[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Poor lonely little blog. Is anybody reading YOU?

Ploughing on with the Bradbury book but damn it's cold in this house. Not conducive to relaxing with a book. Not at all.

I keep sitting around looking pitiful and hoping the Powers That Be will realise you need to heat your house in December.

And adding layers. I'm even wearing socks.

One of these Bradbury stories, 'Perchance to Dream', gave me a bit of a surprise. Halfway through, I realised Bradbury had forgotten that the protagonist, Sale, was wearing a spacesuit. It's not the sort of mistake Bradbury usually makes. So I went back and checked to see if Sale had taken the suit off, or if he'd realised the atmosphere on the planetoid on which he'd crash-landed was safe, and so at least had taken his helmet off, but no.... If you fire a gun at your head while wearing a spacesuit and the round grazes your forehead, at some point it's passed through your suit, yes? And possibly let the oxygen out. Bradbury just seems to have plain forgot. And the editor didn't notice. And so it comes to me, so I can go, Eh?

In general, though, I'm enjoying the book. It's clear Bradbury was telling the truth when he said he didn't set out to write Science Fiction, he just wrote stories and other people decided they were that. Some of these stories, like 'The Little Mice', are not SF at all. They're just weird. In a good way. The stories are bite-sized but they don't feel incomplete. Sometimes I read a 3k story and think, where's the rest? Sometimes, I've literally turned the page to read the rest of the story and found it's not there. Some stories don't end; they merely stop. But Bradbury manages to write concise stories that satisfy. Quite a skill.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Am beginning slightly to regret numbering these posts, as it's getting harder and harder to remember what number I'm up to. And so we make rods for our own backs.

Today has been quite a day for wrassling computers and really I ought to go to bed, but I wanted to write a bit about the books I've been reading lately.

Not that I ever do anything else.

When I started reading John Wyndham's The Outward Urge, I developed a strong suspicion that I'd read it before, and not enjoyed it. After a while, I was convinced that I had read it before and I still wasn't enjoying it. I was going to add that Wyndham is a difficult writer, but I'm not sure that he is, really. He's pretty much in the mould of Arthur C. Clarke, with lots of unexamined assumptions going on and an interest in the science sometimes at the expense of characters or plot. Which isn't to say that I don't enjoy his work. Triffids and Chrysalids are two of my favourite rereads, and I watched my illicit video tape of the first BBC version of Triffids until the tape died. No need to weep--I have it on DVD now.

No, Chocky is the book I don't like. Not that there's anything wrong with it. The story is ingenious, engaging, interesting, and frightening at times. It's the narrator's attitude to his daughter that I can't bear. He seems to despise her. I'd go so far as to say he *does* despise her. Yet he seems unaware of or unbothered by this, and nobody else in the book seems to notice. Bit like nobody in Anne of Green Gables has a problem with a teacher grooming one of his students to become his wife, while neglecting another student because he doesn't fancy her. I'm still stunned that this book is considered wholesome and innocent in comparison with modern works for young people. But la. Off topic I veer once again.

There are moments in other Wyndham books where you wonder if this guy has a problem with women. But it's in Chocky that it crystallises. He DOES have a problem with women.

Yet, against the despised little girl in Chocky we have to put the marvellous Susan in Triffids. She's so great it's hard to believe Wyndham wrote her. And thus I'm drawn again to the question: does Wyndham have a problem with women? Or do some of his characters have the problem? Against Susan we have to put the rant about the parasitical nature of women that Wyndham puts into Coker's mouth. Is that Coker speaking? Or Wyndham? Or some guy down the pub? I suspect it's informed by the time Wyndham spent at the Bedales School, but that's pure speculation on my part.

In The Outward Urge he mostly solves the Women Problem by pretty much not including any women. Space is relentlessly male and (one assumes) white. The last bastion of the gentleman's club. Bah. (There is one woman--she's a doctor--who exists to facilitate an info-dump or two. And for no other reason. She's so strongly characterised that I can't remember her name or even if she had one.)

Also, the book's not very well written. There's a tendency to open with a character in a situation, then go into substantial flashback and backstory about how they got into that situation. It's usually not even a very exciting situation--sitting at a desk. for example. What's the use in telling us someone has won their argument or obtained their position or got their space station built, then trying to engage us with the difficulties they faced? We know they won. It's boring, John. Boring.

Some of the stories are better than others. There's one with a man who's crash-landed on Mars writing a letter home that's truly touching. His knowledge of his own imminent death informs the story well but isn't overdone or schmaltzy. In another story, there's a long explanation of how a spaceship is assembled in space that's fascinating in scientific terms but which holds no dramatic tension. It seems difficult for Wyndham to balance the fascination with the science with the need to engage the reader with the story.

On the whole, not a book I'd recommend, except to Wyndham completists. Go read The Chrysalids instead.

I was also reading a book my sister lent me. Unfortunately, she had to lend her Kindle with it, and when she left, both book and Kindle left too. This is not the best arrangement for lending books that I have come across. Her Kindle has a pink cover, btw. Not that I was embarrassed to be seen reading it or anything. I was always in the house ;).

The book was Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock. I didn't get into it at first, as the approach--opening then flashback/backstory--isn't one I favour. But after a while I did get into the story and was sorry not to be able to finish it. Still, as my sister pointed out, if I hadn't paused to read Touching the Void, I would have finished, so I only have myself to blame. If I see a copy I will pick it up, although of course then I will suffer from the problem of having read the first half too long ago to pick up on the story but not long enough ago to reread the beginning. Eh.

I was slightly amused by some similarities with my favourite Wynne Jones book: The Homeward Bounders. A child wanders into a house where they're not supposed to be and.... Classic stuff.

I've now moved onto the Ray Bradbury book I picked up at the same time as The Outward Urge. It's a collection of his short stories and as usual there's some I've read and some I think I've read. At some point surely someone will publish the definitive collected Bradbury and then I can read those stories that don't get collected into the usual sources. Maybe. After all, I've had my complete Ballard for years and never managed to get through the entire Huge White Book, mainly because Ballard starts to annoy me after a while. If his world and mine interconnect at all, it can only be on the fringes.

Happy reading, y'all.

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