Friday, March 9, 2012

The End of an Era

There isn't much that I can say about these last two books which conclude Asimov's long, long story.  I can't give away anything.
  I feel I must remind everyone that he had never intended it to be that way... that over fifty years of writing about the future history of humanity and of science itself, he had never intended it to be a consecutive tale... it's just serendipity that it ended up that way, and in four final novels he 'made it so'.

After reading Foundation's Edge  I was positively lathered up into a froth of excitement because I thought that the story was heading towards a conclusion that I had always hoped.

Foundation and Earth did not disappoint me.  In so many conclusions of series that I have read over the years, there is sometimes a little sadness because the story is over or disappointment over how it was finished, but I am glad to say that this was not one of those kinds.

Without giving away spoilers I will say this... I had two reactions, or I should say impressions.  The first being  this... do you remember a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Starfleet is infested with a lifeform similar in appearance to a giant beige earwig, that takes over key officers and is trying take over the Federation?  It was quite intense but concluded satisfactorily with Will Riker And Jean Luc Picard 'phasering' the queen bee into goo and all the earwigs exploding.    But not before the lifeforms had managed to send out a message far into space and the episode finishes with a picture of space and the sound of a message being transmitted to who knows where meaning who knows what, and you get a little creepy chill because you just don't know what will happen next.  Well I got that feeling right at the end, so much so that I had to go back and re-read the last page so that I could make sure of why I felt that way.  Shortly afterwards though I had another image, and that is of Dirk Gently standing outside on his front lawn shaking his fist at the night sky and yellling "STOP IT!" (from the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul by Douglas Adams).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Foundation Trilogy


What an absolute joy it was for me to read this very special group of books.  You might expect after reading the two prequels and then slogging through the original trilogy, that I might have gotten a little bored at this point, but there is no fear of that!
I began with some reluctance, as I was not sure what to expect.  After such a build up from the prequels, I was a little worried that the original trilogy might not measure up to what had been written more than thirty years later.  Each book had it's slow points and were each punctuated with crises that made the event and the solution to it exciting, very clever and even funny at some points (I just couldn't help chuckling with glee at some of the solutions).  Foundation and Empire  was just devastating.  The story of the Mule was so upsetting and intense, where was Isaac going with this, is he killing the Foundation off, is the Seldon Plan kaput?  I feel sorry for the people who had to wait for the next installment.  Luckily I had no such problem and with eagerness I plunged into Second Foundation.
Let me tell you, the first sixty pages of that book were read in one sitting.  I wasn't going anywhere until that story arc was told. 
Now there are only two books to go, and I have a lot of expectations.  I am very curious about how it will all end, but I won't pose my questions here because no matter how I try to write them up, they just give too much away so I will have to keep it all to myself.  I know I won't be disappointed.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Prelude to and Forward the Foundation

 Have I said before how grateful I am to Isaac for tying up all of his stories together into one pretty package?  I probably couldn't say it enough.  I love how he has done that!  
Since I haven't read the Foundation Trilogy yet I'm not sure what to expect.  But the hype that Asimov built in with each chapter by adding inserts from his Encyclopedia Galactica adding a sense of greatness and history to the story, you just know its going to add up to something really really special.  I actually got sick of the term "psychohistory" it was bandied about so much, but I loved the backstory of Hari Seldon, and of how Isaac pulled it all together to make his legacy.  Forward the Foundation was his last novel which makes it all that much precious as we see Hari at the end of his life and the success of his life work accomplished, as Isaac has accomplished his.   

The Eyre Affair

I really got a kick out of reading this book!  Like in The League of Extraordinary GentlemenThe Eyre Affair is laced with literary references ... with a twist!  I enjoyed it just as much and know it would have been even better if I had've read the books that were used in this story (yes... I am ashamed to admit I have not read Jane Eyre, or Martin Chuzzlewit!).

This is an alternative history of which Thursday Next is the protagonist.  You'll notice right away with her name that this is no regular kind of book.  It is richly flavored in a  Dickensian way by the names that a lot of these characters have (one of which is Jack Schitt, and I still cannot read that without giggling a little bit because it was used with great skill throughout the novel).  I recommend to anyone to read the book just for that fun value alone.  More also is a science fiction/ futuristic element of technology, in a world that has to protect its literature ( Next is a cop that hunts down literary felons...and I don't mean that literally).  This is where it's a good idea that you know your literature, though I think you can get by pretty well without it (though I'd like to see you not go back and read all the books mentioned afterwards).  I won't tell you any more because I don't want to spoil it... just go out and get it!

There are a few more to read in this series, but I want to be prepared beforehand, so I will read the books featured first (so I don't feel like a stupid boobie for not knowing my stuff).  This year seems to be, so far, a year of finding books that seem to be almost tailored to my own tastes, and I am having a great time discovering them.

Great Expectations

In honor of Charles Dickens 200th birthday I chose Great Expectations to read.  I am embarrased to say that I had not read it yet!  Hopefully I will read them all one day.  I cannot help but feel that Charles Dickens is one person that I wish to get to know well, and the best way to do that is to read all of his works.  I haven't read many so far.  I read David Copperfield in my early teens, and later there was A Chrstmas Carol and Little Dorrit.  An interesting sampling so far which already gives me a good impression of the character of its author.
I admit at this stage in my life my knowledge of this century is still very skimpy, and much of my original reading was done when I was younger so the memories are hazy.  Once, when I was watching the movie Fahrenheit 541 and Montag was reading from David Copperfield, I felt like I wanted to cry too (one of the women he was reading to was) because the passage he was reading aloud  was beautiful (though I think the woman who was crying was doing it for another reason entirely).  Dickens shows me a world I cannot possibly know, but I feel as if I could because he paints very clear pictures with his words.
I am glad that I have made a point of not seeing any of the movies that have been made from this book.  I didn't know what the story was about which was great.  I loved it.  The characters were all so different from each other and some were very strange.  I loved the name Mr. Pumblechook (I think that alone helped me not to hate him!), crazy Miss Havisham, and dependable Joe.   I even joined a discussion group about this book, and earnestly defended Pip to another person who thought that he was a very selfish and awful character.    He really wasn't.  It was a valueable discussion, because I developed a better undertsanding of Pip (because my own initial impression was that he did end up being a selfish so and so). This is something I love about Dickens' books.  You are there with your characters at the beginning, so you can understand them and why they behave the way they do, and you get to share, not only in the adventure of their lives but also the characters they meet along the way.  While there is always adversity, it is sweetened with healthy helpings of good people from all walks of life to soothe the protagonist's way.
So you can see why I wish that I could meet and shake the hand of such a man, to get to know him.  He was brilliant, and an amazing scholar of human nature.  His characters are believable, they are true.

In case you would like to see this as a movie, I recommend watching the PBS 2011 television series as a good place to start.