Monthly Archives: March 2016

Bookhunter

Bookhunter / Jason Shiga

Cold open

The metropolitan library system is divided into two equally important groups: the Librarians, who facilitate access to information and the Library Police who investigate crimes against it. This is their story.

(Gavel sound)

The Library Police have finally tracked down the individual responsible for the disappearance of multiple copies of Judy Blume’s Forever. While preparing to break into the criminal’s apartment and recover the books they discover that the fiend is holding the books hostage. Thanks to the quick thinking of the inspector and the creative use of a shotgun, the books are retrieved unharmed. But this is only the beginning…

(Opening credits)

(Commercial break)

Law

(Dramatic glasses removal)

A Caxton Bible on loan to the main branch of the public library has mysteriously disappeared without triggering any of the security systems.

(Dramatic glasses return)

The Library Police are called in to investigate the case.

(Dramatic glasses removal)

They must discover the source of the replica currently in the display case, how the culprit managed to get the book out of the library without triggering the security system, and what

(Commercial break)

(Gavel sound)

(Dramatic glasses removal)

the villain’s ultimate goal is. They’ll use the most up-to-date technology to track down the culprit and retrieve the stolen book … by any means necessary.

(Gavel sound)

Continue reading Bookhunter

Advertisements

Princess of Mars / A rose for Ecclesiastes

A review in two parts.

Part I

Princess of Mars / Edgar Rice Burroughs

A rose for Ecclesiastes / Roger Zelazny

Princess of Mars is a story about imperialism and how assuming indigenous cultures are ignorant savages rules by their superstitions just waiting for a white man to come rescue them is foolish in the extreme.

Wait, I think I may have things slightly wrong here. Let me consult my notes.

I’ve been informed that the above description of this classic pulp adventure is totally backwards. Let me try again.

A Princess of Mars stars a soldier who has recently taken part in a treasonous uprising. The revolt having failed, he decides to invade a sovereign nation in search of gold. Upon finding it, he is shocked to discover that the inhabitants take issue with his plan to rob them of their natural resources. Trespassing on sacred ground to avoid capture, he finds himself transported to Mars. There he protects the local settled, agricultural population from the nomadic Green Martians (race being the determiner of virtually all individual characteristics), rescues the (nude) princess and becomes a prince, using his superior strength and intellect to negotiate a truce between the Green and Red Martians. At this point I feel obliged to point out that this story was the inspiration for the movie Avatar.*

So it’s pretty much your standard colonialist white savior narrative that has been done ten thousand times. Yes, it’s an uncomplicated adventure story but at this point more than 100 years after its original publication there are so many other stories that don’t drip unexamined racism there’s not really any point to reading this for entertainment. It’s definitely valuable for its historical importance and those wanting to experience the history of the genre should check it out.

*I was incredibly disappointed when I discovered that it was not, as I initially thought, a movie about Krishna. The promotional stuff I initially saw only showed an eye on an apparently blue skinned face and I was really excited that there was going to be a big budget movie featuring the eighth avatar of Vishnu. That would have been an amazing movie.

Part II

So what about my earlier description? That’s more suited to A rose for Ecclesiastes, a story that almost didn’t get published because Zelazny, more than 50 years ago, knew that the “dying Mars” subgenre was outdated and somewhat embarrassing.

To describe A rose for Ecclesiastes as an anti-imperialist take on Burroughs isn’t really accurate. Still, Zelazny does an excellent job of subverting the standard planetary romance tropes while crafting the best example of the genre I’ve ever encountered. So read that instead.