Thursday, May 24, 2012

A book to read for fun and adventure

Why did I spend so much time reading?  Why did I/ do I love fantastic stories?
Who knows...  It's not something to worry about.
March 1977.
Do you remember where you were then?
Neither do I.
I do remember that I started on a rather enjoyable voyage to the stars with Aleytys.
The book is Diadem from the Stars, the author is Jo Clayton.
It's a great story, of course, starting out with a robbery of the hi-tech futuristic variety that maybe gets you thinking the entire story is going one way but then the story really starts when you meet the heroine, Aleytys.  Then, as we learn about her life, her world, it's something more of a fantasy... except of course it's not, or it is as all of these stories are always fantasy... but this is science fiction.  Of the best kind.
If you're looking for a heroine with heart, compassion and a growing fear that she's a walking curse then this book is where you need to look.
Unfortunately I can't say anything about what I really like about the book, except it has heart.  The pacing is great, the twists and turns are really good.  The depth of characters is decent.  I mean, Aleytys is the most developed character of the story, of course, but the supporting characters are introduced quickly and are more important to Aleytys than they were to me.  Only a few had the kind of depth that Ms. Clayton developed in her later writing.  But the story moves so fast that you barely notice that aspect, except that each of these characters, especially Daimon, add more and more to Aleytys.
Okay, I checked out the blurb on the back cover and figure I can give that much away.
Aleytys' mother was not of that world.  Yeah, I know.  From the introductory hints and by paying attention you get to know that this woman has to get to the stars, too.
We don't really know how old she is since the planet has a double sun, so how long could the years be if it orbits at a distance to allow life.  I don't know, it didn't matter and that kind of calculation wasn't so important in the 70's in science fiction of this type, if it ever needs to be.
So the thief steals the diadem from some miserly aliens who then go on hunt for him, cause him to crash on her planet... and somehow she winds up with the diadem.  That's obvious from the outside, but the development of the character of Aleytys... before she gets the diadem... is most of the book and as I said, it's a great book.  After she gets the diadem some things change but we're running out of pages.  I already know about the sequelsssssss and they only get better.
I can only imagine how I felt when the book ended... I wanted more, more, more... I always do when a good book ends.  Fortunately, Ms. Clayton delivers... again and again.
I don't know if this is the first book of Ms. Clayton's that I read, I do know that when I went into bookstores (they did have bookstores in the 70's, moreso than now, I think, sometimes two or three in a mall) I would look in the science fiction/fantasy shelves and the yellow DAW book spines and search for her name. (Yes, they did alphabetize the shelves but I would look at all the books).
One of the things that struck me as I read this book again (today) is that she used a lot of creative language (not cussing) there were new and strange words to create the impression of an alien planet, alien language, customs that require formal words of this language as well as strange names.  I'm perfectly fine with this setup.  I roll with it as I read, building up a vocabulary as I build up an understanding of this strange world.  Two or three different languages pop up in the story - what's wrong with that?
Except that you don't see that style much in current books, unless I'm missing a few.
The Lord of the Rings held several created languages, for elves and dwarves and even for various tribes of those, I believe.  Of course J.R.R.Tolkien spent a lifetime on his work.
I wonder if Diadem from the Stars would get published today with all the strangeness in it, the strange languages and customs, if offered by some unknown writer.  I certainly hope so but... writers must keep things simple and quick and filled with easily recognized icons so readers can relate quickly and appropriately.  We can't confuse anyone with a strange word or thirty, that wouldn't be good.
 When I read Diadem from the Stars and the sequels I had fun... it was an adventure... each one.
If you haven't read Jo Clayton's early works, I recommend this one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

If I could only write as fast as I think

First, totally different subject… I saw somewhere that the book I mentioned in my last post The Host by Stephenie Meyer is coming out as a movie next year, goody goody, I can hardly wait.  I loved the book and hope the movie won’t disappoint… the premise doesn’t seem the easiest to transition from book to film.  We’ll see…
Anyway, I was thinking about The Host and of course thought about a past book (see themed blog) and realized one of my favorites was Needle by Hal Clement.  So I went to my trusty bookshelf and… well, it wasn’t there… OMG… no, no, this can’t be.  I went to my other bookshelf (I have several but the pseudo-alphabetizing requires movement) and it wasn’t there either.  I could picture the cover, it was paperback and relatively old, a reprint back in the seventies, likely.  I have lost a book.  Perhaps I loaned it out and never received it (if you’re reading this please return it).  Worst case scenario… I sold a few books ages ago and  - sigh- it may be gone forever.
Enough about me missing a book, I still remember the story… okay, a little vague, I don’t remember the hero’s name or the… anyway the reason I bring this up in conjunction with The Host is that it, too, is a story about a (SPOILER ALERT) symbiotic life form living in a human.
Hal Clement copyrighted Needle back in 1949, so that is a past book, for sure.  Hal Clement was born in 1922 and died in 2003 and wrote many books and was active in the writing community.  The book was reprinted several times and may have started out with another title, or temporarily adopted one in the 50’s.
Needle is a fun and well-paced story.  It is not a Total Invasion scenario as The Host is, rather it is a cops and criminal story with an extraterrestrial cop chasing a criminal who got away and has moved into a human host.  The problem was tracking the bad guy… er… bad symbiote… down required the cop, also a symbiote, to work with a human, so he stabs the guy in the foot while he’s swimming and invades his body and then talks with him.  They become partners while on the case…
Okay, so my memory isn’t going to spoil the story for you, I think there’s a hospital scene near the end and…
Find a copy, since I can’t seem to, and read it, especially if you liked The Host.
Hal Clement came out with a sequel called Through the Eye of the Needle (I think) and it had great reviews, alas, I did not read it nor do I have a copy. 
Although Stephenie likely won’t be seeing this it’s a hint that she needs a sequel to The Host, I think Wanderer is an excellent character, and, as I’ve mentioned before, some stories need to continue.
While searching through my shelves for the missing book I noticed a lot of books that also need mentioning and, since I come woefully short on substance for Needle, let me mention Foundation by Isaac Asimov, okay, I know I was only going to mention the books that were less well-known otherwise I would’ve been talking about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for a few blogs, especially since the movie for The Hobbit is coming out soon.
So, if you’re really into science fiction and have not read the Foundation series, the first was copyrighted in 1951, you may want to check them out.  It’s a complicated work but it has the kind of world building that was once a popular theme in science fiction.  While I know that I enjoyed the books when I read them the first time, I also know that I didn’t grasp what the books were saying.  It was kind of like listening to a story and not realizing the moral until you let it percolate a few weeks. 
I know that Isaac Asimov created foundational ideas for science fiction, both with world building and with simplifying things, like creating the three laws of robotics, neat.  What impressed me about the Foundation stories, what lingers even to this day, was the idea of creating a social engineering equation (He was a math guy, too).  The several alliances within the story viewed this equation in various ways, good, bad, indifferent, but the equation was running all the while, proving itself.  When I think of the story I have this image of an equation that is visible in three dimensions, a hologram that can be enlarged at any point to show more of itself, the complexities.  What it also points out is that human interactions are standard, they can be measured, actions, reactions, sentiments, sins and all the complex motivations can be analyzed. 
Sure, simple, a single list of motivations but an infinite result in their permutations through interactions. 
The idea was essential in Foundation but it works throughout all stories in every media format.
I also realized (totally different subject) I need more bookshelves and a different approach to alphabetizing.  Like, at first I had my paperbacks in one section.  Then I had to start putting some paperbacks with the hardbacks but I already had A-Z in paperbacks here and A-Z in hardback there.  So then I put A-Z with science fiction and fantasy here and mystery there and non-fiction and inspiration over there.  Then I had to divide the hard backs A-Z science fiction here, then mystery, then fantasy and inspiration and reference.  Then I… well, I’ve kind of given up but for a general stacking of what has been read and what I need to read among what used to be organized.
Yes, I was just looking for another book…