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?

A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Nine

March 9, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Note: If you haven’t read Young Wizards #1, “So you want to be a wizard”, and you care about the ending being spoiled, note that there are spoilers further down near the end of the blog entry.

There’s more really cool stuff that happened in this chapter of the book, which is back to focusing on Kit and the guys, though it looks like that alternating structure might be breaking down soon. From Stokes they move on to another wizardly ‘test site’ on Mars, and the first thing that they find out is that there’s going to be a witness, who they’ll have to both protect and hide the action from – the Spirit Rover.

Now, considering how well the Young Wizard books do at personifying inanimate objects, when I heard that Kit was going to meet Spirit, I immediately thought of this xkcd comic, and the response. Unfortunately, we don’t get any actual dialog, with the explanation that Spirit is so sophisticated and has so many security protocols built in that it makes her paranoid when somebody who’s not explicitly authorized talks to her, which makes a bit of sense. Of course, considering the dire situation, they were thinking in terms of making her forget signs of alien life on Mars, not casual chit-chat about how she really feels regarding her mission and never getting to go home.

For what it’s worth, I think my interpretation is between the two versions of the comic above, but closer to the latter – if I had to guess how Spirit might ‘feel’ about her mission, I think it’s unlikely she’d have ever gotten the impression that she was going to ‘go home’ after her mission, that she was pleased with all of the extra time that she got to spend travelling on Mars and all of the places she got to go, but still somewhat melancholy about being stuck and low on juice when there’s so much more out there to see. But this is a big side-track from the book, so I’d better get back to the plot.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter One

January 12, 2011

A wizard of Mars chapter index

Okay, I’m going to be blogging my way through Diane Duane’s A Wizard of Mars, with a new installment every Wednesday. Spoilers will not be spared, so if you’re waiting for the paperback and want to experience the book fresh, steer clear!

The first paragraph goes as follows:

The problem, Kit thought, scowling at the paper, isn’t the basic shape so much. It’s what to do with the legs.

Now, as you might recall, I did an exercise on the opening of the first Young Wizards novel, So You Want to be a Wizard. That also started with a main character’s thoughts, which got me curious enough to take a quick look at some of the other books in the series. #2, Deep Wizardry, starts with a bit of action and dialog at the end of the paragraph. #3, High Wizardry, begins with dialog and then action. #4, A Wizard Abroad, actually starts by telling us what Diane’s about to show us in more detail. #5, The Wizard’s Dilemma, opens with dialog. #6, A Wizard Alone, opens with a mix of description and then dialog. #7, Wizard’s Holiday, and #8, Wizards at War, both open with description.

So, no signature opening for Ms Duane. Probably that’s good, she changes this up and keeps things fresh, though her voice is consistent in a lot of other ways. I do like that she kind of comes full circle to the beginning of the series, in this little way. But I’ve wasted enough space dissecting the first paragraph now, and should move onward.

Kit is in history class. Kit’s doodling pictures based on the old Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars books, and also using wizardry to fiddle with the busted air conditioner, because it’s a hot day, less than a week before the start of summer vacation. One his doodles is also ‘busted’ in a different way, feminine attributes-wise, and Kit gets ‘busted’ with it by the history teacher, Mister Machiavelli, who had a small but memorable appearance early on in A Wizard Alone. Mack likes the Martian chick, (in Victoria’s Secret, which he points out isn’t as skimpy as the original descriptions in Burroughs,) but tortures Kit for a while about the Korean border before letting him go.

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