Sunday, November 20, 2005

Dragonsblood and What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew

Okay, I've fallen behind on the posting, but here are a few book reviews I've written.

Dragonsblood by Todd McCaffrey

This book is the first ever authorized Pern novel by another author, Anne McCaffrey's son. She says in the preface how this was difficult for her, but she wants to focus on other projects despite the many stories still waiting in the Pern universe. Is this book identical to the Pern novels we know and love? Not quite. The style is odd, working through a story simultaneously in the distant past and present, and the level of scientific material is greatly increased. Were this book the measure, no one would consider Pern science fantasy as it is now classified. Do any of these changes harm the book? I don't think so. It took me a bit to get used to the past and present thing as I couldn't see the ties between the two story lines at the beginning, but this is no different than a book that explores two POV characters whose stories later blend together. I was impressed by the way this novel retains the sense of Pern. I grew up on the Pern novels. They were among the first science fiction I ever read (and yes, they were science fiction back then, dragons notwithstanding) and formed part of the foundation that is what I love today. I often read shared universe novels, but Pern has never been open to that before. All I can say is this book has definitely not turned me off future novels by Todd McCaffrey or from Pern as a thriving universe with many tales to tell.

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool

I told myself that I would not bother putting up a review of non-fiction texts and seeing as I am behind, it seems foolish to do so now. However, this book is a fabulous resource for those who want to understand 19th-century England whether as an avid reader or a writer. It is not definitive as no single book can ever cover everything there is to say about 100 years, but Pool offers the highlights version of the century, focusing not just on what went on in that time, but why. The notes extend from the workhouse of Oliver Twist to the drawing rooms of Pride and Prejudice, using period novels to inform the elements chosen. Nearly half the book is a glossary of terms that is interesting enough in and of itself to read straight through. I learned the original meaning of whip as in Senate Majority Whip while also finding out the difference between a taper and a tallow candle. Though clearly intended as a reference book rather than a good read, based on the amount of times relevant information repeats between sections, I enjoyed absorbing what Pool offers and found several details that will make a historical romance I wrote even more closely tied to the period. An extensive bibliography also offers resources to explore at greater detail. This book was recommended on the Forward Motion forums and, though I read it out of the library, I now have a copy for my shelves. If that doesn't speak to its value, I don't know what would.


Jean said...

Pool's book sounds fascinating. And I already knew Afterburn was a good read. Thanks for the update.

Margaret said...

Hi Jean,

Thank Andi/Fetu about the Pool book. She's the one who told me about it :).

And yes, I adopt writers and it takes a lot to make me give up on one. Sheila however, continues to make me just want to read more. It's an incredible statement when I consider how many books she pumps out and ridiculous when she disses her own world building :p.