Friday, May 26, 2006

"Travel Light" Reading

Weekend Assignment #113: Someone you know is traveling. Suggest a book or two for them to read on their trip. If at all possible, pick a book from the last couple of years. Also, keep in mind that it's meant to be a recreational book; i.e., they're not really reading to change their life, here, just to have fun.

Ah, John, you're starting to repeat yourself! Last year you wanted us to suggest things for you personally to read while traveling. Now here you are traveling again, and making a similar request. That's all right. We'll let it slide this time.

By the way, for anyone who doesn't recognize the two travelers in the black and white photo, they're Buz Murdock (George Maharis, left) and Tod Stiles (Martin Milner, right) from the 1960-1964 tv series Route 66. I'll get to them in due course.

I haven't bought a lot of books lately, or indeed any in the last couple of months. Money is an issue, and goodness knows time is an even bigger issue, goodness knows. But I do still have those free books and magazines I got at the Nebula Awards Weekend a couple of weeks ago. Let's see whether any of those fit the bill.

A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park.  Cover artist unknown.A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park. I've shown you this book before, and mentioned I was reading it. It's about a teenage girl named Miranda, who was adopted from a Romanian orphanage when she was very young. She still has a small collection of odd artifacts from Romania, including a mysterious one-of-a-kind book. (Actually, there are two of them, not quite identical). Partway through the novel, her book is destroyed, and Miranda finds herself stranded in another reality, the one she always half-remembered from early childhood. In that world, Roumania is a major country rather than a backwater, and in the midst of political upheaval. Miranda is their missing princess, and several years older than she appeared to be in the mundane world. People and events are calling on her to go to Roumania, but she and her transformed friends (one of whom is a dog now) are in danger an ocean away, in the underpopulated wilds of eastern New York State. It's a good read with a somewhat unsatisfying ending. More than half of the book is told from the point of view of a villainous Roumanian baroness, who is frankly much more interesting than Miranda is.

Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black. I believe Holly Black just won the first-ever Andre Norton award for Young Adult fiction. I think she even won it for this book. (Yes, that's right. I finally got around to checking.) It's about a teenage girl who runs away from home and gets involved with kids who live in subway tunnels - and with a troll named Ravus. I'm only about twenty pages into this, but I suspect it's really not light reading. This is pretty much in the dark fantasy realm, with a dark view of reality as well. The reason the protagonist leaves home in the first place is that she catches her mother snogging her boyfriend. Sheesh! Things sure have changed since Madeleine L'Engle had a YA book rejected because it began with the death of a child's father.

Travel Light by Naiomi Mitchison. Could there be a more appropriate title for this Weekend Assignment? This book was just reprinted, but originally came out in 1952. It's a fairy tale about an abandoned princess, raised by a nurse who transforms into a bear. The princess lives as a dragon before returning to the human world. She also travels widely - and, presumably, light. I think this is the next book I'll be reading myself.

I'm going to pass over Fledgling by Octavia Butler (a futuristic sf vampire story), Futureshocks, edited by Lou Anders (a dystopian anthology, as best I can tell), and Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison (mostly too disturbing to qualify as light reading). I got all of these titles along with the others, but I haven't read any of the Butler or the anthology (yet). Harlan's book was my favorite at one time, but that was 30 years ago. It's very good, no doubt about it, but probably not the best choice for a book to travel with. The others don't sound like light reading, either. Good, but not light. The Butler one is the one I'm looking forward to. The other, not so much.

And why must this light reading be a book at all? How about a magazine or two instead? The one I'm thinking of is F&SF (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), edited by Gordon Van Gelder. I used to read F&SF all the time in the 1970s, back when it was edited by Ed Ferman. I even submitted a bad comic ballad to the magazine, my senior year in high school. I suppose that's not strictly relevant, but the fact remains that a collection of short stories, which is what this essentially is, works really well when you're traveling, snatching little bits of reading time by way of distraction while waiting for something else. There's no great commitment to reading hundreds of pages - you can pick something short and zip through it, or select a novelette if your flight isn't going to be called for a couple of hours yet.

Overall, I have to give the nod to Travel Light as the best book to travel with, at least of the titles sampled here. But take the magazine along, too. And if you have a really long layover, that Roumanian princess and her nemesis may prove to be good traveling companions as well.


I was going to spend the evening commenting on everyone's Round Robin entries, but I got sidetracked by Wikipedia again. The entry for the Route 66 tv series is really coming along. Someone added a bunch of stuff about the quality of the writing, with details from a number of specific episodes. That was my cue to finally take all the material in the entry and organize it into headings. Yes, I was on my way to bed, and ended up working the Wiki instead until 2 AM. Tonight I got an earlier start, but if I'm not careful, the result will be the same. Oops! Too late!

I'll get around to the blog jogging tomorrow night, I promise!


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Becky said...

I love F&'s great bathroom reading. ;-) I subscribed for many years (have shelves full). More than I can read in this lifetime. lol

natalie_eve said...

I'm currently reading Valiant, and I like it a lot. I'm going to have to read Tithe.

A Princess of Roumania sounds incredibly cool, but I've never heard of it. It's going on my reading list.

natalie_eve said...

Oops. I meant REread Tithe. I've read it before. I remember finding it tremendously entertaining. And the cover art was pretty.

It's really very similar to Valiant in a lot of ways. Troubled teen falls in with Faerie.

Only Valiant doesn't have Corny. Corny was awesome.