Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Weekly Reading

Almost entirely fiction this week, although I have been dipping in and out of Harlan Ellison’s Watching, a collection of film essays. More on that when I actually finish it.

  • Newton’s Cannon by J. Gregory Keyes
    This is a book I’ve been trying to read for quite some time, but odd circumstances always seemed to keep me from it. I’m glad I finally got a chance to make it through. Keyes has imagined a rather bizzare alternate history, where Isaac Newton has discovered the secret of alchemy, Louis XIV has achieved immortality through a strange Persian elixir, and young Ben Franklin stumbles upon an international plot of intrigue that threatens to destroy England. There are odd historical and literary figures dropped here and there throughout the novel, and an ending that I absolutely did not expect. There are three more books in the series, and the first installment makes no pretense to standing alone, so I suppose I’ll have to wait until I read the next three to truly evaluate the story. It’s a page turner though, and I enjoyed Keyes’s imaginings a great deal.

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
    One of the problems with having fallen out of the habit of reading on a regular basis is that books I would have normally read the moment I bought them lay untouched for months. Such was the case with Neil Gaiman’s delightfully spooky young adult novel Coraline.

    Coraline is a bright, bored young girl with a broad imagination and loving if inattentive parents and an assortment of weird neighbors. But something mysterious is lurking on the other side of the big door in the living room that opens on a blank wall…or does it? She soon discovers a mirror world on the other side of the door, populated by beings claiming to be her Other Mother and Other Father, and it will take her ingenuity and perseverance to set her life back the way it was.

    This is just as wonderful quirky as Gaiman’s best work always did, and my enjoyment of the book was doubled by the fact that, with her peculiar combination of contrary whimsy and earnest practicality, I couldn’t help but picture our heroine as a young nrivkis. 🙂 Highly recommended. Read it to your kids.

  • Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
    Another book I had been neglecting, Paladin of Souls is the sequel to Bujold’s fantasy novel The Curse of Chalion. I love the setting and the characters of this world, and I grew to quickly like Ista, the reluctant recipient of the gods’ favours. Bujold’s talent for breathing life into her three dimensional characters is in great evidence here, the dialog is crisp and the plot is a page turner. Of course, the centerpiece of the book, as it was in the previous, is the odd, intricate cosmology of Chalion’s gods. Paladin of Souls is, ultimately, that rarest of all novels: a sequel that is at least the equal of it’s original. I am looking forward to Bujold’s continued efforts on this series.

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6 Comments

  1. I agree that Coraline is wonderful but I hasten to point out it really might be too spooky for some kids so make sure to read it to yourself before you read it outloud to your kids. That way you can better judge if they are ready for it. I found it wonderful but definitely a bit creepy at times and think it is too scary for Rowan still (he’s 4).

    I loved Newton’s Cannon. By the third book I didn’t like it as well but overall I liked the trilogy and am glad I read them. Very interesting.

    • I loved Newton’s Cannon. By the third book I didn’t like it as well but overall I liked the trilogy and am glad I read them. Very interesting.

      There are actually four books in that series now, which are in my “to be read queue”. The fourth book is titled “The Shadows Of God”

      As for Coraline, I expect all parents will judge material they read for their kids first, I guess. 🙂 I think a 6-7 year old would adore it, though.

      • I expect all parents will judge material they read for their kids first, I guess. A reasonable expectation but you’d be surprised -- when you become a busy frazzled parent sometimes you do make assumptions and read or watch things with your kids first rather than vetting them.

        I watched Jimmy Neutron with the boys because I vaguely remembered it being amusing when I saw it at ‘s. Well -- it was -- and it was ok but if I’d remembered how much fighting there was I wouldn’t have let them watch it til they were older. Ditto with Toy Stories 1,2 (which they adore) and Lilo and Stitch. Oh well- I suppose it was just a matter or time and we *do* talk about the movies with them (“Woody shouldn’t have called Buzz an Idiot, that wasn’t nice was it?”) etc.

        What made me roll my eyes though was when a person on another list I’m on complained that she’d taken her young children to see Lord of the Rings and it was too violent. Now granted, all that violence is bigger on the screen but my comment to her was “I know you said your son loved the books but have you read them? They are about an epic battle between good and evil and yes, the books do have a lot of fighting in them.” sigh….. she hadn’t read them.

  2. I liked ‘The Curse of Chalion’ a lot and am waiting impatiently for ‘Paladin of Souls’to come out in paperback (unless someone sends it to me from the US -- hint, hint Emily). I prefer the Bujold stories with ageing heroes to those featuring “that hyperactive little shit”. (Falling Free, Barrayar, Ethan of Athos, Curse of Chalion, others?).

    I haven’t read either of the others though Newton’s Cannon sounds good. Is it steampunk?

  3. Keyes has imagined a rather bizzare alternate history, where Isaac Newton has discovered the secret of alchemy…

    It isn’t quite so bizarre when you take into account that the historical Newton wrote as much or more about alchemy as he did about physics. It is a little historical tidbit that usually gets dropped, so we can focus on Newton being one of the first real “men of science”. Probably more accurate to call him the last of the great Renaissance men.

    • Oh, certainly, and I did know that. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Keyes got his idea from that.

      All good historical fiction starts with a Turning Point. Here, the Turning Point was that Newton succeeded in finding the secret to alchemy, and that made what followed in science very very different.

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