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I never expected to recommend a zombie apocalypse book to anyone. I don't read horror and I don't like zombie movies (excepting Shaun of the Dead, of course).
So, when a zombie book was on my Hugo ballot (so worth it!), I grudgingly read it. Actually, to keep the stakes low, I started with the Hugo-nominated novella. It was good, it had promise, a good wind up story, and excellent Once upon a time.
I figured I would read the Hugo-nominated novel (once you pay your bucks, you get a bunch of books, might as well read through them), even though the novel was the second in a trilogy. Basically, cynic that I am, I wanted to know whether it was worse than Martin's Thrones book (ahem, not a fan) so I could do my judgely duties.
The zombie book got me on the first page. It sucked me in so much that at the end of the first chapter of my free book, I went back to the first book in the trilogy, bought it, and devoured it. Then back to the Hugo packet to read the second. Then bought the third. It was a weekend where I got very little done. And then, two weeks later, I re-read all three because I'd been thinking so much about them. (Calibration: My usual re-read rate for books I like very much is once a year.)
Before I go on, I should at least give you a link to the books. The first one is Feed by Mira Grant. Start there. The novella was Countdown down but it is a prequel/origin story so maybe save it. You can find the other books from there. One itty-bitty spoiler: at the trilogy end, there is an end. Kind of refreshing, actually.
Inexplicably, I'm still thinking about these books that are about the zombie apocalypse. I find myself applying them to the world at large. It is a little weird. Maybe if I tell you about them, it will be some sort of catharsis and I won't have to think about them any more. (Doubt it.)
Fear does not make you safe.
When we heard about the horrible, senseless tragedy in Colorado, the tickets we had for the noon showing of Batman were not as shiney as they had been the day before. Terrorist? Whack job? Did it matter? Why should this nutter stop us from seeing this movie? Or taking the fun out of it?
And not just current events, this applies to all of the times where it is easier to avoid something that seems scary. Even taking a Tylenol. But being afraid doesn't make anyone safe. Being vigilant (and, according to the zombie books, armed) can keep me safe. But just being afraid and hiding? Not so much.
Another theme of the trilogy is that people in power will use fear to keep people complacent, an illusion of safety through control. Anyway, I didn't highlight this as a lesson learned because I think it should be self-evident to anyone paying attention to TSA and the War on Terror. But let's move on…
Politicians should check with six-year-olds.
In one scene in the book (not a spoiler), a character says that the president should have run his plan by a child. If the child says that the president will never get anything in his stocking but coal ever again, well, maybe it isn't a good plan. This seems like a good idea to me. Maybe then we could avoid murder drones, and broken promises.
What happens to make it all complicated? Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes there is right and there is wrong. I tend to live in a very gray world, really able to see reason in both sides of just about every issue. And yet, I hope my actions are mostly on the side of good. And I agree that six-year-olds have an intrinsic morality (thought it can be bloodthirsty).
I like Seanan McGuire's writing very much.
(Mira Grant is a pen name.) And now I've got a couple whole series to read. In fact, I read Rosemary and Rue this afternoon, a different series in a different world. It was urban fantasy not science fiction (not horror). And no zombies. Which is fine for now, but I do hope there are some zombies in the future.
I have a friend with two elementary school boys. They are both extraordinarily bright. The older one is quiet about it, the younger is noisier with less self control (though he’s younger so I don’t think the comparison is reasonable except that it is only possible for me to compare them in the now).
Anyway, the younger one just finished second grade. However, on the standardized tests, he scored at twelfth grade reading level. 12. Seriously, the boys have excellent vocabularies and they enjoy reading. I love that sometimes they don’t want to obey because they are too busy reading or want to bring their books to the table. This is awesome.
But what do you give a second grader to read when he’s reading at high school level? What has interesting, complicated vocabulary and structure but doesn’t have sex, drugs, death and violence?
I think the boys have both read Harry Potter but I’m not sure the younger read all of them. So let’s set the bar at Harry Potter 3 and consider what else might be good.
Many of the books I can think of I read as an adult… Lemony Snicket was fun, up to about book five where it started to go off the rails. Very nice vocab, engaging but convoluted plots. The Chronicles of Narnia were pretty spiffy though I’m not sure how far I got.
I suppose anything published before 1950 has a good chance of mild themes. Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew. Oh, and Mark Twain, Sherlock Holmes are free in ebooks. But those feel a little like school books. How to get them to stay fun?
There are some new books that are supposed to be good (at least according to my Goodreads recommendations)- Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, How to Train Your Dragon. This is such an interesting problem. And I love books so much. But I kind of have a lousy memory for details about them. I thought The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would be good but my husband says no, really no. And yet I cannot recall what about it would be in appropriate to an eight year old. Sure the whole Earth buys it but that is incidental to the story. (And Lemony Snicket is way more macabre.)
Speaking of macabre, Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book was fantastic. Not too scary, really a great book. It won an award… The Newbery Medal. I bet all those are fantastic. Everything on that list that I’ve read has been pretty amazing.
I also mentioned to my friend that nonfiction wouldn’t have theme issues. And if they can get addicted to reading facts, well, they will start acing everything else real soon. I don’t remember when I read Flatworld but I recall thinking it must be a secret book that would change the way everyone thought of mathematics once it was discovered. Stephen and Lucy Hawking just put out some children’s books about physics, modern physics. I bet those are neat. I kinda want to read them myself.
Back to fiction, though. I read Among Others last year. It is up for a Hugo award now and will be my choice for winner. I joined the Hugo voting partially so I could vote for that, partially because the number of excellent books I got for $75 was so very worth it.
Anyway, Among Others is a book about a girl adjusting to the loss of her twin sister, dealing with a dysfunctional family, and finding solace in sci-fi books. Trust me when I say the Hugo folks like the last bit the best. The book was written by someone who clearly loves books. That was my favorite part. I kept wanting to ask the heroine whether she’d considered this book or that one.
I like to talk about books, compare notes. But I’m not part of a book club as I don’t like having to read something, it just sucks the fun from it. And I’m only an intermittent GoodReads user because I don’t like how it totals up the book, making me look addicted to the written word. There is no truth in that, I very seldom go through more than a book a day.
Maybe I should volunteer to read the books for my friend’s kids. I wouldn’t mind a summer spent reading children’s books. At least I can save them from Where the Red Fern Grows (bait and switch!) and Bridge to Terabithia (ditto) and Little Women (just ugh).
I bet Emma wishes she’d never mentioned it. She was probably (rightfully) bragging about her brilliant children and never intended that I “help”. Snicker. I wonder if they’d like… hmm… so many options…