Greetings from a Cold Place



Winter landscape, originally uploaded by busifer.

Winter view from the cabin, up north. A good time was had by all but while it might not seems like it this is a colour picture. Taken at half past noon, in -29 deg C.

Still 200 pages to go on the book I’m reading – Trading in Danger, by Elizabeth Moon – so next review will be some time yet but I think I’ve decided Moon writes scifi chicklit… and I’m not entirely sure I’m comfy with that. But we’ll see how things develop.

See you around :D

Review: Islamofobi, by Mattias Gardell

In a time when billboards scream at us about the Muslim threat, whipping up fear, Mattias Gardell’s book Islamofobi (Islamophobia) is a timely book and a book that deserves to get read. Gardell methodically shows how the fear of the Other have moved targets over the millennia, catching normally level-headed people inclined towards freedom of thought, speech and expression in it’s wake, making loud cries for control and inhibiting of human rights based on arbitrary and general criteria.
The history of islamophobia in the western world is only one part of the book. For most of the volume he details how Muslims are treated on a daily basis, both politically as a group, and individually, describing conditions I am sure no person would want their kin to endure.

There are those who accuse Gardell of silencing people who want to discuss the Muslim threat. In my opinion that is not what he does. What he says is Muslims are as diverse as Christians in their beliefs and practises, not to mention in interpretation of their holy texts, and that just like Christians are looked at and judged as individuals, so should Muslims.

I don’t agree with him throughout. As an atheist I find no religion inviolable – in fact, I find no religion agreeable but I find many people who believe in what for me is pure superstition to be not only agreeable but nice and kind people, as well as bad-ass egotists. Just like the rest of us.
And no one should be judged based on such superficial grounds as another person’s projection of his or her own fears for the unknown. Especially so when so much of the fear is based on actual falsities, as Gardell shows.

People truly need to read more science fiction, to learn to analyse their own reactions to the unknown. I hereby recommend a healthy dose of anything SF by Cherryh, as a start.
And yeah, I’m serious.
But prior to that anyone reading in Swedish should read this book. Of course.

Not quite a review: The Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

These past two weeks I’ve been reading the first Harry Potter book to our son. I wasn’t too enthusiastic at first but he loves Lego and when they launched their Harry Potter series he got interested and we decided that no way was he going to get some of that if he didn’t first showed interest in the books.

This isn’t as cruel as it might seem. While Lego is the only plaything he has showed a sustained interest in he have plenty and the Star Wars Lego, which is his thing, isn’t exactly the cheapest stuff out there… So adding another expensive universe wasn’t high on our list. So – the Harry Potter books entered our lives.

And I have to admit at least this first one is worth reading. A bit didactic at times, and the Swedish translation uses a few words not every just turned 7 year old have in their vocabulary but it turned out to be good food for discussion – we ended up talking about different meanings of words, about what REALLY happened, why some people do bad things and why you can’t like everyone (and other such things), and as grand finale we summarised the book with a chat about the main theme (we decided it was the value of friendship and cooperation).

All in all a good experience, and as son can’t read English I’ll divulge that he’ll get the second one for Yule. And the third.
We’re both looking forward to that!

Series review: Serrano Legacy/Familias Regnant series, by Elizabeth Moon

This series is the first I’ve read from Elizabeth Moon, and admittedly it’s aimed at a Young Adult segment of which I’m no longer a part of. Still, I think it was a very entertaining and worthwhile read, perfect for those days when you feel you need something that isn’t too hard a chew.

The books hold a high quality throughout, with each book connecting to the other, even when the story doesn’t really come together until the very end, and I get the general impression that either she’s a meticulous writer, or has a good editor. Or perhaps both? ;-)
This contributes to the reading experience. Consistency is nor easy to achieve over a series as long as this – seven books, all in all. And despite the general lightness this is, in the end, no shallow bubblegum.

One of the hidden aspects of the series is that it manages to depict a broad variety of cultures having a common root on Old Earth, ie with us as we is today, yet show how utterly different all those cultures are. It is easy to overlook but it’s also a reminder that no, just because we’re Homo Sapiens, all of us, it doesn’t mean we’re identical twins.
And what would happen to society if our Cult of Youth Eternal got help from Medicine, with the advent of rejuvenation drugs?
Certainly, rejuv is not the only theme but the exploration of our preoccupation with youth and the hunt for youth eternal is the main thread, and the series offers a close up examination of the consequences that follow. When this is done in a series aimed at young people it’s even more interesting, and it’s in that perspective the very ending, the closing chapter, should be seen – that you can’t have it all and that loss needn’t be the end of the world.

What does bother me a bit is the military ethos permeating the books. At times it feels like covert marketing promoting a military lifestyle. Over all this is something I can look past, especially as I don’t think she’s making it look overly glamorous – people actually DO die, sometimes, and there are selfish villains in flag rank ;-)

I think this is a series worth the time it takes reading all seven books. Perhaps not revolutionary literature but well written, entertaining and food for thought none the less, if you stop for it. Highly recommended for palate-cleansing, for anyone reading in the science fiction genre.

The series consists of –
#1 Hunting Party
#2 Sporting Chance
#3 Winning Colours
#4 Once A Hero
#5 Rules of Engagement
#6 Change of Command
#7 Against the Odds

EDITED (a couple of days later) TO ADD – On a fast reread I found that I’ll have to retract a statement from this post, namely the one where I say Moon had a good editor for these books. The second book – Sporting Chance – has more editing errors than most books that I’ve read, and given the quality of some that is no mean feat. The Guerni Republic gets named Golan, and sometimes the two names show in consecutive paragraphs, referring to the same place, and it doesn’t stop there.
All in all, though, this doesn’t change my verdict on the series – as a whole it stands to scrutiny and that is what matters.