It’s the most magical time of the year: time for the annual The Dark is Rising readathon. If you’ve never encountered Susan Cooper’s classic, it’s not too late – join us from December 20th for a whirlwind of myth and magic told in lyrical prose that will leave you with goosebumps.
Time for one of my intermittent efforts to catch up on the greats of science fiction. For SciFiMonth (ahem, and the Hive prompt for Dancing with Fantasy and SciFi) I chose Arthur C Clarke’s first novel – one of his earliest and apparently one of his best.
Last autumn, I ‘fessed up that I rarely read SF classics. Looking at “scifi novels every fan must read” lists, I’m a very bad SF fan indeed. This year I made a half-hearted effort to mend my ways (I haven’t exactly let them dominate my reading), but Sci Fi Month was my inspiration to tackle a giant.
When the High Priestess dies, the lesser priestesses leave the Tombs of Atuan and go in search of the newborn she has become. If she grows healthy and unblemished, she is fed to the Nameless Ones, keeper of their rituals, heir to their secrets. Could such a child ever turn her back on the Dark?
Daniel Dann doesn’t believe in ESP, but he’s monitoring telepaths on a top secret Navy project. The Navy wants to talk securely to submarines, but across the galaxy a desperate race on a dying planet latch on to the little group’s signals as their last best hope to save their children. Whatever the cost.
I nearly chose I Am Legend for a Confession, but I’ve read it before – however little I remembered beyond the ending. Instead, I’m going to take another look at it side by side with the Will Smith adaptation (as a Bad SF Fan, I haven’t seen the Vincent Price and Charlton Heston versions). Which will be better?
Double whammy confession time: I hadn’t previously read Philip K Dick’s classic, and I don’t much like Blade Runner. Spot the obvious problem though: I have seen Blade Runner, and it’s really hard to read the book without being influenced by it.
It occurred to me that classics of fantasy are as important to me as classics of scifi. So I’m cheating this month, and visiting Earthsea in my celebration of genre classics. I’ll come completely clean: this isn’t even a first read. This was one of my first loves. Can it survive my adult prejudices?
Okay, having ‘fessed up about how few classics I’ve read, I shall endeavour to read at least half a dozen seminal SF works next year in my ongoing Confessions. But first, some catch-up – I read Slaughterhouse Five a while back. I knew it was hailed as a great SF AND great anti-war novel, but I didn’t really know what to expect. It certainly wasn’t what I got.
Confession time: every time I see a list of ‘must-read scifi novels’ or ‘scifi to read before you die’, my heart sinks. Just for a moment. I guess I’m just a bad SF fan – the classics that typically dominate these lists very rarely float my boat. But is that my failing or theirs?
So, yesterday’s ranting aside, a number of totally random thoughts on world-building and detail stay with me on this read of The Silmarillion.
I have loved The Silmarillion for far too long to be able to write a candid review, so I’m not going to try. Reading it adds texture and delight to reading The Lord of the Rings. And while it can be both turgid and erratic, it still makes me cry. However, I couldn’t get through it this time without gritting my teeth in a few places. Today I’m going to indulge some of my pet peeves.
Tolkien is at least partly responsible for my ongoing love affair with detailed world-building. I’m the irritating beta reader who says things like ‘I love the characters, but how does the economy work?’. Middle-Earth is saturated in detail, its history embedded into its landscape; the stories studded with songs and legends. But I still have a few questions…
One of the many great joys of re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring is re-setting my memories from the films to the original text. Don’t get me wrong – I love the film (and Fellowship is by far my favourite), but there’s an awful lot of re-interpretation of character for cinematic purposes. Today I shall flail happily about spending time with some old friends.
The delightful Rinn proposed a month-long love-in for all things Middle-Earth (and designed the banner – thank you Rinn!). As I haven’t read The Lord of the Rings since that Jackson fellow made it easy not to, I decided to join her. And oh my. Yes, that’s right, this was my favourite world for years.