What I Happen to Be Reading At the Moment

"A thirteen-year-old is a kaleidoscope of different personalities, if not in most ways a mere figment of her own imagination. At that age, what and who you are depends largely on what book you happen to be reading at the moment.”

 

While not 13 anymore, the desire to read almost anything and everything in order to read for fun and for experience is still around. I'm currently working on my PhD in a physical science, but I love to read and books are one of my non-science hobbies.

A Wrinkle in Time Trilogy - Madeleine L'Engle I probably should have read more than A Wrinkle in Time as a child. There are a few things (the multiple doctorates, the Barbara McClintock-like mother with experiments in a shed, the telepathy) that I just don't buy being older, and they are distracting when I'm trying to read something as science fiction as an adult. I loved L.M. Montgomery when I read her as an adult, but I'm sadly not feeling the same about Madeleine L'Engle. A Wrinkle in Time is all sorts of cool time travel, through Meg talks about how smart her parents are a little too much. Really, Meg? Just act smart already instead of being so hard on yourself and have an adventure. Oh, wait, she finally does. Though I swear her solution for how to defeat IT would be something straight out of Harry Potter, and just a little too simplistic but developmentally appropriate. I vaguely remember reading this first installment in the fifth grade (or fourth, I had the same teacher for both so they kind of blend together) at the instance of another scientist's kid (which is a whole different story), and rushing through to the end to solve the disappeared father mystery. What can I say, I liked science fiction and mysteries, not all these feelings and stuff. Upon re-reading, I had a bit of an Avengers giggle at the tesseract, but I wish Madeline L'Engle had just said it was a hypercube the whole time. Hypercubes I get. Then, I figured I should probably see what all the fuss was about more than a decade ago and read some of the rest of the series. Have I mentioned I like science? I can handle a lot in the name of plot, like faster than light travel. Making mitochondria a bunch of happy aliens, not so much. A Wind at the Door's biology of course comes from the early 1970s which means some of the most exciting discoveries in the field have yet to be made or fully understood. But telepathic creatures trying to take control of the world by being mean and dark? Really? It's simplistic, sure, but the mixing of science fiction and fantasy in this way I just don't buy. I'm not sure it's strictly an age thing, either. It's just thrown together in terms of world building, so it fails a mature member of the SFF world. However, in terms of a children's novel, it's awfully dramatic and exciting without being excessively violent. As a well trained student of literature, I have to say A Wind at the Door is not a strong science fiction piece but has many elements of the classic children's adventure/morality tale. (Narnia and C.S. Lewis, please note the significant look as I am going to mention you next.)The third book in the series, A Swiftly Tilting Planet draws the most comparison to The Chronicles of Narnia. There is a unicorn, and our intrepid hero, Meg Murray, is out for the duration because she's really pregnant. So forget all that cool going to university and getting science degrees or at least going on some pretty awesome time traveling adventures, she's stuck in her attic room with a pet, feeling fat and hoping that her telepathic connection to her brother holds up. She's at least present through the novel, but she's almost taken a Susan role as she's denied having adventures because she's doing lady stuff, like having had sex and gotten pregnant. She can have adventures through her male relatives, and that's what gives me reader rage. The plot and use of fantastic creatures is all well and good, but I have issues with Meg in the same way Neil Gaiman has issues with Susan Pensive's treatment. Women who miss out on adventures, or has to experience them through male relatives, because of their gender makes me angry in a this-is-why-I-liked-Tamora-Pierce-so-much-as-a-child way. It's the kind of troubling portrayal of female characters that really causes A Swiftly Tilting Planet to be overwhelmed by its flaws. I've not read further in the series to see if Meg Murray is redeemed as a character, but for now I've had my dose of classic children's literature for a while. A Wrinkle in Time is simplistic but no doubt a classic, and does a fair job of introducing a more science-fiction/fantasy element to the otherwise somewhat preachy plot. The rest of the initial trilogy I could really have done without. The over-reliance on somewhat brief world building and the problematic role of Meg as she grows up make the next two books frustrating instead of pleasantly quaint but well done like A Wrinkle in Time.

Currently reading

Native Son
Richard Wright
The Great Glass Sea
Josh Weil
The Elder Edda
Anonymous, Andrew Orchard