Saturday, December 01, 2007

Quick Takes: John Scalzi, Terry Pratchett, Charles DeLint

The Sagan Diary, by John Scalzi: While I can’t get enough Old Man’s War and I thoroughly enjoyed the short story “Questions for a Soldier”, The Sagan Diary is a different animal all together. Set after The Ghost Brigades, Jane Sagan has been discharged from the Colonial Special Forces and intends to join John Perry in a quiet life together on a colony planet. The Sagan Diary is being used by the Colonial government to evaluate their soldiers, but it seems to be written to John Perry, though I do not remember if he is ever intended to read it. It is a deeply personal story and completely in Jane Sagan’s head and she thinks about different aspects of herself and explains herself in a level of detail that was unexpected, even poetic. The Sagan Diary is utterly unlike any of the OMW novels, and unlike even “Questions for a Soldier”, and this may be off putting for some readers. I’ll admit that it wasn’t what I expected, or perhaps hoped for, but it was well written for what it is. This shows a bit of range on John Scalzi’s part, but again, The Sagan Diary is not for all fans of Scalzi’s work as it is devoid of action and the humor which so marked his longer fiction. The novella is exactly what it advertises: Jane Sagan’s private diary, non military. The Sagan Diary is also available for free online.

Lords and Ladies, by Terry Pratchett: Why, oh, why is Discworld so hit or miss? I want to love (or like) these books, and Lords and Ladies is overall better than some of the previous books, but it was difficult to really get a feel for the story and how everything was piecing together. Pratchett’s storytelling style is a bit off-putting for me and the Witches generally are one of my less favorite of all characters (I don’t like Rincewind, either, but the Luggage more than makes up for it), and this somewhat telling of faerie and A Midsummer Night’s Dream does not all come together as perhaps it could or should. Terry Pratchett sells a ridiculous amount of books, and I don’t grudge him his success, but I expect more from him than what I get. Perhaps I shouldn’t since this is the 14th Discworld novel. I’m stubborn, though, and I’ll make it through all of the Discworld novels...I’m younger than Pratchett is. I’ll catch up.

Promises to Keep, by Charles de Lint: Promises to Keep is a novella about the Jilly Coppercorn’s earlier life, about just after she got herself clean. I imagine for long time reader of the Newford series of novels and stories, there would be some emotional resonance to the character they are well familiar with. But this was only my second Newford story, so I don’t have that same feeling of familiarity or belonging to the series. While I know that titles really don’t give a good sense of what kind of novel one is about to read, I’ve been hesitant to read the Newford stories because I expected something fluffy and light, like Newford should be a few miles away from Stars Hollow (not that Gilmore Girls is all fluffy and light, but what I want from a tv show is different than what I want from a book). There is an interesting breeziness to DeLint’s prose, like it is all coming easy to him and there is a comforting feeling to his narration. This is the only thing easy about Promises to Keep. Jilly’s history is a hard one and we see some of her abuses and her fight to kick her drug addiction. The content is certainly not easy, but everything flows together so that even as DeLint is drawing us down in darkness we aren’t overwhelmed by it, perhaps because Jilly is not overwhelmed and that she does recover. Being a novella, Promises to Keep is reasonably short, but it tells a story that I wanted to keep reading. In short, Promises to Keep whet my appetite for other Newford stories and put Charles DeLint on my list of authors I want to read more of.

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