DXMachina (dxmachina) wrote,

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The Year in Books, and a Meme

The final book I finished in 2004 was Elephant Song, by Barry B. Longyear, a prequel to his Circus World collection that I talked about a couple of weeks back. Elephant Song is about the shipwreck of the City of Baraboo, the event that stranded the members of O'Hara's Greater Shows on the uninhabited planet of Momus, and its aftermath, focusing on a single group of survivors, the bull handlers, i.e. the elephant trainers. Having the elephants around in the early days after the crash was a stroke of luck, as they were available for the heavy work that needed doing while building the roads through the wilderness to connect the scattered groups of survivors on the planet. The problem was that all of the surviving elephants were females, so once the last elephant dies, there won't be any left on Momus. The story spans forty years, more or less, about the lifespan of an elephant, and concentrates on the lead bull handler and her family. There's a sad inevitability about the story. What happens to a group of people who has their way of life slowly taken from them, and what happens to to the larger group as such a powerful symbol of their identity slowly dies off?

I liked this book a lot. It does have its weaknesses, but they mostly stem from Longyear doing a little story stretching to show the origins of some of the customs that are present in Circus World. Still, I liked his explanation for why so many Momans wind up with various psi abilities, and the rest doesn't drag the story down too much. It's also fun to be reading it at the same time as watching Lost, which is a different take on what is essentially the same situation, shipwrecked in a mysterious place. The circus people seem to be a lot smarter and more practical than the islanders. Anyway, very much recommended.

Meanwhile, it's time for the annual list of books read this past year:

The Service of the Sword, aka Worlds of Honor #4, edited by David Weber
The Weaver and the Factory Maid, by Deborah Grabien
The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman
Sharpe's Havok, by Bernard Cornwell
Old Tin Sorrows, by Glen Cook
Dread Brass Shadows, by Glen Cook
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
First Contract, by Greg Costikyan
Red Iron Nails, by Glen Cook
Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin
The Phantom Freighter, by Franklin W. Dixon
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire
Ball Four, by Jim Bouton
Playback, by Raymond Chandler
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
The Ipcress File, by Len Deighton
The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester
Angelmass, by Timothy Zahn
Red Thunder, by John Varley
The Famous Flower of Serving Men, by Deborah Grabien
Circus World, by Barry B. Longyear
Lost in the Grooves, edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay
Elephant Song, by Barry B. Longyear

Current reads are Baseball and Philosophy, Thinking Outside the Batter's Box, edited by Eric Bronson, a collection of essays applying philosophical principles to baseball, and The Shadow of Saganami, David Weber's latest Honorverse novel (although Harrington isn't actually in it). Baseball and Philosophy is the most recent volume in the Popular Culture and Philosophy series. Other volumes look at, among other pop culture subjects, Buffy, and The Lord of the Rings. I got about halfway through it over Christmas, and some of the essays are interesting, especially the one about the philosophical implications of the sacrifice bunt.

And finally, a meme:
1. What did you do in 2004 that you'd never done before?
Went to a Hollywood party.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Only one out of three. Not going there this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My baby sister had a little girl.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
See the USA, in your Chevrolet...

6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?
There's really only one thing.

7. What date from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Good Friday.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Building a couple of wooden boxes.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I failed to keep all the weight I lost in 2003 off.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A bicycle accident on Good Friday really triggered an awful year for me.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Nothing of importance.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
The Buffistas, for bringing Nilly to visit us.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The Swift Boat Veterans.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage, car loan, and credit card bills.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Baseball. First time in a long while.

6. What song will always remind you of 2004?
"It's Only Time" -- Magnetic Fields

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
--i. happier or sadder? Sadder.
--ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter.
--iii. richer or poorer? About the same.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Working on the house.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Sitting around doing nothing.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With the family, with my usual side jaunt to the parks where I used to play.

21. Did you fall in love in 2004?

22. How many one-night stands?
I don't do one-night stands.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Wonderfalls, which died an early death. For the first time in a long time, I have no must see TV shows. I watch the Stargates, and Veronica Mars, and like them well enough, and I watch Lost because everyone else does.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hate? No. Okay, maybe Doogie DePodesta.

25. What was the best book you read?
The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Magnetic Fields

27. What did you want and get?
There's really only one thing of importance that I want, and I didn't get it. Maybe this year.

28. What did you want and not get?
See above.

29. What was your favorite film(s) of this year?
The Incredibles.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I went to work. I was 52.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Bush losing.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004?
Wear clothes that fit.

33. What kept you sane?
My friends. Sometimes.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Miranda Otto.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
None in particular. Politics leaves me cold.

36. Who did you miss?v
My dog.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I met a bunch of people in person for the first time. The people I got to know best of them were probably DebetEsse and Nilly.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004.
Never trade your all-star catcher until you've got the deal for his replacement locked in.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"Life sucks, and then you die."
Tags: books, meme, reminiscence

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