25 September 2016

Haines, Alaska: Looking to the Skies, SF in Hand

As a child, the autumnal beat of summer's demise, signified my grandparents' annual 
migration North to us, who waited impatiently in Whitehorse, Yukon for, beyond our parents, the two people my brother and I could not adore more. And while Ida and Clare Hedegard's destination was family centred, my grandfather Clare had the fishing bug firmly implanted in his brain. With the Chilkoot Lake and river outside of Haines, Alaska teeming with five thriving varieties of salmon, my father and grandfather were on a mission: who would get to the coveted spot first. 

A flat expanse of shield rock, pommeled by retreating glaziers, meters from the shore,
offered the perfect footing to cast off from. The quick river currents that drained from the fjord were teaming with sockeye. The salmon run was my father's and grandfather's delight, our family albums stocked with both happily showcasing their catch of those days. Whomever got down to the slippery bank first, haphazardly making way through the river currents to that rock seemed always to return to camp with the bounty. 

From the high tides of the Bay of Fundy to Grey Mountain over-looking the valley of Whitehorse, my geographically inspired childhood marked me as an outdoors girl. Hard to believe, so firmly now ensconced in the big city lifestyle of Toronto, house firmly nestled inches from it's neighbour, my world-view still sits firmly within the canopy of my backyard maple tree. I prefer outside; as long as there is a stretch of trees, a parcel of blue sky to raise my eyes up to, I am good. Somewhat, the 10-year-old me, firmly nestled in my soul, who waits for Dad to pass the fishing rod so I can scramble down to the fjord banks to try my luck with the Dolly Varden's is thoroughly puzzled with the city buzz. Where is the crispness to the air, the yellow expanses of boreal forests, the high-bush blueberries, the dusting of snow-covered peaks, the expressive talk of the salmon that got away?

The seasonal shift signifies a myriad of emotions for me and with the passing of my dear father this September I keep tightly bound to my memories of joy. As this very sad summer comes to an end, and my stack of detective novels tower beside me, I am happy to report that my SF bug is back. I spent nary a minute reading science fiction, needing the comforting English-inspired murder mystery as anchor to the turbulent waters of grief. Some lean on food, I require fifty whodunnits

And luck be the one who waits, for what came in through the library system this week but Daniel O'Malley's sophomore novel Stiletto. A rather embarrassing gleeful fan of The Rook, with me badgering countless friends to read it, Stiletto is my salvation. A little humour amidst the tears is much needed, and so I tucked into it's large tome post haste. Half read and not willing to simply bypass a proper review I digress, returning to fishing, and all the Dads who baited their daughters' hooks. 

The path of grief is trodden by us all, and as I follow down it's memory laden, saddened grounds, I walk with tears in my eyes, and happiness in my heart. I am the daughter of a great man. As I look to the skies, SF book in hand I shall remember to live my Best life. 

11 August 2016

Enigma: A Review of Radiance, Catherynne M. Valente

A fairly relaxed family, with a few fundamental rules in place, my house as was my childhood's is dictated overwhelmingly by one; if it is an Olympic year, you must watch. Thus, as my parents in British Columbia sit glued to the TV, so too is their grandson, daughter and son-in-law in Toronto. The child, as his dear Momma whispered wishful hopes of one day he being a member of the Canadian swim team, completed laps through and around the house. By the time my six year old laid his sweaty, curled locks onto his dinosaur pillow-case he was a snoring Olympian in under one minute. The allure of staying up late, with the added pleasure of watching a sport that captivities one's parents is such a monumental experience. I cannot fathom to guess what lurks deep within his brain, locked tight within his little soul of happiness.

With promises of a pool day so our little champ could practise his front crawl, my reading senses are tingling. Enraptured by the sporty things, further enhanced by a desire to read only detective novels of certain historical persuasions, I am at a crossroads. Continue the rumba with the whodunnit or generate the sci-fi geekness that manifests Thank the Maker  gloriously nerdy? Unseemly to ponder January's briskness, especially sitting under our maple's canopy while the wind whispers August's delightful slothfulness, but winter I revert. A month of reading inspired by the gorgeous stack of holiday books, the first month of 2016 was sublime. Of all those amazing books, Catherine M. Valente's Radiance rose beyond my expectations, becoming one of the most creatively illusive stories this girl has ever, yes ever, read. 

Radiance, as the Olympic dream attempts to soar above the political juggernauts of it's own creation I give you science fiction, defiantly so. In fact, it's uniqueness has kept me mum, reluctant to recommend in fear of announcing my passionate propensity to the weird. And weird it so blissfully is, so much that sitting down to the this tale requires a great leap of faith, a willingness to just let things be, and a fortitude to accept that what is on the page. 

While on Venus to film the mysteries disappearance of a diving colony, Severin Unck's crew limps home to Luna with the horrific inability to adequately explain her death. An alternative universe, wrapped within a space opera, tantalizingly shrouded as a mystery novel, Radiance is nothing more than glorious. Questioning how much to reveal, Radiance is best served as an enigma, probing the reader to swim through it's chaotic, yet poetic waters. The story will bounce you through a version of our solar system, alien yet comforting.This is a world draped in the theatre, with visual links to classic science fiction. Space travel is by rockets; the planets, viable options with thriving civilizations, each providing unique opportunities for humanity to elevate or implode. 

Frozen within 1920s cinematic overtures, Radiance is a love-song to the silent film. For this girl, however, it resonates deeply, showcasing what an author, when inspired is able to write. May one day, I be so inclined.