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Thursday, October 25, 2012

SFF vs "Mainstream" - a Few Lines From 12 Recent/Current Reads (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

1. "He sighed. His hands remembered everything – the blows, the nights on the ground, the freezing cold, the gauntlets that didn’t quite fit. His hands pained him all the time, awake or asleep.
The Captain of Albinkirk, Ser John Crayford, had not started his life as a gentleman. It was a rank he’d achieved through pure talent.
For violence."

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2. Here are two things of mine: a glass unicorn with golden hooves, the body broken in several pieces, and what looks like a broken necklace. Did I break these? I stroke the horse’s thigh, this yes, but the necklace, no. The necklace came to me like this, links of smooth, small pebbles in shades of underwater. Each stone has clasps of metal on its ends or hardened bits of glue from where the clasps, once upon a time, connected. What is missing, what I do not have, is the letter that explains these stones, and what it is I’m to do with them now.

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3. At sunset above the plains of Kwaalon, on a dark, high terrace balanced on a glittering black swirl of architecture forming a relatively microscopic part of the equatorial Girdlecity of Xown, Vyr Cossont–Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont, to give her her full title–sat, performing part of T. C. Vilabier’s 26th String-Specific Sonata For An Instrument Yet To Be Invented, catalogue number MW 1211, on one of the few surviving examples of the instrument developed specifically to play the piece, the notoriously difficult, temperamental and tonally challenged Antagonistic Undecagonstring–or elevenstring, as it was commonly known.

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4.  I got a letter one day, a long letter that wasn’t signed. This was quite an event, because I’ve never received much mail in my life. My letter box had never done anything more than inform me that the-sea-was-warm or that the-snow-was-good, so I didn’t open it very often.

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 5. His main problem was Sorcery itself. According to his entrance tests, it should have been his strong point, but all four aspects of Sorcery – Necromancy, Wizardry, Divination and Clairvoyance – gave him problems because he was scared rigid of spirits. He could recite the theory, but when he tried to use Wizardry gnosis he failed to summon anything. The same thing happened in Necromancy, when he couldn’t manage to summon the spirit of a recently dead young man because he was so unnerved at the corpse before him. 

All of the teachers were muttering to each other as he exited the arena, head bowed. His efforts at Clairvoyance were just poor; he couldn’t identify or find the hidden objects, much to his chagrin. And Divination, the last test, was a bit of a mess too. He’d had to divine his own future, which turned out not to look so good: he’d ended up interpreting a complex vision of stolen notes and hidden snakes as someone conspiring against him. He’d opened his eyes to find them all staring at him with raised eyebrows and skeptical faces

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6. Sophie-de-la-Roche-Strasse radiates such a feeling of well-being that an objective observer might think its residents are all at peace with the world. Because the canal makes the walls damp, the front doors are wide open, so that the walkways over the canal look like tongues hanging out of gaping jaws. Number 7 – in tasteful white stucco – is without doubt the most beautiful building in the street. Wisteria cascades down it, sparrows chirp in the swathes of ivy on the walls and an old-fashioned lantern dozes in the porch, waiting to be lit at night. 

In an hour or so a taxi will come round the corner and stop at this building. The passenger in the back seat will raise his sunglasses in order to count change into the driver’s hand. He will get out of the car, tip his head back and look up at the windows on the second floor. A couple of doves are already picking their way across one of the window ledges, bowing to each other, fluttering upwards occasionally to look into the flat.

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7.  From just over a billion kilometers away, the dwarf star burned like a distant, constant flare; the brightest light in the darkness, but still only a pinpoint of red fire. And the darkness was very empty. Any star system is largely empty. In any star system, if one were to take the combined mass of all the planets, all the asteroids and ice fragments, even of the star itself, and average it against the volume of space through which the gravity of that system's star hold measurable sway, the result would be statistically indistinguishable from hard vacuum.

But the importance of a star system isn't measured in mass. A round speck of iron and silicon wreathed in a thin bubble of gas could be a habitable world, home to millions or even billions of people. A ball of fusing hydrogen could be the sun gives that world warmth and ligh

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8. Having spoken so passionately in favour of books, I had better admit that the first thing I would save is my 250-gigabyte hard drive, which contains all my writing from the last thirty years. After that, if there were still time, I would of course try to save one of my oldest books – not necessarily the most valuable, but the one I love the most. But how to choose? I am extremely attached to lots of them. I would hope not to have too long to deliberate. Perhaps I would take Bernhard von Breydenbach’s Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam, Spier, Drach, 1490, on account of its wonderful illustrated plates on several folded pages.

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9. For a brief moment he wondered whether to get up and try to save the book from further damage but then, catching the Sartrian look of the large macaw, that was pretending to be searching for something in its plumage, its head thrown back in an absurd attitude, its eye crazed, he decided to return to Caspar Schott’s manuscript.

It was pretty remarkable, if you thought about it, that such a find was still possible: a completely unpublished manuscript that had come to light in the course of an inventory at the National Library in Palermo. The librarian had not thought the contents worthy of anything more than a brief article in the library’s quarterly bulletin together with a note to the director of the local Goethe Institute.

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10. Suddenly a gray shadow masked the girl’s expression. No, a curtain rose. Perhaps it was the real color of her skin that was coming out. For the first time she focused her eyes. As she gently felt along the edge of the table with the aligned fingertips of both hands, she stood up soundlessly and passed round in back of the narrow chair, making a shallow billow in the lemon-yellow curtains. She was a girl that black suited. A slender waist that defied gravity. 

Taking up the receiver, she dialed without consulting an address book, and, using the same finger she had used for dialing, she pinched a pleat in the curtain. A slender finger that seemed quite without articulations. She was apparently in the habit of pinching anything—perhaps some newly formed propensity to avoid biting her nails. The pinched curtain moved gently. I wondered if she weren’t a little drunk. But black and yellow were signs of “Danger, beware!”

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11. It wasn’t often that Alyda was mistaken for a noblewoman and as amusing as flirting with the gentleman was, she really should introduce herself. Of course, she knew from past experience that as soon as she did, his attitude would change. He’d either run a mile, challenge her to an arm wrestling contest, or want to talk about the war in Suvia, which was a pity in this case. He was good looking—tall, sandy haired, a bit soft round the middle, but nothing that a little exercise wouldn’t sort out and she knew precisely the kind of exercise she’d like to put him to.

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12. It was late in the day, and classes had ended. The library was nearly empty. I sat in a quiet corner, studying, when she appeared from nowhere and startled me out of my book.

“Are you busy this Sunday?” she asked.
Her question flustered me for a moment, I didn’t know what to say.  She was staring down at the floor, half hidden behind a bookshelf. 


“If you have plans, of course, don’t worry about it.” 
 She held a book in her hand, and absentmindedly rubbed her palm along its spine. I knew her from class, but we had never spoken before, and I had never been this close to her.

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Inspired by Larry at the Of Blog, some lines from recent or current reads of mine that reflect sff versus mainstream with a little non-fiction put in; all are such that I would (and did in 7 cases) get the book if I weren't familiar with the author before (which I was in 5 other cases).

Only two reviewed so far here, though I reviewed some of the authors involved for other books and a few more are in the pipeline. I plan to eventually read and review all 12. 

Mostly but not all recent books, 7 men and 5 women authors, translations from French (3), Japanese (2), German (1), books that have won prizes, very famous writers and debut  authors, big publishers and small ones or even independently published while of the original English language, the authors are from the UK, US, New Zealand, Canada and coming to the US from Russia in childhood.


6 comments:

Linds said...

An interesting idea. It's neat to see parts of prose next to each other. Out of curiosity, what's number 5?

Liviu said...

#5 is Mage's Blood by David Hair

#1 and #11 have the same title but a different gender for the Knight appearing in said title

Linds said...

Thanks!

Caleb said...

Would it be possible to add all of the books the quotes came from?

Liviu said...

Sure:

1 - The Red Knight - Miles Cameron (Can)
2 - Girlchild - Tupelo Hassman (US)
3 - Hydrogen Sonata - IM Banks (UK)
4 - The Confidant - Helene Gremillon (Fr)
5 - Mage's Blood - David Hair (NZ)
6 - Dark Matter (UK) / In Free Fall (US) - Julie Zeh (Ger)
7 - Hegemony - Mark Kalina (US/Rus)
8 - This is not the End of the Book - Eco/Carriere (Fr lang; this part is from Umberto Eco)
9 - Where the Tigers Are at Home - JM Blas De Robles (Fr)
10 - The Ruined Map - Kobo Abe (Jpn)
11 - The Red Knight (!) - KT Davies (UK)
12 - Revenge - Yoko Ogawa (Jpn)

So far I reviewed only 5 and 7, while I reviewed other books by Kobo Abe, Yoko Ogawa and IM Banks

Caleb said...

Awesome! Thanks so much.

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