Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review - Some of My Best Friends Are Monsters by Bruce Coville

Short review: Stuart's life is complicated. His best friend is a ghost only he can see, the camp bully picks on him and turns into a monster, and he's being chased by a walking mummy. Just a normal summer at Camp Haunted Hills.

Colton is a jerk
Glassman wants to make movies
Campers are monsters

Full review: In Some of My Best Friends Are Monsters, Coville continues the story of Stuart Glassman's sojourn at Camp Haunted Hills, a summer camp for kids that is run by the famous movie director Gregory Stevens which teaches kids film making, picking up where How I Survived My Summer Vacation left off. This installment continues the kitchen sink approach to storytelling that seems to be de rigeur for this series, with the campers joined by Roger the Ghost, a walking, talking Egyptian mummy, and a formula that transforms people into monsters. But the main story of the book is Glassman's conflict with the camp bully Lucius Colton, who seems to have taken an instant dislike to the nerdy and bespectacled Glassman.

The main conflict of the book is fairly simple: Colton hates Glassman and acts like a jerk - pushing him around, dumping food on his head, and destroying his property. Glassman explains that he's tried reasoning with Colton, fighting Colton, and otherwise getting Colton to get off his back, all to no avail. Roger, well-meaning but kind of dumb, tries to help by pulling a prank on Colton which more or less backfires, resulting in a mess that embarrasses Glassman's favorite counselor Harry Housen and that Glassman and his Brenda Conners have to clean up. And of course, despite being the result of good intentions on Roger's part, it does nothing to slow down Colton's persecution of Glassman.

Having a ghost who can go anywhere without anyone seeing him as a character allows Coville to throw in some story elements out of left-field, and he does. Roger tells Stuart and Brenda that a delivery made to Gregory Stevens' home was a real Egyptian mummy, and that one of the delivery men stole something from the mummy's case. Coincidentally this story is related to Stuart and Brenda immediately after they find a mysterious gold bug-shaped object on the ground near the trail to Stevens' house, although neither of them make the fairly obvious connection.

Because the book is only 106 pages, the story hustles along quickly . Colton tries to get revenge on Stuart by turning the tables and playing the trick Roger played on Colton earlier on the entire camp. Colton's plan is plan to let Stuart take the blame for the initial disaster and at the same time save everyone himself and get the accolades of being a hero. Through the application of some quick thinking, film special effects technology, and the unexpected intervention of a walking mummy, Colton's plan is foiled, Stuart saves the day, and everything turns out okay.

Well, sort of. Some of My Best Friends Are Monsters is the middle book in the series, and it shows in several ways. The most notable is that by the end of the book, the conflict between Glassman and Colton has resulted in a temporary triumph for Glassman, but remains unresolved. The book does not even include a message about being friends, or being nice, which makes it quite unusual for a Coville story. As a result, the book feels somewhat incomplete, and not much more than some funny filler in between How I Survived My Summer Vacation and The Dinosaur That Followed Me Home.

Previous book in the series: How I Survived My Summer Vacation
Subsequent book in the series: The Dinosaur That Followed Me Home

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review - The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman

Short review: Dream sets out to confront Lucifer, but finds the Prince of Hell has resigned and left him with a problem.

Dream was once in love
But condemned her to rot in Hell
Lucifer retires

Full review: In volume four of the Sandman series, Gaiman reaches back and pulls at a thread that he first established back in Preludes and Nocturnes: Dream's less than successful love life, and his less than compassionate nature. Dream is, after all, one of the Endless, and indifferent at best to human concerns. Season of Mists uses as its backdrop one of the largest possible mythological venues possible: Hell. Despite a tale that deals with the rulership of the infernal domain, ultimately the story is one of personal choice and personal redemption.

But Dream is apparently not immune to human emotions and human pettiness. Because once long ago he fell in love with a woman named Nada, and she doesn't reciprocate. Or at least not in the way Dream expects that she will. And Dream's response to being spurned was to cast his lover in to Hell, a fact alluded to in Preludes and Nocturnes and expanded upon later. And so in this volume the Endless Destiny, spurred by a meeting with the Grey Ladies, calls upon his siblings to gather together: Death, Dream, Despair, Desire, and Delirium so they can meet and talk about nothing in particular. And this meeting results in Dream deciding that perhaps condemning his former love to millennia of torment in the depths of Hell was possibly uncalled for and a may have been mite unjust. This determined, Dream sets out to free his condemned lover from Lucifer's grasp, despite Dream having earned the Prince of Hell's animosity  recovering one of the badges of his office in Preludes and Nocturnes.

On his way to Hell, Dream stops off and visits his one friend Hob who we first met in Dream Country. As he is Morpheus, he visits his friend in a dream, and Hob toasts him, with a slightly prophetic toast that gives this volume its name. This meeting blurs the line between dream and reality in a way that unsettles Hob, showing that even a man who has lived for centuries is not so jaded as to be blase when dealing with one of the Endless. Prepared for confrontation, Morpheus enters Hell, but finds it strangely quiet. He does not find Nada. He is instead met by Lucifer who tells the Dreamlord that he has tired of ruling Hell and is closing the place down. Having ejected all the condemned souls and demons from its environs, Lucifer takes Dream to close the last remaining Gates of Hell before asking him to sever his wings, an act that demotes Lucifer from the ranks of angels (or even fallen angels) and terminates his reign as ruler of Hell. But as he travels about Hell ejecting the last few heoldouts who refuse to leave and locking the remaining gates, Lucifer expounds upon theology, absolving himself of responsibility for the sins of mankind, and placing the blame squarely upon humanity's own shoulders. In this, it seems, Gaiman posits a decidedly humanistic vision of the world. And in one scene it seems that Gaiman is making a statement concerning the self-aggrandizement of humanity. Finally, Lucifer gets his revenge on Dream by handing the Key to Hell over to him. Dream, it seems, must choose the next ruler of Hell.

And Lucifer's gift to Dream does not go unnoticed as he is almost immediately beset by numerous suitors hoping to claim the now-vacated real estate. But first Dream speaks with his sister Death. She has little to say concerning his predicament, but she does reveal something of ominous import: the dead are returning to the Earth. And it only takes a second for the reader to realize it is not all the dead. Just those who had formerly been confined to Hell, a situation that certainly does not bode well for the living. Once again, Gaiman demonstrates his mastery of storytelling by delivering information to the reader subtly, and letting the reader put the pieces of the puzzle together rather than spelling everything out. Gaiman trusts his readers to understand subtlety, and as a result, his storytelling is that much more powerful. But soon the gods and powers arrive on Dream's doorstep: Odin recovers Loki from his underground torment and recruits Thor to keep Loki in line, the angels Duma and Remiel journey from the Silver City, and the demons Azael, Merkin, and Chonizon set out hoping to win their home back. They are joined by the Egyptian gods Anubis and Bast, the Japanese god Susano-o-no-Mikoto, Kilderkin the Lord of Order, Shivering Jemmy, a Princess of Chaos, and eventually Cluracan and Nuala of the Faerie Court. And each seeks the key to Hell, and each, it seems, has an offer to make to Dream.

But first the story returns to Earth to tell the story of a single unremarkable boy named Charles Rowland. In the midst of the tales concerning the disposition of Hell amidst the schemes and machinations of angels, gods, and demons, the story of an English schoolboy living a sad and lonely life as the only student left behind in between terms seems trivial and unimportant. But Charles Rowland is tormented by the spirits of the dead who returned from Hell and had nowhere else to go other than return to the boarding school where they taught, worked, or studied. And with nothing better to do, they repeat history, tormenting and killing Rowland just as they tormented and killed one of their own classmates a hundred years earlier. And it is this that drives home the true impact that Lucifer's abdication of his responsibilities has. When the damned are free to walk the Earth, they are free to inflict chaos and misery upon the living. The true cost of Lucifer's petty revenge upon Dream is shown in this seemingly unimportant interlude.

But the action then shifts back to Dream's domain, and the banquet he has offered his guests while he contemplates the disposal of the Key to Hell. And the reader gets treated to a view of the representatives of the various factions rubbing shoulders with one another; a hugely muscled, crude, and drunken Thor sloppily hits on the finicky Egyptian goddess Bast, Prince Cluracan  of  Faerie offers his sister Nuala as a gift to Dream and then stumbles off to a sexual encounter with one of the Egyptian delegation's servants, and all the while Loki observes all the other participants with a watchful eye, as do the two angels sent from the celestial city. Eventually, of course, each presents themselves before Dream to make the case that they should be handed the Key to Hell.

But what is more interesting than the threats, offers, and pleas is the background of events. As usual in the Sandman books, the things happening in the interstitial spaces of the story are the most interesting - the dinner's entertainment is the recurring character Cain, performing a magic act with his brother Abel in which he yet again kills his sibling. And turns him into sausages. Merkin and Azazel betray their companion Choronzon. Susano-O-No-Mikoto admits to petitioning Dream on his own, without the support of his pantheon. And in a single panel aside one of Dream's servants, a human experiencing Dream's realm in a dream-state, tries to connect with another. And so on. Each of these threads is not a part of the main story line of Season of Mists, but as usual with Gaiman's writing, one can be assured that most of them will become critical elements in later installments of the series.

And in the morning, we get a resolution of sorts. And as is often the case, the events happening in the background seem to suggest more than the main story. Nuala is awakened by her brother and in an aside says that all she hopes for is a good night sleep before chewing up some paper. Nuala's entire demeanor speaks of someone who has been sexually abused, with the implication that Cluracan may be the abuser. After wandering the halls of Dream's mansion and overhearing snippets of conversation from some other factions, Nuala comes to Dream's great hall and we see that the factions we have seen in the story make up only a portion of the petitioners seeking the Key to Hell (with the noted exception of the Greek gods, who apparently declined to attend). In the end the rule of Hell is determined, but not exactly as one might have foreseen. And once again Gaiman returns to the question of what purpose does Hell serve, and what role it's ruler must play - casting Lucifer once again in a sympathetic light and throwing doubt upon the justness of his exile. And Gaiman also makes a commentary on the nature of Hell, and why sometimes love is worse than hate.

But as usual, the important element of the story is not really the disposition of the Key to Hell, but rather the changes to the lives of the characters.  And what the idea of Hell means. The faerie princess Nuala is surprised to learn that she was not merely a bargaining chip, but an unconditional gift to Dream. And we learn of Dream's dislike for illusions. As the representatives of the various pantheons depart, it turns out that at least one of them is not who he seems, and one ends up owing Dream a favor, a development that is certain to feature later in the series. And the story of Nada is resolved, although in a somewhat bittersweet manner, and with Dream once again tangling with one of the powers of Hell in the process.

Although by setting the story against the backdrop of the question of who gets to rule Hell, Gaiman runs the risk of the smaller and more important elements getting lost, I think that it allows him to highlight these story elements all the more. Because the stakes are so high for the various factions that desire the Key, they lay all their cards on the table and we are able to see what their fears and desires are, and everything that they would have to offer Dream. And we also get to see just what Dream does and does not care about - which often seems to surprise his petitioners as well. And we also get a glimpse of how this conflict affects the lives of the mere mortals who live in the shadows of the doings of the gods and the Endless, and this is, in my opinion, the touch that makes this series so good. It would have been easy to deal with the sweeping issues of the series, but it brings the events into much sharper focus to show what effect the doings of the mighty have upon the meek, and how petty and unfair the actions of the mighty seem when this is shown. The story, as a result, seems epic, but only until the implications of the squabbling of the players is shown, which makes this volume so much more compelling to read. Overall, Season of Mists is the strongest volume of the series thus far, and definitely worth reading.

Previous book in the series: The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country
Subsequent book in the series: The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Follow Friday - Thirty-One Is a Happy Prime

It's Friday again, which means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Caught in the Pages and Jenni Elyse.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: In books like the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series the paranormal creature in question "comes out of the closet" and makes itself known to the world. Which mythical creature do you wish would come out of the closet, for real?

I love Tolkien. I think everyone knows this by now. So I want elves to return from the Undying Lands and declare themseves to be real. And when I say elves, I don't mean the long-blonde haired Orlando Bloom styles elves. I mean these guys:

If you don't tell me what I want to know,
I'll imprison you for a hundred years
I first saw the Rankin-Bass version of The Hobbit when it aired in 1977 and I was eight. The image of large-eyed, thin-limbed, arrogant, and autocratic elves has been my conception of elves ever since. In my world, elves aren't pretty, or nice, or even friendly. They are alien. They live forever. They think they are better than you are. If you show up in their kingdom uninvited, they'll assume you are up to no good and throw you in prison for a hundred years until you fess up to whatever nefarious deeds you are planning. And if you kill a dragon, they will show up and demand that you turn over some of the dragon's hoard to them. If you don't agree, they'll lay siege to your entire mountain kingdom to try to make you change your mind.

We want the treasure,
but we hate goblins more.
At least until an army of goblins and wargs shows up. Then they'll turn on them. And that's just in The Hobbit. In the Silmarillion, the elves defy the Valar, kill their own kin to seize their boats, or travel across a hellish domain of ice floes in the name of revenge, so that they can wage an unwinnable war against Middle-Earth's equivalent of Lucifer. And when a man showed up who wanted to marry one of their daughters, they gave him a chance to prove himself worthy - by stealing a prized possession from the crown of the Middle-Earth version of Lucifer. The elves imagined by Tolkien are fey, spiteful, and dangerous. And I wish they were real.

Go to previous Follow Friday: You Can't Trust Anyone Over Thirty, Except Me

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Review - The Skull of Truth by Bruce Coville

Short review: A boy with passing familiarity with the truth acquires a magical skull that compels him and everyone around him to be completely honest, with disastrous results.

Charlie steals a skull
And he has to tell the truth
Instead of lying

Full review: The Skull of Truth is part of the Magic Shop series of books featuring the mysterious magic shop of the mercurial Mr. Elives. As usual, the protagonist, a young man named Charlie, is beset with troubles - mostly involving his efforts to save the local swamp from development, and as a result he has been telling lies about the developer, who is the father of one of his classmates named Mark. In general, Charlie seems to have a hard time telling the truth, and as a result, nobody believes him.

As usual for these books, after a run-in with Mark, serving as the antagonist for this installment of the series, and his assorted gang members, Charlie finds himself in an unfamiliar part of his town standing outside Mr. Elives magic shop. Inside he meets the testy Mr. Elives and becomes enamored of a skull on display. Without understanding why, Charlie steals the skull, and his adventures begin.

Charlie later gets a message from Mr. Elives (delivered by his two talking rat messengers Jerome and Roxanne) warning him of the powers of the skull. It turns out the skull is the Skull of Truth (and also the skull of Yorick of Hamlet fame), and by asking it a question, Charlie opened up communication with it. The Skull can't tell a lie, nor can the owner. Eventually, anyone near it is compelled to tell the truth. Charlie soon learns the drawbacks of always telling the truth: first offending Gilbert, a friend of his recovering from cancer, and then revealing his affection for Karen, a girl in his class.

However, like most of the magic shop books, Charlie's magical McGuffin is intended to teach him a valuable lesson (even though Mr. Elives apparently didn't know he was going to grab it and run out of the shop, a twist new to the series), and through the rest of the book, he learns the value of being truthful with those around you. He learns how to ask for forgiveness, and his efforts to make up for harming Gilbert end up helping Gilbert more than he could have if he hadn't been truthful to begin with. Charlie also learns that when one tells people how you feel, it usually works out to your benefit in the long run. After a humorous scene in which Charlie's family airs outs all their family secrets (unknowingly under the influence of the Skull), Charlie figures out how to use the power of truth to save his swamp, and eventually reconciles with Mark.

The story has a cameo by Jennifer Murdley from Jennifer Murdley's Toad, although you have to be paying attention to notice it. The story has a few minor twists, and the eventual fate of the Skull and Charlie is somewhat unexpected, but not out of character for the Magic Shop books. Charlie ends up wiser for his experience, and a young reader will probably end up having thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Previous book in the series: Jennifer Murdley's Toad
Subsequent book in the series: Juliet Dove, Queen of Love

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review - Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville

Short review: A fun story about finding out what is important with a magical twist.

Murdley's toad can talk,
And it's a pain in the butt,
But teaches her stuff

Full review: Jennifer Murdley's Toad is part of Bruce Coville's Magic Shop series. As with the other books in the series, a young protagonist comes across the Magic Shop and is given a magical gift that turns out to require them to become more than they had been to that point. In this book, the protagonist is a plain looking girl named Jennifer Murdley, and her magical gift is a talking toad named Bufo.

Jennifer is not an attractive girl, and is self-conscious about her appearance - wishing she were blonde and pretty. She is picked on by the popular, pretty girls, and finds herself in an unfamiliar alley with a magic shop. Inside, the odd proprietor sells her what turns out to be Bufo, the talking toad, for a pittance. As might be expected, Jennifer does not consider a talking toad to be something that will improve her position among her peers, and to make matters worse, Bufo is demanding and difficult.

Things go from bad to worse, as Jennifer discovers that a witch is after Bufo, a transforming curse affects Jennifer and her friends, and it proves difficult to keep her talking toad a secret from her brothers and the other people in her life. Jennifer must assume greater responsibility protecting both her toad and those around her, and must come to grips with her own insecurities.

The tale is basically a story about Jennifer growing up, and realizing that what she wants may not actually be something that is all that important. The story is told in a light-hearted humorous manner, although the villain is treated reasonably seriously, as Coville deftly avoids having her end up as a joke. despite the fact that the story is at times predictable, I was caught by surprise by the ending, although in retrospect all of the clues pointing towards the ending were embedded in the plot. Overall, this is a fun little book, well-suited to younger readers, with equal parts humor and adventure well-worth the time spent reading it.

Previous book in the series: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
Subsequent book in the series: The Skull of Truth

1993 Mythopoeic Award Nominees

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Review - Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville

Short review: A fun, but not particularly noteworthy story about a boy who hatches a dragon's egg and raises a baby dragon.

Jeremy likes art
Then he gets a dragon egg
And learns to like girls

Full review: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher is part of the Magic Shop series of books for young readers. The central character of the story is Jeremy Thatcher, an artistically inclined sixth grader who has the misfortune of being both small for his age and apparently cute enough that Mary Lou Hutton wants to kiss him - a prospect he finds horrifying. Despite his artistic talent, Jeremy is convinced that his art teacher hates him.

While fleeing from the proffered kisses of Mary Lou, Jeremy winds up on a street he doesn't recognize and wanders into the magic shop. Once there, he unknowingly buys a dragon egg, and begins the magical portion of the story. After he gets home, Jeremy finds instructions on how to hatch the egg, and later, how to raise his new baby dragon. Jeremy has to research dragons (with the help of a friendly librarian), come up with food to feed his new charge, and try to keep his new companion a secret.

As with most Magic Shop books, the addition of the dragon is presumably to help Jeremy learn something, but that element of this book seems to be somewhat poorly developed. There is a parallel between Jeremy having to give up on winning a school art contest and having to give up the dragon when it grows too large to continue to keep. There is also a related parallel between learning to love the dragon and learning to accept Mary Lou as something other than a yucky girl. Even so, there seems to be little urgency to the part of the plot.

Overall, there is little urgency in any part of the book. Jeremy's art teacher makes for a weak antagonist, as do the two less than impressive bullies Jeremy has to deal with, a contrast to the scary witch villain from (for example) Jennifer Murdley's Toad. The portions of the book that deal with Jeremy raising a dragon, and his joy in producing art are very good, but the book seems somehow incomplete, like only half of the story was written.

In the end, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher feels like it is half of a really good book. As a result, what is written is quite good, but left me frustrated and wanting the other half.

Previous book in the series: The Monster's Ring
Subsequent book in the series: Jennifer Murdley's Toad

1992 Mythopoeic Award Nominees

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Review - The Monster's Ring by Bruce Coville

Short review: By discovering his inner monster, a bullied boy learns how to assert himself, but also learns to exercise restraint.

Russell is bullied
A magic ring from Mr. Elives
Frees his monster self

Full review: The first of the Magic Shop books, The Monster's Ring is a story about growing up, facing your fears, and learning how to confront difficulties without losing your head. It is also a silly story about dressing up and having fun on Halloween.

Russell, the central character of the book, is a fifth grader who is fascinated by monster (owning a huge collection of monster comics) and even though some of his classmates say it is "kid stuff" is excited about the prospect of dressing as a monster for Halloween. To Russell's chagrin, his father doesn't listen to him, and his mother babies him. He is also tormented by the class bully Eddie. While fleeing his nemesis, Russell stumbles onto Mr. Elives magic shop, where the mysterious proprietor sells him "what he needs": a ring.

The ring, it turns out, is magical, and by following some instructions included with it, Russell can turn himself into a monster complete with fur, horns, fangs, and claws. The instructions also say that each turn of the ring will make the transformation bigger and scarier, but warns of possible side effects. Russell, of course, ignores this warning. Using the ring seems to have the side effect of making Russell bolder and more pugnacious, resulting in a fight with Eddie in the cafeteria and a confrontation with Russell's father that finally gets him listening to Russell.

Emboldened by his ability to turn into a scary monster, Russell decides to wear his monster shape as his costume for his class Halloween party. The "costume" is a big hit. Unfortunately, Russell finds himself acting in a most monster-like fashion, behavior he cannot control. The resulting trouble ends up in a confrontation with his mother in which Russell demands that she stop treating him like a baby.

Finally, on Halloween Russell takes the last step and transforms into a hideous winged creature. Halloween is also the night of the full moon, so the transformation is extra powerful. During the night, Russell finds Eddie being bullied himself, and comes to his aid, eventually learning to understand his adversary, and even begins to feel sorry for him. In the end, Mr. Elives comes to Russell's rescue, and all ends well except for the minor side effect that Russell seems likely to turn into a monster every full moon.

The story is, at its heart, a coming of age tale. Russell has to deal with growing up, changing from a little boy into a teenager (growing hair in odd places, uncontrollable urges, and increased assertiveness sure sounds like a boy starting puberty to me). He has to learn to balance his new assertive nature with a bit of sympathy and control, and that story is skillfully told with a humorous bent in this book. This is one of the few books aimed at kids about growing up that is subtle enough and funny enough that it seems to me that it would hold their attention.

My copy of The Monster's Ring is a revised version. In his afterward, Coville explains that when he wrote it, he did not anticipate writing more Magic Shop books. He later revised this book to include cameos from some characters from later books, but based upon his description I don't think that the revision affects the story in any significant way (I can't be sure, since I have not seen the unrevised version). Coville also likes to sneak in references to other books aimed at young readers: In the early part of the story Russell reads Bellairs' The House With a Clock in its Walls. Overall, this is a great beginning to a very good series of books for children, and highly recommended for any elementary school age child.

Subsequent book in the series: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

2011 Hugo Award Finalists

Location: Renovation in Reno, Nevada.

Comments: The 2011 Hugo Awards should have put to rest the canard that women cannot write good science fiction. Not only did Connie Willis win the Best Novel Hugo for her two-part novel Blackout/All Clear, but of the remaining four nominees, three were women. In addition, Mary Robinette Kowal won the Best Short Story Hugo for For Want of a Nail, Sheila Williams won the Hugo for Best Short Form Editor, and women were well-represented in all of the other categories.

The only real disappointment was that Doctor Who won yet another award for Best Short Form Dramatic Presentation for the two part story The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang. But in this year the amazingly brilliant song by Rachel Bloom Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury was also nominated. Granted, Doctor Who is a fine show, but if the award is just going to go to it every year while inventive and original material like Bloom's gets no better than "also ran" status, then the Short Form category is more or less just a waste of an award.

Best Novel

Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis

Other Finalists:
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
Feed by Mira Grant
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Best Novella

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

Other Finalists:
The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen's Window by Rachel Swirsky
The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon by Elizabeth Hand (reviewed in Errantry: Strange Stories)
Troika by Alastair Reynolds

Best Novelette


Other Finalists:
The Jaguar House, in Shadow by Aliette de Bodard (reviewed in Asimov's Science Fiction: Vol. 34, No. 7 (July 2010))
That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made by Eric James Stone (reviewed in Analog Science Fiction and Fact: Vol. CXXX, No. 9 (September 2010))

Best Short Story


Other Finalists:
Amaryllis by Carrie Vaughn
Ponies by Kij Johnson
The Things by Peter Watts

Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Work

Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It edited by Tara O'Shea and Lynne M. Thomas

Other Finalists:
Bearings: Reviews 1997-2001 by Gary K. Wolfe
The Business of Science Fiction: Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing by Barry N. Malzberg and Mike Resnick
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1: 1907-1948: Learning Curve by William H. Patterson, Jr.
Writing Excuses, Season 4 by Brandon Sanderson, Jordan Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells

Best Graphic Story

Girl Genius, Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio

Other Finalists:
Fables: Witches by Bill Willingham; art by Mark Buckingham
Grandville Mon Amour by Bryan Talbot
Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel by Howard Tayler
The Unwritten, Vol. 2: Inside Man by Mike Carey; art by Peter Gross

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form


Other Finalists:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
How to Train Your Dragon
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Toy Story 3

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang

Other Finalists:
Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol
Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor
Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury
The Lost Thing

Best Professional Editor: Short Form

Sheila Williams

Other Finalists:
John Joseph Adams
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Gordon van Gelder

Best Professional Editor Long Form

Lou Anders

Other Finalists:
Ginjer Buchanan
Moshe Feder
Liz Gorinsky
Nick Mamatas
Beth Meacham
Juliet Ulman

Best Professional Artist

Shaun Tan

Other Finalists:
Daniel Dos Santos
Bob Eggleton
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio

Best Semi-Prozine

Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Cheryl Morgan, and Sean Wallace; podcast directed by Kate Baker

Other Finalists:
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
Lightspeed edited by John Joseph Adams
Locus edited by Kirsten Gong-Wong and Liza Groen Trombi
Weird Tales edited by Stephen H. Segal and Ann VanderMeer

Best Fanzine

The Drink Tank edited by James Bacon and Christopher J. Garcia

Other Finalists:
Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Challenger edited by Guy H. Lillian III
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
StarShipSofa edited by Tony C. Smith

Best Fan Writer

Claire Brialey

Other Finalists:
James Bacon
Christopher J. Garcia
James Nicoll
Steven H. Silver

Best Fan Artist

Brad W. Foster

Other Finalists:
Randall Munroe
Maurine Starkey
Steve Stiles
Taral Wayne

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Lev Grossman

Other Finalists:
Saladin Ahmed
Lauren Beukes
Larry Correia
Dan Wells

What Are the Hugo Awards?

Go to previous year's finalists: 2010
Go to subsequent year's finalists: 2012

2011 Hugo Longlist     Book Award Reviews     Home

Friday, August 19, 2011

Follow Friday - You Can't Trust Anyone Over Thirty, Except Me

It's Friday again, which means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Belle Books and Stuck in Books.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?

I would be an Immortal from Poul Anderson's Boat of a Million Years. Because I'd combine two of my fondest fantasies: I'd live forever (they aren't called immortals for nothing), and I'd get to explore the universe in a starship. If I couldn't live forever, I'd still want to explore the galaxy - I'd be a character in Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, so long as I could take Dave Bowman's place on the Discovery, or I'd be a character in Robert L. Forward's Rocheworld series, so long as I could be a member of the crew of the Prometheus. Just put me in a starship headed for unknown parts of the galaxy and I'd be living my dream.

Go to Previous Follow Friday: Twenty-Nine? Hey, That's a Prime Number!
Go to subsequent Follow Friday: Thirty-One Is a Happy Prime

Follow Friday     Home

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review - My Teacher Flunked the Planet by Bruce Coville

Short review: Kids save the Earth from alien judgment with some fairly heavy handed social commentary thrown in.

Humans are evil
Nasty, violent, and cruel
But it's not our fault

Full review: My Teacher Flunked the Planet is the last book in the My Teacher Is an Alien series. I didn't have the earlier books when I read it the first time, but that did not prove to be a significant impediment to enjoying this book due to the concise summary of previous events at the start of the book.

Peter, the human protagonist of the book, having previously uncovered the fact that reasonably benign aliens have replaced some of his teachers, left Earth to learn from the aliens, had his brain removed, studied and replaced, learns that the Intergalacatic Council of aliens has come to believe that humans are too dangerous to allow into space, and will either have their technology cut off, or simply be eliminated. Peter, and two other human children from earlier books - the smart and sweet Susan, and the former bully turned supergenius Duncan - are sent to Earth with three aliens to find a way to prove to the council that humanity doesn't deserve to be eliminated.

At this point, Coville lays on some fairly heavy handed social commentary, as the kids are whisked about the world to witness the worst humans can offer - war, famine, cruelty, indifference to suffering, and so on. Duncan is found by the police and taken away from the group, triggering nasty anti-alien riots. (One oddity in the book is that apparently making Duncan a supergenius also made him nicer, which I don't think follows. Sure, the book gives lip service to the idea that making someone smart doesn't necessarily make them nice, but Duncan, in practice, seems to have been reformed by his brain enhancement. Of the messages contained in the book, I'm least comfortable with the idea that smarter people are nicer).

Just when everything seems lost, Coville throws in what seems to be a deus ex machina ending, as the root cause of humanity's violence and anger is revealed - and it turns out it really isn't our fault. This, to me, undermines the plot of the book: humans aren't redeemed by anything we do, we are redeemed because we have special powers that were previously undiscovered. The message of the book, showing the human costs of violence and indifference, and that humanity is (or should regard themselves as) interconnected, is laudable. Oddly, for a book that deals with such a serious subject, the book is quite humorous too. But the clumsy execution at the end of the book reduces what could have been an excellent book to merely an average one.

Previous book in the series: My Teacher Glows in the Dark

Bruce Coville     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review - My Teacher Glows in the Dark by Bruce Coville

Short review: Peter Thompson has left Earth and discovers that the galaxy is a stranger place than he thought. He also discovers that the Earth is in terrible danger and it is up to him to save it.

Peter leaves the Earth
And has his head examined
To save all of us

Full review: My Teacher Glows in the Dark is the third book in the My Teacher Is an Alien series. The book describes the adventures of Peter Thompson after he left the Earth with the alien Broxholm at the end of My Teacher Is an Alien. The book is told from Peter's perspective, making him the third viewpoint character in the series, the first two having been told from the perspective of Susan Simmons and Duncan Dougal respectively.

The action starts in Kennituck Falls, as Peter and Broxholm evade those who are trying to capture the alien, quickly reaching Broxholm's ship and leaving the Earth. They swiftly travel to the far side of the Moon and rendezvous with the starship New Jersey (so named because the ship is the same size as New Jersey). Once on board, Peter is subjected to some rather unsettling albeit benign boarding procedures and finds himself in a truly alien world. Peter is introduced to the alien Hoo-Lan who undertakes to serve as Peter's teacher to introduce Peter to the intergalactic society he has joined. Hoo-Lan can glow in the dark, giving the book its title, although this doesn't become a plot point (making this the only book in the series where the title isn't a plot point).

Peter quickly learns that the galaxy is stranger than he had previously believed, Peter also discovers that the assembled alien races think humanity is uncivilized and dangerous. Uncivilized because we are unkind to one another: allowing starvation and deprivation, engaging in wars, destroying our environment, and generally behaving badly. Dangerous because we apparently have the largest brains (although we apparently don't use them to their full potential) and are close to discovering the secret of interstellar space flight. This has led the aliens to study Earth to find out why we are the way we are, and divided the aliens into faction that variously believe Earth should be left alone, conquered, quarantined, or destroyed.

Peter agrees to have his brain examined, in an effort to determine if humanity's behavior is due to a biological condition. After much study, the aliens discover that Peter is latently and naturally telepathic, which is apparently quite rare in the galaxy. Unfortunately, while attempting to study this further, Hoo-Lan falls into a coma, which the aliens, of course, suspect is Peter's doing. Oddly, they are made even more suspicious when, despite having given Peter free reign of the ship, he goes to a communications room and contacts Duncan to try to warn Earth of the aliens' plans.

The book ends with the aliens agreeing to give Peter and Broxholm one last chance to find some redeeming characteristic of humanity that would save it, apparently having decided that otherwise they will destroy the Earth. This, to me, exposes the aliens' assertion of their own civilized nature as mere hypocrisy (which seems not to have been Coville's intention). That they are willing to destroy an entire planet (including the environment they are mad at humanity for damaging) merely because of their own fear seems to show their own claims to be utterly peaceful to be hollow and false. This just reinforces the other elements that demonstrate that the aliens are uncivilized in their own way: Broxholm's willingness to harm humans to escape (although it turns out he does not have to), the aliens' original plan to kidnap five unwilling children, and so on.

This, plus the extraordinarily heavy-handed message of the book, prevents the book from being anything more than average. Even making allowances for the fact that the book is aimed at younger readers, Coville ladles the message on in heaping dollops, beating the reader about the head and shoulders with the inhumanity of humans, and asserting the comparative Nirvanah-like nature of the alien civilization. Consequently, despite generally interesting aliens, and a likable protagonist, the book is merely ordinary, which is a disappointment as with less of a heavy hand and more thought given to the alien civilization, the book could have been excellent.

Previous book in the series: My Teacher Fried My Brains
Subsequent book in the series: My Teacher Flunked the Planet

Bruce Coville     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

2011 Prometheus Award Nominees

Location: Renovation in Reno, Nevada.

Comments: While the Prometheus Awards' Best Novel category seems to be working its way down to the bottom of the barrel in a search for nominees, the Hall of Fame has always had a reasonable number of decent (although often only mildly libertarian) books available to fill out its nominee ballot. But the interesting thing in 2011 is that of the five nominees for the Hall of Fame, four of them (including the winner) were works of novella length or shorter. All of these works are excellent pieces of fiction that have stood the test of time, but the fact that they dominate the Hall of Fame ballot suggests that restricting the current ballot to only the Best Novel category may be doing the Libertarian Futurist Society a disservice.

Best Novel

Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt

Other Nominees:
Ceres by L. Neil Smith
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
The Last Trumpet Project by Kevin MacArdry
Live Free or Die by John Ringo

Hall of Fame

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Other Nominees:
As Easy as A.B.C. by Rudyard Kipling
Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster
'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison

Go to previous year's nominees: 2010
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2012

Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review - My Teacher Fried My Brains by Bruce Coville

Short review: Duncan Dougal is stupid and his life is crummy, so he takes it out on others by being a bully. Then his alien teacher makes him smart and he becomes nice.

Duncan is a jerk
Then aliens zap his brain
And he becomes nice

Full review: My Teacher Fried My Brains continues the story begun in My Teacher Is an Alien, following Duncan Dougal as he (and the rest of Kennituck Falls) deals with the aftermath of the revelation that the alien Broxholm had been impersonating a substitute teacher in the local school, and that Peter Thompson had left with the alien.

While the viewpoint character in My Teacher Is an Alien was Susan Simmons, in My Teacher Fried My Brains the viewpoint character is Duncan Dougal, who had been a secondary character in the previous book. Duncan had been established as a dim-witted bully who, in the previous book, had spent most of his time pushing Peter around. In this book, Duncan is revealed as a sad child, pushed around by his brother and abused by his father (it is common in Coville books that childhood bullies turn out to be sad children beset with problems for whom the only way to express their sorrow is to lash out at others). While he still believes himself to be fairly stupid, part of his ignorance is explained by his family's disdain for education and learning. In fact, through much of the book Duncan proves to be fairly astute, even before his brains are fried.

The story of the book revolves around Duncan's suspicions that one of the new teachers at his junior high school is another alien, reinforced by his discovery of a human like "glove" similar to the disguise that had been used by Broxholm to disguise his alien features. After getting in trouble with some typically juvenile delinquent behavior, Duncan narrows his search down to four teachers, finally focusing on the new science teacher. This conclusion is reinforced when he participates in an in-class demonstration of static electricity that he comes to believe has made him smarter. Later, when he tries to make himself even smarter by sneaking into the science classroom after school hours, he discovers an alien creature in the classroom refrigerator that seems to confirm his suspicions.

Eventually, the alien is revealed as is the alien's plot concerning Duncan and the machine used to make him smarter. This is more or less merely a vehicle for Coville to work into the book his argument that humanity is fundamentally inhumane. Duncan's previous behavior, bullying and crude, is contrasted with his nicer, more thoughtful behavior after h has been made smarter. Duncan is also alerted to the fact that the Interplanetary Council (an organization all the alien races of the galaxy belong to) is concerned by the violence and nastiness of humans and is considering what steps to take to neutralize the threat humans pose.

Coville's thesis may be true, but I have some serious problems with some of the elements of the book. The most glaring is the idea that when Duncan becomes smarter, her also becomes nicer and more humane. One only has to think back on human history to realize that being more intelligent does not seem to correlate in any significant way with being nice. I also think that the way the alien treats Duncan - performing experiments on him without his knowledge, kidnapping and then imprisoning him to use his brain as a communications device - seems to pretty much destroy any claim the Interplanetary Council may have to the moral high ground. Coville's theme, that humans are bad and the aliens are more moral and kind, seems to depend on the idea that whatever bad things the aliens do is justified by circumstance (this is not the first time in the series that an ostensibly non-evil alien has kidnapped and imprisoned an innocent human to further their goals). This sort of moral inconsistency simply saps away some of the message that the books are trying to convey.

In the end, some dubious assumptions about human nature and some plot inconsistencies regarding the moral nature of the aliens mar an otherwise fun little book about kids dealing with alien teachers. While My Teacher Fried My Brains has flaws that undermine the message of the story, it remains at the very least a decent book for younger readers.

Previous book in the series: My Teacher Is an Alien
Subsequent book in the series: My Teacher Glows in the Dark

Bruce Coville     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review - My Teacher Is an Alien by Bruce Coville

Short review: There is a new teacher in school who hates Susan Simmons, and things only get worse when she finds out he is an alien.

Mr. Smith hates Sue
Wait! He's a green alien
Peter takes trip

Full review: My Teacher Is an Alien is the first in a four book series, which is fortunate because by itself, it doesn't stand up very well at all. Unfortunately, I was so unexcited after reading this volume had I not read the later books in the series first, after reading this one I might not have decided to read the remainder of the series.

Susan Simmons, the main character, is a fairly popular sixth grade girl, a good student, and a talented piccolo player. She has been looking forward to the spring semester of school because her teacher Ms. Schwartz always has the class prepare a play, and she wants to be an actress. She is horrified to learn that Ms. Schwartz is being replaced by a new teacher named Mr. Smith, and Mr. Smith has no intention of letting the students put on a play or do anything else that is fun.

While attempting to retrieve a note from Mr. Smith's house, Susan discovers the terrible truth about her new substitute teacher: he is an alien disguised as a human. She decides the only person she can confide in is the smart, bookish science fiction fan in her class: Peter Thompson (in one of Coville's typical asides, Peter is seen in one scene reading A Princess of Mars) who is usually bullied by the mean Duncan Dougal. Peter at first thinks she is playing a joke, but they break into Mr. Smith's house again and find Ms. Schwartz imprisoned in a force field where they learn that Mr. Smith (aka Broxholm) intends to take some students from their class away with him for study: the best, the worst, and three "average" students.

The news spreads through the class, and oddly, the kids end up believing it. Even Duncan begins to help Susan and Peter as they try to foil Broxholm's plans. Except that Peter seems to decide to fall on his sword for everyone and works hard to prove he is the best student to ensure he is selected. Everything culminates in a musical finale (it turns out that Broxholm is incapacitated by Earth music) and Broxholm is forced to unmask and show his true alien nature until Peter gives Broxholm and escape route and leaves with him on his spaceship.

And then the story ends. The book has no explanation for why Broxholm needs to abduct some Earth children. There is a bit of wish fulfillment in Peter's character - he decides to leave with Broxholm to fulfill his dream of being in space, a dream likely shared with a lot of kids who will be drawn to reading this book. But without any indication of Broxholm's motivations or intentions, the book seems completely inadequate. The book starts off a decent science fiction series aimed at young readers, but on its own merits it simply falls flat.

Subsequent book in the series: My Teacher Fried My Brains

Bruce Coville     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Review - Space Brat by Bruce Coville

Short review: Blork is a brat who throws epic temper tantrums. Blork is also an alien. That's pretty much it.

Blork's an alien
And he throws temper tantrums
He needs his pants kicked

Full review: Blork is an alien. Through a combination of circumstances, Blork is somewhat unfairly labeled a brat. Because labels are destiny, Blork ends up turning into the brattiest alien kid around - capable of throwing epic temper tantrums to get his own way. Foiled by a computer unimpressed with Blork's tantrum abilities, Blork decides to get attention at school by bringing his large, clumsy, and stupid pet poodnoobie named Lunk to school, with disastrous results. Blork has to free his pet from the large pest control system and flees to outer space. Eventually, he lands in an unknown area and learns a valuable life lesson from the inhabitants.

This is not a great book, but then again, it is clearly aimed at readers who are fairly young, so a subtle approach might not have worked to get the intended message across. A young reader (6 or 7) might enjoy the book, but my guess is that those kids for whom the not so subtle message is intended will probably not be the ones picking it up to read. While it is a funny and silly story decently executed, the book is probably of only minor interest to anyone who has completed the second grade, and likely only somewhat interesting to the younger set.

Bruce Coville     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review - The Dragonslayers by Bruce Coville

Short review: An angry witch. An elderly knight. A headstrong princess. An eager squire. A terrible dragon. Mix them together in a magical forest and produce a fun adventure story.

Take a knight and witch
Add one cross-dressing princess
And fight a dragon

Full review: Take one angry witch, one headstrong princess, one elderly knight, one overly enthusiastic orphan squire, and one conjured dragon. Mix them together in a magical forest, and what you get is The Dragonslayers. You also get a fun story about bravery and a story about what seeking revenge can potentially cost you.

Grizelda is a witch who hates the king. To get revenge, she conjured up a dragon with a spell that causes the dragon to become the instrument of her vengeance. In due course, King Mildred (a name that causes him some consternation) finds out and tries to get his best knights to slay the beast (by offering half his kingdom and his daughter's hand in marriage to anyone who does so). Unfortunately, they all decline the task, and in their stead, Elizar the oldest living squire is quickly promoted and given the task. He chooses an orphan pageboy named Brian to become his squire and together they set off to the Forest of Wonder.

However, the king's headstrong daughter Princess Wilhelmina, who doesn't like the idea of being cooped up in a castle, and absolutely rejects the idea that girls can't be knights, has other ideas. In the proud tradition of headstrong princesses, she disguises herself as a boy, and sets out to slay the dragon herself.

Once the dragonslayers reach the Forest of Wonder, they find themselves drawn into a bunch of adventures, earning a variety of allies and friends along the way. They also end up revealing various things about their respective life histories that make it apparent that Grizelda may end up getting her revenge in a way that will be more painful for her than it is for the king.

The couple of plot twists at the end are fairly obvious, although as this is a book aimed at younger readers, that is probably to be expected. The various characters are all likable enough that it isn't really a problem when all the troubles are solved in the end and all the loose ends tied up in a nice little bow. Overall, this is a very good fairy tale with a nice moral told with a little wit and a lot of humor.

Bruce Coville     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Follow Friday - Twenty-Nine? Hey, That's a Prime Number!

It's Friday again, which means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Teen Fiction Centre and Steph Likes Books.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: How has your reading habits changed since you were a teen?

I'm not a teen so I am going to ignore the alternate portion of this question (which was: If you are still a teen what new genres are you in love with currently?) and just answer the part applicable to me. I think that the primary difference between me as a reader now and the reader I was as a teen is that I try to pay attention to the authors and titles of the books I am reading now. My biggest problem as a reader is remembering what I actually read back when I was a teen, because I would just pick up a book, plow through it, and then move on to the next one. The result is, there are many times when I am asked "Have you ever read such-and-such book by so-and-so" and I have no idea. Or I'll pick up a book that looks interesting, and once I start reading it I'll realize that I read it when I was fourteen.

For example, I read Robert A. Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy when I was a teenager. I loved the story and remembered it quite well, but I did not recall that it was written by Heinlein or the name of the book. Then I picked it up in a bookstore because the cover looked interesting and it was a Heinlein book I thought I had not read yet. Some authors and books I never forgot, whole piles of others I simply don't recall the name of the book, or who wrote it, or both. I'm better at that now. At least I think so. I might have forgotten.

Go to Previous Follow Friday: February Has Twenty-Eight Days, Usually
Go to Subsequent Follow Friday: You Can't Trust Anyone Over Thirty, Except Me

Follow Friday     Home

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Random Thought - So, How Many Have You Read?

NPR recently released the results of its poll asking readers to pick the Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books. There has been, of course, the usual rancor spawned by what books do and do not appear on the list, as well as the order that the books are ranked. It is also interesting to note that the list cheats a fair amount - a large proportion of the "books" listed are actualy series of books. Consequently, the list is not actually "100" books, but is probably more like 200 or 300 or more books.

Leaving those issues aside, the question that occurs to me is simply "how many of the entries on this list have I read?" So I went through and checked them off, and now I'm putting the list up for everyone else to see. Any book that I have read or series that I have read in full is in bold text. Any series that I have partially read is in bold red text. Any book or series that I have reviewed on this blog are in bold blue. Just for completeness sake, for any that have a movie or television adaptation, if I have seen that I have marked the entry with an asterisk. And I ask everyone else: which of these books (and series) have you read?

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy* by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide the the Galaxy* by Douglas Adams (read review)
3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles* by Frank Herbert
5. A Song of Ice and Fire Series* by George R.R. Martin (read review)
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451* by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov (read reviews)
9. Brave New World* by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride* by William Goldman
12. The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer by William Gibson
15. Watchmen* by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (read review)
17. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein* by Mary Shelley
22. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?* by Philip K. Dick
23. The Handmaid's Tale* by Margaret Atwood
24. The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
25. 2001: A Space Odyssey* by Arthur C. Clarke
26. The Stand* by Stephen King
27. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
28. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
29. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
30. The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman (read reviews)
31. A Clockwork Orange* by Anthony Burgess
32. Starship Troopers* by Robert A. Heinlein
32. Watership Down by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
35. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
36. The Time Machine* by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea* by Jules Verne
38. Flowers for Algernon* by Daniel Keyes
39. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad by David Eddings
42. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
46. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact* by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust* by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend* by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan the Barbarian Series* by Robert E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
73. The Legend of Drizzt Series by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book of the Fallen Series by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher
87. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (read review)
95. The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis (read reviews)

Random Thoughts     Home