Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Airplane Reading

I got to do a lot of reading while spending several hours on an airplane two days in a row, so I finally have books to discuss!

I pulled a couple of books off my to-be-read shelf. At least one of them had been there possibly since high school or college. I think a friend gave it to me, and I just never got around to reading it. The other, I'm not sure where it came from because it doesn't look like the sort of thing I would have chosen to buy, mostly because of the really bad 1970s cover. Maybe it just spontaneously appeared on my bookcase. If that's happening, it would explain a lot about the condition of my house. I can't help the overflowing bookshelves if I somehow attract books.

Anyway, one of them was worth talking about, The Silver Sun by Nancy Springer. This was a very traditional, old-school fantasy drawing upon Welsh folklore (particularly The Mabinogion) as source material. I believe it was published in the very early 1980s. When I was craving old-school fantasy but wanted something more intimate than epic not too long ago, this was the kind of thing I was looking for. The heroes are really, really good people, no real shades of gray or angst or real temptation to the dark side. The villain is offstage for most of the book and we just see the effects of his activities. There's a war later in the book, but most of the book is about the quest of two young men, not for an object, but for discovery and alliances. One of our heroes knows he's a prince (no apprentice farmboy who discovers he's the Destined, Chosen One) but hates his evil father and is trying to put together alliances to help him hold the throne against his evil father's minions when the time comes, so he can set things right in the kingdom. I will admit that as much as I like good good guys, the main characters in this were sometimes a bit much for me, but I think some of that has to do with conditioning because it's so different to read now in the age of "only the villains are interesting, so we'll make the heroes more like the villains" writing. I'm not sure this book would get published today, though. I think if I had read this book as a teenager, I would have fallen madly in love with both heroes and possibly become obsessed with this series.

Then I finally found the second book in the Rivers of London series in the bookstore in Grand Central (my library is missing book 2 in the series and I haven't found it in any store around here). The clerk at the store mentioned that I was the second person that day who'd bought a book in that series and asked me about it. That's why I love Posman Books. You get the feeling their clerks read, and they aren't snobs about it. They were also really supportive of my books. Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch continues the story of police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, who works in Scotland Yard's equivalent of the X-Files unit. This time, he's investigating mysterious and sudden deaths of jazz musicians. Meanwhile, there are hints that there's a powerful dark wizard and possibly an apprentice out there, doing some twisted things with magic, and Peter and his mentor need to track this down. I may have liked this one better than the first book in the series because the world is already established and we can just plunge into the action. I think what I enjoy most is the narrative voice and all the witty asides or clever descriptions and references. There are a lot of geek in-jokes where you have to be a bit of a nerd to catch all the cultural references. The author is a former Doctor Who writer, so there are a lot of related jokes. In general, it was the perfect thing to read on an airplane because the time passed quickly while I was off tracking down jazz vampires in London. It was almost a rude awakening to land in Dallas.

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