Linked stories "Explosions," "Wantaviewer," "Mud and Salt," and "Crossing the Camp" all explore the same situation, so I am going to discuss them together.
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All four detail the arrival of aliens, Wannoshay, to Earth. The stories deal with the interactions between the aliens and humans, and they ring true. The paranoia, the fear of the other, the judgmental attitudes and lightning-quick stereotyping seemed very accurate, if unflattering.
Moreover, Jasper's aliens are believable—they are neither monsters bent on world domination nor flawlessly wise and adorable aliens that dominate science fiction. Wannoshay are different from us, different to the point of frustrating any attempt at mutual understanding; at the same time, there are glimpsed possibilities of finding a common language, especially haunting in the first and the last of these four stories. And Wannoshay are not perfect; if they were, it would be all too easy to be outraged at the injustice and cruelty with which they are treated.
But they are flawed—prone to violent outbursts, fond of mind-altering drugs, and not altogether friendly. The question is, of course, whether only perfect beings deserve compassion and respect. These four stories are worth the price of the hardcover by themselves. It has angels and demons doing battle in a graveyard, and overall it's a nice creepy tale. I was somewhat perplexed that the Wandering Jew and Judas were lumped into a single character, and wish this development was explored in greater detail.
A very thoughtful exploration of the place of illusion and truth, with nice special effects. I especially liked the Disillusionist's tricks—such as pulling a dead rabbit out of a hat. I first read "Coal Ash and Sparrows" in Asimov's , and was pleased to revisit this magical tale.
While it feels like a fragment of a larger tale, it is still spell-binding.
The centerpiece of the story is a book of magic that falls into the hands of Lina, a nine-year-old girl. Her father before her read this book on the voyage from Ireland to America, and now it is Lina's turn. The catch is that the book only allows one "journey" per person, and Lina's takes over a hundred years.
While the plot appears conventional a young person finds a magic book , the way Jasper handles it is unique, strange, and moving.
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It has a bit of battle, a bit of magic, but mostly it's a story about regret and redemption. The milieu is a mix between medieval and fairy-tale, and the protagonists are well-drawn and sympathetic. This type of story is the main reason I read fantasy. The group of protagonists—Zed, Mrs. Thompson, Missy, and the greyhound named Walt Whitman—travel all over the country on the orders from their mysterious Bosses, maintaining the balance of nature. Each has their special power, and each is aware of their purpose; but that does not mean that they do not have their doubts. Moreover, interference of humans throws the balance off more and more frequently.
This intensely moving story asks some profound questions—what is the place of human beings in the natural order? Is life more valuable than duty? Are even the worst of us deserving of forgiveness?
Gunning for the Buddha by Michael Jasper
Overall, I highly recommend this collection. Friday around lunchtime I went up to Berkeley and had a marvellous turkey-chutney sandwich on seeded bread at Panini, with a nice glass of chai, and read half of the Empson; it was so pleasant, sitting in that sunny courtyard, under the vines and flowers. Every time I go there it seems like a tiny bit of southern Italy, hidden in the heart of urban Berkeley. Not that I've ever been to Italy. It's just what I imagine Italy might be like. After lunch and reading, I wandered around for a bit; stopped at Other Change of Hobbit for book presents for David and Jed the new Crowley novel, The Translator , wandered down to Andronico's passing Karen's old street, sigh to get groceries for David's birthday dinner.
So nice. That evening, made dinner pasta and sauces for David and Heather. Lovely evening; it was so nice spending time with them both. Saturday morning, I got up and goofed off playing Civ for a bit; yesterday was an official day-off-from-reading. It's harder than it looks, writing on cakes.
I could have just bought a cake at the grocery store, but that wouldn't have been nearly as effective a demonstration of love. Possibly tastier, though. We'll undoubtedly be munching on the leftovers all day today. Some photos in the next entry; it was a very nice party. Sunshine, happy faces, small children, good food. Yay, birthdays.
Month: March 2003
Yay, Jed. Nick Mamatas's journal reminded me of this wonderful bit from Orwell's Almost two decades later than predicted, and still For when it is, victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won, but it is meant to be continuous. The essential fact of modern warfare is the destruction of the produce of human labour. The hierarchy of society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects, and its object is not victory over Eurasia, or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.
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Just a quick reminder that we're wrapping up the voting for our Readers' Choice Awards over at Strange Horizons. Voting closes at the end of March 31st, Monday. Stop by, take a few minutes to vote only in those categories that you care to for your favorites, helping to send small cash prizes to the winners and runners-up. Spread a little spec fic love. Great news -- guess he'll now be looking for affordable housing near Boston I called Delta yesterday around noon and asked them if they could fly me to California today -- they said no, but that they had a flight on Thursday, if I wanted it.
I figured that meant I had to be ready to leave in an hour -- which meant showering, dressing, and packing some books and clothes. No problem. I booked the flight. Don't worry -- Kevin and I are still fine. I love my life. Empson next. Happy birthday, Jed! Happy birthday, David! Finished the Phillips collection over tea and a roast beef sandwich. Yes, I know that's an odd breakfast.