11.30.2005

The Big Over Easy, by Jasper Ffforde

I am a big fan of this author, after reading the Thursday Nexts books. But I was reluctant to pick this one up. I wasn't sure if it was going to be as surreal and fun as the Next books. So I had my brother read it first. He thought it was funny enough to read bits aloud to me so I decided to give the book a shot, too.

The Big Over Easy is, above all I think, a parody of British, cozy mysteries with the detective who makes incredible (in both senses of the word) deductions. The plot is so twisted and bizarre that I'm not going to go into it, but the mystery involves the murder of Humpty Dumpty, a verruca of terrifying proportions, a goose that lays gold eggs, and a host of characters from the Thursday Next books, nursery rhymes, and one Greek Titan.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a weird sense of humor and knows a lot of cultural trivia. You won't get the full effect unless you know your nursery rhymes and British culture.

11.23.2005

Olympos, Part IV

That took much longer than I thought it would. Usually the longest it ever takes me to read a novel of any size is two weeks--three if it was written before 1900 or so. The reason it probably took this long was because I had so much other stuff going on, particularly my NaNo project. I've been writing during the time I normally read. It's thrown me all out of whack.

But, at last, I am done!

So, I've already mentioned that this book is pretty wild, plot wise. It incorporates Shakespeare, Homer, science fiction, and so on. I was hooked all the way through (as much as I could be given my time constraints). I enjoyed the sheer originality of it all.

The only problem I have, and I notice this the closer I got to the end as all the plot threads started to wind up, was with how convenient things got. People showed up just when they were needed. People got saved right in the nick of time mostly through luck or a really convenient set of circumstances. The closer I got to the end, the more frequently I found my self thinking, "Wow, these people have amazing luck."

But for all the coincidences, I really enjoyed this duology and would recommend it to anyone who likes metafiction or science fiction.

11.16.2005

Olympos, Part III

(Holy crap, has it really taken me three weeks to get this far? Gah!)

I am a little more than halfway through this book and questions I've had since the beginning are starting to be answered. Well, sort of, one of the characters has literally come up with a "Theory of Everything" that sounds plausible--at least in the universe of this novel. I finally have a pretty good idea why Prospero, Caliban, Setebos, the Greek Gods and heroes, and now Miranda are running around. I know what the bad guy is up to (though I don't have a clue how they're going to stop him).

Interesting reading this last week. The language got a little hairy though when it started talking about nano-enhanced DNA and quantum teleportation and multiple universes. I could follow the physics in Timeline* all right, but I had to reread some of this stuff just to figure out what they were talking about.

I've decided that there are two kinds of characters in this book, the ones who have a clue and ones who exist to have stuff done to them by the ones who have a clue and to be explained to. It gets a little irritating after a while, but this book is still so damn intriguing.

*P.S. They didn't use fire arrows in the Middle Ages. That's a Hollywood anachronism. Looks good on camera, though.

11.07.2005

Olympos, Part II

The other day I came across a very interesting scene in Olympos. Hockenberry goes to talk to Odysseus, to apologize for tricking him and basically kidnapping him. Odysseus, though, is rather drunk and is in the mood to talk and get maudlin. Among the things they talk about that I found really interesting, if only for the contrast, was the way they talk about war.

These two characters have such different experiences of war. Odysseus is from a culture that invented aristeia, the glory gained in single-combat with an enemy. Hockenberry is ostensibly from the twentieth century and had a father who fought on Okinawa during the middle of World War II--for him, war is mechanized, dehumanized, soul-killing, horrifying. For him, there is no glory in war, just killing.

So I wonder, what made that change happen? Was it the technology that made it possible to kill thousands in minutes? Was it the culture that started to realize that jingoism is horseshit, that it's never over by Christmas, and that war is not glorious? Did these two things effect change in each other?

Given what I've read about World War I, the war were old tactics and strategies faced new technology, I tend to think that it's the technology. Guns and bombs can turn anyone into a warrior, whether they are suited to it or not. No one had fought that way before, so no one was prepared for it. I don't WWI was the first war where there was shell shock--but it was the first time we started hearing about large numbers of cases. And this certainly wasn't the first time men were forced to march into artillery (remember Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" about the "battle" of Balakava in the Crimea?), but during WWI, it was almost a weekly occurance. Look at what people started writing after WWI--people like Sigfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and other poets wrote about the war.

There is a subtitle on First World War.com: the war to end all wars. It didn't do that certainly, but it did change the way that people go to war now.

Interesting how a not-so-light conversation between to men drinking Medean wine can send you into such dark thoughts.

11.03.2005

Olympos, by Dan Simmons, Part I

One of the things I love about this series is the way that Simmons does metafiction in such an original way. Ostensibly, this novel is science fiction--there are robots, quantum technology, space travel, genetic manipulation, nanotechnology and so on. But a number of the characters are from The Iliad and from The Tempest. And the thing is, it makes sense once you get used to it.

Olympos is the sequel to Ilium, which set the stage for what's happening in this book. In Olympos, we find the Achaeans, the Trojans, and the robots squaring off against people who theink they're the Greek gods. We still don't know why these gods are there, but it's related to something that's going on between Prospero, Ariel, Sycorax, Setebos and Caliban.

This series is an absolutely amazing read. And it's so well done! If you're interested in metafiction, I really recommend these books.

As if I didn't have enough things to do already...

I just caved and signed up for nanowrimo. I have a paper due for class this month, a book to read for another class, plus working and trying to get in free time. Why did I sign up? I think it's because I really wanted to just write something and finish it for a change. That and the peer-pressure. :)