Thoughts on: Dorsai! by Gordon R. Dickson

I just finished reading Dorsai! by Gordan R. Dickson. This is an older military science fiction book, first published in 1959.

Note: this is not a review. I will probably do one of those next week. This is just a question I had at the end of the book.

In this world, people have contracts, contracts traded by companies and governments.

The woman in the book, Anea, has a contract that the main character describes so:

It was nothing more — and nothing less — than a five-year employment contract, a social contract, for her services as companion in the entourage of William, Prince, and Chairman of the Board of that very commercial planet Ceta which was the only habitable world circling the sun Tau Ceti. And a very liberal social contract it was, requiring no more than that she accompany William wherever he wished to go and supply her presence at such public and polite social functions as he might require. It was not the liberalness of the contract that surprised him so much — a Select of Kultis would hardly be contracted to perform any but the most delicately moral and ethical of duties — but the fact that she had asked him to destroy it.

Despite that last line, I have to say I assumed she was an expensive, high-class escort. I mean, William dangled her as bait to manipulate other guys, letting them believe they could have her. (But he intended to keep her for himself.)

Plus, she is a paid companion. To me that is short hand for a classy, exclusive call-girl.

But, at the end, there is something about eventual marriage to William, and I am thinking maybe she wasn’t an escort at all. That, plus the single line about “liberal contracts” and “most delicately moral and ethical of duties” makes me think she was never a call-girl. Paid companions with non-liberal contracts might be call-girls.

But now I am confused. What was her job? Girlfriend? Hostess? Housekeeper? A friend that you pay for? (Why would anyone pay for friendship?)

What are the “most delicately  moral and ethical of duties” of a paid companion? I can’t make heads or tails of it.

N is for Notorious

I am picking the word Notorious for this year’s Hugo awards.

It’s going to go down in history. All the people associated with it will likely be remembered for years to come. So, yeah, notorious.

I am hoping this doesn’t break the Hugo forever and ever. I am hoping it doesn’t set the tone for next year’s; I don’t like the idea of years and years of infighting, arguing and partisan politics. Just like real politics in this country, yeah? I disapprove of this mirroring of life and art.

That will destroy the Hugo.

If they don’t want that, all sides will have to cease and desist by next year. Because if one side does something, the other will have to respond. I cannot believe it will result in anything but the destruction of the Hugo.

I dread it.

But the Hugo will happen this year, because it isn’t destroyed yet. It had better happen next year, too, hopefully, with less drama. (I am not hopeful.)

And the awards haven’t even been awarded yet! I suspect this will all get worse when the winners are announced.

For those of you don’t know what Hugo are and what this present drama is about, there are plenty of blog posts on the topic. Plenty. The internet is overflowing with them.

K is for Kill

I finished reading The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley recently.

It got me thinking: A lot of books have characters who kill. Maybe not easily, maybe not often, but in the course of the book, they kill sooner or later. Some do kill easily.

Some of them take killing more seriously: Anita Blake, Dexter, Valyn from The Emperor’s Blades and a quite a few others in the same book. Quite a few from other grimdark fantasy, too. (I like that word: grimdark.)

Someone like Anita Blake only turned into a killer later in the series; she didn’t start out killing very easily.

Dexter has been a serial killer since early childhood. Maybe he had kind and gentle feelings when he was born, but maybe not.

Valyn is a soldier. And, yeah, soldiers of all ilk kill. That is their job. And he is not without the gentler feelings. But he kills when he must.

But I wonder if, after lots of betrayal and treachery, if he manages to keep any of his gentler feelings.

I am dreading that he won’t. I don’t want to watch turn him an emotionless killer. I don’t think he will ever turn into Dexter (he doesn’t have quite that much childhood trauma!) but still. I am sort of dreading reading the next book.

F is for Famous Books

So . . . there are a lot of famous books out there. Some are more the type you read in high school English classes, some you see on the New York Times bestseller list, some win awards, and some were first published decades ago and are still in print; everyone you know is reading it or plans to; there is a movie or TV show based on it.

Do you read famous books? 

I, sadly, haven’t read too many of these books. Most of the ones I had to read in high school English class were boring; most of the books on the New York Times bestseller list are not to my taste; I only really follow science fiction and fantasy awards, but I have read very few the winning novels; I haven’t read too many old books, because lots of times they’re written in a long, winding style and that just annoys me.

Sometimes I think I should read more famous books, because more people are likely to have read them (So I think anyway. How could famous books stay famous otherwise?) and if people around me get into random conversations about them, I will be more able to participate.

Also, to better understand, what about the book makes it famous. This is why I read Twilight and I still haven’t arrived at an answer. But! I can talk about it now and tell people exactly what I thought of it. So that’s a plus.

But more often I look at my reading options and think: this book looks so much better than the more famous one. I want to read it so much more and I don’t actually have to read this much more famous book. So I don’t.

I think this is why lots of people (anyway, most people who don’t read science fiction or fantasy. Sometimes even people who read science fiction or fantasy.) have never heard of half the books I read.

What about you?

B is for Book Review: The Color Purple

The Color Purple was my pick for #nanoremo, the month where you read that literary classic you’ve always wanted to read but somehow never actually got around to reading.

I have to add, this is the first time I’ve picked a real literary type classic (I usually pick a more genre-ish classic).

This book is very popular and there is a movie, and so I knew some things about it. Namely:

  • The main character suffered sexual abuse in childhood
  • The main character is black.
  • The book is written as a letter to God.

I had somehow forgotten that it takes place in the south. I never knew that it was written in the dialect of the main character and not in standard English. And I never so much as guessed that the main character was lesbian. I mean, really! No one told me! It wasn’t in the movie trailers.

The dialect made The Color Purple a challenge to read, not least because I don’t know many people who talk like that. But I got used to it. It only took me a couple dozen pages to stop stumbling over the grammar.

Later, when the sister started writing to her, the proper grammar was a shock.

So . . . there were moments that stood out.

One thing that stands out for me is how she stopped getting her period as a teenager. She talks about girls who bleed have babies and then she says she stopped bleeding. She was relieved, and considering her step-father, that isn’t surprising. But it’s a shock – never get your period again, never have a child. Well, she had two by that point. Even so.

The other moment was when she realized her children were NOT also her siblings. It was so emotional, so intense.

In fact, there were lots of emotional, intense moments in this book, so many they are impossible to list. For such a short book, it was packed.

Overall, it was a pleasure to read. I am really glad I picked this book. I thought it might be hard to read, but it wasn’t. (I’ve read harder books. This wasn’t even in the top five.)

A is for Abandoning a Book

I am considering abandoning this book (The Hero with a Thousand Faces), because I have made no progress on it.

I teased it last Tuesday, but I have made only a few pages worth of progress since than. That amounts to less than a page a day. Maybe half a page a day, maybe less, I am not quite sure, but around half a page a day.

It’s just that The Hero with a Thousand Faces is so dense, with these insanely long sentences. It’s so hard to read. I have to reread basically ever paragraph in order to make sense of it.

It’s a struggle to finish even one page. I like to give a book about a hundred pages before I stop, but it will take me weeks and weeks to even finish the first hundred pages. But if I stop, this is the first time I will stop reading a book I actually want to read so fast.

I haven’t decided yet. I’ll give it another three weeks before I decide.

 

 

Teaser Tuesday: The Enigma

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

So from one of Alan Turing’s teachers . . .

My Teasers:

He held that the defeat of German had come about ‘because she thought that Science and materialism were stronger than religious thought and observance.’ He called the scientific subjects ‘low cunning’, and would sniff and say, ‘This room smells of mathematics! Go out and a fetch a disinfectant spray!’

– Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

Books that you Read because of the Movie

Have you ever seen a movie and then decided to read the book the movie is based on?

Sometimes the movie is so fantastic and you just know the book has to be better! I mean, the book is almost always better. How could it be otherwise? Books have more detail, and more room for all the things that make a story good: character, plot, sorder.

Some movies like that for me include:

1. Interview With A Vampire
I saw Interview With A Vampire on TV and loved it! I found the book in the library and took it out soon after. I loved it, too. They weren’t the same, but they were close and I really liked it, too.

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Um . . . Yeah, I started reading the books after the first movie came out. Not sure how I missed them before that. But I’m glad I did, because later on, in future books, I understood things they never explained in the movies.

3. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief wasn’t as awesome as the first Harry Potter movie, but it was still exciting and made me all excited to go find out what really happened. Which I did and really liked.

4. The Bourne Identity
I love love |ove all the Bourne movies! But the book was a disappointment. It was just so dated! And it did not age well! IMHO

I want to read the first James Bond book, but I haven’t managed it yet. I will someday!

Best Books of 2014

The year is almost over and I am once again listing the best books I read this year. Not, mind, the best books that came out this year but the best of the 61 books I’ve read this year. The complete list of the books I’ve read this year is here. Though most of this year’s reads did indeed come out this year.

1) Stories of the Raksura by Martha Wells

Stories of the Raksura is a collection of two novellas set in the same world as the previous three novels (The Serpent Sea, The Siren Depths, The Cloud Roads). It’s been less than two months since I first got it (it came out on October 7 2014. I didn’t get that day, sadly.) but I’ve read and reread both stories a few times since.  I really, truly love this world. It’s delightful, fast-paced and really, really good.

2) Ancillary Justice by  Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice deserved its Hugo. I haven’t reread this at all – I probably will sometime in the future – but it’s wonderful. Confusing for some people, but still really good. I love the main character. Her gender confusion is amusing. But the end is a little odd.

3) Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Color of Magic somehow makes a completely ridiculous concept work. It’s amazing. Really amazing.

4) Point of Dreams by Lisa Barnett and Melissa Scott

Point of Dreams is a charming book, where astrology has real meaning and includes a good mystery. Fantasy and mystery, along with a bit of romance. Nothing too explicit, though. Murder, ghosts and astrology! I love this whole series. I love this series. It’s good enough that I’ve reread bits and pieces of this book several times.

Do you seek out holiday books?

I read a post yesterday on favorite holiday books and I thought: I don’t have any favorite   holiday reads.

That’s not to say I don’t read holiday themed books – I do, if it drops in my lap. Sometimes they do, and they are usually romance books. Maybe mysteries.

But I don’t go looking for them, don’t seek them out. If I see them on library shelves? Okay. Maybe I’ll take one out.

None of the books I love to reread involve the holidays. None. Is that weird?

Maybe it’s because I read mostly fantasy and there aren’t a whole lot of holiday-themed fantasy books.