I can’t believe its Friday already! Seems like the week just FLEW by – probably due to the Labor Day holiday, I guess. So, that means it’s time for the Friday Book Recommendation, but I’ve got a few announcements first.
I’ve definitely decided to do two hurricane relief auctions – one to support human refugees and one to support animal refugees. Really, the situation with the animals is just so appalling. I’ve had to stop reading the reports because I couldn’t take it any more.
I hope to get both auction pieces finished this weekend and put them up on eBay on Monday. I’ll make an announcement here when I do. I realize this is taking a bit of time, but my take on it is that that’s okay. Firstly, jewelry isn’t something that you can just crank out in a spare 15 minutes. Well, okay, you can get crappy, poorly made jewelry done in 15 minutes, but that’s not what I do. This is an important cause and I wanted to create something that would really encourage bidders to open their hearts and their pocketbooks for the relief effort. Secondly, the people and animals affected by this disaster are not going to recover for quite a while. While there will initially be an outpouring of donations, I can’t help but think that the flow will taper off over time. As Dennis Miller once said “the attention span of the American public is that of a rabid ferret on double espresso.” Which reminds me…I soooo miss Dennis’s HBO show. Yeah, yeah, I know he’s still on TV somewhere (Fox News channel or something) but it’s not the same.
Okay, on to the books. A while back, I mentioned my not-so-fondness for trying out new authors because I usually end up disappointed. However, that’s not always the case. This past weekend I picked up ”A Brother's Price” by Wen Spencer and LOVED it. This book is a terrific example of social science fiction (as opposed to spacecraft, robots and techno stuff) with a world where polygamy has become the norm due to an extreme shortage of healthy males.
In Spencer’s world, polygamy is the accepted social system. Unlike modern-day US polygamy, however, all the power resides in the hands of the women. The men are the ones expected to cook, clean, and take care of the babies all while maintaining a fabulous appearance. Basically, they’re Donna Reed in drag. The women are the soldiers, merchants and political powers. The few men are guarded zealously by their powerful (and heavily armed) sisters and then sold or traded to another family in exchange for either money or another adult male. The entire social system and economy centers on the selling and trading of the men. Each group of women knows that the only chance they have of ever reproducing is if they can afford to purchase or trade for a healthy male who isn’t too closely related to them.
The author has plunked this social and economic system into a frontier-era, Mississippi-river type background (complete with pearl-handled six-shooters and paddlewheel boats) and added both a romance and a murder mystery to it. Spencer’s pacing is absolute perfection as this book was one which just rocketed me along until I finished it in less than a day. I couldn’t stand to put it down!
If I had any complaint, it would be that the scarcity of the men is never really explored or explained. There’s some mention of high levels of venereal diseases among the adult males which explains why virgin males are so prized and so zealously guarded. However, the author never addresses the low birth frequency of males compared to females. I also thought that a couple of the secondary characters, like Eldest Whisper, could’ve been developed a bit more, but I still highly recommend this book and I’m looking forward to picking up Spencer’s other series of books about a feral child turned detective named Ukiah Oregon.
My other venture this week into new fiction is Michelle Sagara’s ”Cast In Shadow”. I’m not quite done with it yet and I hope that it manages to pull out a terrific ending, but so far, I’m rather disappointed. It’s a serious pet peeve of mine when an author is successful at creating a fascinating background world and a terrific main character, but then doesn’t DO anything with them. I’m ¾ of the way through the book and so far the plot (it’s a detective story) consists of go to slums, come back, go to slums, find body, come back and have autopsy, go to city, come back, get in fight, get put on suspension. Oh and there’s a lot of “getting yelled at by superior officers” interspersed with all the comings and goings. There are a ton of conversations that lead nowhere and have nothing to do with helping the storyline unfold.
And yet, I LOVE the background world and the main character. I want desperately for something exciting and interesting to happen here. Sagara has been successful at grabbing my attention and making me wonder and care about who her characters are and what happens to them which is one of the most difficult things for a writer to accomplish. Then, she’s left me hanging. There’s nothing behind the curtain. GRRR! Now, perhaps all will finally be revealed in the last ¼ of the book I have left to read, but there’s going to have to be a serious show-stopper of an ending to make up for all this dragging around accomplishing nothing. Stay tuned.
Lastly, this week I also finished the latest installment of Simon R. Green’s “Nightside” series, ”Paths Not Taken.” I’ve been in love with this series and its main character, John Taylor, since the first installment and all the books have been equally fantastic. Until now, that is. Sadly, “Paths” just doesn’t live up to the promise of the earlier books. It seems to exist mostly to tie up some loose ends and develop the relationship between John and Shotgun Suzie, which seems rather pointless since Suzie would rather shoot anything that moves than have a relationship with it.
I suppose this book does help steer the series towards its conclusion, but I’m not sure that’s reason enough for a book to exist. Shouldn’t it be an enjoyable read in and of itself and help move the series along at the same time? It made me wonder why this book and the inevitable series conclusion book couldn’t just have been one big volume. This probably has something to do with the publishing industry and what Marion Zimmer Bradley used to refer to as the “inelasticity of typeface.” Oh, and corporate publishing greed…I’m sure that’s in there somewhere, too. Speaking of Ms. Bradley, it occurs to me that I’ve been remiss in featuring her in one of my Friday entries. I’ll have to make up for that in the future since she is one of my favorite authors of all time. But for now, you’ll have to just be content with her website
But, as usual, I digress…
Still, I recommend the series as a whole. The Nightside is a truly fascinating world as is the character of John Taylor – a man who is far more than he seems to be. Just read slowly and maybe the final book will be out by the time you get around to “Paths Not Taken” and the whole thing will make a lot more sense.
Whew! As you can see, I read a LOT this week, especially when you consider that three of my beading magazines arrived over the last few days and I’ve been perusing those as well. “Bead and Button” has a whole section featuring the winners and selected entries from the recent Bead Dreams contest and holy cow there are a lot of talented people out there. Sherri Serafini alone is truly amazing. I just don’t have any clue how she has enough TIME for all these massive beaded projects. It takes me a few weeks just to do a dinky pair of embroidered earrings and here she’s got purses and collars and oh my! I’m so jealous. One of these days I’ll be able to bead full-time instead of fitting in a few minutes here and there on my lunch hour and after my son goes to bed at night. Sigh.
On that note, I’m off to Toy’s ‘R Us to buy a gift for a 4-year-old’s birthday party tomorrow. Somehow, when pondering whether or not to have children, I forgot to include that whole “having to socialize with other people’s kids” on my Pro/Con list. ROFL! Oh well, they’re going to have a real fire engine there for the kids to ride on and since fire engines seem to be THE thing in Ryan’s world now (well, except for snails, those are still big, too), I’m sure he’ll have a good time. I can hardly wait for the cake-induced sugar high to hit. Not.
Have a great weekend everyone and watch for the announcement about the hurricane auctions coming soon!