The Mote Maintains

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Readings

In the past couple weeks, I've managed to find time to read three books that have absolutely nothing to do with school. It's nice to finally get back into the habit of making time for reading for pleasure. This change might have something to do with the fact that garnigal has excellent taste in books, and lent me some singularly amazing novels a little while ago.

I read The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper, which drew heavily on popular legend and folklore surrounding the Trojan War, in order to create a post-apocalyptic culture with strong ties to knowledge from the distant past. The twist ending was spectacular; it came as a total surprise and yet seemed logical and obvious to the extreme, as twist endings are wont to be. I spent the entire book revelling in the amount of reference to Ilium and the conflict there. It was amazing how well that worked as a foil for the dynamic between the women living behind the walls of Women's Country (compare them to the somewhat emasculated, doomed defenders of Troy) and the hostile garrisons camped outside the city, just as the Achaeans camp for a ridiculously long time outside of Troy, threatening violence but making no real headway. The comparison is useful but not perfect, of course, but I'll leave it at that so as not to spoil the ending.

Next was The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle. Having only ever seen the film version of this book, I'd been hunting for a used copy at any used book store I happened to visit, but I'd yet to come across the book. It's fallen out of print, or at least out of fashion. I loved how dream-like and solemn the movie had been, considering that it was a children's animated version, and I wanted to see how the novel compared. I was surprised (in a good way) to find that the same solemnity was there, but it was mixed with deliciously outlandish parody of fantasy as a genre - this mix of tone was the best I could have hoped for. I don't know how much I would have enjoyed it as a child - it can be a little slow at times - but Beagle is definitely shaping up to be one of my favourite newly discovered children's authors.

Finally I read Connie Willis's Doomsday Book. This one was written in the 90s and took place in a time where influenza pandemics have wiped out a large proportion of the population. Time travel is a new technology, and the protagonist Kivrin ends up sent back to 1320 to study Medieval England. Naturally, Something Goes Wrong, and there are all sorts of crazy mishaps in the past and the present. Mayhem ensues. This one was also rife with bits of ecclesiastical Latin and amazing descriptions of Medieval life. Add in the elements of 'soft' science fiction, and I was in heaven. I neglected schoolwork for hours at a time because I couldn't bear to stop reading this one. It comes highly recommended. I'll be seeking out more of Willis's work sometime soon.

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