I’ve been getting a lot of suggestions of fantasy and sci-fi books in the last years. I open myself up to this because in my capacity as a musician I often play a song called “Novel Figure” which I often introduce by saying, “This song is about reading fantasy novels.” Afterwards audience members often come up and ask me if I’ve read such and such author. I’ve been handed entire lists of books scrawled on the backs of flyers to the show.
So in a roundabout way, I read this book because someone wrote the author’s name down for me, and then months later at a bookstore I figured a cheap author-signed copy was enough impetus to try it.
The set up is that a young boy working on the hulls of old abandoned oil tankers and living on a shanty town beach in former Louisiana runs into a wreck containing one very important young girl, which promises a new future for him if he can help her escape his world. Pretty cool premise. I was reading this book when I coincidentally saw the fantastic film “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which is ALSO about people on the gulf coast near a ruined New Orleans barely eking out a living after ecological devastation. That movie was more mystical fantasy, and it had soul. I’m not sure what this book had. There is senseless violence all around that just seems…senseless. I developed very little emotional attachment to the characters the boy is supposed to be emotionally attached to, and he says over and over again “I knew I was making a bad and costly decision but I had to because of my morals” without me really believing that he would do so.
Also, and I realize this is a minor thing, but every time the boy gets hurt he says he “blossomed with pain.” His shoulder blossoms, then his leg blossoms, then his head blossoms. If the author had used a less notable word I wouldn’t have noticed this lazy metaphor repetition, but I said to myself 2/3 of the way through “He CANNOT use blossom one more time” and then it happened twice more.
There’s a part where the kid learns to read in literally about a week, and low and behold immediately after that his ability to read plays a major role in the climax of the book! How shocking and not telegraphed!
Everyone ends up aboard some steampunk-futuristic ships and the nerd in me enjoyed that. They fire a cannon with a parasail in it that captures the wind and it pulls the ship up on hydrofoils so it skates over the water. Hot damn, that is cool. I wish we could have gotten to that 200 pages earlier and that in the process I would have grown to care much more about everyone aboard the ship.
I’m being unfair, it’s not that bad. It has cool ideas about where the world is headed after oil runs out and if businesses continue to become political forces stronger than the countries they reside in…but for whatever reason the story has no emotional grip, unlike another unnamed Young Adult book about vampires which has TERRIBLE IDEAS ABOUT EVERYTHING and awkwardly enough had a complete stranglehold on my emotions. Oh, it’s not fair.
I’m sorry to the person that handed me that scrap of paper. This may be the only Paolo Bacigalupi book I read. Let’s try again?
Around age 16 I had a Diaryland account, which featured a personalized theme of a man standing at a payphone with a Jawbreaker lyric surrounding him. I had made the theme for myself on my grandmother’s computer with Corel Draw at a time when that was an unusual commitment of skill and time. I once wrote something on it about Braid’s guitar cabinets and why the tolex was peeling off, and thus afterwards I became colloquial “internet friends” with Bob Nanna. This is a story he brought up to me when I recently saw him for the first time in 12 years. But the server crashed; all that’s gone.
After that I had a livejournal, which was a sad place, but I became “friends” with Paul Baribeau on that medium years before he ever drove to Mississippi to start a Bruce Springsteen cover band with me. I privatized and shuttered it years ago; that’s a tomb best left buried.
I had one issue of a zine, which is now out of print and only exists as a hard copy in my filing cabinet and as back-of-shelf filler for project zine libraries in Gainesville and Portland.
I had(have) a twitter which is only used in my capacity as a musician who self-promotes. I’ve never been profane or profound on it.
I have a Goodreads account where I’ve been writing over-thought and over-long reviews of books off and on, but no one I originally friended uses it anymore. I have exactly one friend from the Philippines who regularly posts actual written reviews, but he monopolizes my feed with the demoralizing reality that he reads and reviews over 200 books a year.
So now I have a tumblr. I’m hoping to port over some book reviews, and I’m hoping to write something longer than 160 characters, but I know people mostly want to see pictures of cats.
While sitting on the porch just now a stray cat that I hadn’t seen since before last winter, who I thought for dead, wandered up and greeted me with a relaxed hello.