Wednesday, August 22, 2007

So Glad I Stayed

Well, I spoke too soon. And I know better. I hate reading reviews, be they book or movie, where it's obvious the reviewer didn't watch or read the whole thing. More fool me.

I picked up The Heir of Autumn last night to read "one more chapter" to see if I wanted to continue. Wow! The boys pulled out all the stops and thirty pages later I had to force myself to put it down so I could get a minimum amount of sleep for today. Everyone is in jeopardy in some way, the action is ramped up and people are starting to act in, not predictable, but believeable ways.

This is looking like a fun ride.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

A little while back, Ali posted about abandoning books you are reading. The questions were do we do it and, if so, when?

I am about 100 pages into The Heir of Autumn by Giles Carwyn and Todd Fahnestock. The prologue may be one of the best pieces of writing ever. It is beautiful and scary and sets up their world. But now about ninety-seven pages later, I want to stop. And this is the second time I've made it this far and no farther. Why?

The writing is good. Their descriptions are great. The dialogue is appropriate to the fantasy world around it. There is conflict aplenty. So what's the problem? I've thought about it off and on all day, and I think I have the answer. I don't like any of the characters so far.

The young hero is supposed to be strong and brave and good and all of the things you want a hero to be. But he goes along with everything his friend suggests no matter how dangerous, mean-spirited or idiotic. I hope we're reaching the point where Brophy stands up to Trent because Trent has just done something really nasty that impacts Brophy himself.

The aunt who raised Brophy is beautiful and strong and brave as well. Yet she turned the country over to the strong conqueror from an enemy land thinking that the big test for a ruler will kill him. When it doesn't she then brings him into her bed. Even though she doesn't trust him on any level. Why? Just so the fox can be in the henhouse when the plot needs him there? Not loving that.

We also have a hooker with heart of gold. At least, I think she'll turn out to have a heart of gold. And she's not exactly a hooker. She's the fantasy equilvalent, though. In Firefly, Anara was called a Companion (i.e., high class, sanctioned hooker). In The Heir of Autumn, Shara is part of an 'order' called the Zelani. Both boys and girls are raised to use sex-magic as advisors to the powerful (i.e., they are a high class, sanctioned hookers). Again, she's not questioning anything going on around her, even though we know she's going to be a pivotal character somewhere down the line.

I don't read a lot of fantasy, but I have enjoyed a lot of what I've read. Neil Gaiman being one of my current heroes. And Tolkein being a long-time favorite. But both of them write characters who think about what is going on around them. Aragorn may be destined to be king but he's not sure he wants it. Frodo wants nothing but to stay in The Shire, but goes on the quest because he thinks it is the right thing to do. Richard Mayhew doesn't know what the hell is going on, but he keeps going to help out Door and, maybe, find his way back home.

All of that said, I do think I will press on. I have it on good authority that this is a good read. And some of the Amazon reviewers say they are glad they stuck with it past the first few chapters. So, I'll see where Giles and Todd take me. And trust that I'll enjoy the journey--once we get out of town.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Genius, Creativity and Madness

My name is Debbie, and I'm an NPR junkie.

Hi, Debbie!

I caught part of The Infinite Mind yesterday while out running errands. They were exploring what makes a person a genius. Not someone with a high IQ but who makes breakthroughs in his or her field. As a matter of fact, they said that most of the people we consider geniuses don't have IQs in the upper stratosphere nor did they necessarily do well in school. My explanation for why that may be is that often in formal education settings, we are taught the conventional wisdom. And genius usually ignores conventional wisdom. Thus the innovation.

The part that really caught my attention was the study of what relationship, if any, actually exists between madness and creativity. What the researchers have found is that one particular condition, manic-depressive illness, does occur with higher frequency among people in the arts. Within the arts, writers have the highest incidence, especially poets. The thought patterns in the early phases of the illness are speeded up and extended in unusual ways, thought to cause heightened creativity.

So do we all have to be mad in order to be creative? Of course not. But I think we do have to try looking at things from a different angle. Not only from the way most other people see things, but from the way we tend to view them. Climb on that desk or lie on the floor or use a mirror to look at something you see every day.

In the meantime, I'm a little nervous about taking Ali's poetry challenge.