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Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything)

Musings and kvetchings and Torah thoughts from an unconventional Orthodox Jew.

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"I blog, therefore I am". Clearly not true, or I wouldn't exist except every now and then.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Emergence (book review)

, by David Palmer, is one of my favorite books in the world. Actually, if I'm posting a review of a book, odds are that it's one of my favorite books in the world, because I'd be unlikely to waste my time reviewing something I dislike (yes, J.R.R. Tolkein, I'm looking at you).

Anyway, I really liked Podkayne of Mars when I was a kid (the original editor's ending; not Heinlein's horrible one), but Candy Smith-Foster, the protaganist and narrator of Emergence is everything Poddy was, and more. In the wake of an all out bioatomic war that's killed virtually everyone on the planet, 12 year old Candy sets out to find the other survivors.

I know, it sounds like any number of other post-apocalyptic novels, but trust me, it's nothing like them. This is not War Day, and it's not The Stand. Candy is cheerful and almost painfully optimistic. Determined and lethal (the youngest ever 6th degree black belt in karate), her adventures are a roller coaster of hope and achievement. The one thing that may be difficult for some readers is that Candy writes in a sort of shorthand. Well, in the story, she's actually keeping her journal in Pittman shorthand, but even what we read leaves out unnecessary bulk. Articles, pronouns, etc., that are implicit. But once you start reading it, you quickly stop noticing the unusual style.

The book is inexplicably out of print. But I've seen it in used bookstores, and you can always try Bookfinder. And if you click on the image at the top, you can see a comment on the book's Amazon.com page from Palmer, saying that he's working on a sequel (!), which I hadn't known about until I started writing this review. I hope they re-release Emergence when the sequel comes out, because this book is just too good to disappear.

On the back cover of the edition I have, there's a line from Spider Robinson that says "You, lucky reader, are about to meet one of the most engaging characters in science fiction history -- and the best new writer since John Varley -- and if you fall hopelessly, shamelessly, head over heels in love, don't say I didn't warn you." Honestly? I don't think I could say it any better than that.

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Blogger Ben-Yehudah said...


I'd be unlikely to waste my time reviewing something I dislike (yes, J.R.R. Tolkein, I'm looking at you)


But thanks for the book tip.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

My experience with Tolkein... when I was in junior high, I read an excerpt from The Hobbit in something like the Weekly Reader. It was the scene with Bilbo and Gollum in the cave. It seemed neat, so I went and read the book. And I thought it was pretty good. But then my uncle gave me a boxed set of LotR for Hanukkah, and I tried to read that.

I was optimistic. After all, I liked The Hobbit, right? I got between 50 and 100 pages in before I just couldn't do it any more. It was the first time in my life that I gave up on a book partway through. But it was just so freaking boring. The few good parts (characters acting and interacting, maybe even some excitement) just weren't enough to make up for the reams and reams of exposition. And there was no humor or wit whatsoever. It was so sober and dry that I just couldn't bring myself to care.

In my late 20s, I was living in Israel, and I decided to try again. After all, some of my reading tastes had changed in the intervening decade. But no, it was as bad as I'd remembered.

Then the movies started to come out. I saw the first one, and really liked it. So I went out and bought the trilogy again, figuring that now that I had a handle on what was going on, and now that I could see the characters as people, maybe third time would be the charm.

Ya`aqov, I tried my best, honestly, but it was like reading a textbook. Someone needs to put together an abridged version without the talk-talk. Or maybe write a novelization of the movies. That might be good. But seriously, Tolkein is the very definition of "turgid prose". Give me Stephen R. Donaldson or Terry Goodkind or Dave Duncan any day. Or even David Eddings.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Ben-Yehudah said...

Well, "al ta'am vere'ah, ain l'hitveke'ah."

{for your readers: There is no arguing over taste and smell.}

You'd probably dislike the Simirillion, too. It reads somewhat like a history book.

4:24 PM  

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