Wednesday, June 6, 2012

There Really is Nothing New - Just New Ways of Telling the Tale

Previously I mentioned the relatively new book by Stephenie Meyer - The Host and then an older book called Needle by Hal Clement.  Both deal with the presence of symbiotic alien life forms.  Of course there are other books that dealt with the same invasion.  I was thinking of Robert Heinlein's book - The Puppet Masters. (unfortunately, it's another of those books that is MIA from my shelves)  The alien invaders in his story were a bit more obvious by showing as slugs on the back of their hosts.  It was published in 1951.  An interesting aspect is that his 'future' was the year 2007.  By then we were supposed to have flying cars and phones planted in our heads.  I do believe we went down an alternate timeline, though.  Obviously the story is a little dated but still a good adventure.
The movie Puppet Masters was based on that book.
Another book, originally titled The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney was rumored to be a rip-off of Heinlein's work (don't know - doesn't matter) it came out shortly after Heinlein's.  After the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a hit, the title of the book was changed to reflect that title.
Okay, just to face facts… I made the mistake of checking out a few details in The Host, so I had the book in my hand and kind of read a couple of pages where the book kind of fell open.  Soooo, I started reading it again.  Well, see, I had a stiff neck and wasn't much good at writing or typing that day… I finished reading it as well. 
Then, of course, I had to read Diadem from the Stars for my last blog and I ran into this other little problem.  It is something I deal with when I read other great serials… I have to read the next book.  Unfortunately that leads to the next book and so on…
You get the idea.
The second book of the series, Lamarchos picks up Aleytys' as she and the crook pay a debt to the captain of the ship that got them and her baby off her homeworld.  The payoff of the debt turns out to be a robbery.  Of course nothing is simple for Aleytys and her role in this scheme involves being a local priestess type with mystic powers… it's the cover story to get them into a fortified company town where the vault is.
The first complication is that Aleytys' cover story turns out to be true and the spirits of the planet insist she perform 4 tasks so that they in turn help her.  Besides the continuing complications we learn a bit more about the diadem and the secrets it holds, I won't give that away but it increases both Aleytys' abilities and the depth of her character.  There are a lot of nice twists and turns to the plot as they work toward the burglary they must do to for their ride and get off the planet again.
Betrayals happen from all sides.  And then there are the guys from whom the thief stole the diadem, they are on her trail… spiders.
A key element in these stories is the portrayal of alienness.  Aleytys constantly falls into the trap of thinking that those around her are just like her, just the same as the people she grew up with.  Even when an alien has a different form she ascribes her own morality to them, often mistakenly.  There are enough similarities that it is hard for her to hold onto the fact that they are alien from her… although in truth she must learn and remember that she is the alien in their midst.  It is she who hops from one planet and culture to the next. 
Perhaps this trait is also one of the facets of her character that we cling to, as she does, a mark of her superior humanity, optimism and hope.  We, or at least I, see her acceptance of others, other cultures, other people as commendable and she helps even those who are her enemies, as a healer.
Reading these books you get the sense that Ms. Clayton had a streak of the 60's hippy in her, or at least understood the version of Peace and Love that was the motto of that era.  It is what we all hope for.  I've mentioned previously that as a reader I was only interested in the stories, the sequels and finding the next book my favorite author published.  Now, maybe as a writer, but still as a reader, I've looked into more of the Author's lives that I've been writing about.  It's easy now with the internet to find out information about people, and authors now have websites, they're encouraged to, and can relate to their readers. 
Some things I find are sad, like the fact that Ms. Clayton died in 1998.
I'm glad that she did so much in her life and from what I've learned I understand that those who knew her were blessed by her heart.  Her works continue.
Book 3 - Irsud, starts out with betrayal… the wicked ship captain of the previous book steals Aleytys' son and sells Aleytys into slavery.  Using her Power Aleytys compels the crook she'd been traveling with to get her son to his father back on her homeworld.
She is sold to an alien race, some other planet somewhere for a unique purpose.  Okay, SPOILER ALERT -- she's to be used as a host body for an old queen's egg.  It'll grow inside of her, absorbing her strengths, gaining them, then eat her from the inside before emerging -- SPOILER COMPLETE.
When taken for a slave they planted a psi-blocker in her so she couldn't use any of her abilities… it would make her confused every time she tried.  Of course, she still had the diadem and the help it could give her, just not so much. (the diadem won't come off unless she's dead and her bones are dust).
Aleytys' mission is to escape slavery and get off that planet to find her son.
Except she can't use her psi-powers.  She can use her personality and does, becoming friends with one of the old queen's lovers.  I don't want to give too much away, but then I can't say much, either.  There is more of politics and schemes in this tale, where Aleytys learns of various tribes of the people and the group owning her is at the top of the hill.  Hatred and fear rule, but those owning her deal with the star powers (companies who find profit on various worlds) who trade weapons and technology.  In order for her to escape this world she must aid the rebels against those who hold her.
Aleytys can use the power hidden within the diadem but she manages to get the psi-blocker out eventually and she's able to do more to help the cause.
It's nowhere near easy and some tragic events unfold before she's able to escape that planet with a smuggler crew.  She rides with them as far as she can go in the direction of her home planet.
Aleytys lands, eventually, on Maeve, the planet and the title of the 4th book of the Diadem Series.
Okay, maybe you see the problem.
I started to give info on the first book of the series of the Diadem… since it inspired me.  So, I read it.  And then the next and the next and…
Obviously, I believe these books are excellent and worth the read.  If there are not enough books coming out for you to find something fun and exciting and engrossing, look into the past and find these books by Jo Clayton.  I don't know if they've been released as ebooks (a lot of older books are coming out in that format) but you can still find them in old bookstores and online.  I recommend as a good source since they link into many independent bookstores around the world and I've found their books to be reasonably priced.  You can usually find a book and get it shipped for less than the cost of a new paperback. 

I have to get back to my typing…