SciFi, Whodunits, and Monuments


I said I was going to write about books and experiences every week, right?  And then I didn’t last week – and now it’s Tuesday.  Ah well, if seventeen years of education can’t knock the procrastinator out of me, I guess nothing ever will.  I did, however, make a good dent in my reading goal.

I’m still trudging through Hyperion, which is turning out to be one of the weirder science fiction books I’ve read.  It’s good, but I’m not sure I would recommend it.  I’m going to finish it, regardless, if only for “personal research” purposes: How have the styles of classic mid-century science fiction carried over into more modern literature?  What are the tropes, themes, development styles most common in science fiction literature?  At what point did I become such a huge nerd?  (That last one is a joke…I’ve always been a huge nerd.)

In my opinion, Hyperion is Dan Simmons’s vehicle for exploring what an emigrated, interstellar human population would look like, culturally and politically.  It’s not a novel idea for a science fiction book (/saga), but I can’t complain because I’ve considered writing about the same thing.

What I did manage to finish, though, is M.M. Kaye’s Death in Zanzibar.  I fell in love with Kaye’s writing style when I read The Far Pavilions last year, which made it into at least my top ten novels, if not the top five.  Death in Zanzibar is a major departure from her epic historical fiction adventure romances I fell in love with, but still lovely and endearing.  In the vein of classic whodunits, a handful of stylish mid-century aristocrats spend a vacation in a palatial house in Zanzibar; the naive protagonist evades the blame for a murder she didn’t commit while trying to find out who the real murderer is.  What makes it such a worthy read is Kaye’s vivid descriptions of Zanzibar, based on her own trip there, and her lively characterizations.  You must read M.M. Kaye.  Do it now.  Go to the bookstore and get anything by her.

As far as those weekly “new experiences” goes…the best I did last week was a visit to the Tidal Basin on Thanksgiving Day. I’d been there before, but not yet seen the FDR memorial and the new Martin Luther King, Jr, memorial, which you may recall caused a bit of controversy with a misquote/misrepresentation.  I very much admire MLK, Jr, for his humility and commitment to justice.  His likeness on the monument, in rough stone, stares sternly out above monument visitors with folded arms.  King deserves to be remembered, but in all honesty I’m not sure this monument does him justice.  That said, I don’t really have any better ideas.

This post accompanied by tea in handmade Georgia pottery

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