Discussion in 'Community' started by droideka27, Aug 31, 2005.
Star Wars: Wild Space. It’s a Clone Wars era novel, and it’s pretty good so far. What I don’t get about this book is the cover art. It has a bunch of clone troopers on the cover and they aren’t really the main focus of the book.
The Return of the Shadow. The History of Middle-earth now reaches The History of The Lord of the Rings. It’s vey cool to see not just early works, but the actual process of working out the early drafts for one of the greatest books of all time.
Tolkien started with very vague ideas of a second party, writing with no idea where the story was headed, and it took about four drafts, with the party going back between Bilbo, Bilbo’s son, and Bilbo’s adopted nephew as the main character and subject of the party (two separate things) even as the substance of the party scenes stayed remarkably similar, just to get past the opening. There’s a first phase of Tolkien basically just winging it and the story finally coming to him as he goes along (there’s a wonderful moment when he randomly decides that Bingo, the original Frodo, hears hooves behind him, and Gandalf shows up, and then immediately Tolkien rewrites it and a mysterious black rider shows up instead), until he hits Rivendell and realizes he’s developed so much more in the way of ideas and the significance of the ring, and has so many ideas about ways to improve his story, that he has to go back and rewrite it all.
There are three phases of revision just to finally get us to the Council of Elrond, concerned heavily with details of the narrative and which hobbits exactly will be Frodo’s (or Bingo’s) companions, and then another burst of writing that leaves off at Balin’s tomb, at which point Tolkien paused and would again rethink his whole concept.
What’s remarkable, as Christopher highlights, is just how much of the finished form was there from the very beginning. The essence of the events of the story changes very little and almost all of it is there in the first drafts, and even many of the lines survive massive revisions in the cast of characters and the storyline. What Tolkien keeps refining is the connective tissue, the significance of the events, building a more cohesive world behind them, altering characters and motivation and narrative but keeping almost every story beat that he comes up with off the top of his head. There’s also some outlining of future events in the story that show a lot of it was there from the beginning. Notably, though, even by the end of the book, Tolkien hasn’t settled on Pippin’s name (though he’s finally fully condensed two different characters, one of whom was originally named Frodo and one of whom was the narrative forerunner of Fatty Bolger, into him), Aragorn doesn’t exist (Tolkien is thinking about him, but resisting changing his current version, a hobbit Ranger named Trotter), and Legolas and Gimli are at the Council as utterly insignificant background characters but not part of the Fellowship. Saruman doesn’t exist yet, though his role of capturing Gandalf was originally filled by Treebeard, conceived as an evil giant, before Tolkien decided, in his outlines, he should be good, and also Fangorn should be on the Anduin and Treebeard be part of Frodo getting separated from the Fellowship. Also evil in their first throwaway reference: the Rohirrim.
It’s such an amazing mix of finished product and radically distinct execution. And it really offers incredible insight into the final book, seeing the ideas behind what ends up on the page. One of the coolest books I’ve read.
The NEU Thrawn book. Only a few chapters in so far, but I'm digging it.
Just a note on Marblehead, which I posted about earlier. As with some of HPL's stories, the book contains racist language. It's set in 1927, when such language was commonplace. If you've read HPL, you'll know he named a cat using the 'N' word. That comes up in this book, among other things. If that language would bother you, then stay clear of this book.
Just finished; Ballistic (Gray Man #3) by Mark Greaney. This series just keeps getting better and better. - 8/10
About to begin; Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn. Been meaning to try Flynn's Mitch Rapp series for a while now. Kinda sticking w/the same genre as the Gray Man series, but this (so far) is a bit more in the Tom Clancy mold, w/a larger chess board and more moving pieces.
A Minute in the Church Volume II by Gus Lloyd
By the Light of the Moon (2002) – Dean Koontz
Koontz is a capable genre author, for certain. In this book, he trots out a pretty simple plot. Three individuals are kidnapped and injected with a mysterious drug by an insane scientist and they began slowly developing strange, superhuman abilities. Koontz is at his best in building suspense and/or horror; there’s a sequence of one of the main characters venturing into a darkened house to confront a deranged psychopath where it takes the character five pages or so just to get up the stairs to the second floor, but the writing is so vivid, so soaked with fear and dread, that it works perfectly. The characters aren’t that interesting in terms of backstories, but it’s fun to watch these three very different individuals try to process the new skills they’re acquiring and the ways they might use those skills to help people. The sequence where the three of them find themselves thrust into a situation where they have to actually function as a team, synergizing their very different abilities, is entertaining, transporting and suspenseful. The book has some really great, vivid imagery and, long though it is, it rarely flags in energy, find a way to keep things moving even during conversations. The book is filled with surprises. Strangely, the big plot twist at the end of the book is the one you’ll have seen coming a mile away, but the smaller reveals throughout the book work really well. The book unfortunately peters out with the last couple of chapters being the weakest of the book. Clearly Koontz was setting up a sequel, but that never came about, presumably because the book didn’t sell well enough. Still, it’s a fun thriller, even if the characters could use some work and the plot loses its way a bit in the final pages. 3 stars.
tl;dr – fun thriller doesn’t have interesting characters, but the energy is high and Koontz knows how to build suspense and fear; a weak ending, but mostly entertaining. 3 stars.
Rereading The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming.
I bought an ebook file on the Kobo store for all of the Ian Fleming-written James Bond novels and short stories. I want to read a couple before returning to my massive Star Wars project (taking a quick break after having just finished the Episode I novelization).
The Original Frankenstein - Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Charles E. Robinson (Ed.)
As close to a full-blooded single text example of Bakhtinian dialogic as I've ever seen, this is basically "memetic 12-dimensional chess but it's Frankenstein." That probably comes across as simultaneously pretentious and dismissive, but it's neither, bear with me here. The facts are these:
Mary Shelley has a tells her husband and friends her idea for Frankenstein. Said husband and friends tell her to novelize that ****.
Mary Shelley begins the process of novelizing that ****.
While writing out the manuscript she periodically hands it over to Percy for editorial suggestions (more on this later).
Short chapters are combined for the original published 1818 edition, two volume structure gets redone as three volume.
1818 edition gets partially censored and edited to create "Frankenstein proper" circa 1823.
So what is this Original Frankenstein? It's the manuscript. This sounds simple at first, but recall point 3: Percy was actively editing the manuscript as it was written. Furthermore, Mary's handwriting is very different from Percy's. Consequently, Robinson and his fellow researchers were able to look at said manuscript and (with the exception of very short words such as in, its, &c.) determine to a high degree of precision which portions were Mary and which portions were Percy.
But! Such a dichotomy does not actually exist, because the researchers noticed that due to the precise manner of the editing process (i.e. edits being made as the text was written), Mary's style adapted to some of Percy's alterations. Consequently even a "Mary-only" draft has been influenced by Percy's edits, yet even still an isolated "Mary-only" text features radical divergences. Generally, Percy tended towards pretentious ornamentation (as befits the style at the time). Compare the following excerpts from Chapter 2 (middle-ish of Chapter 1 of the 1818):
(Underlines Percy's alterations following Robinson's use of italics)
Immediately noticeable is how the "older" version by Mary feels more modern and straightforward, but would have struck then-contemporary audiences as vaguely lowbrow. Ironically that very quality makes it the more interesting read in most places, and to accommodate this ability to compare Robinson has included "both" manuscripts, such as they are: the "final manuscript" with Percy's edits included, noted with italics, and the "original manuscript" sans any edits whatsoever, including for spelling, capitalization, &c. I've mostly stuck to the latter but it's been fun to flip back and see what agonizing turn of phrase I've skipped. With more chapter divisions and Mary's more straightforward style I've found a fast-paced, thought-provoking read where previously there was always a sort of ponderous weight to Frankenstein, in my opinion. It's definitely worth checking out.
That said, even in the course of an illuminating introduction and note apparatus, the core irony, that The Original Frankenstein does not and cannot exist, is never pointed out.