• Daily Life

    Recent Reads: THE GREAT GODS

    About twelve years ago, Daniel Keys Moran published a book for the first time in about twenty years. I spent hundreds of dollars to read it–I bought my first ereader to do so–and it was WORTH IT.

    Last month, Dan published a novel for the first time in about, well, twelve years. This time I didn’t have to pay hundreds to read it because I already had an ereader, and also I subscribe to his Patreon (you can find him @FatSam) where he’d been giving us a chapter at a time over…IDK, a while, but actually most awesomely in the interim I’d gotten to be friends with him and got an advanced reader’s copy so I could read it all at one go in case I wanted to say nice things about it.

    I did. :)

    This is what I actually said, like, for quotage stuff:

    I’ve waited twelve years for this book, and it was worth it. Daniel Keys Moran hasn’t lost his touch: The Great Gods is a homecoming for fans of the Continuing Time, and an engaging introduction to one of science fiction’s most fascinating literary universes for new readers. Not to be trite, but I laughed, I cried, and I’m going to read it again immediately to find the things I missed the first time.

    Moran could write all 33 promised books of the Continuing Time and I’d still be left wanting more, but folks, this is a pretty goddamn satisfactory return to form!

    —C.E. Murphy, author of “Urban Shaman”

    All of that is entirely, wholly, absolutely true. I make no attempts at suggesting I’m a dispassionate observer; I *love* Dan’s books. They’re desert island books for me. Every few years I’ll look for something to read and I’ll start one of them because it’s a comfort read and then I have to read all of them (o woe is me!) and it’s lovely every time.

    I cannot promise that everyone will like them as much as I do. And I’m coming with thirty years of history here, which means in my SOUL I want to tell you to start AT THE BEGINNING, or at least with THE LONG RUN, which is one of the best science fiction novels I’ve ever read.

    If you liked it, I’d say read either THE LAST DANCER (which comes after THE LONG RUN) or EMERALD EYES (which comes before it). Emerald Eyes is…it’s worldbuilding, and it’s good information to have, but it’s not the most polished or cohesive of the Continuing Time stories. I haven’t read it in a while, and the last time I did, I seem to remember thinking it’s basically two different stories put together to be one novel. I’ll be re-reading soon and will come back to that thought if anybody wants me to, but anyway, the real point is that THE GREAT GODS is full of answers (or the beginnings of answers) to questions raised in the earlier books, so I think it’s worth reading in closer to publication order.

    That said, I’m 100% sure it works the other way, too: if you read THE GREAT GODS first, when you read the others, they’ll fill in backstory for things mentioned in TGG.

    Anyway this is all a very long way of saying I’M SO HAPPY THIS BOOK IS OUT AND YOU MIGHT LIKE TO READ IT TOO!!!! :)

    THE GREAT GODS is currently available at Amazon. (I think it’ll turn up on B&N eventually and I’m trying to get him to put his stuff up on Kobo, so fingers crossed.)

  • Daily Life

    Recent Reads: The Chronicles of Elantra

    Last year I decided I want to re-read Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra (more widely known as “the Cast books”) because I’d fallen a couple of books behind and while they’re not quite Big Fat Epic Fantasy, they’re big enough books that I kinda wanted a refresher before reading what I’d missed.

    Now, I’d enjoyed them the first time through, obviously, or I wouldn’t have been re-reading them to begin with, but OMG I LOVED THEM EVEN MORE the second time through.
    I think a huge reason I liked them even more is because there are a lot of characters and unusual names and complicated relationships, and reading the books originally was at least partially a challenge in just straight-up keeping track of who was who. But in the re-read, I absolutely, definitely knew who everybody was, and so every time someone ‘new’ would show up I’d be like “YAY! HERE’S HOW THEY FIT IN!” instead of “oh god okay and they are, um, who?” and that was just ENORMOUSLY enjoyable.

    Anyway, so there I was charging along through the books and then I hit CAST IN PERIL, which is like book 8, and it turned out…I hadn’t read it. I thought I had, but also in reading the later books there’s a character I didn’t know exactly how they’d shown up and thought I must have just kind of forgotten, but…no, it turns out they show up in PERIL and I’d just totally missed reading it somehow (where ‘somehow’ is ‘I had a 2 year old the year the book came out, that’s excuse enough’). So then I started wondering if I had missed OTHER BOOKS…but I hadn’t, as it turned out. Not, at least, before the point where I *knew* I hadn’t read them yet.

    Re-reading them all at once (well, okay, over about 6 months, because there are 15 of them and I did a lot of work last year) really emphasized the themes of found family and (in Frozen 2 terms) “do the next right thing”, which…I don’t know, in the world as it is today, those things were heartening to me. I think I actually liked Kaylin (our heroine) more in the re-read than in the initial reading, although *laughs* I gotta say:

    There are readers and reviewers who were really annoyed with me for the amount of time it took Joanne Walker to face up to the fact that she had powers and she was gonna have to learn to use them properly because people were getting hurt because she couldn’t*. But it took THREE BOOKS–two, really, because by the end of THUNDERBIRD she’d accepted she needed to–and here’s Kaylin out there sliding into BOOK FIFTEEN and only just now resolving to actually LEARN TO USE her damn powers! So I’m like: really!? Like, they all were mad at ME for Jo’s slow learning curve which took place over like 2.5 books and 4 months when Kaylin’s been refusing lessons on her power for over a year of book time and for 9 or so years of having them?!

    Which is neither here nor there, really. I just thought it was funny. :)

    Anyway, Kaylin came off really well in a re-read of the series, and my already-considerable love for the supporting cast, particularly the Dragons, was multiplied. I kept laughing out loud at character interactions, and honestly, Michelle says she can’t write romance but these books have a MURDEROUSLY good slow burn with LAYERS of complication and I am here for until the end of damn TIME.

    So if you’re looking for a solid, long-running fantasy series with an urban fantasy feel but set in an entirely secondary world, the Chronicles of Elantra are a good choice. The 15th book (16th if you count the novella CAST IN MOONLIGHT) is out later this month, and I’m super-duper looking forward to it now that I’m all caught up.

    * I still maintain “putting my head in the sand and hoping REALLY HARD that this will all just GO AWAY” is an extremely common and natural human reaction, but holy shit people got upset about it. My editor, at some point, said to me, “I think maybe you like a little too much reality in your fantasy,” AND MAYBE I DO, BUT DAMN, PEOPLE! Like! Have you not met *people*!? And like! I know “omg i have magic powers YAY SO COOL!” is the more common fantasy book response to, y’know, omg, you have magic powers, BUT THAT’S PART OF WHY JOANNE DIDN’T THINK IT WAS GREAT! The whole idea was to have a character for whom this was problematic! A struggle! I was trying, right from the start, to make her different from Harry Dresden & Anita Blake (which were really the only two urban fantasy series out, when I wrote URBAN SHAMAN, altho by the time it got published it was a whole different story) both of whom were all in for their magic, so her trying to nope on out of there was BY DESIGN! And yet it really got up peoples’ noses. :)

  • Recent Reads

    Recent Reads: Strong Female Protagonist Vols 1 & 2

    Recent Reads: Strong Female Protagonist (Vols 1 & 2)

    I got volume 2 of SFP for Christmas, which totally surprised me, even though months ago (perhaps longer) Ted had said to me, “SFP Kickstarter! Should I? It won’t be out until December!” and I said, “Oh, yes! It can be a nice Christmas present for me!” And it was! A very surprising one! :)

    I re-read the first one leading up to v2, as it had been a while. One of the things I enjoy about sort of…early career comics? is watching the art style develop. (This is why I ended up reading Questionable Content, and why it makes me want to do SOME kind of little web comic of my own…) SFP’s art is still pretty rough at the end of v1, but it’s matured a *lot* by the end of v2, so that was kind of fun and exciting to watch.

    To be frank, I liked the story of v1 better. V2, *especially* the first half, felt very didactic to me, and specifically didactic toward an audience that I presume is already predisposed to agree with its thesis. Very much a case of “the people who most need to read this probably won’t,” although, I don’t know, perhaps–hopefully–it is in fact reaching people for whom its thoughts are important and revelatory.

    That said, halfway through v2 there’s a marked improvement. Honestly, v2 feels like v2 & v3, but left on its own the first half is *so* lecture-y I can’t imagine many people picking up a third volume voluntarily. They wisely avoided that problem by making it all one book, and the second half was quite enjoyable, especially the philosophical arguments chapter, which I enjoyed enormously both in content and in structure (I can’t remember which philosopher’s strategy they employed, but I recognized it as a philosophical structure and was ridiculously pleased with them).

    Overall I…I appreciate what they’re trying to do. They’re taking the idea I played with in Take A Chance, which is: “what if superheroes were real, how would they deal with actually functioning in the real world?” and have pushed it much, much farther than I was interested in doing. They’re tackling a lot of big ideas and trying to push a narrative that tells us, simply, that we can be heroes. All of us. And I love that. I love what they’re aiming for, and so although I feel that they stumbled somewhat in implementation with volume 2, they’re offering an inspiring message that I believe strongly in. Ultimately, I look forward to more.

  • Recent Reads

    Recent Reads: A WRINKLE IN TIME

    Having cried all over the WRINKLE IN TIME trailer, I thought I’d better re-read the book immediately to get a proper feeling for it again. It’d been at least twenty, possibly thirty, years since I’d read it, and…

    …it’s kind of equally weirder and more mundane than I remember it.

    I was prepared for, although somewhat exasperated by regardless, the Christian allusions; whenever I last re-read L’Engle, I was adult enough to notice her books are really laced with Christianity, so I knew that was going to be there. The story itself is actually a lot more straight-forward than I remember it being; possibly I’ve conflated the other books with it, or maybe it’s just that the weird bits are SO STRANGE that I thought the story structure had to be a lot more complicated than it really is.

    It’s not, from a modern storytelling perspective, especially well told. It takes about four chapters to really get going, and it’s only a 12 chapter book. There’s a lot of telling, but not much in the way of showing in terms of…*why*. Meg is not, to the adult modern reader, particularly sympathetic: she doesn’t fit in at school, she’s angry in general and specifically very defensive about her father’s absence, and is apparently some particular kind of dumb that excludes being spectacularly good at math. That dumbness may be meant to indicate she’s socially inept, but although that certainly appears to be true, it doesn’t seem to be what’s really going on.

    But that…dumbness…whatever it is…is crucial through the whole book. Meg doesn’t tesseract as well as the others. Meg is more vulnerable to the Darkness than the others. Meg won’t understand if you explain the thing…but I never understood why. (I’m not sure I understood as a kid, either, but it didn’t matter as much to me then.) And it’s apparently not something that came on simply because Mr Murry disappeared, because even he comments on it, and had done so before his disappearance, so you can’t lay her anger/ineptitude at the feet of her father’s disappearance.

    And, just as much as Meg’s lack is not explained, neither are Calvin and Charles Wallace’s aptitude. Calvin communicates well; well, okay, that’s fine, but why does it make it easier for him to tesseract? Charles Wallace is, as far as I can tell, not even actually human, and Calvin, who does not come from the Murry family at all, is apparently More Like Charles than Meg is. But I don’t know what they are, or why they are, or why they’re the special ones and our heroine isn’t (well, that last one is institutionalized sexism, but let’s move past that). I remember *loving* Charles Wallace (and crushing terribly on Calvin), but I find him fairly creepy now, and that’s as the parent of an extremely self-assured little kid who, like Charles Wallace, is quite certain he’s able to Do It His Way without listening to the wisdom, or at least the experience, of his elders.

    The one thing that maybe felt the most true to me in the whole book was Meg coming around to being the one who can save Charles Wallace. She wanted someone else–her father, specifically, but ANYBODY ELSE–to have to do the hard work. She was terrified and resentful of having to do it herself (and possibly that’s what the aforementioned “dumbness” is, since everybody keeps saying If you’d only apply yourself, Meg,, but that still doesn’t explain why she doesn’t tesseract as well, etc), and that seems very appropriate to a 13 year old to me. To people a lot older than 13, too, for that matter. But it comes in the 11th hourchapter, and her willingness to go on there is the only time in the book that she moves forward of her own volition. I’m not saying that isn’t fairly realistic, maybe, for a young teen, but in terms of making a dynamic book, it…doesn’t, really.

    There are parts of the book that remain wonderful. The Mrs W are still splendid; Camazotz (which I always read, name-wise, as being what happens when Camelot goes terribly wrong) is still EXTREMELY CREEPY, and the thrumming presence of IT remains startlingly effective. Aunt Beast is wonderful. (So basically: the aliens work a lot better for me than the humans do.)

    It doesn’t feel like a book that could get published now. It would need more depth; it felt shallow to me. A lot of its weirdness seems to me like it came very specifically out of the 50s and early 60s; I don’t think that book would, or perhaps *could*, be written now. It’s very internal in a lot of ways, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the film adapts the weirdness and the internalness and Meg’s basic lack of agency into an accessible story. My *feeling* is that they’re going to do a magnificent job of it, that it’s going to be one of those cases like Frankenstein or Jeckell & Hyde where the book’s conceptual foundation proves more powerful in film than it does on the page. I hope so!

    But you know what I really wanted to do when I finished reading A WRINKLE IN TIME? I wanted to re-read Diane Duane’s SO YOU WANT TO BE A WIZARD, because I felt like the Young Wizards books use A WRINKLE IN TIME as a conceptual springboard and dove off into something that worked a lot better as a *story*.

    So I guess I know what’s up next (or soon, anyway) on the Catie’s Re-Reads list. :)

  • Daily Life

    still toxic

    I’m somewhat better than I’ve been, but I’ve still got a cough and snotty nose. No, I haven’t gone to a doctor, but only because it turns out there’s a shortage of doctors in this town and nobody is taking new patients. We got signed up with a clinic in theory but we still haven’t gotten notification that we’re actually in their system, so…yeah. Anyway. At this point I think I’m going to have healed up before I’m in the system. Whee.

    That said, all I want to do today is lie in a lump on the couch and watch Brooklyn Nine Nine all afternoon, but I’d have a 7 year old beside me saying, “What? What?” and fake-laughing at things, which wouldn’t really be much fun.

    The Wrinkle in Time trailer dropped yesterday and made me cry. Twice. It looks amazing. (“Mommy,” Indy said incredulously, “are you *crying*?” Yes. Yes I was.) Anyway, I haven’t read the book in at least twenty, possibly thirty, years, and I immediately bought a new copy to read it. I didn’t think it would hold up, honestly, but I’ve read the first chapter and so far it’s still amazing.

    I also re-read THE HERO AND THE CROWN a couple days ago and for the first time the acid trip battle with Agsded actually made sense to me. I’ve only read the book about forty times, so it’s nice that I eventually became able to really follow that scene.

    Also I don’t remember crying through Talat’s rehabilitation before. *wipes eyes*

    I made crabapple jelly with the last of LAST year’s crabapples, some cherry jam, pitted more cherries that Dad brought out, and bought some peaches that I need to process today and see if I’ve got enough for jam. I have frozen strawberries, too, and some many-berry mix frozen berries. Jam, glorious jam. :)

    There are TWO kittens in the garden. We’re calling them Topsy and Turvy and are feeding them and their mama. I’m waiting for the local rescue people to have a capture cage available, so hopefully that’ll come through soon.

    I turned a grant application in last week. I’ve got a book proposal just about ready to submit. I have copy edits to do and need to email my editor about line edits. And…I’d have to look at my to-do list to see what’s next. That’s plenty to get me through the week, though. :)

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