November 2012


Booking Through Thursday

I was talking to a co-worker the other day about a book I’d read recently, and realized how very, very few people I can do that with. In my daily life, it seems like almost no-one reads anything more than a newspaper or a fashion magazine. I only have one person I can truly chat about books with … and yet, being a Capital-R-Reader, I simply can’t imagine going through life without a book constantly at hand, or shelves of them proudly displayed downstairs. I’m proud of being a person who not only reads, but who reads a lot–not just in volume but in variety. I like having an inquiring mind. I like exploring new ideas. I love following an intricately plotted story (the more layers the better). I love BEING a reader and simply can’t imagine what it’s like to go through life without being one.

Am I the only one who feels this way? That wonders at how other people can simply NOT do something that should be so essential? Who feels almost sad that so many people seem content to go through their lives without stretching their mental wings at all?

Can you imagine NOT being a Reader? How does it shape your life? Your perception of it?

How does being a Reader affect your relationship with all those folks who are looking at it from the other side and simply can’t understand how you can sit and READ all the time?

Yep, it’s a long-winded, philosophical springboard to a ephemeral conversation … go, see what you can make of it!

Being a reader is a part of who I am. I also tend to think of being a reader together with enjoying certain genres: fantasy and science fiction. I enjoy SF and fantasy in TV series and movies (and comics), too, but I can’t imagine enjoying them “just” on screen. So, I can’t really imagine not being a reader.

I have a few people in real life with whom I can talk about books but they haven’t read all the same books as I do. In fact, I’m more likely to be able to talk about Star Trek TV shows or Star Wars movies with them.

I’d like to say that being a reader has made me more compassionate towards other people, knowing that they all have their own stories, but that’s not true. If anything, I’m probably more absentminded because I’m thinking of how a series or a book will continue. 🙂 The only people who have ever wondered (out loud anyway) how I can read all the time, were bullies at school. Luckily, my parents encourage reading (and education) and my brothers read, too.

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A stand-alone SF book which was the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner.

Publication year: 1968
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1989
Format: print
Finnish translator: Kari Nenonen
Page count: 169
Finnish Publisher: Jalava

Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter working for the San Francisco police. His job is to hunt down and kill any androids who have fled from their owners and come to the SF area. He considers himself a poorly paid civil servant who has to hunt the “andys” to get the bonus money. He’s married but apparently his wife is a housewife. Even though money is tight, neither of them even considers that the wife, Iran, could get a job. The other POV character is J. R. Isidore, a special, a human whose brain functions have been damaged by radioactive dust. He ends up living in the same building as one of the androids.

In this world, Earth has been devastated by a nuclear World War and the nuclear dust has contaminated pretty much everything. Everyone is encourage to emigrate to other planets and everyone who moves away from Earth gets a personal android. Rick hunts down these androids who have escaped from their owners and come to Earth.

Rick hears that his superior, Dave Holden, is in hospital because an escaped andy has shot him. Dave was able to get two of the escaped androids but six more are in SF, pretending to be humans. The androids are of new design, Nexus-6, who are reputed to be hard to find out even with the sophisticated Voight-Kamff empathy test. Rick agrees to retire the androids.

However, first he’s sent to Rosen Industries where he’s supposed to test some suspected androids. Instead he ends up testing Rachael Rosen who is introduced as the director’s niece. Rachael fails the test and the Rosens try to bribe Rick that he would be silent about it. However, it turns out that Rachael is an android after all. Then a Russian agent arrive to SF and wants to hunt the androids with Rick but the Russian turns out to be a android himself. After a brief struggle, Rick kills the android and starts to hunt down the others.

Meanwhile, Isidor works as a driver to a “veterinarian” who repairs artificial animals. However, a new client gives Isidor his pet and Isidor doesn’t realize that the cat is a real animal. It dies on the way to the clinic. The clinic’s owner is livid with Isidor and forces him to call to the client. Isidor knows that his mental abilities are impaired and he’s dreading the call. The client’s wife answers and Isidor is able to deal with her.

When Isidor notices that someone has moved in to the otherwise empty building, he has the confidence to talk with the new person. The new renter, or squatter rather, calls herself first Rachael Rosen and then Pris Sutton. Despite her forbidding attitude, Isidor realizes that he would like to be around other people and strikes up a sort of friendship with her. Mostly, Isidor does think for her, unasked, and she tries to keep him away from her.

The world is pretty depressing. The people who still are on Earth know that they’re stupid to still be there and are pretty hopeless. The people use empathy boxes which link them into other people using the boxes and to Wilbur Mercer whose suffering the people witness when they use the boxes. They also share each others’ emotions, joy and depressions. Mercer and the boxes have even become a religion, Mercerism, where everyone is connected and one with each other. People also use technology to alter their own moods using the Penfield wave transmitter. They also watch TV a lot. Buster Friendly’s show runs 23 hours a day and everyone is watching it.

The radioactive dust has killed off wild animals. Now, it’s every person’s social duty to own an animal and take care of it publicly. The animals are quite expensive so the poorest people have synthetic animals who are so well built that it’s almost impossible to know that it’s fake. Rick has an artificial lamb and he keeps it on the roof of his building, together with his neighbor’s horse. He marvels at Rosen Industries’ animals which even includes an owl which are officially extinct. The Rosen try to bribe him with the owl.

I’ve watched Blade Runner a few times and I’m surprised by how different the movie and the book are. For example, in the book the androids seem to have been built for working in environments where humans can’t work. So there are no battle or pleasure models in the book; in fact sex with androids is illegal.

Rick grows more introspective during the story. At the beginning, he has no problems “retiring” androids but he starts to wonder about the reality of things and people around him. He claims that he can sense when a person is an android because he or she is emotionally cold. However, he meets another bounty hunter who is as cold as the androids. He’s also not really invested in Mercerism and wonders if that makes him emotionally cold. The caring of animals is supposed to make people more empathetic but seems more like a status symbol to me. Isidore’s client’s wife says that her husbands loved the cat so much that he can’t bare to hear that it’s dead; yet the wife is the one who takes care of the cat.

In the middle of the story, there are scenes that invite the reader to wonder if Rick is an android with artificial history and feelings. I wondered about it but Rick never did. He was sure that he’s a real human.

Today, the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life Books That Started Your Book Addiction.

I was very young and impressionable back then.

1, Famous Five
I collected the Finnish translations obsessively, even the few comic books, and I still own almost a full set.

2, Nancy Drew
Interestingly enough, Nancy was translated into Paula in Finland.

3, The Black Stallion
One of my favorite horse books ever.

4, Various horse books by Merja Jalo
A Finnish book series set on a riding school. I doubt they have been translated into English.

5, Lotta books by Merri Vik
A humourous Swedish book series about an ordinary girl.

The third and final book of the Outcast Chronicles.

Publication year: 2012
Page count: 559
Format: print
Publisher: Solaris

290 years ago the peace accords were signed between the True-men (whom the T’En call Mieren) and the powerful and long-lived T’Enatuath (whom the humans call the Wyrd). The two races have co-existed in an uneasy peace since then. Sometimes half-bloods (whom the T’En call the Malaunje and the humans call the Wyrd) are born to two True-men parents. According to the accords, the True-men have to give up the half-blood infants to the T’En.

But king Charald has broken the accords. He attacked the T’En Celestial City and only the cunning of the T’En’s elected leader Imoshen allowed her to negotiate a treaty. According to the treaty, the T’En and Malaunje are allowed free passage to ships which will take them away forever. However, ambitious rebel baron Eskarnor attacked the T’En. Even though king Charald’s declining mental and physical health has been kept a secret, Eskarnor has learnt of it and is taking advantage of it. Now, he has kidnapped old king Charald’s young queen and raped her. Eskarnor intends to murder king Charald and marry the queen so that he will take the throne. However, Charald’s adviser Sorne is trying his best to unite the land against the usurper baron and get the queen back safely. Sorne was born a half-blood so most of the Mieren hate him, which that makes his task very difficult.

Meanwhile, after enduring several attacks the T’Entuath and the Malajaune have finally reached the ships which are supposed to take them to safety. They have a long journey ahead of them but before that they still need to wait for the last of their own people to reach the ships. They are sailing to a temporary safe harbor. In addition to the threat of the Mieren who are anxious to get their hands on the T’En’s rumored wealth, Imoshen has to deal with the suspicions and grumpy T’En leaders who are always looking to increase their own stature – at the cost of other T’En. Unfortunately, at these critical times, their ambitions and their lack of trust to each other could be the end of the whole race.

Kyredeon leads one of the biggest warrior brotherhoods but instead of leading with honor, he keeps the less powerful warriors in line with fear. Even some of his own men have started to think that he’s corrupted in his fear and hatred. Tobazim is a young warrior who has only recently joined Kyredeon’s brotherhood but already the leader has singled him out as a threat. Tobazim has a circle of supporters but most of them are young warriors who resent Kyredeon and Tobazim is afraid that Kyredeon will kill him and his supporters.

In the previous book, Exile, we were introduced to a family of two runaway Malaunjes. The greedy Mieren killed the parents and brought the children to the T’En. Now the six children are being torn away from each other because some of them are Malaunje and some are pure T’En, and in the T’En society the T’En don’t acknowledge their Malaunje kin. However, because the kids have grown together, it hard for them to follow this rule. The Malaunje girls are also now automatically servants according to the T’En society’s rules and proud Aravelle can barely stomach that.

The third book in the series is just as intense as the others, full of action, politics, and tragedy. People will have to do heartbreaking things to save their lives or the lives of others. The book also deals with child abuse.

Sanctuary doesn’t have as much out-right warfare as the previous book but the True-men, the Mieren, are just as greedy and ruthless as in the previous books. They will try their best to rape, kill, and rob every last T’En rather than let them sail away. Some of the T’En are also misusing their position and abuse the Malaunje they’re supposed to protect. Also, some the more powerful Malaunje abuse the other Malaunje. One of the themes of the book is how power and ambition corrupts people.

The T’En culture is as fascinating as ever with a lot of internal conflict and suspicions. Imoshen has to resort to outright trickery to get the various brotherhoods and sisterhoods to work together long enough to save their race. She’s also an idealist and tries to take small steps to change the culture which divides T’En women and men from each other from birth. However, many of the people she depends on are traditionalists who would be horrified with the changes she’s dreaming about.

The characters are mostly vivid and compelling, especially the T’En. Unfortunately, most of the Mieren are left almost as caricatures of hatred and greed. Imoshen was raised outside the T’En society and sometimes she has difficult time fitting in. She’s convinced that the T’En society is limiting both individuals and the whole race from growing to their full potential. But most of the T’En don’t want to change. The young warrior Tobazim is an exception to this; he wants his leader Kyredeon deposed and a safer life for everyone in the brotherhood. Tobazim’s gift is for seeing how buildings are put together and the weak spots in them. Now, he can use his gift for people as well. For most of the series, Sorne has been torn between his loyalty to the old ruthless king Charald and to the T’En. Now, he’s thinking of doing one last service to the Mieren before joining the T’En in their exile.

Sanctuary is an intense and satisfying conclusion to the series.

The author kindly sent me a review copy.

Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

“You’re a True-Man. What’re you doing with the Wyrds?”
Sanctuary by Rowena Cory Daniells

This is the third, and final, book in the Outcast Chronicles. The books follow the clash of two races and cultures. One of them are humans without magical powers and the T’Entuath, called the Wyrds, who have magical gifts. The humans hate and fear the Wyrds. The series is epic fantasy.

At the beginning of this book, the Wyrds have been driven into exile. They have a few humans among them, who are also outcasts among their own kind. I presume that the discussion is between these two. However, they aren’t main characters so the book opens with secondary characters. We haven’t really seen sympathetic humans characters in this series but maybe that will change.

My second reading challenge for 2013 is the New Authors challenge. It’s hosted by Literary Escapism.

Here are the guidelines:

1, The challenge will run from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013.
2, Since this is an author challenge, there is no restriction on choosing your novels. They can definitely be from other challenges. However, the authors must be new to you and, preferably from novels. Anthologies are a great way to try someone new, but only a third of your new authors can be from anthologies.
3, I want this to be an easy challenge, so you can pick to do either 15, 25 or 50 new authors. It all depends on how fast you read and how adventurous you want to be. If you reach your goal halfway through the year, don’t stop. Any new author you try can be added to Mr. Linky. We all want to know about your new experience.
4, After reading your new author, write your review and then come back here and add your link to Mr. Linky. Make sure you include your name and the author, but adding the title is completely up to you.
5, Bloggers or Non-Bloggers alike are welcome. You don’t have to have a site to participate. You can link up via Facebook, GoodReads or even Amazon if you’d like.

I’m going to choose 25 authors.
1, Yvonne Navarro: Wicked Willow I – the Darkening
2, Jill Archer: Dark Light of Day
3, Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio: Agatha H. and the Airship City
4, Steven Harper: The Doomsday Vault
5, Sean Ferrell: Man in the Empty Suit
6, Paul Byers: Act of God
7, Yvonne Carroll: Leprechaun Tales
8, Patrick Weeks: The Palace Job
9, Issui Ogawa: The Lord of the Sands of Time
10, Peter Ackroyd: London Under
11, Jim C. Hines: The Stepsister Scheme
12, Aliette de Bodard: Servant of the Underworld
13, Rosa Montero: Tears in Rain
14, Adam Christopher: Empire State
15, Robert J. Sawyer: Flashforward
16, Martha Miller: The Retirement Plan
17, Jefferey Deaver: The Bone Collector
18, Donna Leon: Death at La Fenice
19, P. C. Martin: Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus
20, Patricia Barnes-Svarney: Loyalties
21, Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian
22, Michael J. Martinez: The Deadalus Incident
23, Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling ed.: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells
24, Karina Cooper: Gilded
25, A. Lee Martinez: Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain
26, J. G. Ballard: The Drowned World

A stand alone SF book. Part of the Alliance Space omnibus.

Publication year: 1983
Page count: 388 in the omnibus
Format: print
Publisher: Daw

This book is anthropological SF about a colony on a planet which the human inhabitants call Gehenna. It’s written in short scenes and discussions and mission reports and memos. The reports and memos tell things which the characters either don’t know or don’t have to infodump in a conversation.

The story starts on Cyteen where the Union is launching a top secret mission to build a base and colony on Gehenna. Most of the people going are azi who aren’t even told where they’re going or why. Yet, they’re expected to be the workforce of the colony and start their own families, with which they don’t have any experience. The others seem to be mostly military and scientists who are either traveling with their families to get a new start or retiring, like the governor-to-be who has lost his wife and any interest in life.

Unfortunately, the colonists don’t know that they are set to fail. The Unionists are predicting that the Alliance will expand its reach to that part of space, so the colony is sent there are a complication to the Alliance. The loss of life is seen as unfortunate but required for the good of Union.

We follow the start of the colony through the eyes of the governor colonel James Conn, scientist Marco Gutierrez, and azi Jin. Gutierrez especially is excited about the alien life forms on the planet: the ariels and the calibans which are sort of lizard like. The ariels are small and fly around while the calibans are very large and the recommendation is to avoid them. The calibans build mounds but the scientists don’t know much about them. The previous survey decided that they aren’t intelligent. Of course, such a quick assessment leads into all kinds of trouble.

On the planet, things start to fall apart quickly. Conn decides not to do much research, to the frustration of the scientists, and the equipment breaks down. The colonists wait for a promised ship which should have more equipment and personnel but it never arrives.

The azi, and the others, start having kids but some of them behave in strange ways and the adults don’t really know how to deal with them. There’s a sad difference between the azi Jin and his born children who haven’t been been taught by tape but had to learn everything. The kids see Jin as limited and poor Jin picks up o that. Some of the children seek out the calibans and run away.

Alliance ship lands. At first they try to give humanitarian aid; helping people and even trying to educate them. This ends badly, though.

Then the story jumps ahead about a hundred years. The Gehenna people have broken into two different cultures: one is aggressive with strong class differences and gender roles. It has one male leader who is pretty much a tyrant. The other culture seems to work more with negotiations and while the most dominant leader is a woman, it has several lesser leaders, both male and female. Of course, the cultures are in conflict and the Alliance anthropologists get in involved, in both cultures.

I was really intrigued by the idea of the book. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a bit to be desired. There are a lot of people and a lot of years to cover, so the storyline tends to be choppy and jumps around. We don’t spend a lot of time with each character, so they aren’t terribly deep.

I was fascinated by the calibans and their alien ways. In some way, they reminded me of the way the mri bonded with their creatures (the dusei) in the Faded Sun trilogy, but calibans seemed to be far more independent and more alien. Yet, they were integral to the two societies in the latter half of the book.

The Union and Alliance are shown in very different light in this book. The Union’s actions are contemptible: they send thousands of people in a situation they aren’t expected to survive. Poor azi. The Alliance is ready to give humanitarian aid but their efforts aren’t a success. We see the results of their aid through the eyes of Dean who at first didn’t even know anything about planets. When the Alliance people have educated him, he doesn’t fit in with his fellow colonists but neither is he one of the Alliance people. Yet, if I understood things correctly, he was one of the people building the more moderate society.

Some of the wildlings, the people who run away and live with the calibans in the mounds, kidnap people and gang rape them. Yet, nothing is done about it. In the two cultures which evolve, the wildlings seem to be like priests. I really didn’t like that.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book but I would have like to know more about calibans and how the two different cultures formed.

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