The Negligence Roundup: Fairy Tales, Space Princesses, Androids, and Air Castles
I tend to do these roundups when I haven’t read anything particularly enthralling. A combination of writer’s block, distraction, and the inability to ascertain why I liked a few elements of some books led to this entry. So, this is more of a catch up post — my apologies for my negligence.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
This story was a less compelling Howl’s Moving Castle, without the charm and with a much more “new adult” feel. The story involves a wizard known as the Dragon who takes a girl every few years from the villages in the valley he protects. The girls and villagers don’t know what he does with them, but each girl is released many years later and chooses not to return to the valley. The girl chosen in this particular instance is the unexpected choice, and she ends up finding out that she has an aptitude for magic.
It was predictable, but in a pleasing way that many fairy tales employ. The story was too long in some parts, such as exploits in the city, and the same points were made again and again. The types of magic were interesting and each user specialized in his or her own type, though the main character’s seemed a bit convenient. It fit her personality, but felt contrived within her abilities. The characters were a little flat, though I could see the efforts made to make them more compelling.
With a good base needing a bit more polish and a much too drawn out ending, I call Uprooted a READ WITH CAUTION. I would much have preferred an actual dragon.
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
I chose this book because it’s considered a seminal work of science fiction, and also because it seemed like a decent adventure to read about. I was both surprised and not surprised by its contents. Basically, a veteran of the American Civil War is transported to Mars, where he learns to deal with the indigenous peoples, cultures, and eventually falls in love.
The notions of the novel are very old school, with honor and bravery being at the forefront of manliness, and womanliness being pure and worthy of defending. The story was fast paced, but at times the time line seemed to jump a bit unexpectedly. I would think only a few months passed, but it ended up being years. The fauna and flora of Mars was described with a surprising hard sci fi kant, while some other parts were more inexplicable. The main character, John Carter, always has the answer, which was both likeable and annoying.
The whole story line of love/friendship conquering even savage hearts and humanity being sealed in the notion of love as we understand it in modern times was a little trying, as were the very odd and archaic use of commas throughout the work. It wasn’t a bad read, though, and anyone wanting a bit of retro sci fi adventure would probably enjoy it. I call it a READ WITH CAUTION.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick
This is one of those novels that I liked a lot, but I’m unable to properly articulate why. The elements of the story are fairly simple. A cop hunts wayward androids for bounties in the post-ruined Earth, when most of the “good” parts of humanity have settled off world to escape the radiation and squalor. In his day of bounties, the main character confronts many concepts of identity, humanity, and religion.
The society was very interesting, as well as the story and how it kept me guessing. Usually, I can spot how a story is going to go, but these twists and turns kept me guessing far more than usual. I also enjoyed how the characters and story intertwined with one another, along with the insight into the self and humanity as a whole. I was expecting a different route for the story with each new fact I found, and I was almost always wrong. I especially enjoyed the almost 1984-flavored ending.
It was definitely a good read, even if I can’t get into the specifics of why and how without considerable writer’s block. As such, I would call this a READ.
Castle in The Air by Diana Wynne Jones
After enjoying Howl’s Moving Castle so much, when I found out it had a sequel, I decided to partake. This starts in a different land, one that might be at home as the setting for 1001 Arabian nights. Abdullah is a carpet salesman who daydreams about a beautiful princess and palace. After he’s sold a magic carpet, he is accidentally transported to this area — and eventually must save his princess and all the princesses of all the lands. The story is fairly cliche, but it has its quirks that render it amusing and fun to read, similarly to Howl’s. About halfway through the story, a sudden twist occurs, and a familiar character shows up.
I was completely thrown off by a few of the other reveals, despite being quite cynical when reading most books. Overall, it was a fun story, and if you enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle, I’d say it was a READ. My opinion may be colored by my love for the characters, because much like Richard and Kahlan from the Sword of Truth series, I could read about Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer in nearly any situation. Otherwise, I think it’s a READ WITH CAUTION, as it’s not without its flaws and Abdullah’s prose gets a little hard to handle.