Sunday, February 10, 2008

Anthem and The Prisoner and The Magic Goes Away and two Harry Potters

I actually can't believe I've been reading so much. Some of this is catch-up, like I've always wanted to read the Harry Potter series but never seemed to get around to it. Since Xmas vacation, I have read several books. Some new books that I have finished recently:

Anthem by Ayn Rand is one of those books that always frightened me because of the horrible things I had heard of Ayn Rand. I still remember that one South Park episode where the cop who couldn't read says, "I read ever page of this god-awful thing." Anthem is much shorter though, less than 100 pages and is in my favorite genre: post-apocalyptic fiction. I actually think it was rather blandly written by the idea was sound behind it. Controlling people and science fascinate me and this book opens up a lot of questions. It's one of those books that stay with you.
And then I am always reading bad pulp fiction or fan fiction. This is no exception. My favorite TV show of all time is The Prisoner and with only 17 episodes, anything new is a boon, like found treasure. This really isn't that good, but it does have its moments, and it would only be good to a fan that can catch some of the specific episode references. There is no way anyone outside of a Prisoner fan could fathom or like this.
Larry Niven is fantastic. This fantasy is filled with rich description and magic and our good guys must see if they can rescue the disappearance of magic from the world, if they can get along. It was a good quick read for a sword-and-sorcery tale, like a quick Conan. The paperback I borrowed from the library was lavishly illustrated in black and white sketches by Maroto. Good stuff.
I have to admit that I liked the first book in the Harry Potter series much better than the second one. Also, Rowling, if anything, really knows how to build a climax in a book. I came out of both books awed at how Rowling kept me reading, building up and through that climax for a hundred pages or more. This is the first time I ever tried the Harry Potter series. So many of the kids at school reference it, saying it is the one book series that got them to read. I had to finally try that. And I was astounded. I can compare her to Cormier or Crichton as the only other two authors that keep me reading through brilliant climaxes. Although, now the real tricky part comes in--were the visuals in my head from the movies or from the books? I don't know if Rowling put enough images into my head that weren't planted there by the movies. That's one of the dangers of reading the books after you've seen the movies. I am going to continue the series, as Morgan has all the rest of them, and am now about 100 pages into the third one. This will be interesting because I hated the third movie, even though everybody else said it is the best one.
Speaking of bad pulp fiction/fan fiction, I love Star Trek novels. I don't know what it is, but I love them. Maybe it is the feeling of being at home in a universe you know so well, and characters that seem to be best friends. I can pick these up and really get lost in a new plot or situation without learning about a new science fiction world. (That's another one of my little pet projects I would love to write another thesis on: Is there such a thing as pre-exposition in fiction and how does it affect the work?) These two books were great. The first one shown is The Lost Years about what happened to the crew after the five-year mission and before the events in The Motion Picture. And I love that kind of continuity. I will admit that the first two hundred pages kind of dragged on, but it was set up wonderfully for a brilliant final confrontation. Astounding, actually. The second one is called Spock Must Die! by James Blish, the guy that chronicled the original series in short story form. As far as I can tell, this is one of the very first original novels based on the series, if not the first. It revolves around a transporter accident that produces two Spocks, all in the middle of a Klingon invasion of Federation space while they blind the Organians to what is going on. (If you know what I am talking about with the Organians, you are as big a geek as I am.)
Now and then a simple graphic novel can do wonders. Orbiter by Warren Ellis is one of those fantastic blendings of a magnificent story with the graphic novel format. Pictures, I have learned, require no lengthy descriptions like you find in novels. You can do in one panel what it would take pages, or entire chapters, to adequately describe situations. This is one that pulls you forward with the idea and doesn't bog you down with details. A shuttle comes back after thought missing for ten years. It is time for mankind to make the next step. This book made me renew my love of the prospect at getting out there, into space. While I love Star Trek and Star Wars, I know that they play with the travel aspect so that it seems you are driving to the market rather than travelling hundreds of light years. This book tells us that we need to keep dreaming and at least trying. I still think we, the Earth, should just be shooting probe after probe up into space, announcing our presence. I find it fascinating how far the Voyager space probes have gone. Let's keep going, back up into space, at every possibility. Orbiter can help us remember that. Warren Ellis is awesome.

And then I am also still reading plenty of other books. While I still am in the middle of the third Harry Potter I have also picked up the first in the L. Ron Hubbard series of "Mission Earth." I know, Hubbard has a bad rap at times, but ever since I tried to read this series in high school, I always wanted to read the entire ten book series. It's quite ambitious, about looking at an invasion of Earth from the other side. Hey, anything is better than Moby Dick.

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