Periscope Depth

this door is always open

Celebrate the triumph of labor over capital with an early September media blow.

The Mote in God’s Eye: Decent 60s 70s science fiction. As I mentioned, Niven and Pournelle write the aliens with depth and character, but give the mold plenty of time to cool before pressing out another human. We have the Noble But Conflicted starship captain1, the Young Girl Who Wants To Prove Herself (but is Really just Looking For A Man), the Greedy and Unscrupulous Merchant, etc. One of the characters, I want to say the engineer, has a thick Scottish brogue, and the authors drown his dialogue with plenty of “dinnae”s and “ken”s so you never forget it2. If it weren’t for the hard but readable science and the fascinating story of human contact, I couldn’t recommend this book at all.

Bringing Up Baby: Sarah H. introduced me to this one on Friday, which I’d somehow never seen. Borders on being a hint too zany for my taste – it’s all madcap, no throughline, and the romantic twist at the end comes out of nowhere – but for a wit that dry and sharp I’ll take it. Given that writers were capable of this in the 30s there’s no excuse for such dullness in dialogue today.

The Knight: on one level, this is a fairly standard fantasy novel. Teenage boy from Earth finds himself in the land of fairy tales, gets knighted by a faerie queen and is sent on a quest to find a sword and slay a dragon. But Gene Wolfe never lets tropes be, and before long the reader has to re-examine everything he comes across. Is this our protagonist’s first time in the fantasy world? If not, why doesn’t he remember prior visits? If it is, why do certain people seem to know him already? Why does he draw power from the sea, and fall in love with a creature to whom he might be a god? Why does he alternate between stubborn notions of honor and casual brutality? And what’s with the giant dog and the castle in the clouds and the invisible ogre?

It’s a bizarre and engrossing little read. I picked up the sequel, The Wizard – really, the second half of an incomplete story – two days after finishing this one. Recommended very strongly.

Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens): A con movie for con movie fans, courtesy of Marie. Watch enough heist movies and you start anticipating the twists that Mamet made famous – the double-cross, the scheme within a scheme, the overarching game in which everyone’s a player. Nine Queens pays you the compliment of presuming you’ll recognize those scenes and addressing them early on. The protagonists suspect their partners just as much as you do. Add to this intricate heist story some genuine and complex characters, and the fantastic locale of Buenos Aires, and you get one hell of a clever flick.

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1 Really, a thousand years in the future and we still have Ensigns? And Barons? I’ll have to ask my friends in the Navy how many traditions they have from more than ten centuries in the past, as soon as they get done their triumphal parade, in a gold-plated chariot led by a team of pure Persian stallions, with a slave standing behind them holding a crown of laurels over their head and whispering in their ear. Or I won’t, maybe.

2 I cannot forgive this sin. Seriously. If you can’t find a way to communicate an accent without making the words unreadable, stop writing.

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