Wednesday, March 21, 2018

4 x Fantasy

I really wanted to read the Tim Powers short story collection that came in to the Kobo eBooks on my iPad. So I decided to change mode to fantasy for my junk reading.

1st up, "Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr", by John Crowley (2018). The story of the serially immortal crow Dar Oakley, who was the 1st crow to have a name and the 1st crow to talk to humans. I have a lot of hardcopy Crowley (1 of my fav authors) in the FL library, so I bought this in trade paper.

Crowley also allows for the possibility that this is all the delusions of an extremely grief-stricken widower.

I am a huge fan of the family Corvidae: crows, ravens, and blue jays. I loved just reading about how it feels to be a crow.

They are so smart. In Lexington, KY, we have vast numbers of the American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos. In Naples, FL, we have mostly Fish Crows, Corvus ossifragus. iBirdPro says that they are almost completely indistinguishable except for their calls. And, yes, the nasal "kaa" of the fish crow could never be mistaken for the "caa" of the american crow.

There are also American Crows in Florida. One of our standard destinations in SW Florida is Shark Valley Everglades National Park. It is off of US 41 (Alligator Alley), 2/3 of the way from Naples to Miami, ~1 hour from Naples. I usually see some american crows there.

There is a great 13 mile loop you can bike, or take a trolley, or walk, with an observation tower 1/2 way. There are signs by the bike racks for the tower that say "Do not leave backpacks. Crows can work the zippers." ?!?!? Crows are so smart!

So, if you are a corvid fan as I am, this will be a fun read for you too. But regardless, it will be a thoughtful one, as Crowley explores the relationship between humans creating mass quantities of dead bodies via war and religion, and crows being quite happy to gorge on those dead bodies.

Next, the Tim Powers short story collection, "Down and Out in Purgatory" (2017). 20 stories of ghosts, immortal body thieves, time travel. He does this so well. I was surprised to find that he seems to be a practicing Catholic. So it's not surprising that there is a story about a priest being visited by a ghost in the confessional.

3rd, "The Bookman", by Lavie Tidar (2016). Very fun steam-punkish fantasy, where, among many other time slips, the extraterrestrial Lizard Men have replaced the Tudors on the English throne. Very imaginative, consistently so. Babbage's corporation produces simulacrums (androids) based on famous dead people and on independent personalities. The writing is excellent. I highlighted this passage:

This is the time of myths, Orphan. They are the cables that run under the floors and power the world, the conduits of unseen currents, the steam that powers the great engines of the earth.
But, somehow, this just didn't work for me. No ongoing serious topics, maybe? There are 2 more in this series, I will forgo them.

It was also odd, after the main book finished, there were 6 chapters of "From the Lost Files of The Bookman Histories". They fill in some of the details of earlier actions. Presumably they were omitted to keep the main narrative thread moving briskly. But, it's like deleted scenes in a movie. There is a reason they were deleted ...

4th and finally, "The Tangled Lands", by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Bucknell (2018). I left this for last because Paolo is always a dependable read. But, I was disappointed. It was billed as a novel, but it is 4 independent novellas, 2 by Paolo and 2 by Bucknell. And I had already read the 1st Paolo story in another collection. The stories are entirely consistent in their shared world and are compelling reads, but, I was expecting a novel. Still, very well written, well worth a read.

Next up, something worthwhile for a change!