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July 27th, 2014
So, I picked up a e-copy of Walton’s WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT because I thought it would be interesting to see what she thought of AN INTERIOR LIFE and also, of course, because short little snippets about books are a handy thing to have around for reading during breakfast or whatever.
I get why someone or other (on Goodreads? I don’t remember and don’t care enough to look it up) was disappointed in this book. The columns Walton wrote for tor.com are completely unchanged from the versions that appeared online, but lack the comments on each post, so they do feel more suitable for blog entries than for essays collected in a book.
On the other hand, it’s not too annoying to google “Jo Walton Teckla” (for example), if you want to see whether commenters agree with Walton that this book is good and grows on you with re-reading (she did dislike it the first time she read it), or with me that it is not only fundamentally and unsalvageably unpleasant to read but also that the broader political situation is simplistic and unworkable.
(The answer is, lots of people apparently like TECKLA, but at least one commenter agrees with me about it.)
I do think that Brust partly saved TECKLA by writing PHOENIX, but still, I doubt I’ll ever re-read the former.
It’s interesting to me that Walton included in the book ALL of her posts on Steven Brust’s books; also all her Bujold posts. I don’t think any other author got this treatment. Cherryh got about four posts, for example, not thirty. Walton does point out things in Brust’s books that I never noticed, and after reading through her posts on the series, I re-read DRAGON. I’ve always liked that one and I haven’t re-read it so often that I have it memorized. I’d like to go back and re-read more of them, but later, later. Haven’t gotten nearly as far with my WIP this weekend as I should, but you know, I did actually come to Indy to gaze at the dogs and chat with friends — not to immure myself in my hotel room for hours and hours.
Anyway! Walton’s book has pretty much worked well for me. So far I’ve stuck pretty much to reading her posts about books I’m familiar with. They’re short and thought-provoking; not reviews but comments and thoughts — you probably knew that — and in general chock full of spoilers. In case you didn’t know that, I thought I’d mention it.
One other entertaining thing I’d like to mention: Walton has one essay about how she always goes on with series even when they go sharply downhill. Wow. I sure don’t. It’s always interesting to see how other people react to stories, but I’m having a hard time even imagining that. If everyone tells me “No, no, stop with DUNE, don’t read any sequels,” then I’m happy to stop with DUNE and don’t at all feel compelled to go on. Same with movies: If someone I trust says, “It’s almost as bad as “Highlander II”, I don’t require personal experience of the fact.
So now, I’m curious: do you all feel compelled to go on with sequels even if people you trust beg you not to?
Also, what did you all think of TECKLA? Was that a thumb’s-up or thumb’s-down experience for you? This was the single post (so far) where I disagree most adamantly with Walton’s take on a book.
I do wish she’d specifically reviewed more of Cherryh’s books, btw. The ones I’d most like to see her post about are the Chanur series and CUCKOO’S EGG.
July 25th, 2014
Worst drive in the world 2013-2014: Highway 70 through Illinois and Indiana. What is it with these states? Look, I’ll give their departments of transportation a couple tips for free: pick ONE section of highway to fix up at a time. DO NOT fix up the left lane for ten miles, then skip ten miles, then work on the right lane for ten miles, then skip ten miles and repeat. That requires everyone to merge to one lane over and over, thus producing many, many traffic slowdowns rather than just one. DO NOT drown every single exit for 100 miles with construction barrels and single-lane-bumper-to-bumper traffic, because the barrels make it hard to see how to get off the highway and the horrible traffic makes the thought of trying to get back on thoroughly unpleasant. Every business that depends on highway traffic in Terre Haute must be having a bitch of a time, since ALL their exits are surrounded by construction.
Plus, good GOD, that one truckdriver who wants to be a stunt motorcyclist? I thought I was going to die, and the car behind me was also just about pushed off the highway.
Anyway, here I am in Indianapolis. I may skip this CKCSC specialty for the next few years, though, until either IL or IN has had a chance to finish some of their construction, which hopefully only SEEMS endless.
This year, I’m showing Ish in Junior Puppy Dog, where I don’t expect him to do much because he still has a slight underbite; and Pippa in Veteran Bitch, where she is up against at least one CKCSC champion, so frankly I don’t expect her to win. But, good experience for Ish and fun for Pippa, and really you don’t come to CKCSC shows to win. You come to meet the friends you only see at CKCSC shows and check out dogs you might like to use as studs and look at the puppies those dogs have been producing. I see a son of Lanola Santana is in Ish’s class; I was thinking of him for Honey one day. I hear he can produce high tail sets, but he’s an excellent older dog who looks like a good bet for longevity and vigor. I have a black-and-tan boy in mind as a possibility, too, don’t really know what I’ll do yet.
I am on the climactic scenes for KERI, by the way, but I was too tired to work on it last night after the drive + the puppy sweepstakes. Today I will definitely work on it, though, because taking four days off in a row is a Bad Thing; hard to get back in after a break like that.
Anyway! GATE OF IVORY
Here’s another book (and trilogy) I know I’ve mentioned before, because I really love this book and the sequels, TWO BIT HEROS and GILT EDGED IVORY. I’ve mentioned Doris Egan’s books before, no doubt on more than one occasion, but here we are again because GATE OF IVORY was published 25 years ago, in 1989. It definitely belongs to the (vast) category of old books that really ought to be hauled back into view, but I don’t expect it will be. It and the two sequels were reissued in an omnibus version at least once; I remember making a friend buy it at that time.
Even that was a good while ago, though. Let me see. Yes, 2001, that counts as a while ago by this time. Once again, I see the books are out of print and not available in ebook format. Used, the paperbacks are available for pennies, though. That omnibus edition looks like it costs an arm and a leg right now, at least at Amazon.
Now, Doris Egan, also Jane Emerson, had a brief writing career and then went on to write scripts for all kinds of TV shows. I’ve always regretted that she didn’t go on with her Ivory series, though, because these are really fun books. (I also regret she never went on with the CITY OF DIAMOND, which I thought was a bit cluttered but good.)
Anyway, in the IVORY trilogy, Theo – Theodora – is a great protagonist with a wry, somewhat self-deprecating voice. Here’s how GATE OF IVORY opens:
I was laying down cards in the marketplace when I got the latest job offer. “Here comes money,” Irsa, the vender next to me had said, and moved away so as not to scare him off. So I’d told him his fortune, all the usual nonsense, and out he came with this. I hadn’t expected it of him; he’d looked too respectable. True, he hadn’t mentioned the exact nature of this job. But I’d been in the Square long enough – I thought – to know what that meant.
“I might want to hire you,” he repeated, as though he expected a dim-witted foreigner like me might need it said twice.
“Move on,” I said, picking up my Tarot cards. “Your fortune’s been told.”
“I’m serious,” he protested.
“Please, noble sir. I’m well aware that people hired by the Street of Gold Coin procurers are never seen again. Unless you want me for one of the Great Houses?” I smiled with polite rudeness. It was obviously out of the question. By Ivory standards, I’m not even pretty. Eight centimeters shorter than everyone around me, hair auburn instead of black – they wouldn’t let me into a Great House as a domestic servant. Not that I felt I was really cut out for prostitution.
And then, of course, Ran Cormallon hires her. Not as a prostitute, of course. To read his special deck of Tarot cards. Because Theo may be just faking fortune telling in the marketplace to make ends meet, but real actual magic – or something – definitely does work on Ivory.
Possibly one reason this book didn’t really take off, not that you really need a reason because of course almost no books actually do take off, but this one is squarely in the awkward middle ground between SF and fantasy. Science fantasy, say. It reads like fantasy, but there are SF elements.
In this universe, Ivory is the one world in known space where “magic” exists. Theo – Theodora – is from one of the other worlds. She came to Ivory to study folktales and got stranded, turned to fortune telling, met Ran Cormallon, and things take off from there. Adventure, mayhem, betrayal, wizard’s duels, and romance ensue. The romance is just right for me: slow-burn and more than a bit rocky in places. Here’s one of my favorite bits, from a time when a forced march over rough ground has worn Theodora right out. She sits down, refuses to move and tells the men to go on without her, and we get this exchange:
“I’ve slowed everyone down. I’m not the stuff heroes are made of, Ran. I’m not even the stuff Karlas and Tyl are made of. I’m not worth wasting your time over.”
He was quiet for a minute. Then he said, “I have often had difficulty understanding you, Theodora, but never more than right now. I don’t see what the question of how quickly you can travel through the Simil Valley has to do with how good you are. You’re not a hiker, at least not with these people and in this terrain. Too bad, but I always took you for a city girl anyway, tymon. . . . you’ll probably never be called on to do something like this again, and in the capital, who cares if you take shorter steps when you walk?”
I hadn’t thought of it that way. Still, it was easy for him to be polite about it – he hadn’t failed.
Then he was going on. “I know you have no reason to listen to me. I fell apart just when you needed me. When I found out I wasn’t going to have every move I made backed up by my family, I just gave up living. . . . Don’t think I haven’t thought about that every day since Tenshin –”
“Are you crazy?” I don’t know how long he would have gone on with that nonsense if I hadn’t stopped him.
You see. They’re both much harder on themselves than they are on each other, a very good sign in a developing relationship, wouldn’t you say?
Each book in this series goes on from the previous one with the same protagonists and supporting characters, but each is self-contained. It would be hard for me to pick a favorite from the three: all three are strong. I always enjoy the first book where you get to explore the world for the first time, but in this case I might pick the second, which hits some tropes that particularly appeal to me. The writing is good, the characters are delightful, and hey, even the covers are good!
Okay, weigh in if you’ve read these. What did you all think? And if you haven’t read them, well, since they’re out of print and may never be re-issued, this might be a good time to pick them up.
July 23rd, 2014
Okay, here’s another older title. Has anyone heard of this one? It was published back in 1991 and really should have gotten wider notice at that time, not so much because the plot elements are unusual, but because of its wonderful use of language. Like so:
I was minding my own business in beautiful downside Wanderweb, having just managed to mislay my cargo for the right price. My nighttime man had talked me into bootlegging again, and damsilly stuff it was, too – either maintenance manuals or philosophy texts. I never did figure out which, even with sixty hours time in Firecat between Coldwater and Wanderweb to stare at them and Paladin to read them to me.
So I was making my way around Wanderweb, free, female and a damn sight over the age of reason, when I saw this greenie right in front of me in the street.
He was definitely a toff, and no stardancer – you never saw such clothes outside of a hollycast. He was lit up like Dream Street at night and wearing enough heat to stock an Imperial Armory besides. And this being scenic Wanderweb, land of enchantment, there was six of K’Jarn’s werewolves and K’Jarn facing him. I was of the opinion – then – that he couldn’t do for them before they opened him up, so, fancy-free, I opened my mouth and said: “Good morning, thou nobly-born K’Jarn. Airt hiert out to do wetwork these days or just to roll glitterborn for kicks, hey?”
K’Jarn looked up from pricing Tiggy Stardust’s clothes and said, “N’portada je, S’Cyr. Purdu.”
K’Jarn and me has known each other ever since I started running cargos into Wanderweb Free Port and he started trying to boost them. For once I should of took his advice. But, hell, it was seven-on-one and I’ve never liked K’Jarn.
“Like Imperial Mercy I will. Yon babby’s my long-lost lover and my maiden aunt and I’m taking him home to Mother any day now. Fade.”
He might have, except that just then one of K’Jarn’s wingmen got restless and took a swipe at the glitterborn with a vibroblade. Tiggy Stardust moved faster than anything human and swiped back and I burned K’Jarn before he could mix in. K’Jarn dropped his blaster, not having a hand to hold it with anymore, and left on urgent business. So did everybody else.
Business as usual in wondertown and not enough fuss for the CityGuard to show up. Except for the deader Tiggy made and another I didn’t have time to get fancy with, me and him was alone and he wasn’t moving.
I went to see if there was anything left to salvage. He snaked around and then it was me down and staring up at an inert-blade knife as long as my thigh while he choodled at me unfriendly-like.
I can get along in flash, cant, and Trade, but I couldn’t make head nor hind out of his parley, and I thought at first I’d hit my head too hard. But then I knew that what I had actually gone and done was the stupidest thing of my whole entire life. I’d rescued a hellflower.
Look at that opening! This book is a delight from the first lines. Fun and fast-paced and completely understandable even though we hardly know half the words, and look how Shahar instantly establishes both voice and setting.
Butterfly’s real name is Saint Butterflies-are-free Peace Sincere, btw, which is one of my all-time favorite names. She’s a scrappy streetwise woman, born on a low-tech world but now, as you see, out and about in the wide world. She has a habit of picking up unusual and remarkably dangerous stray puppies, including this young hellflower, “Tiggy”, and her highly illegal Library, Paladin, who’s an AI housed in her ship.
It all makes sense in context.
HELLFLOWER is a fast ride, a character-driven adventure SF story with plenty of action. Fantasy fans ought to like it, I think, because adventure SF reads a lot like adventure fantasy – this is nothing like, oh, Kim Stanley Robison’s SF, which is slow-paced and heavy on setting, light on character, and, well, basically, the antithesis of adventure stories. Of course you have to enjoy Butterfly’s voice; if that puts you off, naturally this isn’t the book for you. Actually, Butterfly’s voice is reminescent, now that I think of it, with the “first person smartass” type of voice that generally I think of more in connection with, say, Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series. Anyway, I love Shahar’s clever writing.
I should just add, though HELLFLOWER doesn’t end on a true cliffhanger, it’s only semi-self-contained. The sequels are DARKTRADERS and ARCHANGEL BLUES; the whole thing has been collected in the omnibus BUTTERFLY AND HELLFLOWER. I will say, the first time I read this trilogy, I was somewhat upset at the way it ended. However, when I re-read it years later, I was better prepared for how it would end and found it reasonably satisfying. From this, you will probably gather, accurately, that the trilogy does not end with a simple And-then-they-lived-happily-ever-after. I mention this because, like me, you may find the ending more to your taste if you know going in that it is rather ambiguous rather than a straight-up happy ending.
These books don’t seem to be available in ebook form, but they’re still available in paper. Eluki bes Shahar doesn’t seem to have written much else, though she’s been involved in comics, I see. But! She is also Rosemary Edghill, and is still writing under that name. I see she has cowritten quite a number of titles with Mercedes Lackey, but I have in fact never read anything with the Edghill name on it. If you have, please let us know what you thought of them!
July 22nd, 2014
Have you ever heard of this?
The Shkadov Thruster, which is a giant mirror meant to let you move your entire solar system from one place to another, assuming you think it would be handy to do so. Don’t like the neighborhood? Got a supernova a bit too close for comfort, maybe? Or is your own sun moving into the uncomfortable red giant stage? Well, no problem: here you go.
“The scope of the operation—fashioning Mercury-sourced hematite into thin sheets, connecting them in space, and orienting them into a growing megastructure at a considerable distance from Earth—certainly exceeds our logistical abilities, to put it mildly. Yet building a Shkadov Thruster would not be an unfathomable technological and engineering leap. “At small scale, present-day technology is able to manage all the operations needed,” Badescu says.
Good to know, good to know. Mind you, even if we decided to drag the solar system into a new location, you’d have time to finish that cup of coffee and the most recent Laura Florand novel before we got there:
A trip with a Shkadov Thruster would be slow going at first, at least in relative terms. The sun is already moving around the center of the Milky Way at a relative speed of about 500,000 miles per hour. The first few million years of Shkadov thrusting “may only slightly change the usual trajectory of the sun,” Badescu says.
Over the course of geological time, however, that bonus oomph adds up as the sun accelerates along its new path. “After 200 million years,” Badescu says, “the distance between the perturbed and unperturbed positions of the sun is on the order of 10 to 40 parsecs,” or 30 to 130 light-years.
Within the billion years we have left before the warming sun wipes us out, that level of displacement would be plenty to save Earth’s bacon. Many dozens of reachable stars suitable for hosting Earth surely could be found within a few hundred light-years.
Anyway, this makes me want to go re-read THE INTEGRAL TREES by Niven, and look up other Big Structure SF. Of course Kim Stanley Robinson does a lot of Big Stuff. I’m very slowly re-reading BLUE MARS right now, a few pages at a time because it’s not what you would call catchy, which is what makes it perfect for dipping into while I deal with the cascading action of my own WIP’s climactic scenes.
Anyway, while we’re sort of on the subject, you may remember that THE INTEGRAL TREES got a great Michael Whelan cover:
July 22nd, 2014
I see my guest post is live over at Chachic’s Book Nook!
It was tough to choose a topic for this post, but I eventually picked:
Amour et Florand: Making Great Characterization Look Easy
So click over to Chachic’s if you’d like to read that. Scroll down just a bit; Angie’s guest post went up just a bit ago and is above mine. You know Chachic must have a LOT of guest posters if she’s putting two up per day! Nice to see that Florand has so many author/blogger fans.
July 21st, 2014
This week, over at Chachic’s Book Nook, we have a series of guest posts about Laura Florand’s books! Just thought I’d mention it, as some of you may also be Florand fans. Also, I’ll have a guest post over there later this week, so I’ll give you a pointer when that goes up.
July 21st, 2014
I am pretty sure I’ve mentioned this one before in several different contexts, but probably not lately. Let me mention it now, at somewhat greater length.
But first! What is it with covers for re-issued books? Once again, not a very appealing cover for the newer edition:
And once again, the original cover was far superior:
Hello, marketing departments? Who in the world would prefer the new cover? Do you really think that radiograph of a unicorn’s head even faintly evokes the story? I grant you, it is logically connected to the story, more or less, but it is also ugly and unappealing.
Weigh in, people: agree / disagree on this pair of covers? Am I wrong in thinking the marketing department did this cover redesign on Clueless Day?
Anyway, the book!
THE MAGIC AND THE HEALING was first published in 1994, so 20 years ago. O’Donohoe has written a decent handful of books, including two sequels to this book; TOO TOO SOLID FLESH, a fairly ambitious Shakespeare thing that is a bit hard to describe, but if you’re into Hamlet you should check it out; and THE GNOMEWRENCH IN THE DWARFWORKS, a WWII home front story with, yes, gnomes and dwarfs.
I actually like all of his books that I’ve read, but THE MAGIC AND THE HEALING is my hands-down favorite. Like so many other excellent books, it hit the massive ocean of Available Titles and vanished with nary a trace, at least so far as I know. I never see it on lists of great books, but it seriously deserves to be pulled back into the light of day. There don’t appear to be ebook versions, unfortunately, but it is still available in print.
Do you happen to have a teenager around who reads fantasy and thinks she or he might like to be a veterinarian? Did you yourself ever think you might like to be a vet? For that matter, *are* you a vet? I loaned this book to my own vet; she loved it and gave it two thumbs up for the medical details.
My impression from an informal survey is that many many many girls and some boys at least toy with the idea of becoming a veterinarian. I know I did! Let me tell you, if you checked Yes for any of the above, you really must track down a copy of this book.
In Virginia, veterinary student BJ Vaughan cleans out her locker, about to give up on animal medicine forever.
In Crossroads, an injured unicorn needs help . . .
We get more than unicorns in this book. We have centaurs, fauns, werewolves, and the occasional sheep, all with their own particular medical issues, not to mention their own social customs and sometimes scary personalities. We also have a splendid griffin, the very one that made me want to put griffins into a story of my own, a griffin who . . . okay, approaching spoilers, there, so never mind. But you will love the griffin. Really.
Anyway, as an additional rotation in veterinary school, Crossroads is hard to beat, though venturing into Crossroads does come with a certain amount of danger. Well, a lot of danger, actually, given the invading army and everything, but there we’re getting into spoilers again. Moving on, moving on.
So: BJ Vaughn is a great protagonist. She is intelligent, capable, and perceptive. In fact, I remember quite plainly how this book demonstrated to me the difference between intelligent, capable, perceptive characters and characters whom the author insists has those qualities, without actually providing evidence. When I first read this, I had just read something forgettable with a protagonist whom all the secondary characters treated as special for no obvious reason, so the contrast was dramatic. Actually, if you want a primer on How To Write Characters Who Really Are Unusually Perceptive, this book is a good choice.
We also have a large cast of excellent secondary characters, even aside from the Griffin and various centaurs and fauns and so forth. For example, Sugar Dobbs, the vet in charge of this peculiar rotation. Also Lee Anne, Dave, and Annie, BJ’s fellow students. I will note here, since it is unusual in modern fantasy, that these secondary characters are diverse in a broader sense than the one in which we use the term today: one is from a poor rural southern background and one is from a devout Christian background. Both are handled well and respectfully by the author and the story.
Although THE MAGIC AND THE HEALING is the first book of a trilogy, it can absolutely be read as a standalone; it closes beautifully. Though the two sequels are worth picking up if you like the first, in my opinion, this one is the strongest of the three. I am just positive you will enjoy this book if you appreciate strong, straightforward writing and you’re at all into veterinary medicine.
July 18th, 2014
I just thought you might like to know how things stand as we head into the back half of July.
Wow, can’t believe how fast the summer is going.
Anyway! KERI is going pretty well. I’m no longer working on the SF space opera thing, though it’s in excellent shape to pick up, I know way more about the next several scenes than I used to. But I’m dying to wrap up this rough draft of KERI and that’s my only real focus now.
Yesterday afternoon was frustrating, as I had 84,000 words when I turned on my laptop, and hours later, I once again had 84,000 words. I suppose I should be grateful this two-steps-forward-three-steps-back thing hasn’t happened more often with this project. Shoot, I *am* grateful that hasn’t happened more often! But it was still frustrating. I got over that hump later in the evening and wound up nearly making my minimum 1500 words for the day, so it was basically fine.
This is one of the few books I’ve worked on where I am not over in terms of length. Often at this point I’m cheering when I cut words, but not this time. I also don’t think I will have a huge amount of junk pages to cut at the end, which will make a nice change. I’m pretty sure this one will come in at roughly the 350 pp my contract specifies — if anything, it might be a little short — well, I probably shouldn’t say that, as in fact every single scene takes more pages than you expect. (This is an ironclad rule, in my experience.)
I am indeed expecting to get the full rough draft completed by August first, and get the first beat-it-into-shape-for-Caitlin revision done in the first week of August. It will help (a lot) that I take off the last week of July and the first two weeks of August (the summer session is winding up, and classes don’t start for Fall till August 18th, hence the break). Caitlin then has the challenge of turning the manuscript around in time for me to revise again before the September 15th deadline. Caitlin is great about helping me meet deadlines, plus I usually revise fast, so barring acts of God, this should not be a problem.
I would take a significant break while waiting for Caitlin’s comments, except it seems a shame to waste all those days off, so I will most likely work on the KEHERA revision — lots to do on that one, it’s a mess, but it’s a great mess and I’m looking forward to getting back into it. THEN when school starts, I will take a break. Except for going on with self-publication projects. Whew, quite a year, really looking forward to what I hope will be a slower pace next year.
Meanwhile! I’m trying to come up with possibilities for a real title for KERI.
My favorite title so far, by a mile, is SPUN SUGAR MAGIC. Alas, it honestly doesn’t fit the book. The baking thing does go through KERI from front to back, but it’s such a minor element that, well, no, just can’t see it. That would be a fabulous title for a MG story, though, don’t you think? Anybody who has a MG manuscript out there and wants this title, feel free.
My other favorite at the moment is THE WYVERN KING. The actual Wyvern King in the story is an important figure looming in the background through a lot of the book — actually, I need to go make him loom more in the earlier part of the story. That will be part of my first revision. In fact, a few days ago, I invented a child’s counting song about him, and I’ll need to go work that into the earlier part of the book so it doesn’t come out of nowhere in the last bit, and let me just say, writing a child’s song is fun, but way more work than writing the actual story. I don’t like one line, may have to change it eventually.
Anyway, my main characters are juuuust about to meet the Wyvern King in person, if not today, then certainly this weekend. After that I will know a lot more about him.
I think I know the rest of the plot. No guarantees, even at this point. The reason my outline matches my story is that I change the outline ALL THE TIME, but I do think the endgame is shaping up and is not too likely to make any sudden left turns. From my perspective; I hope readers will find some of the upcoming events startling!
So, yeah. I also need to pull some of shoulder-high weeds in my yard, especially the ones setting burrs because burrs + spaniel ears = bad news and I’m getting tired of having to brush all the burrs out of the dogs’ ears twice a day. You’d think they’d have run out of burrs by now, but evidently not. I know the plants must be along the fenceline and in with the shrubs, so I should be able to find them all — I just need to go out there and do it. That’s my other priority for the weekend.
I hope all of you have a great weekend, productive if you’ve got stuff to do or relaxing if you have time!
July 18th, 2014
So, yeah, but there are all these art things that keep catching my eye.
First, a brief post up about Julie Dillon and her art at tor.com.
Second, a kickstarter for an art book Dillon wants to self-publish. I haven’t decided whether to join in funding this kickstarter, btw, and I’m not particularly suggesting you join in, either. I just mention it for anyone interested.
Third, shoot, while we’re on the subject, here’s Dillon’s actual website.
And, to remind you all about Dillon’s style and because it’s pretty, if you don’t have time to click through, here’s a detail of one of her paintings, Taking Flight, with, yes, a dragon:
I think this is my favorite of the works pictured for the kickstarter project. Because, hey, dragon! Also, I like the, I don’t know, cheerful, exuberant feel of the piece.
You know, one of the things I especially enjoy at conventions is art panels. As long as they’re not too technical, I like to listen to artists talk about their methods and show early sketches and discuss color choices and everything. I’m tempted to say, “I don’t know anything about it, but I know what I like.” Ouch, cliche, I know! But after all, it *is* true.
July 17th, 2014
Speaking of cover art, I’m sorry, but I hate this new cover for Lindskold’s BROTHER TO DRAGONS, COMPANION TO OWLS:
The original cover is much better. Here is a little thumbnail which will hopefully give you a general idea:
Now, the reason I was thinking of this book recently — it was published in 1994, which is when I first bought it, so it’s not one that comes up in casual conversations about books all that often anymore — is because of AN INTERIOR LIFE. This book is completely different. But when I think of the category Unique SFF Novels, this book is one that leaps to mind.
As it happens, it was Lindskold’s debut novel, and she notes that she is “irrationally fond of it.” Hah! The reason she’s fond of it is because it’s an excellent book that must have been a challenge to write. Also a lot of fun.
Sarah is insane. After all, she talks to walls, rubber dragons, and other inanimate objects. What no one else knows is that the inanimate answers her back. When budget cuts put Sarah out of a mental home and onto the streets, she is adopted by a street gang ruled by Head Wolf, a sometimes brutal man who may be as insane as she is. But someone wants Sarah — perhaps merely to put her back inside, perhaps for more sinister reasons. Championed by the hacker Abalone, assisted by other members of the Pack, Sarah goes into hiding, but hiding may not be enough to preserve her freedom — or her life.
The thing about Sarah is she can’t speak normally, she can’t read or accurately process written words. She can, however, remember and parrot emotionally charged language, so she communicates by means of appropriate quotes from Shakespeare and so on. She also talks to her two-headed rubber dragon, named Betwixt and Between. Talking to toys is not unusual, but they talk back, and the reader is immediately confronted with the whole question of how much of this is in Sarah’s head. In that way, it’s similar to AN INTERIOR LIFE, because there the entire fantasy plot could be in Sue’s head.
In this one, though, every now and then an inanimate object will tell Sarah something really useful that she has absolutely no way of knowing. How this works is not really adequately explained — there is some handwaving, but it doesn’t really make sense, not that this is likely to bother the reader, because this is a story that pulls you in from the first moment.
Today, this little gem of a novel (220 pp) might be published as a dystopia, since that’s such a Thing right now. But the focus is not on a horrible repressive government, though given the street society Sarah joins, it’s obvious that there must be dystopian elements to the broader society. The bad guys are part of an Evil Corporation, though, rather than a Repressive Government.
This is told in a first-person-present-tense voice that I believe was less common at the time it was written, and that is still hard to pull off. Sarah is an excellent protagonist, especially the contrast between her as an adult character with adult complexity and motivations, and the way those around her tend to treat her as younger and more innocent because of her problems with communication. There are a good many secondary characters, mostly drawn broadly but well. Lindskold does a fine job making every character interesting and believable — in Head Wolf’s case, it’s amazing that Lindskold pulled off “believable”, but you really WANT him to be real. His Jungle Books-based gang is a wonderful element to the story. In fact, this novel crams a lot of disparate pieces into its short length, yet they somehow all make sense as you read the story. Writing any kind of synopsis must have been tough!
Jane Lindskold has written quite a few books, but I must admit, I haven’t read all that many of them. I looked for more of her work after I read this, so I’ve read a handful of the titles that came out in the late nineties. Of those, BROTHER TO DRAGONS was far and away my favorite. Now that I’ve got this title back in mind, though, I’m curious about Lindskold’s later work, especially the six-volume Firekeeper series. Has anybody read those? What did you think?