Monday, May 18, 2009

LTNS; I've been distracted

Way behind on my reading accounting, I know. I've been on the road (Michigan, Illinois) and I've been training for a new part time job and then doing it, and pondering life's oddities. In Michigan, I saw many dancing white people, crossdressing and parading up and down the streets like nobodies business. Shameless, I tell you! But the elephant ear was tasty. In Illinois, I saw many kinky people, several of whom seemed to want to be half dead. It's a long story.

In the mean time, as I have been enjoying this jet-set almost-working lifestyle, I have read...more books than I can remember. But these are the ones which come to mind (and hand) with the greatest of ease...

Finished Ring of Fire II, enjoyed it, forgot most of it already. But that's my pattern with Eric Flint, et. al. Just for comparisons' sake, after my last post on the subject, I reread S.M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Timetrilogy, and yep - far more memorable and enjoyable as a story. It's always good to check these things.

Picked up three books via PaperbackSwap, and greatly enjoyed them. This is a new author for me, Kate Elliot. She popped up on my "books you might like" list several times, and sometimes appears on lists of gay SF/fantasy stories. The first book I read by her was Jaran (The Jaran, Book 1).

Technically science fiction, most of the action takes place on a low-tech world with a bunch of pseudo-cossacks and their Mongol-like roaming lifestyle. Tess, the heroine, is hiding from her brother, a powerful galactic figure, by hanging out with the nomads for a while. What made this book and its sequels interesting for me was the culture of said nomads. Instead of dropping in the standard "men are warriors, women cook and make babies" sort of lazy importing, Elliot made a few tweaks into that narrative and made the men warriors - duh, strength, stamina, thick heads - but made the women the owners of the tents, the hunters, and pretty much the tribal political leadership. Women choose lovers; men choose wives. All of a woman's children are hers and her husbands - absolutely no import is attached to the "biological father," who might be any man a woman fancies at any time. In fact, they have difficulty even picturing what "biological father" means.

So what's gay about this? Not much, actually. There's a band of leathermen, er, manly outsider men, who contain a certain number of dudes who prefer another dude in their tent, so to speak, and later in the series, it becomes clear that although the nomads really disapprove of that sort of thing, well, see, this one lead male character might have had this one great love in the past...yadda, yadda. It's about as gay as a novel-of-the-closet, really, and if that was the reason I set out to read them, I'd feel cheated.

No, the centerpiece romance is between Tess guessed it, the leader of the male nomads, (he-who-had-a-boyfriend-once) - and they bicker for a while until they wind up admitting their great love, a sort of science-fiction-mongol-russian-sitcom thing. Everyone around them rolls their eyes and says, "sheesh, finally!" Everyone who is still alive, that is. This is not a series in which you should develop favorite characters too early.

And then things get interesting. The following books are An Earthly Crown and His Conquering Sword. Note that the numbering is confusing; the first book is followed by a book sometimes called book 2 or, book 1.

I read three books out of a total of four. The fourth is out of print, so after hunting around, I found a cheap copy and splurged actual money for it. That's how much I want to know how it all ends.

While lounging in Michigan and not being entertained by klompen-stalkers, I reread the final two Harry Potter novels (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows) because 1) they were there in the cottage, and 2) I didn't think I had enough new material to last me all the way home, and 3) I hadn't read them enough yet. Oh, and also because I am waiting for the next movie. Once again, I lamented the fact that there ARE movies at all. Clearly, these books were meant for a series option, preferably produced with deep pockets and sterling production values, ala HBO/Showtime. There is just so much in the story I'd love to see on the screen. Ahh, well.

Back at home, I have been enjoying the first two Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher. Apparently everyone else enjoys them, too, because not even one is available at PBS and even used copies are more than the usual amazon .01 plus postage. They're fun! Sort of a wizard-private eye thing, set in Chicago, with predictable supporting cast (wiseass spirits, coldblooded gangsters, ferocious, bloodthirsty vampires, werewolves, demons, etc.) Downright Dexter-esque in the splashes of blood everywhere, the lead character, one Harry Dresden, is a standard combination of tough PI, wily mage and sensitive new age guy. He dresses like he just walked out of a Stephen King apocalypse novel, has a lousy romantic life (so far) and breaks electrical equipment by looking at it. He comes equipped with other standard trope of the genres - mysterious deaths of his parents (which he didn't know were mysterious), a former lover who betrayed him, and a mentor, ditto; hell, in Storm Front, the first book, he came complete with all that and a stalker, ready to execute him for past crimes. Obviously, he was intended to launch a franchise. I'm OK with that so far; we'll see how long this ride lasts.

Oh, and finally, I read When the Focus is On Care: Pallative Care and Cancer. It's research.

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