Random Ravelings

Thoughts on knitting, yarn, writing, and life, as the mood strikes me.

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Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Recent Reading

Two books, one by a long-time favorite author, the other by a writer-friend.

The Margarets, by Sheri S. Tepper. Her long awaited "next" book, after The Companions, though not a sequel. This novel concerns a future Earth, massively over-populated and ecologically barren, and a number of other starfaring races, some of which like the Earthians and are inclined to help them, others of which would like to see humans permanently removed from the universe. The problem is, if the humans can't reduce their population and start rebuilding the earth's ecosystem, they will be wiped out (the full reasons are more complicated -- read the book!). Anyway, the main character is Margaret Bain and six other people who also once were Margaret Bain, but whose histories split off at a key point in her past. The solution will be for one person to walk seven roads which are one road. Tepper handles the multiple narrators well and the story moves along smoothly to its almost inevitable conclusion. If you liked Tepper's earlier work, then you will find this book to be along similar lines: an interesting story, interesting characters, a situation that turns out to be rather different than it first appears. Tepper does have an agenda, as she does in most of her books, but I think she manages to present her views without overwhelming the story or getting excessively preachy. I enjoyed this book.

Mother Feral's Love, by Lawrence Barker. Barker, a long-time friend, is primarily a horror writer, and while this book would likely be considered fantasy, there are still some hints of his horror roots in it. For example, his almost loving description of a particularly gruesome execution of a street criminal, still makes me cringe a bit just thinking about it. However, such details aside, this novel takes an outsider character, a "Feral" (sort of hybrid between human and flesh eating ghul) and makes her the lead in what is basically an amateur detective story. Evrandal must find out who really killed the alchemist so she can save her daughter from a short, unpleasant life in the mines. The daughter is being raised by a healer friend who has been arrested for the murder of said alchemist. The trouble is, no one really wants to talk to Evrandal and very few people are inclined to help her, leaving her to take desparate measures in her quest. The world is a bleak one, a city in the desert, surrounded by mountains full of howling ghuls. The technology level is very low, artificially low, as it turns out, and Evrandal ends up caught up in the middle of political manuevaring between city law enforcement, the city shrine, and the heretics. Through sheer determination, she manages to pull off a minor miracle, freeing both her friend and her daughter, but at a price. If you're ready for something different in the way of fantasy, with a true outsider as the main character, you might give this one a try; but if you're at all squeamish, don't say I didn't warn you. Just take a look at Barker's earlier books, if you don't believe me. (Previous books: Renfield and I'll Take My Stand, neither of which are for the squeamish.)


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