Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler was the book I undertook to re-read after the news of her death emerged.* Probably one of Butler's most well known novels, it is a dystopian narrative where, in 2024, the United States has turned into a crime ridden, ugly place, where the gap between the poor and the rich is huge, and the country is populated by closed communities that come under attack of the poor and the drug fucked. There is freedom, of a sort, but it's a corporate slavery that exists by signing up workers and not paying them enough to live so that they must instead form debt with the companies. In this world, Lauren, the daughter of a preacher, and living in a closed community, existing just outside poverty, begins to create her own religion, Earthseed. In a raw, honest, passionate book, Butler chronicles the start of this religion, and thirteen years later, the work touches on a dozen of issues existing in 2006. If you've not read Butler's work, you should. Really.
One of my students thinks that Parable of the Sower is blasphemous, though he's never read it. Always the way, I guess.
The Facts of Winter, by Paul Poissel, but translated by Paul La Farge. In 1904 (or so Paul La Farge would have us believe) the French author Paul Poissel wrote a small book called The Facts of Winter, which recorded a series of dreams over three months. La Farge has, graciously, provided the reader with both the original French and the translated English, side by side, and has also included an extended afterward explaining the formation of the tiny dreams.
Here's a quote:
A Careless Angel
A certain Petit, who works as a gymnast in a traveling circus, dreams on January 10 that an angel comes down from heaven and bets that it can climb up to the peak of his roof with its eyes closed. "Go on," says Petit, who would never dare such a feat himself. The angel closes its eyes. "I'm going," it says. The angel climbs up to the peak of the roof. "You want to see me come down with one leg?" he asks. "Go on," says Petit. The angel trucks one of its legs up in its white robe. It climbs down from the peak of the roof, but slips and falls into the street. Petit goes out: the angel has broken its leg. "Must happen to them fairly often," Petit thinks.
It's a cool little book, this. Delightful would be the word.
Master of Dragons, Margaret Weis. Trash fantasy fans rejoice. Heh. I've kept about two authors from my childhood, and one of them is Weis, who, after something close to fifty novels (most written with Tracy Hickman, but some with husband Don Perrin) is an old pro with this stuff. This book finished a trilogy about dragons who, having killed humans and stolen their bodies, impregnated women and give birth to monstrous children. The first book began with lesbian priestess and their lover warriors and dragons drugging them to have sex with men (and get raped by dragons), but the third book isn't so wild, so it lacks that fun. It does have dragon blood raining down on a castle though, which was a nice image, but you know, not quite the same.
Weis has written some bad books in her time with Hickman, but her solo ones are quite solid. That's what this is. The writing is smooth, the characterisation performs, there's action, a few twists, and you don't need to think, so you won't mind that the end is weak and a cop out.
Douglas Lain's (douglain) collection, Last Week's Apocalypse, arrived this week, and I read the first story, 'The '84 Regress' yesterday. It's all about paranoia and wondering if you're living in a sedated world where nothing is right, but the drugs let you get by. I dug it. A flip through the book revealed stories written in questionnaire responses, disconnected narratives, and a story called 'How to Stop Selling Jesus'.
I wish I'd thought of that title, at the very least.
* Pause to note: I recently saw that Clarion in the States is apparently making a Butler grant, or some such stupidity, so that a "coloured writer" as they put it may go to Clarion. I can't seem to find a link now, so I hope I'm not imagining it or getting it wrong. Still, for the amount of cash that they were putting into it, I would have thought that it would be more fitting to create a Butler named award for non-white authors producing work, who are out there getting published, to give them aid with living expenses and to promote their work. Like the world needs one more person going to a writer workshop.
Edit: Wait, no, here it is.