Oct. 14th, 2007 06:56 pm
threemonkeys: (Waxlion)
The so called juvenile novels of Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton were very important to me when I was a kid. What we call the YA market was a pretty thin offering in the SF field back then. Harry Turtledove's Gunpowder Empire reminds me of those books in terms of the way it is written. Way to much so for it to be a coincidence. I didn't finish it. That style of writing holds nothing for me now. I'm not sure how I'd go re-reading those Heinlein & Norton books now. I suspect Heinlein would hold up better, but I'm not sure. I am half tempted to grab, say, Tunnel in the Sky* and see if it still works for me. But then again perhaps it might be better not to and just live with the memories.

*Tunnel in the Sky may not be the best or best known of Heinlein's youth oriented work, but for some reason it has always held a particular place in my affections.
threemonkeys: (Waxlion)
I'm trying to kick a habit and this may be my best opportunity. The addiction in this case is the reading of Harry Turtledove alternate history series. Each book in one of these series is huge and the series can easily span half a dozen volumes or more. The books are entertaining in a mindless kind of way - the lives and loves of a bunch of characters who make their way through the changed reality that is a Turtledove universe. From time to time there is a chance to say "ooh he is referring to that bit of history", but mostly it is just about the characters' lives. Very much like a soap opera or reality show really.

The thing is, I have reached the point where the two series I was reading have both finally been wound up. I have not started on any of the numerous others and I intend to keep it that way. From now on the only Turtledove books I will read are the stand-alone stories. Not all of those either - my experience with the incredibly tedious Ruled Brittania leaves me wary.

The actual trigger for this resolution is that I have finished reading Out of the Darkness - book 6 in the Darkness series. This is the WW2 as a fantasy world series. It follows sixteen different characters. That is a huge number of POV characters which is why it is no wonder that the books fatten to the size they are - typically 650+ pages. There is no point in trying to describe it further - if you know Turtledove, then you know what to expect. If you don't then you wouldn't start with this one and I would suggest that you don't start on any of them at all unless you have vast acres of time at your disposal.
threemonkeys: (Waxlion)
Recent slow reading conditions led me to end up with three books on the go at once. As usual, a kind of Darwinian selection takes place and I end up spending most of my reading time on the most interesting. I came as a little bit of a surprise that the winner in the evolution stakes would be a big fat alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove. I should probably have avoided the genre for a while, but Homeward Bound proved surprisingly easy to read. All the more surprising because when I look back on it, hardly anything major happened in the book. Lots of action but not much plot.

Harry has a pretty simple formula - make it different, but keep it familiar. He does this in two ways. The first is by picking real* history and using it as a base. In this case he uses the western cultural takeover of China in the 19th century as his model for a human visit to an alien planet. The second thing he does is make his characters seem real and normal - he has a real skill for making his characters just seem like normal folks in all their shapes, sizes and flavours.

If you add all these things together, you get a fun read. But like the Chinese food found in cliché, it isn't very filling - I'm hungry again.

*well not real real history, coz I'm pretty sure there is no such thing. I mean the sort of history recorded by historians in real books.


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