Darth Paradox (darthparadox) wrote,
Darth Paradox
darthparadox

Musings and books

The silver lining to the shit-filled cloud

Now that the Republicans have half of Congress, they have to start delivering, or the same wave of populist anger that swept them into the House of Representatives will sweep them right back out again. And I think they're completely incapable of actually getting anything fixed, because the greedy corporations and rich fuckers backing them will actually be better off - in the short term, anyway, but they only count their money three months at a time - if everything stays broken.

Also, the vast majority of Democrats who lost their seats yesterday were of the sort all too willing to give away anything and everything to the Republicans anyway. Here's hoping that in two years we get some people back into the Democratic Party actually capable of fighting for their principles.

NaNoWriMo

On target so far; finished last night at 3651 (against a goal of 3334) and got another 500-some words down on the bus this morning. The story - about a high-schooler's adventures on the competitive math circuit; not autobiographical but definitely drawn in parts from my experience - hasn't actually gotten out of what I intended to be a fairly short prologue set in middle school. It'll come, but it's given me some good ideas for additional plot points, so I'm not too worried right now.

Books

57. Trial of Flowers by Jay Lake
58. The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross
59. On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony
60. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
61. Triplanetary by E.E. "Doc" Smith

Trial of Flowers was fascinating - "urban fantasy" not in the "werewolves, vampires, and leather" sense so much as "fantasy relying on a city setting". The sense of setting is excellent, and just analogous enough to certain modern issues to make me think. It took a pretty typical "chuck the reader into the world and let them work out the details" approach to some of the unfamiliar story elements, but they became familiar soon enough. And the whole absent-gods thing echoed some of the fantasy setting material I've been playing around with myself, so I've certainly got some more food for thought.

The Fuller Memorandum was a perfect Laundry story. All the elements were there in perfect combination, including the inversion of story tropes around spies and intelligence services that's becoming a trademark of the Laundry series.

On a Pale Horse took a good hundred or so pages to pick up, plotwise, but when it did it delivered a pretty excellent story and some interesting thoughts about how we perceive the forces of nature. On the other hand, the constant, casual degradation of women (the author literally calls a receptionist a "decoration" at one point) and the main character's obsession with the "purity" of his love interest (including his relief at finding out that she'd only been mentally raped by a demon, rather than physically) varied between mildly distracting and outright disgusting. There are some sexism issues I can forgive from various authors for various reasons, mostly to do with the historical context of the writing - Heinlein obviously comes to mind - but it's pretty damn hard to justify Anthony's writing, even from 1983, particularly as I understand that the intervening 27 years haven't resulted in much improvement. Sigh. I'm not sure whether I'll read the other six books in the series yet, but I'll see what Sora (who recommended them in the first place) has to say.

Hamlet... oh, Hamlet, you insufferably emo whiner layabout, you. Coming from a mental model of Macbeth as the prototype for Shakespearean tragedy, where the overall tragic arc was clearly defined and excellently executed, Hamlet just strikes me as bloody weird. It seems like the whole point is just to say "Death comes for us all without sense or reason", which actually sounds like the kind of thing Hamlet himself would say. It hangs together pretty well thematically, so maybe the utter mess that is the actual plot is necessary to drive home that point.

Triplanetary, the first novel of the famous Lensman series, is obviously a first-book-in-a-series, as it sets up a major conflict without anything remotely resembling resolution, provides some vignettes of historical context, and then devotes the remaining half or so of the book to a small-scale conflict against the background of the larger one. Stylistically, it feels a little dated, but I guess that's to be expected from something that started out as a series of short stories in the 30s. But Smith's position as the father of "space opera" is clear here, as the narrative is filled with an escalating series of space battles where more and more powerful weapons and spaceships are brought to bear against each other. I suppose an early trait, and perhaps weakness, of the space-opera genre is the need to constantly be topping one's previous conflicts; it's often driven by an arms race within the narrative, but it sometimes feels more like the author's in an arms race with himself. (I get the same feeling from the Honor Harrington books, which are pretty much a direct successor to Lensman's position as space-opera genre exemplar. Whether it's an intentional effect or a consequence of writing a space-opera series, I don't know.)
Tags: 2010, books
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