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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Having driven around the area of Las Vegas and down to the Grand Canyon a couple of years ago, and having travelled many times through Central Australia to Cooper Pedy and Alice via the Oodnadatta Track, I felt the searing desert heat lift from the pages of the book and through to my skin.
Yes, Harrison certainly captured the heat. I must admit I thought what are you doing here people!
Well, I know they were following the storyline.
Me, I was experiencing the way the desert sun sapped every ounce of energy, every drop of moisture from you and the recollection of murmured prayers to keep the Holden moving, air conditioning turned off to lessen pressure on engine.

‘…we do stupid stuff for each other just because we like you.’

Get ready for the ‘Great American Family Road Trip … full of unhappy people heading west’ across the searing landscape from Cincinnati via Las Vegas to San Francisco. Rachael and the gang are off to the annual witches’ convention to have her reinstated, and to attend her brother’s wedding. Trent has his own mysterious reasons to urgently get to the West Coast. Of course before they even leave Rachael and company are attacked by assassins. En route they battle demons (naturally), more assassins and wild pixies. Rachael’s battered and bruised and I’m battered and bruised following her story.
There were moments when I cried for her and moments when everything was going to ‘hell in a hand basket’ (literally) and I wished the story would just hurry up and come to any conclusion that I could be happy with.
There are moments of clarity when this is the ass kicking, feisty, foolish, demon brushed, itchy witch is doing her thing, intermittently offset by the vulnerable, forlorn, and broken hearted person that inhabits her heart and head. The real Rachel emerges, battling with those who love her, use her, and fighting her own inner turmoil.
Pale Demon has moments of frustration and confusion, of despair and hope—all reflecting the impossible characters of Rachel and her strange family. As Jenks says to Trent, ‘You’ve seen what it’s like to be in a family, with all the touchy tempers and irritation that goes on. Now you get to see the other side, where we do stupid stuff for each other just because we like you.’
Despite my moments of irritation with Rachael, I enjoyed Pale Demon. I want to give it 3&1/2 stars

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Northlight by Deborah J. Ross

                                                         … ‘another Kardith’s leap?’

I quite enjoyed Northlight. Enough that I bought Ross‘s other novel Jaydium in order to explore her writing further …and of course I am a Darkover fan.
For some reason I was left with the feeling that the characters in Northlight had more going for them than what was in print. (Very post modern)
Don’t get me wrong. The characters are forceful, they are fully present, and I liked them, yet somehow their potentials are not as realized as I felt they could be. Or maybe it’s the novel’s ending that is not as fully realized for me.
Ross‘s evocative use of language is excellent. Having just come through a snow filled, minus temperatures winter, I particularly appreciated her sketch of the landscape where,
‘the smaller tributary snak[ed] in from the northwest. Where it dumped into the Serenity, colder than winter snot.’
A post apocalyptical story (I’m seeing early Andre Norton-ish here) situated on the world of Harth, with some interesting twists centering around the interactions of Kardith, a Starhall ranger, missing ranger Aviyya, and Aviyya’s brother Terricel, a scholar. Set in a time when the society is struggling with traditions and rules whose origins and meanings have been lost down through the ages. A time when Guardians and Rangers and religious politics intertwine and collide.
The central characters journeys take them across Harth, (in unexpected ways) from Starhall to the Northlight,
‘…two ends of the road, two poles with all of Harth strung out between them,
’with a mountain range of angst, misunderstanding and danger in between.

At one point, when the travelers emerged from the volcanic cone, I was reminded of an experience in the Azores, standing in the volcanic vent, Algar do Carvo, on Teceira Island, looking up towards the sky, outlined by slabs of rock, mosses and ferns.

I wondered if the travelers’ experience of emergence paralleled my own.