Tanya Huff’s Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr is a real kick-butt heroine, and in Valor’s Trial, she begins with some serious action. For the next three hundred pages, the story seldom lags. The plot is basic: Kerr is involved in a hopeless battle with a faceless enemy known for taking no prisoners. In the blink of an eye, her position, and all of the personnel are simply gone. Obliterated. The Corps declares her dead, but neither her lover nor her father can believe it. Actually, neither can Torin Kerr, when she awakens in an underground POW camp, but she does feel quite put upon. Still, one of the duties long held by military forces is to escape, and Kerr is quite determined to do so, regardless of the obstacles or the odds, and no one, not even her fellow Marines, will deter her for long.
Huff’s writing comes across as authentic. The world building is always effective, but her characterizations, via actions and dialogue, are where her skills really shine. I’ve read a fair amount of military fiction, especially science fiction, and while others may hatch more creative plot lines or more expansive empires, no one can touch her realistic prose.
If Tanya Huff had written Star Wars, we’d all believe that Luke, Leia, and Han Solo are real enough to step off of the screen and go to the local watering hole for a drink. Listen up, Syfy channel, when y’all get serious about movie making, take a long look at the Confederation series.
The second stanza of Poe’s magnificent poem, The Raven, describes the weather of this month: “Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December.” But our modern celebration of Christmas often defies the bleakness with a show of light. As a youngster, my family would go on a “light tour” during the month, and for the past few Christmas Eves, I have gone to church and then taken a long light tour with some friends and family members. For any of you who live in my patch of northeastern Georgia, my folks voted the town square in Dahlonega as their favorite light show, but there are plenty of cheerful lights in Helen, Cornelia, and in downtown Athens, also. Gainesville and Clarkesville are trying, but are not quite as successful. What makes Dahlonega the winner is the small size of the town square and the abundance of lights. While we circled the old courthouse over and over, we saw people parking and walking around. Some posed in an empty sleigh, set up near the visitor’s bureau, ready for everyone’s Kodak moment.
Recently, I read a seasonal feature story about communities using lights to brighten up the lives of their neighbors. The most affecting of these stories was one of a youngster who was losing his battle with leukemia. Having been sent home to hopefully enjoy one last Christmas, at the age of two years, little Dax’s neighbors lit up the entire neighborhood, even though it was only October, so he would have plenty of Christmas to see. Yes, they decorated early, just in case he did not live until Christmas Day. The gesture was a welcome one for the sickly young man and his parents. Dax got to see his final Christmas, including the light gifts of his neighbors, because he lived until December 30 of 2009. As the article pointed out, decorations on the interior of a home are for the occupants, but decorating outside is a gift to others who pass by.
When you are out looking at lights, and I hope you will look for them in your neck of the woods, don’t be impatient, as some of the folks are on my road. Across from my home, there is a brilliant light show that is either treasured or mocked by locals, depending on their “Scrooge Factor.” A few nights ago, a car had slowed to a crawl to look at the illuminated decorations, and another vehicle ran up behind and began sounding its horn. Maybe the driver of that second auto was in a hurry, or maybe he just did not understand the gift of light in the bleak December.
There are two rough drafts for this month, and they will more than likely remain in the drafts section of this blog. As I try to come up with something new for Christmas, I realize how hard it is to add to the message of Christmas. For some, this time of year is all about material things, and that is truly sad. No human gift can compare, and certainly not replace, the gift of God to man.
However, words and music can make a powerful statement, and this “new” Christmas carol (first recorded in 1992) is now a favorite of mine. If you have not heard this song, then you might enjoy a carol written in our time, about a message for all time.