Voyager – Diana Gabaldon
Summary: Great lovers Jamie and Claire are reunited across the expanse of time.
What can I say? This is a series for fans. Twenty years after travelling back to the 20th century, Claire discovers that Jamie survived war and makes the dangerous journey back through the stones to his time.
It’s a bloated novel, taking us from Jamie’s bleak years in prison (thankfully, it skips over a lot of time) up to Jamie and Claire’s unceremorious arrival in America. Along the way, they make the acquaintance of slaves, an awesome Chinaman with a foot fetish who trains a bird to hunt fish for him, and tons of other colourful characters. And for the first time, they leave Europe, Jamie battling his seasickness to voyage across to the Caribbean in pursuit of pirates who’ve kidnapped his nephew Young Ian.
I was afraid of how young love might translate into mature love – two decades is not a short period of time – but Gabaldon soon has us forgetting their ages. In all honesty, I’m not sure I at 23 could hack half of what these guys endure – but those were different times.
Intensely Alice – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Summary: Alice struggles with sex, religion and death. Pretty heavy all around.
I’ve grown up with Alice McKinley. Naylor is like my Judy Blume. These books are always good for a quick read, an hour or two of entertainment, but I’ve well and truly overtaken Alice – she’s still in high school and I’m well out of university. Thus, I read them more out of habit, or obligation, than anything else.
Alice has always occupied the middle ground between her two best friends – shy, dark-haired, conservative Elizabeth and flirty blonde Pamela. Her antics in this book involve being accosted by a man on a plane, getting up to some innocent mischief on a hen’s night, her first overnight visit with longtime boyfriend Patrick who’s away at college, a few run-ins with police, ponderances on religion and tolerance, and the demise of a friend.
While I’ve outgrown Alice, I still think these are great books for teen girls, and I’m going to stick it out until the end of the series, which should be fairly soon. I’ve always identified with her gawkiness and insecurities – if she was real, I would want to be her best friend. Although most of Naylor’s other characters are pretty stereotypical, Alice herself is reasonably three-dimensional and kind of the relatable everygirl.
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Summary: Superhacker gets one last shot at the caper of a lifetime.
Let me just put this out there: I enjoyed Neuromancer, but I sure as hell didn’t understand all of it. Which I suppose is often the case with scifi. The author is making shit up as s/he goes, so if you don’t know what the eff is going on, it’s because said writer is talking out of the ass. Vague passages containing references to technology that kind of sound like they make sense but actually don’t say anything concrete? Check. On the other hand, Gibson also broke ground and coined a ton of phrases that we use today and are familiar, which is a relief.
While the opening line is undeniably fantastic (The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel) the same can’t be said for all of Gibson’s prose (His eyes were eggs of unstable crystal, vibrating with a frequency whose name was rain and the sound of trains). Rather, his strength is in pace, timing and action.
Case was once a star hacker in a futuristic post-war world ruled by corporates, who got busted stealing from his boss and paid the price. His abilities stripped, he ekes out a living on the streets of Japan. But he’s hauled up in front of the mysterious Armitage who gives him his mojo back in exchange for Case venturing into the matrix for one last covert op involving an old-fashioned key and a creepy all-powerful family who keeps cloning itself generation after generation. Who is Armitagereally working for? Who is the mysterious AI, Wintermute? And what’s up with that razorgirl Molly Millions, assigned to work alongside Case? (Kudos for the strong woman, though I was disappointed that sex had to be brought into the equation. Always, huh? Why do females always have to exist in relation to males, rather than stand alone?)
I’m a big fan of Isaac Asimov’s spare writing style. Gibson’s is much more free-flowing, and his plotting less definitive and expositional, but still colour me impressed.