Sunday, 28 August 2011
Cover of In High Places (Crosstime Traffic)
111. In High Places by Harry Turtledove
I just read this book this weekend and I enjoyed it a lot. It’s a science-fiction novel for young adults (notably YA only in that the main characters are teenagers and there’s no bad language – it’s a good book with some really big issues in it) set 100/150 years in our future where a means of transferring between alternate realities has been found. A teenage girl and her parents (completely secular Jews) go to an alternate where the Black Death killed off far more of Christian Europe’s population, and thus the Muslims were never pushed out of Spain and now hold southern France as well. Europe is only now getting towards the beginning of a Renaissance and technologically is medieval. Since Jews are as badly considered in that world as they were in our medieval Europe, this family is acting as Muslim traders, and to fit into that world they are fully covered, with the women including face veils.
There are lots of different issues in the book, with slavery, tolerance and whistle-blowing some of the big ones, and covering only a minor one, but it’s fairly sympathetically covered at that.
Annette/Khadijia accepts her veil as a costume that she’s not especially fond of, but she realises quickly that her face covering is the only real difference from what the local Christian women are wearing, and that for a trader it can be quite useful to have her face covered in negociations, and that it’s not so terrible or derogatory as she’d previously have thought. Then when she and others are taken prisoner and forced to remove their veils she doesn’t mind the removal all that much, but the other women are shown as being horrified, and feeling practically stripped naked by the loss of something they’ve worn for years/life.
All in all I thought the book addressed the negatives and positives of its various issues well, and in a way to provoke thought. Those who are careful about what their kids read may well want to read it themselves first, but I doubt it’s one for anyone to reject out of hand.
Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Cover of The Bourne Identity
Um yeah, trying to add moving into the current hectic lifestyle isn’t leaving much time, and blogging was what gave once I get out of the habit. We have to be out of the ‘old’ place within the next week, so hopefully I can pick up again properly then.
It’s not such a good excuse for disappearing as stress related amnesia, admittedly.
81. The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
Not sure I’d have picked this up had DH not wanted to read and compare it to the 2002 film (he was given the DVD versions of all three films), and then wanted to talk to me about it without spoiling too much (we’ve both started the second book, but I’m letting him actively read it first). I think I see that film as much closer to the book’s themes than he does, pointing out the major differences like the loss of the major oppositional character (the terrorist/assassin Carlos) and Bourne’s much altered back-story. Personally I saw it more as a retelling of the story reflecting the change in world politics of two decades.
Marie’s role as love interest to be protected in the film is fairly traditionally passive, and so familiar a trope that we barely noticed it until reading the book’s Marie, who is not only a fully active partner to Bourne, bringing specialist and world knowledge into play that he just doesn’t have, but also far more politically savvy and astute than he is. Instead of being a penniless drifter with little to lose when she throws her lot in with a rich and exciting man, this Marie is a self-made world-renowned, brilliant and highly placed official who makes a real sacrifice to help someone she really didn’t even expect to like. Quite why the film-makers chose to lose the in-many-ways more developed character of the two protagonists is beyond me. I suppose it’s basically that they wanted to make Bourne into a superhero (which he isn’t in the book), so they gave him all her abilities, and only left her the driver and love-interest roles.
So while I don’t always agree with the choices Marie makes, she nearly always does make them in the book (far more so than Bourne himself) and that’s entirely missing in the film. On that level, this is an entirely different story, and one that was interesting to read.
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Well, I didn’t finish the dress I’m making DD, so she wore some existing clothes for Shavuot (and was proclaimed very cute when we went out for lunch today). I finally just now got around to adding five books to the reading list from the past few weeks, only the last of which was actually finished today. I’m looking forward to talking about some of them here, at least, and will try to do at least one review tomorrow.
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Sorry for the delay. WordPress was refusing to publish my posts for a few days, and that got me out of the habit of daily posting.
However, I’m listening to a new interview with Shirley Hughes, about her Alfie books and her in general!
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Image via Wikipedia
I got into podcasts through the literary craft-friendly ones like Craftlit and Forgotten Classics, (both often referred to here) and I now seem to be downloading hours’ worth every day of many different types and topics.(Why no, I can’t really keep up!) It was actually Julie on Forgotten Classics (in the USA, ironically enough) who pointed out that RTE are podcasting their documentary archive, including old and new works. Having grown up in Ireland I appreciate the local references, and sometimes it’s good to be able to discuss programmes with my mother that she’s heard on the radio, but these are so very varied that anyone could find some to interest them.
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
75. The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel
This is not going to be the only fairly negative review of this book out there. Everyone I’ve spoken to about it over the past few days who’s read it seems to agree that it’s very repetitive and disappointing. Personally I really can’t think of anything it even really adds to the story of Ayla‘s life that wasn’t to be expected from the end of the previous book. Admittedly I haven’t read The Shelters of Stone in about a decade, (ie I read it once shortly after it came out in 2002), but at the end of that book Ayla and Jondalar had made it back to his people after a long and unusual journey, had had their matrimonial and then the birth of their daughter, and they were settling down to stable positions within the 9th Cave of the Zelandonii, he as a master flint knapper, she as new acolyte (trainee) to the local high priestess. They missed the friends made along their journey, but didn’t expect to see any who didn’t come looking for them ever again. They were deeply in love, but as two very intense, talented and admired people from very different backgrounds were still capable of deep misunderstandings.
So the new book adds another six years to the tale, but I don’t personally think it includes anything not to be easily anticipated from that, except the rather bizarre implication that as a highly unusual and capable woman who’s fought against conventions she didn’t agree with all her life, Ayla is the one who’s going to eventually (over generations at least) and unintentionally turn a fairly equal matriarchy where jealousy is one of the worst crimes into a controlling patriarchy.
My impression is that Auel felt she was shadowing the climax of The Mammoth Hunters, but it’s such a straight copying of the storyline that I was bored by it. Not quite so bored as by the constant repetition of all the verses of the Earth Mother song that I kept skipping. Realistically that should have appeared no more than once in the story text, with a brief refrain of a couple of lines some (but definitely not all) of the times, with perhaps the whole thing from start to finish put as an appendix at the beginning or end of the book. Were we supposed to be learning the thing by heart the way Ayla had to?
Basically this book was crying out for a good editor’s red pen (or equivalent) to just cut out vast swathes of the book, including some of the step-by-step paths through every painted cave the author ever got to visit/sent her characters to see, as well as the reminders of stuff that happened in earlier books that wasn’t relevant to this one at all. Obviously in any series where the reader may not be familiar with the previous volumes lately or at all there have to be reminders of things that happened before, but in my opinion these should be strictly limited to what is important to the events of the current work.
I kept reading to the end because I was really expecting all this to lead to something unexpected, and for me it really really didn’t. I simply feel that as a finale to the series this book added little or nothing, and wasn’t worth the nine-year wait.
Monday, 23 May 2011
We’re moving. And we’re planning a complicated holiday. And I have some real problems with the latest Jean Auel book, but I’m also reading it pretty solidly (I’m nearly finished it now). I’m listening to lots of podcasts while pumping, too. That’s when DD agrees to sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time.
Sunday, 22 May 2011
Something’s going wrong with the actual post, so will this publish?
ETA: It did, but now I need to sleep. Goodnight.
Saturday, 21 May 2011
74. How I Came West, and Why I Stayed by Alison Baker
Fantastic. That kind of sums up how I feel about this collection of stories. Some of them really are just that good, others show features that decidedly belong in works of fantasy, and all 13 of them show great imagination. Issues of gender and/or sexuality come up in all of the stories, but these aren’t explicit tales; a worldly teenager shouldn’t be embarrassed by them. That’s about all I can say about all the stories at once, as they’re very varied. The character voice is very clear in each, even beyond the usually first-person narrator. Oh, and they’re all set in the modern US (hm, well one probably isn’t, but it isn’t clear that the narrator of that one really knows where within a continent she is anyhow).
This is a book I came across somewhat randomly, finding it in the BookMooch inventory of someone we were getting other books from at a time when we had points to spare (which we don’t now, but that’s a different issue) and I’m glad I took the chance on it. I think the first and title story is the most bizarre in its premise, but possibly the last story ‘Better Be Ready ‘Bout Half Past Eight’ is the best in my opinion. It tells a story from start to finish, and shows the characters coming to understand different perspectives on themselves and others.