'Snuff' by Terry Pratchett
Last night (April 14th 2011) I had the privilege of attending the sold out, "Evening with Terry Pratchett" at the Auckland Town Hall.
Now, I'll admit, I'm not a diehard Terry Pratchett fan. I read a few of his books a number of years ago, but I think there are some people out there who have actually read all 50+ (Actually I think it may even be somewhere around the 70 mark) of his books. Nevertheless, I was please to find that I didn't need to be the kind of Discworld fan that remembers the hundreds of character names, knows the plots better than Terry himself, and who dresses up in weird costumes at conventions. Terry was entertaining enough for anyone with a love of books to listen to.
You're probably aware that Terry Pratchett is known for writing his books so that they seem as if they should be shelved under humour, as opposed to fantasy (and, in fact, during his talk, he called being labeled a "fantasy writing" limiting). Early on in the evening, Terry's assistant, Rob Wilkins read an excerpt from Snuff
. As far as my reading tastes go, it was probably ramblier than I usually like, but it worked so well for this extract. The whole thing was hilarious (although you had to be listening carefully to actually get the jokes. For those interested, I found a post where someone has thoughtfully made a transcript of the extract
No only did the extract have me laughing aloud, but so did Terry Pratchett himself. All too often, writers who manage to make their books so wonderfully humorous seem rather dull in comparison. Terry, however, had a punchline for every anecdote, and was good humoured about everything. When the interviewer (sorry I can't recall her name) moved onto the subject of Terry's Alzheimer's, he berated her for taking a "hushed tone" which made me giggle because that is the way people often try to broach sensitive subjects.
Interestingly, the talk turned somewhat political, which I get the feeling may have been inevitable (but I didn't know enough about Terry Pratchett to be expecting it). It turns out that Terry is an advocate for "assisted dying
". As you can expect, even though it was Terry doing most of the talking, it felt like the night had turned a little heated. People wriggled uncomfortably in their seats, and bubbles of laughter popped up whenever Terry cracked a joke, as if they could relieve the tension by laughing. A number of people seemed uncomfortable at times, especially when he asked if there was anyone there who disagreed with him who wanted to argue (a number of hands went up, but unfortunately only one got to speak). In a country that does feel like it is ruled by politic correctness, it was actually refreshing to hear someone express their views freely!
Despite moments of tension, Terry was really treated like a rock-star. When he arrived, everyone stood and applauded, and every time Terry made a joke, or said something that the crowd agreed with, clapping and whooping took place. At times, it felt almost like we were in church. At one point, Terry said that he felt frustrated by Christians who felt the need to beat the idea of Jesus into everyone's heads. "God is love," he said. "Not a hammer!" The crowd erupted and I almost expected someone to cry out "Amen!" The atmosphere in the room was vibrant, and Terry seemed to make the hall come to life. As more of a bystander than an interactive audience member, it was incredible just to watch and listen.
I wasn't expecting to have my mind broadened by this talk, but really, it was very eye opening. If you ever get the chance to go listen to him talk, I suggest doing so. While a little hard to understand at times (although it could have been the acoustics of the hall) Terry Pratchett knows how to hold an audience captive.
I picked up this book purely based on the amazing image of the dragon on the front cover, and because reading about writing is so much easier than actually getting some writing done!
The time I spent reading this book was the most useful time I've spent procrastinating. Ever.
Blurb from Goodreads:
Science fiction and fantasy is one of the most challenging—and rewarding!—genres in the bookstore. But with New York Times bestselling author Philip Athans and fantasy giant R. A. Salvatore at your side, you-ll create worlds that draw your readers in—and keep them reading!
Just as important, you-ll learn how to prepare your work for today's market. Drawing on his years of experience as one of the most acclaimed professionals in publishing, Wizards of the Coast editor Athans explains how to set your novel apart—and break into this lucrative field. From devising clever plots and building complex characters to inventing original technologies and crafting alien civilizations, Athans gives you the techniques you need to write strong, saleable narratives.
Plus! Athans applies all of these critical lessons together in an unprecedented deconstruction of a never-before-published tale by the one and only R. A. Salvatore!
There are books on writing science fiction and fantasy, and then there's this book—the only one you need to create strange, wonderful worlds for your own universe of readers!
Philip Athens has a very straightforward way of explaining things, so much so that I was actually laughing while reading this guide.
For example, this is how he defines Sword and Sorcery style fantasy:
"Blood is liberally spilled, heads are lopped off here and there, and sexy femmes fatels always need rescuing and are often less than chaste in the way they show their appreciation. This is fantasy for guys. I like to call it "results orientated" fiction: there's the bad guy, and when he's killed, the story is over."
It's wonderful to have such a clearly written guide to writing fantasy and sci-fi, that's not bogged down with the jargon of the genre. He defines everything in such a way that even those new to the genre could understand.
A lot of this book is very general (but helpful regardless), however the section on world building is very specific and filled with more tips that you could hope to use. It's especially good for fantasy writers (although I did notice that it does tend to be a little light on the sci-fi info).
Keeping in mind that this is really top-line in terms of advice, and doesn't get into the nitty-gritty, it's a fantastic reference for any fantasy/sci-fi writer.
With the thousands of book review blogs out there, starting up a new one to add to the mass seemed a little daunting. But when Dawn Embers
said she was starting one up, and was looking for reviewers, I jumped at the chance. After all, who doesn't want to have their say?
So, what makes Reading at Dawn
special? Well, other than the fact that I'm a reviewer, and it's just a pretty site, the three of us (me, Dawn Embers
) have such a wide variety of reading habits that you're sure to find a book to read that you would have never considered before.
So, if you enjoy reading (and if you're here, I suspect that may be the case) check out Reading at Dawn
I recently picked up Girl Saves Boy, by Steph Bowe, at Borders, because I'd heard amazing things. Steph is a sixteen year old from Australia but, most importantly, the book has had amazing reviews. Often, when I pick up a book that's had a heap of good reviews, I'm a little disappointed because it can be hard to meet the hype. In this case however, I completely fell in love with the novel.
Just from reading the blurb, I knew that it was going to be a little sad. Sacha (the absolutely adorable MC who I would like to steal away) had terminal cancer, and tries to kill himself in the lake. Along comes Jewel, who saves him. Despite what could have been a rather depressing plot-premise, the novel is lighthearted, and enjoyable to read, and although there were parts were I found myself wondering if I should have tissues on hand, I was left feeling generally uplifted.
Here's the blurb for those of you who are interested:
The first time we met, Jewel Valentine saved my life.
Isn’t it enough having your very own terminal disease, without your mother dying? Or your father dating your Art teacher?
No wonder Sacha Thomas ends up in the lake that Saturday evening…
But the real question is: how does he end up in love with Jewel Valentine?
With the help of quirky teenage prodigies Little Al and True Grisham, Sacha and Jewel have a crazy adventure, with a little lobster emancipation along the way.
But Sacha’s running out of time, and Jewel has secrets of her own.
Girl Saves Boy is a hugely talented debut novel, funny and sad, silly and wise. It’s a story of life, death, love… and garden gnomes.
And here's how you can win a copy:
Leave a comment telling me the best book you've read recently so I can add them to my ever-growing "to be read" shelf. Then twittle, spacebook, myface, or blog (or anything you want) about the comp and let me know in your comment what you've done to help me promote it (no need for links I'm trusting you to do it!).
Contest will be drawn November 10th NZ time. Available internationally.
Simple right? Good luck!
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED - Thank you for all your entries :)
Writer’s Block NZ
Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Genre: YA Contemporary
I began reading "Looking for Alaska" by John Green with a specific need in mind. I wanted to know how to write from a male teenagers point of view. The moment I started reading that all went out the window. Green's writing, through the character of Miles "Pudge" Halter (Pudge is a somewhat ironic nickname) captivated me so quickly, any hope of analyzing the book from a technical perspective went out the window. I had to re-read it to get the technical aspects I needed.
It's not that "Looking for Alaska" is particularly action driven, or even very exciting. In fact, if that's what you are looking for, this novel is not for you. It's a slow starting (in fact the whole thing is slow paced) account of Miles' infatuation with Alaska, a girl who seems to be the stereotype of every teenage boy's dreams. Despite this, the novel draws you in and leaves you crying out for more.
It is a largely character driven novel, and although it is written from a boy's perspective, I think its a book for girls. You can't help but fall a little in love with Miles. I'm nearly ten years his elder and I still fell for him. I'd like to think that this is because although Miles is fifteen in the book, it reads more like he is looking back on his teenage years. His inner monologuing covers a variety of philosophical subjects that seem a little too mature for his age. Or maybe he's just one smart kid. Either way, Miles' emotions are poignantly captured on the page, and, male or female, the feeling of heartbreak, teenage love and lust, confusion and loss resonate with anyone with a shred of human emotion.
There is no real unexpected twist to the plot (don't worry I'm not planning on giving you a spoiler) as everything is foreshadowed right from page one, but even so the story isn't as predictable as it could have been. I still cried out in shock and put the book down to catch my breath when the foreshadowed event occurred.
Even when I was thrust into the depths of despair with Miles, I enjoyed every moment of it. I read it in one sitting on the plane to Sydney and couldn't put it down, even through some very rough turbulence. It did however leave me feeling quite raw inside. Although the conclusion is satisfying, it's not a fairytale ending.
But life isn't a fairytale.
Writer’s Block NZ