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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Billy Goat's Latest Readings

I can see spring on the horizon, but every year about this time I feel like it's just around the corner, only to be disappointed that the warm weather is taking so long to get here. Baby Gruff is about eight months old now, and he likes to get himself into trouble. I read to him most nights, things like Ten Apples up on Top and Are You My Mother? However, he's not a fan, yet. Instead, he prefers to fall face-forward off the couch (Don't call protective services on me! I'm only joking! Really, he mostly tries to smack the book out of my hand, gets bored, and then tries to squirm away or cries).

Later, when he finally goes to sleep, I get to read according to my own interests. So far, I've gotten myself mired deep into a couple of epic series, while tasting something lighter now and again.

The Dark Tower

I just finished The Wastelands, the third book in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. It's a very interesting series, and I've been driven to not just read it, but also to read about it, scrolling through Wikipedia and Amazon, and flirting with the idea of buying the newish The Gunslinger Born graphic novel. I was surprised to see that the series had connections to so many other of King's works, with shared characters and locations. It's made me wonder how many other authors self-reference as much as King seems to. I may have to write an article about it.

A Song of Ice and Fire

I've just started reading the first book of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones. Previous to reading it, I'd formed a few of preconceived notions about it, most of them negative, and probably unfair. Some came about because the books seem to share some features with Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series: Formulaic names (see pic), a long sequence of tomes in need of an end (to be fair, TWoT has 11 books so far, and ASoIaF has only 4). Also, I once read a review of one of my favorite books (Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe) on by someone who trashed it and promoted A Song of Ice and Fire as clearly superior. This person came off badly. He came off so badly that I referenced him in my article How Not to Write an Review, and this helped foster in me the notion that the series was beneath me. Then, I had the bad sense to go to and find unfriendly reviews of the series to reaffirm my belief. Yeah, I know that makes me a bad goat. Maybe you can write an article about me titled, "How Not to Read Reviews."

So, what changed my mind? Well, Mrs. Gruff is a big reader of the Penny Arcade forums, and she pointed me to a PA thread filled with praise for the series. I read the thread and found much thoughtful commentary, as well as some readers with similar tastes to mine. After reading this, and remembering that there were lots of positive reviews on Amazon that day I went a-hunting, I decided that I should at least give the series a fair shake. The fact that Mrs. Gruff would occasionally remind me of it helped a lot, too, especially how she kept pointing out to me that as a self-proclaimed recommender of books, I shouldn't be avoiding an industry hit as big as A Song of Ice and Fire. She was right: It would be like purposefully avoiding Harry Potter. So here I am, reading it, ready to criticize, but also ready to praise. I'm only about 50 pages in, but so far, A Game of Thrones is good. It's not nearly as overly descriptive as Jordan's work, and it seems to have a rich history, interesting characters, and an immersive style.

The Absolute Sandman

I received Neil Gaiman's The Absolute Sandman, Vol 1 for Christmas, and I've read a few pages. It's a huge graphic novel, and it has a beautiful cover. Flipping through the book, I was not very impressed with the artwork, but now that I've looked closer, I see that it is very detailed and evocative, even if the style is scratchy. I haven't gotten far enough to even talk about the story, however.

Christmas Reads and The Twits (and my Deprived Childhood)

Over Christmas vacation, I also had a chance to reread The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, which really got me into the spirit of the holiday. Mrs. Gruff also forced me to read Roald Dahl's The Twits from her childhood collection of books, because she claimed that I had suffered child abuse by being deprived of both Roald Dahl and Mary Poppins (the horror!). However, since the Poppins wasn't easily available, Dahl would have to do the best job he could at healing the wounds to my inner child. The Twits (not even his best work from what I hear), was very clever and enjoyable, and now I am marking up my calendar for a planned Dahl binge.


avidbookreader said...

I really enjoy reading your articles. The both of you really offer thought-provoking posts. I hope you do enjoy the Neil Gaiman graphic novel, BG. I enjoyed it immensely. I'm not much of a King fan having never read his work. However, I am familiar with his wife's books. She wrote several books about a fictional town called Nodd's Ridge. Excellent writer.

Mister Troll said...

Thanks for linking to my brief post on The Dark Is Rising! ;-)

You know, I have also been thinking about going on a Roald Dahl marathon... did we talk about this recently, or are we just connected on some new agey cosmic level? It's true I wasn't deprived of Roald Dahl - at least I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But I don't think I ever read Poppins, or any of the other stuff. Never heard of The Twit... but I already like it! (My regards to Mrs. Goat.)

- Troll

Billy Goat said...

Avid - Thank you for the compliment! It means a lot to me (and Mister Troll, I'm sure) that you appreciate our articles.

As I get farther into Sandman, I find myself liking it more and more. Still only about a third of the way through, though.

Tabitha King's work sounds interesting. Nodd's Ridge, huh? I'll have to investigate that. :)

Billy Goat said...

MT - There, I linked it for you. Happy? :) We did talk about Roald Dahl on the phone, but I'm willing to pretend that we are on the same wavelength.

Also, my wife wants me to watch Mary Poppins, not read it. However, maybe the books are better, as is usually the case.

I have a strange love/hate relationship with Mary Poppins. I do not want to watch it for a couple of reasons. The first is that I am not interested in it, and feel like it will be a waste of my time (a bad attitude, I know). The second reason is more fun. I like to quote parts of the movie (including the songs) that I have picked up and filed away over the years. This irks Mrs. Goat quite a lot, and my current favorites are, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down," and, "Tuppence a bag." If I watch the movie, I will have a valid, and thus less irksome reason to quote it.

Mister Troll said...

Aw, thanks for the link! :-)

I, uh, am confused by that odd graphic on your post. Is it a puzzle of some kind?

Billy Goat said...

I guess you could say it's a puzzle, but it's there to show that the titles follow the same pattern.

The answer to it (if you were too lazy to look it up yourself):
A Crown of Swords is by Robert Jordan. The other two are by George R. R. Martin.

To be fair, none of the other books in Jordan's Wheel of Time series follow the same title pattern. But they aren't far off.

Mister Troll said...


Right. I didn't... get that. Not your fault - basic reasoning apparently eludes me. Thank goodness I'm literate.

(I am literate? Right?)

Anyway, thanks for explaining to that guy who just didn't get it.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

Your post prompted me to ask around about The Absolute Sandman -- I want it ... but is it worth £50?!


Susan Cooper is cool, as is the Dahl. There's quite a lot of him I haven't read, though. What's that one with the fox? Probably "Mr Fox" -- something obvious.

Billy Goat said...

@Chris - Yeah, The Absolute Sandman is definitely pricey. I think I saw it for $100 in the book store, and around $75 on Amazon. If I was buying it for myself, I'd check my coupons and gift certificates first. I'll probably end up doing that if I decide to get the next couple volumes. :)

I know jack about Dahl's work. I didn't even know he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This is why I need to read a bunch more of it.

Billy Goat said...

@Chris - Mrs. Gruff informed me that I didn't answer your question. So far, I think The Absolute Sandman is worth its price, especially if you can get it on sale. I'm only about halfway through, but the story is good so far. Also, the presentation is really nice. It's a tome with a fancy cover, full of vivid artwork. There's even a handy ribbon bookmark. However, value is in the eye of the beholder. :)