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Tycho / on Wed, Apr 7 2010 at 12:00 am

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By Way Of Explanation

One deficit an electronic reader has over printed media, and this is only a factor if you’ve been in the air as much as we have lately, is that there are portions of the flight where you can’t read.  Your “book,” as it were, now belongs in the same criminal class of devices which includes laptops and missile transponders.  The other deficit, I suppose, is that when the device runs out of power your “book” ceases to exist.  It retains the gaudy and absurd physicality so common with objects, but all the purpose has leaked out.  The unbook you have left becomes a lady of impenetrable chastity.

Time was every flight I took found itself catalogued here in incredible detail, a process I eventually decided not to subject you to.  The only way to survive the flight with my psychology intact was to act as a secondary observer of my own mind, to yoke it, to feel sympathy for this subverted and useless wretch who had been driven to such depths.  

I would never say anything to disparage the airlines’ carefully cultivated atmosphere of arbitrary terror.  And certainly, it’s crucial that we observe every ounce of their bullshit mysticism when it comes to technology and the lethal beams they might emit.  The whole thing has the feel of some religious practice from the moment you enter the airport, some codified rite of supplication to an unknowable force.  Before the book tour, Gabriel had never ridden a train before - and he was barely prepared for its comparative humanity.  

I continue to hurtle through Naomi Novik’s Temeraire Series at an alarming rate, alarming because at my natural pace I’ll be quite finished with the lot of them within the space of two weeks.  I said that they were good, and if you have explored them, you know that I was not wrong: but I didn’t explain why.

Generally, I’d prefer that you discover your own Why.  That’s part of what makes what I do here so infuriating for the reader, I’m sure - what I present is often purposefully incomplete.  The moment where you seize an idea for yourself is what confers ownership, and I won’t interfere with that if I can help it.  What’s happening in these books is so cool though that I have to call it out.

The book is good as a general assessment: it has good bones, and a strong profile.  But the way it is written - as a historical novel, in a historical mode - elevates the proceedings considerably.  Encasing what must be called a Novel of Modern Fantasy in measured, stable British idiom plays a neat trick: it actually grounds the story’s fantastic elements, understating them, so that the end result is a thoughtful and textured work where draconic aviation is simply another way to serve one’s country; not fantasy so much as another, hidden history.   

(CW)TB out.

black holes that suck up the light


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