February 28, 2004
3. Catastrophe: A Quest for the Origins of the Modern World, David Keys
Keys has an interesting premise: some sort of disaster happened around 434 A.D. that was so great it impacted the development of society around the world. Unfortunately, he tries to go about explaining it all wrong.
Rather than present his proposed disaster in the first chapter, Keys shows how each and every civilization experienced a shift in the 500s and how it all came directly from famine and various climactic changes, and everything, EVERYTHING, from the fall of Rome to the bubonic plague to the rise of Islam to the unification of China, came from this one event. By the time he got to how North America was affected, I no longer cared. I just wanted to find out what he said caused this enormous change.
I admit to skimming huge portions of the book, just because his attempt at creating suspense (in a nonfiction book) failed miserably. I finally just skimmed the last chapter, to find out that he thinks an enormous volcanic eruption caused all of these changes. Or maybe a comet strike. But probably a volcano. He can't decide.
I don't know. It's an interesting theory, but it could have been presented much more logically than it was.
February 14, 2004
2. Characters & Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card
Where has this book been all my life? Holy shit there's some useful stuff in there. This is one of those writing books that I read thinking, "Why have I never read this before?"
I tend to dwell over whatever my major project is whenever I read a book on writing, trying to take what I'm reading and apply it to the problems I'm dealing with. This book hit the nail on the head. I was able to spot several ways to strengthen some characters in The Exile's Daughter. Also, I finally got what Mer meant when we talked about various POV issues in certain scenes--and I see how to improve things.
In short, Card's book left me geeked about writing and eager to try and apply some of the ideas he talked about. There are a few points where he's a little too "this is how X should be done" for my tastes, but he's far less guilty of it than some others I've read. Definitely a book I need to own, and soon.