22 November 2013

This Girl's Wish List 2013

Many a night was spent sprawled out on my family's living room coiled rag rug dog-earring pages from the annual Sears Christmas Wish Book.  That puppy by the time good ole' St. Nick made it's trek to our Christmas Tree, was in tatters, with the Barbie/Star Wars pages blurred unrecognizable by sticky little frantic fingers. Like most Canadian children, my brother and I set our lists and future play happiness from what we discovered in that tome of wonder. The Big Guy and Sears must have had quite the partnership, I wonder who received the royalties, Santa or Sears? Either way, hands down, it was a win-win.

Now that I am grown, less in mind than in body (forever 8 at heart) I wish I could flip through an adult version of the Wish Book and obviously (NOT booze, but good guess) tag my books for the coming year. Once completed would then leave the book lying haphazardly in the path (draped over his face while sleeping should do the trick) of a certain gift buying husband. Like Sears and Santa, a win win for our family too. With the internet and the ability to shop, gift, share, wish, harass and ship any single thing you could desire the Wish Book has become a child-hood tangible memory. With the memory looping in my head like an earworm, I can't help but post my Wish Book List and maybe influence a certain hubby and even yourself. You too must have a list and or have a list you need to buy for.

Is it necessary for me to qualify why this is on my reading list?  The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is by Neil Gaiman. Although I have yet to explore his highly acclaimed Sandman graphic novel series (one of my many skeletons in the closet) I am a huge fan of his novels. American Gods, coming first to mind is an exploration into the workings of religion and it's place in current times. American Gods is the baby that Twin Peaks and Fifth Business would have procreated. Weird, full of allegories and am hoping when I read The Ocean At The End of The Lane I it too takes me into a world that wraps me in mysticism.

I purchased Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell for my Mom the year it came out, leaving it with her in a Mexican, sea-side RV park never to see again. I regret to this day not reading it before gifting it to her. Of all the books on my little list it is this one that I expect to cherish the most. Not the smartest knife in the draw at times, it is only this past year that I figured out that I really, really like space opera and really, really, really like books about magic. Funny how you don't know a person, especially when that person is yourself.

I don't know about you, but there is nothing like a six- hundred page historical account to make you feel all cosy inside. Having pined after and yet to squeeze the time in to read Paris 1919:  Six Months that Changed the World, I feel I am now significantly rested and ready to take on both. Plus, when done, I have the perfect books to press summer flowers in. Margaret MacMillan, renowned history prof, dives into the melee that is pre-war Europe trying to uncover and properly express the quagmire that resulted in WWI, the war that to this day, shapes our world for the better and the worse in her new book The War That Ended Peace. I cannot wait.

Trilogies are a bitch. Reading one, results in reading book two which results in reading book three. A scientific law, trilogies are one of the Laws of Physics or Thermodynamics or is it Gravity, quantified as a force of nature. It takes effort and commitment from readers, making us all impatient weirdos waiting for the next book to be published. With MaddAddam out, I find myself reluctantly ready. Atwood's trilogy is not a funny romp, it paints quite the disturbing post-apocalyptic future with chapters of violence that haunts me today. I am not really selling this, am I? My point is while this may not be the best book to read during the holidays, it is a triumph of a series, one that captures the brilliance that is Margaret Atwood.

Finally, Allegiant, the third (see what I mean, force of nature) in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth is here and apparently has raised quite a bit of hullabaloo. Being on a self-enforced library-only policy, I haven't been able to add this to my collection and thus am hoping to receive it as a gift. Dripping with heart-ache, first love drama that seems to accompany most YA (young adult) novels, The Divergent series takes the drama of teen-land, and places it firmly in an authoritarian future in which humanity is defined not by blood but factions. If you liked The Hunger Games, read this series, you will find a more original theme, controlled with better writing and tighter editing. 

15 November 2013

For Greg's Pop: An Atwood Kind of Life

A friend emailed me inquiring on what to buy his Dad for the holidays. His goal, to introduce and successfully hook his Pop into the wonderful world of SF. Quite a mission and one that I soon jumped on but quickly found myself overwhelmed. After all, this is quite a heady decision; the book I recommend could either successfully draw someone to SF or disastrously push them away. Who am I to hold so much power in my little geek hands? I soon got over myself, realizing who better than a  hard-core self-proclaimed SF nerdlington to decide someone's future reading fate.

Being a proud maple-leaf wearing, 'sorry' expounding, 'eh' dropping Canadian there may be a few facts that might surprise you about my country. While winter does reign over most of this expansive land for a remarkable amount of time, a thawing does occur (sometimes, almost always) resulting in rather pleasant, even scorching summers. 

98% of Canadian fathers are 100% convinced that their child will be the next big hockey star and have either registered that little newborn into skating lessons their second day on Earth or have attempted to contact an NHL recruiter to come look at their child's massive newborn thighs (for those tight corners).  I may (or not) be referencing a husband (maybe mine) who purchased gloves, helmet and stick for a certain 2 year old last year.

You may be familiar with the French/English divide that sometimes exists (on slow news day), even aware of the frequent Quebec threat of divorcing itself from Canada. However what truly separates one Canadian from another is not Tim Horton doughnuts, or who wins the nice award (Nova Scotians, obviously), or whose mayor is more cracked out (really not a contest) but our stance on Atwood, Margaret Atwood. Yes, indeed it comes down to Atwood. She is either loved or despised and since I am one of the former my recommendations will be Atwoodian inspired.

Many a word has been written with regards to Atwood's reluctance to placing her books under the SF genre and while I may have sounded off on this very topic one too many times, I am
laying the debate to rest. Do you hear me world? Whether you wish to call The Handmaid's Tale, SF, speculative fiction, a horse's behind, is of no concern to me.  It is science fiction and it is good. And with this I say, read it for what it is, a truly harrowing tale of a future that may just come to pass, with all the horrors that are contained in a dystopian novel.  It is a classic and with all classics a must read whatever genre you choose to align with. In my opinion, The Handmaid's Tale is the perfect litmus test for Margaret Atwood, not for dipping ones toes into the big sea of science fiction.

If The Handmaid's Tale is more about Atwood's very "Atwoodian" style then what would be the best SF book for a non-SF reader? Why not a diaspora-laced tale of destruction and redemption: Oryx and Crake, book one of the MaddAddam trilogy? After all, if you are going to push someone's reading boundaries, you should at least recommend a writer who is able to weave together a world-developed story-line. I really like Atwood. I should buy some type of shirt or coffee-mug or something. 

It may seem a tad presumptuous to recommend a trilogy. What if the intended reader (Greg's Pop) doesn't like it? The great thing about this book is it can stand alone. If you love it, great, lucky you, there is The Year of the Flood an all-encompassing intense little nightmare that won't ever leave your thoughts (holy crap people it is INTENSE) and from there you can move onto MaddAddam (which I cannot comment on but am hoping I unwrap it under a tree this year). By recommending a trilogy you have a better outcome. If he loves it, then he reads more SF, resulting him wanting to read even MORE SF and then he is hooked, and you have a Dad who reads SF and that really is all you have, isn't it?  

Then again, if he doesn't like it, you have a Dad who didn't like it and well, he most likely will still be your Dad, just a Dad who thinks your choice in books are off the rocker. I realize I am of no help and most definitely not the best person for this insurmountable task. Have him read Dune.