Current Distractions, March 2013 Edition

This month I watched both seasons of Game of Thrones. I also did some other things, including working on a costume and I can't exactly remember what else. Basically I've been sort of a zombie all month, and burning out to an insane degree thanks to work. So this is pretty much all you get for this post this month.

Also, this will be the only post this week unless I feel really ambitious on Tuesday night (unlikely). The next post will then be the regularly scheduled one on April 16. Apologies for my laziness, bros.

R28. Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear

Year Published: 2010
Pages: 320
First Sentence: Cloud modest, the planet covers herself.

For someone who likes science fiction as much as I do, I've actually read very little of it over the last couple of years thanks to this blog. I realized that a while ago when attempting to make some book recommendations, and decided to take a break from my bookshelf full of inherited CanLit to go to the library, where I picked up Hull Zero Three. I've never read anything by Greg Bear before, but after this I'm quite prepared to give him another shot.

The book begins with the arrival of a ship (or Ship) at a new planet, with a landing party preparing to disembark and settle there. This abruptly turns into a waking nightmare as a man who doesn't know his name or his whereabouts gains consciousness in an icy cold room. Naked, he runs down long hallways as bulkheads close behind him, narrowly avoiding freezing to death. Also narrowly avoiding scary monsters that roam the halls. His guide is a little girl, who leads him "inboard" to the mysterious core of the Ship he appears to be on, until he loses her to a monster. Going on alone, he finds more people, and, very gradually, answers to all of his questions.

This actually isn't a spectacular book, but I still really enjoyed reading it. The best thing about it was its genre and setting (i.e. it satisfied my sf craving). There were also some intriguing bits at the end that I can't talk about much due to spoilers. On the other hand, Ship (the characters don't use any articles when they talk about it, sort of like how we talk about "Earth" or "Canada") is one of the things that make the book less than great. I get the impression that Bear had a very cinematic idea of Ship's interior spaces, but he didn't do a great job of putting desciptions on the page. I was often really confused about what kind of area the characters were traversing, especially as they start moving faster at the end. Speaking of moving faster, the pacing of the book is a little off. There's too much wandering in the beginning, and then the resolution seems rushed. The characters aren't very memorable, either.

Still. Spaceships! Monsters! I don't exactly recommend this book but it was a reasonably enjoyable dip back into the genre.

73. The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

Uncomfortable Plot Summary: Rape fantasies and a cock fight.

Year Published: 1939
Pages: 150
First Sentence: Around quitting time, Tod Hackett heard a great din on the road outside his office.
Rating: 1/3 (don't bother)

Because I only read four Top 100 books last year, and liked them all ok except for Finnegans Wake, I feel like it's been a really long time since one of the List books thoroughly discouraged me. But I didn't like The Day of the Locust, at all.

The book is kinda sorta but not really the story of some men who are all interested in this girl named Faye Greener. The point of view characters are Tod Hackett, an artist who is painting backdrops for early Hollywood films, and Homer Simpson, a weirdo who is randomly living in Hollywood on his vast savings. I'm not kidding about the name, by the way, although I can't confirm whether it's just a spectacular coincidence or not.

Nathanael West's writing isn't bad, but the story is nonexistent and the characters are no fun to spend time with. The book has a very episodic structure and I wasn't comfortable or entertained with any of it. From my point of view, it fails as a snapshot of a Hollywood era. It lacked in richness of detail and in context. There's an extended bit involving a cock fight that was incredibly unpleasant and then boring, which basically applies to the entire experience of reading the book (see also Tobacco Road for me being a bit more generous to a horrible, boring book).

Also, Tod Hackett has rape fantasies about Faye, and let's talk about that really quickly. Early in the book, their relationship is described in words that are pretty much the exact definition of the "FRIEND ZONE," which was funny until I got to the bits where Tod is fantasizing and even attempting to take action to rape Faye. This was odd and upsetting to read, but I'll allow that, if it's meant to illustrate something or whatever, and I guess that's the case here (what I mean is that the book loses more points for being boring than for being gross). Still, it got me wondering: are men "allowed" to have rape fantasies in which they're the aggressors? Is that different from women who fantasize about being raped? I would say yes, because there's a difference in agency and intent, plus rape culture blahblahblah, but this is something that randomly occurred to me while I was writing my notes on the book, and now I'm sort of curious what others might think. In the case of the book, the fact that Tod has serious intent and takes action beyond the fantasy is clearly a bad thing.

On a lighter note, you can avoid all of this by not reading the book, and you won't be missing anything good.

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He had been in Hollywood less than three months and still found it a very exciting place, but he was lazy and didn't like to walk.
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It is hard to laugh at the need for beauty and romance, no matter how tasteless, even horrible, the results of that need are. But it is easy to sigh. Few things are sadder than the truly monstrous.
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