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Since right now I am avoiding work with all my might, here's the beginning of a list of book series I read (and didn't find completely annoying), in not quite chronological order:

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

The first book in the series was the one I used to teach myself English. It was a slow and painstaking process, and every time I reread the book its meaning morphed into something completely different due to my increasing language skills. The following books were pure delight, except perhaps for the fifth one which is still brilliant but depressing.

These books already are insanely popular, but if you haven't read them and are bored out of your skull, give them a try. They're almost certainly worth it.

"My doctor says that I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fibre and that I am therefore excused from saving universes."


Now it is such a bizarrely impossible coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the nonexistence of God. The argument goes something like this:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED."

"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promply vanishes in a puff of logic.


Number Two's eyes narrowed and became what are known in the Shouting and Killing People trade as cold slits, the idea presumably being to give your opponent the impression that you have lost your glasses or are having difficulty keeping awake. Why this is frightening is an, as yet, unresolved problem.


2. The Vorkosigan Series by Lois McMaster Bujold

These books continue to amaze me every time I reread them. In a genre that's almost exclusively populated by male authors (most of who usually sacrifice characterization for the sake of plot and generally can't write relationships worth a damn), Lois writes intelligent science-fiction that's inherently character-driven. The understated, utterly real love story in "Cordelia's Honor" is the best I've ever read, in any genre, and her characters get better with every following book.

Most love stories end at their apogee, the moment when the couple has come to some sort of resolution abut their life together. But that's not where life (or love) ends, if indeed it ever does. The true change happens through procreation, the passing on of the genetic torch. Or, as Lois put it, "Becoming a parent is one of these basic human transformational deeds. By this act, we change our fundamental relationship with the universe – if nothing else, we lose our place as the pinnacle and end-point of evolution, and become a mere link. The demands of motherhood especially consume the old self, and replace it with something new, often better and wiser, sometimes wearier or disillusioned, or tense and terrified, certainly more self-knowing, but never the same again."

In further books she creates a crooked, fragile, utterly brilliant little man, a complete non-hero if there ever was one (anti-hero doesn't fit in this case), who proceeds to blind the reader with his personality. I'll be the first to admit that I am usually looking for physical attractiveness in the fictional heroes I read about -- I'm shallow that way. Granted, beauty coupled with stupidity annoys me, but intelligence without the added bonus of at least a passable appearance has never interested me much either.

And yet Miles Vorkosigan is so scintillating, so alive, so completely incandescent that I couldn't help falling a little in love with him. He is also selfish and a master manipulator, driven by his own brilliance as others are by the lust for power, but he still manages to remain endearing despite his many faults.

"Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards." (A Civil Campaign)


Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart. (Memory)


"You don't pay back your parents. You can't. The debt you owe them gets collected by your children, who hand it down in turn. It's a sort of entailment. Or if you don't have children of the body, it's left as a debt to your common humanity. Or to your God, if you possess or are possessed by one." (A Civil Campaign)


"Tests are a gift. And great tests are a great gift. To fail the test is a misfortune. But to refuse the test is to refuse the gift, and something worse, more irrevocable, than misfortune." (Shards of Honor/Cordelia's Honor)


"If it isn't Sergeant Bothari of Barrayar. And what did you bring me this time, Sergeant? A few nuclear antipersonnel mines, overlooked in your back pocket? A maser cannon or two, accidentally mixed up with your shaving kit? A gravitic imploder, slipped somehow into your boot?"


"It's... a transcendental act. Making life. I thought about that, when I was carrying Miles. 'By this act, I bring one death into the world'. One birth, one death, and all the pain and acts of will between." (Barrayar/Cordelia's Honor)

"I didn't know psychological denial could drop so many IQ points over the side." (Memory)


You should have fallen in love with a happy man, if you wanted happiness. But no, you had to fall for the breathtaking beauty of pain.... (Barrayar/Cordelia's Honor)


Gah. This is getting entirely too long again, but I promise to continue it in further posts if anyone's interested (actually, I'll probably continue it anyway if I don't forget). :D



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 24th, 2004 09:57 pm (UTC)
I just bought the entire set of Hitchiker books. If Douglas Adams hadn't passed recently, I'd petition him to have my children.

You have good tastes. ;-)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )