Sunday Status Update: March 5, 2017

This week, Supergirl deals with more woes over being an alien.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Supergirl: This week the “illegal alien” thing reared its ugly head again. This was, oh, Friday? Thursday? Anyway, I was downtown to buy new clothes (when you’re constantly ripping off your outer layer to leap into action, you go through a lot of them) when I ran into an invasion of lizard people from the earth’s core. Only, you know, not a full-blown invasion really, more just like some lizard people dared some other lizard people to go up and steal a McDonald’s sign. They seemed to think it was a surface world religious symbol, and you know, not inaccurate, exactly. So I did my usual intimidation routine — grab one, fly him around a bit, drop him back with his friends — and told them to get lost. They got lost. They usually do.

Only then a bunch of guys in suits came running up and said they’d been looking for me, and said I needed to fill out paperwork, and I was being served some kind of notice of potential deportation. So I asked where I was supposed to be deported to. My planet kind of blew up. Only they didn’t seem to care. Well, we argued back and forth for a while, until I was sincerely missing the lizard people. In the end I did the only thing that seemed reasonable. I grabbed one, flew him around a bit, dropped him back with his friends, and told them to get lost.

They got lost.

Jana: This week I’ve been busy-busy-busy, but I did manage to squeeze in one book: Lois Lane: Triple Threat, the third amazing and stellar LOIS LANE book by Gwenda Bond. And by “squeeze in,” I mean I turned off the phone and computer, shut myself in my room, and didn’t come out until I had gotten from the first page to the last. Fandom will do that to a person. Triple Threat is due out in May 2017, and hopefully I can keep a lid on my happy burbles until then. In the meantime, I’ll be working on my backlog of to-be-read and to-be-reviewed books, since I have a little breathing space between now and my next deadline.

Kat: This week I read A Conversation in Blood, the third EGIL & NIX novel by Paul S. Kemp. Egil and Nix are a fun fantasy duo modeled after Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Fans will love Kemp’s latest installment. Currently I am reading Ace in the Hole, the sixth book in George R.R. Martin‘s WILD CARDS series. It’s set during the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. It’s amazing how little politics has changed since that time!

Marion: I don’t know if I mentioned After the Parade by Lori Ostlund before, but I finished it this week. This is a general fiction novel about a gay man who leaves his relationship of many years and relocated from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to San Francisco. The book covers his first several months in San Francisco, and his childhood, which changed dramatically after the town parade the year he turned six (hence the title). Ostlund has a keen eye for human behavior, and she really pays attention. The book is drily funny, tragic, and compassionate. Plus, the woman simply writes beautiful sentences. I picked up a copy of Sixty Stories, a collection by Donald Barthleme, and I’m enjoying the strangeness.

On the genre front, I read A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly. I loved the magical system in it and the idea that the Volstead Act prohibited magic, not alcohol. I thought the two main characters were interesting, but I had some trouble with the world-building. I should have a review done soon.

Sandy: Moi? I am currently reading my third book in a row from sci-fi Grand Master Clifford D. Simak, 1965’s All Flesh Is Grass. In this one, an impenetrable dome appears around a small American town (a future inspiration for Stephen King, perhaps?), trapping all the residents inside. Meanwhile, our protagonist inadvertently enters an “alternative Earth,” peopled only by sentient purple-flower beings. Yes, it’s another wild outing from this delightful author! I hope to get a review of this book out this coming week…

Skye: Since my last Sunday Status Update I’ve spent more time working on my Honours Research Paper than reading. With the exception of one long car ride to Boston! On that trip I read and/or finished: The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu, BINTI by Nnedi Okorafor, and Passing Strange by Ellen Klages. I’ve also read excerpts of a range of horror literature for a class I am taking this term. Overall, my time for reading for pleasure is taking a back seat to reading and writing for my research paper.

Stuart: Got the official diagnosis of a lumbar herniated disc, and doc has scheduled a nerve root block shot next week, which he says brings long-term relief to 50% of patients. If that doesn’t work, will explore other options. Trying some stretching exercises to recover, but our dog keeps licking me in the face. Book-wise, I’ve been slowly chipping away at Italo Calvino‘s The Complete Cosmicomics (2009), which collects his original Cosmicomics (1965), t-zero (1967; published as Time and the Hunter in English in 1969), and 11 other thematically-related stories, some translated into English for the first time. These are very unusual stories that take ideas from cosmology and scientific principles, and then create a magic-realist story around them. Hard to describe, you really have to read them for yourself. I’m also listening to Alastair Reynold‘s Galactic North (2006), a collection of short stories set in his REVELATION SPACE universe.

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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. Stuart, you been enduring quite the trial. I wish I could do something more materially helpful than say “feel better.”

    Sandy, I think I met some of those sentient purple-flower people around my home county in the early 1970s.

    • Marion, the good news is that over the last 4 days the pain has dramatically lessened and I can stand, sit, and even walk a bit now. Baby steps, but I feel I’ve turned the corner. It’s amazing the luxurious feeling of moving in the house without having to calculate if the pain is worth it. I’m also considering a balance ball instead of desk chair when I go back to the office, and I’m practicing with one this week to test it out.

      Sandy, I wonder if Mr. Simak dabbled in the 1970s counter-culture more than we give him credit for.

  2. Supergirl, isn’t Central City a sanctuary city?

  3. Alas, because I’m much too easily distracted, I spent my last week, while ostensibly on vacation, doing too much legal work. Despite that, Fred and I read aloud to each other Robert Harris’s new book, CONCLAVE. It’s set after the current Pope dies, at some unstated future date — an odd and unusual example of a novel set in the future that is in no way fantastical. We enjoyed it while reading, but once our critical facilities kicked back in after finishing, we have some critical quibbles. Still, we had a lovely time reading it to one another.

    Marion, your description of A CRIMINAL MAGIC has intrigued me enormously. I’m going to have to check that one out.

    • Terry, Jana reviewed A CRIMINAL MAGIC here: Check it out.

      You and Fred might enjoy AFTER THE PARADE, especially to read aloud, because her prose is so beautiful (and it’s a good story).

      • Now see, that’s an interesting conundrum. If it has beautiful language, I’m much less likely to want to hear it aloud than to read it to myself. Potboilers make the best books for us to read to each other, it seems. In fact, we tried to get through Harris’s first book about Cicero by reading it aloud, and wound up never finishing. The only sort-of exception I can think of is the Harry Potter books, which we listened to on tape (yes, I’m dating myself). Otherwise the Chet and Bernie mysteries by Spencer Quinn or the like is going to work best for us. YMMV.

  4. I’ve been reading the old Vertigo Comic The Black Orchid this week, including a one-issue crossover with the Swamp Thing. Before that, I read Neil Gaiman’s three-issue Black Orchid mini-series. I also read a good, quick short four-issue noir series called Hit. Today I read a couple of issues in one of my favorite all-time series Strangers In Paradise by Terry Moore.

  5. Stuart, as much as I love Italo Calvino, I highly recommend word-light comics (Not Neil Gaiman or Bendis) and P.I. novels to accompany pain. In fact, my inability to focus on long novels while in severe pain for a few years was the entire reason why I read noir fiction and comics at all (I started with noir fiction, then noir comics, then any comics). I would not have ever tried noir or comics I don’t think if I wasn’t desperately in need of narrative on a page. But even novels I loved and new well–Pride and Prejudice–were just too word-heavy for my brain to take in in a mix of pain and narcotics. Rereading comics is also a pleasant experience to distract from pain if you haven’t tried that.

    • Hi Brad, I started reading Calvino’s Cosmicomics back during my Christmas holiday in Hawaii, well before this herniated disc happened. I remember reading the first story, “The Distance to the Moon”, on my iPhone while sitting at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in Waikiki waiting for my wife and daughter to do clothes shopping (shudder). It was such a completely unique and charming story and hooked me.

      As for pain and comics, I can definitely see how visual storytelling is easier to take in when you are suffering and taking medication. It’s a good therapeutic tool for sure. I’m actually seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on my end, but I did find audiobooks much easier to consume that print books during my travails.

      • Oh, yes, audio books! I’ll be forever indebted to Kat for that. I also find audio books fantastic for depression. Back last May, when I went through my last horrific period (as opposed to my monthly periods/cycles), I think I survived because of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom Trilogy narrated by none other than Tim Curry! My daily goal was to get my headphones on and turn on the audio narration. And honestly, it was literally a lifesaver. Though I’m not sure I can ever hear Tim Curry’s voice again without being taken back to that moment in time . . .

        Anyway, I share my stories for anyone else who is in pain, mental and/or physical (and the two often go together). Comic books and Audio books can be the greatest freedom.

  6. April /

    Marion, I had enough trouble with the world-building and the characters of A Criminal Magic that I couldn’t finish it. In fact, I don’t think I got past the fourth chapter.

    • April, I enjoyed the plot and the travails of the two main characters enough that I stayed to the end, and I am glad I did. But I did miss the world-building.

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