Saturday, February 21, 2009

I put in the first couple of ones to convince you I had good taste

A while ago Darcy posted a list about some of her guilty pleasures. Among those was the Twilight series and I mocked her mercilessly for it, because that's how I show love--through sheer, unrelenting mockery that slowly destroys the person of my affection's self-esteem. I figured I should give Darcy a chance to fight back, so I'm going to ramble about my favorite comfort books.
These books are the equivalent of a childhood blanket. They're the books that, despite their quality, I always pull out when I'm a pathetic pile of illness, which was fitting this week since I looked like a zombie if you managed to microwave it on high for five minutes. Yeah, I looked pretty.

The list of my comfort books start off with the not really embarrassing at all and ends with the books that probably should never have been written by human kind, much less be read by anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with the English language. And yet I love them, even though they destroy precious, precious brain cells.

First up we have America (The Book). Just like The Daily Show it manages to be hilarious while skewering politics. Since this book came out at the end of 2003, it's a little weird reading those correspondents who have long since moved on. There's Rob Cordry, gone, Ed Helms, gone, Stephen Colbert, now on his own show, and Samantha Bee, and Bee is the only one still around. Weird.
I feel I should add I Am America (And So Can You) to this, but first of all my sister took my copy when she moved because she is a horrible human being who I wish a pox on, and second of all Jon Stewart is totally my secret husband (so secret even he doesn't know!) and therefore will always be my favorite. America still makes me laugh, every time, or, in the case of the naked Supreme Court Justices, cringing in horror and misery, and thus cheers me out of my brain eating funk.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Do I even need to say anything about this? It's Hitchhikers. It's 42 and the resteraunt at the end of the universe and Aurthur Dent and Ford Prefect and Zaphod and Trillian and Marvin and it's brilliant. I'm not going to talk about the movie, because parts of it made me happy (Alan Rickman as Marvin) and other parts made me super sad (Aurthur/Trillain romance. Really? Also, Zooey Deschnal as a not at all British Trillian. Ugh).
If there is a geek cannon, HGttG is most definitely on it. I own all five of the books, two copies of the hardcover collection (one was a gift and the other I picked up at a used bookstore and is an older copy and doesn't have Mostly Harmless in it). I read HGttG for the first time in my freshmen year of high school, the same year Adams died from a heart attack. I got my copies at a used bookstore, and they are torn and battered, and I ended up staying up almost all night when I started Hitchhikers because it was amazing and I couldn't just read a chapter before I went to bed. HGttG is funny and irreverent and still manages moments of poignancy, and every time I read it never ceases to delight.

In September the BBC announced that Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowler series, is set to write the sixth book titled And Another Thing, with the permission of Jane Belson, Adams' wife.

Adams himself said he always planned a sixth book,because fifth was an odd number to stop on, and because Mostly Harmless is pretty damn dark. Adams also started a third Dirk Gently book, and the first couple of chapters, the only ones he'd written before he died, are in Salmon of Doubt, and it's such a sad, depressing tease to know that's all we're going to get.

Now, I haven't read Colfer, so I can't comment on how good of a job he'll do. Colfer said there is a lot more pressure to get this right then with any of his own books, and I don't envy his position. Not only does Adams have a deceptively difficult tone and style to copy, but no matter how amazing and brilliant And Another Thing might be, Colfer is going to take a lot of crap from die hard fans, who won't be happy unless zombie Douglas Adams himself came back to write it (I would totally be okay with zombie Adams eating my brains if it meant I got another Hitchhikers book).

Also, this will be the only book that will have a title that isn't a callback to the first book. This is a signal that this isn't going to be an Adams book, but Colfer apparently wants to do right by the series, and if nothing else, it'll read like a tribute to Adams (hopefully a better tribue than Frank Miller's The Spirit movie was for Will Eisner. O FRANK MILLER NO).

The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett. I started reading the Discworld series the same year that I discovered Adams, so it was sort of like my geek coming out.

I love the Discworld novels and Pratchett (who has a rare form of Alzheimers because god hates geeks), and I can't explain why this is my favorite. It's not just Rincewind and the Luggage and the faculty of Unseen University, and the skewing of Australia and the cameo by Death (who might be my favorite of all Discworld character, even though Reaper Man is not my favorite Discworld novel), but I love this book so much. I read it at least once a year, and has gone everywhere with me, even to London where I got it signed by Terry Pratchett himself. He made fun of the "manky American" cover (as seen on the left) and the fact the spine is cracking and peeling, but Terry Pratchett signed my book. The emphasis is very much needed. Also, his voice was higher pitched than I thought it would be.

Beyond all the others, I think The Last Continent is very much my blanky in book form. I know what all the jokes are, about the god of evolution, and the people Rincewind will meet, and about the kangaroos and the why the platypus is (not why it is anything, just is), and it still delights me every time. If it were physically possible for me to cuddle all the characters in this book I would. I would also cuddle Terry Pratchett if it wouldn't end in me being arrested.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I got to go to a reading and signing by Neil Gaiman, which was as awesome as you think it would be, which has nothing to do with anything other than to mention that I didn't bring Good Omens with me and I missed an opportunity to have both Pratchett and Gaiman sign it, which is heartbreaking because they leave little jokes to each other.
Sandman is right behind Watchmen in graphic novels that geeks worship, and Coraline, while written for a younger audience, is just as brilliant, albeit in a different way. Coraline is subtly creepy, in that the creepy sneaks up on you and mugs you later, helped out a lot by Dave McKean's illustrations (oh god, the Other Mother gives me nightmares). It's written in a sparse, understated way that is pitch perfect. I sent a copy to my little sister, because, hey, everyone needs their first Gaiman induced nightmare at a young age.

Sweet dreams, Haley! I'll be in the next room, so try to keep your terrified screams down to a minimum.

And this is when I give up any pretense of having good taste. Darcy, pay attention. I'm giving you ammo for years to come.

The Nightrunner Series by Lynn Flewelling. So Flewelling is actually a good writer. The Bone Twin is an interesting book that deals with gender issues and political intrigue. Nightrunner, however, really does none of that. Okay, that's not entirely true. The first two books are linked together, and aren't bad. The third and the fourth have the thread of the war established in the first two books running through it, but then they go off the rails. In a really embarrassing way.

Nightrunner (and The Bone Twin is sort of prequel to the triology) is set in a fantasy world with warring countries and the Fae. Yes, the Fae, like magical elf faeries. I wish I was kidding. Seregil (prounoucned Ser-uh-gil), is a Fae who was banished for killing some dude and Alec, a half-fae, is taken in by Seregil and they hook up and become couple at the end of the second book.

Oh, it gets better. Flewelling says they are "talimenos," which I guess is the gay fae equivalent of a super special soul bond, and you see why this post is filed under "Don't Judge me?" If not here's a HINT:

Yes, this is the cover of the fourth book. I guess that's Seregil apparently waiting for Alec to fellate him.

The entire premise of the fourth book is that they're captured and kept as slaves and some alchemist forms a magical baby from Alec's blood, and it can heal people and bring them back to life and it is ridiculous. And yet I love it. It's sort of like eating an entire box of chocolates, and you hate yourself for it, but at the time it is delicious even if it will eventually kill you.
And if you think that was bad, well, you are really not prepared for The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop.
Karen Healey described it perfectly as "magical cock ring AU" and it's TRUE. There are actual cock rings and it defies description.

There are characters named Saetan and Lucivar and Daemon for no reason, and one has WINGS. Oh, and there are some Undead wandering around for some reason, and certain species, I guess, have these magical jewels, and the darker the jewels the more powerful you are. And the super special blonde witch queen has the blackiest jewels of them all!
And Daemon is supposed to be her promised one true love and can't get it up for anyone other woman, and did I mention he was a pleasure slave? Yeah, he was. Oh and he met the super special blonde witch queen as a child and had to wait until she got older, and I swear I am not making this up.

Oh, and there are magical talking animals with jewels. One of which is a unicorn. Yes, there is a magical talking unicorn.
There are times when I'm reading it and I feel embarrassed for Anne Bishop. I've actually had to put the book down and take deep breaths until I felt strong enough to go on. There are characters who literally hiss (who does that?) and they are always steepling fingers and Bishop reminds you that yarbah is blood wine EVERY TIME SHE MENTIONS IT, and there's all this drama and the super special magical blonde witch queen stops the sun rising and OMG BISHOP WHY.
So I think Bishop might be trying to be feminist, for a given value of "feminism," in that the women are supposed to be the leaders and queens and are super special and all the men love them and would protect them and die for them and blah blah blah, but it's not. It's just ridiculous, which is the only way I can really describe this.
Normally these would be the kind of books I would drop and run the hell away from and yet once you start reading you can't stop. I blew through all three rather long books in a single weekend. Sure, I felt like you do after eating an entire gross of potato chips, but it was addicting in the exact same way. I think the pages of the books may actually be laced for crack because there is no reason for me to enjoy those books. I mean, talking unicorns. Oy.

So there you have it, folks. Let the mocking begin.


Anonymous said...

Hitchhiker's Guide cannot and should not be mocked. That is one of the greatest series ever written.

Lady Lara Jones said...

I agree. Hitchhiker's guide is awesome, and America the book makes me laugh far too much.

Danicus said...

The Hitchhiker's Trilogy (all five books of it) May be the greatest comedic literature of the 20th century. There has never been a more perfect Everyman than Arthur Dent, or a more wonderful receptacle for zaniness than Ford Prefect.
To me, Douglas Adams was the 20th century's answer to Oscar Wilde. Immensely intelligent, viciously witty, incredibly clever, and above all, completely willing to skewer the ideals of the age in hilarious ways.
And then there's the way Adams could turn a phrase... *sigh* the world is poorer for having lost such a colossal wit. Rest well, Doug.

..also, it's Artemis Fowl, not Fowler. just FYI.

Jayne said...

Thanks for the correction. And I wasn't mocking Hitchhiker's since it's one of my favorite series ever written. Adams was an immensely talented writer. I managed to find a copy of Last Chance to See, where he traveled the world and saw various endangered species, and he manages to write in a way about the animals nad his experience that is both funny and insightful. The world is a much poorer place without him.

But, please, mock away the last two on the list. Or, even better, actually read the Black Jewels Triology and join me in the boggling.

Danicus said...

oh, i never thought you had anything but affection for Hitchhiker's.
and um... oh, Last Chance to See... the Holy Grail of Douglas Adams literature. I've never even seen a copy in real life, you LUCKY LUCKY LUCKY.... is it as amazing as I think? I imagine the whole book is like that essay he wrote on swimming with manta rays, which was, as you say, hilarious and incredibly insightful. Really captured his sense of wonder.

Ill be back to mock you for the other stuff later... I'm sleepy right now. :-p

Lady Lara Jones said...

I think I might actually have to pick up the Black Jewels Trilogy now...To Barnes and Nobles! Away!!! hehe.

Liz said...


Danicus said...

Yeah, those Black Jewels books sound... well they sound Godawful. If nothing else, I'm going to allow you to serve as a cautionary tale. I mean, I have read some books of dubious quality before...
The Dreaming Dark Trilogy, for example. The main characters in this fantasy epic are in NO WAY CLICHES (ugh). You've got the hard-bitten veteran who is sick of war, then there's his gal Friday- a disinherited heiress with magic abilities, there's a hobbit with healing potions, and a soldier trying to find his purpose now that the war is over... who happens to be the steampunk equivalent of a robot.

But really, sex slaves and blood wine? sheesh. Anne Bishop sounds like she might enjoy Laurell K. Hamilton (*shudder*) or Anne Rice's later, crazier work.

Jayne said...

Danicus, Last Chance to See is just about as amazing as you think. I stumbled upon a copy at a used bookstore and I pretty much clutched it to my bosom while glaring at everyone around, like they were going to fight me for it.

The book is like the essay he wrote about the manta rays. Each essay deals with a specific species and recounts the people he met and how he got there. I think it openes with the komodo dragon. There also some pictures in there with his captions underneath. Of a landscape in New Zealand he says something along the lines of "New Zealand landscapes that makes you want to applaud." Since the books is rare to find, I feel like I should be photocopying some essays to hand out to people.

It's really hard for me to desribe the Black Jewels Trilogy to people who haven't read it, because it is so bizzare. Bishop has written other, slightly better and less cock ring-y books, but Blakc Jewels remains her best known. And I know I'm not the only person who gets sucked into reading them, despite the fact you wouldn't normally go within in eight feet of the book. I think Bishop may actually have used some sort of black magic on it.

Lady Lara Jones, if you're going to read the Black Jewels Trilogy, well, brace yourself, and godspeed.

Liz,I don't know why I didn't tell you. Aside from the magical cock rings, this book may actually be made for you, although keep in mind that it's still really bad.

Darcy said...

See, Jayne, you love horrible things that are secretly amazing. I just love horrible things.

Kay Ever so Sweet said...

Ahh the Nightrunner series (5 books now, but I am still at 3) - stumbled upon it and totally hooked. Talimenos is the equivalent to soulmate I assume and has nothing to do with same gender couples. Tali is the word for male, talia for female. Can't see where book number 3 does not related to the first two. I tfollows the impending war they spoke of in book 2.

Douglas Adams. Must admitt I read ALL the books in German, since it is my mother language, but even than it is very good. Got last chance to see when it firs got out of press. Own the collection "ultimate hitchhikers guide" now in English as well, and loved the BBC series as well, even though the books are much better. A great man that died way too early.