Oct 17, 2008

in the form of a question

My friends and I were half watching Jeopardy last night, as we are apt to do, and they were down to the final column. I missed the subject, but the first answer was:
- _____ Troopers by Robert Heinlein.

"What is Starship," I said, "That's one of my favorite novels. My copy's right there on the shelf."

Next answer:
- _______ with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.

"What is Rendezvous," I said, "And there it is." And I pointed to it near me. By now, we were all paying attention and laughing a little.

Alex continued:
- I Have No Mouth and I Must ______ by Harlan Ellison

I stood up out of my chair. "Scream!" I announced. "And it's in that book right there!"

"What is this column?" my sister asked. "Books Hank's read?"

And the Canadian said:
- The Left Hand of ______ by Ursula K. Le Guin

"Darkness," I yelled, "And it's on top of the VCR because I'm reading it right now!"

And finally:
- A _______ for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

And together, my friends and I hollered, "Canticle!" and I added, "And I read that one this month!"

Seriously, though. I'm pretty sure Alex Trebek is stalking me.

Oct 7, 2008

Terraplane by Jack Womack


I know I'm not doing myself any favors by reading Womack's work out of order, but he writes well enough that I get along regardless. Once again, as I said when I read Elvissey, Womack is that rare author that manages to twist language until it truly does sound evolved but not overly contrived. "Why aren't we knived?" asks the killer Jake at dinner. Nouns into verbs and back again - once you get the flow, it's worth riding.

And once again Womack delves into race and the American history thereof, into corporate ownership (no stretch to think of the Coke company owning and branding their workers), into what happens when you twist just here and here and then see what comes out of the culture. He's sort of the less-techy-obsessed William Gibson.

As a guy fairly obsessed with personal liberty and keeping as much corporate bullshit out of my life as possible, his future seems mighty damn bleak in a very WalMart sort of way. On the other hand, I'm a white man in the '00s, not a black person dealing with the hate and oppression this country's doled out for a couple hundred years. To Norman and Wanda, the idea of almost-equality goes a long way toward making up for other flaws in the Dryco age.

final thought: It's all about loyalty and what that means in the face of ownership, relationships, love, brotherhood, military comradeship, political ties. Who are you loyal to? Do they deserve it?

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

A Canticle for Leibowitz

A little humor, a little adventure, some church politics, a lot of warning - Canticle goes a long way without bogging down. The life of a Catholic monk isn't something I know much about but wanting to preserve what knowledge can be held onto in times of darkness is always worth respecting, and I enjoyed the interplay this led to regarding spiritual and secular truths.

I found it interesting to start at, basically, the beginning of the rebirth of human culture and work our way through to the end of an age, all through the eyes of one small group. The people changed, but the larger identity did not. And how about The Wanderer? The same man, a mystic figure, or one in a line of men carrying the same traditional burdens?

Miller did a good job, I think, of presenting the followers of a scientific God. Thon Taddeo expects the monks to be horrified or offended by certain facts, but it's the brothers who have topped him (both in their practical applications, creating the generator and lightbulb, and in certain individuals' ideas about evolution).

Of course, they are still Catholics, preaching that survivors give their pain to Jesus and turn away from the sin of suicide even when faced with miserable, hideous death from radiation poisoning. Frankly, I'm with the doctors on that one - there is nothing to be gained by forcing someone to suffer needlessly.

final thought: The Catholic Church has been such a force in this world, both for good and for violent evil. That they would remain so in a post-nuclear future strikes me as very likely.

movie versions

I was watching tv the other day and saw an ad for the new movie City of Ember. "Why doe sthat sound so familiar?" I asked myself. Well, duh - the novel, by Jeanne Duprau, is on the Big List. I should go ahead and read that before I see the flick.

Oct 1, 2008

10 months in

I just switched images at the foot of this blog. The top shelf is what I have read (minus a few that were borrowed here and there) and the second shelf is "to read". I've been loaning them out more often, too - people are starting to ask for suggestions when they come over.