Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Review Time!

Well, folks, I did it. I finally did it. I was so fed up with my netbook's slowness that I upgraded. I now have a fancy new laptop and hopefully you can stop reading me whine about how much I hate computers or that my update got screwed up by technical problems. YAY!

As for the writing for the week, eeeeh, I sort of slacked off again in favor of finishing off the novel I was reading. Once again, though, Orson Scott Card's character Novinha really inspired me. Her pain and anguish just pulls at me, and while I was reading more of "Xenocide" I just kept thinking of her. I missed her in this novel. Aside from obviously Ender - it IS the Ender Saga - the book mostly focused on Novinha's children and three people on a separate planet named Path. So, in my lament of Novinha's lack of appearance, I wrote another real brief one-shot at work. I'm loving that they don't really care that I bring my netbook there to write.

This one-shot contains spoilers for "Xenocide" for anyone who hasn't at least read through the chapter Grego's War, so fair warning about that.

"The Fallen Guardian Angel"

It's not much, but it's enough to read tonight at the writers' group. I've also been debating if I should read what I have so far for my X-Future Reboot comic, which I think I'll officially use "Glitches" as the working title from now on. If I read from the Glitches script it will FINALLY be a Work-In Progress that I've brought to the meetings. Until now I've just brought basic writing samples for basic writing advice. Since I haven't actually received much of any, perhaps reading a WIP will be the way to truly get the most out of these meetings. My only real concern is that I don't really have much going on in the comic because I couldn't figure out how to open it.

Perhaps that's all the more reason to read it off, to ask for advice on how to explain evolution quickly in a comic book setting in order to explain how Glitches came to be in the human race. It's a thought. I'll report back next week as to whether or not I followed through.

One last bit of a semi-writing related insert: Hubby and I had a spontaneous visit from Ronoxym and Cyhyr on Saturday. It was nice seeing them. I miss hanging out with them. Since Ron isn't doing the overnight job any longer, and I have an actual functioning car, perhaps we can meet up at least once a month now. It's a thought.

Anyway, I playfully harassed Ron about his distinct lack of writing this year. He was kind of like "meh" about the whole thing, probably because for him it's just a fun hobby, not a way of life. So if he's creatively tapped out it's not that big of a deal for him to move on to a different hobby. It's a shame though. He has such fun ideas, has writing potential, is inspiring to work with - when he does work on the writing - and even if I'm not co-writing with him, his writing is not only fun to read, but it also sparks something in me that really kicks my writing juices in gear. It really would be a shame to lose that.

Especially since Cyhyr told me that she hasn't updated her blog in so long because she gave up on it and deleted it. How did I miss that? She was one of the most disciplined writers I knew, and she too was like "Eh, baby on the way and finishing up college, more important things." Not that she's wrong on that account, but still, another voice lost from writing and I hope she, her husband, and someone else I haven't mentioned in forever - Omnibladestrike - all return to writing someday. I'd hate for people to never know them through their writing.

Finally, we are up to what has become one of my favorite bits to write for this blog. Probably because it requires little thinking about what to write, as well as something I KNOW I can report on each month. It's time to share my views on the latest book I've read!

I have to admit, that while there were tense moments way more engrossing than in "Speaker for the Dead," over all "Xenocide" just didn't seem to match my love for Speaker. I did enjoy the new characters from the planet of Path, but some of the returning characters just seemed so out of character. It was like Orson Scott Card only vaguely remembered the personalities he created in Speaker, when he started writing them some more in Xenocide. I understand that 30yrs past between the close of Speaker and the opening of Xenocide, but it still felt like some of the characters changed a bit TOO much over those decades.

Another thing is that in Speaker two of Valentine's children are named: Syfte and Ren; daughter and son 2yrs younger. Card also stated: "It was Plikt...who taught Valentine...the miracle of each of her five children..." Then you remeet Valentine and her children in "Xenocide" and Valentine describes her family. There is Styfe and her new husband Lars, and then there was Ro, a daughter two or three years younger than Styfe, and Varsam, the lone son who was youngest by four years. Only three children, and the son Ren is never mentioned. Did Card just forget Valentine's family between writing Speaker and Xenocide? Or did Valentine lose two children on the cold, harsh, frozen world of Trondheim? And if it's the later, why wasn't there a single mention of Valentine's loss in Xenocide?

It was also hard for me - and this could just be my own wacky mind - to picture Novinha's children at their appropriate ages. Ela should have been about 48, and the youngest Grego would have been around 36. Yet I pictured Ela about my age, and Grego and Quara a pair of bickering 17 and 18 year olds. Yes, Hubby and I do still act fairly childish at points, but lines like "It looked like a typical teenager's bedroom, complete with Grego's legs stretching up the walls, his bare feet dancing a weird rhythm..." really don't help with reminding me that Grego's character is supposed to be older than I am.

Also, I read Sci-Fi for the Fantasy portion of it. The mysteriousness of "what would happen in the future, or on another planet, or if we had different technology" of it all. However, I myself can't really stand science. For some reason it goes over my head. I guess it's the fantasy writer in me. I'd much prefer to just be wowed by the world working instead of figuring out why. Although, there are plenty of people interested in science precisely because the why of the world working is the "wow" factor for them. Either way, my point is that my eyes glaze over when it comes to science, and a little bit the same with philosophy. Mainly because I'm a visual person, and it's hard to visualize philosophical questions with possibly no true answer.

All of this made "Xenocide" all the more difficult to read, because I like to describe it simply as "Metaphysics and Philosophy: A Novel." I already told celestialTyrant that this could possibly become one of his top 10 novels once he reads it.

The book starts off well enough. A fleet is coming to destroy a planet in order to protect humanity from a deadly virus residing on it that is threatening to spread throughout the universe. Problem is, there are humans already on that planet struggling against the virus, as well as two other sentient alien species who only exist on this planet. Destroying it might save humanity, but it would be a xenocide of those two sentient species, as well as the other lifeforms on that planet. So already there are two sentient species being threatened with extinction, but if they aren't wiped out with the virus, then humanity could face extinction. Then Card throws in Jane, another sentient entity that somehow "lives" in the intergalactic connections between computers across the worlds that humans have colonized. A "living" AI that tries to save the humans on the threatened planet, but doing so exposed herself, and humanity knows that sentient computers are never a good thing. Thing is, Jane is the only one of her kind, so that would be another sentient alien - so to speak - lost to xenocide. Then you have Quara swearing that the deadly virus that the fleet was sent to destroy in the first place is equally sentient, but no one has been able to figure out the language enough to communicate to the virus how deadly and destructive it is. She hopes doing so will convert it from killing humans, and instead make itself as crucial to the life-system as it does with the native sentient species. Which makes things even more complicated. If the humans can figure out how to stop the virus so the entire planet doesn't need to be destroyed, at least one sentient alien - two if you count the virus as Quara does - might still die because they can't survive without the virus.

More and more species' existence are at stake in this hugely tangled mess of morality: who to save; who to let die? It's exciting and intense as you wonder how all the species are going to be able to survive. Then it takes the turn. The eternal question of "What is 'life' and what makes up a 'soul'?" pops up, and Card spends chapters having his characters pop back onto that question as they determine who should live, who should die, and if someone was truly "living" in the first place. It gets really philosophical and metaphysical from there. Thing is though, while he based it all on metaphysical science, the answer he came up with to resolve most of the problems seemed very "Deus Ex Machina" and almost in a literal sense.

Then there were the new characters introduced, the people of the planet Path. We are specifically introduced to a young woman named Qing-jao. She is a very loving and relatable character to start off with, but I'm not a fan of her character development. Side note: I'm equally not a fan of Novinha's development in this novel. In regards to Qing-jao, you get enough insight into her to understand the character development. It doesn't come from left field. Still, she changes from a sweet girl that you sympathize with to one of the most arrogant, annoying characters, at least for me. I'm also not a fan of the conclusion of her story in this novel, or the conclusion of the novel itself.

The novel closes with the main dilemmas IMPLIED to be taken care of, but there is no actual conclusion written out. I won't go into the cliffhanger questions I was left with because they could cause spoilers, but to me there was still at least one more chapter left on what was going on with Lusitania. Yet the novel closed off on Path with Qing-jao in a very unsatisfying way, at least for me. I'd much rather Card finished off with expressly stating what happened on Lusitania and implying Qing-jao's story close, instead of the other way around.

All-in-all, a good read that I tore through easily for the first 350 pages or so, but then after the Grego's War chapter it just gets too metaphysical, philosophical, and Qing-jao changes too drastically - as does Novinha - for me to have really enjoyed the remainder of the book. Still, if people want to know what happens after "Speaker for the Dead" and/or really like the philosophy of "what constitutes life" and metaphysical quandary of parallel universes/alternate planes of existence, then this is DEFINITELY the book for them.

Me? I'm going to have to track down "Children of the Mind" to continue to follow the conclusion of Ender's life, and hope that Card is back on his game, because I feel like he went into a really weird realm with the last half of "Xenocide." Out of the three I've read so far in the Ender Saga, Speaker, while a slow start, is definitely my favorite.

Alright, well it's Chart Time. What book am I going to pick up now to try to finish the month off with, or at least to get started so I can make sure to get my July book done with all the chaos that will be going on next month?
Reading Challenge created by Modern Mrs. Darcy

While not a local librarian, Keaton has really been pushing the work of a fellow Writers' Group member. Enough so that I would call her an unofficial "bookseller." Because of this, I think I'll swing by the library a bit before group tonight in order to try to borrow "Reformation," a novel written and self-published by one of our group members. Sadly, I don't remember the woman's last name, but if I can pick the book up today I'll be sure to promote her properly next week.

And thus I charge ahead with this challenge. We'll see what else I charge ahead with in regards to my writing. That's the important one....

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