23 April 2018

Knowing When to Stop: A Review of Artemis by Andy Weir

Only 8 a.m. and the kid has wandered outside eager to embrace the first sunny spring day.  I can feel the smack of the soccer ball being smashed up against the fence wondering when the 20something neighbours will kindly request him to lie in a little longer.  It's been a long haul here with ice storms in mid-April and dreary winter coats decorating hooks that should be drying raincoats. The thermometer rose to a balmy 10 C degrees yesterday.  Pandemonium as people flung themselves onto sidewalks in a disarray of toques with shorts intent on feeling wind that promised not to freeze their grins in place. 

The annual hosing of the deck took place at 2. A momentous occasion in this household, topped with the first BBQ and a bevy or two, winter's last vestiges washed quietly away. Lawn chairs magically appeared as a strong desire to just sit and read until the sun slowly made it's way West settled down up on me. Summer is all about a tree, a good bench and a book. Day-dreaming of green things, I flipped through Artemis, Andy Weir's sophomore novel desperate to read one developed sentence. 

I gave up when the protagonist found it necessary to disguise herself as a prostitute. 

Jazz Bashira immigrated with her father to the Moon city of Artemis at the age of 6. She was a sweet child, quick, and full of promise to someday work along side her father as welder. That was then. Wandering the corridors of Artemis we quickly discover that her place in this small town is not favourable. Renting a single coffin bed in one of the poorer areas Jazz works as a porter, fixated on increasing her self-worth and fortune side shuffling as a smuggler. Delivering the latest contraband cigars to the richest man in town, Jazz is offered a job that would answer all her dreams.

My annoyance of this book has me stopped in my writing tracks. I could discuss the paradigm of the frontier town. It's wiliness to work outside of the law to produce a productive economy, even society. If I was bothered, I could unpack Jazz herself, unconsciously clothing herself as a tough woman running from her past mistakes into new ones, all the while simply wanting love and acceptance. I could chip away at the idea of Moon city, one of Sci-Fi’s oldest and enduring tropes. 

I won't, however the book doesn't deserve my time. 

15 April 2018

Rebooting My Sci-Fi Brain

Like my breakfast pairing of coffee with jellybeans my recent reading weeks have been everything but ordinary. Months of disenchantment with my book piles, I have rambled through March/April holding resolute to obscure Agatha Christie short stories. With the myriad of choice in science fiction why do I shipwreck myself on Mystery Island so frequently? 

The finalists for the The Hugo Awards rather than pique my interest has me grasping for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland like a talisman of literary inspiration. Sorry but not sorry, American popular speculative fiction is all that I am desperate to avoid. For years my reading lists have been peppered by Clarke nominations, sprinkled on top with a few solid Canadian writers, all the while patiently waiting to see what springs from The Kitschies

Has my geeky love for science fiction finally run dry? If I am not this girl, the Mom in the playground buried deep in a space operatic adventure lost to the nuances of daily life, then who am I? There is nothing direr than a reader without a reading purpose. As a sub-species, the 'bookless' reader mopes through the hours of the day, bewildered, definitely rattled, awash in loneliness. "I have nothing to read!" bounces through the reader's soul pounding in the necessity to share the desperation to anyone in visual proximity. An annoyance of the sub-species, the lamentations serve purpose, drawing forth recommendations and driving the species to visit second-hand bookstores, library stacks and internet lists which  feed the publishing system, completing the circle of reading life.

I am everything and nothing without a book. 

So what indeed, as I lament on the beaches of Mystery Island have I succumbed to read? There was that fortuitous moment when I grabbed a second-hand copy of The Great Gatsby, acclimatizing myself to the grandeur of the American Dream, wondering if we all just stopped the pursuit what our world would become. Nick Carraway's glimpse into the privileged heart, accessible only as a second-hand friend, serving as narrator reflects to us the decadence that was post-war New-York. The Jazz Age beat continuously, striving to forget The Great War masking the depths of grief through a haze of booze, drugs and seemingly endless rising of fortunes. Through the veils of wealth, the agony of the human heart is revealed in all its petty, fragile glory.  

This is novel stimulated my reading brain, pursued me to grab non-fiction books on psychology, on parenting, led me to Lewis Carroll, willed me to read current best-selling authors found in airport magazine stands. Stranded on Mystery Island has quieted my SF genre heart, permitting me to explore and just read. 

23 March 2018

Revisit: A Review of A Wrinkle in Time,

Succumbing to trend, I am revisiting an old classic.The newly released Hollywood film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time has led me to my third floor bookcase in search of my dusty copy. I must somehow identify with this book again, erase the earwig of Oprah hearing a voice in the universe, and properly evaluate my perspective without popular distractions. The probability of me watching the film is slight having a phobia of movies ruining a good book - This is I desperately staying on topic without addressing every adaptation of Dune. Are not books to be imagined? Truly, the printed word in essence is enough? 

I was one of those children who at breakfast would prop a book up against the milk carton, even read the carton for those dire days when a book was not at hand. James and the Giant Peach defined me, as did Crunchy chocolate bars, salt n' vinegar chips and cream soda pop. The definition of young girl's heart beats deep with junk food specializations, a deep love of purple and her favourite book. My elementary years were spent laughing riotously along with the hijinks being had at Macdonald Hall, visualizing what could possibly be through the wardrobe and sleuthing along with Nancy.  And yet, my reading self somehow never came across Madeleine L'Engle's The Time Quintet. Surely, someone failed me in my past and so I righted this wrong reading A Wrinkle in Time in my late 30s and promptly forgetting it. This gap in memory lures me back, that and Oprah and Reese, let us not forget Reese. 

Where is Mr. Murry? Two years of town gossip, and still his family insists he hasn't left them for another woman. Sporting another black eye, Meg returns home from school. If it isn't defending her absentee father then it's the snide remarks about her baby brother Charles Wallace, Meg's young life is full of turmoil. That night listening to the howls of a storm thrash against the old farmhouse, Meg retreats to the safely of the kitchen for a glass of cocoa. As expected, Charles Wallace, her baby brother of merely four is waiting not only for her but her mother. As the three set upon their midnight snacks, a witch appears, having blown off course by the storm. 

Any critique of a cherished children's book is fraught with complications. Our childhood books encapsulate our dreams, memories and wonder. Any revisit of a classic could possibly unhinge the magical quality the book once held. I read A Wrinkle in Time with soft eyes, careful in my harsh science fiction gaze, hoping to realign with my 10-year-old self. Is the story of Meg, Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin an allegoric tale of the importance of family, an identification of self, or a multi-faceted exploration of the space time continuum, questioning the role of God and our place in the universe? 

With many a science fiction book I open, time travel to the fifth dimension has less to do with the physics and much more to do with our humanity. The alien qualities of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, even Aunt Beast provide the main characters with the tools to find the inherent truths to life. A Wrinkle in Time is in essence a story about love. Although my adult self found the reading flat, less opulent in fantastic descriptors than I enjoy, A Wrinkle in Time continues to shine. It revels in the splendour of possibilities, all while speaking with intention to children.