Monday, December 31, 2012

Vorkosigan Universe Goodness

I exceeded my monthly recommended dose of Ivan, and I feel fine!  Yes, I was patient until National Novel Writing Month ended to read the new Lois McMaster Bujold novel, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance.  It was my salvation from a couple of bad nights of insomnia, so I probably looked like a drunken zombie the days afterward as I squinted and lurched clumsily from lack of sleep and giggled at random while thinking, "Oh, Ivan . . ."

I was really pleased with what she did with Byerly, too.  He and Ivan made a hilarious and irritated team in A Civil Campaign, and they were excellent here, too.  I was glad to see them a little more grown up and no less entertaining for their additional maturity.  Ivan was less completely obnoxious than I remember him being in my first reading of a Civil Campaign.

In fact, he was less obnoxious than I remembered in A Civil Campaign, which I also read while on vacation. I think I saw that book in a gentler light after seeing Ivan without Miles to wind him up for most of a whole book. 

There was also that heart-wrenching bit with Mark and Ivan at the party in Mirror Dance, which I wound back around to read after skipping it this time through to try to keep up with the friend I was introducing Miles to.  I didn't mind sacrificing Mirror Dance, which is a tough book to read sometimes because of the dark places it goes.  Those, too, seemed shorter and smaller this time through, possibly because anything would likely seem less horrific after the Night Angel Trilogy.

By and Ivan were a pretty good comedy act all by themselves.  Illyan helped.  : ) 

Ivan is not Miles, so don't expect a Milesean adventure here.  This is a happy ending or two for some characters still loose in the Vorkosigan universe, and it is definitely one of the lighter, more mystery-based entries in the series.  After the way the last one ended, a lighter book was probably just what was needed.

Bujold has said that she considers the universe closed with the death of a certain character, as she had always pictured this character as the center/anchor of the universe with all stories taking place within this character's lifetime, but that doesn't mean she won't write more within that timeframe.  Personally, I want some Pym stories.  I consider wanting some young Aral stories, but then I remember what I know of him as a younger man, and I think maybe I don't want those stories.  Same with the Cetagandan Invasion stuff and the Komarr fiasco.  I might very much like some Miles' kids and Gregor's kids' stories . . .  She is currently working on a novella set in the universe (among other things), and she says she likes writing novellas better because they are so stripped down without side plots/characters, so fans may see more of those coming out in the future. 

Until then, you have all the other works in the series to pull out when the need strikes you.  : )  Enjoy . . .

5 more things I learned from NaNoWriMo 2012 (2)

  1. Once-in-a-lifetime Studio Ghibli film on the big screen marathons make daily quotas difficult.
  2. But not impossible over the course of a month so long as you don't get too far behind or let yourself give up after getting somewhat far behind.
  3. Thanksgiving break can be a good time to catch up.
  4. I have a lot more work to do if this raw material is even going to possibly reassemble itself into something novel-like for next November's draft.
  5. There are enough things to write about that I should never run out of ideas for things to draft.

5 things I learned from NaNoWriMo 2012 (1)

  1. If I wanted to know whether I'm capable of more sheer output (quality not considered) than I currently produce, the answer is YES.
  2. Pre-planning or at least pre-drafting and free-writing are helpful.
  3. They make the vomiting of draft material onto the page that much easier.
  4. Maybe I should do my reading research in October.
  5. Because for some reason it was hard to read as much as I wanted and write as much as I'd committed to on the same days in November.

NaNoWriMo Research: Akeelah and the Bee

My pregnant friends tell me that they cry at the drop of a hat at touching movies.  For this reason, I think pregnant ladies should probably not watch Akeelah and the Bee.  So if you are pregnant and don't want to become a sobbing mess, don't watch Akeelah and the Bee. 

It is awesome.  I knew I was going to love it, so it's kind of a real wonder that I managed not to watch it for this long.  It's just great.  Smart female protagonist who has retreated into hiding is drawn out into the spotlight where her talent can shine if she can just be honest with herself and others and get the help she needs from her family, school, and community.  It's a traditional underdog story, so you will likely not be surprised by the overall trajectory.  There were a few surprises for me, and I realized one twist in advance and felt like the pot calling the kettle black (and also stupid for yelling at a movie character).

The extras were enlightening and helped me write off some of the critics more virulent criticisms (the movie was written a long time before the documentary about spelling bees, so it wasn't derivative) and has a charming underdog story of its own. 

Some of the acting is amazing, and it's a feel-good sort of story, so set your expectations low, warm, and fuzzy, and you will probably enjoy it despite its occasional heavy-handedness.  If you know any tweens, enjoy it with them, too.

NaNoWriMo Research: Ellen Foster

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons: This book is a punch in the gut, heart, and brain.  The point of view and construction are odd, and the text written in a way to somehow perfectly reflect this.  The timeline of the story is broken up.  I didn't even try to analyze the tense for consistency, but it's mostly 1st person present tense and always Ellen's.

Not for the faint of heart, this one veers into R-rated territory in a non-gratuitous and somehow even more shocking way.  I see why this one is shelved in the adult literature section instead of according to the age of the protagonist as books so often are.

I wish they had established her age and the year clearly early on in the book.  I found the dialect and the misspellings (used tastefully, not over-used) pretty believable.  You as the reader have to pull pieces together from different timelines to put together a heartbreaking story of Ellen's journey from abusive family member to abusive family member and eventually safety.

The ending seemed a bit unexpected (it came back somewhat clumsily to an earlier theme that may have made more sense/seemed more natural to a Southern audience.  Oddly enough, this became a very compelling exercise book, which led to increased ibuprofen use when I would overdo the stair climber because I just wanted to read a little further.

Thanks to T for the suggestion!

NaNoWriMo Research: Shug

Shug by Jenny Han: Shug is a tomboy, but she and her friends are getting older, and now she has a crush on one of them, and nothing is going right with her friends, teachers, or family.  POV: 1st person limited, present tense.

(It's pronounced like the first syllable of the word sugar, something I wish they would have pointed out earlier, so I didn't have to unlearn the wrong pronunciation.)  Another Southern girl novel!  Wow, I really had no idea they were so well represented in Tween lit . . .  This is a first novel and somehow shows it.  Too many smoking guns for something this size and a somewhat clunky, out of gas ending but lots of charm and heart and painful honesty not just about crushes but about transitions and family dysfunction and other things handly less delicately than I've usually seen or assumed. Delicate isn't quite the right word.  Sharper?  They're less blunted, somehow.  More honest while still filtered realistically through the character's point of view.  Totally worth the 3 bucks I paid at the used bookstore. 

NaNoWriMo Research: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery:  Anne starts out the book as an orphan and then finds a home and friends and family at Green Gables.  POV: 3rd person limited, varied, past tense.

Abridged versions of children's books should burn in eternal fire.  I was only supposed to read this up to where Anne was an early teen, but that self-control didn't hold out well at all.  I find it interesting how much Anne's vanity is irritating to me this time around.  I don't know how many times (or if ever) I've read this book, but I didn't remember Anne being such a girly-girl.  I guess I remembered things like walking ridgepoles and assumed this sort of thing was mutually exclusive to wanting frou-frou dresses.  I failed to remember that most of the tomboy activities occured when she was younger.  (Don't worry.  I obviously didn't hold it against her.)  I wanted to immediately go on to Anne of Avonlea, but I couldn't justify it because of the protagonist's age.  Soon, I told myself, after November you can read it.  After a little grumbling, I agreed.

NaNoWriMo Research: Millicent Min: Girl Genius

Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee: Millicent Min is looking forward to her senior year in high school, but first she has to make it through her 11th summer surrounded by the love and misunderstanding of her family and and the hostility and misunderstanding of her peers.  POV: 1st person limited, present tense. 

I've read this book before, so when I was looking for quirky, smart girl voices to dump into my reservoir, I couldn't resist revisiting Millicent.  She's a unique character with a very unique point of view.  She's sometimes annoying, and this book is quite different from the other bright-girl book I read (Emma Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree).  Where Emma's voice was sort of gentle and whimsical and a bit puzzled but very orderly and rational as she dealt with her peers, Millicient is rough and abrasive and socially clumsy because she hasn't had much experience dealing with her age-mates or her peers because of all the grade-skipping she's done.  I actually read the hilarious Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time first and looked this book up later because it covered the same time period from a totally different point of view, and I like it when authors try this (especially when it really works).  Good stuff.