Footfall (1985) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Footfall1I originally had all these great ideas for making fun of reviewing my latest Niven-Pournelle Hugo-nominated disaster read, the main one being that I was going to list every single character intro in this 100-and-some-odd number cast, a la Ross Putman @femscriptintros, just to demonstrate how ridiculous and sexist these guys are at character descriptions.

Example:

She was about Jeanette’s age, and she would have been pretty if she’d washed her face and put on some lipstick. She was frowning heavily as she drank coffee. (loc. 415).

It would’ve made for a long post, as some of those character descriptions get, er, lingering, but I was up for it.

But then, BUT THEN, I discovered this: Continue reading

When Neil Gaiman came to town

OceanatendoflaneDark skies and local goths descended upon the desert theater on the night Neil Gaiman came to town. ‘Twas an unseasonably chilly spring, (well, chilly by our standards), made all the more chilling with rain, wind, and the arrival of a shaggy British man wearing several shades of black, who took to the stage to read a few chapters to the brave outliers of this rural industrial community.

He read an excerpt from The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2014). I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “The toast gets burned and then they find a dead body.” He read a selection from “A Calendar of Tales,” (Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances, 2015) about a man who takes literal refuge in his books when his wife abandons him. My husband whispered back, “Can we get a burger after this?”

Neil accepted questions on index cards from the audience. “Do the cats in your books represent cats you have known in real life?” “What do you recommend for me to read?” “Where do you get your ideas?”

Yes, let’s go get that burger. Now.

Continue reading

The Ocean at the End of Lane by Neil Gaiman

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane is cute and quirky, like most recent Gaiman stories. At first, I thought it was going to be similar to John Crowley’s Little, Big because it has that “eccentric people who are probably fairies” vibe, but it has its own personality and introduced me to a new Gaiman mythology that includes rotted fabric monsters and magical water. It is a good, enjoyable story, although I would hardly call it a novel. It’s quite short.

Synopsis

Written from first-person perspective, the narrator visits his childhood home and shares a suddenly lucid memory of a neighborhood girl, Lettie, her eccentric family, and an adventure in her backyard that results in his parents hiring an evil nanny who threatens to ruin the narrator’s life. Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother teach the narrator how to overcome the evil nanny and correct the problems she has caused.

Like most of Gaiman’s recent work, The Ocean at the End of the Lane has a very childlike feel.  With the exception of a slightly racy scene and adult point-of-view, it might have been a children’s novel. I was disappointed that it was another departure from his earlier, darker works like The Sandman series and American Gods.  In fact, cute and childlike are becoming the norm for him. I would certainly like another gritty, peculiar novel like Anansi Boys or Neverwhere to sink my teeth into.  He blends dark and innocent so well, it’s no wonder his children’s books are successful– but I don’t want to read kids books.

But the beauty of this story is the way Gaiman explores a childhood memory through the mind of an adult, who has long since grown up and forgotten most of his childhood. Only a familiar place (the ocean at the end of the lane) has the magic to restore his memory of a particularly fantastic and frightening event. It’s lovely the way Gaiman can tap into the worldview of a little boy.  It feels like it’s a story about him; as if we are reminiscing with Gaiman about something that actually happened to him. (And if it did actually happen, I want to see this ocean-pond.) It’s a worthwhile read, but it did not satisfy my craving for a real, meaty Gaiman novel. The realist in me suspects that we will not see another American Gods-type novel from him as long as he is happy and in love. Ain’t that the way it goes?

Anyway, because I spent all summer reading contemporary sci-fi, I’m going vintage for my next read. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, the first in his Robot series. I’m in the mood for galactic colonization and robots with positronic brains.