Saturday, July 06, 2013

Lexicon by Max Barry, Hunted by Kevin Hearne. Monica Guzman and a Great Quote

“Books are everywhere; and always the same sense of adventure fills us. Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.
Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.” - Virginia Woolf, Street Haunting.

I am Facebook friends with a young and talented digital journalist named Monica Guzman. She has recently had a baby and has also given birth to some great articles about where the internet and the world of real books collide:

GeekWire columnist Monica Guzman was filming her baby's
"small, assisted zig-zag steps" between the shelves at the Ravenna Third
Place Books, Seattle, Wash., when she
"looked at him and said something surprising: 'I hope bookstores still
when you're old enough to read.' Immediately I checked myself. Did I
mean that? Yeah. Apparently I did."

Admitting that for years she has "subscribed to the practical notion
that e-books are probably the future," she decided she had "been missing
something. Something books and bookstores have that digital itself can't
replace. Something I've sensed and respected more in the last few months
than I have in years. In a word, weight."

Subsequent trips to the Harvard Coop,
Cambridge, Mass. ("I don't know why I've hesitated to acknowledge the
reverence I feel when I open the door to a bookstore and step in. All
those words. A few steps in and you're surrounded.") and Seattle's
Elliott Bay Book Company ("The more I
think about it, the more true it seems: Bookstores are not just
exhibitors of merchandise. They are temples to human thought.")
confirmed her insight.

While not ready to abandon the digital book world completely,
Guzman wrote: "I never would have predicted this, back when I
started reading so much on my Kindle, but I like going to bookstores now
not just to discover books I haven't read, but to make contact with the
books I have read and to share a space with great stories. The bookstore
in my pocket is easy enough to use. But it's not this easy to feel.... I
do hope bookstores stick around. But not out of a preference for
bookstores or for printed books. I just think we need a place where, in
our rush to condense and contain, our biggest ideas can be bigger than

Happy Birthday, Elliott Bay, Seattle's Oldest Bookstore!
On Sunday, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash., celebrated its 40th
anniversary with a large party in its beautiful space. Speakers and
guests included owner Peter Aaron, senior book buyer Rick Simonson, ABA
CEO Oren Teicher and founder Walter Carr.

This week I finished what I believe is the sixth book in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles, and I was also fortunate enough to attend his Q And A session and book signing at the University of Washington Bookstore, where I dropped $85 buying A Liaden Universe Constellation, an anthology that Hearne contributed to called "Unfettered" and Max Barry's science fiction tome, "Lexicon."
Let me start by saying that Kevin Herne is freakin' adorable. I doubt he'd like to hear that, because it doesn't sound sufficiently manly, but it is nonetheless true. He's a round, bald, short guy with sparkling eyes and an incredible wit and sense of humor that practically mists off his body like heat waves off the roads in Phoenix, Arizona, his home state. You find yourself wanting to give him a big hug and kiss him on the cheek and take him out for a beer and a burger within minutes of meeting him. He's got a natural sweet nature, I think, and he uses his kind and gentle demeanor to obscure what I believe is his brilliant mind and amazing storytelling abilities, which make him something of a superhero, in my mind. Add to that fact taht until recently, he was high school English teacher, and you have enough material for a Neil Gaiman graphic novel or, at the very least, a Joss Whedon Podcast!
Anyway, here's the blurb for Hunted :
For a two-thousand-year-old Druid, Atticus O’Sullivan is a pretty fast runner. Good thing, because he’s being chased by not one but two goddesses of the hunt—Artemis and Diana—for messing with one of their own. Dodging their slings and arrows, Atticus, Granuaile, and his wolfhound Oberon are making a mad dash across modern-day Europe to seek help from a friend of the Tuatha Dé Danann. His usual magical option of shifting planes is blocked, so instead of playing hide-and-seek, the game plan is . . . run like hell. Crashing the pantheon marathon is the Norse god Loki. Killing Atticus is the only loose end he needs to tie up before unleashing Ragnarok—AKA the Apocalypse. Atticus and Granuaile have to outfox the Olympians and contain the god of mischief if they want to go on living—and still have a world to live in.
What was exciting about Hunted was that now we have "Clever Girl" his apprentice in her fully formed Druid role, and we have the death of Atticus' protector, the Morrigan, so while most of the Greek and Roman gods want Atticus dead, there's also a good number of the Norse gods who aren't too fond of him drawing breath, either. So there's lots of running and fighting and action throughout the book, but there's also an added feeling of "Oh crap, Atticus, how the heck are you going to live through this?"
Readers are fortunate that Hearne is so deft at weaving great moments and hilarious dialog among the action/fight sequences, however, so we still learn about Atticus' past life, and more about the gods and goddesses and their motivations for what they do, as well as how their legends came to be. The cover blurb on all of the Iron Druid Chronicles states that Atticus (and Oberon his Irish Wolfhound) may be the heirs to the Harry Dresden (and Mouse, his Foo dog) Throne of science fiction heroes. I don't think that there is any doubt about it, I believe that Atticus is the logical heir to Harry Dresden's crown, and in fact, I think if the two characters ever met (and wouldn't that be an awesome tale?!) they would get along like a house on fire, and kick all kinds of arse together before settling in for a nice evening of swapping stories.
So "Hunted" gets an A, and a deep desire for the next in the series to come out ASAP, because I find myself increasingly needing my Atticus and Oberon fix, and hopefully for another visit from the charming Mr Hearne.

Lexicon by Max Barry was an amazingly fresh novel that posits a future society in which an underground organization has found a way to train people in the ability to use words as weapons/ Of course in such a scenario there's an "atomic bomb" word that is called a "bareword" which, when 'detonated' will compell people to do whatever the wielder of the word tells them to do, including "kill everyone."  The protagonist, a street hustler teenager named Emily gets tapped by the organization as a potential agent because she has the ability to persuade others while being able to keep herself from being manipulated to as high a degree by those with more training. She falls in love with an "Outlier" named Harry who is one of the rare people who can't be influenced or compromised by words, not even the atomic bomb word that Emily gets ahold of and deploys in a town in Australia, killing all three thousand inhabitants. But who is really behind this experiment with a 'bareword'? And who can Emily trust? Her teacher Eliot? Her beloved, who has forgotten who he is? Because this novel is written like a science fiction spy thriller, I wasn't expecting it to be as deep and thoughtful as it was, and I wasn't expecting to be as chilled and creeped out by how plausible all the scenarios of destruction and mental manipulation seemed. Perhaps because I've been a journalist for nearly 30 years, and words have always had great importance and meaning to me, but the idea of the government using all the data they collect on us via the internet and loyalty cards and cameras and cell phone taps, etc, to manipulate the public into doing what they want society to do made me rather green around the gills with paranoia. For someone who obviously loves and revers the written and spoken word, Barry uses a bit too much profanity for my taste, yet I found myself respecting him privacy more for having read his very short bio and his witty acknowledgement section, which gives next to nothing away about the author's life.
This book deserves a solid A and should be read by anyone involved in the media or in any form of government.

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