April 8: Books I love and don’t

eightOkay, so the hardest part of this challenge is to pick only one book in each category.  Books are kinda my thing, even if I don’t actually get to read very often.

The books that made the short list, just so you know, on the “Love” side including “Flex” by Ferrett Steinmetz (a recent read, and highly recommended); “the Mermaid’s Sister” by Carrie Anne Noble; and “the Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein.  I also considered “Dragonsong” or maybe “Dragonflight” by Anne McCaffery, and even “Steel Beach” by John Varley.  (And “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut for good measure.)

In the end, I really had to pick something a little obscure, even, because when it comes to love of books, comics almost always win: Sandman #8, “The Sound of Her Wings”, in the first trade paperback, “Preludes to Nocturnes“, by Neil Gaiman.

Love is such a strong word, but sometimes it’s not big enough.  This story describes the first appearance of Dream’s older sister, Death, in the Sandman series.  He’s been on these wild and intense adventures, and when he’s left without direction, she shows up and kicks him in the tush with her pointy, gothy little boot.

Reading this story accomplishes pretty much the same thing for me, especially when I feel down or depressed between chapters of life.  What happens next?  How do I go on?  What am I supposed to do now?  Death with her fierce work ethic (but even fiercer life ethic) points the way to the future, and she’ll let us know how we did when we finally meet up with her at the end.

I love that it doesn’t just give purpose or direction.  It hearkens back to that all-important scene in “Willow” when the titular character is trying to figure out why he failed the apprentice test.  His instinct was to hold up his own finger, but his second-guessing caused him to undermine himself.

So, understand that my love for meaning and purpose leads us to the other end of the spectrum, and my “hate” (or at least “really, really don’t love”) book is “the Giver” by Lois Lowry.

I’ve been told that I just “didn’t get it”, but I beg to differ.  I suffered through it twice, just on the off-chance that I didn’t “get it”, but no.  Here’s my beef:  It’s a great setting, and it’s an interesting premise, but when it gets to the part where your actual characters have to actually respond in accordance with the actual setting, it all just kind of falls apart.  More than anything, it felt like it was trying to be an art film that simultaneously was going for too much realism.  I really wanted it to be a short story – “Those Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula LeGuin, for instance, would have been a fantastic partner, sharing a slice and a glimpse at an alternate world – but there was just way too much plot shoe-horned in.  And in the end, the story did not justify the ending, and I dropped kicked it across the room.

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