For today’s post, I had planned to discuss “Adaptations,” by Connie Willis. This short story, contained in her collection Miracle, seems rich in parallels for our lives. In it, a divorced father has given up his accounting job to work in a book store. His main point of contention with the books that fill the shelves is that there are so many versions, or adaptations, of A Christmas Carol, that no one bothers to read the original. During the course of the story, while he’s trying to prepare for a visit from his daughter on Christmas Eve, his boss arranges an author book signing on that day. Even with the help of a temporary employee, the cloaked, skeletal Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, he tries to ignore the realization that he’ll have to work late that day, which will cut in on his time with his daughter.
Unfortunately, I’m one of the great unwashed who’ve seen lots of adaptations, but have yet to read the Charles Dickens novella. So while the story offered up a lot of great moments, I’ve won’t attempt to analyze it for you. Besides, that would take a lot of thought right now, and I’m in the midst of preparing for Santa’s arrival. So I’ll just add that if you’re interested in reading some stories that draw interesting parallels between Christmas movies, stories, and novels, I heartily recommend Willis’ volume to you.
Last night I also finished a book I’ve been reading for awhile, a Star Wars media tie-in novel called The Mandalorian Armor, by K. W. Jeter. I’ve not read this author’s work before, but he is revered in Science Fiction and Fantasy circles for having coined the term Steampunk, and along with his friends Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock, wrote some of the first novels published in that literary subgenre. He populates his narrative with some of the bounty hunters who first appeared in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Although the central character is Boba Fett, equal page time is given to Bossk, a particularly ugly Trandoshan who, as an infant, devoured all his unhatched siblings. I’ll agree that the latter assessment isn’t particularly fair, as like beauty, ugliness is a subjective judgment, and his feast in the cradle made his father proud. I’m sure there are many female Trandoshans who view Bossk as quite a catch, but alas, I digress.
While I had been looking forward to reading the novel, it took me a while to get into the story, as Jeter keeps moving between two timelines, one taking place after Boba Fett is consumed by the Sarlacc in "Return of the Jedi," and the other taking place sometime between "A New Hope" and "The Empire Strikes Back." Instead of one cohesive, rollicking adventure, the novel consists of a number of smaller events and battles. Nor did it help that all the characters are constantly plotting against each other. While I failed to find any of the characters sympathetic, where Jeter really shines is in all the little touches he introduces, such as Kud’ar Mub’at, an arachnoid-like assembler who delegates most of his business functions to miniature versions of himself. And then there’s the mimbrane organism that thrives on “acoustic” energy, which makes it perfect to function in lieu of a surveillance device. He invests these little touches with a real flourish, and such inventiveness is a delight to read.
Even if it wasn’t what I was expecting, Jeter had me turning the pages rapidly from midway on, and as he ended the first novel on a cliffhanger, he’s got me hungry to read the second installment in the trilogy, Slave Ship. But later, Jeter, later. First I’ve got books by Roger Zelazny and E. F. Benson to finish, and, as I said, I’m hard at work preparing for Santa’s arrival. My wife and I have cleaned up the living room, and the tree and ornaments wait patiently in their separate boxes. I may not string up any lights this year, but the presents are all wrapped, and once we’ve set up the tree, we’ll have somewhere to place them. Then we can make up the bed in the guestroom, which at the moment is piled high with, you guessed it, all those presents.
Don’t hurry on our account, Santa. We’re looking forward to your arrival, but we’re not quite ready for you. Soon, I hope, we will be. I know that chocolate chip cookies are your favorite, but we’ve got some chocolate Rice Krispy squares made up, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy them just as much. But alas, again, I digress.
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