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.
In the powerful conclusion to the Sequence, the Dark comes rising for its final confrontation with the Light, when the fate of the world will be decided. The Six must retrieve the last Thing of Power and avoid the traps set by the Dark if they are to reach the Midsummer Tree in time.
Will Stanton is sent to North Wales to recuperate from a serious illness.
Certain that he has forgotten something important, he finds himself in the thick of conflicts both ancient and modern as the power of the Grey King stirs against him. Can the Light steer its forgetful servant in the right direction, or will the Dark claim the Thing of Power buried under the mountain?
When the grail is stolen from the British Museum, the Drews are invited back to Trewissick to help Gumerry retrieve it. But with only a week’s holiday – and a strange boy called Will Stanton tagging at their heels – how can the children find the space and secrecy to complete their quest?
It’s nearly Christmas, and Will Stanton is turning 11. As if puberty and buying presents for 9 siblings weren’t hazard enough, he awakens on his birthday to discover he is the last of the Old Ones, fated to seek the Signs of the Light and stop the Dark from rising.
It’s easy to be snarky, but this festive classic is guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.
The Drew family are delighted to spend the summer in Trewissick with Great-uncle Merry.
When the three children discover a crumbling manuscript in the attic, they think they’ve found an adventure to occupy their time.
But the ancient map holds the secret to a long-lost treasure that could tip the balance in the age-old battle with the Dark. Uncertain who to trust, the children find themselves in a race to the finish against forces more menacing than they had ever imagined.
It’s December, and the second worldwide The Dark is Rising Readathon has kicked off. I’m joyfully embracing this as an opportunity to re-visit a childhood favourite, although I shall be adopting an accelerated reading schedule (a book a week, finishing the sequence before New Year) rather than the gracefully staggered but protracted schedule that has you read each book at the time of year in which it is set.
For those who would like to jump on board, more information is available on the official website, and there’s already much discussion on the Facebook Group and Twitter feed. Many thanks to Danny Whittaker for organising us all.
Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden: nothing like a bit of fresh air to make you feel better
Mistress Mary (quite contrary) is orphaned by a cholera outbreak in India, and shipped to Yorkshire to be the ward of her remote uncle. Left to her own devices with nobody but a well-meaning maid to keep an eye on her, she spends much time outdoors and quickly blossoms from a tiresome little tyrant to a curious, energetic girl. When she begins discovering the secrets of the forbidding house and its tragic gardens, she brings magic and hope that changes the fates of all its inhabitants.
This gave me goose bumps. It has been at least 20 years since I last read or listened to it, yet it remains so very familiar – not necessarily in plot details, but in the very phrases of the prose. As a result, I can’t be remotely objective about it. I loved it as a child, and it didn’t fall down as an adult – if anything, I was belatedly amazed at just how young I fell in love with it (6? 7?), given the reading age / vocabulary and challenging concepts.