Apology: Yesterday I wrote that the actress who starred in the English version of the Kurt Wallender tv mysteries had killed herself. I thank the blogger who wrote in quite rightly furious with my mistake - my apologies, the English actress did not kill herself, it was the Swedish actress Johanna Sallstrom who committed suicide in Feb 2007. The article that brought the story to my attention is here, from the Guardian website. So, the error is all mine! In my mind, I knew I was writing about the Swedish actress, but I unfortunately did not make it clear in my writing. Many apologies to the English actress. **although, I do say in my defense, that the article doesn't say that a different actress played Linda in the English version, so, I thought it meant Ms Sallstrom had appeared in the Kenneth Brannagh version as his daughter.
Now, onto the Sunday Salon:
Some Science Fiction, for a change.....
I have a book review! I have read Farthing by Jo Walton for Carl's Sci Fi Experience, which also counts for Becky's 42 Science Fiction things. I also saw a science fiction show on dvd last weekend, Firefly, which I will also give a little review here. Now, I went to Jo Walton's site, and discovered that she is writing for Tor Publishers online, and she has a recent post here, which is about reading science fiction. ( If it doesn't link directly, the post date was Jan 18.) I think it is a very interesting post. It is an attempt to explain why some people can read science fiction, and why some people can't. It has to do with the ability to look at words like 'tachyon drive' and know it means faster than light, but to not get hung up on whether the tachyon drive exists or could exist and what that would mean; science fiction is about what would happen to people if it could exist. Let me know what you think about Jo's post, and let her know too!
I was surprised to see she is considered Canadian now, since she is from Wales. I had always thought of her as a British writer. Now she lives in Montreal. And here is another interesting post from today by her, on what sf books to introduce to readers who haven't read SF before....
Now, on to Farthing. Farthing is set in 1949 England, after the war that is ended by forming a peace with Hitler. This is an alternative history book. Part of the charm for me of alternate history is to see what is different, and how the author has worked it in. In Farthing, the British political scene is rather different - Churchill never became the grand leader of the country, he remained a minor politician, because one of the characters in the novel went to Germany and fashioned a peace with Hitler so he could turn his attention to the East and Russia. The peace is holding, although the price has been high: the continent is under Hitler's control, and the Jews are still going to work camps and highly restricted. Farthing is about a murder mystery that takes place in a country mansion featuring the main politicos in the Conservative party who helped engineer the peace, so they are called the Farthing Set. When one of the main party members is killed, the house guests fall under suspicion. A yellow star is pinned to the chest of the victim. Only one character is Jewish, and he is being framed.
This was an unsettling book for me to read. I have difficulties with fascism, with totalitariasm, with basic loss of freedom. I tend to get very anxious and start rants in my head - yes, even with characters! who are being unfair and abusing power terribly. I know it's a story, but it felt real, both the alternate history and the usurping of powers for 'the good of the nation'. It was creepy, frightening, astonishingly fast, and very well-done. At the same time, I could not put this book down, and I thoroughly enjoyed the history aspects that are the same and different. The mystery is fun - it's a major part of this novel, but as this is the first of three (Ha'Penny and Half a Crown are the others in the trilogy), it also sets the stage, and end with the story hanging. I have to know what happens! It is also a very open and brave look at what people will do to survive, making a commentary on how - by showing how easily fascism arrives in England - how easily it came to Germany. A few look the other way, and it's here. The characters are very well done, the mystery is good, and the setting is fantastic. It is really a very good book. It was a nominee for both the Nebula and the John W. Campbell award in 2007. I am curious if the characters who look the other way in this book, find a way back to honour or not, if they find a way to take a stand - and I have to know what happens to Lucy and David Kahn, the two main characters caught in the middle of the mystery. I give this a 4.5/5.
Firefly - Season 1, on DVD. Firefly has been out since 2002 on DVD. It only aired for one season, during the last years of Buffy. It's made by the same creator, Joss Whedon. There are no vampires, no kick-ass teens...no wait, there is one kick-ass girl. This is where Summer Glau (lately of Terminator: the Series fame) made her appearance, as River. And she has some stunning moves. But the series isn't about her. It's about Mal, the captain of a transport for hire ship with his crew for hire: Zoe, his loyal sargeant from the war, who continues to serve as his second in command, and her husband Wash, the pilot (completely endearing himself to us when he plays with dinosaurs at the console); Jayne, who has more guns than any person should and whose ethics are questionable as well as his loyalty; Kaylee, the engineer, the sweetest girl who can understand engines; and Inara, the companion , who rents out a shuttle from Mal, and provides him with a decent cover of civilization when his rebellious outlook would get him banned from many worlds. Into this come Simon, a doctor, who has rescued his sister River from the clutches of a dubious government experiment. They are both extremely intelligent, but completely naive about life off-planet. And off in the corner, because this is Joss Whedon, there are scary monsters in the form of Reavers, who eat people, who are terrifying.
Firefly is science fiction without space suits. Or, as my son said, "this is like cowboys in space". It is. It has the same western code of honour (a man's word is as good as he backs it up with action; all he has to keep him civilized, also, and with honour). I grew up reading westerns, Zane Grey and Louis L'amour, so once I understood that this wasn't typical science fiction with space technology but a gun-slinging western set in space, then I sat back and fell in love. This is pure fun. I enjoy the writing, the characters, the stories with each episode, the setting. There are scary moments and funny times, and unexpected humour - the same things I loved in Buffy, are here in Firefly. I really wish it had gone beyond one season, but Fox cancelled it, and one season and one movie (Serenity, which I will be watching and reviewing later this year when I'm done the dvd) are all we have.
If you have never seen Firefly, and want some storytelling and action that does have the western ethos about it, then you can do no better than Firefly. I haven't gone into how Mal is kind of an outlaw, because he fought on the losing side of the war, mostly because I want people to be enchanted by this show too as they fall into this amazing world of space adventure. I kind of wish we could have a world like Firefly, without the Alliance (creepy and filled with government bad guys) and the Reavers, of course!!!
Firefly is as delightful as ever, and I am now working my way through the series. For Carl's Sci-Fi Experience, this is a great way to introduce someone to science fiction.
There is a lot of good science fiction out there. As Jo Walton said in her post today, it's a question of finding what you like in this genre, just like it is with any genre. I hope Carl's Reading Experience is helping those who aren't quite sure, to find some science fiction they can really enjoy.
Happy reading (and watching) science fiction, everyone!