Fascinatin' Rhythm

January 31, 2014

The Kids Are Alright

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thurulingas @ 3:26 pm
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Ender's Game: cover artOrson Scott Card: Ender’s Game

I read Ender’s Game a long, long time ago.  [Sure you don’t want another ‘long’ in there?  Ed.]  In light of the new film coming out, I thought I’d revisit it, and am glad I did, in spite of my misgivings about Card’s politics and homophobia.  But I’ve always divorced any appreciation of an artist’s work from the artist themselves, or there’s not much Wagner I could listen to.

One thing that is plain: Card doesn’t permit his private beliefs to colour his work.  This was evident in other works such as Songmaster, and so it was much easier to appreciate Ender’s Game as a work outside of the politics of any particular person or era.  What is clear, however, is that it remains a work with relevance for today, in how we view children and the military.

It’s an easy book to love.  Ender in particular is almost too easy to root for, his circumstances drawn so as to engage all our sympathies with him, and yet with a streak of ruthlessness that those with small children will I think readily identify as accurate, though perhaps they would hope that their own kids would not go so far.  Could any parent say for certain that they know how violent their kids might be if pushed?  I think that is what makes Ender’s Game such a disturbing read for some adults/parents, as much as Lord Of The Flies, perhaps.  Card has commented on the mail he receives from people being divided strongly into those for whom the story speaks of their own experiences, and those who complain that the depiction of children is unrealistic, to the effect that he believes the latter merely hope that that is the case, as the alternative would be unbearable for them.

The story itself is masterfully interwoven.  The existence of Ender’s siblings and their contrast with him are beautifully realised.  I particularly like the interludes with the commander of the Battle School (Graff) and his superiors/peers as the development of Ender is carefully choreographed and monitored.  The reveal at the end is one of the best in my memory of reading science fiction, and it still packs a punch years later.

To call Ender’s Game a classic is to throw another drop into the ocean of plaudits it has received over the years.  It fully deserves that status.

January 20, 2014

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thurulingas @ 2:45 pm
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On The Steel Breeze: Cover Image

Alastair Reynolds: On The Steel Breeze

I hadn’t really expected Reynolds’s Blue Remembered Earth to get a sequel, but was tolerably pleased when it turned out it he’d gone and done one.  I found the reluctant heroes of the first novel, Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya, engaging and likeable, and the mysteries they unravelled as the book progressed similarly so.

So it was with some disappointment that I opened On The Steel Breeze to discover that much time has elapsed since the events of its predecessor, and the vaunted Akinya family has fallen, if not hugely far, then certainly from its previous position as the premier family of the civilisation of that time.  Geoffrey is gone, and Sunday is in a virtual coma, rousing only occasionally before lapsing back into chasing the illusions of new mathematics that she uncovered.

So the focus shifts to Chiku Akinya, scion of the dynasty, and I placed my trust in Reynolds to deliver another character as much fun to read.  And what does he do.  He only goes and dos a 3-for-1 deal!

Now, the idea of splitting and recombining personalities and memories has been explored by many different authors (Dick, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale; Brin, Kil’n People, Tepper, The True Game, among others).  but the permanent 3-way split, with deliberate transformation of the original so that no identification was subsequently possible, I’ve not seen before.  Chiku was an uncomfortable heroine, somewhat naive in each of her three incarnations, and at least for me her attachments to people never really rang true.  In common with Geoffrey of the earlier novel, she seemed more able to love elephants than people who would love her back.  It’s something of a shame that I came to read the three interleaved stories (of Chikus Red, Yellow, and Green) as mere adjuncts to Eunice’s story, and the struggle between her and the intelligence that is slowly corrupting the Mechanism that ensures the safety and prosperity of the Surveilled World (and what a hideously suggestive euphemism that is).

The book, it’s probably no surprise to reveal, lends itself to yet another sequel, when we will find out how the holoships survive, what happens to Crucible, and how the Surveilled World copes with its new predicament.  If Chiku Red takes on the narrative, she’llhave to become more than she was in this novel, where she was mostly marking time until her actions at the end of the novel.  The interest in any sequel storyline lies, in common with most of Reynolds’s work, outside of the sphere of Earth and the solar system.

January 5, 2014

Steal Away

The Republic of Thieves: book coverScott Lynch: The Republic of Thieves

I had great expectations of this, and for the most part, they were fulfilled.  Having followed Locke Lamora from his debut in The Lies of Locke Lamora through the sequel Red Seas Under Red Skies, and thoroughly enjoyed both, this was one third novel that had set a very high bar for itself.

Lynch’s prose pulls me in very easily, like slipping on a very comfortable glove.  You hardly notice it’s there — it is entirely at the service of the story, and this story was of the characters and their relationships.  The most believable relationship in the entire sequence thus far, for me at least, has been the one between Locke and Jean, his opposite thematically and physically.  But the central relatinoship of this novel was between Locke and his crush-cum-obsession, Sabetha, and, not having experienced the kind of helpless longing described, I found it hard to believe that Locke, otherwise painted as a character whose moral compass was more windvane and whose delight in trickery, misdirection and scheming would make a cynic of even the best man, could fall so far for a woman as to be blinded — and blind-sided — so frequently.

Sabetha herself, however, was a delight.  A mouthpiece for female emancipation and suffrage, she was so much more, and never better than when puncturing Locke’s patriarchal view of his pursuit of her.  The various turns of the major arc in the novel, which pits them against each other in an attempt to control the outcome of an election, were intertwined with a rekindled romance between the two, now older and wiser than when they first tentatively got together.  And the second strand of story, where the unfolding of that original passion was detailed, proved an interesting if unfulfilling foil to the major arc.  Having the Gentlemen Bastards put to work as jobbing actors learning to inhabit their characters to more effectively equip them for future endeavours was at first sight a problematic side issue, whose relevance only became clear when the eponymous play they mount starts to have echoes in the situation they find themselves in in the to-be-rigged election.  But Karthain can hardly be called a Republic, though the mages who control it are certainly thieves.  Or is it that the grand revelation at the end of the novel makes Locke an even greater thief than we had thus far beleved, and magic the means?

To be resolved in the next instalment.  I had wondered if this would turn out to be a trilogy, and when the revelations began, it started to feel like an ending.  And endings there were, if not the ones expected.  But we now are set up for a glorious finale — or a middle trilogy, possibly, as the structure feels more like Bakker’s sequence of trilogies than anything else.  Whatever the case, whenever Locke and co. make their next appearance (at an election near you, perchance) I shall hurriedly rush out and grab a copy

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