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review 2018-02-21 05:53
Review: Changing Planes, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Changing Planes - Eric Beddows,Ursula K. Le Guin

Changing Planes is a delightful book.  It delights me.

This anthropological tour through some of the stranger societies in the multiverse begins by explaining its basic premise: Airports are not only portals to other terrestrial cities, but also to other dimensions.  Interplanar travel requires no machine or vehicle, no magical incantations or special knowledge.  The remarkably simple method was developed by one Sita Dulip, who discovered it when her flight out of Chicago was delayed several times and finally canceled.  Trapped, exhausted, uncomfortable, and bored, she realized that:

By a mere kind of twist and a slipping bend, easier to do than to describe, she could go anywhere - be anywhere - because she was already between planes.

(Normally, I would have no truck with any book whose premise was based on such a ridiculous pun - but over the years I have made a few grudging exceptions to this policy.)

The rest of the book is divided into fifteen short stories - or really, ethnographies - about life on the different planes.  Some of them are moral allegories, some are social satires, some portray strange and unsettling alien philosophies.  None of the chapters have much plot to speak of, but they are all fascinating vignettes.  The formula is essentially: "Let me tell you a few things about the people of _____."

Despite this common approach, the stories are fairly diverse in style and theme.  Four of the standouts highlight some of the different tacks Le Guin takes:

Seasons of the Ansarac is an ethnographic description of the migratory people of Ansar.  On a plane where each season lasts for six of our years, the people spend spring and summer raising children in idyllic northern homesteads before heading south to the vibrant cities every fall and winter.  Le Guin's detailed description of Ansarac folkways is fascinating, but the story takes a darker turn when visitors from another plane (one similar to ours) arrive, convince the Ansarac that they are primitive, backward, and hormone-driven, and offer to help them adopt a modern lifestyle.

Great Joy satirizes the American obsession with meaningless holiday kitsch, describing a privately-owned plane where one island is always Christmas, one the 4th of July, one New Year's Eve, and so on.  This plane's sickly-sweet candy coating covers a horrifying system of slavery and exploitation - not that Christmas-loving midwestern Cousin Sulie and her fellow patrons give much of a shit about that.  "I just get right into the spirit just thinking about Christmas Island! Oh, it is just such a happy place!"

Wake Island is a cautionary dystopia about science gone awry.  Based on their theory that sleep is a vestigial trait that keeps most humans from accessing their latent genius, a group of scientists genetically design babies who need no sleep.  This is essentially the same premise as Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain, but Le Guin's aftermath is much more disturbing.

The Island of the Immortals is in many ways a horror story, cloaked in the guise of classic science fiction.  It reminds me quite a bit of the better works of H.G. Wells, where a lone traveler encounters a society he at first cannot understand - and then later wishes he never tried.  In this story, the narrator has heard of an island on the Yendian plane which is populated by immortals.  Curious to learn the secret of their longevity, she visits - only to find the locals quiet, standoffish, and oddly somber.  There are immortals among them, yes, but they are not what the narrator expects.  This is the story that has remained in my mind most vividly since I first read this book almost a decade ago.  It is, in my opinion, one of Le Guin's most powerful and thoughtful pieces.


Ursula K. Le Guin died last month; I reread this book in part as a memorial (and in part because I just love it so much).  Given her recent passing, this excerpt in particular struck me:

When I was twelve or thirteen, I used to plan what I'd wish for if they gave me three wishes. I thought I'd wish, 'I wish that having lived well to the age of eighty-five and having written some very good books, I may die quietly, knowing that all the people I love are happy and in good health.'

She was 88 when she died, and she wrote a great number of incredible books.  I hope that the rest of her wish came true as well.

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review 2018-02-21 05:26
Interesting premise, odd execution.
Grand Canyon - Vita Sackville-West

So this is a book that Vita Sackville-West (member of the Bloomsberry Group, sometimes lover of Virginia Woolf) wrote half way through the second world war. I had thought going in it had a similar premise to Farthing by Jo Walton, but no, in this book the Nazis conquered the UK and Ireland, and the US having won the Pacific War made peace with the Third Reich. The story follows a group of characters in a hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon, about a year after these events. The two main characters are both English expats living in the hotel, and there are US air force officers, a bunch of college kids, and a handful of other European refugees, plus the hotel staff. Some of them will be turn out to be Nazi Fifth Column, some will be up to no good in other ways, and war draws closer by the day.


Sounds exciting, right? Yeah, no. It wasn't. This is a short book, and it took my ten days to read it (granted I was busy for much of it, but still!).  The two main point of view characters spend massive amounts of page time hanging out and chatting, mostly about their opinions of the other characters, especially one of the college girls. Who does not and never will have anything whatsoever to do with the plot. At all. They also talk about their experiences during the war and current events, but seriously massive page time on stuff that isn't interesting and won't matter to the story.


The style is very dialogue heavy. Everyone gets long monologues either aloud or internal about their feelings about each situation, and absolutely none of it is anything a human being would ever say, though maybe it works for thoughts some of the time. There is also a good deal of racism directed at the black musician characters, including the N-word a couple times, and an ambivalent relationship with the Hopi characters.


However, for all that? I still found it absolutely fascinating. There are some SF elements in the uses of technology (there are supersonic heavy bombers in 1942, and undisclosed WMD that was used to defeat England, and underutilised technology that can draw electricity from the air ala Tesla), and then the last third has a strong fantasy element that I won't spoil but which was used to great effect. I also really liked a lot of the responses to trauma that the female PoV character was working through, and a lot of her interactions. A lot of the writing especially the descriptions of place and emotion were gorgeous.


I think if you're interested in the evolution of alternate histories, especially of WWII, or of Sackville-West. If you're going to be more interested in everything that's happening off page, you might find it incredibly frustrating.

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review 2018-02-20 17:53
Horror Underground – When Blood Falls by Joshua Robertson @Robertsonwrites
When Blood Falls - Joshua Robertson,Winter Bayne


I couldn’t resist grabbing a copy of When Blood Falls by Joshua Roberts after seeing it on Instafreebie. That creepalicious cover did me in!


Cover:  Winter Bayne


When Blood Falls

Amazon  /  Goodreads




 When Blood Falls by Joshua Robertson has such a fabulous cover, and I am a sucker for a great cover, that I couldn’t help but grab a copy and read of his fantasy world in the Deep underground that is filled with monsters, surprises, and a future worth fighting for.

Animated Animals. Pictures, Images and Photos 3 Stars




Defending against the demons of the Deep has long given Tyr Og’s brethren purpose. When Tyr’s mother is robbed from him during childhood, he loses his will to live. Now, filled with rage and regret, Tyr hungers for a worthy death to bring an end to the futility of his life. In a short tale of blood and self-loathing, Tyr seeks the most honorable path to finally join his mother in the afterlife.


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Source: www.fundinmental.com/horror-underground-when-blood-falls-by-joshua-robertson-robertsonwrites
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review 2018-02-20 12:51
Dune Messiah
Dune Messiah - Frank Herbert

I can honestly say that this will be the last book I read in the Dune series. I have been warned after the next one it just gets even more convoluted. That's a shame. I really loved the story-telling in the first book, but this one made barely any sense and there was very little dialogue. You just keep reading what someone was thinking, what they were doing, and the machinations at the court. I started to skim towards the end. The last couple of pages were the most exciting in the whole tale.


Dune Messiah takes place 12 years after the last book. We have Paul Atreides as the new Emperor, married to Princess Irulan. Paul and Irulan are married in name only though. He is still with Chani, and though they have been together this whole time, she has not gotten pregnant. The Bene Gesserit, Spacing Guild, and Tleilaxu decide to put pressure on Irulan to help them with dethroning Paul since she still desires to have a child with him.


Honestly you would think that the above would make the book more interesting, it does not. It doesn't help that due to Paul and his ability to know all things/sense all things he already knows there is a conspiracy against him and he even knows what Irulan has been up to. So it's just people wandering around trying to make chess moves against each other while holding up a sign saying "I am so going to get you this round."

The characters were very flat in this one. Alia is Paul's right hand or something. I don't even know. We focus on her and her emotions a lot in this book and I was not a fan. We hear about Jessica a lot, but she's not heard from at all. Paul claims to love Chani, but it felt very flat to me. We also have a ghola of Duncan Idaho. I still don't get why he accepted it since you know, trap and all, but just go with it.


The writing was not that great and the flow was awful. Everything felt like it was taking a thousand years. The setting of Dune didn't seem as awe-inspiring as it did in the first book. I really felt like I needed a chart to understand how everyone was connected/not connected to each other.



Image result for meh gif

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review 2018-02-20 07:48
Es hat nicht sein sollen
His Dark Materials: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife And The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman

„His Dark Materials“ von Philip Pullman ist einer der Kinderbuchklassiker unserer Zeit. Die Trilogie gewann zahlreiche bedeutende Preise, wurde für Film, Fernsehen und die Bühne adaptiert und erzielte in den USA ähnliche Verkaufszahlen wie „Harry Potter“. Die drei Bände „Northern Lights“, „The Subtle Knife“ und „The Amber Spyglass” wurden von 1995 bis 2000 veröffentlicht. Obwohl die Geschichte somit über 20 Jahre alt ist und zeitlich genau in meine Kindheit fällt, wuchs ich nicht mit ihr auf. Ich entschied, die Lektüre als Erwachsene nachzuholen und erwarb diesen wunderschönen Sammelband.


In einem Paralleluniversum, in einer Welt, die der unseren ähnlich und doch ganz anders ist, wächst Lyra unter den Gelehrten des Jordan College in Oxford auf. Stets begleitet von Pantalaimon, ihrem Seelengefährten und Dæmon, verbringt sie ihre Kindheit unbeschwert in den verwinkelten alten Gemäuern. Mit ihrem besten Freund, dem Küchenjungen Roger, erlebt sie so manches Abenteuer in den verstaubten Gängen und auf den erhabenen Dächern des Colleges. Ihr mangelt es an nichts. Lyra ist glücklich. Doch ein Schatten droht, ihr Glück zu verdunkeln. Besorgte Gerüchte erreichen Oxford. Ängstlich flüstert man von den Gobblern, die durch das Land ziehen und wahllos Kinder rauben. Lyra schwört, sich niemals stehlen zu lassen und plant bereits ihren heroischen Kampf gegen die Entführer. Es trifft jedoch nicht sie, sondern Roger. Wild entschlossen, ihren besten Freund zurückzubringen, schließt sie sich den Gyptern an, dem fahrenden Volk, das auf den Flüssen Englands zuhause ist und ebenfalls Kinder an die Gobbler verlor. Es ist der Beginn einer fantastischen Reise, während derer Lyra Freundschaft mit Panzerbären, Hexen und mutigen Abenteurern schließt, die Grenzen ihres Universums hinter sich lässt und das Zünglein an der Waage eines gewaltigen Krieges um das Schicksal aller Welten sein wird.


Ich bin der einsamste Mensch der Welt. Ich glaube, ich bin die einzige Person auf diesem Planeten, die „His Dark Materials“ nicht bezaubernd fand. Vielleicht stimmt etwas nicht mit mir. Ich bin fest davon ausgegangen, dass ich die Geschichte mögen würde, ich hatte überhaupt keine Zweifel daran. Pustekuchen. Was ist da nur schiefgegangen? Ich bin erschüttert. Ich verstehe nicht, wieso ich keinen Zugang zu der Trilogie fand, obwohl ich mich anstrengte und abrackerte, immer wieder Anlauf nahm, mir der Rhythmus der Geschichte jedoch verschlossen blieb, sodass ich nie in ihr ankam. Mir fehlte der magische Sog, der so viele Kinderbücher auszeichnet. Ich konnte mich mental nicht in Philip Pullmans Multiversum hineindenken und war nicht fähig, Beziehungen zu den Figuren aufzubauen. Stattdessen erschien mir das gesamte Werk langatmig und zäh wie eine alte Schuhsohle. Es kam mir vor, als hätte sich Pullman nicht entscheiden können, ob er nun ein abenteuerliches Kinderbuch oder eine theologisch-philosophische Abhandlung schreiben wollte. Der Autor wurde für den angeblich anti-religiösen Ton der Romane scharf kritisiert, besonders von der katholischen Kirche in den USA. Wie irgendjemand auf die Idee kommen kann, „His Dark Materials“ als anti-religiös zu bezeichnen, entzieht sich meinem Verständnis. Natürlich ist es ein kontroverses Werk, das sich von den Lehren der christlichen Kirche distanziert, demzufolge lautet der richtige Begriff allerdings anti-institutionell, keinesfalls anti-religiös. Pullman bespricht zahlreiche religiöse Motive und betont die schlichte Schönheit des Glaubens, wird er nicht vom Klerus gesteuert und beschnitten. Intellektuell und theoretisch weiß ich diese Herangehensweise als faszinierend zu schätzen – praktisch und emotional blieb sie mir leider völlig suspekt. Ich konnte mit dem Auftauchen von Engeln, einer göttlichen Vaterfigur und der Verarbeitung des biblischen Sündenfalls überhaupt nichts anfangen. Es war mir alles zu viel, zu gewichtig und zu symbolisch. Ich vermisste Leichtigkeit, Spannung und Witz, war von der verbissenen, künstlichen, geballten Kritik der Geschichte abgeschreckt. Ich quälte mich mühsam durch die Lektüre und sah nur selten einen Lichtblick. Beispielsweise mochte ich das Konzept der Dæmons als ausgelagertes, externes Stück der Seele eines jeden Menschen, hätte dieses aber ohne die Einleitung meiner Ausgabe wohl nicht oder erst spät verstanden. Auch sympathisierte ich mit vielen Figuren, war von ihrer jeweiligen Rolle in der Geschichte jedoch nicht begeistert. Der Panzerbär Iorek Byrnison und der Aeronaut Lee Scoresby sind tolle, liebenswerte Charaktere, doch ihre Beziehung zur Protagonistin Lyra, die ich ohnehin nicht mochte, konnte ich nicht nachvollziehen. Es war wie verhext: ich entdeckte in „His Dark Materials“ einiges, was mir für sich genommen gefiel, nur im Rahmen der Geschichte überzeugten mich diese Elemente nicht und halfen mir nicht, mich durch diesen dicken Wälzer zu kämpfen.


Am Ende einer enttäuschenden Kinderbuch-Lektüre stellt sich natürlich immer die Frage, ob die Geschichte auf mich anders gewirkt hätte, hätte ich sie gelesen, als ich noch zur Zielgruppe gehörte. Im Fall von „His Dark Materials“ glaube ich das nicht. Ich wäre zwar nicht in der Lage gewesen, die vielen kritischen Nuancen der Trilogie zu benennen, aber ich hätte wahrgenommen, dass da etwas zwischen mir und der Geschichte steht. Ich bezweifle stark, dass ich im Alter zwischen 6 und 11 Jahren Spaß mit Lyras Abenteuern gehabt hätte, weil sie eben einfach nicht abenteuerlich genug geschrieben sind. Ein Kinderbuch, das lediglich von Erwachsenen verstanden werden kann, verfehlt meiner Meinung nach das Ziel. Nun gut. Es hat nicht sein sollen. Das ist sehr schade und ich bin immer noch völlig perplex, wie sich diese Lektüre für mich gestaltete, doch damit muss ich jetzt leben. Es ist ja nicht meine erste unpopuläre Buchmeinung, die ich in Zukunft beständig verteidigen muss. Ich habe Übung darin, der einsamste Mensch der Welt zu sein.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/philip-pullman-his-dark-materials
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