Monthly Archives: August 2013

I am just not with it today

I am just not with it today

I have a three-item list of “things I have to do today”:

1. writing at Zeli’s (apply for 2-3 jobs)
2. books with [friend] (if there’s time)
3. family night

One (#2) is even optional since it hinges on a friend’s ability to sit in my room and make help me do it. Another (#3) is going to happen whether I want it to or not since it happens every Sunday whether I want it to or not.

That leaves this morning, writing at Zeli’s (#1). Here I sit in Zeli’s, an independently-owned coffee shop, having intended to apply for two or three jobs in my field of study or at least something not-what-I’m-doing-right-now-related. Unfortunately, I completely forgot my flash drive, which has all my cover letter material and various resumes for tailoring. (By that I mean I have several differently-formatted resumes with varying degrees of the same information, not that I’m a con-artist, obviously.) I’m kind of stuck.

I’m so tired I’ve nearly fallen asleep in Zeli’s this morning, which is completely unlike me. Usually, I write and do other things with my writing group (we literally sit together on our own laptops and just write—that’s it) and I make my ride wait five or ten minutes once they arrive because “I just have to finish this sentence; gimme a second.”

Today, I’ve looked at the clock ten times already and it’s only 11:30ish and I’m about to keel over.

What. the. hell.

“Journey to the Centre of the Earth” by Jules Verne

Journey to the Centre of the EarthA Journey to the Centre of the Earth
By Jules Verne
1864 (original), 1871 (in English)

Yes, it’s that novel. The original one. (Well, kind of… I’ll explain below.)

I have a hard time falling asleep (and staying asleep) at reasonable hours of the night, and so, my best friend took it upon himself to read to me while I was trying to fall asleep over a period of several months this past year. I don’t know how A Journey to the Centre of the Earth was originally chosen—maybe because he’s a paleontologist and this book has dinosaurs? I honestly don’t remember—but in any case, he and I read the translated rewritten, abridged version available at Project Gutenberg, wherein the names have been changed to Professor Hardwigg, Harry, and Gretchen (Harry’s sweetheart). Hans’s name somehow remained the same.

Now, this science fiction novel is older than anyone who is alive today, so I’m not going to summarize it here. (There’s a decent summary on Wikipedia, for example.) There have, no doubt, been PhD dissertations written about Jules Verne and the science in his novels, and there isn’t an American or British library on Earth that doesn’t have a copy or two in their archives. (I can’t speak for libraries based in other languages, though, so there’s that.) It’s also in the public domain, which is how my friend had it on his Kindle in the first place, so it’s available for free to anyone who can access it. (Really, though: if you’d like a hard copy, I recommend finding one at a library near you.)

All right, so what did I think of it? Succinctly put: it was terrible. It was hilariously terrible. Such bad science! Sheesh; so, so terrible. I mean, I’m not a scientist (I’m not even close) and even I was cringing at the bad disproved science. I know that Jules Verne is practically the godfather of science fiction, and I am probably stepping on some fanboy toes by saying this, but some books just don’t stand up to the test of advancing knowledge in science.

Any potential feminism was nonexistent (literally). In fact, women were practically nonexistent, depicted well or not. The only women even mentioned are the Professor’s housekeeper/chef and the narrator’s love interest, Gretchen. Verne may have been forward thinking in many ways, but in my opinion, that hardly matters if the culture remains so backwards that women and minorities are (still) considered second-class citizens or worse. I want science fiction that creates a matriarchy, not one that supports the current patriarchy. I want smart fiction, “science fiction” or otherwise.

And I don’t want to be talked down to. From a discerning reader’s viewpoint, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth is just… not really good writing. Like, there’s no way it would be published in the modern market if it weren’t already a classic. After about the fifth “My uncle, the worthy professor…” let’s just say I was glad the book had been chosen to help me to sleep.

That being said, I can’t exactly recommend that “You can just watch the movie”—not that the movie had a good writing upon which to base its story or anything—because (1) I’ve never seen the most recent version and I don’t plan to, and (2) it’s not the same story anyway. I guess… if you’re a Jules Verne fan, it could be good…? Then again, if you’re a Jules Verne fan, you’ve already read A Journey to the Centre of the Earth and will doubtless argue with me about the value of its continued alleged popularity.

Needless to say, I was not impressed. (I was, however, very impressed with my best friend’s patience and willingness to literally read me the entire novel—bad science and all—over a series of months. It might’ve been worse for him, actually, because he is a scientist and knows, y’know, actual science.)

Anomaly

Anomaly (cover)Anomaly
By Krista McGee
Thomas Nelson Publishers
09 July 2013

My best friend, an atheist, asked what I thought of Anomaly shortly after I’d started it. I said something like, “Well, there’s not a ton of God-stuff to wade through yet, and I’m almost a hundred pages into the story. That’s pretty good compared to the overload of God-stuff I usually get less in than ten pages when I read books from this publisher.” He looked suitably impressed. He knows I keep a relatively open mind when it comes to Christianity—I was raised in the faith—but I’m not a Christian, and an overabundance of “God-stuff” is usually a pretty big turn off for me.

That said, I really liked this book. I liked so much that I didn’t have any problem finishing it; I wanted to see what happened to Thalli, Berk, Stone, and the other characters. Utopian/dystopian stories—1984, The Giver, The Hunger Games, and others—have always managed to hold my interest more easily than other types of fiction. It’s asking what could be—and what could change—that intrigues me.

Thalli, the main character, was born with emotions and curiosity in an underground world where such attributes are looked down upon and misunderstood at best and downright dangerous at worst. She lives in a Pod with other young people her age who have all been genetically engineered specifically for the mutual benefit of the whole group. The post-nuclear-war world is run by a group of scientists called The Ten, and they quickly schedule her annihilation when her ability to feel emotion comes to light. Luckily, Thalli’s childhood friend, Berk, a scientist-in-training steps in and convinces the The Ten that they can experiment on her instead of simply putting her to death. While she’s living in the scientists’ Pod, she meets an old man named John who tells her of a Designer—the Designer—who is even more powerful than The Ten.

Thalli’s response to learning of the Designer is similar to my response: she treads carefully with curiosity and skepticism. Maybe she’s so receptive to the ideas John presents to her because she has no knowledge whatsoever of any evil that has been done in God’s name, but I found it difficult to continue her path with her after she decided that she believed. The “God-stuff” became overwhelming for me near the end, but by that time I was too invested in the rest of the story to feel put out by the overt religion. I’m still interested enough in the story that I hope I’ll remember to pick a copy of the sequel, Luminary, which comes out July 2014.

For another excellent review of Anomaly, read thepaxdomini’s thoughts.

DISCLAIMER: I received Anomaly free from Thomas Nelson Publishers for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I do not like surprises: a true story

My sister is a participant in GISHWHES, and in the last couple of nights, she’s been excitedly telling our family which items from the July 2013 list she’s “found” (that is, those she’s been able to complete) and with which she needs help.

One of the items is “beefcake”: take a picture of three generations in a family sitting down to dinner to eat beefcake… literally. My sister signed us up for this, obviously, because right now we have three generations of family living under one roof. Fortunately, she was nice enough to warn us about volunteering us, and she even went so far as to ask for a specific day we’d all be available so that she could photograph us on our schedule, roughly speaking. Here’s how that conversation went a day or two ago.

Sister: So, when are you all available?
Me: I have Wednesdays and Sundays off.
Mom: Friday is best for me, but I could probably do Saturday morning, too.
Grandma: When I’m awake.
Dad: Uh… Ask your mother.
Sister (to me): Could you do Saturday morning?
Me (looking at work schedule): Yeah, but make sure it’s really in the morning.
Sister (to everyone): Is Saturday morning okay with everyone? I’ll work out the logistics.
Everyone (except Dad): Sure, fine.
Dad: Uh… yeah, whatever.

Okay, so that’s all fine. GISHWHES is stupid, but at least it’s fun, harmless stupid. Fast forward to today. I’ve worked a full eight-and-a-half-hour shift—on my feet 95% of the time—and I’m just hopping into the shower after a rather quick, bland dinner. My hand is literally on the shower door handle, pulling it open when my sister knocks on the bathroom door.

She asks something through the door, but the shower is already on and I can barely hear anything.

“What?” I ask.

She repeats the question, which I still don’t understand.

“What?” I ask again.

She repeats the question louder, and I catch something like “…when they get here?” but I’m still not sure what she’s talking about.

I close the shower door and crack open the bathroom door, poking my head out so that I can hear her better. “What?” I ask a third time.

“Are you coming down for the beefcake photo? [My friends] aren’t here yet, but when they get here, we’ll need three generations in the picture, like we talked about.”

I frown. “It’s a good thing they’re not here yet; I’m naked.” She makes a face, but since I don’t have my glasses on, so I can’t see her facial expression for context.

“When you get out of the shower, then.”

“Uh… isn’t that thing on Saturday?”

She looks at me, and I can tell even without my glasses that she’s losing her patience. “No, [my friend who baked the cake] couldn’t do it on Saturday because she works super early, so it’s tonight. The dumpster pool party is on Saturday.”

I wasn’t invited to the dumpster pool party, another of the items on the GISHWHES list, but that’s fine because dumpsters are gross and I have enough interaction with them at work to never think twice about saying “no” to having a pool party in one.

“So, are you coming down?” she asks.

“No.”

“What? Why not?” Now she’s irritated.

“Because I’m not prepared. I planned for Saturday.”

“What?” she asks, incredulous. “It will probably take ten minutes or less of your time.”

“I planned for Saturday,” I repeat calmly, not really able to explain why, just that I’m not at all prepared for any time tonight much less right now.

“You’re not coming down?”

“No.”

“Is that just because you don’t want to help me out?”

“What? No. I just… I have other stuff to do tonight.”

“It won’t take that long.”

“I’m going to take a shower and put on my pajamas,” I tell her. “Can I do this in my pajamas?”

“No, I want it to be a formal, dressed up thing.”

I snort. “That‘s not going to happen.”

“You have ‘stuff to do’ in your pajamas?” she asks, incredulous again.

“Yes. I have to apply for jobs and, y’know, sleep, eventually.”

Sister narrows her eyes, obviously not believing me, and then she throws up her hands and says, “Fine,” as if I’m completely a lost cause and it’s like I’m a horse she’s leading to water but remains unable to make me drink.

I frown. She turns away. I close the bathroom door, open the shower door again—the shower’s been running during our entire “discussion”—and step in.

As I shampoo my hair, I think to myself, “But I prepared for Saturday.” I sigh. Sister’s definitely angry with me, but she’s known me more than a quarter century. How can she still not remember that I don’t like surprises?

Very few

When I was younger,
I thought that the way
my head works was the way
everyone else’s heads work, too.
I was wrong.

If the my informal polls are correct,
and my informants can be trusted,
there are actually very few people
who have words, phrases, verses
repeating their heads.

There are very few women
who inhale obsession and exhale
corruption. There are very few men
who stand adjacent to themselves
on street corners in the rain,

and there are very few children
who are strangled in their sleep
by those black horse(s in their) dreams.
There are so few people
so so few people

who grip tight the corners of reality
because they know they will lose
everything if they slacken their grasps.
Grip tight the corners of reality, or I,
too, shall come undone.

Stonefly: A Novel

Stonefly updated coverStonefly: A Novel
By Scott J. Holliday
01 June 2013

I’m not going to lie: I started reading Stonefly because the author was holding a riddle contest wherein the grand prize was $2500, and I wanted to win! After I finished the novel, however, I tried to return to the webpage where I learned about the contest, but it had disappeared. I asked the author’s publicist at Smith Publicity what had happened to the contest (and I was thinking I’d possibly dreamed it because I couldn’t find a single thing about it anywhere on the internet), and she wrote back, “Scott [J. Holliday] actually had to pull the contest from his website. I do apologize for the inconvenience!” So, I don’t know what happened to the contest, and I’m mildly disappointed.

But! The novel itself was actually decent, so it wasn’t a total loss on my part. (Though I admit right now that, had Stonefly been a terrible or terribly written, I doubt I’d have even finished it.) I read the book on my Kindle Fire, and I was provided with a different cover than the final art you see here. (This is what my edition’s cover art looks like: jpg. Honestly, I like the original cover art better, but to each their own.)

The story begins with Jacob Duke, a man who can—must—grant the wish of anyone who asks. He’s the son of a woman who’s never loved any man (kind of lady after my own heart!) and a djinn (though a more common name in English is genie). He’s on a fly-fishing trip somewhere outside Detroit when a boy who lives in the small town near the river makes a wish he’s compelled to grant. There’s a catch, of course: if he doesn’t grant the wish within one week, the person who made the wish will die. The chapters are split by the day and end after Jacob does everything in his power to grant the boy’s wish.

Since I had no idea what I was getting into when I started the novel, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it wasn’t a poorly written comedy in the vein of Disney’s Aladdin. The subject matter is somewhat fantastical (especially by the end), but it’s internally consistent. It’s a mystery, and a tragedy in the sense that people die, but I never felt so lost or befuddled that I wanted to put down the book and not pick it up again later.

It’s the first in a series, and I can see where some of the loose ends may continue in future books, but Stonefly also stands pretty well on it’s own. Overall, it’s one of the better-crafted self-published novels I’ve read. I recommend it especially to fans of mystery, realistic fantasy (if there even is such a thing), and good writing.

DISCLAIMER: I received an ebook copy of Stonefly free from Smith Publicity. The opinions I have expressed are my own.