Monday, May 5th, 2014

Book update!


About a year ago, I and my compatriots at Radio Free Skaro were guests at Westercon 66, a science fiction convention held in Sacramento. Westercon and a variety of other “pure” scifi cons tend to skew a little older and more towards things literary rather than out-and-out fandom. That’s obviously not a hard and fast rule, given that I was down there as part of a fan podcast focused on Doctor Who, but it is a noticeable difference from events like Gallifrey or San Diego Comic Con.

The upside of the literary bent of Westercon was that the dealer’s room was filled with books, many of them astonishingly cheap. I bought something like thirty paperbacks for around thirty dollars, and I was able to grab many of the sci-fi and fantasy books (classic and otherwise) that I’d missed as a youth.

Buying that stack of books seemed to spark a love of reading fiction which had dimmed considerably in the last few years. I’m also trying to branch out into other forms of fiction besides sci-fi/fantasy such as mysteries and thrillers. If I’m going to write in those genres (and there’s no reason to restrict myself when it comes to writing) then I’d better read them as well.

So I started with Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” which I realized I’d never read. It’s one of the biggest sellers in the history of the English language, so clearly I was not paying attention somewhere down the line, but I made amends and plower through it in short order.

“Orient Express” is definitely a product of its time. There’s numerous mentions of the hot tempered nature of some of the more..Mediterranean nationalities, and women don’t come off looking too great, even though the book is written by Agatha Christie, quite possibly the most successful female author to have ever lived.

I won’t say how the book ends, because surely some people are like me and have spent their lives ignorant of the goings-on with Mr. Hercule Poirot, but it struck me as a conclusion that wouldn’t wash in today’s society.

I’m also reading “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Lord Foul’s Bane.” I’ll be honest, it’s a bit of a slog. The protagonist is something of a jerk and so far it’s, while not a total Tolkien ripoff, it’s definitely not unfamiliar with said works.

I’m also reading “London Falling” by Paul Cornell, who was nice enough to give me a copy and sign it when I was last at Gallifrey 2014 in Los Angeles. I’m only 1/3rd through the book, but so far it’s an entertaining romp with gangsters and the supernatural clashing in present-day London.

And lest I forget my stack of Westercon goodies, I plowed through “Spock Must Die!,” the first Pocket Book Star Trek novel ever made after the original series was cancelled in 1969. It’s a good thing I bought it for something like 50 cents, because the newness of the enterprise (heh) certainly shines through. To be fair to James Blish, he only had three seasons of television to go off of, and likely even then was operating more on memory than anything else. But “Spock Must Die” doesn’t really feel like Trek at all. Later novels captured the ephemeral feel of the show, but this felt more like a somewhat experimental short story with Trek characters inserted into the plot.

Plenty more books to get through over the next few months, and lots of free evenings to read them, so expect more reports soon!

Warren Frey is a journalist, freelance writer, podcaster, video producer, and all-around media consultant currently based in Vancouver, Canada. His written work has appeared in such publications as Metro Vancouver, the Westender, Mac | Life and the Japan Times.

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