The Den of Ubiquity

Saturday, May 01, 2004:

Hard On The Heels of Something Gold

Well, I haven't completely abandoned the blog, but it's come close. I have been posting desultorily in
my LiveJournal, but this one has been more daunting.

I see now why people who use more than one journal often post increasingly infrequently to one or the other, or give each one a specific purpose. So I think that I will try to start using this one for, say, books and music posts, and leave the other one for everything else. Books and music are a big part of my life, which I have been sharing all too infrequently. But if you're interested in other stuff, then feel free to try the LiveJournal.

So, without further ado, let's get started on the books I managed to get through in the last five months or so...not all of them, but hopefully at least a month's worth:

Vonda N. McIntyre: Starfarers. I'm not sure what I was expecting of this one, but I don't think it quite worked for me. It was very definitely a setup for a series, but it didn't get much more accomplished than getting the series started. I only have the next book in the series, so I guess I'll give it one more chance to hook me. ...Whatever happened to Vonda McIntyre, anyway? It seems like ages since I saw much from her. Well, it looks like there was The Moon & The Sun, from 1997, after she finished the Starfarers series, but since? Maybe she went back to writing Star Trek books, where I wouldn't have noticed her. My eyes are very adept at skipping over that section of the shelves these days.

Iain M. Banks: The Use of Weapons. I've heard many good things about Iain Banks's "Culture" series, but I haven't read much of it. I'd read Consider Phlebas and Look To Windward, but I know there were a number in between. This one seemed to next in publication order, at least, so I picked it up from the library. It's the story of a man who was not born in The Culture, but was recruited by them to do their dirty work. The one thread follows a current mission he's on, and the rest follows his timeline backward to the original recruitment. In that way the book really devolves into a sequence of individual scenes. Some of them, like the time where he's badly crippled, but manages to signal for rescue by smearing bird guano over an island in a particular pattern, are mesmerizing, but others are less so. It's interesting, but hasn't sold me on the series yet.

John Morressy: A Voice For Princess. I've read other material in this series, like Kedrigern In Wanderland, and a few short stories in F&SF or someplace like that. This is really light fantasy of a type that may only have been publishable during the fantasy boom of the 80's. Not to say that it's bad, but it's got some of the texture of Jack Vance with some of the silliness of Craig Shaw Gardner. It does come off as charming rather than lame, but it's still a little bit light for my tastes.

Steven Brust: The Lord of Castle Black. Perhaps Steven Brust should be promoted to my list of buy-in-hardcover authors--which so far only includes Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin--but if so, I should have started with The Paths of The Dead, the first in the sub-series "The Viscount of Adrilankha". So I waited to get this one from the library. He continues on being delightful in the Dumas-esque tales written by the charmingly intrusive author Paarfi of Roundwood. Having only read "The Man In The Iron Mask" from Dumas's original "Viscount of Bragelonne", which this is drawing from, I can't see the parallels too clearly, but the next book should be getting there. Morrolan, well-known from the Vlad Taltos books but just getting introduced to Dragaeran society here, is the title character, and several important steps in his history are taken in this book. Not recommended to anyone who hasn't read at least The Phoenix Guards and the other intervening books, but to those I would simply recommend that you do read those books, then proceed to this one.

Dick Francis: Rat Race. Still working to catch up on Dick Francis's back catalogue, but it is seeming sadly more likely that Dick Francis may have stopped writing upon the death of his wife, so perhaps there's no hurry. This one was another air-taxi one, ground(so to speak)that he already covered in Flying Finish, but there's no sense of rehashing here. Another character, a pilot, with only a peripheral interest in horse racing, is drawn into that world when he ferries a famous jockey and they both are nearly killed. The characters and the plot seem to carry equal weight, and when the book ends, you miss the characters. And I will miss more of his characters if he doesn't write any more books...

Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Kiss An Angel. This is mostly a research book, actually. One of my works-in-progress seems likely to feature a circus in one part, so my wife recommended this to me. It's one of her romances, and contains a few elements that I find winceworthy, not being inured to some of the genre's conventions, but it does have some appeal beyond its informative value. Now I just need to get to that novel. Next year, perhaps.

Steve Lyons: The Time Traveler Trilogy Volume 1. I confess, I was a big fan of the Micronauts comics when they came out way back when, and I even had a few of the toys, long since gone. I always seemed to like the SF/fantasy comics better than the straight superhero ones, though it took me some time to realize that. "Micronauts" was uneven, but it had its moments, mostly when they forgot about going to Earth and encountering numerous guest stars, and just dealt with the Microverse. The "New Voyages" followup series was even better, a truly mature comic.

When a new Micronauts series came out, I tried a few issues, but it didn't grab me. Still, I picked up this book on impulse at the library, and decided to try it. Well, it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't really the same Micronauts, which was the same problem the new series had. They had most of the same characters--the ones based on actual toys--but the ones that Marvel had created for the first series were of course unavailable to the new publishers. The book seemed to be another level off, though. As far as I could tell, the events from the new comic books were an alternate reality that the main character, a human boy, was beginning to remember, so they didn't have to worry about plot crossover too much. He got drawn into events anyway, and by the end was trying to set about restoring things to the way he thought they should be. But I don't know if I'm really inspired to try to track down and read the next two.

C.J. Cherryh: Defender. I think this is fifth in the atevi series, and there's one more at least. It continues to be compulsively readable, with her best-drawn alien race to date and the human who almost belongs more with them than with his own race. He continues to try defusing tensions and misunderstandings, if not outright hostility, between the atevi and the people from the spaceship that left humans there centuries earlier. I won't be able to hold myself off from Explorer much longer...

Dean R. Koontz: The Face of Fear. A fairly tight thriller, in which a former mountain climber who retired because of paralyzing fear has to somehow manage to escape from a nearly-empty skyscraper when threatened by homicidal maniac. I admit that a few of the plot points have managed to escape my mind after four months, but it was very effective, and would probably film well.

Robert Jordan: New Spring. This one I did but in hardcover, even though I had read close to half of it in the novella from the Legends anthology. Was it worth it? I can't say yet, I'm too close to the series. It's a prequel from the Wheel of Time series, one of three that's apparently coming out over the next couple of years. On the one hand it's frustrating to think that it might be slowing down the interminable pace that the actual forward-plot books are coming out at, but they will probably be interesting to read in any case. And is it any better to do all the prequels after you've finished the first series? I'm thinking Terry Brooks here, though it's not like I've read any of the Shannara prequels...

And that's all I can manage for now...that takes us to January 16th, at least. Hopefully more soon.

I've thought a lot about this whole countdown thing. At the rate I'm going, two songs a post is seeming way too slow. When I posted every day, it would be fine, but at any pace I think I could sustain today... That's one reason I'm posting here so erratically.

So I will try to increase the pace a little bit. I haven't figured out how for sure yet, but it may involve triangular numbers. Though I don't want to actually do more than ten songs at a time...

Let's try three:

286. T'Pau: Heart & Soul, from T'Pau

Though I had heard their first album called "Bridge of Spies", that's not what my copy says. Anyway, I liked this song a lot when it came out, and I remember being disappointed, for some reason, when Madonna's execrable "Who's That Girl?" beat it to the #1 spot on the Canadian charts. The largest part of its appeal to me is the counterpoint between Carol Decker's spoken and sung vocal lines; the rest of it it solid pop, but not special. Decker's vocals carry the song to its heights.

285. Style Council: Have You Ever Had It Blue, from the Absolute Beginners Soundtrack

I found out later that this song was a relyricking and retitling of a song from their "Internationalists" album, with a more political tone to them. The lyrics on this version aren't anywhere near so pointed, but they strike more of a chord with their appeal to the experience of crushing disappointment. The album version contains an extended intro that the video version did without, and I don't think it's really necessary...but maybe if I saw it in the context of the movie it would work better, I don't know.

284. They Might Be Giants: Letter Box, from Flood

A slight piece from what I think is their best album, this song is mostly notable for the high-speed lyrics in the verse, which are often hard to decipher, and hard to reproduce when singing along, as I am wont to do. But they are delightfully by turns childlike and biting.

Stupid == the flying Wallendas without hands. --billbill

Aaron // 11:31 p.m. Clix me!

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