Sunday Status Update: March 31, 2013

Today, Aslan. I considered doing Bigwig from Watership Down, but then I thought “how can I make this even more on the nose?” Anyway, I want to reiterate: today’s guest is Aslan. The character. A talking lion invented by C.S. Lewis. No one and nothing else should be seriously associated with today’s remarks.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Aslan: Today is a particularly special day. On this day, true Narnians give voice to songs and dance hearty reels in the halls of Cair Paravel. It is a day of feasting and of merrymaking, and if a book is read, it is that account of the table and the witch. You have a book like it in your world, though I shan’t tell you exactly what the name is: that would be gauche. Anyway, today all are welcome, Narnian or no, to celebrate in whatever way they see fit.

Except Susan. Likes boys that much, does she? Well, fine. She can just tart herself up for a night on the town tonight, with her fancy-shmancy lipstick and rouge and whatever else the kids slap on themselves these days. We’ll just be here, eating her slice of cake without her.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Brad: In preparation for my second public lecture on the American P.I.–part of a series of public lectures offered by the faculty at Oxford College–I’ve been rereading one of my favorite crime fiction authors: Lawrence Block. His first five novels about P.I. Matthew Scudder rival the work of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, and Robert B. Parker. In fact, his Matthew Scudder might be my favorite fictional P.I. after Hammett’s Continental Op (way better than his Sam Spade), even ahead of Philip Marlowe and Lew Archer, and that’s saying something. His whole series is excellent, but the first five novels, as Block has written, really are a five-act play in narrative construction. So, these are the five I’ve been rereading: The Sins of the Father, Time to Murder and Create, In the Midst of Death, A Stab In the Dark, and Eight Million Ways to Die. This final novel is not only considered his best, it’s also considered one of the greatest P.I. novels of all time, up there with The Maltese Falcon (Hammett), The Long Goodbye (Chandler), and The Goodbye Look (MacDonald). As a sidenote, this month they just started filming the tenth book in the series, A Walk Among the Tombstones. On audio, I’ve continued to listen to Neil Gaiman‘s collection of short stories Fragile Things. I also listened to, and highly recommend, Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants, in which a young man encounters Loki, Thor, and Odin. I listened to it with my ten-year-old daughter, who also loved it. As for comics, I’ve been reading a lot of old Wildstorm titles: Gen13, Wildcats, Stormwatch, Stormwatch PHD, and The Authority. I also caught up with the current run on Wonder Woman. It is either the best or second best title being produced by DC at the moment. It’s up to issue 18, and if you aren’t reading it and you like mythology, you need to read this title. I’ll be writing a review soon.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Kat: Another busy week. While painting I listened to two audiobooks, the second and third of Simon R. Green’s NIGHTSIDE series — Agents of Light and Darkness and Nightingale’s Lament. I’ve moved on to book four, Hex and the City. These are fast entertaining reads, but they’re repetitive, which is particularly noticeable when you read them back to back. But even in the same book Green uses the same phrases and descriptions over and over…

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Kelly: I’ve just finished River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay. It’s terrific. Review to come soon. I’m following this beautiful, epic novel with some fluff: Aimee Carter‘s The Goddess Inheritance. I’ve had all sorts of issues with this series from the beginning and yet I find myself wanting to know how it ends.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Marion: I didn’t get much reading done this week, because I spent the weekend at a writing retreat. I purposely left all but one book (the collection of Nebula nominees for 2013) at home so that I could not distract myself from writing. It almost worked.

I am trying to write a fantasy short story from the point of view of a crow. This can be difficult. The continuum of narrative-voice alternatives ranges from, “Caw-aw-aw-aw-aw! Krrrrk! Krrrk! Caw-aw-aw! Tok-tok,” which is authentic yet inaccessible, to, “Hello. I am a crow. Throughout the subsequent narrative, I will employ perfect English syntax, a rich vocabulary and several precise metaphors of a crow-ish nature, most of which will revolve around food. I hope that, during this process, you will honor the reader-writer compact and remember at all times that I am, in fact, a member of corvus brachryhynchos.” Then there’s the ever-popular, “Food! I see food! Non-crow has it. I want it! Go away, non-crow! I am big! I am fierce! I – look, what’s that over there? Ha! Now I have the food. Mmmm, Burger King.” So many artistic choices…

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Steven: “This week I started a re-read of Showboat World, by Jack Vance. Set in the same setting as Big Planet. It’s a lot of fun, about a group of itinerant actors who travel up and down the rivers of the aptly named Big Planet. This one has a lot of the trademark Vance humor and stylistic turns of phrase. I’d started reading it a while back, but then realized I wanted to read the original Big Planet novel first. Not really necessary though, as the two share only the same planetary setting, but little else.
Also completed another nostalgic re-read, the comic historical fiction Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser about a Victorian hero who really isn’t anything of the sort.”

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Terry: I’m reading a ridiculous number of books all at once, many of which I’ve already named here, so I’ll just add mention of a couple of new ones: Zachary Jernigan‘s No Return, which so far seems to have elements of both science fiction and fantasy, and is quite intriguing; and Beneath the Surface, a collection of horror short stories by Simon Strantzas that seems quite Lovecraftian in theme. As usual, I’m bemoaning the constant lack of time to read. I’ve found an article on Book Riot that perfectly expresses my feelings: “And did you know that your favorite authors often keep writing books when you haven’t even read their last ones? Terrific. Swell. Thanks a lot for being so creative and productive, authors. Jerks.”  Maybe they should all stop writing until I catch up, eh?

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Tim: This week, I read a lot of short stories. For the most part, these came from The Sandman: Book of Dreams, a collection of works written in honor of Neil Gaiman‘s The Sandman series of comics and edited by Ed Kramer and Mr. Gaiman himself. As with any collection, some stories appealed to me more than others, but it was interesting seeing the different takes on Gaiman’s creation. I also went through a few works from Songs of Love and Death, one of the George R.R. Martin/Gardner Dozois anthologies. So far, I do find myself wishing that more authors would try writing original stuff rather than raiding the larders of their own personal “universes,” but overall I’m enjoying myself.

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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  1. Aslan, nice to see you today! I am celebrating with you in spirit.

  2. LOL, Marion!

    As for Bigwig, the line of his I always remember is when he got away with telling someone to eat sh*t in a children’s book because he was doing it in rabbit language. I think I may have been the only one in my English class who was even paying enough attention to know what he said.

  3. Marion, you’re making my ribs hurt, you’re making me laugh so far. And I want to read that story! (Just saw a science piece on television recently about how incredibly smart crows are. Did you know that they not only use tools, they actually fashion tools for a particular use? They’re the only animal we know of that does that. Cool, eh?)

  4. Yes, crows do fashion tools and it appears they recognize human faces. And they apparently do like Burger King; at least the local ones do. They tolerate me but they are not happy with my following them to take pictures — prima donas!

    Kat, we enjoyed the Nightside books but even Dave and I would groan and roll our eyes at how many times in the same book people would “crash to a halt,” or someone would say, “Who’s he when he’s a home, then?” My feeling has always been that Greene wrote those books quickly and did not stop for much revising.

  5. Hey Brad,

    I also have really enjoyed the Scudder series although I’ve only read the first four. I was always a big fan of Chandler and Hammett and am currently halfway through the first Lew Archer book by MacDonald. The lecture sounds interesting, any chance the audio will be made available to stream or download?

  6. brad /

    Probably not, though I appreciate your expressing interest.

    The Scudder series is good all the way through.

    The Lew Archer series gets better in some ways, but is the least consistent of the ones I’ve mentioned. There are about four Lew Archer novels that I think are absolutely brilliant but there are at least four I actively dislike.

    I also recommend the first three Mike Hammer novels by Spillane. He out- sold every other crime novelist and offends me greatly. And he infuriated Ross MacDonald. It’s wonderful to see the popular novels that writers like Ross MacDonald reacted against. Parker, with his feminist sensibility, would continue to react against the homophobic and misogynist Spillane, who is so offensive you won’t be able to believe how explicit he could be in his attitudes.

    Crais is probably the next writer in line after Block and Parker (Though I’ve skipped John D. MacDonald, Amos Walker, and a ton more), but I think if we are talking the most direct line of influence.

  7. brad /

    ,then those are some of the main ones.

    • CTGT /

      Good luck with the lecture.

      Just finished The Lew Archer, it was a little uneven in the middle but came on pretty strong in the end.
      I’ve got The Deep Blue Good-by waiting in the wings.

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