the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘literature

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, by H.G. Parry

Available July 2019

where I got it: received ARC (Thanks Hachette!!)

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Since the beginning of ever there has been this thing that readers and writers of literature don’t read or write genre fiction, and readers and writers  of genre fiction don’t read or write literature. That’s all bullshit by the way, but there are always authors who are offended that people call them “science fiction writers”, and readers of literature who look down on us speculative fiction readers.

 

Yet, it begs the question – how to get lit readers and genre fiction readers to see how much they have in common? That we all love a story well told, that we all love characters who go  through hell and back, that we all love the feeling of falling headfirst into a book? The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry could be the book that brings us all together. This book stitches together a scholar’s love for classic British literature with the scifi/fantasy joyful gleefulness of fictional characters who literally come alive out of books and then someone’s got to help them figure out how to live in the real world, or shove them screaming back into their dry paper pages.

 

If you’re a scifi/fantasy fan, and you enjoy Jim C. Hines’ Libriomancer books, or if you secretly loved those ST:TNG episodes where the holodeck went haywire and some poor Ensign found themselves face to face with Moriarty, you’ll enjoy this book.

 

If you have no idea what libriomancy or a holodeck is, but you love Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and anything involving Sherlock Holmes, and/or if you intimately know the beauty and the power of literature,  you’ll enjoy this book.

 

For nearly 30 years, Rob has helped keep a dangerous family secret.  The secret is that his little brother, Charley, can literally pull story book characters out of books.  When then were little boys, Charley pulled the Cat in the Hat right out of the book! Now that Charley is back in Rob’s life,  Rob’s got to once again get used to middle of the night phone calls of “help, it happened again. Can you come over?”. The family fears the worst if anyone where to find out about Charley’s secret power. Would he be thrown into some secret prison lab somewhere, never be to be seen again?

 

Much of the story is told from Rob’s point of view, and he’s the classic frustrated older sibling, as loyal to and protective of his little brother has he is annoyed by being constantly dragged into his brother’s problems. How long can Rob keep this a secret from his fiance? And who the hell is this Uriah Heep look-a-like who has shown up as an intern at Rob’s workplace??

 

The plot thickens right away, when Charley and Rob are told of a secret “street”. Through an alleyway, they find a secret door, behind which lies The Street. Storybook characters who have been given life (by Charley???  By someone else?) eventually find their way to the Street, where they can live safely. The White Witch of Narnia is here, as is the Implied Reader, along with Heathcliff, Matilda, five versions of Mr. Darcy, Miss Matty,   Dorian Gray, and Millie Radcliffe-Dix, among others. I’ll need a pulp mystery expert’s help here, but I believe Millie Radcliffe-Dix is an actual fictional character made up for this novel, she’s a 1950s Girl Detective – full of moxie and smarts, and never in any actual physical danger.

 

Rob is astounded and rather terrified to see all these fictional characters wandering around, and Charley is full of wonder and glee. The Street is the first place where Charley has felt safe.

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best of all poss worldsThe Best of All Possible Worlds, by Karen Lord

published in 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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When I was a kid, I’d Ooh and Aah over the ladies dresses at the department store. My Mom very quickly figured out that I preferred the more simple styles, what she called “elegant”. No ruffles, no bows, none of that foofy stuff. It was explained to me that the more elegant dresses were more expensive because there was nothing (like a ruffle) to hide the flaws under, so a more skilled person had to make the dress. If there is a most perfectly, stylishly elegant dress in the universe, The Best of All Possible Worlds is the book version of that dress. Elegance, humor, and confidence, simplicity.  No where for the flaws to hide, and Lord writes with a confidence that says what you may see as a flaw is a design element, meant to draw your eye.

 

On Cyngus Beta, it’s fun to make fun of the Sadiri. After all, the Sadiri have a major superiority complex. Let me back up just a tiny bit.  Cygnus Beta is an open colony planet. Anyone can show up and ask for a homesteading. The citizens would never describe it as such, but it’s a last resort. You go to Cygnus Beta if you have nowhere else to go. You build a house, you start a farm, maybe the remnants of where ever you came from start a village, and you are left alone to live as you wish. It becomes your home, and you become fiercely protective of it, happy to punch anyone who calls Cygnus Beta “a last resort” right in the face.

 

It’s not that the Sadiri have a superiority complex, it’s that everyone thinks they do. The Sadiri are not loud, or brash, or at all openly emotional. Their body language is subtle, their communication is private. Because of their silence and what appears to be disinterest in others, many cultures think the Sadiri are snobs.  It’s too bad that’s such an easy mistake to make. After the destruction of their home planet, the Sadiri find themselves enroute to Cygnus Beta.

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The story follows three generations of an African American family in Florida over the course of about 30 thirty years. While I was very satisfied with the complexity of the characterizations and the historically accurate details put into the narrative, the story itself seemed oddly lacking in speculative elements.

 

Starting in 1937, we  meet Mayola, who at fifteen is interested in attending Texas A&M, she reads all summer and saves her nickels so she can reach her dream.  She gets a job as a maid at an all white resort at Wakulla Springs.  It pays so well, she’ll have her college funding in no time. The springs are natural, obviously, but since it’s private property, only white people are allowed to swim there. They are filming a Tarzan movie, and Mayola inadvertently spies on the movie folks while sitting at her favorite shady lunch spot. she knows all about Tarzan, she’s already read all the books. The star, Johnny Weissmuller, had been an olympic swimmer. This acting crap pays the bills, but he’d rather be swimming. On a moonlit night, Mayola and Johnny go swimming together. She’s terrified of losing her job, he’s desperate to go swimming with someone who can keep up with him. He doesn’t care that she’s a stranger, or a girl, or an employee of the hotel, or black. He’s only interested that she’s interested in swimming.

 

The next section follows Mayola’s teen aged son, Levi. It’s 1953. Mayola never made it to college, she’s still working at the hotel and trying to keep her son interested in his studies, so he can go to college. Another movie crew is at Wakulla Springs, this time filming The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Levi soon befriends the actor who plays the creature, Ricou Browning, who is more than a little impressed with Levi’s ability to swim underwater for minutes at a time.  Levi becomes Ricou’s apprentice, of sorts. It’s better than sitting at home listening to Mayola go on about her boyfriend, Jimmy Lee, who has just returned from Korea.

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If you’re a follower of this blog, you know I mostly review fantasy, scifi, and other weird stuff.    

Let’s do something completely different today.

Barbara Kingsolver’s books have been described as chick lit, contemporary lit, environmental, feminist, and historical fiction. I like to call them just damn good.  Of her more than a dozen novels and nonfiction, I’ve only read three, but I’ve liked everything I’ve picked up by her – Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees, and Animal Vegetable Miracle

and thanks to Fyrefly over at Fyrefly’s Book Blog (go visit her!), now I have a copy of The Lacuna as well.

As much as I enjoy a rip roaring crazy fantastical adventure, sometimes it’s really nice to sit back and enjoy a novel that feels like a never ending mug of hot chocolate.

If you’ve never read Kingsolver, she has two drastically different books that I can’t recommend enough:

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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.