Ghosts of Christmas Past

Christmas Card

I love Christmas Cards

Warning, this post is not about books.

Each year, I write a letter to friends and family, but I try to avoid bragging or writing about things everyone knows anyway. I really hate those sorts of letters. In my letter, I try to present a humorous take on the previous year, and I always include a few photos, usually of my son (who is kinda cute) and my husband, who is rather dignified, but certainly good looking. Since I am the family photographer, it can be difficult finding a picture of me, but I try. I put the letter in a traditional card, because I really like getting cards, and the only way to get some is to send some.

However, each year, I update my card list, and there are several addresses that are deleted or altered, because the recipient died, or Mr. and Mrs. becomes one or the other, because one of them passed on. This morning, I opened a few more cards, and one of the ladies had written a note that she misses her husband so much. The card I sent her was one of the ones that I had to alter, and I never hit the delete key without thinking about how difficult it is to go through the holidays with an empty chair, a lonely meal, or a side of the bed that is no longer occupied. While this is sad, it is also life.

Thankfully, some folks are still having children, and those will bring joy to those of us fortunate enough to have them. I’m very blessed to have an almost two-year old granddaughter. Lately, I have taken an old kid-craft version of the nativity, and put it within her reach. She can point to the “baby” which is merely a folded piece of felt with a wooden head glued on it, and she can also identify the “mama” and the “daddy” which are made of sticks, cloth, and glue. This little wood and cloth scene has some “hay” and a “star” for her to talk about as well. While she can’t form sentences, she does seem to realize that this object has some significance. Perhaps, next year, I can show her one with a bit more detail, and explain why there are holidays to celebrate.

In the years to come, I will take out some photo albums, and show her those who have passed from this world, as well as sharing photos from more recent times. Hopefully, she will grasp the importance of family. Christmas can be sad, because of those I have lost, but it is also very happy, because I have a future to build as well.

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Tales of Honor— Volume 1 “On Basilisk Station”

Tales of Honor IAs a fan of David Weber, I have been most interested in the new venture he has with Evergreen Studios to turn the adventures of his flagship character, Honor Harrington, into a series of comic books, a video game, and eventually, a movie series. I seldom play video games, so I won’t comment on that aspect, but re-imagining the characters in a semi-manga set of comics is an interesting approach to creating a wider audience for Weber’s work.

I purchased the actual book (a larger paperback) rather than the eBook, because I wanted to examine the work closely and perhaps share it. I’ve read (and re-read) the books, so I am not the intended audience. Fans of Weber’s prose are probably going to be disappointed, because there are not many words in these books. Comics (graphic novels?) are quite different from prose, and Weber uses lots of words. However to bring Honor off the page and onto film will require story boards, so I am viewing this book, and those that hopefully will come later, as elaborate story boards. Weber has a full page introduction in this book wherein he asks fans to be open-minded about the new approach to his work.

On Basilisk Station has a good bit of exposition, and while interesting, it isn’t as tense as some of the later novels, so I found it interesting that Tales of Honor, Volume I begins “in medias res” with the situation at the end of book seven (In Enemy Hands) as the framework for book one. Certainly this approach ramps up the suspense, as Honor faces torture and execution, and remembers these earlier events, because her previous exploits are what led to her capture by the Havenites.

A few posts back, I included some art by a cover artist who really captures the Honor Harrington of my imagination, and this Top Cow/Evergreen Studios version is quite a bit different. Still, art conveys meaning in a different manner than words, and just having visuals of Honor and her universe may alienate some fans, but will hopefully attract others.

Do I like this book? Well, not really. I very much prefer the original. But is it bad? Nope, it isn’t. Honestly, the comic novel manages to get across quite a bit of the original, in very few pages. The pictures are not cartoons, but have quite a bit of detail. Especially interesting are the panels which explain how propulsion and weapons work in Honorverse. Weber always mentions the devastation of warfare, but the visuals here are more dramatic than words alone. My main problem with Tales of Honor is the problem that fans often have with films—a disconnect between what I previously imagined and what I am seeing. This version of Honor is less beautiful, more menacing, and less subtly nuanced than the one in my imagination. And, the Nimitz in this book is unrecognizable. Really. Are these problems created by the artists, or by my lack of an open mind?

As of this writing there is only a one-star review on Amazon, written by a disgruntled fan who is also experiencing this closed-minded disconnect. Hopefully, that will change, because for Honor to become a film heroine, the comic books will need to find more receptive audience. And, I believe Honor’s exploits would make one heck of a good series of movies, so I am gonna hop over to Amazon and leave a review.

The Martian— a quick review and some commentary

The MARTIAN coverOften, I choose to read indie published books rather than those from the “big six” publishers, because I find the content of indie books to be a bit more raw, unpolished, and (sometimes) unique. Yes, I am disappointed from time to time (as in my previous post) but I keep trolling for new authors and books. However, recently, Goodreads sent out a newsletter and the science fiction book of the year was Andy Weir’s The Martian. The blurb caught my eye so I bought it, but didn’t begin immediately, as I was slogging through a book on SEO (search engine optimization) at the time. Over the weekend, I began The Martian, and I was hooked. Like from the first page, I was seriously into the story.

The plot is not a new one. An astronaut is marooned on Mars. His fellow crew members are on the way home, believing that he is dead. But, this astronaut is determined and a heck of an engineer, so he keeps finding ways to use what is at hand to survive. After a while, the NASA folks figure out he is still alive, so they are trying to figure out how to get him home. Yes, it is really suspenseful. But sometimes it is laugh out loud funny, because the main character is quite a character.

Actually, this book was so engaging that I began to question my quest for good indie books. If the big guys are publishing this kind of science fiction, then I should be looking at the best seller lists again. So, after finishing the book, I did a wee bit of research and learned that Weir’s book was originally self-published via Amazon’s Kindle Direct (yeah!) and only after it sold thousands (at 99 cents, because that’s Amazon’s minimum price) in the first three months did big publishing come calling. Now, it is the basis for a movie starring Matt Damon.

The book is cool. Weir’s evolution as a writer is seriously cool. Many of the self-published and small press published writers, including yours truly, would love to have this sort of rags to riches experience. The impediment to that is having a really great book. The Martian is such a book. So, my suggestion is read it now and try to wait for the film version. Gravity won an Oscar, so the way is paved for another near future space adventure to do well at the box office.