Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My constant companions

In response to my post on my reading habits, Bub and Pie asked about recommendations from the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I mentioned my favorite author (Robin McKinley), but then realized the comment would be way too long if I kept going. I have a whole slew of authors I love, too many for a navigable post, so I thought I'd start with a list of the authors and books I love to reread.

As I said in the previous post, I like rereading books. As an impulsive reader, voraciously devouring new books, and therefore missing details, rereading allows me to discover nuances and to appreciate an author's style. I also find that my favorites speak to me more with each reading. Suspense grows each time; if I cried the first time, I absolutely bawl the next.

These are the authors and books that stick with me long after I have read them. I lose myself in their worlds and must surface slowly. They work their way into my daydreams and nightmares. Just writing about them, I start to slip under their spell.

1) I must start with Robin McKinley. Yes, I already mentioned her, but she is my go-to author. When I'm dying to read a little fiction, but don't have anything on hand or know that I might have to put it down to take care of things in the real world, I pick up one of her books. Many of her books are retellings of fairy tales (including two very different versions of "Beauty and the Beast"). Her ability to situate the familiar in a world of her own creation, to interpret details from the original in a way that had never occurred to me, to make me worry about how things will turn out--even when I know how the story ends--all of this keeps me coming back. Of course I have my favorites--Deerskin and the Damar books (Hero and the Crown, Blue Sword), in particular--but I can pick up any of the others and am immediately reminded of what an amazing writer she is.

Now many of her books are intended for teen readers, particularly her earlier fairy tale retellings and the Damar books, but she has aimed for an older audience with Deerskin and Sunshine. I'm pretty sure that Sunshine is her most recent novel--2003. With all the craziness in my life (moving, going back to school, parenting), I missed this when it first came out and only found it last year. Of course I immediately bought and read it, despite the pile of work I had. It's now taunting me to reread it, something I'm trying to hold off on until after my deadlines next week.

2) Another favorite is Sheri S. Tepper. I have not read all of her work at this point, but I reread The Gate to Women's Country about once a year. It takes place in a post-holocaust society where there is a general segregation of women and men (though male children and older men who so choose live with the women). Dystopias and post-holocaust books have always interested me (Brave New World, On the Beach, Postman), so I was interested in that aspect. Having read a decent amount about the Trojan War and having always sympathized with the plight of the Trojan women, I was drawn in by her interweaving of her plot with the production of a play entitled Iphigenia at Ilium. It's powerful and thought-provoking.

3) Joan Slonczewski's A Door into Ocean is another one I read yearly. A young boy travels to an ocean world and lives with the slightly-alien, all-female population. There is much meditation on individuality and commonality, love and interconnectedness. The author is also a biology professor, so the ecology of her ocean world is believable--and her writing truly makes it come alive.

4) I have not read Orson Scott Card's Ender's series, his best known work, but frequently reread Songmaster. In it he tells the story of a songbird, a gifted singer, who is sent to the Emperor of the Galaxy. I also read his Enchantment, a story that takes "Sleeping Beauty" as its departing point, last year and want to buy a copy so that I can immerse myself in it repeatedly.

5) Tanith Lee's The Silver Metal Lover tells the story of a "plain" Jane who falls in love with a robot who isn't quite right (that is, he experiences true emotions). I think I come back to this story again and again because of how much I empathize with Jane, who transforms from a quiet and reserved girl who had always subjugated her will to her mother's to a confident and determined woman.

6) Finally, there's Harry Potter. I bought the first one when it came out in paperback, officially because I was going to be teaching junior high-aged kids and thought this would help me connect with them. I finished the first book and immediately bought the second one in hardback and have snatched up each one upon its release. I reread the series regularly, sometimes picking out a single book, sometimes reading them through in order (a must for me before a new one comes out). I had figured out the death at the end of Book 6 when I finished Book 5, and yet I cried for a good 20 minutes when I read of it (being vague to avoid potential spoiler)--though I kept reading through the tears because I needed to know what happened next.

I'm not entirely sure what this says about me, though I see a few patterns emerging. At any rate, I'm now itching to crack open a few books.


bubandpie said...

So tell me this, Mousie my dear - what do you think of Snape? Good or evil?

Mouse said...

My wife and I both think that Snape is still an agent of the Order of the Phoenix. We know in Book 6 that Dumbledore forced a promise from Snape that he didn't want to make. My suspicion is that this promise was along the lines of doing whatever is necessary to maintain the illusion that he's still a Death-Eater.

Didn't stop me from hating him at the end of Half-Blood Prince.

bubandpie said...

I agree. But I do love Snape - even at the end of Book 6, where I see him directing a lot of hatred at himself and giving Harry some very sage advice.

Mouse said...

I have always sympathized with Snape, even if I wouldn't want to hang out with him. My main issue with him is his undisguised personal dislike of Harry. As a teacher, I had to deal with a number of little sh*ts whose personalities really didn't work with mine, but I always remembered that I was the adult and it was my job to be neutral, at least, and preferably nurturing and encouraging.

Yes, I know it's fiction, but it's such a pet peeve of mine (because there are plenty of adults in real life who can't maintain the separation either).

Though Harry's getting old enough now that I hope he can find a way to sort out the personal animosity from the big picture. Because I suspect that will be very important.

Anonymous said...

Is that his design in settling here?
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