Friday, May 15, 2009

Childhood Reading part 1

Most of these are books that I read as a child and haven't read again since. With some of them I am in the odd position of knowing more about them from what other people have said than from what I remember of reading them. (Exceptions to the rereading: I recently reread Laurence Yep's Dragon series and I've reread a few of Dianna Wynne Jones' books more recently.) These will generally be in no particular order, just as I think of them, and until I get bored.

C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. I actually read these several times but don't remember a lot of the things that people talk about. Instead, I remember: the stars, Turkish delight, Tashlan, the lion attack, those who disappear into Aslan's shadow, the blind dwarves, the ruined world the Witch comes from, green and gold rings, Puddleglum and giants; were there monopods, too? A pool that gives death (more about this in the next one). Eustace the dragon.

John White, The Archives of Anthropos. These owe an awful lot to Narnia and the Bible, although I only read the first five. I remember picking them out starting with The Sword Bearer at the Christian bookstore. Is it sad that I only just realized John the Sword Bearer might be intended to parallel John the Baptist? He starts in Canada (with pea soup fog) but escapes through the basement of a bookstore to find himself in another land. I read a review in the last several years that said the writing was bland but I have a lot of great memories: Wisdom's house, flat on the outside and huge on the inside; the wine of free pardon; Gaal trees; a valley of dry bones that come to life (also with a pool that gives death! Why did I only just realize this parallel with Narnia?); an unlikely dragon named Pontificator (Ponty for short); the Lord of snow and ice ("Tell them that I am"); and the bad guys: Lord Lunacy; a nasty sorcerer whose name I can't recall though he's trapped in his own portrait for thousands of years; an evil witch; and Nicholas Slapfoot, who chases John from Canada to Anthropos, and keeps on chasing him. Also fun? One of the books is basically the journey of the three wise men, at least one or two of whom are somewhat skeptical. Has anyone else heard of these?

Thomas Locke, the Spectrum Chronicles. I only read the first four and I can barely remember the first one, which I lost shortly after reading it, although I do recall that it was about a different character and set (mostly) in a different world than the others. Books 2 through 4 are about Consuela, the scared girl under the table in the first book (which is almost the entirety of what I remember from that book) and Wander. Thinking back, these are a combination of true love and adventure in space. Consuela is somehow translated from Earth to a foreign world, where she meets Wander and turns out to have a great Talent like his: a psychic ability needed to safely guide starships between the stars. It is so rare, however, that the nameless diplomat (they give up their names when they take office) who takes him away for the Hegemony's use dismisses her as worthless. Unlikely? Sure. But nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Sigmund Brouwer, Magnus. For some reason I read the first part of this as a separate book which had some sections that were in the complete book cut out. I was very surprised to find different details when I read the whole thing. This is the story of (whistles, goes to look up the name) Thomas, a young man who inherits a magnificent treasure: a chest of books (in the twelfth century?). He goes on to take over an impregnable fortress, and that's only the beginning. I will say that he gets yanked around a lot and there is a subplot reminiscent of Poison Study. There's also hypnotism (which I hate) and some guy who's killed by dumping honey in his ear, followed by maggot eggs. Was this detail included just for the yuck effect? (It is part of a story related to the main character by someone else.) I do have some nostalgia but I freely admit that parts of this book are disturbing. And I looked carefully at my bed for a while after reading about assassination by snake under the covers.

Kathy Tyers, Firebird and the rest of the trilogy. Pre-Messianic space opera? Firebird is a talented musician and composer, but as a spare child grows up knowing she is destined to die young, preferably in service to her planet. She really, truly tries very hard to do so: first by ramming her fighter into a planet, then by taking poison, then by provoking her captors to kill her... fortunately for the reader, she is prevented by a top-notch intelligence officer serving the other side. Also fortunately, he is extremely moral. Unfortunately, he is also extremely psychic. I also have a soft spot in my heart for these books, despite the number of gruesome ways there are to die: poison, of course; disintegration rifles (they handcuff the hands behind a steel pole to retain proof of decease); sonic weapons that implode the brain cavity; poison gas; being psychicly commanded to kill yourself (of course the good guys never do this); being smashed into a crater by telekinesis; photo weapons (possibly nuclear or hydrogen bombs, I was never quite sure); at the end of that list, rifle slugs with timed explosives sound almost tame. Would I read it again? I want to...

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