout: Cue Fanfare, from Swoon

This is a peculiar song, as those from Prefab Sprout's first album tend to be, whose lyrics involve Bobby Fischer, among other things, and which has a bit of an edge to it that was often softened on later albums. It's fairly singable, if nothing else.

287. Suzanne Vega: The Queen & The Soldier, from Suzanne Vega

This was one of the first songs to strike me from Vega's debut album, with its fantasy-esque storyline. It's probably an allegory or something, but I was never good at that stuff. It seems to be one of the more "folky" of the songs on the album, though that can often be deceptive, with a synthesizer or two lurking in the background.

'Why, this is other people, nor are we out of it.'

Aaron // 9:42 p.m. Clix me!

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Comments by: YACCS

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