Posted by Sari
Huh. Got it done! There were a few books I had to read quickly and they did not grab me so it welt a chore, but in all honesty, I might have not read them at all without this challenge, and I do feel richer for doing so. All in all, a great challenge and I enjoyed doing it!
Category 19, A Hugo-winning Novel: Ursula LeGuin: The Dispossessed
I read the dispossed durig my golden age of science fiction, and have only vague memories of a fence, the rough life on Anarres and parties on Urras. So re-read was obviously in order. It is the story of a physicist Shevek, born and raised on the anarchist society on Anarres. Shevek is the first person for centuries to travel to Urras, their former home planet, still divided to nation states with either capitalist of totalitarian systems of government. The differences of culture and society make him in the end join a revolutionary protest and eventually return to Anarres, though alternating chapters of his youth and life on Anarres makes it clear he has grown disillusioned with that world also.
It is a great political novel. Some things remind of the fact that it was written in 1974: the binary thinking enforced by taoist ying and yang, and the second wave feminism that informs it are most clear indicators. But the thoughtful way the societies are depicted, the acknowledgement that they are not static, and the way Shevek reacts both to his austere home and the abundand Urras work still well. Also the structure mirroring the societies and Shevek's experiences is work of genius. Maybe next I should try Word for World is Forest, which has also languished on the shelf since I was about 12. After all, as the craven capitalist society of A-lo seems now more familiar than ever, it would be interesting to see how modern enviromentalism would inform re-reading the Word for World.
Category 14, a Non-fiction book about SF: Adam Roberts: The History of Science Fiction
Adam Roberts, or especially in this context, Professor Adam Roberts, has an enviable talent to pull together things that for the first glance have nothing to do with each other. Take Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, the SF horror movie The Thing and the Fermi paradox. Who else would have taken all these things and written The Thing Itself, stylistically masterful and most science fictional science fiction novel published in years.
This is the second edition of his History of Science Fiction, published in Palgraves Histories of Literature -series. It is a comprehensive look at the history of Science Fiction from ancient times to this day. Roberts' thesis is that Science Fiction as a genre was (re)born with the reformation and the 17th-century scientific revolution - a view I as a historian of the 17th-century have lots of sympathy with. Copernican system of the world, the scientific method, the protestant emphasis of individual (salvation) and the willingness of protestant states to at least tolerate new knowledge, and the gradual acceptance of new and future as something that might even be better than past all make this a persuasive argument. With this in mind, it is understandable and necessary from the point of view of what constitutes science fiction, that third of the book is preoccupied by pre 20th-century fictions.
Roberts' assured knowledge not only of the genre but literary history in general, his engagement with SF-community, and his facility to do interesting readings on individual authors and movements makes this irreplaceable tool for researchers and a stimulating read for anyone intereste in the genre. I particulary enjoyed his take on early 20th-century modernist SF and its links to the ideas that also birthed fascism.
The most famous of the Chinese green teas, Longjing or dragon tea truly is the king of teas. It has a wonderful delicate taste and the aroma when you wake up the leaves with hot water is wonderful. This, like oolong, I prepare gongfu-style but instead of a clay pot I use gaiwan, a china cup with a lid to brew the tea. A perfect cup for Christmas Eve morning when the ham is out of the oven mashed potato casserole is going in and before kitchen turns into a war-zone.