the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for November 2017

 

I’m moving through The Book of the New Sun at a pretty good pace.

I’d planned to do two posts for The Claw of the Conciliator, so I could see how my thoughts changed from halfway through the book to when I finished it.  I zipped through most of the book over last weekend, and by the time I was ready to write a post, I was only 20 pages from the end. So I finished it, and a few hours later, picked up the third book in the series.

 

Claw of the Conciliator is leaps and bounds more interesting than Shadow of the Torturer. For the length of the first book, we’re getting to know Severian, finding our footing in the world, de-coding weird words, and we’re just along for the ride. In Claw,  Severian finally gets a chance to see the larger world, his eyes are opened a little bit as to why the world is the way it is, and we start to see the consequences of some of his earlier decisions.  Also? Jonas and the Antechamber!!

 

But before we get to Jonas, new words!  Not as many as I expected:

 

Indathrene

 

Campanile

 

Thaisus

 

Pelagic

 

Cultellerii

 

I already cried a bit on twitter about Jonas.  Oh how I love Jonas!  I was fascinated by how he avoids certain conversations, and gives Severian answers that sound vague to naive Severian, but make a ton of sense if you know where Jonas came from.  I think Severian did eventually figure out, maybe? He was at least open to whatever Jonas wanted to tell him. I kept thinking about how language requires a frame of reference, and Jonas and Severian have different frames of reference. At this point in his life, Severian is still very sheltered, and Jonas, well, isn’t.  I hope we run into Jonas again. He was good for Severian.   Jonas and Dorcas seem to serve a similar purpose – to show Severian that the world is bigger than just himself.  Those two have histories, lives, and dreams that are completely outside their relationship with Severian.

 

The Antechamber!  When I figured out what the room was, and why these people were there, holy shit!  It’s not a prison, not exactly. And I can why people don’t want to leave. They are waiting for something to happen, and it hasn’t happened yet, so they don’t want to leave and risk missing it.   It’s like the rest of the House Absolute was built around this space.

 

And that dinner with Vodalus, and what they ate!  That is a royally fucked up (yet utterly brilliant) way to share someone’s memories, i can see why it is considered taboo.  But it seems to work?  Severian now knows all this stuff he didn’t know before.  I wonder what happens to the people who attend many dinners of this type, or specific dinners. Like, the whole thing is gross, but a super fascinating idea. Imagine if the alien critter that allows this to happen showed up on an episode of Doctor Who.

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I had to scrape ice off the car windshield yesterday morning.  All the Halloween candy has been eaten. It’s dark when I leave for work in the morning, and dark when I get home. I only have two more episodes to go in Stranger Things 2.  I’m tryna figure out what to make for Thanksgiving.

 

What’s all that mean?  It means Vintage Science Fiction Month is almost here!

 

Once upon a time, I wanted to read more old stuff. I wanted to know more about where science fiction had come from,  how science fiction authors reacted to what had come before them, and how science fiction reflected societal trends.  Our fiction can be a reflection of our society, don’cha know. That year, I decided I would read only Vintage Scifi during the month of January, and I arbitrarily decided anything from before 1979 would be Vintage, because that was the year I was born. Some people went with the 1979, some people went with whatever year they were born, some people went with something else. As with every bloggy thing I do, there were  no hard rules. The goal was to read something “older” and then talk about it online.

 

#VintageSciFiMonth is now a thing. It’s so big, I have a co-host, Jacob at Red Star Reviews.  He runs the @VintageSciFi_ (underscore at the end) twitter feed.

 

If none of this makes any sense to you, here’s a good post that explains it.  Here’s a ginormous list of a zillion Vintage reviews that were done in conjunction with #VintageSciFiMonth.

 

Thanks to Vintage Science Fiction month, I discovered Cordwainer Smith, Andre Norton, Edmund Hamilton, Samuel Delany, Joan Vinge, Kate Wilhelm, tons of fun Star Trek short stories, Hal Clement, the cheesy goodness that is Space 1999, and so much more.  I’m reading it all out of order, and completely out of context, and having a blast.

 

What can you look forward to this January?  Rumor has it there will be a Dune read along, possibly a live tweeting of the 1984 Dune movie, Cover art posts, how and where to find Vintage scifi, and I’m sure there will be Blind Dates with a Vintage Book. You know, all the good stuff you’ve come to expect!

 

Are you interested in writing a guest post for Vintage Month?  guest posts can be anything from a review of a Vintage book you read, to the old scifi short story magazines, to talking about an older scifi movie or TV show you like, to just about anything Vintage Scifi-ish.

Are you interested in hosting a guest post for Vintage month?

Sound off in the comments below, and I will do my best to connect people who want to write a guest post to people who want to host one.

 

 

This blog post started here.

I didn’t realize I was reading through it so fast, I finished The Shadow of the Torturer (the first half of Shadow and Claw) last night. The first half seemed a bit trying to get through – strange language, a world that doesn’t quite make sense, episodic stories,  and then we get to the 2nd half of the story that goes much quicker.

But first, more new words:

 

Coryphees

Anacrisis

Chiliarch

Bosquets

Deeses

Fewer unknown words in this second half.

And now for thoughts, questions, and spoilers!

Shadow of the Torturer ends very abruptly.  It’s going, it’s going, there’s a sort-of duel,  Severian gets to do his job, it goes a little more, slows down a bit, and then BAM it ends.  Yes, I get the whole concept of ending on a similar note as the start, but it was still weird.

 

Severian sure is easy to manipulate. Get a pretty girl to say hello to him, and he’ll do just about anything. And if she shows some leg?  He’s practically her slave.  He is an absolute idiot to trust anything Agia says to him, and he seems to trust everything she says!

 

The house on stilts that is in the botanical gardens – is this a view through time or into another dimension?  Robert and Marie seem of a more contemporary time.  They look out the window hoping to see mail plane, and Severian hasn’t any idea what a mail plane is. Everything about the botanical garden rooms is hella cool!  The rooms are bigger on the inside than you’d expect, it’s easy to get lost in them.  The doors to the rooms, are they doors across space and maybe time?

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This weekend past, I dug out all four volumes of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. Yes, i know physically I only have 3 books, but Shadow and Claw is TWO volumes of the series.  This series has been called a modern masterpiece, a “must read” for anyone who calls themself a science fiction reader.  I read Shadow and Claw a handful of years ago (three years? eight years? i have no idea) and enjoyed it. I remember it being heavy, beautiful, mythic, unforgettable, groundbreaking, strange, sci-fantasy dying Earth. I barely understood it. It was like reading a dream.

I do most of my reading on weekends when I have large chunks of uninterrupted time. By Sunday night I was 100 pages into Shadow and Claw. The (unreliable? kinda crazy?) narrator Severian is talking about his youth as an apprentice in the Torturer’s Guild. In a more modern epic fantasy, this guild would be the Justisters, I suppose – people who mete out punishment without thought for if the person is guilty or if the punishment fits the crime.   In Severian’s world, there is an all powerful Autarch who holds concubines as hostages and does who knows what else, strange machines that speak when they feel like it, a rebellion, the dangers of waiting,  a library that holds books older than history, The Citadel, and an entire civilization outside the Citadel who thought the Guild of Torturers died out generations ago.  The story is presented episodically, with a much older Severian telling you what he thinks you need to know and sometimes apologizing for spending time on needless details.   This is a world in which so much has been forgotten.

 

Anyway, forget all of that.  You don’t need any of it. At least not yet.

 

Because it’s the words that Wolfe uses to tell this story, and therein lies the magic.  I found so many words in this book that I don’t know the meanings of, giving them the shimmer of magical spells. Are these real words? Where they once words in a language that was forgotten hundreds of years ago? Are they satirical? Simply nonsense? I have no idea.   They are like stones in a riverbed – smooth on one side, rough on the other. Here are a few:

vitiated

inutile

saffian

pursuivant

agathodaemon

thurible

peccary

pardine

caique

bartizan

See what I mean, that they are like stones that have smooth spots and rough spots? Say them out loud and you’ll see what I mean.  Say them out loud and you can tell me how they should be pronounced.  If these words were stones we could build a road by which to travel to the answer. If they were stones we could build a tower, and from the top of the tower we could see the answer.  Every new and strange word is another stone, another step in the right direction.

Which of those are real words, or were at one time?  Maybe they aren’t river stones with which to build a road or a tower, but memories and myths. A last attempt to bring back lost knowledge of a dying world.

Who knows what the next 100 pages of this book will bring.

 

 

 


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.