Break in the Agony
|I'm hoping they won't open the plane door.
A reading beach, as opposed to beach reading.
|Safety and security.
A matched pair of funny hats. Dan Simmons takes on the classics once again, with spectacular results.
But that's not all the space opera that's fit to ship. I've been patiently waiting for a space in my interview schedule to read Dan Simmons' latest novel 'Ilium', and damn if I'm not going to try to open up the time to do so in Hawaii. Simmons set one of his novels in Hawaii, 'Fires of Eden', so it only seem proper to repay the favor by reading one of his while I'm there. However, I've put an obstacle in my way. I want to read 'The Iliad' in the Simmons-approved Richard Lattimore translation first. That's a pretty beefy 400-plus pages of translated Greek poetry. Between the two of them, they could very well consume all my reading time while on vacation. But the one-two punch of pure artistry would be well worth the effort. The question is whether some other author won't turn my head first. And yes, I'm pretty close to buying the Cliff notes to 'The Illiad'. Stop me before I read again!
I once tried to eat sea-cucumber soup. Unlike reading Michael Cisco, it is not an experience I care to repeat.
My recent space-opera
binge was supposed to be broken by a reading a horror novel, and
the choice I had in mind was Michael Cisco's
Tyrant'. This surreal tale of dreams and nightmares
made true is as
far out from space opera as one could hope to be, in fact,
so far from space opera that you actually come up around it and
approach it from behind. But it's definitely short, and that's always
in my book. I loved his book 'The
Divinity Student'. And really,
really weird, that is, did I take some unknown drug and concoct this
book in my brain weird. I love
it when a book
does that; it's an emotional and intellectual experience no
other art form could possibly induce. Some people might
not find this a good thing -- damn those sane people, as long as they
run on time, they're good for something!
|March you spoiled little brat!
Just so that I'm not totally drenched in unreality, I'm bringing with me 'Vernon God Little', which not only looks like something of a palate cleanser from all this genre fiction, but more importantly, a hell of a funny book in its own right. But what's weird is that 'Vernon God Little' also appeals to the same taste schemas that inform my genre reading. It looks weird, funny and a bit surreal. I'm interested to see how author DBC Pierre does in getting behind the eyes of an American teenage boy. I have two residing here at home with me; in fact I can hear one playing a snowboarding video game with his buddy here. He's fourteen years old and even he's rather repulsed by the violence in 'Soldier of Fortune II', which his older brother bought. That's a game where you sneak up on people and knife them from behind. Most delightful! And perhaps more what Vernon Little, the title character of the novel ,would be inclined to play. I really wonder if Pierre has got this right or not, and frankly I feel I'll be well-set to evaluate his success. The critical acclaim heaped on this book is not likely to have come from the Americans who are parents of teenage boys.
If I want to get back to a brutal but pertinent unreality, then Richard Morgan's 'Market Forces' should do me just a treat. It's a near future scenario that could probably be converted to an ultra-violent video game. Conflict Investment and constant killing seem to be the way we're heading as a nation anyway. If America decides to invade another country for its own good while I'm away, then I'm ready to go with context-appropriate reading. I'm only hoping that those in charge aren't bringing in PS2 PlayStations to run our aging nuclear arsenal. But if they are, I have a couple of potential future nuclear attack managers.
and if they become such, one hopes that they won't wind up in a future,
new, updated and expanded edition of Rhys Hughes clever concoction,
New Universal History of Infamy'. This self-described Borgesian
work offers primers on personalities such as 'The Brutal Buddha, Baron
von Ungern-Sternberg', ' Trader of Doom, Basil Zaharoff', along with
such "Surplus Parodies" as 'The Hyperacusis
of Chumbly Mucker'. This may be the short story title
2004 -- only one
day into the year.
I've already read the first two stories in 'Rumpole and the Primrose Path'. To my mind, these books are the best possible example of how digital technology might be brought to bear in a fruitful method. Nobody can play Rumpole but for Leo McKern. We know that's the case. When I read these books, it's his voice I hear speaking them. So when digital filmmaking finally comes of age, someone can go back and very carefully sample the original runs of Rumpole and re-create the new ones to spec. It's probably something I'll only see in my dotage, and how appropriate is that? In the interim, these little short story breaks act as a perfect brainwash between-genre fiction reading.
John Mortimer's latest Rumpole collection is as delightful as...
Jasper Fforde's latest Thursday Next opus.
But when I want to get really weird and really fun, I've saved myself a wonderful bon-bon. That would be the newest Jasper Fforde novel, 'The Well of Lost Plots'. It's coming out in a couple of months in the US, so a review will be well-timed for those not quite as compulsive as I am. Also, I must admit that they’re doing some pretty interesting things with the American editions that they don't do in the UK. I'd want to buy both editions anyway, but now I have a damn good reason, thankyouverymuch. And I can get my American edition signed; Jasper Fforde is coming to the US on tour. I know he's showing up at M for Mystery on February 28. You can check his website to find out when he's going to be near you. Trust me, it's worth the trip. He's totally entertaining. I'd even watch a late-night TV show to catch an appearance by him. Unless they're being pre-empted by live reporting from our latest invasion.
I'm also committed to reading all the Strange-Quinn novels by George Pelecanos, so 'Hell to Pay' is my second shot of straight reality to counter all the weirdness I'm importing. Like the Rhys Hughes, this is fast, easy reading. I can see it getting read in one day on a sunny beach, assuming we get any sun in Hawaii. This will leave only 'Soul Circus' to complete the preparation for 'Hard Revolution'. I must say that Pelecanos is to my eyes clearly preparing for the prequel, even in the book I just read, 'Right as Rain'. There are plenty of hints in that book about Derek Strange's past, plenty of references. I'm curious to see how the hints develop as the novels progress. What fun it is being a totally compulsive reader! Especially when you latch on to an author like Pelecanos, who writes with such astringent clarity that his books might be the mystery equivalent of Listerine.
|Researching the family legend of Zeppelins and Brazil.
7' is also coming with me. There are lots of
short stories here, all of them in the Pelecanos mode,
from what I can
tell. I read
a couple or three in between novels and I've polished
off the collection before I know it. 'Crimewave' is always
enough, one of its contributors (though not in this issue)
is coming to the US to tour, and I'm hoping to talk to
would be Ian
Rankin. He's showing up shortly before Jasper Fforde.
I wouldn't put it past the publishers to try to save money
booking them both
in some godforsaken deal with the airline devils. Yes,
readers, authors love being uprooted from their comfy
chairs and shoved
into a flying
cigar tube and dragged from hotel to hotel and bookstore
to bookstore in a relentless thirty-day death march year
after year. The next
time you see a cheerful author at a book signing, remember
this and thank
him or her profusely. Buy his or her books even if you
don't read them. They're working overtime and they damn
well deserve it.
Another interstitial selection is Elizabeth Moon's 'Bibliomancy'. Four novellas from PS Publishing, from the author of 'Black Light', an interesting novel that sort-of defined Goth for me at least. You get some award winning material, an introduction by Lucius Shepard, and the usual beautiful production work. Sublime, weird reading for a single sitting.
And finally, for a full bolt of real reality, it's family background investigation time. Yes, that's at least part of the reason for my picking up 'Dr. Eckner's Dream Machine: The Great Zeppelin and the Dawn of Air Travel'. As a child, I seem to remember being told that someone on my father's side of the family was the first person to fly a Zeppelin -- or a dirigible -- across South America or Brazil. All those Kleffels were certainly in Germany at the right time to have picked up such a gig. Between the Internet and Douglas Botting's biography of the father of the Zeppelin, I intend to find out if this is just my childhood imagination acting up on my, old age creeping in, utter fantasy or hard reality.
|Where the laptop will stay for a week.
All of those
will be on the trip, along with my laptop already configured for
a 56K dial-up number
in Hilo. It will be slow going
but lots of reading hopes to get done. It
may never be achieved, but I've prepared a moveable reading
And that's what I
call a vacation.
You can just call it a break in the agony.