Things I like: The Magicians and Faeries of Dreamdark.
It's been a long time since I've recommended any books on the blog. For that I apologise.
The problem isn't that I haven't been reading. I always read. You know how sharks have to keep swimming or they die? I'm like that. If I stop reading, I die.
The problem is this, when I read a book and I like it, I think, "I should mention this on the blog." Then I wonder what exactly I can say about the book that will be not only enthusiastic, witty, and persuasive, but also informative and true.
It's the last two that are tricky, you see. Truth is a troublesome motherfucker unless it's handled properly.
The other problem is the difference between what I say and what people are inclined to hear. If I say "I like this book" people are inclined to believe that what I mean is "You will like this book." Which isn't necessarily the case.
So I feel obliged to explain *why* I liked it. That way people can make inteligent choices about whether or not they'd like to buy it. Because that is how we all remain independant, rational human beings as opposed to mindless, soulless, consumerist cogs, right?
However, writing this sort of blog is, to say it simply, a pain in the ass. Consequently I put off mentioning books on the blog, sometimes for embarrassingly long periods of time.
Like this one:
I've been meaning to mention this book for over six months. I'm filled with shame...
The more observant of you might actually recognize the book from a previous appearance on the blog. That's because the author, Laini Taylor, was nice enough to donate a signed copy to the Heifer Fundraiser we did last year.
When she sent it in, I was curious about the book. Because... well... the truth is I have a bit of a thing for faeries.
I know this might come as something of a shock to some of you. You think that, manly as I am, I could never be into stories about little wingy people flitting about. At the very least, you probably think that if I *did* like such things, I'd have the decency to stay quiet about it, lest people start thinking that I was sissy.
But that's not actually how it works, you see. Only guys insecure about their manliness worry about looking sissy. They're afraid that if someone looks too closely people will realize that their machismo is just a thin tissue of lies.
Truth is, you see a guy reading a faerie book in the coffee shop, you know that he has nothing to hide. Dude is confident in his manness. He knows exactly who he is.
Me, I'm so manly that I can read this book in a bus station while wearing a dress and singing "Faith" by George Michael.
I'm not saying I did, mind you. I'm saying I could.
Anyway, about the book. I really enjoyed it. Good characters. Good use of language. Refreshingly new take on Faerie society. Cool world. Cool magic. Good, quick storytelling. Technically it's a Young Adult book, but if that's the case then color me young adult, because I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Huh. And I just checked on Amazon. The sequel is coming out in just two weeks. Bonus. That way you don't even have to wait for your next hit. Unlike some other tardy, lame-ass authors....
Secondly, we have something of an entirely different flavor:
I mentioned Lev Grossman a couple weeks back because we were on a panel at ComicCon together. But the truth is, I read his book when I was traveling in Europe earlier this year.
Here's where things get tricky. You see, I honestly don't know what I can say about this book.
I really enjoyed this book. But I can't for the life of me tell you why.
Ordinarily when I like a book, I know why. I can point to things. Language. Character. Pacing. Worldbuilding. When I don't like it, I can do the same. It's easy for me. All I do is think about stories.
But I can't point to any specific reason why I like The Magicians it except that it was clever, and it wasn't like any sort of book I've ever read before.
See the problem with the Truth? As recommendations go, that's pretty weak tea.
Hopping over to Amazon, I see that reactions to the book have been mixed. And I can't say as I'm terribly surprised. As I said, this book was different. A lot of people don't like different. What's more, it was clever. And a lot of people aren't terribly smart.
Okay, Okay. That's not really fair. I take that back. Kinda.
My real guess is that most people will like this book. But there's a certain type of reader who will enjoy it down to the bottoms of their feet.
That reader will:
1. Be well-read in terms of classic fantasy. They'll have read Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, and at least five or six dozen other fantasy novels.
2. Be aware of the standard fantasy cliches, and a little tired of them.
3. Be eager to read something different. Not just in terms of world, but in terms of character, pacing, and the fundamental structure of the story as well.
4. Appreciate cleverness.
Now that sums me up pretty well. And I enjoyed the book on a way that I can't put into words. Which is why I suck at giving blurbs for books....
But then again, Lev doesn't need me for that. He's got George Martin on his cover:
“These days any novel about young sorcerers at wizard school inevitably invites comparison to Harry Potter. Lev Grossman meets the challenge head on ... and very successfully. The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea.”
See? That's how the pros throw down. Why can't I do that?
That's all for now, more news soon about the name lottery. Stay tuned.
So the other day I'm in the car with Sarah, and I say, "Last night I had a dream where Nathan Fillion was teaching my dad how to use the computer."
In order for you to appreciate this, I should mention that I don't usually remember my dreams. Sarah does. She has a vivid dream life. Crazy dreams. Every night.
So I'm thinking that Sarah will be impressed. Not only did I remember this dream, but you have to admit it's reasonably weird. Plus it has Nathan Fillion in it, which shows that my internal casting director is finally getting a decent budget to work with.
So I summarize my dream for Sarah. There isn't much more to it other than the fact that Nathan Fillion was teaching my Dad some of the finer points of computer programming. Except, perhaps, to mention that Fillion was quite gracious about the whole thing, and was willing to come out to our house in order to make things more convenient for my dad.
When I finish, I expect Sarah to say something appreciative. Something like, "Wow," or "Freaky," or "You've really got to get over Firefly."
But instead, without missing a beat, Sarah says, "I had a dream where I was going to marry Nathan Fillion, but I was really nervous because he had a horrible addiction to hobby farming. He was working really hard to overcome it, but I knew he was probably going to relapse pretty soon."
She shrugged. "Still, I was going to help him get through it. I knew I'd stay by his side no matter what. Very loyal of me. I think there were sheep involved."
So, I'm back from GenCon. And despite the fact that I washed my hands like Lady Macbeth the whole time, I somehow managed to get sick.
Ordinarily, I'm okay with this. It's one of the risks of attending conventions. Sometimes you get stuck on a panel where you don't fit in. Sometimes you get trapped in a conversation and have to listen to a guy tell you about his 15th level half-elven ranger/assassin.
And sometimes, if you're unlucky enough to have me as your arch-nemesis, you get a death threat in your fortune cookie....
... Sometimes you get a cold. It's all part of the game.
But this time it sucks more than usual. I did Worldcon and GenCon back-to-back this year, so I've been away from home for almost two weeks solid. However, because I got sick the day before I came home, I cannot have a joyeux homecoming complete with passionate kissings from Sarah.
No. It is bad for a pregnant lady to get sick. That means when I returned from the airport, Sarah greeted me at the door with a firm handshake and a pat on the head.
Don't get me wrong. It was a good handshake. But even the best of handshakes cannot help but fall far short of passionate.
So I sit at my computer, sick, kissless, and trying to catch up on 500 unanswered e-mails. What can I possibly find that will lift my spirits?
Yes, Felicia Day is all kinds of awesome. You had to know that already. What this video really did was firmly cement my love for Sandeep Parikh and Jeff Lewis.
A while back, I heard a rumor that Facebook wouldn't let you have more than 5000 friends.
At the time, it was just a little blip of information: interesting, but not really relevant to my life. I remember thinking, "That's sensible. Nobody could ever have 5000 friends anyway, and some sort of limit will keep facebook from getting all myspacey."
Fast forward to two days ago. I'm going about my business on facebook, adding another handful of people who've sent me requests, and what do I see?
So apparently the rumor is true...
I mention this for two reasons:
1) If you send a friend request and I don't add you, don't feel snubbed. And take it personally. And show up outside my house clutching a bouquet of flowers and a homemade shiv. Naked.
2) To let folks know that most of my activity is moving to the official facebook fan page. That's where I'll be posting most of the book-related events, pictures, and other assorted ephemera from now on.
(Editorial note - In response to some comments below: I'm still planning on doing the blog. No fear of that going away. I'm just moving most of my facebooking from one place to another.)
Now, the main event. Audience participation requested...
(Editorial note - Yes I'm still signing books according to the rules set down in the blog. But if you want a simpler option, I'll soon be selling signed books as part of the upcoming Heifer Fundraiser. Just so you know.)
Now this might not sound terribly cool at first. After all, you get fortune cookies for free when you order take-out Chinese food. Personally, after packing myself full of garlic shrimp, I'm not always in the mood for a dry, kinda almondy cookie. So for me, fortune cookies slowly accumulate in my kitchen where Sarah arranges them in vaguely ocd patterns on the countertop.
But you need to believe me when I tell you that the cookies these folks sent were, in point of fact, terribly cool. Turns out they actually run their own business where they do custom fortune cookies. Cookies in all manner of delicious flavors like orange or strawberry. Cookies dipped in chocolate. Yes. Chocolate.
Better yet, this company is located in Indianapolis. The same place as Gen Con.
And this year I'm going to be GOH at Gen Con....
I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.
So I'm going to get some cookies to hand out at GenCon this year, but I'm not sure what they should say inside. These days fortune-cookie fortunes are all cheerful and nice. ("Everyone loves you, and your ass looks great in those jeans.") That's always bugged me. If these cookies are supposed to predict the future, then simple statistics say that some of them should foretell some dire shit. ("You should really see a urologist.")
Also, I miss the old, cryptic, badly translated fortunes. The ones that said things like, "The onion in your salad is someone else's orchid."
And I feel like I should have a few cookies that relate to the books. Maybe a few portentous hints about book two. (Some true, some not.)
Here's the problem, I tend to write long things, not short things. Fortune Cookie fortunes are short.
So I turn to you, my clever and creative fanbase. Any suggestions?
I've wanted to go to San Diego Comic-con for years, but something always seems to keep me away. Two years ago it was a family vacation. Last year I was conducting a wedding.
This year was no different: I had an exciting adventure Wednesday morning. I was in the ER two hours before my plane was supposed to take off....
But while that story is a good story, exciting, full of drama and tragedy, it's not really part of the convention. So I'll pass it over for now. Suffice to say that despite many obstacles, 2009 was the year that I finally made it to San Diego Comic-con.
On Thursday, I met up with a fan called Pooka. I don't always recognize my fans, even when they contact me before the convention. But in her case, I somehow managed to pick her out of the crowd:
(I'm the one with the beard.)
You can't see her pink leggings in this picture, but you'll have to trust me on the fact that her plumage is abundant and bright. She was nice enough to show me around the convention, as she's a veteran comic-con attendee, and I'm just a newbie.
Pooka and her friends throw a party every year at the con: X-Sanguin. They invited me this year, and while I was flattered, I ended up taking a pass. I expect I'm not sexy enough to hang with the glitterati. Not even when I'm wearing my shades and pretending to be as cool as Neil Gaiman:
Pooka helped me find the room where my panel was being held. It was the only panel I was scheduled for at the convention proper, and to be honest, I was a little nervous. Not only was Jacqueline Carey on it, but Lev Grossman was moderating. Dude is scary smart.
I can't find a picture of the entire panel, but here's one of a few of the other folks, including Carey.
In the corner you can't see Lev, but you can spot a copy of his soon-to be released book, The Magicians. I got to read an advance copy a little while back, and really enjoyed it. I'll probably do an official recommendation on the blog a little closer to the release date.
The panel's topic was "The Evolution of Fantasy." I avoided making too much of an ass of myself and got a laugh or two. Which is as much as I can ever hope for on a panel. If you want more details, Lev wrote a column about it for Time. You can read it over here.
After the panel, I had a signing where some fans gave me an awesome little Voodoo doll. (Or mommet, if you will.)
(Yes. It's got little screws sticking out of its head.)
When I asked how they'd like me to sign their books, they said they wanted to be designated as official Fanatical Minions. Nobody's ever asked that before, so they got to be Fantastical Minions #1 and #2.
I felt obliged to point out that the numbers were not a ranking system. Just a designation.
After the signing I got to hang out a bit with Cindy Pon. Whose first book just came out. She's a lot of fun, and if you hop over to her blog, you'll see her dressed up as Chun Li the next day at the con. Needless to say, she's my kind of person...
Capping off Thursday, I got to have Dinner with Greg Dean from Real Life comics. We've known each other for a while, but never met in person. Dinner was lovely and the conversation.... Well.... I had a great time. But I don't know if I can say the same for Greg and Liz.
You see, most people have conversational filters. Not so much with me. So when something interesting happens in my life, I tell stories about it. Even if these stories are... odd.
As I've mentioned, when I was leaving for the convention I had... an adventure. An adventure that I shared with them....