I finished Outlander and can only recommend that you run away if you ever see the book anywhere around you. Waste. Of. Time. I got to the end, threw the book down and (mentally) yelled YOU MUST BE JOKING! No plot, no character development, little discussion or thought on the issues of time travel, little thought at all, and some superficial theology pitched in at the end. Blech. Must find something to read to take the taste out of my brain. Go see the reviews on goodreads for more, I can’t really add to the 1/2-star reviews there. They say it all, and I don’t want to think about it any more. Take all the gushing 5-star reviews with a large handful of salt.
In happier news, I’ve got a Thursday Next book on my iPad from the library, One of Our Thursdays is Missing. Yay for Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next! (What!?!?! You’ve never heard of Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next?? Get to the library now.) I’m irritated by the fact that the EPUB copy of OOOTIM has the map of Fiction Island sideways, then when you turn the iPad to see the map not sideways, the image rotates. Another eBook irritant. Fortunately the fantastic Mr. Fforde has the map on his website. I like maps in books a lot. I’ve talked about that before around here.
I’m still thinking about the lack of book sales at the garage sale on Saturday. Some of the non-fiction went quite quickly, including a book about how everything works. The mother of a small boy picked that up, along with a baseball glove for said small boy. Some of the mysteries went, but they didn’t go as quickly as I’d hoped. Everyone commented on the number of Ian Rankin books, but there were just as many of other authors. The sale I enjoyed making the most was to a 30ish guy who bought my 2 Gordon Korman books because he read them when he was younger. It was totally a nostalgia buy, and something I wasn’t really expecting. I did see other people pick up books, then put them down as though they shouldn’t buy books though they wanted to. Why not? What’s wrong with buying books, especially when they are $1.00 or less? Oh well, some books found new homes.
I didn’t sell as many books as I hoped at the garage sale. But I’m down 3+ boxes, which is better than being down none at all. It wasn’t as hard to sell the books and other things as I thought it would be — though I must admit to pricing some glasses high when I didn’t want them to go. The item I really wanted to get rid of didn’t sell. It is a decorative plate that some of my friends have described as evil because it is so very ugly and tasteless. But this is a blog about reading books, not about kitschy things I’ve been given and can’t get rid of.
Because of the sale and the Great Apartment Hunt I’ve not been doing as much reading as usual. I finished 1Q84 last night, and, to my horror, found it was the first book I’d actually finished in September. Have you read 1Q84? You should. It is thick and intimidating, but really interesting. There are lots of references to other books in it, 1984 of course, but others as well. One of the main characters is a writer and he reads a lot.
I’ve not quite finished Outlander which I mentioned in my last Current Reading post. I cannot recommend the book at all. It has no apparent plot and the characters rush around being punished, being tortured, or having sex. That is all that happens. There are no interesting musings about time travel. The book is pointless, unless you want to read about people being punished, tortured and etc. The interesting bits about the time and how to live and survive are all avoided. The time traveller is not shocked by all the injuries that result from the punishment and torture because she was a nurse in a field hospital in WW2. The plot appeared to be about Claire (the time traveller) getting back to her own time, but then that changed, and now I’m not sure where it is all going. So not recommended at all. How did this become a NYTimes bestseller and have a series that followed? Most odd.
How is your reading going for the month of change that is September?
I had an interesting discussion about time travel this week with my new friend the classics scholar. We talked about interesting time travel books we’ve read, and whether time travel is desirable let alone possible. I am still reading Outlander and this began our discussion of the thing.
The classics scholar thought, based upon her knowledge of Roman society and technology, that a Roman dropped into the 21st century would be able to get by. Not too much has changed in terms of urban infrastructure. The Romans invented concrete. Possibly the Roman would be surprised by how much we use concrete. Of course metal-working technology has improved and the combination of metal and concrete leads to skyscrapers that were not achieved in Roman times, but a Roman engineer would figure it out pretty quickly. Electricity might baffle. But even tablets were something Romans used, we just have ways of linking tablets that they didn’t have.
I suggested that it might be much more difficult for a person from the twenty-first century to be dropped in ancient Rome. I think I’ve said in a previous post in this blog that many books that involve time travel fail to give a sense of the past as alien, as a foreign country. Crichton’s Timeline does it best in books I’ve read so far. The classics scholar mentioned a story about a collector who sent a time traveller to collect extinct animals — and what they thought were small cuddly animals turned out to be dangerous beasts. That sounds like an interesting book, but she couldn’t remember the title/author details. Anyone got a clue on that?
What are your theories on time travel? I’m not sure that going back is either possible or desirable, though I think it would be interesting. Going forward faster? Maybe. But then could you get back? That is the key question of A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright, and you should all go and read that if you haven’t yet.
I’ve got two novels on the go as well as my theological reading and a book about prayer. Lets start with the novels.
1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. This is really good. You should probably read it despite its intimidating size and odd title. Notice that it is One Q 84. I kept trying the letter I in searching for it instead of the number 1. The world has shifted and so one of the characters decides to rename the year 1Q84 instead of 1984. Enough said.
2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve never read Gabaldon before, and wanted to start with the first book. I’ve a thing about time travel, so the premise was interesting to me. I’m not impressed, though, with errors of historical fact that appear in the first few pages of the book. The book’s present is Scotland, 1945, around the vernal equinox. The heroine is an army nurse who is just back from the war, and the rationing has just been lifted. Erm, the war in Europe didn’t end until May of 1945. People wouldn’t have been released from armed forces service when the book is set. Rationing in the UK didn’t completely end until the early 50s. Now it may be that Gabaldon is writing about an alternate history in a slighty different world, but lets make that obvious instead of shifting easily verified facts about a major event in the main character’s life.
3. The New Testament and the People of God by N.T. Wright. Methodology and history and theology all together. I’m enjoying this very much. Wright is a good writer, who makes his points clearly. This is a virtue not often found in academic writing on the New Testament, or, for that matter, in any theological discipline.
4. Opening to God by David Benner. The subtitle includes the word Prayer and the phrase lectio divina and that subtitle is what actually caught my eye. The book is the print version of a Lenten series given in Victoria, BC a few years ago. This is also a good book. One cannot speed-read it, and that is appropriate, given that lectio divina is by definition meditative reading.
What are you reading?
In the summer, NPR put out a list of the top 100 Science Fiction books. Note that some of the items are actually SciFi series. I’ve done a quick count and I’ve read 23 items on the list. I’ve heard of many of the books, and I own quite a few that I haven’t read just yet. I’ve also started into a series or two that I didn’t count as I am not yet finished.
I’m slightly bemused by the inclusion of The Time Traveller’s Wife on this list, though time travel is generally part of the SciFi genre. I’m also disappointed that none of Guy Gavriel Kay’s works made the top 100. Possibly he isn’t well known enough in the USA?
Happy browsing and deciding which SFF book to read next. Or possibly to try first!
In my list of books I’ve read more than three times I mentioned Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. While I’ve read JP more than 3 times, I’ve read Timeline at least as much and I like it better. It should have been my representative Crichton book.
Why do I like Timeline? I’ve mentioned before that I have a thing for time travel, and this book is about time travel in all its glory. It is one of the first books that I read about time travel that highlighted the dangerous aspects of that activity. It captures really well the serious culture shock that someone going through a time-shift would encounter. There’s loads and loads of stuff we don’t know about the past. We’ve very little clue at all really about how most of the world lived most of the time.
In this book of Crichton’s the main characters go back to rescue other people who are stuck in the past. The characters who go back find themselves in a war zone where they don’t speak the language well and have some severe culture shock. They are familiar with the area and time, because they work as archeologists and go into the past of their current excavation. The usual time travel discussion about changing history (is it possible?) is in the book, but with a very different twist. I really like this book because of the strong sense of place — the time-travellers know the area and see it at two different times, so are always thinking about where they are and how what they see in the past relates to how they know the place in a different time. Because they’ve studied the past, they think they can survive, but these experts find themselves in the middle of a really big learning experience, and the learning curve is pretty steep.
In a way Jurassic Park does a similar thing. A bunch of scientists think they have control of a situation, but it goes completely out of control, and suddenly the experts are in danger and are busy learning about things they thought they had down. Jurassic Park also attempts to connect the world now with the past in a realistic way, only instead of us going to the past, the past comes to us.
In both books Crichton has a tendency to lecture through characters speeches. I think he does this a little more frequently in JP than in Timeline. I’m not sure his science or math is totally up to speed, but I’m not up to speed on that math or science either really, so cannot say any more than I find it a bit fuzzy. But these are good books. They do near-future science fiction rather well. Margaret Atwood would probably call these speculative fiction, but they are both about science and the future, so science fiction will do for me.