Recent Reads: The Continuing Time
A few years ago Daniel Keys Moran published the fourth book of the Continuing Time, after a nearly 20 year hiatus. I went and bought an e-reader so I could read THE BIG BOOST, and bought the other three books in e-copy so I could read them all one after another. I enjoyed the experience quite a lot, honestly, which was lovely.
Anyway, in early September, during my media blackout month, I wanted something to read, and one of the things about me when I’m writing is that I can’t easily read new fiction. So I saw the Continuing Time books on my e-reader and thought “okay sure, I’ll read one of those” and then somewhat to my surprise re-read all four of them in a few days.
EMERALD EYES stood up better to a third reading than it did to a second, perhaps because I knew/remembered more clearly how it fit into the whole world’s structure. The second reading of it a few years ago left me kind of feeling like it was All Prequel, No Story; this time it felt a bit more like it–well, like it stood on its own, although actually I think what it did was fit into the whole more powerfully because I had a clearer memory of how it did.
THE LONG RUN remains one of my favourite books ever, and by itself puts the Continuing Time on my Desert Island Books. It also helped form some of my personal philosophy, namely and specifically killing is wrong, which is main-character Trent’s bottom line and which (despite the fact that I’m still a meat-eater) I can’t find fault with. I was surprised, re-reading THE LONG RUN this time, how relatively short it is; the 3rd book, THE LAST DANCER, is nearly (maybe equally) as long as the other 3 books put together. Anyway, it also happened that THE LONG RUN was published 25 years ago in September, which DKM wrote about extensively last month. I don’t know that his commentary brought anything new to the forefront for me, but it was interesting to read and–the excerpt from the novella by 18-year-old DKM that eventually became THE LONG RUN ties in to commentary I have on THE BIG BOOST, so I’ll get to that in a moment…
I like THE LAST DANCER more than the author does, perhaps because it was the first of his books that I read, perhaps because although the main character, Denise, is generally described as reactionary rather than proactionary (I just made that word up), I don’t…really find her to be passive. Even reading the book knowing that other people object to her as passive, I don’t see her that way. I think she has (as the kids like to say these days) agency, and while it’s true there are probably several places where she could move more decisively, at the same time, this is a character who has spent her entire life in hiding. The fact that she even *wants* to act, given the potential consequences for her, is pretty impressive. So I’ve got a fair amount of sympathy for the character.
Also, the scene between her and JohnnyJohnny is heartbreaking.
I also very much like the other storyline in THE LAST DANCER, which delves into the history/future of the Continuing Time universe. It happens to be peopled by characters who are almost all dickheads, to the point that the least dickheady of them comes out looking like quite a decent bloke, but I think that’s a pretty good trick for a writer to pull off. The way that character and his nemesis evolve are nicely done, although–even with as much back story as there is, I still want more. In some ways, TLD is my favourite of the Continuing Time, *because* of the back story and my desire to know more.
Then we come to THE BIG BOOST, which–doesn’t disappoint. When you’ve waited eighteen years for a book and it doesn’t disappoint, it’s really done something right. It returns to Trent as the main character, and here’s the thing about the excerpted novella from a writer 30+ years younger than the one who wrote THE BIG BOOST:
The excerpt is deadly close to that same scene in the published version of THE LONG RUN. And THE BIG BOOST, thirty years later–it’s written by the same guy. There’s no significant change in the voice, there’s no altered characterisations. I’m not talking about polishing, improving; anybody improves over thirty years if they keep doing something, even sporadically. I’m talking about the bones and the soul: they’re the same. And I really think that was probably my greatest concern, with a 20 year lapse between books 3 and 4: that the Continuing Time’s spirit would change.
But it didn’t, and with a space of a few years between reading THE BIG BOOST and re-reading it, with the EMERALD EYES story fitting in better to my perception of the canon, I can appreciate that even more. When I read THE BIG BOOST originally I desperately wanted to like it; re-reading it confirms it’s worth liking. If it suffers from something, it’s that it wants the rest of the AI Wars: it’s a bit like the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which, as a friend of mine said, ONLY NEEDED THE REST OF THE MOVIE to be great. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie didn’t come out until the 3rd film… :)
Anyway, it was a good enjoyable re-read and I’m glad the urge struck me.
GGK Book Club: The Summer Tree, ch 1-4
We’ll be reading the whole of GGK’s works in publication order over the course of the year. January’s novel is THE SUMMER TREE, first of the Fionavar Tapestry, and since it’s a tidy 16 chapters, we’ll be reading (or at least discussing) 4 chapters from TST every week.
A comment from me as the moderator/organizer of this project: GGK does not work for everybody as a reader. In fact, he seems to either really work or really not, so if you’re coming to these books fresh and find that it’s a god-awful slog, possibly GGK is not a writer for you. It’s totally okay with me if you want to slog and talk about what doesn’t work and why–that would be interesting and enlightening–but I would like to keep this to reasoned discussion, not spitting on one another for different tastes, so basically, behave nicely in discussions, please, or I’ll land on you like an elephant. I said sweetly. :)
Spoilers exist behind the cut, although since this is just the first few chapters, which is almost entirely introduction and set-up, if you haven’t read yet and want to peek at the commentary, I think you won’t be burning yourself too badly.
Recent Reads: The Lies of Locke Lamora
I read LIES the year it came out, or close enough to count. In the intervening years I’d pretty well forgotten everything about it except that it was tremendously cleverly written and that somebody died, which is to say, there was a specific death I remembered.
I did not, however, remember the rest of the appalling brutality that went along with that specific death. It was nearly like reading the book entirely fresh: it was still tremendously cleverly written, but sweet mother of mercy, I was taking unexpected emotional hits left and right. I stopped reading once for several days because I wasn’t up for dealing with more horrors.
It’s still a terrifically good book, but man, I don’t think I’ll be leaping into RED SEAS immediately, even if REPUBLIC is waiting to be read.
The GGK Project: THE SUMMER TREE
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!
The great Guy Gavriel Kay (Re-)Reading Project begins! We’ll be reading a book a month, in order of publication, throughout the year. Our first book, THE SUMMER TREE, has 16 chapters, so we’ll be breaking that into an expectation of reading 4 chapters a week in January. I’ll be posting a discussion blog every Tuesday so we can talk about the books and to offer a deadline for people to read to.
I’m very much looking forward to this. I’ve only re-read 4 of GGK’s books (but those ones I’ve re-read more times than I can count), and it’ll be really interesting to me to see what stands up, what doesn’t, and whether some of the books I didn’t care for as much have improved with age (either mine or theirs). Yay!
Recent Reads: The Blue Sword
I had a hard time reading this for purely physical reason: my copy of THE BLUE SWORD is very probably 30 years old, and the fragile yellowed pages are losing their tenuous grip on the broken spine. I was afraid it would fall apart in my hands, and thus was weirdly careful with not only the book but the reading of it. I believe I’ll seek out Robin McKinley at the nearest possible opportunity, ask her to sign my beloved and battered book, and retire it with honors alongside my equally ancient and beaten-up signed copy of DRAGONSONG.
The truth is, had discussion about HERO in my last Recent Reads post not pointed it out to me, it probably never would have occurred to me how passive a character Harry is. She is (in essence) The Chosen One, just as Garion is, and throughout the book, the story impels her forward rather than her own choices driving the story forward. The major break from that is of course her departure from Corlath’s army, but with how it’s written, even that is arguably her kelar forcing her rather than her own will.
It doesn’t matter. Not to me, anyway. THE BLUE SWORD is very close to my heart, because it’s one of the very first books–possibly the first book–I read with an awareness of genre, with an awareness that I was reading A Fantasy Novel. I first read it when I was ten, the year after it came out, as one of the books for Battle of the Books, and it utterly swept me away. I was in love with Harry, I was in love with Corlath, I was, dear God, in love with Tsornin.
And I still am. I was right, in re-reading HERO: Aerin is the stronger heroine, and HERO probably the stronger book. And indeed, upon re-read I discover that Harry’s big magic scene at the end of THE BLUE SWORD is acid-trippy as well, though not as mind-numbingly weird as Aerin’s. As an adult, it’s easier to admire Aerin’s stubbornness and the trials and tribulations she goes through to achieve her happy ending, and to appreciate that Harry essentially gets it all handed to her on a platter.
But when you’re ten and you’re caught up as Harry was, stranger in a strange land, but a land that speaks to you, and you are taken away to be important in that world…well. Yes. It’s ultimate wish-fulfillment, and McKinley has said as much about that book, but it’s okay. And I think that will never go away, so I think THE BLUE SWORD retains its place of preference in my heart. After all, a little wish fulfillment never hurt anybody. :)
And speaking of wish fulfillment, *God* I wish there were more Damar books. I know she doesn’t write sequels, I’ve known all her reason for twenty years, I respect them, I’m not pleading with her to write more, but *oh* how I wish there were more.