Posted by: Mish | May 21, 2010

Catsup-Ketchup

The past several months have been a whirlwind. I thought things would settle down during the long winter months, but no. I’d sit down to write and something would come up- like driving 7 hours to Toronto to see friends and Rent at the last minute. Last month, I hit Ottawa and Quebec City and next month my parents are coming to visit. So, yeah, busy with life and stuff, but I’ve missed the blogosphere.

As usual, the one constant in life has been reading. I think all the participation in the Sci-Fi Challenge is awesome and I’d like to host it again. For the challenge, I read but haven’t yet mentioned:

Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land is the story of a human raised on Mars who returns to Earth as an adult and how his return affects Earth culture. It had been in the queue for quite some time and highly recommended by several friends. I had difficulty putting it down and will most likely read it again.

Worlds Apart is an anthology from 1986 in which the writers explore sexualities. For the most part, it was good. I’ve had a review that fell by the wayside in the queue so (most likely) more about it later. It also finished Amanda’s GLBT Challenge and gave me eleven shots for the short story challenge hosted by Robaroundbooks.

Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes is one of my favourite works. I enjoyed the alternate history more the second time around and look forward to reading it again. Already being familiar with the story allowed me to dig deeper into the cultural philosophies. I chose to read its sequel immediately after- as opposed to a couple years between publishing. Zulu Heart is also really good but doesn’t have the oomf that some of Barnes’s other works have.

Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth was okay. After seeing various film versions and knowing the book’s popularity, reading it was pretty anticlimactic. I tried to keep in mind the period in which it was written, but it didn’t help much. The characters’ whining and comments made me want to push them into the volcano. Whether I’ll eventually read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or not, I’m not sure yet.

On the other hand, the Iron Dragon’s Daughter by Michael Swanwick was fantastic enough that I read 130 pages in the first sitting and finished it in 4 days. The Dickens-like sci-fi/urban fantasy follows a changeling from when she decides to escape a factory with a dragon to afterwards. It’s grim, gripping, and makes me want to read more by Swanwick. I now understand why the friend who lent me a copy wants to take it away with him for the year that he’s gone. Definitely re-readable!  It also concluded my reading for the SF challenge.

During my blogosphere absence I also completed Andrea’s Much Ado About Shakespeare Challenge. I’ve heard and seen a lot of references to Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a comedy that focuses on Hamlet’s two chums. It was entertaining, but not as good a read as I gathered. I’d love to see it on stage though. I also read and liked the Bard’s comical As You Like It and fantastical the Tempest. As it had been ages since I’d seen it, I watched Much Ado About Nothing with Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branaugh, and a slew of other great actors. I also lucked out big time while channel surfing and caught the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet that I wanted to see last year with Patrick Stewart and David Tennant but due to distance, couldn’t. I’m sure it was way better live, but it was absolutely phenomenal and one of the best film versions I’ve seen. The set design was fantastic. I’ll be adding it to my permanent collection.

Providing 22 short shots was Memory and Vines, in which once again Charles de Lint writes about bohemian Newford and its array of angelic, ghostly, and more opaque inhabitants. Unusual requests and unlikely friendships are made within the urban fantasy’s stories, which show that “magic’s about perception, that’s all. It means anything is possible. It means taking the way we usually look at a thing and making people see it differently. Or, depending on your viewpoint, making them see it properly for the first time” (306). Although it was a nice surprise to once again read about Staley’s callin’ on fiddling, “The Big Sky”, “Crow Girls”, and “Wild Horses” were my favorites. It was a slow start and I liked the anthology well enough. I’ve noticed that the short stories by de Lint which stand out the most in my mind are those involving and revolving around music. Through his storytelling and descriptions, music’s magic comes alive. De Lint is also a folk musician so I guess it’s suiting.

Only seven more shorts to go to complete the 100 Shots of Short Reading Challenge. A few days ago I started George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four which seems like it’s going to be a good, intense, and crazy read. As usual, I have a pile of books accumulating faster than I can read them. I still have some books to be reviewed or blurbed about, but I’ll leave that for another day. Me thinks it’s time for supper.


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Responses

  1. Mish, It is great to see you back. Thought you had vanished forever and glad that this was not the case!

    Not surprised to learn that your reading has in no way abated. Stranger in a Strange Land is one that I read way back, but still have on the shelf, awaiting reread. Definitely worth it.

    Am disappointed by your comments on Jules Verne, several of whose books I have but have not read. I was hoping to like them…

    My own response to your sci-fi challenge is looking a bit weak. Really need to buck my ideas up… (Am also thinking that the challenge was to run September to September. If this is wrong please let me retain my delusion!)

  2. Thanks. =) Nice to be back.

    September you say, September it is. Ideas… the aforementioned books by Swanwick and Barnes(!!). In my must read pile are Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Sylvie Bérard’s Of Wind and Sand. I hear Atwood’s Oryx and Crake is good. Etc…. Mutual friends have told me Sylvie’s book is really good, but it’d be nice to get an objective opinion. I’ll be reading it twice to give feedback about the English translation.

    You may like Verne’s books and I’ll probably end up reading some others. IMHO, they’re not the best written, but they’re good ideas. Written in the 1860’s and onwards, many were ahead and reflective of the times, and he is one of sci-fi’s founding fathers. There are a lot of Vernians out there. His books act as a warning about technological advances (some of which were made since), but ironically his 20,000 Leagues inspired more advanced submarines. I’ve now convinced myself to read more- haha. And I have a basis for the review I was going to forego. Thanks, again.


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