Home » Reviews » Book Reviews » December: A Big, Big Blast of Science Fiction

December: A Big, Big Blast of Science Fiction

My immediate family is all currently in the state of Indiana to celebrate Thanksgiving, and yes, we mean the state.  Indiana, PA is a lovely town, but it is not the only Indiana out there.  (I’m looking at you, Huntingdonians).  Even though four of us currently live in Pennsylvania, the one of us who lives here has the least flexible schedule, so this is the second time that we’ve decided to bring Thanksgiving to her.  You guessed it, we’re at my older sister Kaleigh’s place.

I did not take this picture.  We drove through a snowstorm to get here and it was the middle of the night.  Don't be silly.

I did not take this picture. We drove through a snowstorm to get here and it was the middle of the night.

So, since I’m not exactly working right now, and since on average, I see Kaleigh twice a year, and since I am always concerned that she might be lonely on her lake island*, we’ve decided that I’m going to crash here until Christmas.  So I’ll be in Indiana for the next twentyish days!

Recall that the reason we’re here in the first place is that Kaleigh has the least flexible schedule of us all.  It’s because she’s a high school chemistry teacher, and we control the lives of high schoolers to an absurd degree between the end of August and the beginning of June in this country.  So, even though I’m finally gonna get to spend some time in the physical presence of my sister, there will probably be very little hanging out happening.

And since there’s not going to be too much to do for my own schooling until January, I’ve decided to dedicate the month of December to reading some good science fiction and to teaching myself part two of the tai chi long form.  If you were in my senior seminar class at Nyack last spring, you might recognize a handful of titles from that course.  I pinky promise that it’s not that I didn’t try to read them all when I was supposed to read them (I’ve read parts of all of them from that class).  These are just the ones that I couldn’t finish/couldn’t get into, and now that I have time and leisure, I want to give them another shot.

Here’s what I brought to read, including the non-SF:

Again, not all of these books are SF, and I don’t expect to be able to read them all, or in that order necessarily.  BUT this is what I am planning on doing for the next month!  Hopefully I can find a way to keep you in the loop on how the reading is going.

Right now, for example, I am reading Dune.  Dune is often considered to be a master work in science fiction world building, and my friend Nick H. is going to be referring to this book in his seminar during the coming January residency in Tampa.  Dune was also on the syllabus for my senior seminar class back in Nyack, and I tried so hard to get into it then, but I couldn’t handle it.  We hit a few really intense books in a row, and by Dune, I was kind of wiped out.  Plus, the book I have is trade paperback sized, so it’s roughly 1000 pages long.  I read the first couple of chapters and gave up.  I also had this preconceived notion that I wouldn’t like it, so I didn’t even give it an honest shot (to be honest).

Harkonnens and sandworms and Fremen, oh my!

Harkonnens and sandworms and Fremen, oh my!

Now that I’m reading Dune for real, I so far have only two three four real opinions.  First, I get annoyed by all of the “a million deaths are not enough for Yueh!” talk, partially because I got it already and partially because of Yue in Avatar being the moon.  Second, I really really like it (complete surprise to me).  Third, although I really like it, I can’t read more than three chapters (about 30 pages) at a time.  Fourth, why on Earth (or Caladan or Arrakis) would you come up with some great names (Leto, Yueh, Thufir) and then name your two main characters Paul and Jessica????  Seriously.  No offense to the Pauls and the Jessicas out there, but the first time I tried to read this book, those names threw me out of it, and they still do, especially Jessica.  Gah.

And I also read Bohemian Girl by Terese Svoboda, who has previously been on staff at UT and is an absolute doll.  Bohemian Girl is a lovely book about a girl who is sort of named Harriet who is sort of cousins with a boy that she raises in her sort of uncle’s general store.  Her name’s not really Harriet, the boy’s not really her cousin, and the uncle’s not really her uncle (but he’s dead), so nobody has to know.  Harriet’s father lost her in a bet when she was a tween, and she spends young adult life getting into scrapes and getting out of them, and meeting people and taking care of them, and she never stops looking for her real father.  This book is historical fiction at its finest.  Svoboda captures the harsh realities of life along the border between North and South in the years encompassing the Civil War and the cruel fate of the Native American people on the border of East and West.  But “Harriet” has enough levity to lift even a popped balloon.  This one is awesome for history buffs and historical fiction fans alike because of its compelling story line and its cultural accuracy.  Go read it.  Trust me.

Ps. she's Bohemian like from Bohemia.  Get that Rent song out of your head.

Ps. she’s Bohemian like from Bohemia. Get that Rent song out of your head.

*I have these concerns for my sister because she is the Jane to my Lizzie, even though character-wise, she’s pretty solidly like Lizzie Bennet.  In fact, of the three of us, none my sisters nor I are like Jane.  We all fall in the character continuum between Lizzie and Lydia.  Kaleigh is pretty much spot-on Lizzie, and I think I gear more Lizzie and Kari gears more Lydia, though we’re both kind of in the middle between them.  I guess we grew up with too much snark and sass for any of us to come out like Jane.  Or maybe Kaleigh is more Charlotte and Kari is more Caroline and I’m more Maria Lu or Mary (because everyone forgets that I exist)?  You know, I’m Kitty Bennet.  I would win in a fight against Anny-kins.

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