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Random Readings

September 5, 2007

I actually managed to read some new books lately. Go me!

Some thoughts on these books :

The Dirt Eaters (The Longlight Legacy, part 1)

An interesting development of the old post-apocalyptic idea. Some definitely intriguing references to ancient history, particularly to Qin Shi Huangdi. I’m not sure I like the overall series yet, but I will definitely borrow the second part at the local library when it comes out.

First among Sequels (Thursday Next II, book 1)

Thursday Next is back, and no one is safe from Jaster Fforde’s searing satire. Seriously, while the first book of the series is slow to get going, from Lost in a Good Book, the entire Nextian saga becomes one of the most pleasurable reading experiences I have ever had, and First among Sequels, besides a wonderful title, is a proper beginning for a second Nextian series. Nothing escapes unscathed from this book, from dirty bombs to serial killers, and from reality shows to short attention spans. With guest appearances and/or mentions of LOTR fanfiction, boys who lived, Sherlock Holmes, the Thursday Next novels, and (of course!) the minotaur, this book is a more than excellent read.

The Dragon Scroll ;  Rashomon Gate (Sugawara Akitada series, part 1 and 2)

Several years ago, when I was still a young boy (11, 12), my mother gave me a book to read. The book was titled “The Chinese Gold Murders”. I read it avidly. Then I picked up “The Chinese Lake Murders” (I prefer the french titles, mind – “Gold Traffic under the Tang” ; “Murder on a Flower-Boat”). As a direct result, at a time when other children were still learning that Columbus discovered America, I was learning that, in China, names are written with the family name first; who Confucius was, and how ancient justice in China worked; I learned what a meritocracy was, and the downsides of it.

Van Gulik’s books are some of the most worn out of my family’s entire collection, comparable only in that to the Lord of the Rings ; I’ve been through each (but particularly Gold and Lakes) dozens of times. Unfortunately, there are only a limited number of Judge Dee  books, and later attempts to write more have had a hard time matching the originals.

I.J. Parker did not attempt to write further adventures of Judge Dee, and that’s just as well, since her field of expertise is ancient Japan. What she did instead is develop her own series, drawing on her own expertise (and with perhaps just a touch of Van Gulik inspiration in the cast composition – the magistrate, his old family retainer, and the deserter(s) hired to serve him…). Unlike Judge Dee, the main character is entirely fictional; like Van Gulik, however, Parker draws on inspiration from historical japanesse texts as inspiration. And while most characters are fictional, they hail from the very much historical great clans of ancient Japan : Fujiwara, Minamoto and Soga are all well-represented, as is the triple-religiosity of a Japan where Shintoism, Buddhism and Confucianism mix and match to strange results, and not without frictions.

The end result is, IMO, very much worth the read.

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