And like that, it was October.
The first couple of days of October have been particularly autumnal. It’s been cool and cloudy, and constantly threatening rain. Leaves are turning, crows are showing up everywhere, and the nights are getting longer. This is definitely my time of year.
I didn’t go for as many walks as I wanted to last week. The one chance I had for a long, long walk was cut short when a thunderstorm rumbled through several hours before predicted. I was about two miles from home when the thunder started, so I immediately turned around and headed back. Big lightning bolts started striking when I was about six blocks from home, but I was inside by the time the rain began falling. So much for the really long walk. I’m planning to go out to the little woodsy area outside of town this afternoon, so hopefully I’ll get a good walk in among the trees.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Mina’s had a pretty relaxing week. Thanks to the cool weather, the windows have been open and she’s basically been living in one of them, watching the world go by and sniffing all the sniffs. She’s also been taking All The Naps wherever seems interesting to her. On the nightstand, on top of the dresser, on my drawing table, under the bed, in the middle of the living room floor. . . All places are fair game for naps as far as Mina is concerned.
Except, it seems, for the actual cat beds I have made or bought for her.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse #3) by James S.A. Corey
- The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings #3) by J.R.R. Tolkien, audiobook narrated by Andy Serkis
- My Letters To Conceição by Jorge Molina del Callejo
Abaddon’s Gate, the third book in The Expanse series, deals with the aftermath of the strange ring the protomolecule formed out past the orbit of Neptune. In the prologue, a daredevil kid flew his ship through the ring despite the military blockade around it, setting off the string of events that brings even more military ships to the ring, along with James Holden and the rest of the crew of the Rocinante, a ship carrying a bunch of the solar system’s religious leaders, and someone who bears a serious grudge against Holden thanks to all he had done in previous books. The resulting mayhem is, well, mayhem and gruesome at times. Space travel at sublight speeds is a dangerous proposition without the kinds of technology you see in Star Trek, and the people of The Expanse don’t have things like inertial dampeners. So when ships are suddenly slowed, it’s catastrophic for the people inside those ships. Part of what I enjoy about The Expanse is that the authors deal with the real science involved with space and space travel, as well as the human dynamic– the tribalism, hatreds, loyalties, obligations and all that. If we ever start to head into space and start living there, the human element isn’t going to go away. The Expanse deals with that, and makes everything feel so realistic. I want to continue this series, but I want a break before the next book. Maybe I’ll tackle Cibola Burn in January.
Andy Serkis’ narration of The Lord of the Rings was brilliant. I mean, Gollum being narrated by Gollum? Does it get better than that? For narration, I don’t think so. The rest of the characters, too, were marvelously done. Serkis clearly took cues from his castmates from the films, but didn’t do a straight-up imitation of any of them. He made the characters his own, and even the parts where he was ‘just’ narrating exposition were remarkable. Once again, I teared up when Théoden led the charge onto the Pelennor Fields, and when Éowyn faced the Witch-king, and several other points, too. More than when I’m reading a physical copy. This has gone straight to the top of my favorite audiobooks of all time. Not that I’m surprised. I doubt you were surprised, either.
My Letters To Conceição was. . . Odd. It wasn’t a bad book by any means. It was just a strange reading experience. Throughout most of it the narrator, Vasco, is ruminating on his relationship with the now-dead Conceição (to whom all the letters are addressed), how he loved her, how she was probably only moderately interested in him, and how their break-up affected him. Then he goes on to tell her about his travels around the world and the people he’s met, and how a mysterious woman he met in an airport gave him a philosophy about soulmates that has sunk so deeply into his psyche that he can’t let go of it. Eventually, he begins to dream about a weeping woman who begins to communicate with him through his dreams, and he grows ever more determined to find her. I’m still ruminating on what I think of this book. There will be a more in-depth review later in the week.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan #1) by Arkady Martine (135/462)
- A Master of Djinn by (The Dead Djinn Universe) P. Djèlí Clark, audiobook narrated by Suehyla El-Attar (13%)
Back in September 2019, I started reading A Memory Called Empire for the first iteration of Space Opera September hosted by Thomas at SFF180. I didn’t finish, thanks to my trip to Iceland, a small flock of ARCs I needed to read first, and Mina’s vaccinations and whatnot. I really liked what I had read when I had to set it aside, but for whatever reason, I hadn’t come back to it. Now that I finally have, I’m enjoying it ever more than I did two years ago. The Teixcalaan Empire is a massive, interstellar empire that is slowly swallowing up everything around it, thanks to its sheer scale, power, and the attractiveness of its culture. Everyone wants to be sophisticated, and that’s what the Teixcalaanli are. Mahit Dzmare is the ambassador from a little station that wants the empire to leave it alone, so even though Mahit is as intrigued by Teixcalaan as everyone else, her job is to keep the empire from devouring her people and their station. She has a major problem, though: her predecessor has died– Mahit suspects murder– and there is unrest in the empire. Without all the tools she needs to properly do her job and keep her people’s secrets, Mahit must find out what happened to her predecessor before she ends up dead, too. So far, I am awed by the casual complexities that Martine has infused her world with. Epic poetry, for example, is part of the everyday Teixcalaanli’s life, but Martine doesn’t make a big deal out of it. It’s just part of the landscape, much as a twenty-first century American wouldn’t be fazed by televisions or smart phones. They’re just part of life. I love it when authors do that and don’t stop to explain what a particular quirk of the world is all about. It helps me maintain a sense of immersion in the world, and assures me that the author has assumed that I’m intelligent enough to figure things out with context clues. I’m looking forward to getting to the rest of A Memory Called Empire and learning more about this vast empire.
A Master of Djinn showed up in my Libby app just in time, as I was getting to the end of The Return of the King. So I downloaded it right away, even though I didn’t start listening for a day or so after finishing up Serkis’ Lord of the Rings audiobook. Now that I have, I’m thrilled to finally be getting to this story. Clark is another fantastic worldbuilder who effortlessly weaves layer upon layer to his world, and doesn’t stop to explain this thing or that to a western audience who might not know exactly what a hijab is, or what a particular style of jewelry means to the characters. Fatma el-Sha’arawi is just trying to deal with the mysteries sent her way by the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, and doesn’t waste time endlessly ruminating on this or that. Especially now that she has to deal with the inexplicable murders of more than twenty people who seemed to have been involved with a magic-based cult. I’ve only just gotten to the main mystery, but I’m loving this book already. Suehyla El-Attar’s narration is top-notch, and I love the dry snark she gives to Fatma.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
Now that’s it’s October, complete with all the autumnal weather and moods, it feels like the perfect time to read some of the Steampunk novels I’ve had on my shelf for a while. They’re always quick reads for me, so I’m putting two on this week’s TBR, even though I’m less than halfway through my two current reads. It’ll be fine.
I apparently read The Iron Wyrm Affair back in 2013. I have no memory of this, which is weird since I remember practically everything I’ve read, even if it takes seeing the cover art or synopsis to job my memory. But I don’t remember this, so I’m going to read it again. I gave it three stars back then, so I guess I thought it was all right. Maybe I’ll like it more this time around Who knows? It’s about a pair of investigators– one sorceress, one a deductive genius. That’s all I know. Will report back.
I found The Hanged Man at the used bookstore last spring and thought it would be a good book for Autumn, so here we are. It’s set in London in 1879, and stars Alexandrina Pendleton, a forensic psychic reader summoned to the scene of what seems to be a suicide. Alex is insistent that it’s a murder, however, and decides to investigate further a shocking revelation arises. With the help of reluctant allies, Alex must face a shadowy threat to queen and country. This was meant to be the first of a series, but it was published in 2015, and no other book has come out. I really hope that it contains a complete story, and doesn’t end with a cliffhanger.
About That Writing Thing:
Editing continues apace. I’ve been getting through the middle section of this story quickly, thanks to the fact that I haven’t needed to change very many things (aside from editing a character out of a scene because he really couldn’t have been in two places at once). The major edits are coming up, but I’m far enough ahead of my posting schedule that I’m not worried about the fact that I need to entirely rewrite two scenes, add another, and make some major changes to a few other scenes. Now that I have the entirety of the story in hand and on paper (so to speak), making those changes should take far less time than the initial writing did.
The first two chapters went up last weekend, and the third chapter will go up a little later today. So far, the feedback has been positive, though not a lot has happened so far in the story. The first two chapters were establishing what the bad guys were doing, and then returning to the good guys and establishing their places and moods for the rest of the story. I actually had one reader state that they thought the chapter with the bad guys was so good they were almost rooting for them to win out in the end over the good guys.
I guess I’ve written some fantastic enemies, then! The last villain (whose villainy spanned most of the series so far), was universally loathed by readers– in the “love to hate them” mode, and no one was sad when he finally got what was coming to him. I’ll be interested to see what readers think of the newer villains (who have been lurking in the background for a couple of stories new), given what I’ve already heard about them in the comments.
It’s interaction like this that makes the whole writing process worth it. I just need to keep that in mind when I’m buried in the next story and want to throw it all out of the window.