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Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"What if you're not a Hero?"
| Send books for review in this column to:
Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952
Fortress of Eagles by C. J. Cherryh, Harper Fantasy, Jan. 1999
O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King Bantam Books Mystery, June 2000
The Merchant Prince by Armin Shimerman and Michael Scott, Pocket Books hc, June 2000
The Gentle Giant by Melinda Lamer -- Awe Struck E-Books ( http://www.awe-struck.net/AUTHORS6/ggiant.html - download or disk, or Rocket Book format)
Farscape -- original tv series on Sci Fi Channel
The Invisible Man -- original tv series on Sci Fi Channel
Honorable Mention:Moon Night by C. J. Winters, Hard Shell Word Factory, Jan. 1999 ( http://www.hardshell.com email firstname.lastname@example.org )
Last month we considered the principles articulated by Lynn Grabhorn in her interview with Guy Spiro in the July 2000 issue of The Monthly Aspectarian. We examined two excellent novels, very different from each other, one a Horror award winner, and one a straight sf novel. A steady diet of this type of fiction, would, I think, make it very difficult to apply Grabhorn's principles to your life.
This month we have 6 items that can help you "stop focusing on what you don't want and start focusing on what you do want." It's not just the mental attention but the emotional attention that must be focused.
By reading books which draw you into the emotions of a single character who is dealing with an overwhelming problem -- without being overwhelmed -- by feeling their hope, love, determination, aspirations, and understanding the emotional realities of their existence, you can learn to understand your world in those terms.
The critical time of day to imbue your subconscious with this new focus is the hour before bedtime. Many successful people reserve that time to "read themselves to sleep." Try this bed-time medley for the next month.
Fortress of Eagles, is #2 in a series by C. J. Cherryh (click to find all these titles)(Fortress in the Eye of Time, Fortress of Eagles, Fortress of Owls, Fortress of Dragons). Fortress of Eagles is about Tristen, a young man created by magic, imbued with magic, to be a warrior. He has given his loyalty to a young king, who, to gain a bride, must banish him to the far edge of his kingdom. Poised between wisdom and innocence, Tristen goes forth to wrest his new Duchy from he-knows-not-what-powers and plots. As he figures out his world, we figure it out with him.
O Jerusalem is part of a series of 5 novels marketed as Mystery, but has the elements of a time-travel romance, a horse-adventure in the Arabian desert, International Intrigue, and contemporary suspense. The main POV character is Mary Russell, who as a teen became apprentice and successor to Sherlock Holmes. "Now" Mary and Sherlock arrive in Palestine in 1919. They are retreating from a case which has left them running for their lives, and Holmes is wounded. His brother Mycroft has used his government connections to get them assigned to this case -- but nobody knows what the case is. Mary and Sherlock have to find the problem, and then solve it.
They stop a plot to blow up the Western Wall along with a bevy of international figures, and thus leave Palestine open to being recaptured by the Turks. In the course of this, their relationship matures and changes.
Mary Russell and Tristen are in very similar situations. Both young, overwhelmed by the complexities of intrigue, left without the dependable support group they've relied upon, and facing a problem that could bring down their civilization. How would you react in that situation?
The Merchant Prince by Armin Shimerman and Michael Scott focuses on Dr. John Dee (the actual Renaissance figure who opposed the de Medici). An alien scouting Earth for possible invasion plucks Dee out of his Medieval prison, keeps him on "ice" -- revives him in 2099 when humanity is on the brink of developing a weapon that will mean the extinction of humanity (according to alien law). Dee discovers it's not humanity, but one greedy merchant baron behind the weapon -- and that greedy person is in the palm of another alien's hand.
It's a plot straight out of the era Dee had mastered (well almost mastered). The previous time he pitted himself against this kind of challenge, he ended up condemned in prison. Now the stakes are much higher. What goes through his head? What does he FEEL? What feelings power his moves? Does he succeed? Or does he have to be rescued again?
This is a page-turner. It is the kind of book you inhale at one sitting, and it is designed to produce that good feeling that Grabhorn recommends cultivating.
The Gentle Giant by Malinda Lamar focuses on two scientists investigating the truth of the Sasquatch legends. One is a woman, Diamond Norwell, who is conducting the research, and the other is Bayard Russell, a forensics expert needed to evaluate some of her samples. As a favor to his boss, he takes on the job of camping out with Dia Norwell, chasing the Sasquatch. Of course, he never banked on catching one.
There are 4 points of view in this novel, Dia, Bay, the Sasquatch, and some very sick minded crazies whose motives I never really understood. But the POV switches to follow the rising tide of the emotions driving people, and so the pov changes make sense.
I found this compelling narrative easy reading, engrossing, and enjoyable. Bay's struggles to deal with being out-matched by Dia in the field, with not knowing what's going on, and with having his whole world view turned topsy-turvy are a lesson.
As I write this, it is the end of July, and the SciFi Channel has been running their new episodes of Farscape, plus a brand new sf original series, The Invisible Man. Farscape has proven to be incredibly popular with the few sf fans who can get the SciFi channel.
At Shore Leave (the Star Trek convention in Maryland) this July, I watched an episode of Farscape with a group of Farscape fans. It was the episode that had been broadcast that weekend, so they were seeing it for the first time. An attack by an alien vessel exchanges the personalities of the crew from one body to another.
It became clear from the uproarious fan reactions that the Farscape writers know why the fans love this show -- they played on every single personality and relationship among the characters that the fans find engrossing.
The hero, John Crichton, is an Earth astronaut/physicist who got sucked into a worm hole and emerged to end up on a prison ship that the nonhuman prisoners have taken over. Everyone on the ship is trying to "get home." Transported unexpectedly into a situation he can't hope to understand, he nevertheless finds a way to function both emotionally and physically.
In the new show, The Invisible Man, we have a thief with a conscience who gets caught, tossed into prison for life, and is offered a chance to get out via an experimental surgery program. He agrees -- because he's been told they can reverse the procedure. Turns out they can't, and the one person who might have found a way gets killed in the first episode. THEN he finds out that without a certain drug which only this "agency" can provide, he will go violently insane. It's addictive, too.
Here is another story about an individual faced with overwhelming forces (in this case a clandestine government agency that may or may not be within the law) sweeping him along. But he, like John Crichton, like Bay Russell, like Mary Russell, like John Dee, like Tristen -- is not a victim. In fact, none of these characters spend any emotional energy dwelling on the negatives.
Honorable Mention this month: Moon Night, another time-travel romance that's more a Fantasy. On a Harvest Moon night, an older couple on a blind date hayride is catapulted back in time to 1889 Arkansas. Instantly, they are being shot at by a crossbow bolt and a rifle. Their wagon driver is dead, they're dressed for that time, and the wagon is now pulled by mules, not horses.
The mules take them to the nearest farm, where they discover their bodies are 20 years younger, and totally different people.
Though it has no technical writing flaws, the novel has several problems. The two people on the blind date are not related to each other, but his character is revealed to be very unsympathetic to the usual romance reader (though an sf reader might admire this guy). The two people they "leap" into are known locally to be brother and sister. However, the young male body is searingly aroused by the young female's body -- as if habitually so.
For most of the book they regard each other as "forbidden". At one point they do partially succumb and make love. Is that incest? The author rescues us by establishing later that the boy is adopted -- but that was not adequately foreshadowed before the love scene.
The book ends with them discovering that their own older bodies, and the displaced young couple that had been catapulted into their bodies were killed that night they arrived. They have a chance to return to their own time -- and must choose -- knowing they might end up in the 21st century sans any means of identifying themselves.
Because it is so well written, this book does deliver that sense of optimism that Grabhorn cultivates.
Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952
Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg,
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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg