26 April 2013

What little boys are made of: Book ideas for wee ones

Dune Girl spends an inordinate amount of time reading not only to herself (happy to report, no longer out loud) but to little Dune Son.  In recent months, a few choice books have been introduced into our abode and are in obsessive circulation.  If you happen to have a wee one at home who is fixated on dragons, beasties and/or things with large teeth, these books are a must for you or whichever family you choose to book dive bomb.  How sweet would that be? A world at which dive bombings were book-related events instigated anonymously by literate benefactors.  

When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore, illustrated by Howard McWilliam is the cautionary tale of what happens if you build a sandcastle.  Spoiler Alert:   What happens basically is a dragon will move in.  Holy shit balls,  I know and do not despair, I am researching the fastest means that sand can be ordered to all our yards, information to follow shortly.  

The story encapsulates the joys and subsequent hardships of childhood beach adventures.  That world of sneaking snacks from the cooler, fighting with your brother, all while listening to the crash of the ocean waves and gulls flying by trying to both poop on your head and steal your hot dog is brought to life  From my son's perspective I can only imagine what is swirling around in his brain.   Being three,  this book is most likely a true representation, more documentary than fantastical to him.  Dragons, after all are real, T-Rex's are a little guy's best friend and yeti's  make perfect cuddle buddies.  

As with all great children's books the illustrations illuminate the text adding depth to this very succinct little story.   The pictures are the bomb.  DS  and I  spend more time pouring over them, trying to find the blue dragon  than reading the story.  For your information, the blue dragon is in the half built castle off centre in the above picture.  She is hard to find, but trust us on this, she is in there making cookies and scheming.

Any book that has a random Norwegian dinosaur wandering it's pages, is a book for me. The hilarious, dripping sarcasm in Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems is lost on my son but not all children's books are for the kids.   Parents read an insane amount of crap every day to appease the little control freaks in our lives.  ("OK, I will read Shark and Sharky Shark Shark for the 20th TIME THIS HOUR!")   As a result, as a parent you need to break up the garbage with some witty, child-friendly dialogue that is intelligent enough to keep from slipping into a reading coma.  

Thankfully, most of the sentences that burn into my soul involve poorly executed pirate/dino/lion related story-lines.   I dodged the "barbie/pony/glitter/I'm a girl and love pink and strive to be perfect in every way by being pretty" bullet.   To be fair, if my son wanted to read pink-inspired books I would read it.  I would, you know why, because I am mother, and that is what mothers do.  (okay, maybe we do more but it is one of the things we do.  I want a really big sparkly diamond shaped, diamond for mother's day)   It is not like we forced him down this creature-related obsession, he really, truly, all by his weird little own self, decided that dinosaurs were his thing.   So, while my world is filled with SF/Fantasy related children's paraphernalia, I am positive that if Mattel came out with a Vampire Barbie, dripping with blood and HUGE fangs, my son would want one.  And  I would buy it for him. Vampire Barbie,  you are damn right we would buy that, actually I would get one for us all.

And back to the book, shall we.  I do like tirades, they are so unproductively therapeutic.  Goldilocks, and the Three Bears is unhinged, re-framed and fabulously, superimposed with dinosaurs. Goldilocks is revealed as  a hapless moron who does not listen to her mommy and daddy.  She continues to break into large, imposing stranger's homes and then run amok.   Frankly, she deserves all she gets.    You see a large bowl of chocolate pudding laid out, doesn't mean it is for you and if it is for you, you should probably ask who wants me to taste like chocolate....not those dinosaurs, nope, no way.  I am surprised she hasn't been eaten years ago.

To all of you without kids, doesn't mean you can't pick these two bad boys up.  We all pour over the little images and maps that accompany our favourite SF books, don't lie, I know you do.  Pictures make things better.   Time to go back to  kindergarten and enjoy yourself.  

17 April 2013

Addiction Thy Name is Liaden: A Review of The Agent Gambit, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

You know what happens when you try to read four books, okay five books at once, not much that's what, not much. There is reason behind my madness.  Novel one is being read because of my enduring commitment to the SF genre, the second because not only is it about dragons but it is the second in a series about dragons. The last three gems fall under the thin disguise of research.  A reading quest research driven pursuit that is leaving me with withdrawal symptoms  and scheming ways to step out of life to read more.  Addiction they name is Liaden.

This is where I move from objective blogger to full-out crazy SF Dune Girl Geek.  What do you mean you see no difference?
The Agent Gambit by Sharon Lee and Steven Miller  is a conveniently bound omnibus containing the novels Agent of Change and Carpe Diem.  While Lee and Miller proclaim on their website that there is no true book to start with when exploring the Liaden Universe, this is a pretty good place to begin. Both books could be read as one, with the movement from one to the other flowing concurrently.  \In other words, we get to discover what will happen to the two protagonists that we so completely fell for in Agent of Change without having to endure years of waiting for the next iinstalmentto be penned.  \Don't you love publishing companies that have the interest of the fan at the foremost of their decisions.  

It may be prudent to explore the Liaden Universe more thoroughly for those of you not current to this blog or wicked awesome operatic space-inspired novels.  Liaden is a race of people from the planet of Liad. They are smaller in stature to "Terrans" (Earthlings from Earth that in this time frame is more mythical than real) exhibiting elvish physical characteristics. Please note, Liadens are not elves nor is the series perceived as fantasy.  I recommend you not to throw either term out to any true fan or they most likely will lose their shit on you.  The people of Liad are a clan society bound by strict family obligations and perceptions of face. Melant'i, the preservation of keeping one's personal self worth and more importantly their clan,is the moral authority of the society.
Up next!

While the Liadens are the stars there are some other important aliens that provide cultural, and political depth not to forget, romance, drama, horror and intrigued to the universe. The first briefly mentioned is Terrans who I will refrain from discussing as they basically are us and aren't we all tired of us?   The second are the hunters. The Yxtrang you will quickly learn to discover bring a nice level of terror to the series.  As it is with any ever expanding, limitless universe, new aliens keep popping up.  Having read three books in the Liaden Series before I made it a life mission, it was not until I picked up The Agent of Change that I met the T'carais.  What we have here are basically turtles, extremely amazing 8 feet tall turtles who most likely have the best names ever in the history of literature.  The clutch leader's abbreviated name is"Twelfth Shell Fifth Hatched Knife Clan of Middle River's Spring Spawn of Farmer Greentrees of the Spearmakers Den: The Edger.  I am so curios to know what his full name is but apparently it would take me better part of the day to say it.  

The question remains should you read this omnibus.  The easy answer is hell-yeah.  The more complete one is dependent on whether you like full-on, in your face space opera with no real resemblance to our universe and is okay with that.  These books are not rocket science,  you are  not going to expand as a human by reading them but you will relax and have fun.  Any critical reviews of the series will come in time.  This post is all about freaking out for freaking out sakes.  

5 April 2013

Blinded Me With Science: A Review of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke

It is with great satisfaction to finally read a book from the cannon of old that I not only like but agree with the hype.  Arthur C. Clarke's, 2001:  A Space Odyssey is a perfect example of how to infuse science into a science fiction plot.  For those of you still hovering on the outskirts of the SF reading genre (jump in, geekdom awaits you) you may be surprised that most do not accurately relay the laws of science.  In fact, most glorify in ignoring the laws of the known universe for the sole purpose of creating a remarkable tale.  Let me direct you to Star Wars, (I know, I have a problem), while it is awesome to hear the Millennium Falcon streak by, in reality sound is impossible in a vacuum.  Holy shit, I know.  Also, the Millennium Falcon is not real, so just chew on that little piece of information for awhile.  I recommend crying into your pillow, it helps with the pain. 

 As discussed in my post, East or West:  A review of The Long Earth science can impede a plot. I should note that for this and for every post I will assume that "science" does not equate boring to you.  This being said, science can sound coma inducing boring thanks to poor writing and editing   There is nothing worse than a book being muddled by facts so anal that the plot is lost.  

Where to start, hopefully unlike me you have seen the Kubrick movie.  I know, my lack of knowledge is disturbing.  Even better, it wasn't until I read the book that I became aware of the history behind the creation of the book and film.  Fascinating on its own but not relevant to this review, Clarke's book can more accurately be described as a joint creation.   My original purpose in creating Thank the Maker was to document my reading adventures in old SF.  Having read mostly works written in the last 25 years or so, I am not one to speak to the masters of the genre.  In fact, up until the inaugural posting my only foray into the masters of the genre was Isaac Asimov. Having read the Foundation Series years ago I could not help but notice the influence the works have had on future SF writers.   One day  I will create my side blog The Foundation Effect to document the effects the series has on us and the means by which the genre influence our general perceptions of story telling.  Please try and refrain from stealing my award winning idea.  Did you just roll your eyes?
Watch your back, bro

2001:  A Space Odyssey works because it is in essence the perfect little space story.  There is mysticism, extraterrestrial life, suspense, murder, and the ability to glorify the vastness and subsequent glory of space.   Even better, it holds up.  Sure, we have a much better understanding of the planets, and our hypotheses and subsequent theories of the universe is far different from the world Clarke grew up in.   The book is reminiscent of Tomorrow Land at Disney Land:  rather out of date, but highly enjoyable in a nostalgic kind of way.   I would be remiss not to discuss HAL.  Why 2001: A Space odyssey passed is the drama around HAL was not the driving soul to the plot.   Most writers would have made this the denouement, Clarke uses it as a plot mover. True, it is integral to the story but not THE story.