Showing posts from October, 2009

The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows 1908, Kenneth Grahame The above is what people often remember from The Wind in the Willows.  I blame Disney.  For a book that everyone seems to vaguely remember, there's very little in the way of plot.  Toad's story is a plot, misadventure piling on misadventure, thrown in jail, escape, battle, the final defeat of vanity.  The other chapters, which I find much more interesting, are almost a series of sketches exploring the significance of place: Dwelling Places, Wild Places, Play Places, Holy Places, Exotic Places. The lyrical descriptions leave no doubt in my mind of the affection Grahame held for the countryside where he lived.  In the first chapter, Mole meets the River: The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him,

New Theme: Anthropomorphic Animal Societies

In searching through Children's sections on the hunt for Girl's Books , I discovered another genre I'd been meaning to re-read a bunch of. For each of these books I plan to chat both about the book itself and the structure of the animal society. Planned Subjects: Wind in the Willows The Rescuers (and sequels) Watership Down Redwall Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH Mouse Guard (Graphic Novel)


 Hyperion Dan Simmons, 1989 There are lots of reasons to like Hyperion.  The form is intriguing, the characters complicated, the plot mysterious, and the prose lovely.  But aside from all that, I'm glad I read Hyperion because it gives me more ammunition in my long-standing fight to prove that The Time Traveler's Wife is a pointless book. One of the main conceits in Hyperion is "time-debt".  Time-debt is what happens to people who travel via FTL drive (somewhat adorably called Hawking Drive), as they enter a kind of stasis and age slower than people who stay on planets or travel via a kind of tele-portals.  So if your friend travels to a distant world and back, you will end up many years older than the traveler.  In several of the novellas which make up the backbone of the novel, this disconnect between those who go and those who stay behind is explored beautifully.  This is a good, emotionally effective use of time "travel", even though it's o


Foreigner C. J. Cherryh, 1994 I enjoy thinking about the link between language and cognition, and this work manages to delve into this subject on a deeper level than the back-of-the-book-copy would have you believe.  " human's fondness for a species which has fourteen words for betrayal and not a single word for love?"  I'm glad I didn't actually read that before picking up the book.  In fact, Foreigner does a nice job not playing into that "Eskimos have x number of words for snow" silliness, instead subtly exploring the fundamental differences between two sentient races, reflected in their language. The aliens, called atevi , aren't less moral, or less good, or less or more anything than humans, but they are irrevocably different.  It's actually refreshing for a sci-fi piece not to go with the easy out of 'we are all the same at the core'.  It's a completely separate sentient species, developed on a different wor

The Deep Beyond

The Deep Beyond C. J. Cherryh, 2005 It's two books in one!  Two... completely unconnected books.  According to Wikipedia, they take place in the same universe, but I didn't get that from reading them. Cuckoo's Egg (1985) Intriguing premise that never really goes anywhere, more of an extended character background than a novel in it's own right.  The identity of the main character is interesting, but not surprising the way the book seems to imply it should be.  The politics are slightly too muddled, the plot fuzzy.  The last little bit has all the plot, and then it ends.  It does bring up some intriguing ideas, and the society of Space-Cat-Samurai is fairly original, but I'd prefer if those ideas were attached to more of a plot.  Serpent's Reach (1980) Very cool world, interesting, if confusing, plot.  Again I could have wished for a bit more resolution (Of the situation outside of the planet the plot ends on), but this one's much better.  Pr