Tom Doherty Associates/Tor/RXR, 1995
ISBN 978 0765357151
I think I’ve already written about books with characters that make you wish they were real so that you could punch them in the face. The nice thing about that feeling is that it comes from all walks of literature – my own personal list includes Cathy from Wuthering Heights, Harold Lauder from The Stand, and both Bella and Edward from the Twilight books (but I have a feeling that last one is pretty common). Mostly, it’s because that character is either an ass of a human being (or not-so-human being in Mr. Cullen’s case), or is going about getting what they want in a really stupid way. In Harold and Cathy’s cases, I can deal with it, because the overall story is pretty good. But there are some idiot characters of literature that just will not be dealt with.
Like Robert Neville.
Alright, so he’s not as much of a douche as you might expect, having witnessed his wife and daughter succumb to the dread disease which carries off most of the rest of the planet. And to be fair on him, the guy has been living on his own for quite some time when the novel begins, so he’s developed certain routines and ways of thinking. I think that the scariest part of the characterisation of Robert Neville is how far away his intellectual faculties have slunk. Because obviously, the guy ain’t dumb. But my query is how come it takes him so long to start figuring out a cure for the virus? I mean, surely a major catalyst would be the nearest and dearest getting sick, right? But Neville is painted quite a few times within the narrative as being a passive creature, almost resigned to bobbing along in the flow of events. Which is totally fine, you need people like that… but just don’t make them the last people on earth. Or, maybe do, but don’t have them whining and moaning every five seconds about how annoying it is to lathe stakes, how you really should find a better method of disposal… and then not do anything about it. Hrumph! Read the rest of this entry
Only ten thousand words to go in the NaNoWriMo novel! Woot!
That is all.
Del Ray, 1992
ISBN: 978 0345342 966
Ray Bradbury’s brain scares me. I mean that in a nice way of course, but it took me a really long time to get back into his writing after I read Something Wicked This Way Comes when I was about thirteen or so. I totally thought that I’d outgrown the whole nightmare thing – “Ha!” Thirteen-Year-Old Me said, “nightmares are for babies!” – but it would seem that I am not immune to the powerful power of the Dust Witch. Even typing those words gives me the goosebumps.
However, about a year or maybe a little longer than that ago, I read that Ray Bradbury was “riding out”, as the Guardian put it, in defence of libraries (you can also read a piece that the New York Times came out with around the same period). “Well,” Present-day Me said to herself, “that’s very nice of him, but it’s no more than I would expect of any author… I mean, der, libraries buy books.” Whoa, was that presumptuous. I had not just underestimated the sheer volume of love that Ray Bradbury has for libraries, but attributed a kind of cruel and mercenary reason for that love. Why all this blithering about libraries, you ask? Hey, it turns out that I’m a librarian. Who would have thunk it? This post is so not about libraries though – I’m currently studying towards my masters, so I’m thinking, breathing, eating and sleeping libraries, and I really don’t want it to infect this blog as well. It’s the last library-free bastion of one-sided conversation for me. Read the rest of this entry
ISBN:978 1 85326 208 1
Whoa, but there is a lot of French in this book. Thank goodness for me this edition has translations in the back, because otherwise I’d run the risk of going my whole life thinking that the main character in this book was stirring his morning coffee with a small gun, rather than a bread roll. Pistolet was the word that tripped me up… I mean, I knew it was unlikely, given the setting, but he had just discovered that his lady-love was dating his boss. It really could have changed the whole flow of the story. Oh, and in case you didn’t realise from that little rant, I don’t speak French past the completely stupid phrase “Ou est la piscine?”, which is going to serve me exactly no good at all if I ever go to France, since I don’t swim. God only knows why I remember it at all.
The Einstein Intersection
Delany, Samuel R.
Sometimes, I wonder if it’s a good thing for a book to have a comment about the author on the cover. For some of them (and I’m thinking of you, Stephen “The greatest popular novelist of our day” King) I can’t help but think that it’s either a backhanded compliment, or perhaps it’s been taken out of context. In any case, it’s almost certainly a publishers decision, and not something that’s come from the writer (…maybe a vain writer). The copy of The Einstein Intersection that I have sitting in front of me as I write this has a quote from Galaxy magazine (which would go out of business ten years after this sphere edition was published, but at the time was a pretty good recommendation) stating that Delany is the “…best science fiction writer in the world.” Kind of a big claim, right? If this book is anything to go on, I’d say that they were right.
Okay, okay, my penchant is for ‘social’ science fiction, rather than ‘technological’ science fiction. Give me Ray Bradbury over Isaac Asimov (though I like Asimov fine too). Delany seems to err more into the ‘social’ side of things – the world that he creates in The Einstein Intersection is low-tech, a sort of distopian society full of myth and the remenants of an old, more technologically advanced society which the present inhabitants are having to face the consequences of. It’s got a weird reminiscence of the films of Sam Peckinpah about it, a kind of feel of an old western, which is interesting too. I have been re-reading Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in parallel with this book, and I have to say that Delany’s book has dated much better. Maybe that’s the thing that curses technological science fiction; eventually the time that its set in ‘comes due’. I like Delany’s characters, I like their struggle. He cribs mercilessly from older mythology (the whole is pretty much the myth of Orpheus) but he doesn’t try to be subtle about it, which works in his favour. I have to admit to being a sucker for mythology – I love seeing how it reflects a culture and a value system as well as a time-and-place kind of thing. Wow, that was pretty shockingly bad writing just there, but hopefully you understand what I mean.