Awesome Bookstores

This is an extension of my “Awesome Libraries” series. It may seem odd that I keep posting these, but honestly, you’d be amazed how many of these things I keep finding.

Dude, if I lived near this bookstore, you’d never get me out of it. I’d just move in, find myself a little corner and make it home.

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“The Long Earth” by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett

This book caught me by surprise, mostly because I had no idea it was coming out. Which is kind of unusual, since I normally keep a pretty close watch on my favorite authors, but somehow this one slipped by me. Anyway, I liked this book, even though it was rather odd. And I don’t mean odd like most of Terry Pratchett’s books, where it’s weird but completely awesome and hilarious. I mean, it was awesome and funny in parts, but it was not like his other books. This one was apparently written because he and Stephen Baxter had an idea and decided to write about it. You know the kind of book I’m talking about. The kind where it’s a great concept, and the author talks at length, and with great eloquence, about that concept for several hundred pages before all of a sudden apparently realizing that they need to have a plot or a conflict in their book, which is when they toss in a sudden kidnapping or whatever, that is very quickly resolved and then all of a sudden the book ends. I have never encountered Terry Pratchett doing that before. I’m not sure how to feel about that. Normally I ding an author for that kind of behavior, but I have long since canonized Terry Pratchett so I don’t think I can do that. He is my very favorite author, ever. This is coming from someone who can never pick a single favorite anything, so the fact that he is my single favorite author should tell you everything you need to know. This book though… this book was different.

Okay, so- the long Earth. The concept with that is basically the multiverse, which, if you haven’t heard of it, is the idea that for every decision you make, or don’t make, every thing you do, or don’t do, somewhere out there there is a version of you that did the opposite. That, in some parallel universe, there is version of you that is living every single possible life that there is. Which is kind of a nice thought, really. Somewhere, somehow, everything has happened, and there are no true missed opportunities. Anyway, well this book plays with that idea. Basically, there are infinite earths and people have figured out how to go to them. You have the original earth, the Datum Earth in the book (datum is a reference point for measurements, like if you were saying “blank miles from Chicago”, Chicago would be the datum) and from there you can East or West, left or right, even though technically those directions mean nothing, it’s just a way to understand it. And from there, they apparently stretch on to infinity, or as near as makes no difference. And the further out, the stranger they can get. In one, the dinosaurs never went extinct. In several others, there’s an Ice Age going on. In another, there is no moon. It goes on and on. Evolution going in all different directions, creatures that we can only imagine, in fact every creature you can possibly imagine exists somewhere on the long Earth. And part of the reason it’s called “long” is that how you get there is by stepping. Most people use this little technological gizmo to get them there, but mostly that’s for show. You don’t actually need it to get there, it just tricks your mind into figuring out how to do it, like showing it this door that wasn’t there before.

Anyway, and in all these other Earths, there are no other humans, or there weren’t until people started going there. Apparently we are a unique phenomenon to Datum Earth. There are other bipedal humanoids out there, some benign, some malignant, but none that are human human. Which means, basically, that there is this whole new world, infinite whole new worlds, for us to explore, to colonize, to harvest from. There is suddenly infinite resources, for everyone. Any man can have a gold mine, if he goes out far enough. Any man can have anything, if he wants it. And all of a sudden, gold has no value except for how pretty it looks. All of a sudden, all the things that we have spent all of human civilization building up, seem kind of empty. How can you have an economy when a huge part of that is based on you having a limited amount of something that other people value? What would happen to our culture, our civilization, when anyone can have anything, when a huge part of the way we work, the way we look at and act upon the world is based on the fact that there are only so many resources and we have to do our part to get it. What happens when we no longer need to farm, because there’s enough resources that we can be hunter- gatherers forever? I have to tell you, reading it, it feels a bit like the apocalypse. Not necessarily in a bad way, because lots of good things come out of it, but it is definitely the death of the old world, the old way of life, and the birth of the new. In the book, they never really tell you what year it is, or what year the plans for making a stepper appeared online, but they always tell you, whether in a flashback or not, how many years it’s been since the Step Day, the day when so many people unwittingly stepped out of our world, our universe. There’s a very good reason for that.

And, beyond that, there’s the fact that there’s a full fifth of humanity that cannot step, no matter what. They can be carried to another world, but it makes them violently ill. A full fifth of the world that cannot take part in this new world, this new age of exploration, can’t go to another world, can’t experience the world as it is without people, the unspoiled beauty, the endless possibilities, can’t reap the rewards of unlimited resources, nothing. Well, they can’t reap the rewards directly. A big part of the book is actually an expedition that is being undertaken to find the end, if there is one, and it’s being done on board an airship, which can travel world to world. No one else had figured out how to do that yet, and if it worked out then it would revolutionize trade and Datum Earth’s flagging economy would be revamped, not only revamped but take off like a rocket. However, these people don’t know that. All they know is that they can’t go there, they are apparently evolutionarily backwards and they have been left on what must feel like a dying world, a world with taxed resources and an economy in the toilet. Which, when they describe it like that, makes you cheerful as all get out, let me tell you. So of course they’re angry and of course they make groups and of course someone does something stupid.

By and large, the book is overwhelmingly in favor of a return to a simpler lifestyle, and they make some excellent points about it. How, with less crowding there would be less crime. I have no statistics to back that up, but it does sound about right. How things would be more fair, that the working poor and worse could get away from their lives. That they could just walk away into what is basically unspoiled paradise. How you can just walk away and start anew, anywhere you want, on a whim. It all sounds great but they did forget a few things which would make it a little less than great. If you’re a pioneer and you get into an accident, what happens? You end up crippled or dead. If you’re a pioneer woman and you’re giving birth and things go wrong, what happens? You die. If you’re a new mother and your baby won’t nurse, where do you get formula? Nowhere. Basically, they forgot about things like medical emergencies, childbirth and infants. Inconvenient little details like that. But other than that, yeah, I guess it would be better. I would sure miss my air conditioning though.

It’s a very interesting book and I couldn’t stop thinking about it while I read it and I haven’t had much success since I finished it, but I have to say, there’s not a whole lot of plot. There’s the expedition, and there’s the hate groups back home with their developing story, but other than that it’s a bunch of vignettes of what the authors think the world, so to speak, would be like if this happened. Like I said, it’s like they had an idea, wrote about that idea, and then tried to shoehorn a plot in afterwards. That being said, it was wonderful and wonderfully written and a fascinating concept. If for no other reason than that, I recommend it.

It has Tom Cruise in it. Of course it’s terrible. Glad to see I was right though

Splatter: on FILM

I’ll never listen to Journey the same way again.
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Call this film a cautionary tale.

Perhaps the message was: never move to L.A. You’ll end up a stripper, or a member of a boy band, or a filthy politician, or in love with a rock god, or worse…you’ll become the rock god and never find real love.

Cautions all. Here’s another one: Caution: don’t see this movie. Never before have I yelled mid-film,  “This is the worst movie I have ever seen!” And I’ve seen some bad’uns.
ImageFirst, it’s a musical. Hairspray and Mama Mia meet Spinal Tap minus Christopher Guest. Someone should have let this all star cast in on the inside joke before they took it too seriously.

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Some, like C.Z.Jones played it camp, like a native of the theater would. She was awful. I’m so embarrassed for her. Her redemption? Possibly only the presence of Bryan Cranston…

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“Hidden” Part 2

He swore and morphed, catching her in his talons as she fell, tangible to him now as she wouldn’t be otherwise, her eyes huge and full of stars as she jerked in the visions grasp.

Her body shook and trembled as the stars swooped and wheeled in her eyes and her lips shaped words that made no sound. Harder, she shook and then harder. There was a pause and then her body arched into a bow and she screamed, a thin, tortured sound from lungs that couldn’t draw a full breath. Samuel grunted, his inability to help her a physical pain, and hugged her closer to him as she slowly relaxed, the stars receding from her eyes. He stared at her, worried, barely breathing, as she lay limp for a full thirty seconds, the time an eternity, until she drew in a ragged breath and opened brown eyes, until they focused on him, until she smiled wanly and touched his cheek.

“Bad one,” he ground out.

“Bad one,” she confirmed, closing her eyes. He said nothing else, just picked her up and carried her to her bedroom. Normally, Lizzy wouldn’t allow that kind of thing, since her bedroom was not close and being carried through hallways and up stairs tended to make people stare, but no one could see her now anyway.  No one could ever see her during or after her visions, no one except a fellow Seer, a Cousin, or Samuel. And technically he shouldn’t be able to see her either, but nothing could keep a Guardian from his ward. The enchantment that had changed him was simply too strong.

He set her down on her bed and crouched down beside her, black eyes boring into her. “What did you see?” he growled, wings half extending, cocooning them.

She shook her head, not wanting to think about it. “Lizzy,” he warned, “a vision that intense means danger. Danger means it’s my business. Tell me.”

“Darkness. I Saw darkness.” She closed her eyes, trying not to remember how deep, how just all encompassing, the darkness had been. There had been no end. “Then screams. Fire. People begging, crying, trying to get out. Someone laughing.” She drew in a deep breath, let it out slowly. “Heard someone die, felt their life end. Felt endings. Not just of life, but of possibilities. Doors closing, windows closing. Soon there will only be one possibility left and with it comes chaos, destruction and death.”

“Your death?”

“It might as well be, I think. I couldn’t See much of that, but I got the impression of being trapped and helpless. Whatever happens I will not be in a position to help.”

“What happens?” His voice got deeper every time he spoke and the room grew darker, his power solidifying the shadows.

“I don’t know. I only saw generalities. I can’t control the visions, you know that.” She was silent for a long time, listening to his growls as he considered the implications of what she’d said. She sighed and said “I have to do it again, don’t I.” It was not a question.

“Won’t tell you what to do.”

Lizzy dredged up a smile. No, he wouldn’t. It would never even occur to him to request that she go back into the fog.

“If people are going to die, then I have to try to stop it… But then they’ll know. They’ll know I can still do it.” She shook her head, squeezed her eyes shut. “I don’t know if I can do that. I can’t let people know. All that’s keeping me safe is that people have no idea I can still See.”

“All?” It was a deep rumble, ripe with laughter and she didn’t have to look over to see the cocked eyebrow, the laughing eyes.

She laughed quietly and said “Well, almost all. What are we going to tell people? I won’t be back in the world for days after this. I have work to do, deadlines to meet. People will notice that I’m gone.”

There was a long silence where neither said anything and thought much. Lizzy lay there, thinking about doom, futility and curses and next to her, she could feel Sam thinking about death, violence and protecting her at all costs, including blood. Guardians were like that. As long as their ward was safe, the whole world could burn as far as they were concerned.

“Maybe we can say that I’m sick.” She said it without much conviction. After all, that wouldn’t work for the days it would take. Eventually, people would be dropping by to see if she was okay. And then, when they couldn’t see her, couldn’t hear her, couldn’t perceive her in any way, they would know. They would know that her Sight had never left, that she was still a viable Seer and then it would be all over. The demands would start again, the pressing, the persuasion, and eventually, the threats. They would find something that she cared about and use it as a lever. It had happened before and, sure as if she had Seen it, she knew it would happen again if she wasn’t careful.

“I can keep them away,” Sam growled.

Lizzy lifted her head to look at him. “That will just reinforce what they think of you. It will make them more determined to take you away.”

“Let them try. I go where I want, I protect who I deem worthy. They try to change that, they will regret it.”

Her face softened and touched his cheek. “I love you sweety. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“You don’t have to worry about that. Just get back to the world.”

Awesome Quote

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called ‘leaves’) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person – perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic.” – Carl Sagan

“The Nanny Diaries” by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

I really, really liked this book. It was awesome. It was way funnier than I expected, but it was also unexpectedly touching and occasionally heart wrenching. The best part, I think, is that it was clearly written, and the About the Author bears this out, by people who actually worked as nannies for a long time, know all about it, and this is a compilation of all the ridiculous crap that they and people they know have had to go through. I mean, I’ve never worked as a nanny, but I recognize the tone of someone talking about something they’re very familiar with, and doing their very best to find the humor in it.

I personally don’t understand how Mrs. X could be such a bad mother and clearly not even want to be a mother, and yet so deeply resent the people that are actually raising her child and fulfilling that role. I mean, I get it, I see how it can happen, but only if you’re just a terrible, terrible person. Although, if the book is to be believed, this happens all the time among the type of people who can hire a nanny. Although that may be my class prejudice talking.

Anyway, I was sold on the book with the prologue, which was awesome, and, if I’m any judge, was originally written before they ever started writing the book, but what initially piqued my interest was the ad on the back with the synopsis “Wanted: One young woman to take care of four year old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic, and selfless- bordering on narcissistic. Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap- deprived preschooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family. Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay. Mostly, must love being treated like fungus growing out of employer’s Hermes bag. Those who take it personally need not apply.” Honestly, how can you say no to that? And, refreshingly, this is actually an accurate description of both the book and the writing style. I totally recommend it. It’s kind of a classic.