Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Heinlein, an Overview

Dear Minh (and Max),

I hope that, in the years coming towards us, you will not come to despise Heinlein simply because your father and I are so enamored of him. Heinlein, sometimes termed the dean of science fiction, had many fascinating stories. What I plan to catch your attention with are his series of young adult books. These feature teens most ordinary, who with work and a little confidence, start colonies on alien planets, make first contact with sentient species, and argue the case of humanity’s worth to intergalactic courts. Furthermore, he writes for an audience that he knows is young, but that he believes can be sophisticated and engaged. He includes detailed descriptions of atmospheric requirements for human space suits, a decent bit of astrophysics, and a distinctly atheistic bias.

As your mom, I think you’ll love and be interested in the science. Your dad loves the social engineering Heinlein added. In Heinlein’s first work, For Us, The Living, he envisions a logical, private society in which all basic needs are met by the government, and all citizens are free to do whatever work they find worthy. Many details are scooped out of this work and form a backdrop society in which the enterprising teens live. You’ll hear about free love in salacious detail, the spectrum of religions, various types of currency, and the economics of starships. And in the end, I would love to hear your review of Heinlein.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

House of Many Ways

House of Many Ways book cover
House of Many Ways
By Diana Wynne Jones

One liner: Read it! Have savory pastry on hand; you’ll get hungry with descriptions of perfect pasties, cream cakes, and flan.

Nose-in-a-book girl gets dragooned into housesitting a wizard’s house and by twists and turns, saves the kingdom. Standard coming-of-age fare, and well told. However, what fascinated me in this book was the house of many ways itself. What seems like a run-down, two-room cottage at the edge of the capital town of a quaint mountain country, is actually a huge complex that has been folded and folded again, ad infinitum, in space and time. It also invisibly intersects all manner of places in town, with the windows of the wizard’s workroom overlooking the river in the capital, yet the window at the end of the bedroom hallway leading out into a mountain meadow a full cliffside away from the house itself. Owned by wizard Melicot several centuries ago, the ways are incompletely explored by the current owner, and with constant glimpses of rooms (and sometimes caverns) that somehow overlap the rooms that Charmain uses, the house has definite “mysterious allure” (wink) that had me mentally imagining what other secrets and still places it holds. As a perk, we again see Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle; the food is written of with divine skill; and any lover of books will sympathize with protagonist Charmain, who sometimes just wants to sit down for a good read while coping with her changing life and abilities.