Saturday, July 15, 2006

Reading Into the Past: Week of 7/9

For the benefit of those for whom this may be a confusing ritual, a brief recap: every Sunday night, I roll some dice, count backwards however many years the dice tell me, and look up in my reading notebooks the books I was reading around this time that year. Then I type 'em all up and try to remember anything interesting or worthwhile about those books. In theory, this all happens on Sunday, but, in practice, I type up the list of books on the Sunday night, and the comments sometime before (but not much before) the next Sunday night.

This week the dice read 11, and so we return to the summer of 1995, when the Internet was a geeky toy, Ross Perot was a major political force, and everyone's girlfriend was listening to Alanis Morissette:
  • Lois McMaster Bujold, Cetaganda (7/2)
    This is the one "flashback" Miles Vorkosigan novel, written out of internal chronological sequence. It's one of the lighter-weight entries in the series, and depends less on knowledge of the other books, but it was also written fairly late in the sequence -- all that makes it an excellent first Vorkosigan novel, if there's anyone out there looking to start the series. (Bujold is a bit like Terry Pratchett -- their earliest books aren't bad, but they're not as strong as the series later became, and so can give new readers the wrong impression.)
  • Mercedes Lackey, The Fire Rose (7/4)
    At the time, I thought this was easily her best novel, and I think it's probably still up there. (The main competition would be the "Elemental Masters" semi-series, which takes the time period and concepts of magic from this book but aren't otherwise related to it.) The characters in those books felt more like adults than many of the Valdemar folks (who often seem like immature grad students, no matter how old they're supposed to be). Oh, the story? It's a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," set just before and during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake/Fire. I don't think it has a villain in it, which is good, because Lackey's villains tend a little too often to wringing their hands and declaiming how evil they are. But she's always a tremendously engaging writer, one whose books are fun to wallow in, and I've said before that she's been one of my main guilty pleasures for over a decade now -- so she's obviously doing something right.
  • Philip K. Dick, Martian Time-Slip (7/5)
    Oh, please don't ask me to remember specific PKD novels a decade later. This one is set on Mars, and I think it's the one with Perky Pat (or one of the ones). It's filed in my head as one of the better Dick books, if that helps.
  • Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (7/7)
    His canonically great novel, and the novel in which he was throwing the most literary juju around. It's probably also his best and most important book -- and everyone who cares at all about British literature in the first half of the 20th century needs to read it -- but I still persist in saying The Loved One is more fun to read. Still, this is one of those books that thrills you as you read it and leaves you with the sense that you now understand great swathes of the English character and how it really was to live through those times.
  • Diane Duane, Spider-Man: The Lizard Sanction (7/8)
    A tie-in novel that I read at great speed. I think it was part of a trilogy, in which some villain three two other less intelligent villains at Spidey to further a greater nefarious plot. This might also be the one with some scenes set at NYU (New York University), which I enjoyed greatly because my brother had just graduated from there. But maybe I'm wrong; I try not to devote too many brain cells to books like this.
  • Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta, Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights: Heirs of the Force (7/8)
  • Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta, Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights: Shadow Academy (7/8)
  • Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta, Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights: The Lost Ones (7/9)
    I think these were the first three books in the "Young Jedi Knights" series (young adult novels about the adventures of a bunch of young Jedi-in-training, particularly the teenaged twins of Han Solo and ex-Princess Leia), but I could have them mixed up. I did eventually read fourteen books in this series, so they've blurred a bit over time. The first six books were one plot arc, about the evil "Shadow Academy." (The SFBC stuck them into an omnibus under the title The Rise of the Shadow Academy.) The next five were about the evil "Diversity Alliance." (Yes, this was Contract With America time, and, no, I have no idea if it was a secret political message on anybody's part. Oh, and this is slightly amusing -- the SFBC titled our omnibus of the second sequence The Fall of the Diversity Alliance and someone -- I think it was an Ace editor, but it could have been a Lucasfilm contact -- said that the title was OK with them, but wanted to make sure we didn't mind giving away in the title that the bad guys lost. As if it would ever be otherwise in a space opera!) Then the last three books were about the even more evil, but more quickly defeated because the contract was running out, Black Sun criminal organization. That omnibus I wanted to call Under a Black Sun, but Lucasfilm vetoed it, saying that organization never took an indefinite article. I protested that it was a metaphorical usage, but they stood their ground, and Under Black Sun the book became. (Which was still fine, but I thought my version had slightly more gravitas and was a better title.)
It's only Saturday, and I'm finished. Whee! That counts as early, these days...

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