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Archive for December, 2008

Stephanie Meyer – “Twilight”

Monday, December 29th, 2008
Stephanie Meyer's "Twighlight"

Stephanie Meyer

The first book in the 4-book series by Stephenie Meyer, Twilight, is outstanding. Bella Swan, a 16-year-old girl who is a known klutz from Arizona moves to a small town in Washington called Forks, where her father, Charlie Swan is the chief of police. She feels out of place, and immediately wishes she had been able to stay with her mother in Arizona, who had recently married a minor-league baseball player.

Shortly after arriving in Forks and starting school, Bella’s interest is piqued by a family of the most beautiful people she had ever seen — the Cullen family. In particular, Edward Cullen caught her attention. She was immediately drawn to Edward, even though he showed an emphatic repulsion toward her.

Twighlight’s Progression and Vampires

As the story progresses, we learn why Edward was at first avoiding Bella, and then later falling in love with her. Edward, along with his family, are vampires. They survive by consuming the blood of large wild animals instead of human blood, although they still have the desire to consume human blood.

Bella is embraced by the Cullen family, even though she is human, and the love between Bella and Edward begins to grow by the minute. Until a group of Nomad Vampires stumbles across Bella and the Cullens. The leader of the group of nomads decides he has to have Bella–and Edward and the rest of the Cullens aren’t going to let that happen.

Bella flees back to Arizona to avoid endangering the Cullens or her father. The tracker follows Bella, and claims to have taken her mother. She and Edward face the toughest test of their love during their time in Arizona, but true love always prevails. Bella learns the true value of her friendship with the Cullen family and her love for Edward, as well as for her mother and father.

Clifford D. Simak’s “Time is the Simplest Thing”

Thursday, December 18th, 2008
The Clifford D. Simak book, "Time is the Simplest Thing"

Time is the Simplest Thing

There’s a huge market out there for “golden age” science fiction from the ’50s and ’60s. One book that falls into this category is Clifford D. Simak’s Time is the Simplest Thing.

Simak’s tale probably falls into the category of soft science fiction or science-fantasy by today’s standards. That’s because it deals with telepathy.

The Story of “Time is the Simplest Thing”

Shep Blaine works for an organization called Fishhook which uses machines to catapult a person’s consciousness into the outer reaches of space to discover new knowledge and technologies that can better humanity while also extending the money and power hungry monopoly’s reign.

But Blaine’s life changes forever when he encounters an alien presence that melds its mind with his so that he’s not quite human nor quite alien, but rather a hybrid of the two. Heeding a warning from a former colleague that had a similar experience, Blaine fleas Fishook and goes on the lamb.

The action in this book is non-stop. The pace speeds away, never leaving one bored, and one can easily imagine a lot of the action on the silver screen (although, of course, certain aspects would have to be updated for the modern age since the book was written in the 1960s).

Blaine is an interesting character, since he flees for primarily selfish motives but ends up by the end of the book working toward bettering the place of non-Fishhook telepaths in the world, as they are the victims of irrational fear and prejudice.

Simak’s Novel as Allegory for Civil Rights Era

I can’t help but wonder if the entire book is on some level an allegory for the civil rights movement of African-Americans in the 1960s. It’s not a perfect allegory, but there’s enough parallels to make me think that perhaps Simak was trying to spread a message of tolerance to a world that desperately needed that message at the time.

I suppose it’s a message that we still need to this day. There’s intolerance all around, and while in the United States I think that prejudice certainly hasn’t reached the heights it had during the times of the civil rights movement, other parts of the world are just as bad. So this book can serve not only as an entertaining read, but as a beacon of hope to a world that still is not quite perfect when it comes to treating everyone humanely.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Monday, December 8th, 2008
American Gods, a novel by Neil Gaiman

American Gods, a novel by Neil Gaiman

American Gods begins with a man, known only as Shadow, in the process of being released from prison. He’s a few days away from the finality of it, and he’s confirmed it with his wife, Laura, over the phone. Shadow’s life has nearly been repaired. He will resume life as it was, or so it is assumed. On the day of his release he is informed that Laura and will not be coming to pick him up. Her death was quick; a traffic accident. In the car with her was the man she was sleeping with, who was also the man that held the job and home for Shadow upon his release, and whom was also Shadow’s best friend.

It happened so quickly that Shadow had not yet had the opportunity to feel normal again, and as it turns out, that time may never come. He soon meets an older man who introduces himself thus; “Well, seeing that today certainly is my day — why don’t you call me Wednesday?” Given the title of the book, and with some specific knowledge, it’s only a little less than difficult to grasp who he is immediately, if not harder to believe. Wednesday proposes Shadow work for him, to which he finally agrees, after some hard to swallow tests. Among those, fighting a drunken Irishman calling himself a leprechaun and toasting on a drink that could be considered a relic in this day of age.

Shadow’s New Job

Shadow’s new job leads him in circles around the United States, and plowing his way through every situation that could possibly go wrong. As it happens, Wednesday is a con artist (emphasis on the artist part) and needs Shadow to be his bodyguard and partner, although that sounds simpler than it turns out to be. Wednesday is finding it hard to keep up with the new generation, but I’ll leave it to you to find out who they are specifically.

The minute you pick up the book there’s absolutely no way to put it down, even after multiple times read. The characters and plot get only more interesting, especially with the additional side stories included between some chapters, and the stirring plot twists and reveals. It’s entertaining to figure out just who each character really is, and there are a lot, all relevant and fleshed out. The inclusion of many real cities may strike familiar with readers, and it’s certainly welcome, and interesting to learn the mysterious past that surrounds them.

Combining mythology with reality as it is today, American Gods has all the things necessary to become a modern classic, along with the author, Neil Gaiman (Stardust, Anansi Boys) himself. I can’t recommend this book enough. It has changed the way I think about writing and storytelling in general. A somewhat noir, somewhat fantasy story that can’t receive enough praise. Gritty, powerful, intelligent, and magical in ways you wouldn’t expect, American Gods has found a permanent space on my shelf.