So much to read, and listen to–so little time!

January 25, 2014

I’ve been doing some planning for my reading of 2014 lately. So far, in the new year, I’ve read ‘Discworld: Reaper Man’ from the library, listened to a Vampire Diaries digital audiobook also from the local library, read quite a bit from my Kindle magazines, including the conclusion of the ‘Lockstep’ serial in Analog.

One thing I definitely want to get back to is making sure that I’m well read on the classics of SF. Two and a half years ago, after going to the Young Gunns workshop for the first time, I realized that I had some catch-up reading to do and downloaded several Audible books from the CSSF Institute curriculum for SF teachers. It took me over a year to finish the last of those five books, and I’ve added a few other books from the list, like Childhood’s End, The Puppet Masters, and The Time Machine, but I haven’t tried to tackle it systematically since. Until now.

For my first Audible picks of the year, I took the original ‘Dune’, which I never read, and “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I also picked a couple audiobooks that weren’t on the CSSF list: “Thuvia Maid of Mars”, which I tried reading on my phone last year because I liked the original Barsoom trilogy so much, but couldn’t motivate myself to continue, and “Sandman Slim”, a recommendation that’s been sitting on my wish list since last summer; one of a trio of suggestions for fans of Harry Dresden, actually. The Iron Druid and Kate Daniels books have worked out, so why not give Slim a try?

I’m also hoping to listen to ‘Neuromancer’ soon; I didn’t grab that one from Audible because it’s available for downloading from the library, whoo-hoo! Which brings me to some other reading lists I’ve been working on; series that I’ve enjoyed and wish to continue, like the Spiderwick Chronicles, Heechee Saga, Jeeves, Culture, John De Chancie’s Castle Perilous books; and authors who don’t have specific series I’m in the middle of but I know I want to read more of, including Neil Gaiman, Sophie Kinsella, Lani Diane Rich, Wil Wheaton, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, and Robert Heinlein. I’ve gone through a lot of these with the library catalog, figuring out which books I could borrow and in what formats.

Then there’s the books I’ve already got on my ‘to read’ piles: I got several paperbacks for my birthday and christmas, including Elizabeth Moon, the latest Iron Druid, and two Diana Wynne Jones. Also some Sherlock Holmes on this list, a Song of Ice and Fire, and the collaborated Myth-Adventures…

As if all this weren’t enough, I’ve finally taken Elizabeth Twist’s advice to check out the Escape Artists story podcasts. Now, I have eighty-some MP3 fantasy and SF stories sitting on my hard drive, and I’m not even sure where to start first. Thanks a lot, Elizabeth! 😉

So, what about you? Is there anything particular you’re looking forward to reading (either print or audio) in 2014?

Advertisements

A tour of Barsoom

January 8, 2013

I’ve been spending some time on Mars lately – courtesy of Audible.com, and Scott Brick’s excellent narration for “A Princess of Mars.” Since New Year’s Day, I’ve followed John Carter from his gold claim in Arizona to the Incubators of the Green Men and on daring escapes through the hills of dry ocean beds. And along the way, I’ve met Dejah Thoris and a lot of other interesting Martians.

It’s a great science fiction adventure that doesn’t seem much the worse for all the decades that have passed since it was first written and printed, but I’ve also been aware of that vague sense that I’m finally catching up to something that’s been in the public cultural consciousness for a while, and specifically, that I finally understand some of the Barsoom in-jokes and references that Diane Duane filled A Wizard of Mars with. (And Diane’s title could be seen as a cross between “A Princess of Mars” and “A Wizard of Earthsea” 🙂 )

Other books I’ve been reading in 2013:

  • “House of Many Ways” by Diana Wynne Jones
  • “Maybe Baby” by Lani Diane Rich
  • “Dancing Barefoot” by Wil Wheaton

What have you been reading lately?


Harry Dresden versus the Ghosts

June 22, 2012

Okay, another great book recently wrapped up, “Grave Peril,” by Jim Butcher. (Mild spoilers follow, I think.) As an aside, this is the first Harry Dresden book I read on Kindle, as opposed to on an audio-player, (yes, I know that the Kindle can be used to play audible.com books, but it’s not really good at it in my opinion.) It was still really easy to dive into, and I kept hearing James Marster’s voice in Harry’s dialog and narration.

I was told by a friend that the Harry Dresden books really pick up with this one, and was a little surprised and concerned, since I’d liked the first two in the series so much. But now, I can see what he meant. Harry is still the same dry, witty sunnuvabee, and there’s still a lot of great action and adventure. But Jim did manage to turn the dial up in a few important ways:

He took away what Harry was good at when it counts. This is a good trick for those of us who write fantasy, I think. In one of his early encounters with the big bad, Harry gets most of his wizardly power eaten, and so he has to struggle through most of the second act as a shadow of his awesomely magical self, while the bad guy gets to use his own tricks against him, because, as Bob the spirit puts it, ‘You are what you eat.’ This raises the stakes in a very personal way, and forces Harry to be much more creative and ingenious, as he has to figure out how to do more with less, or maybe with no wizardry at all.

He took away something that matters to Harry even more. I’m not going to say anything more spoiler-ey here, except that it’s about somebody we know Harry cares about. And this time, the consequences aren’t all cleared up by the end of the book. Again, it’s about raising the stakes, this time, on a personal level – show what matters to your character, then have them lose it.

He’s setting up plot elements for later in the series. This one doesn’t just apply to the loss I mentioned above, though it does count. Also, though the main bad guy has been defeated, some of his allies are stronger than ever. They’re pissed with Harry, and with all white wizards on principle, which means that the other white wizards are also pissed with Harry for dragging them into a war that they didn’t want to be part of.

I’m looking forward to Harry Dresden #4, “Summer Knight”!

 


%d bloggers like this: