Thursday, August 11, 2011

From The Top Shelf...



For as far back as I can recall it has often been said of me that I am a somewhat picky man in nature. When it comes to almost any topic you'll often find that my tastes are never exactly what are expected. And when it comes to literature, well, let's just say that I've never been able to just pick up the latest best seller and enjoy my weekend. I take my book hunting very seriously, as it is a major source of pleasure for me. One that unfortunately grows ever more difficult with regard to discovering new material worthy of my bookshelf.

At a glance my bookshelf, or at least my primary one(yes, I do have just that many  books), may look like any other bookshelf to the casual eye. But to me, and perhaps the other half of my brain, there is a subtle yet complex system organizing it. Long story short - anything that comes from my top shelf is literary treasure the likes of which I value as if they were priceless artifacts.

Each and every one of them have earned a special place with me, not to mention being responsible for shaping me in a myriad of ways. I thought I might share some of my top shelf, along with some of my own thoughts on them. But, since I've never quite been able to pick favorites or declare a top 10(there are perhaps 43+ titles littering that shelf), I figure I'll just list the contents and go from there. So, without further adieu, let's see what gems await, shall we?

Where to begin... Perhaps with a book I am currently re-reading, one that has proven over the years to be only one of a meager few to bear that claim.

Twilight of the Empire by: Simon R. Green
I found this book some 14 years ago or so, at a k-mart shelf, and immediately it's pages just tugged at my fingertips. In many ways I think it has helped shape my own writing and some concepts that ended up weaving themselves into other projects I have developed. Granted, I am sure a good deal of other readers out there will cite various plot elements and character cliche's as flaws in the book, but this is generally a matter of taste. Now I won't readily deny that some aspects of the book aren't predictable, recurring or lacking originality, but  therein lies one of it's appeals.

The book is a collection of 3 novella's, each one separate but connected to a setting that has come to be known as the Deathstalker Universe. Each story details a set world and group of characters, always returning to their relation to the Empire. Within every tale you learn little facts that you come to expect in the next. For example: Disruptors are vicious and deadly guns that can burn a beam of energy through almost anything but at the cost of a recharge time in between shots. And as is often reminded; it's wiser not to rely on them on their own - as a lot can happen in two minutes.

For me, each of the three worlds were fascinating in their rich detail and description. Green paints a vivid scene and all his characters have memorable traits and qualities that endear themselves to you. Of all three worlds I have to admit I adore Mistworld and Ghostworld the best. Hellworld is a very interesting scenario in it's own right, complete with some very memorable characters. It's only stumbling point for me is an awkward alien antagonistic entity that dubiously lends itself to what I might imagine a really bad acid trip might encompass.

Green does a impeccable job blending a science fiction tale that sweeps countless worlds with wondrous marvels of technology with the gritty determination and drive of fantasy. In the book it isn't just some awkward element when characters draw blades or start tossing daggers, it flows effortlessly along side the blast of disruptors and the hum of energy shields. It just works, in point of fact. And it does so in such a way that it isn't overly complicated with over-abundant trappings of  technology and detailed descriptions that confuse or confound. The whole of the work is just simple, straight-forward fun to loose yourself in.

Well, there is one down. Keep an eye out and I think I'll try and continue this little theme. We'll see what tomorrow holds, shall we?