Sunday, September 10, 2017

Back to School

I've enjoyed my trimester in Ireland. I climbed to the top of a round tower in Kilkenny (too tall, 8/10, would not climb again), saw 23 performances, and met 8 published authors. Overall, I'm really glad I did it, although I am currently bemoaning the fact that I still won't get a real break from school work until Thanksgiving.
The two weeks break between my summer and fall trimester has given me time to do a lot of reading that is not remotely related to class or Ireland. I enjoyed Chemistry by Weike Wang, Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy, and Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta. I also reread one of my favorite webcomics, Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melançon's Namesake, from the beginning again. If you enjoy cute fantasy webcomics, Namesake is certainly one to check out. It includes plentiful references to Baum's Oz books, Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, as well as mentioning other childhood stories like Peter Pan, "Rumpelstiltskin", and "Jack the Giant-Killer".
I devoured Jeff VanderMeer's compelling and bizarre Southern Reach trilogy: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. I had some difficulty figuring out what genre the books ought to be. Annihilation won a Nebula Award in 2015 for Best Novel, and the Nebula Award is often referred to as a science fiction award, but it is voted on by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and given to works of both the science fiction and fantasy genres. Science fiction is probably the best genre to place the Southern Reach trilogy in as a whole, but I'm still not entirely satisfied with that categorization. Annihilation is told from the perspective of the biologist on a four woman expedition to explore Area X. At first, it reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke's Rama series and John Varley's Gaia books, but it quickly became more of a horror story, and the unreliability of the narrator only added to the confusion. With so many unanswered questions, I immediately had to go on to the second book, Authority, which is narrated by John Rodriguez. This book is set in the Southern Reach agency that has been sending the expeditions into Area X and reads a bit like a mystery novel. This was my favorite book in the trilogy and contains a creepy scene that horrified me more than anything in the first book. The conclusion of the trilogy, Acceptance, is written from the viewpoint of various characters at different times and ties the entire trilogy together cohesively.
The 2016 Nebula Awards Best Novel, Naomi Novik's Uprooted, was also an entertaining read. In the first chapter, I was very concerned that the story was going to be a bit formulaic and bland, but those fears were soon laid to rest. As the tension built, later in the book, I became afraid that it would end in the middle of some dramatic event, only for me to learn that it was the first book in a series. Luckily, it's a standalone novel, her first in this particular fantasy universe, and you get all of the exciting action in the one book.
After reading Uprooted, I decided to reread Novik's Temeraire books, beginning with His Majesty's Dragon. I'm currently in the middle of the sixth book, Tongues of Serpents. My thoughts while reading this series are mostly something along the lines of "Where can I find the TV show?". This series would make a fantastic TV show--it's set in a steampunk alternate version of the Napoleonic Wars with dragons. This ought to appeal to the same audiences as Game of Thrones. It's during a war, so there's even some amount of character death and gore, although not quite on the same level as GoT; this show could be a lot more fun. There's politics, dragons, action scenes, dragons, ethics, dragons, and a protagonist who has a lot to learn. I'm waiting.