Friday, July 15, 2011


9. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. This book wasn't on my list of sci fi to use for lit class -- I picked it up simply because I saw it mentioned in Melissa Wiley's blog and I have great confidence in Melissa Wiley's book recommendations. Sure enough, I enjoyed it immensely.

I had just finished reading Canticle for Leibowitz, with its intense scenes of a bombed out abbey and characters speaking in ecclesiastical Latin, before I started this book ... which began in a bombed out Coventry Cathedral, and turned out to have characters quoting Latin (although these were professors preferring Herodotus -- a background in, say, Henley Latin would be more to the point with this book). Of course, there the similarities end -- this book is a time travel/mystery/romp through the Victorian age, with WWII, 1930s mystery genre, and acres of Tennyson thrown in, to say nothing of the dog. And cats. So much fun, although the less you know about the cultural contexts the less fun (and more annoying) it has potential to be.

I'm glad I took a detour from my "official" sci fi book list to read this.

10. Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl. Another entry on my "official" sci fi list. I'd found it mentioned on the Well Trained Mind homeschooling forums, from whence I'd derived most of the list. It was tossed into the suggestion list as an accessible book by a female author. And I've gotta admit, it was a much quicker read than Frankenstein or Left Hand of Darkness, neither of which I've finished.

I'd never read nor heard of this book before, although while I was dragging it around various places over the past couple of days we ran into a high school student who recognized the cover and commented how much she enjoyed it. And I was absolutely enchanted by it. First of all, the main concept is that a group of people who have sort of Jedi-like power, but with less tendency to start whacking on each other with light sabers, is patrolling the universe, and they take the Prime Directive seriously, not just having it out there as a plot element that they violate at least once per season. Second, the story is told from 3 vantage points -- one is a very stylized fairy tale, one is more along the lines of, I don't know, early space heroes (I pictured this crowd looking like the gang back on Krypton during the original episode of the original Superman television series, although they sort of had a Romulan vibe going, too), and the third is a first person narrative of a teenage-ish girl. So, right there, fodder for much discussion in our future lit class about how the writer integrated these styles.

(Aside: Thinking of using different writing styles to help differentiate the different viewpoints of the characters, before I read Enchantress From the Stars I spent a day trying to read Albert Brooks' 2030. Everyone in the latter book sounds pretty much exactly the same, like a bunch of paper dolls drawn by a fairly unimaginative artist. It was, in a way, the opposite of what Engdahl did in Enchantress. It was also quite boring not to mention annoying, so I didn't bother finishing the book.)

10 BOOKS COMPLETED FOR SUMER READ. This is a first for me -- actually completing the program during the time allotment. Unfinished books still litter the house, as usual -- the 10 books finished are just a fraction of the books started during this time. Plus there are the various books started BEFORE this time that I read bits of during the past few weeks.

Also, as a bonus, I've used this SummerRead program to read and re-read several of the books we'll be using in our sci fi lit class during the coming school year. Now to read the rest of THAT stack, as well as the stack I've compiled for teaching 3rd-5th grade science at co-op.

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