Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Post-Carbondale: Day 1

I returned Monday afternoon from a four-day trip to Carbondale, IL, where I went to university, and met some of the best folks around. This trip there was a lot drinking, a lot of jamming, a lot of Jeopardy!, and Trivial Pursuit 1984, a lot of deer meat, a cookout, and laughter. It was good to see all them kids again (as well as meeting a few new ones) and I look forward to returning soon.

Here is a recap of my day since returning from Carbondale:

Read two chapters in Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer

Watched the first part of Carlos: The Miniseries, chronicling the life of Carlos the Jackal, an international terrorist

Perused 2666 by Roberto Bolano for the fiftieth time

Made pizza rolls (twice)

Talked to a buzzing fly but did not, I repeat, did not swallow it

Read a Clarion story by the talented Kali Wallace

Wrote a bit more in a new short story

Worked on the novel

Despised writing "worked on the novel" in blog

Drank too much water, peed a lot

Absently wondered (again) why the media ignores Ron Paul

Took a long walk

I'm off to the library next to look for some books on ancient Chinese culture and military.

Reading: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

I was reminded, to a certain degree, of the works of Angela Carter in Catherynne M. Valente's lovely The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. This might well be a YA kind of story but, as with most of Valente's work that I've read - and like Angela Carter - there are sufficient heapings of gloom and doom (uhh...not that YA can't have that or something; remember M.T. Anderson's Prince of Nothing duology or Sue Towsend's hilarious but ultimately heartbreaking The Secrety Diary of Adrian Mole, to name a couple?). So I guess what I'm saying, in a very roundabout way, is: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making rocks.

September, our heroine, is transported to Fairyland upon by the Green Wind - who has taken pity on her. Once in Fairyland and after having chosen the cruelest of three paths, Setpember sets out on a quest to return a spoon stolen by the Marquess - the current ruler of Fairyland - from the witches Hello and Goodbye, and their wairwulf husband Manythanks. The journey becomes much more than a spoon's quest, however, as September learns that something is terribly amiss in Fairyland and it seems the Marquess is to blame. Along her way September gains companions A Through L - a wyvern fathered from a library - and Saturday - a sea creature called a Marid who eats stone. The journey for the spoon - and then later for a sword - will take them across Fairyland, though it isn't like any Fairyland you've seen before: this Fairyland is dangerous and, afraid of angering the Marquess, many will do her bidding, making it hard to know who to trust. By the end, even September is not the innocent, young girl she was when the Green Wind whisked her off from her parents' house. Highly Recommended.

Here is an excerpt of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making:

In Omaha, signposts are bright green with white writing, or occasionally white with black writing. September understood those signs and all the things they pointed to. But the signpost before her now was made of pale wind-bleached wood and towered above her: a beautiful carved woman with flowers in her hair, a long goat's tail winding around her legs, and a solemn expression on her sea-worn face. The deep gold light of the Fairyland sun played on her carefully whittled hair. She had wide, flaring wings, like September's swimming trophy. The wooden woman had four arms, each outstretched in a different direction, pointing with authority. On the inside of her easterly arm, pointing backward in the direction September had come, someone had carved in deep, elegant letters:

                              TO LOSE YOUR WAY

On the northerly arm, pointing up to the tops of the cliffs, it said:

                              TO LOSE YOUR LIFE

On the southerly arm, pointing out to sea, it said:

                              TO LOSE YOUR MIND

And on the westerly arm, pointing up to a little headland and a dwindling of the golden beach, it said:

                              TO LOSE YOUR HEART

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reading: Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, the debut novel by Genevieve Valentine, is the best book I've read so far this year. The language of the novel is poetic and hypnotic and moving. It's a short novel, but Valentine managaes to get across so much with so little - a gift if ever there was one, truly.

It's about a traveling circus in either an alternate Earth or a post-apocalyptic Earth. The circus is run by the enigmatic Boss, a woman with an ambiguous past and strange magical powers. In this circus, many of the performers are kept alive by adding mechanical components to their bodies - from Panadrome, the one-man orchestra, to Elena the aerialist with brass bones. Even as the circus is hounded by "government men," there is a quiet war between several performers and a pair of gold wings Boss keeps.

You might be saying to yourself, isn't the whole circus thing kind of worn thin? Perhaps so, but Valentine injects it with grace (sidenote: now I'm imagining a needle full of grace in my arm) and heartbreak. Even though it is a somwhat nonlinearly structured novel, every scene works toward its inevitable conclusion with surprising wonder. Supremely-doo-remely Recommended.

Here is a an excerpt from Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti:

Little George was slated to be fixed, but Boss keeps him out of the workshop even after he asks, and so he keeps moving slowly through time until he's older than Ying, until he's nearly as old as Jonah, who has been twenty-five since the day he came to the circus and was gifted with his clockwork lungs.

Slowly, Little George begins to wake up to the world in a way he cannont name.

He does not know that Ying will never be older; he does not know why he takes such care not to anger the Grimaldi brothers. He is not aware, only awake.

He knows nothing for certain; he only sees that when the government man is gone, the circus gathers in two groups to see what Boss will do: who are alive, and those who have survived the bones.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reading: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

What initially piqued my interest in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs was the use of "found photographs" within the text. Most of the photographs are from the archives of Robert Jackson and, make no mistake, there are some truly peculiar, even haunting, photos here. However, I found the conceit wearisome after about 100 pages with each photo being introduced by a sudden "remembrance" from the narrator - surely, there are more ways to incorporate the photos than merely "I remember..."? The twists near the end of the story I also thought were predictable and not all that interesting, making it fairly easy to see how the story will continue - this book being the first in a series. That doesn't mean Riggs won't surprise (though I can't imagine the second book using found photos again as its hook), and I'm invested enough in the characters I'll give the next book a fair shot.

In this story, young Jacob's grandfather tells him stories of a strange past - fighting monsters and living in a boardinghouse on an island off the coast of the UK with other "peculiar" children, all of whom had some sort of strange power, whether it be invisibility or amazing strength or weightlessness - but Jacob's father convinces him that his grandfather's stories are just stories, despite the photographs to the contrary, and that his grandfather had been escaping Nazi Germany during WWII. But Jacob's life is turned upside down when his grandfather suddenly dies and clues point toward the truth of his mysterious past as a "peculiar" child. On the advice of his therapist, Jacob visits the island where the boardinghouse resides, and meets some very strange folk there.

Here is an excerpt from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children:

I recognized them somehow, though I didn't know where from. They seemed like faces from a half-remembered dream. Where I had seen them before - and how did they know my grandfather's name?

Then it clicked. Their clothes, strange even for Wales. Their pale unsmiling faces. The pictures strewn before me, staring up at me just as the children stared down. Suddenly I understood.

I'd seen them in the photographs.

The girl who'd spoken stood up to get a better look at me. In her hands she held a flickering light, which wasn't a lantern or a candle but seemed to be a ball of raw flame, attended by nothing more than her bare skin. I'd seen her picture not five minutes earlier, and in it she looked much the same as she did now, even cradling the same strange light between her hands.

I'm Jacob, I wanted to say. I've been looking for you. But my jaw had come unhinged, and all I could was stare.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Reading: Emma Bull's Territory

Just finished reading Territory by Emma Bull. And: Wow. Must. Read. Everything. Bull. Has. Written.

 Territory, anyway, is a western story, set in Tombstone, AZ, in 1881, a few months before the famous shootout at the OK Corral - with one huge difference: in Bull's Old West, there are supernatural forces at work. It's a wonderful alternate history leading up to the events of the famous aforementioned gun fight. But if you're expecting the stereotypical western story (read: big shootouts, mysterious strangers, marauding Apaches), you will be disappointed or, in my case, pleasantly surprised (some of these things are there, but in very unexpected ways). While reading the book I was reminded of the awesome short-lived and much-loved HBO series Deadwood with its mixture of real people and fictional characters, although no one in Territory said "fuck" as much (heh). Bull's absolutely intoxicating prose made the world and the characters come to life - every sense was satisfied. Supremely Recommended.

Here is a short excerpt from Territory, during which one of the characters, Jesse, is taming Virgil Earp's horse:

Spark came down again, and to his knees; reared again, staggered back on his hind legs. Jesse stayed with him. Sweat blackened the hair on the colt's neck and flanks and legs. Jesse talked to him, his voice gentle, while he kept the strap tight in his right hand.

He hated this part. He hated the fear the horse felt, the way that fear grew as the animal learned that nothing it did could win this fight. If he'd handraised Spark as he had Sam, this wouldn't be necessary. But Sam had been made to believe since before he'd first stood up that Jesse was stronger than he was. Spark still had to be convinced. The more of his strength he used, the more of it there was for Jesse to turn against him.

Humans expected horses to think like humans. Jesse knew better - but it troubled him that, in a horse, wisdom could grow out of fear.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Digital Science Fiction: Therefore I Am

For those of you that don't have kindles or other ebook devices, the anthology Digital Science Fiction: Therefore I Am - the anthology my story, "El Camino" appears in - is now available in print format from Amazon and it's pretty reasonably priced! The other stories in this anthology are also totally awesome, so it's well worth the purchase.

On August 13th, Therefore I Am was Number 1 on Amazon's Bestsellers in Science Fiction Anthologies. We've dropped to 15 since, but I know we can climb back up.

Thanks to all who've supported this anthology!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hugo Nominees: My Picks

Sadly, I won't be attending Renovation (Worldcon in Reno, NV, the king con of cons) this weekend so I will be unable to vote for the Hugo Awards - one of SF's most prestigious awards. Regardless, I intend to give you my picks in the categories where I'm familiar with the works or individuals nominated. You can find a full list of nominees here. I'll be attending next year's Worldcon in Chicago and I invite all of you to join in on the fun (and to read these books and magazines).

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. The award will probably go to Connie Willis for Blackout/All Clear, but I'd choose Kingdoms any day over these two. I also find it kind of unfair that Willis has two books nominated as one; Jemisin's second book in her Inheritance Trilogy too and that book, The Broken Kingdoms, is also wonderful.

"The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen's Window" by Rachel Swirsky. Ted Chiang is a worthy adversary, but I believe Swirsky will take this one home. One of the best stories I've read in several years.

"The Jaguar House, in Shadow" by Aliette de Bodard. This is a tough category. I really like James Patrick Kelly's "Plus or Minus," and Allen M. Steele's "The Emperor of Mars." Honestly, it's almost a toss-up between these three, but de Bodard's stands out a little more above the crowd.

"The Things" by Peter Watts. Despite this story being based off John Carpenter's The Thing, it is amazing. Alas, it is also very tough to choose in this category. Both Kij Johnson's "Ponies," and Mary Robinette Kowal's "For Want of a Nail" are fantastic too.

Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan. Despite its somewhat flawed conceit, this movie could've been a full-blown disaster and it wasn't. In fact, it was quite engaging. (Sidenote: I almost went with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but Scott didn't end up with Knives which was, to me, as infuriating as Duckie not ending up with Andie in Pretty in Pink. Come on, Knives is so cool!)

John Joseph Adams. Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazines publish some of the best SF out there today.

Liz Gorinsky. I love Tor Books and Gorinsky is doing some amazing work there.

Lightspeed Magazine. For the reasons stated in the Best Editor, Short Form section.

Lauren Beukes. One helluva writer. I'm curious as to why Zoo City wasn't nominated for best novel.

Apologies to the best fanzines and fan writers and graphic stories, et cetera, but if I didn't pick from your category it's because I'm not familiar with the nominees. Hopefully, by next year, I will have rectified this ignorance. In the meantime, good luck to all the nominees!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are Email Lists at Rock Shows Ironic Yet?

Way back when (when being 2004-ish), email lists were all the rage at rock shows. It seemed every band had a bent-up, beer-stained spiral notebook with scribbled emails in blue ink in its pages next to whatever the band was selling at the merch table. Where did that notebook go? With the popularity of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others, the "email list" has become a thing of the past, a relic of times gone by.

So, how long then until it becomes ironic? Will email lists join the ranks of irony, along with PBR, trucker hats, handlebar mustaches, and cassette tapes? And what about the original email list - the snail mail list? What hell is that doomed to?

And: where have all the cowboys gone?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Music Review: Moonface: Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped

Finally, finally, finally, Spencer Krug (of Wolf Parade fame) gives into his carnivalesque leanings with wild abandon - and mixed results - on his latest project, Moonface's Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped. As Krug himself noted in the press release for the record: "It's music played with an organ, organ beats, organ beeps and bloops, and some digital drums. Music based on layers and loops, the hypnotizing sound of a Leslie speaker, and the onslaught of melody."

He's not wrong about the organ beats or the layers: this is dense and heady stuff. With only five songs and clocking in around 37 minutes, Organ Music still has that epic grandeur fans have come to expect from Krug record - only one song runs under seven minutes! He also continues expanding his personal mythology; various references to "idiot hearts," spirits, oceans, and, umm, running(?) populate the lyrics. However, middle sections of almost every song tend to drag and it's easy to get lost in the droning organs and constant repetition.

What's interesting to note about all of Krug's work - even with Wolf Parade - is that it sounds all part of one project. Part of that reason is because each record is so different from the last and yet all of them are exactly Spencer Krug. Organ Music is no different, except that it is, perhaps, much lonelier, more raw, and certainly more jangly.

Though Organ Music isn't as outright geeky and simultaneously accessible as the last Sunset Rubdown record, Dragonslayer, nor as tasteful as Wolf Parade's Expo 86, there are moment of pure Krugian brilliance here: when his voice cracks shouting the title of "Return to the Violence of the Ocean Floor"; in the tense refrain "Won't you win the race for me?" during "Fast Paster"; the entirety of the final track "Loose Heart = Loose Plan." Yet, each of these songs contains a listlessness, and a dangerous unhinging, that will either be endearing to fans or a turn-off. But that is what makes Krug such an interesting songwriter: his fearlessnes and willingness to take chances.

THE FIRST TIME I LISTENED TO THIS RECORD: I was driving to Chicago. It was dark with no stars. The highway was illuminated by streetlights and my one working headlight. Earlier in the evening it had rained a little and the interstate still had that glossy look. You could smell the pavement. I listened intensely to the record once through and then just let it roll on, over and over again, until I reached Tin Tin Can's practice space.

-Dustin Monk

Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review: The Curfew by Jesse Ball

A father and daughter try to live a quiet life in a city broken by fear and random violence in Jesse Ball's understated and beautiful new novel, The Curfew. Ball's fiction has been compared to the films of David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock, and The Curfew proves no exception: it is an experimental, disjointed, and darkly-themed work. Indeed, Ball describes the "city and its occupants" early on as "a series of objects" connected by "violence," "pity, compassion," and "hope," yet are ultimately "hapless, benighted, discordant."

In this city called "C," a wrong look to the wrong person can mean death. The secret police are everywhere. Everyone lives in fear. William Drysdale - once a famous violinist - must put away his instrument after an uprising and subsequent crackdown on various freedoms, including artistic performances. He finds work as epitaphorist - writing the words on the recently deceased's tombstones; it's a very lucrative job. His daughter, Molly, who does not speak, goes to a school where she is "told repeatedly to repeat things." They live a mostly quiet life: William reads imaginary articles in the newspaper to Molly and plays riddle games with her in their house.

All they do, however, is overshadowed by the death of Louisa, William's wife, under mysterious circumstances four years earlier. In the city it is common for the dead to go missing and Louisa is one such case. Afraid of what might happen to himself and to Molly, William moves across town and quits his old friends. Ball's unadorned writing conveys William's helpnessness perfectly: "What does dying do to plans one makes with one's beloved? ...He sat in the stairwell. He went down the street and up again. He turned on the stove and turned it off."

On his way to an appointment, William meets a friend from his old life, who tells him there is a meeting later that night - a meeting of dissenters and revolutionaries - and that there is news of Louisa. Even though William knows he shouldn't go, he is determined to understand Louisa's disappearance, to put some kind of context around it. He leaves Molly with the neighbor, Mrs. Gibbons, who warns William about the dangers of being out after curfew. The curfew, however, is an unspecified time of night; indeed there is no official curfew except the government's "declaration: good citizens pass their nights abed."

The Curfew is told as a kind of three-act play, the first two acts being the events of the story itself, and the final act as a play within the narrative called "A Ladder of Rain and the Roof Beyond," written by Molly and Mrs. Gibbons' husband, a puppeteer (the play itself is reinacted by Mr. Gibbons' puppets). If there are issues with this novel, it's here. Molly's play reimagines the events of the story so far and, though there is enough invention to keep the reader interested, it can get fairly repetitive.

To Molly, her father - for all his solitude and unassuming-ness - is a puppet of his own making controlled by fear, subversion agents and dissenters, love for his daughter, the disappearance of his wife, the secret police, all of which is personified in her play. It is her attempt, in some small way, to understand her father, to also understand her mother and her death.

If the end is ambiguous, it is because some details are left out and some never fully explained; there is a certain beauty in mystery. Indeed, during the play, William drops Molly off at school and goes to sit by a lake where he sits "there for the entire day, staring into the water. There are figures in the water, but he cannot see them. He can only sense them. It is the same at the cemetery with all the bodies in the earth. One can feel them, but not see them. It is not that they are ghosts. It is not that impression. Simply that the center of so many worlds rest in one another's context." Herein lies the mystery and the beauty of The Curfew. Recommended; pairs well with a fine Pinot Grigio.

-Dustin Monk

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Walking on My Back

And then this happened:

Not-Remotely-A-Review (Spoiler): A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin

Beware, Dear Reader: This is NOT a review of A Dance With Dragons. These are my thoughts after having just finished reading it. Spoilers most definitely follow. Take heed.

I've finished A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and, as expected, I was engrossed, entertained, surprised, befuddled, and, perhaps most importantly, transported once again into Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. I tasted the dishes of the many feasts in Mereen; I smelled the piss and sweat of Old Volantis; I shivered in the snows outside Winterfell and along the Wall; my teeth chipped; my flesh was burned from dragon fire.

Yeah. I pretty much loved it.

Each book in the series opens with a viewpoint from a minor character who inevitably meets his death by prologue's end, but ADWD's prologue has stuck with me - I was fortunate to hear Martin read it at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego during Clarion - and, even now, after finally reading it in print, I still think it to be the best prologue he's written in the series thus far. The viewpoint is from Varamyr Sixskins - a skinchanger, a warg, a wildling. He is dark and sadistic and vengeful and must confront his own mortality and the dangers and madness skinchanging brings. The prologue is made all the more relevant as several of my favorite characters - Jon Snow, Arya Stark, and especially Bran Stark (all of which have viewpoints in the book) - have the potential to become skinchangers and face the same dangers as Varamyr.

Along with the aforementioned viewpoints, a lot of fans were also happy to see the return of Danaerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister. I was too, though to be fair, I didn't miss them all that much in the previous volume, A Feast for Crows. Without going off on a tangent and detailing the history of the previous books, let me just say that in the third volume a lot happened and some characters went off to do other things and, Martin realized writing the fourth volume, to encompass all of the storylines into one book would make for a tome the size of which would be encyclopedic; intsead, he cut the books in half - not by character arc, but by geography, so as to tell most of some of the character's stories in the fourth book and the rest in the fifth. Dance is the second half of that split (although the final third of the book moves past the events in Feast). Many readers were frustrated by the numerous minor character viewpoints that filled the brunt of the fourth volume; I, however, was fascinated by these characters - particularly the ironborn and the Dornishmen - and find AFFC to be an underrated affair.

It was quite enjoyable to catch up with Tyrion and Bran and Jon Snow and Dany, to be sure, but again I found myself rooting for and, just as much, against the various minor viewpoint characters in Dance. I have grown quite fond of Asha Greyjoy and still despise her brother, Theon, no matter how much sympathy Martin writes him with. Melisandre remains a mystery to me; I want to believe she is good, but even having read from her point-of-view, I'm still as confused as to her allegiance as I was before. Other viewpoint characters - Quentyn Martell and Ser Barristan Selmy, for instance - served to move the plot along in Mereen after Dany's disappearance and I suspect helped in untangling the "Mereenese knot" Martin had been stressing over.

Yet, perhaps the most surprisng and head-scratching part of Dance was the appearance of once-thought-dead Aegon Targaryen. According to Westerosi history, Aegeon - still a babe - was killed along with his sister and parents in the sack of King's Landing. In Dance, however, we learn that another child - a peasant babe - replaced Aegon and Aegon himself escaped in the care of Lord Jon Connington, former Hand of the King, and with the help of Varys, and has grown up across the Narrow Sea, taught about the Seven and other various Westerosi customs. Obviously, with Dany also vying for the Iron Throne (and taking her time about it, too, learning to rule in far away Mereen), Aegon complicates things heavily.

Already interwebbers are speculating that Aegon is a fake, a pretender to the thrown - a "mummer's dragon" - and that this is but a distraction, and though I too have my doubts as to Aegon's bloodline, I do wonder. To me, it doesn't seem very GeoRRge-like to throw up a fraudulant Targaryen at the last moment because it feels kind of "plot-y" and, if anything, "plot" in its typical sense is not central to A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet, Varys tells Ser Kevan Lannister in the epilogue that Aegon's arrival in Westeros couldn't be more perfectly timed - the unrest in the Seven Kingdoms was settling down and this is the very thing that will keep it alive - a Targaryen in the flesh, come to retake the Throne. As far as I'm concerned, however, the Aegon has Targaryan blood and that this one of Varys's plots - to have both Aegon and Dany take the Iron Throne. Targaryens did wed sister and brother, after all, and though a marriage between Dany and Aegon would be niece to nephew, they are near the same age. I'm probably wrong.

Many fans are also speculating on the fate of Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. In his final chapter he was betrayed by his own men and stabbed, presumably, to death with daggers. There is talk that Jon Snow is actually Azhor Azhai returned and not Stannis Baratheon, but I wonder about this too.

First of all, I think it likely Martin has killed off yet another main character. I don't want to believe that, but so many good people have died in this series, it's hard not to. If Snow is really dead, this also creates chaos at the Wall - just when order is needed most. Jon was, of course, settling the Gift with wildlings and manning many of the vacant castles along the Wall with them too to fight against the coming battle with the Others. With his death, the black brothers will fall into disorder and infighting. This will undoubtedly make it harder for Dany, once she arrives in Westeros with her dragons, to fight the Others.

Secondly, however, Jon Snow's death fits Martin's MO: that is, honor alone will not save you; you know, nobody likes do-gooders. The interwebbers have a good point though: there is still the mystery of Jon's mother and, though some if it was discussed in Dance, it's still as much a mystery as ever; and that Melisandre may bring him back through a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. There are also similarities between the end of Jon Snow's chapter and Arya's chapter in A Storm of Swords wherein "the axe took her in the back of head." No matter how it pans out, I was stunned when I read Jon Snow's final chapter, much how I felt when I read the Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords. I looked up and said, "No. No. No. What. No."

It seems, too, that Dany is finally going to make her way to Westeros. After having disappeared from Mereen riding her dragon Drogon, Dany, lost and hallucinating in the desert, comes across a khalasar led by Khal Jhago. Again, I can't say what will happen with this scenario with any certainty, but it seems as though Dany will lead this khalasar to Mereen, crush the Yunkai'i, and set forth for Westeros. Martin is a master at defying expectations, however, so we shall see. Regardless of where she goes, I found Dany's chapters to be some of the best in the book. She learns as much from her mistakes as her successes and though she confesses many times to her council that she is "but a young girl," she is far from it, the sarcasm of those words nearly spitting from her mouth. There is a part of me, however, that no longer even cares if she invades Westeros - to me, the story has always been more about the characters than any sort of over-arching end-of-the-world plot. I don't really care about the big fight between good and evil; I care about the little everyday fights within ourselves.

Which brings me to my concluding points about A Dance With Dragons. There has been some frustration from readers that "nothing happens" in this book. Well...they're right and they're wrong. If you want a big sea battle or a fight with the Others and Cersei to set King's Landing on fire, you'll be disappointed. Those things don't happen. What does happen, though, is all around character growth. Cersei is humiliated, Arya must put aside her past, Bran learns what he is and what he can be, and so on. The characters move through the world and the world is made richer. Not everything in this book advances the plot and, in some cases, even seems to stall it. As George himself said though, "My philosophy is that plot advancement is not what the experience of reading fiction is about. If all we care about is advancing the plot, why read novels? We can just read Cliff Notes."

Monday, August 1, 2011

News of the Day

I've finished reading George RR Martin's A Dance With Dragons a few days ago and I may do a post on my thoughts on the book tomorrow, but I wanted to give a heads-up as to what I'll be doing in August on this here blog. Essentially, I'll be playing catch-up on recent books I've read and haven't had time to do reviews on. Readers of this blog should expect these forthcoming reviews, though not necessarily in this order:

The Curfew by Jesse Ball

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine (I'll try not to gush too much)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Light Boxes by Shane Jones

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz

I'll also begin a new series of reviewing recent record releases, kicking off with the Spencer Krug's new project, Moonface, and debut album, Organ Music not Vibraphone like I'd Hoped later this week.

In the meantime, there is this: