Worlds & Time

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Life in Summary

Yeah, I missed a month in there, what with the Placebos and Patient Care post sitting around for more than a month in my tray while I tried to finish it by staring at it intently from across the room. I've covered part of the gap by thrusting P&PC forward four weeks into November to cover the posting gap in the sidebar history.

But I haven't talked about where I am in life for a while. A Ruairi has requested an email on how I'm doing, so I know that I need to type it all out anyway.

I've moved in with my boyfriend Ben, and I now live in Cambridge, MA. The place is beautiful, it's a third floor condo that Ben and a friend of his from high school bought. Ben's also a doctor now, which means that I'm dating a doctor. Sometimes I feel like I've fallen through the Sex in the City rabbit hole and come out on the side of respectability.

Jobs haven't been working out, ha ha. The kinds of places that I've been applying just haven't been hiring people like me. They look at my lack of experience and weak resume and simply don't call me back. It's beyond depressing and well into the numb. Failing out of New York was hard, and I'm glad that Ben was there to catch me.

I haven't been reading as much as I've wanted to be, either. I just finished "Miracle and Other Christmas Stories" by Connie Willis and it was lovely, but I think it was only the second or third book that I finished this month.

So, life it basically on a weird sort of hold. It's not that I'm not doing things. I just don't have much to show for it at the end of the day except for a few pictures and some vague memories.

As I type this, at the very end of the year, I'm in the same place that I started 2009: on Martha's Vineyard with friends of Ben. They have a big New Year's Eve celebration and we're preparing for this year. Andrea is making Chili. Ben is still asleep after drinking and trivia last night (we came in second after having a commanding lead through most of the second half but lost the tiebreaker at the win).

I've traveled a lot this year. I went down to Washington D.C. for the inauguration and I continued to make the trip from New York to Boston for the first part of the year to visit Ben. We visited Martha's Vineyard (to the same people) and also to Nantucket to visit another friend.

Ben had a conference in Hawaii as well, and then two weeks after that he had one in San Diego. So I flew to Hawaii (for the first time) and spent a week on the north side of O'ahu with Ben in a beautiful house with a pool and no wireless and basically lazed around for a few days. Then we flew to San Francisco for the night before Halloween and went out to the Castro for dinner and drinks. Lots of the guys were in their costumes already, so it was entertaining but I still know that I should have rearranged to spend the actual night of Halloween there.

Then we went home, and in this case by home I mean New Mexico. My grandmother is there now, having moved from upstate New York so that my mother can take care of her. My mother is managing a small shop in Santa Fe part time which benefits one of the local animal shelters. We only spent a couple of days there, which was rushed. Ben met my family and he was all cute and nervous about it.

And then we went directly to San Diego, which was in the sixties and so surprisingly cold. But I'd been traveling for three weeks and Ben for almost a month and so we were both a bit tired, so we basically went back and collapsed.

That last big trip that I took was to Virginia to meet all of his family for Thanksgiving. He's got a much larger "nuclear" family than I do. He's got three parent figures, two half brothers, two sisters and one half sister and they had the additional uncles and friends over as well. It was the youngest half brother's birthday as well so it was a very complicated few days but I had a lovely time and was happy to meet all the people that Ben was worried about me meeting.

It's weird. I'm usually the emotional one in this relationship. I'm depressed or excited or whatever, but Ben was much more concerned about our meetings with our respective families than I was.

So, that's where I am now and what's been happening in a general sense. There's more trivial stuff: we're not going to many movies but we did see Avatar in IMAX 3D. It was good but the more that I think about it I don't think it was great. I don't think that it'll be the Star Wars of our generation.

Ben and I got each other a half of a Playstation 3 for Christmas and so far we have only one game that was designed for the system on it: Flower, which is lovely and worth every penny of the ten dollars that it costs. All of the other games are ports from older systems. Ben is playing through Final Fantasy VIII, which is like some sort of weird dream come true for me. It's quite odd how much I'm enjoying him playing it. I'm almost done with Zelda on the Wii, which is a lovely game as well and very well done. All of us, Ben, Me and the roommate, are playing the New Super Mario Brothers. Who could have imagined that Mario sidescrollers would have made a resurgence.

I guess that's enough. Ben wants to use my computer for a while. So cheers everyone, and I hope that you all have a wonderful New Year and have had a blissful Christmas/Hanukkah season.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Iorich by Steven Brust

It so happens that when I won the present of a book from a while ago, instead of a copy of a book currently in print I requested and received an advance copy of a book that was not yet out: Iorich by Steven Brust.

This was particularly kind of and especially Torie Atkinson for allowing me such a privilege and her secret source for making my Brust dreams come true.

I try to do reviews of books that I get in advance of their publications such as Little Brother, Julian Comstock, and Ender in Exile and so this is my review of Iorich by Steven Brust (2010).

Just be aware though that reviewing Iorich has massive spoilers for other Vlad Taltos novels, up to and including Iorich itself. Got that? This post contains massive Iorich spoilers.

First off, Iorich is better than Jhegaala. Don't get me wrong, I liked Jhegaala, but it wasn't anywhere close to the top of the Vlad Taltos cannon. Iorich is definitely a good Vlad book but it does have a few minor flaws.

With all of his books, Brust switches back and forth with his writing style and Iorich is a bit sparse in the wordplay compared with some of the other books. The way that Dzur focused on lavish descriptions of food and Jhereg focused on, well, the ceremony of jheregs, this book uses a legal situation as chapter leads and general tone. Thus, Iorich's style is direct and to the point, almost like reading a legal brief. This which works out fairly well for it but there are a few bits that seem tangential and thrown together, notably the elements of Vlad's personal life that appear.

Also, after Jhegaala, I was hoping for a bit more high flying action, flashy sorcery, and world threatening danger. This wasn't that type of Vlad novel, but I have to say that this type of Vlad novel is my second favorite.

Let me explain my weird theory about the types of Vlad novels which has been kicking around in my head for a while.

There are three types of Vlad novels, complicated by the fact that some novels, particularly Taltos are comprised of two or more of these types. I think these types are: 1, "Early Vlad" novels that deal mostly with Vlad's career in the Jhereg and the establishment of his area; 2, Questing novels revolving mostly around some task set by Sethra, Morrolan, or Verra and progresses the metaplot involving the gods; and 3, Politics novels in which Vlad gets to explore some particular facet of politics or society, usually at the expense of his social life.

Iorich fits solidly into the third kind of Vlad novel, following a similar structure to Orca. Where Orca was about the way trade and banking have an effect on people, Iorich is about dealing with the way the legal system fuctions, especially with regard to nobility and rank. It is set some number of years after Dzur, and apparently several years since Vlad has seen many of the major characters of the series, and is set predominantly in and around the Imperial Palace.

The general plot of the novel is that Aliera has been arrested by the Empress for the practice of Elder Sorcery, even though the Empire has been turning a blind eye to her practice (and Morrolan's, and Sethra's, and one suspects dozens of others) for many years. When Vlad hears about her arrest he rushes back to Adrilankha and begins to arrange for her defense despite the protests of Aliera herself while trying to keep himself alive from the Jhereg assassins that are still trying to kill him eight (nine?) years after the events of Phoenix.

There is, of course, a complicated and twisted reason for her imprisonment that basically boils down to Empire politics. To me, the twisted reasoning is a bit weak, but by the end I can certainly understand why the characters did what they thought they were doing, with the possible exception of Zerika's behavior toward Aliera which still is a bit of a headbanger.

So Vlad, in his efforts to clear Aliera's name in much the same way that he cleared Cawti's, is thrown into the middle of Empire politics again. Really, he almost should have been a private eye instead of an assassin, because his investigative skills shine in the midst of a high level political thriller.

As I've already mentioned, dealing with these things leads him to spend quite a bit of time in the Palace and dealing with some of the most important people in the Empire. Norathar features prominently and so does Zerika herself, the Empress putting in the most face time of any Vlad novel and seemingly almost as much as her roles in the Viscount of Adrilankha.

My favorite parts of this book involve the Empress, especially the section with the five steps. Just after that, in terms of favoritism, is the resolution at the end which really does work out nicely if you understand what's going on. Vlad's introduction to the new character of Perisil is also very nicely done.

Older characters also appear in this book, sometimes just as minor characters and sometimes as mere suggestions (if you're a big fan, you'll know the line I'm talking about when you come to it, personally I laughed out loud on the Boston T and got lots of weird looks). It's nice to see some of them, but I really want to see the resolution of the Phoenix affair. It's been a long time coming but there are suggestions that it's coming to a head.

That's really the best part of the Vlad books though. Even though each books stands on it's own and carries it's own weight and finishes with a satisfying resolution, there's a larger plot that progresses along as well. Not only do you feel good about the book that you've read but you can pick up bits and pieces from other books that fit together and provide another kind of satisfaction. The Vlad books, and the Khaavren Romances, for that matter, were meant to be read as a long, wonderful series, and I'm so very happy to have been given the chance to read this latest volume.

I want to end with a brief quote from the book, just a paragraph. But hopefully it will interest Brust fans enough to go out and buy it. A warning, it may have a few serious spoilers for the end of the book:

"I pulled the arrow from my eye, hearing myself scream. At that moment, a blast of magic from one of them hit me, and I saw my leg fly off at the knee. I fell to the ground, reaching for Lady Teldra, but one of them came in with an ax and took my right hand off at the wrist . . ."

* * *

Here's a link to the Amazon page for Iorich. If you haven't read any of the others, I recommend starting with Jhereg to see if you like the style (it is unfortunately only easily available as part of the Book of Jhereg right now). I plan on buying Iorich when it's released in a few months anyway because it is quite wonderful and I want to support Steven Brust's further writing.

Update:'s review is here.

Labels: ,