December 24, 2012

Messed Me Up!

Just finished two books that packed a wallop, in completely different ways.

The first was +John Scalzi's Old Man's War.  It's the book that gave him his start and since enjoying his Redshirts so much this past summer, I've wanted to read more of his stuff.  Then Old Man's War became part of this fall's science fiction-themed Humble Bundle.  And then the Sword & Laser picked it for their January read.  So I'm like, OKAY I'LL READ IT.

It's in the same ballpark as Heinlein, Forever War and even Ender's Game.  In the future there are human colonies in space that are having a rough time of it due to other intelligent races wanting to colonize some of the same real estate.  The Colonial Defense Forces try to protect the colonists.  Somehow they take old people from Earth and make them young again and use them as soldiers.  That's the rumor anyway.  The Earth governments aren't very friendly with the CDF other than to allow their recruiting stations to occupy space in some of the sketchier strip malls.  You know how that goes.  Our hero, John Perry, is 75 and feeling done with life here.  He's lost his wife of 42 years and figures, what the hell, why not see what this CDF soldiering is all about.

It includes themes of violence in the name of war, marriage, love, time, memory and the influence of the past on our present and future, and the importance of family both biological and self-created.

I won't tell you what happens other than it is AWESOME and MESSED UP at the same time.

Then I picked up a thin book at my library called Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey.  She is a creative writing professor near here at Emory University and our newest Poet Laureate.  So my guys book club thought it would be cool to read this semi-local poet (she's a native of Mississippi) for April (poetry month).  There's talk of trying to get her to come to our meeting and since we'd meet whenever it was most convenient for her, of course, I want it under my belt so I'm ready to talk about it at a moments notice.  Since it takes all of one hour to read, I'll re-read it again (and maybe again) before we discuss it.

It's great and accessible and haunting and messed me up on many different levels than the Scalzi did.  Here she's dealing with her past and America's past, specifically her parents, mostly her mother  and some of the tragic history of the Civil War.  The Native Guard was, as she states in the notes, "the first officially sanctioned regiment of black soldiers in the Union Army."  Mostly they guarded white Confederate prisoners of war which, as you can imagine, was interesting to say the least.  Trethewey herself is the bridge between these two histories, being born on the 100th Confederate Memorial Day in 1966.

There are themes of violence, both war and domestic, love, hate, the influence of the past on the present and how we interact and deal with it, and the importance of family.

No, these books are nothing alike other than they include similar themes dealt with in completely different ways (and genres) and I happened to finish them on the same day.

Being a reader is weird and fun.  And now I'm off to play with my daughter and her green batch of "Christmas Oobleck."  Why?  Because she's nuts and wonderful and fun.  Happy holidays!

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