So I have been home for a day now - I put my back out on Monday taking my asthma medication of all things! - and yesterday I stayed home to heal my back, and watched tv. Today is a bit better, but I still don't trust sitting in my chair at work - there are no comfortable seats right now anywhere in the house!! - so I'm home again. The good news I can finally catch up on some overdue book reviews, the bad news is, it's not too comfortable in this chair either.
Castle Waiting by Linda Medley - a library book for my challenge! And Nymeth already has the Bad Blogger point awarded for it, since it was her review that brought it to my attention. And please, since she does such a good job describing all the characters, go read her first. I'm going to talk about the storyline, and the art, since it was my first experience of a graphic novel. At least, I think it qualifies as a graphic novel. None of the art is in colour, it is all black-and-white ink drawings. Before you think eeewww, how boring, let me say, it is riveting. The characters are so well drawn, with changes of expression in each box, that the story doesn't need colour. It's hard to describe why Linda Medley can get away with not having colour, whereas Watchmen does need to be colourful. I think it has to do with the kind of story being told. Watchmen is set here and now - 1985, New York City - and it is telling the kind of story that is enhanced by colour and shading, which adds nuances without words. Castle Waiting is a fairy tale, and the ink drawings remind me of what fairy tales were like before Disney came along and colorized them. There is so much action, so much that is said by the characters, that colour would risk distracting from the story. That's how good Castle Waiting is. It doesn't need it.
What's so good about Castle Waiting, you ask? Well, other than the many salient points Nymeth brings up about the various characters, and the setting - mostly the castle in Sleeping Beauty after the prince awakens the princess with the kiss - the prince and princess don't stay there. It uses fairy tales we all know, as its starting point, and it's fun to pick out references to different ones that Medley introduces. But the castle exists, and it's the story of who stays, and who comes to the castle. It's an interesting premise, kind of like the castle at the end of the world. Like Nymeth, I ended up loving Lady Jain, and her odd-looking child, then there's the stork butler, the nuns - the 'sisters' - who help keep the castle going, and especially, Sister Peace. She becomes the star of the book, along with Lady Jain. They are both strong-willed, independent characters, who are attempting to escape their fate their parents have chosen for them. Sister Peace ends up in a circus because she has a beard, and eventually finds a place where she is accepted for herself. To say any more would spoil the delightful funny haven she finds. I can say I completely relate, as do most women who own a pair of tweezers and aren't teenagers anymore. Castle Waiting is mostly about friendship, kindness to strangers, and bonds that are deeper than blood. It's about looking past the oddness of the outward person to the inner beauty, so it's about Beauty and the Beast, too. It's about finding the place you belong, when the place you are born into doesn't fit. Castle Waiting is a collection of the first issues in the series, so I was very happy to read that the second volume of Castle Waiting is due out soon. I plan to read it - I must know what happens to the castle and its inhabitants! Surely Lady Jain's husband will find her eventually.... I really want to know all the other stories not told yet, like the stork butler's.....more about the Castle itself, which is haunted and has a library!! I think Castle Waiting is the castle we all go to in our minds when we want to hide out from life for a while. It's well thought out, funny, amazing artwork, clever, and I highly recommend it. Plus, it's in book form, so if you don't want anyone to know it's really a very long comic book, you can pretend it's a new retelling of Sleeping Beauty. As an introduction to the graphic novel, I can't think of a better one.
Castle Waiting Other Book Reviews:
Library Loot: I missed Monday's Library Loot posting, so here's an update of what I have out from the library over the past week:
-Muletrain to Maggody - Joan Hess - one of my favourite mystery series, starring Arly Hanks, sherriff of a dying town in Arkansas, filled with inbreeding and stupidity. Brother Verber, is a hoot, as is Hizzoner the mayor who keeps threatening to remove Arly from her post.
- Damels in Distress - Joan Hess - her other mystery series starring Claire, the owner of a bookstore, her soon to be husband police lieutenant Peter, and moody teenager daughter Caron. Hometown spun, not gory mysteries, and also funny.
-Adventures in Time and Space with Maxwell Merriwell - Pat Murphy. I just read her first book, The Falling Woman, which won a Fantasy award when it was published quite some time ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it (it takes in Mayan curses on an archealogical dig and is haunting and bittersweet). Besides, who could resist that title?
-Newton's Wake - Ken MacLeod - on Locus's recommended reading list for 2008.
- Little Red riding Hood in the Big Bad City - ed Martin Greenberg - who can resist a fantasy collection retelling fairy tales set in New York City? With authors like Tanya Huff, Alan Dean Foster, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Jody Lynn Nye?
-Book of a Thousand Days - Shannon Hale. Finally!!! Only reviewed glowingly so many times by bloggers over the past year! I think I'm the only one who hasn't read this yet!
-The Coffin Trail - Martin Edwards.
- The New Space Opera - ed Garner Dozois - thanks, Carl! and Sci Fi Experience!
- Tender Morsels - Margo Lanagan - I blame Nymeth and Locus's best books of 2008!
Now to find time to read them all!
My Sci Fi Experience Wrap-up:
Carl's Sci Fi Experience was not a reading challenge, it was a reading opportunity. I sadly did not fill my personal expected quota of science fiction books to read! I did read:
-Horizons by Mary Rosenblum,
- Doomsday Book by Connie Willis - review here
and am half-way through Ursula K. Leg Guin's collection of Essays, The Language of the Night, which I've been reviewing on my blog during the experience.
What did I think of this experience? That I used to read a lot more science fiction in my younger years, and I would like to read more now again.
Here is my quick review of Horizons (I told you this was my catch-up post!):
I really enjoyed this book. Mary Rosenblum has been author I've enjoyed since her book Drylands came out 15 years ago.
Horizons is set on a platform above earth; the space around earth has been colonized by the continents below: thus, New York Up is the colony for North America, the world is run by the World Council (kind of like an expanded and much more powerful UN, which Rosenblum says faded away, powerless), there are earthside families and clans, and most of the world population still lives on the planet, but on the different platforms are a growing population of people who have been there for several generations of people now. Part of the plot revolves around what happens to people when they live their entire lives in micro G gravity away in the centre of the platform, - people who don't live in the 80% gravity forcefield that most of the station creates and uses.
As always, I am fascinated by what our writers forsee happening in our future. This novel is set in Earth's near future. Could we have platforms above us in space? why not? Would they be run by the countries making them? Of course. Rosenblum takes it further, by having the earthers not really understanding what those who live on the platforms want : freedom. In the midst of political tension, Ahni comes in, looking for her brother's murderer. She's a Class 9 Empath, which means she can read people's body language and intentions almost as quickly as the person thinks them. She also has a chip implanted in her when she was in her mother's womb, that lets her connect to schematics and download information like a computer. Her brother is a clone of their father. There are no robots, there are ID chips that everyone is supposed to have implanted also. It's a very interesting future, and once I got past the new terminology of the space station, I was intensely involved in the story. The idea of the space station breaking away is not a new science fiction plot, but the future as presented here is, about how Earth could evolve, and what would happen to us if exposed to micro g long enough.
There is also a love story that develops, and family connections, that ground the book into concerns we can relate too. This is something I think science fiction has begun to recognize, and that the best science fiction writers follow: science without people, is not an interesting story. Science with people and emotions, can be fascinating and intelligent.
Horizons is a fun read, and I'm very glad I read it for this reading experience.
I also read two short stories for the mini challenge Carl hosted, and of course I have now gotten a library book out because Carl brought it to our attention!
For anyone looking for new science fiction and fantasy titles or authors to try, or for author interviews, Locus magazine (this is the link to their online site) has been the best information put out monthly in magazine format for over 20 years
now. You can order back issues of your favourite authors - Charles de Lint, Robert Jordan, Orson Scott Card..... - and the reviews are excellent. Here is a link to their 2008 Recommended Reading list. And here is an excerpt Locus has online from a recent interview with Ursula k. LeGuin. They link to author interview on other sites, cover what's new and selling in book stores, and generally are one of my touchstones for the field of science fiction and fantasy.
This is the cover of the latest magazine, which just arrived in my mailbox. I am busy circling all the books I want by Christmas!
-A Dance With Dragons - George RR Martin, expected Oct 09;
-Boneshaker - Cherie Priest, expected Nov 09;
- A Time to Cast Away Stones - Tim Powers, May 2009;
- Muse and Reverie - Dec 09, and
- Mystery of Grace- March 2009 - both by Charles de Lint;
- Dragon Keeper - Robin Hobb (Oct 09); and
- Hunting Ground - Patricia Brigg, Aug 09.
So, that's my catch-up for today. It's pouring rain outside, and I'm going to try sitting on the sofa now. Watchmen calls, as does Polysyllabic Spree (which I'm almost done now).
Happy reading, Gentle Readers!