A new turn

The last quarter of 2012 was lousy.

Personal illness, dad crippled with aphasia after a stroke went undetected while he was at hospital, son bullied in school (for being a reader, and for being left-handed), major upheaval at work when my employer shifted ownership (we haven’t seen the last of that)… and meanwhile life has to go on.

It has been difficult to find strength enough to carry the day, and reading have been very erratic.

Presently I am reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I found it in a stand of Penguin Classics at the check-out counter in our local bookshop and I thought perhaps a total change would do me good. But I don’t expect to finish it before the year ends, I spend way too much time this winter break playing Skylanders Giants with son for that to happen. And tomorrow we’ll make a go at Settlers of Catan. Good fun!

So – here’s my wish for 2013; that all these things that have been troubling me will turn out better so I can find a calm space to read in.

I look forward to Guy G Kay’s River of Stars, and C.J. Cherryh‘s 14th Foreigner novel – Protector, both due in April. April will also see the last instalment in Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Assassini trilogy – The Exiled Blade. And I am certain other books will find their way to me, newly published and old ones yet unread.

Granted I can find the energy for them.

Ahead, new year!

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Read: The Fractal Prince, by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Fractal Prince is a hard book to review. It picks up where The Quantum Thief left off. But were left it off? And were to? The Thief is after something but what, we don’t know, just as no one else in the tale seems to. Except perhaps Matjek, the head of the disembodied Sobornost; those who believe Mind is more precious than Matter and thus have left it behind. Who might be the one the Thief is after.

But not even the Thief knows, being denied his Sobornost qualities as part of a punishment.

Making any sense? Weeeell…

In this book the Thief is trying to get hold of a back-up copy of Matjek and the hunt takes him to Earth. And beyond everything else the Thief is a con artist so he cons his way into Earth politics, meeting up with the other thread of this story – the Gomelez sisters, living on an Earth were stories are viral, in all respects; in a post-apocalypse so wide it could just as well be another part of the galaxy.

The Earth parts I think the best. The overall context is still Brit SF, what with quantum theory and metaphysical minds, but Rajaniemi’s vision of a future Earth is poetic and visually wonderful, even in it’s monstrous ruin, filth and poverty.

Rajaniemi writes well – he manages to drag me into the book even as I sometimes have no clue about what really is going on. Not a book for everyone but I, I am looking forward to the next one which I hope will hold the conclusion.

I want to know what this is about!

Reread: Bilbo, by J.R.R Tolkien

I never really enjoyed Bilbo. To me, as a kid, Lord of the Rings was the real stuff, which I devoured again and again and again – dad had the series in a reviewers edition, translated to Swedish, three beautiful books now totally ruined by the pre-teen me sleeping with them under my pillow and then taping the covers together.

Renewed tries at the book did not alter my judgement.

Then an online acquaintance of mine, from the Green Dragon, posted a chapter by chapter analysis of the book. It was fascinating to see how much she could write about each chapter, in an interesting way, and I decided that maybe I should pick it up again but this time in the original English – I do have an Unwin paperback gracing my shelves.

And so I did.

The first half of the book is narrated as it is an oral tale, making use of the oral way of expressing what is happening. I am of course no expert in the English language, far from it, but to my ears the language of the first half is poetic, in a fun, rhyming, way. After the company pass through the Mirkwood the language starts to get more  prosaic, and some of the flow of the text vanishes. At the same time Bilbo changes from a soft naive to being stealthily smart, in his own way, somewhat thanks to the Ring but also because he doesn’t strive for the big things, the gold, the treasure, or the heroism. The good things are the small things, like the smell of bacon and a cosy bed. The rest is only trouble. A kind of back to the roots nostalgia, which I dislike.

Despite this I can say that the original English is, while not great literature, certainly worth reading. The total opposite of the Swedish original translation, made by Britt G Hallqvist, which lack the poetry of the original text, even as it tries to copy it.

There is a new translation out but I can’t comment on it – the book is not good enough for me to own three different versions of it ;-)

Read: Deliberations (a Foreigner short story), by C.J. Cherryh

It can come as no surprise that I greatly enjoy the science fiction of C.J. Cherryh, and while my favourite books are in the Alliance/Union & Compact Universe I am also a fan of the Foreigner series.

Deliberations is something as rare as a Foreigner short story. Not a prequel, but a glimpse into the atevi world prior to when Bren’s story begin it lets us see into the minds of Tabini and Ilisidi respectively, at the eve when Tabini is about to come of an age and to claim the aijinate. Most of the text is retrospective, with Ilisidi reflecting on her two stints as “almost-aiji”, and we hear her version of the modern history of the Aishidi’tat.

I am in two minds about the story.  It is a Foreigner short story, and we get to meet two of the major players during a time we know about only through hearsay and rumour. Candy! But. The story is not true to history as we know it; it do fit recent developments but contradicts “common knowledge” and thus feel much like a retcon.

Which is fine. It is the author’s prerogative to do whatever the tale need.

It’s just that… it jars a bit, to someone like me. So. I am unable to decide on which side of the fence to set down; balancing precariously in the middle.

Sometimes that’s all one can do ;-)