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 ;-)

Review: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

This book is well written and the story well told, no doubt about it. Too bad, then, that it doesn’t speak to me. I am certain that had I not read stories like Neuromancer and Snow Crash, back in the days, the impact of Ready Player One had been bigger but also I never was much of a gaming nerd. Fact is when my math and physics teacher got tasked with teaching us students to program in Basic, on ABC80 computers – and I admit I don’t remember if that was in 1982 or 83 – I vowed never ever to work with computers. Those stupid text based brainless things that spat Error11’s at me were idiotic. Period. So I’m not entirely in the target range for this tale.

On the other hand this DID change and I reconnected with computers during the late 80’s. Since 1991 they have been my livelihood and at that point I did take to gaming, but only for a few years. I lost interest somewhere at the time Doom turned to Quake. I just don’t have time for such things. Fun, but not fun enough to be prioritised above my family, or to take the place of reading.

Just to say I’m not clueless and that’s why Ready Player One didn’t do it for me ;-)

The tale is told as from the memory of Wade Watts, an orphaned kid growing up in poverty, in a white trash trailer park on steroids. His only escape is the virtual world of OASIS, and he is not alone. Millions of millions of people look at the unreal as their only way out of the misery a collapsed global economy and ecological disaster has left for most of humanity to live in. When the mega-billionaire OASIS founder dies, leaving as his will a riddle and the promise of a quest for his heritage, Wade decides to make a try at it as his off chance to a ride out of misery. The tale is the story of his quest, and as the OASIS founder was obsessed with 80’s culture the quest is a ride through 80’s music, film and gaming.

Definitely recommended to anyone who actually spent time in the pop-stream of the 80’s, not to mention anyone who was obsessively playing computer-based games back then, arcade or not.

For those of us who spent our 80’s time  in other ways – well, it IS a good read. Just not the ultimate nostalgic experience it might be for those who did ride the wave, way back.

Review: Riders of the Storm, by Julie E Czerneda

Some books are almost impossible to review. Riders of the Storm is one of those. While reading it (it’s book 2 of 3 in the Stratification Trilogy) I was immersed in the story but when my head popped out of the book, after the last word left my retina… I just don’t know what to think.

In the first book (Reap the Wild Wind) I felt grateful that she – Czerneda, author of these books – didn’t let her characters drown in needless romantic involvements. True, there were hints of possibilities, but nothing overt. This is also, partly, how this, the second book, starts.

Book one focuses on how change and evolution is inevitable, that not even the strictest rule/r can stop it from happen, and that knowledge – if not understanding – can be a facilitator for such change.

In this second instalment focus has shifted to look at consequences, what happens when you do things without understanding the larger context, but it’s also about taking responsibility and about society; what do a society need to sustain itself?
This is the main storyline, carried by the young woman Aryl Sarc.

The second storyline, or point of view, is that of Enris Mendolar. His use is to provide character depth and back story to some of the supporting cast, and to convey a wider, more complex, picture of the world than one person – Aryl – possibly can provide. This works well. Until the last handful of pages. I can forgive that, it’s a good read. But I think it was a bit too much, even given what happens is founded in the previous 800+ pages of the story. It’s also more romance than this books needs.

All in all a good read; I look forward to reading part three, whenever it arrives in my mailbox.
But be prepared for some truly deus ex machina moments, however consistent with the described world they may be. (Hint – on Star Trek they originally invented the ‘transporter’ so the cast could go places without spending TV time/production cost on being ferried around…)

Review: To Ride Hell’s Chasm, by Janny Wurts

The princess vanishes after her betrothed arrives for their marriage and everyone thinks she has been abducted when in reality she is fleeing for her life. Her only hope is Mykkael, the foreigner captain in command of the Lowergate garrison, but to some he is also the prime suspect – mainly based on his foreignness. The commander of the royal guard, and as such Mykkael’s commanding officer, feels he should trust the captain but is too bound by tradition and law to do so.
Mykkael on his part carries a heavy burden of guilt, a guilt which drives him to act in a way to draw suspicion, acting on his oath of loyalty to Sessalie’s king and not heeding command were he thinks it contrary to this oath.

To Ride Hell’s Chasm is a pageturner, even if the prose sometimes gets a bit dense, seamlessly intertwining discussions of racism, fear of the unknown, honour and ethics with good worldbuilding and strong characterisation.

I think it sad that such a good work is soiled by second rate craftsmanship when it comes to the book’s binding and production – usually I love looking at the maps that accompanies a book in the high fantasy genre but this time someone has sent low resolution placeholders to final print. The result is blurred, pixelated, artwork. A disgrace.

Anyone holding the book thinking of buy/not buy should look further than that – the tale is a good one, well worth the time it takes reading it. And strictly speaking – the maps are not needed to follow the story. Because Janny Wurts is real good at painting that picture in words, too.

Quest for knowledge

I’m on a quest. It’s a personal one – I try to learn at least one new thing every day.

I’m not always successful, but I do try.

Some things don’t qualify, even if I didn’t knew them before. The retail price for a bed frame is, as an example, exempt. So are knowledge of events, like the recent wild fires in Australia.
There’s a fine line in there somewhere, and I think the rules don’t stand scrutiny. But still – I try to learn new things.

The day I resign from this quest I could just as well kiss life goodbye. Because getting to know and understand things are parts of what makes life interesting.

Today I learnt one new word. Adduced. It means ‘offer as proof/evidence’. I have seen it before, but it wasn’t until today that I actually checked its meaning.

Yesterday was void of learning, and thus a lost day.

Tomorrow hopefully brings something new.