Earthsea

Jan. 2nd, 2017 02:55 pm
cahn: (Default)
Now that Yuletide reveals are over (I have a more conventional reveal post here) I can finally inflict on you guys all the feelings I have about Earthsea, which I read again for the first time in many years (at least ten, maybe fifteen) this fall.

...I have a lot of feelings.

The second trilogy, which I reread first. )

The first trilogy, which I read second. )

Le Guin and style. )
cahn: (Default)
So! This Yuletide I got some lessons on writing design. (Actual Yuletide reveals post here, very abbreviated because of life; here I mostly just like to talk about what I read/watched.)

First: I read a whole lot of Damon Runyon and also watched a couple of Youtube high school productions of Guys and Dolls. (I also watched some of the movie — Marlon Brando is amazing, but it turns out that the raw musical is actually rather more charming than the movie.) Damon Runyon is basically the master of voice and also the master of the humor-laden plot-heavy short story. Reading a lot of stories at once can get a little, hmm, repetitive? But he has a way with plot twists and last-line zingers that I can only dream of properly replicating!

Second: I reread The Fountainhead, which is of course completely the other way around. It's not completely devoid of humor (…Atlas Shrugged might be? It's been a long time since I've been able to get through much of AS), but it's not a humorous work as a whole, and what humor there is, is very dry. And it's definitely… a long-form work as opposed to the short sweet Runyon stories. I do think that Fountainhead was very informative and educational for me in how to manage and write a (very) long-form work, which Rand is good at. It's hard, at this point, to separate my current reading from my original very indulgent high-school reading, and there are plenty of times I think the book might have been stronger if she'd cut some obviously-authorially-beloved scenes, and obviously there's a lot of philosophical padding that could have been cut, but even so I do think she sustains interest through an extremely long novel which is mostly about guys designing buildings.

Of course, one major way she does this is by piling the tropes on top of tropes; I don't think she did it consciously, but, I mean, she couldn't have piled more in if she had tried: hurt/comfort, angst, the essential woobie (hi darling Peter!), smarm/slashy slashy Roark/Wynand, competence kink, dubcon/noncon (let's face it, that's what that initial Dominique/Howard encounter was all about) -- which is super amusing.
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[personal profile] seekingferret posted about Beggars in Spain, which I hadn't reread for just about forever, and I went and found our copy the other day and narfed it up. The novel (which is what we own) is basically the novella with several other parts tacked on. Beggars in Spain is nominally about a bioengineered trait to go without sleep (the "Sleepless"), which creates a superclass of those people, who then have to deal with bigotry and fear from the rest of the populace (the "beggars"). One of the tacked-on parts deals with the further-bioengineered SuperSleepless, who are much more intelligent than the Sleepless, and how the Sleepless deal with that.

I had some interesting reactions to this reread, most of which weren't actually relevant to the philosophical questions being asked in the book.

'Howard Roark has a baby'; nerd camp; 1%; twenty years' hindsight; siblings and family community; ecology vs. trade )
cahn: (Default)
I reread Hall of the Mountain King and Lady of Han-Gilen here. The next two books:

A Fall of Princes - 3+/5. Oh man this book. Um, yeah, let's just say that this was the only book I read as a teenager/young-adult that at all tackled anything even vaguely related to trans issues, and as such it blew my tiny little mind. Of course, being written in the 90's, it didn't do it at all perfectly (for just one example, even with my complete lack of knowledge about these issues, I rather side-eye the way it magically resulted in magical gender-attraction-flip, but on the other hand... well, it was, literally, magic, so), but really, one has to admire that it was done at all, and certainly it was teenager!me's only exposure to this kind of thing at the time, which I think should be worth a lot of points.

Speaking of sexuality, the world in these books is also one of those worlds where people have sex with whatever gender they feel like (most people appear to be bisexual with a preference for one gender), and it's not particularly a big deal for anyone -- this was a good thing for me to be reading as a teenager. Now I will say that on reread, it does rather seem like everyone thinks about sex rather a lot -- and it did not escape me on this reread that the one asexual in this book turns out to be rather creepy. Birth control is also never discussed in this book, although we know from other books that some magical variant of the same exists. Eh, so it goes. It certainly held up better than other books I've reread from this same time period.

Book-destroying spoilers. )

Arrows of the Sun - 3+/5. I hated this book when I first read it in high school in the 90's. On this reread, I rather liked it -- and for the same reason. This was written about the time when gritty was starting to make its way into the fantasy scene, and the sense of betrayal I had in the 90's when I found that Sarevadin and Hirel hadn't, in fact, lived happily ever after, or at least not forever, and that their grandkids were really rather spoiled brats, and that one of the big conflicts for the protagonist was getting over his equality-based, monogamous love affair and entering into an arranged marriage with a harem -- well. Now that we're in the era of Game of Thrones and Joe Abercrombie, all these things are almost quaint as an exercise of grittiness. (Although I'm now even more whaaaa? about the harem thing. Tarr only barely gets a pass on that because she's a woman; if she were a man I would have rolled my eyes rather more.)
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Over at [livejournal.com profile] trennels they are doing a reread of the Marlows books by Antonia Forest. The first post is tomorrow (Chs 1-5).

If you haven't read Autumn Term (the first book in the Marlows series), it's one of my very favorite books-set-at-boarding-school, the genre of which I'm already predisposed to like a lot (see also here), and which also has a really great family and friendships. It's out of print in the US (I think it's still in print in the UK), but was in print here briefly a while ago (which is when I bought my copy), so at least there are used copies around. All the other books are irritatingly difficult to find in the US (though maybe not quite as bad in the UK?)

(Also, [livejournal.com profile] sarahtales, if you see this, I AM BLAMING YOU for the fact that I am so excited about this reread, and also that I have spent years wanting to read the rest of the books. Just saying.)
cahn: (Default)
I reread (most of) these in the last couple of months for (as usual) Reasons. There are thirteen books in the original series about the Baudelaire orpans, and a couple of side books that go along with it: I reread all of the original thirteen except the first four (more on that omission later), as well as rereading Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography. (I wanted to also reread The Beatrice Letters, but we don't own that one and I failed in obtaining it before the deadline.)

They're deeply strange and strangely hilarious and over-the-top books, sort of if you mixed Roald Dahl and Edward Gorey, and added in a large scoop of secret organizations and another large dollop of meta. Lemony Snicket himself never explicitly shows up in the plot as a character, but the best parts of the books are where we learn things about him and his own personal secret-organization-filled unfortunate series of events. (I must confess that The Unauthorized Biography may actually be my favorite of the entire series, although it would make zero sense had you not read at least half the series beforehand.)

Rambling. Cut for length. These are the kinds of books where I really don't feel spoilers are a concern, but in any case there are no overt ones. )
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So I reread Greenwitch, The Grey King, and Silver on the Tree in December, for Reasons. (Why yes, this is how behind I am: getting caught up on reading for last December.) I did not reread Over Sea, Under Stone, because it's not as good, or The Dark Is Rising, because my sister had borrowed it. This is ironic because for many years, before I owned my own copy, I'd check out the last four books out of the library (occasionally OSUS as well, but I reread that less frequently in general because it's a less interesting book) and read them at Christmastime, but especially TDiR-the-book, because the culture and theme of Christmas wind around and within all of that book.

Rambling. Atheism and shippy headcanon. )
cahn: (Default)
3+/5. Um. Yeah. My parents brought me a bunch of books from my bookshelf at their house last year, and this was one of them. It’s my favorite of Card’s early work, for what are probably obvious reasons. (Songs! Singing! A boarding school where they teach singing!)

This book made me really sad, but not (just) because of the elegiac nature of the book itself; it reminded me that Card used to be able to write, and write really well. It’s clearly work where he’s still struggling to find his feet as a novelist — this was first a novella that got expanded to novel form, and the seams are pretty clear. For example, there’s a whole huge plot thread that is introduced for shock value (it was the twist ending of the novella) and that then dangles helplessly in the wind, never actually going anywhere or (as far as I can tell) being referred to again. But much of the writing is really excellent, and it made me sad for the writer he used to be but isn’t anymore, a writer who could do subtlety and subtext and characters who weren’t just authorial voices and characters whom you loved even when they did terrible things. Oh Card, I miss you.

Now for the elephant in the room.

This is Card’s only book where the protagonist is queer (it’s not entirely clear whether he’s gay or bisexual, probably the latter), and also the only one where we see a mutually loving and respectful same-sex relationship on-screen. Interestingly, this was one of three authors I read as a kid (the others being L’Engle’s House Like a Lotus — and [personal profile] ollipop, I haven’t forgotten I owe you a post on L’Engle, and I am working on that — and Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows trilogy) that taught me that queer sexualities were perfectly normal and homophobia is wrong, which let me tell you, was not a message I was getting from real life (hello, small city in the South, conservative Korean parents, and church!)

Because of this book in particular, I’ve always given Card a lot of leeway when it comes to people ragging on him because of his stance on gay marriage. (The other reason I give him a lot of leeway is that, well, it’s really hard to explain to people who aren’t inside it what it’s like to be inside of Mormonism. I’m not really inside it in the way that Card is, either; it’s easy for me to be in favor of gay marriage, or whatever, because of that.) Because Card clearly has a lot of empathy and sympathy for Ansset, the protagonist.

However. One thing that doesn’t disturb me about Card’s portrayal of alternate sexuality in this book, one thing that very much does, and one thing that makes me think I could be wrong about the thing that disturbs me. Warnings for severe torture and death. Also warnings for both spoilers for Songmaster and vague spoilers for other Card oeuvre. )

tl;dr : I like this book very much, and Also Music Yay, and Big Severe Issues, and Confusing Issues, and I don’t even know what to think about it.
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Oh yaaaaay skygiants has posted on "Marius" here and now I can blabber on about this book, which I loved so much! (I seem to have loved much the same parts as skygiants, but not totally identical!)

"Marius" was a really fun book for me to read. I don't know if it's me or Hugo or both, but I was cheering Hugo on in his digressions -- this was the first book of Les Mis where I didn't find any of it a slog at all. I suspect it's because he's not trying to Make a Point about either Anyone Being Super-Good or The Ways In Which Being a Woman in Nineteenth-Century France Sucks; he's much more playful in this section. But also maybe because it was about college kids and how awkward boys in love are and cheerful street urchins, which are always fun!

I just want to talk on and on about this book! Including terrible mining metaphors, awesome Friends of the Puns, my utter love for Marius and his painful overly-idealistic rants, Marius's handkerchief fetish, and Thenardier action thrillers )
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Just so you know, [personal profile] skygiants is hosting a reread of Les Misérables! First post, on the first book "Fantine," is here, second post sometime soon! skygiants is reading and hitting all the high parts so you don't have to. (Although I have wanted to reread for years, and am taking this as an opportunity to do so, at least if I can keep up, which looks promising if I keep doing as many clean-up chores as I was doing today... anyone want to join? Or just read skygiants' posts so you don't have to?)

After this, someone needs to host an Aeneid read, because I have had it unfinished for an embarrassingly long time now. Maybe if I get through listening to Les Troyens (why so many ballets, Berlioz?) that will be the kick in the pants I need.

(Anyway, the highlights of the Fantine book for me: a) There are a lot of words about the Bishop of Digne, way more than I remember! b) being a woman in France in the early 1800's and/or in a Hugo novel really sucked a lot, c) Jean Valjean is so awesome, and d) the musical is actually all kinds of awesome in abridging the book while keeping the spirit of it. But way more at the post above.)
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Druid's Blood (Friesner), 3+/5 - There is a lot going on on this Sherlock Holmes With Magic! alternate universe pastiche, complete with cameos by almost everyone you can imagine of interest in Victorian England (Arthur Conan Doyle, of course; Lord Byron; Ada Lovelace; Victoria herself). Written before racefail was even dreamt of, so, you know, complete culture!fail where brown people = Kali-who-eats-humans! Yey! I think, though, that from an entertainment standpoint, the big problem is that there's too much going on; there are some nice moments, but it sort of falls under its own weight.

The Hall of the Mountain King (Tarr), 4/5 - Another of those I might feel differently about if I read it for the first time today, but my principal feeling on reading it this time was holy cow how did I not realize that The King of Attolia has the exact same plot? Because the emotional plot is the same: peon that everyone else respects is called to be the reluctant servant to royalty who must prove himself to the world but also forge a beautiful friendship with the peon. Except with more magic and sex and plot and death than in Attolia. (And I really liked Moranden this time through.) And I really like that emotional plot, as it turns out. Although I like Attolia better. But I was pretty excited to reread the next book in the series after rereading this one.

Also, cool that everyone in this book is dark-skinned and it's not really a thing, but it's rather more descriptive about it than the Earthsea books (in the sense of, I didn't actually realize the Earthsea residents were not pale-skinned until the third book or so, whereas I was pretty clear on it in these; the covers helped).

The Lady of Han-Gilen (Tarr), 3/5 - Heroine hair color: red. I really liked this one as a kid, and I don't think it's bad now -- but I'm so over the bratty teenage kid thing and the love triangle thing. I mean, yes, it's nice that she gets called out for being bratty, I can't fault Tarr for her handling of it, I just don't particularly want to read it any more. I also kind of lost my momentum for wanting to read the third book, despite the big plot twist in A Fall of Princes blowing my mind as a naive teenager.
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4/5 - My parents came to visit and brought me a whole buncha books from my room, thus starting me on an orgy of rereading... starting with all the Star Trek books, for some reason. Note that I totally revert back to my 12-year-old self when reading these books, so the fact that I seriously and unconditionally love them all does not actually mean they're any good, necessarily. I mean, they might be! But I cannot tell.

ST:TNG Strike Zone (Peter David) - Still the best ST:TNG novel I've ever read, although honestly that doesn't mean a whole lot (I think I read the first ten or so, as well as David's other work). It's better, I think, than David's other ST:TNG work, which veers into the maudlin; this is still simply funny with only an edge of seriousness, which is more his forte, and with an awesomely hilarious climax that, well, is kind of something I wish the show itself had done. Also, my family is really into the "if you prepare hard enough bad things will never happen to you" philosophy, and rereading, I suddenly remembered this was the first book I ever read that just came out and said, "No, that's a dumb philosophy," and that stayed with me even though I had completely forgotten that this was the book it came from. As a result, when I read it now, I give it a pass on Bechdel test failure, a general fail on portraying Troi, and what I imagine are probably a whole host of other things were I able to actually look at this book with a rational eye instead of a twelve-year-old eye.

ST:TOS Ishmael (Barbara Hambly) - Spock gets thrown back to 1800's Here Come the Brides. Hambly is a good writer, and I like this book very much, and the overall writing is probably stronger than the other two books here, but the only bit that really imprinted on me was the part where the woman doctor calls out everyone else (except Spock, who thinks it's normal) for thinking it's weird that a woman is a doctor.

ST:TOS The Pandora Principle (Carolyn Clowes) - Spock, for all practical purposes, adopts Saavik. I've seen people who both love this book (the camp I'm in) and people who think it's totally awful. I can see the awful side, I guess. The main plotline is sort of hilariously Rube-Goldberg (it hinges on the assumption that a starship, finding a strange box, will then... take it back to Earth before opening it? What?) and rather iffy-science at that; Spock is a total Gary Stu who's smart and patient and understanding and kind and a really great dad, all-around; Saavik, although I haven't watched the films in years, is I suspect out of character for the person portrayed in the film. And yet the writing is crisp and with that lovely edge of humor to it that livens the whole thing; and Saavik is, if not the actual character in the movies, personable and interesting both as a child and a woman (my favorite bit is where child-Saavik informs another little kid that it isn't logical to eat its own fingers, it would be more logical to eat someone else's!), and I can't help it, as an adolescent I totally imprinted, like a little bird, on Spock as the ideal dad who never gets mad or impatient. And it passes Bechdel easily. And it's got some lovely original characters. One of my favorite Star Trek books ever, and I wish I knew what had happened to Carolyn Clowes, because I'd surely buy any other book she wrote.

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