November 24th, 2006

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Recommended link; gender and resources....

Recommended: The review of Adrianna Huffington's On Becoming Fearless at http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2006_11_01echidneofthesnakes_archive.html#1164195852262232234 . Here's a sampler to show you why I'm interested in discussing the review:

First, the review says that "According to [Anna] Fels, '... Women face the reality that to appear feminine, they must provide or relinquish scarce resources to others -- and recognition is a scarce resource."

And then: "These resources could be the best and most nutritious foods in some societies, but in ours they very well might be things like esteem, recognition and power. ... I'd go so far as to say that a woman who demands a fair share of resources is instantly labeled selfish, and that this is not true of a man demanding the same fair share. If Fels is correct in this argument, being 'feminine' might be impossible in an equal world."
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That recommended link; over the river and through the woods....

This is ridiculous -- but it does get you there, if you're willing to make the trek. (If you're not, I for sure don't blame you.)

First you go to http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003807.html#more and click on the "Echidne of the Snakes" link (right at the beginning); then at "Echidne..." you scroll down to the post for "Tuesday, November 21, 2006" titled "Housekeeping Post" -- but you're not there yet. The post I'm trying to recommend is the one after "Housekeeping Post."
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Science fiction quasi-review; Naomi Novik's "Temeraire" series...

Wednesday night I finished the third of Naomi Novik's Temeraire books, and read the first chapter of the fourth -- not yet available -- one, tucked away at the end. There is a great deal of reading that I should have been doing instead that I did not do during that time -- which shows how little will power I have. I was very sad to come to the end of the third book before there was a fourth book, and I expect that I'll be equally sad when I come to the end of the fourth book and there's no fifth book yet, and so on ad infinitum. I am hopelessly hooked on this series.

I promised a review of the three books -- His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, and Black Power War -- when I'd finished them, and I try to keep my promises. But there's a problem; I can't see a way to write the review I'd like to write that wouldn't involve spoilers. I am therefore not going to write that review after all, and will just be offering some general non-spoiler comments.

The stories the books tell can be accurately described by this sentence -- which I couldn't improve on -- from the back cover of His Majesty's Dragon:

"Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain's defense by taking to the skies... not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons."

So why would I -- a pacifist to start with, and (to go on with) someone who gets totally lost in the "Battlestar Galactica" battles where I actually have pictures to look at to help me keep track of the action -- be interested in reading these books?

I think the first reason is because the series has a genuine human hero -- Will Laurence, the naval officer who becomes "captain" to the dragon Temeraire. This man lives by just one principle: "Be fair -- always." (There are subprinciples like "Be honest" and "Pull your own weight," but nothing that isn't included in "Be fair -- always.") Nowhere in any of the three books does Laurence show the slightest sign of human frailty except in the occasional fleeting thought, which makes him improbable. But that's all right with me. I am so sick of the lying corrupt weak cowardly cruel vicious real men in this real world that I've developed not only a tolerance but an actual lust for that sort of improbable hero. I was ready for a character like Laurence, and from the overwhelmingly positive response to the books everywhere, and the swift top-of-the-line movie sale, I'm of the opinion that I have a lot of company. Bring on the hero who is always fair, I say; I'm ready for him. Bring on a world that's orderly and disciplined and well-mannered; I'm ready for that too. Most remarkable of all, Will Laurence is a good man and at the same time interesting. It's easy to write a book with a main character who is evil and interesting; it takes extraordinary skill to write one with a main character who is good without being boring.

I'm interested in the dragon Temeraire, too, of course, and in the other dragons. Dragons -- even dragons whose native language acquisition processes come straight from contemporary linguistic theory but stretch the concept of "language environment" to the breaking point -- are a weakness of mine. But I am even more interested in Will Laurence and how he is going to be able to deal with the dragons as the series goes on and he is torn between two competing sets of moral principles -- those that bind him to humankind, and the abstract set that goes with "Be fair -- always." I trust Novik to be able to handle this, because she's that good, but I don't envy her the task.

I for sure do recommend these books.