Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Only Doctor I will Ever Love…

…was the one that I watched every afternoon on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Network) when I was a kid. 
  The monsters, strange aliens (Oh My Gosh…the Daleks!), that awesome music that started every episode, the freaky electronic ‘scream’ at the end of each episode which, even when I knew it was coming, always made me jump because I was already scared silly from watching the show.  When I was in primary school, the library had a great collection of the Target novelisations of the Doctor Who television series.  I read them all, naturally, and they kept me company when I was in school (as I was quite the introvert),  Before school, recess and lunchtimes in the library were never lonely for me with a Doctor Who book in my hand.
 I can clearly remember the book covers (more so I think than the television episodes themselves). 
I have had ever since a young age a long abiding love for science fiction, and I can date it back to when I was a little girl eagerly waiting to watch the next instalment of Doctor Who.
 So my plan is to read the whole collection of Target Novelisations, starting at the very beginning with the first doctor.  Since this year is the fiftieth anniversary of the show, I can’t see what else I would do, but watch it from the beginning and have some fun with it (I even have my vanishing TARDIS coffee mug to use while I am reading/watching… naturally that is a must!)
 I don’t know him very well, this first doctor (because when I started watching the show John Pertwee was the current doctor), and after reading this first season of books (and watching the television shows), I think he was quite the arrogant jerk, but it was easy to like him despite that.  Here were the beginnings of the ethics I had come to admire in other doctors when I was older, teaching a tolerance for what was new and different. His incurable curiosity and respect for the world, wherever and when ever he was, and because he would show these unexpected spurts of affection for his companions (Barbara and Ian), revealing a vulnerability that I don’t think anyone could resist.  The stories themselves were quite original, and for the times were good enough to carry on for another season.  I couldn’t help but laugh (a lot!) at the hokey special effects, but that just adds to the original charm.  I look forward to reading and seeing what happens in season two, because even though William Hartnell wasn’t my doctor, I still care about him and his companions a great deal, and I am full of my own incurable curiosity to see how this character evolves into the doctors I am more familiar with.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Einstein Intersection

I read this because it won the Nebula Award.  It is actually the second book by Delany to win this award.  If it hadn't been for that reason I don't think I would have attempted it, because after my first experience with a Delany book I haven't felt the need to read another.  He's not a bad writer!  Just an abstract one, which makes you work very hard to grasp what he is portraying.  The story was almost essay-like (the way I write an essay is to plot my thesis, and then map out the points and approaches of my arguments), but it was disappointing to me because the points he was trying to make where not obvious to me even though he had basically laid everything out for you to put together, he just wasn't going to do it for you (this made me think it was unfinished).  Add to this challenge a badly converted e-book, and the confusion is just annoying.  But, there's more!  Misleading popular culture references will point you in the wrong direction and you have the novel in it's  bewildering, annoying whole.  I can see what is going on, but I'm pissed that the chaotic presentation detracted from what I suspect could have been a really good book.  Maybe, if I ever come across this in a second hand book store, I might buy it and give it another go.  Maybe.  Neil Gaiman wrote a foreward for it, so I am guessing for him it was a great inspiration to go ahead and write a novel chock-a-block full of gods from many diverse mythologies, a progenitor for him so to speak to create American Gods.  I recognised the parralels to Earth mythologies in The Einstein Intersection, I just couldn't understand their relevance to the story (even when you are given a weak explanation at the end).

So, my conclusion is this, electronic books are not always what they are cracked up to be, especially conversions from old books, though that isn't always the case... I have read actual books that are that obscure and seem to deliberately make it difficult to connect the dots (Divisadero anyone?). I plan to stick with actual paper books for as long as I can when it comes to older editions.  Oh, and Samuel R. Delaney is an aquired taste, which I don't have.

Sew Deadly

 From time to time I like to take it easy and just read something comfortable and cosy.  And since I am of the crafty persuasion, this book was begging for me to read it.  I have noticed that there are quite a lot of  cosy mysteries out there now, some with knitting, quilting, embroidery, or crochet themes attached.  It's a neat idea, and appealing to a specific crowd of people.  Even 'neater' about this book was that the protagonist is a librarian, which just racheted up my interest.  Throw in a southern locale, a cute little town, a local sewing group (love crafty groups!), this book seems to have all the right hooks to get someone interested. Oh, and of course some murder!
With this kind of book I don't really have a high expectation of it's literary merits, or even of a challenging mystery to solve.  This is just casual, fun reading to me, a vacation of sorts, but I have to admit that this one was a little frustrating to me, because I had figured out who the murderer was early in  the story and I found it annoying how long the rest of them took to find out (the only thing keeping me going was the fact that there was a free sewing pattern at the end of the book which I felt I had to earn by actually reading the whole no skipping ahead for me!). 
Not that I have written off this series.  I will, the next time I feel like it, go back and revisit The Southern Sewing Circle, because at heart, I am just a crafty, gossipy gal who loves a little murder mystery every now and then.

The Toynbee Convector

It is really interesting to see what Ray Bradbury's focus was about later on in his very long life.  It all makes sense of course, an old love story, a long and enduring marriage, haunting memories from past wars, time-travellers, real or invented.  The theme for this book was time that has passed,  it is an homage to things long gone.   I  think the older Ray got the cheekier he became too (the story Junior being an excellent example of that! Only Ray would write a story about an eighty-two year old man's erection), and of course the man who discovered that his childhood fear of the bogeyman was not so unfounded after all, when he decided to go back and confront that fear.  Cheeky!


Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Irishman

My first Australian book for the year.  I always put it off, but when I get started I can't put it down no matter how it affects me.  And I get affected in a few ways.
I have lived in Canada for a little over twenty five years now, and as good as my life here is, it just isn't Australia (to be specific Canberra).  I have lived in Canada more than I ever lived in Canberra, and the last time I went home I realised how displaced I was.  Everything was sublimely wonderful while I was there, but I knew that it was no longer what was familiar.  I had forgotten a lot in twenty years absense.
I have been working on being more Australian since my visit in '06, in the ways that matter to me and in the ways that I was not able to indulge in when I lived there, and one of those was to catch up in Autralian literature ( I had always dreamed of studying it at the Australian National University in Canberra).   I have missed out on a lot in my life, and I'm making up for it now.   Now that I am free to make some choices, find new interests and indulge in what used to be just impossible dreams.
Phew.  That all being said, I thought that the best place to start would be with award winning books and The Miles Franklin Award seemed to be the best of all, the criteria being that the Award is presented each year to a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.   It has always been a good way for me to get into something new, reading award winner books.  It's a solid method for pointing me in the right direction towards other Australian authors,  and publishers.

The Irishman by Elizabeth O'Connor is quite similar to others I have read from that time (the 1920's era), but I found it different too.  The slang was unfamiliar (and also quite funny), one phrase in particular referring to someone who talks a lot as a 'magpie' (you would have to have heard a magpie to understand that one, I'm sorry), and after that making the phrase into a verb "magging".
The racist labels for the local aborigines really bothered me, and the attitude towards them was uncomfortable for me too.  But I always try to take an anthropological view point to such things.  This is what it was like then.  I try not to judge, just observe.
The overall feeling though was Australia at it's most basic essence.  I could just picture what it was like there in the Gulf Country.  Imagine the warmth radiating from the ground, the smell from the Gums and the Tea trees.  Billy tea and damper.  The storms that would appear out of nowhere in absolute exciting splendor, the black clouds, flashes of lightning and tremendous heart-stopping thunder.  That delicious smell of the first bit of rain hitting the ground. 

Which brings me to the other way reading such literature affects me.  I get homesick. It's not something I like to feel.  It makes it easier when I read stories from different eras, because that doesn't seem as real to me, but all the same, I wish I was there, experiencing rather than just remembering it.