Monday, July 19, 2010

Rain and Reading

Did I say this week was going to be about organization? The weather is not cooperating with that particular idea--more rainy days better suited to reading in a bright corner than shuffling paperwork. Not to mention the dogs who are now mucky with chasing through our decidely slow-to-drain yard. I don't think they care for water, but they can't avoid the puddles and Merlin's short enough so that the grass touches his belly.

If the week is as good as reading as the weekend was, I'll have a good dent in my stacks by Friday. I finished both Home from the Shore (Gordon R. Dickson) and Eric John Stark: Outlaw of Mars (Leigh Brackett) over the weekend and both were good reads. I'd never read any Brackett before and it's been some time since I read anything featuring an adventuring barbarian such as Stark, but I was hooked. This book is actually a compilation to two shorter novellas (and possibly a reprint from an original separate publication?) and despite the stories' short length, they took the reader across the breadth of the landcape of a colonized Mars and in flashbacks to the Mercury of Stark's childhood. Both stories seemed to deal with the ennervations of immortality and the inevitable moral rot that sets it as people grapple with extended lifetimes as well as with the almost always fatal lure of power over others. They were most enjoyable for the time spent with Stark, however. Instead of dwelling on bloody action or sex as seems popular now, both novellas kept the focus on Stark's drive to prevail over circumstance and incorporate his dual nature of 'barbarian/beast' and 'civilized man.' Time spent with him thinking and doing, rather than wallowing or lusting.

The paperback copy of Home from the Shore reminded me a little of a YA novel (possibly because of the illustrations). I loved the descriptions of the underwater dwellings and the acknowledgment of the intelligence of the dolphins and whales and the idea of humans choosing separate evolutionary paths and then having to learn to understand those differences. I haven't yet read the sequel to this book and I'm hoping that we have it somewhere around here, since this apparently feeds right into that storyline. Because of this, it ends as you would expected a cliffhanger to end, with dangling plots that encourage you to go forth and find the next installment.

Not only were both of these books quick and good reads for a long weekend, but they helped me to see where my novel was a little threadbare, places where I hadn't taken the plot seriously or thought through the conflicts that would come from certain decisions. Lately I've found that shorter novels and short story collections are giving me more scope for reading because I'm not committed for the same length of time that huge series or standalone novels require and I can focus on and finish them in the spaces that are available to me. Hope y'all are finding good things to read as well!

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