Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Among Others Reading List: Zelazny, McCaffrey, and Heinlein

After reading AmongOthers by Jo Walton, I was inspired by Mor’s prodigious reading list to dig into some classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy. First on the docket: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny, Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey, and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I enjoyed these books, but boy oh boy did reading them make me glad that I never had to be a woman in the 60s and 70s.

1) Nine Princes in Amber (The Chronicles of Amber #1) – Roger Zelazny
Corwin, the protagonist, wakes up in a hospital bed with no memory of who he is or how he got there. This device makes for a very exciting beginning, as we discover along with Corwin that he is a member of the royal family of another world called Amber. Corwin has to be very clever as he attempts to fully recover his memory without tipping off his power hungry siblings, all of whom are locked in a murderous battle for control of Amber.

Unfortunately, the excitement fades once Corwin regains his memory and the book turns into a series of summaries of battles, any of which could have been expanded into a thrilling scene. Ultimately, this book serves as an introduction to the series. If I continue, it will be because of Corwin; smart, tough characters are fun to read. It will also be interesting to see if the world of Amber is expanded in the second book, as we don’t get to learn much about it in the first.

2) Dragonquest (Dragonriders of Pern #2) – Anne McCaffrey
Much of Dragonquest feels like scene setting for future conflict: The old-timey dragonriders don’t like these crazy kids and their new-fangled ideas, the landowners don’t like the jerky entitled dragonriders, and the deadly thread is not falling on schedule. These issues are solved only in a perfunctory way that sets up conflict for the next book.

But there are many exciting moments. The introduction of fire lizards, the small ancestors of dragons, and the further exploration of the bond between human and dragonrider are highlights. Not so exciting? The scene when a male dragonrider knows that when a female dragonrider says “no,” she really means “yes.” Gross.

3) Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
The inventive early portions of this book were a pleasure to read. The intricacies of the Martian language and culture, as well as of the imagined future of earth, were fascinating. But then the book veered into proselytism, advocating a free love communal lifestyle that is just soooooo 60s.

But this book is really fun as a cultural time capsule. At least, that is what I kept telling myself when male characters would address grown women with careers as “little girl.” I did throw the book across the room in disgust when a female character said that nine times out of ten, it’s a woman’s own fault when she gets raped. Ugh. Abhorrent. On a related note, there is an interesting trend of Goodreads reviews for this book: male reader, high score; female reader, low score. 

That’s all for now. More to come!

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