Sunday, February 19, 2012

wraeththu i

I just finished the first book of Wraeththu: The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit. I'm reading the omnibus version which includes all three novels. I'm going to review them separately because together, they're kind of a monster. about 800 pages, including three small appendixes

Wraeththu by Storm Constantine is a sort of post-apocalyptic story, only the apocalypse is not really one of violence, its more of an evolutionary fluke in mankind, that creates the Wraeththu--Think: mankind 2.0. This isn't really a spoiler, because its on the first page, and blabbed all over the covers. What takes a little time to get to is: how it all happened, and what it really means for the world. After finishing the first book, I'm not sure I know that yet, but it may be all I'm going to get. Its hard to tell.

Storm Constantine is an interesting writer. Especially following on the last book I read, written by an artist. Constantine is a self-described writer and publisher, but also a witch, a Reiki, and an artist. What I know about her is limited to the information on the site, and what I've read in book one. As a writer she seems impatient in the face of her own patience. What I mean by that is, she is a big fan of foreshadowing, as if she can't wait to drop all the good stuff on you but then you pound away, chapter after chapter and where are these things she's foreshadowing?

I was 150 pages in, and still couldn't figure this book out, at 200 pages I started to understand that its really character development and an exploration of the relationships the main character has; one in particular. Then it occurred to me: this story reads like a Bronte novel! The tortured longings, the subtle detail and nuance of the various looks and tones, and what they may mean. O heart!

And a couple of typos? Come on! and then this sentence:

"Once I think, he turned toward me for I saw twin stars that were the brightest jewels that were his eyes."

What?! someone needs to listen to grammar girl

But I'm nothing if not a tireless slogger through books. Don't worry, I'll finish it (so that you don't have to.) Maybe that sounds too harsh. This book doesn't stink, I just don't get it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

time traveller's wife

Monday, February 6, 2012:
Niffenegger has woven a tale that is at once longingly romantic, stunningly hopeful, and crushingly melancholy. I've never read a story that so jangled the sentimental nerve that hides in the back of my throat, with simultaneous feelings of joy and sadness.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012:
Ahh... Audrey? You're staring to make me late for work.

Thursday, February 9, 2012:
That's some pretty funny stuff Miss Niffenegger. And some pretty heart wrenching stuff too. And in there together, cheek by jowl, as they say.

Saturday, February 11, 2012:
Dude(tte)--I was up until, like, 2:30 in the morning finishing this thing! Couldn't put it down.

So those were my thoughts as I read The Time Travelers Wife over the past week or so. Audrey Niffenegger has really put everything into this, her first novel. The writing is engrossing, and the tale itself is deep, complex and very tightly and intricately wound. Told in first person from the POV of the two main characters (the time traveler, and his wife.) you know, in case it wasn't obvious ANYways, Niffenegger must have thought long and hard about time travel and those pesky paradoxes that show up in every time traveling... thing, because she seems to have them pretty well worked out, and worked into her storyline and very interesting ways.

Miss Audrey uses time travel like a wire armature, around and upon which she builds her story, layer upon layer, and then continuously shows us the story from different angles, as she turns and builds. We work with her as she steps back to look from a new view point, and then, again, turns to work on a new portion, that changes and colors what we've read before. Time travel becomes an allegory for drift; a loss of mooring in one's life, relationships, direction, or purpose. And love--love and dedication--becomes the anchor to keep us grounded, or the beacon to lead us home.

In a word: enthralling.

The ultimate answer to the rhetorical question: would you go back (forward) in time, if you could? Like any outlandish, what-if thought experiment, there are bound to be both good and bad things that could result. Audrey Niffenegger has been strict in telling a story that touches on as many of the potential benefits and drawbacks to an experience like time travel as she could imagine.

Niffenegger has a new book out called Her Fearful Symmetry, that appears to be going for pretty cheap on Amazon. Not sure what that means, but if I see it around at a book sale, I'll give it a go based on my experience with this one. She's also and artist, and teaches Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts in Columbia College’s MFA program. Check out her website.

And then... Read this book.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

carrying the fire

Mike Collins is not my hero.

He doesn't want to be. What Mike Collins is is smart, funny, charming and a little irreverent. Mike Collins is also a damn good writer; he insisted on no ghost writers, and its clear that he doesn't need one.

Here's a slice-o'-reading-life:

me (while reading): "Ha ha ha."
daughter: "What's funny?"
me: "Everything astronauts say is funny. Because they're the coolest guys in the world."

Collins traces he career from Air Force pilot, to test pilot, his try outs at NASA for the astronaut program, and then his two space fights aboard Gemini 10, where he did two of the first spacewalks, and then Apollo 11 which brought him, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the first moon landing.

Right, this is the guy who piloted the command module of Apollo 11, the Columbia, while Armstrong and Aldrin disengaged and flew away to make their dramatic moon landing aboard the lunar module, the Eagle.

The guy who orbited the moon alone, zipping around the dark side where all sight and sound of home disappear as the radio signal is lost and he, of all the billions of humans whose attention is fixed on the Eagle, is the only one who doesn't know what is happening. Was he lonely? No, he says, he was doing his job. And he was honored to do it.

The history of the Gemini and Apollo programs is laid out with a level of detail and insider insight that really bring the achievements of these projects home. Collins doesn't mince words or pull punches. He is as honest about himself, his fellow astronauts, their bosses and the multitude of engineers, scientists and subcontractors he worked with, as any autobiographer I've read. What they accomplished, with the technology available, was amazing.

A ghost writer might have edited this story down, but I'm not sure the honesty, or Collins' distinct voice would have come through, and I think that's what makes this book such a joy to read. When we're talking about something like the space program, and all we usually get to see is the bits they broadcast on television, I'm glad there are men like Michael Collins, with the guts and the patience to do the work he did, and then take the time to tell his story for the rest of us.

So Collins isn't a hero. As he says, he didn't save anyone from a burning building, or perform 'above and beyond the call of duty.' But what he did do, should make us all proud.

Read this book. And then, lets go put a man on Mars.