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Sime~Gen Inc. Presents

ReReadable Books

June 2010

"Group Mind & Media Pt 6: Childlike Sense of Wonder"


Jacqueline Lichtenberg



 To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,jl@simegen.com  for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  
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In the February 2010 column, we discussed the powerful draw of the Group Mind which is channeling so much fiction into series with a strong story-arc rather than the anthology form of stand-alones. We pondered whether this originates within corporations or within individuals.

In the May 2010 column, we looked at YA and children’s books and wondered about the role of the minds of children on Humanity’s Group Mind, and what that has to do with the Transactional Analysis concept of the internal role playing structure of a single adult.

Science fiction has long cultivated those adults who can retain access to their Childlike (not childish) Sense of Wonder – the attitude toward the Unknown best depicted on Star Trek: The Original Series.

To be attracted to The Unknown, to revel in the sensation of finding something new, to embrace what’s "out there" fearlessly, and to willingly discard mistaken notions, is the attitude of the adventurer, the explorer, the detective and the scientist. That attitude has extended partially into the new adult Fantasy genre. The typical SF/F reader is willing (even in real life) to risk loss to learn. The Tarot Card is the 9 Swords Reversed.

If our children participate in governing our Group Minds, and if the Child inside every Adult likewise participates in generating our Group Minds, then exercising that childlike sense of wonder via fiction may be essential to the health of our culture and society.

Here are some more books (in series, so read the previous ones, too) that may help awaken your childlike sense of wonder and sharpen your ability to visualize and imagine how this world could be "IF. . ." And what it might cost to fix our world "IF. . ."

The Seventeenth book in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series is a fair case in point. Hamilton launched an explosion in the Paranormal-Romance genre with her first Anita Blake novel where a hard-bitten Vampire Hunter with an almost-ex who’s a cop, falls in love with a Vampire. I’ve been reviewing the series here ever since the first book, even when the appeal to me was diluted by the addition of a werewolf lover, and others.

The quality of the writing has been uneven, occasionally not up to my standards. But the underlying story of the destruction of a young woman’s ethical structure continues with Skin Trade, and the writing has once again improved. There are fewer pointlessly detailed sex scenes and more actual plot-advancing drama.

This is a readable book in a tightly plotted story-arc, and the publisher blatantly advertises it as an "installment" in a story, admitting that the story builds on previous novels.

One warning. Though this series started out fairly "light" even though Anita Blake is a necromancer by trade and a Vampire Hunter by commission, it has now become extremely "dark" as this admirable and lovable woman has been systematically destroyed by what appear to be circumstances beyond her control. But readers who understand karma will be able to see that is not the case.

Science Fiction Vampire stories have an even greater appeal for me, and I am partial to post-apocalyptic rebuilding Earth stories E. E. Knight has my number on both counts with his The Vampire Earth saga, set circa 2076 on an Earth subjugated by Vampire-like beings. As the 8th installment, Winter Duty, opens, the tattered remnants of Major David Valentine’s fugitive battalion is making its way to winter quarters. They soon discover that the Alien Kurians are planning to exterminate all the humans in one Territory. Sometimes brute force isn’t the answer to a problem.

This is Action-SF with the focus on solving combat problems, but Valentine is a real person. Clearly the things that happen in these novels, happen to Valentine and he changes because of them. In Winter Duty, Valentine turns 30 and feels old. Now he discovers what’s been going on right in his own Command. He has to make gut wrenching decisions and take risks with untold numbers of human lives.

Valentine is as real and likeable as Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden character in The Dresden Files Urban Fantasy series which is up to book 11 in 2009.

And if you like this sort of glib, hard-fighting, valiant and noble main character, do try a new Fantasy series by Alex Bledsoe, the Eddie LaCrosse novels. I reviewed The Sword-Edged Blonde in March, and Tor now has the second novel, Burn Me Deadly out. This one sustains the pace, advances the personal story-arc of Eddie LaCrosse, and explores LaCrosse’s character and his weak points.

In Burn Me Deadly, LaCrosse, who met a real goddess in the first novel, must now confront a criminal conspiracy promoting an even older religion which regarded fire breathing dragons as gods.

In LaCrosse’s world, there really were intelligent fire breathing dragons who had a viable and brilliant culture long-long ago. Today, they are extinct, a legend, and probably never were real. This new cult is hunting for unhatched dragon’s eggs. Eddie, riding home on a horse he had finally made his peace with, sword sheathed, knife in his boot, feeling confident, is accosted by a young woman and swears he’ll protect her.

Like many women he’s tried to protect, vast threats arraigned against her overwhelm LaCrosse. But he’s stubborn. He comes back swinging. I like this Hero.

Cape Storm is the 8th installment in Rachel Caine’s popular Weather Warden series, and actually is very readable on its own. Caine has perfected the knack of filling the reader in on past events without huge expository lumps, so you can start here, but I recommend collecting these.

This is Fantasy-Action-Romance with hot sexy relationships threatened by massive supernatural events and compromised Honor. It’s told in first person from the point of view of a woman whose talents make her a Weather Warden sworn to defend human habitation from weather’s violence, most especially supernaturally driven violence. It helps she’s married to a Djinn who can call Djinn help when needed. The Wardens have gone public gaining official access to expensive things, such as a Cruise Ship. The arcane battles are interesting and well written, but the best part of this series is the characters facing predicaments and the cross-species intimate relationship.

Ann Aguirree adds the Corine Solomon series to her Sirantha Jax series which started with Grimspace. Blue Diablo introduces Corine and continues in Hell Fire.

Solomon is a psychometrist, who can read the history of an article by touching it. She does not want that life, does not want to be a detective or touch items with a bloody history. She wants to as a shopkeeper in Mexico. Her ex has the Talent of adjusting fate. He’s Lucky, or maybe unlucky beyond belief, and only sometimes on purpose.

But other than the Talents involved, Blue Diablo is more Mystery than Fantasy. SF/F fans love Mystery. Try it.

And if you like Police Procedurals, here’s a book typeset in Scotland and printed in Great Britain, but written by an American in Texas with a story set in the USA. Diane Fanning is a best-selling mystery author and TV personality. See dianefanning.com I met her on Twitter and couldn’t resist the book description for Punish The Deed A Lucinda Pierce novel. Mystery genre now favors the story-arc series!

Punish the Deed starts as a children’s charity worker is found dead with a note saying, "I was left behind." Threatening notes appear on Pierce’s car’s windshield. She cancels cosmetic surgery to repair the ruined side of her face where she lost an eye. She has fought her way back onto active duty, and now won’t let go of this ever widening and deepening case until she’s solved it. Her ex-husband was FBI and she hates the "Feebs" – but now she has to partner with an offbeat Feeb who barely notices her injury. Lucinda Pierce lives the 9 Swords Reversed here. It’s 217 page HC, and the board cover has the wrap cover printed on it. $27.95 US dollars. Check Amazon.

As you read these novels, you’ll see how the SF has Fantasy elements bleeding into the worldbuilding, and the Fantasy has elements of SF invading the plot. As the Media responds to the Group Mind’s desire for longer, more complex relationship driven stories that need dozens of novels "arc" convincingly, we are also seeing a breakdown and re-arranging of the genre-defining barriers.

If it has a vampire in it, it still might not be fantasy. If it has a psychic in it, it might be SF or even Mystery. If it has supernatural beings in it, it could be anything.

Our job as readers is to believe it all for at least a few minutes, and marvel and wonder. Then we must re-evaluate what we think is "reality" from a new perspective and learn.

To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,  jl@simegen.com for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  



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