Sunday Status Update: February 26, 2017

This week, the bat signal fails.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Batman: Field report for November: Grew angry with Commissioner Gordon earlier this week. Was sitting in cave going over notes (and trying to ignore video game noises — never should have let Robin take a Playstation 4 into the cave) when Alfred entered and drew my attention to an ongoing firefight between Joker’s men and the GCPD. He had heard about the matter on the radio. The radio! Was deeply concerned, fearing that my systems had failed to note the bat signal. Instead learned that there in fact was no bat signal. Set out at once, defeated henchmen, saved officers in peril. Confronted Gordon later that night, demanded to know reason for lack of contact.

“Uh,” he said, “it’s… a clear night, Batman.”

“What?”

“It’s clear tonight. No clouds. Doesn’t happen often, I’ll grant you, but when it does… well… you know, a great big spotlight isn’t going to show up so well.”

Was somewhat shaken by this revelation. Immediate impulse was to start emitting more smog from Wayne Industries, but was reminded by Batgirl of certain ethical concerns. Ended up giving Gordon the number to a burner cell phone, for lack of any other idea. Felt awkward by then.

Marion: I had a bad week – no single bad thing, just several small failures and communication problems that piled up, so much that I nearly contacted my astrology-buff friend to see if Mercury was retrograde. (It wasn’t.) However, I took comfort from reading some very good books. I finished a Scandinavian thriller called The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberol and Agnete Friis, published in the USA in 2011. There really is a boy in a suitcase, and he is alive. The thriller plot held together well and for the most part I was engaged by a different thriller hero, a nurse who works for a refugee assistance network in Denmark, and lives with mental illness.

I also finished the ARC of Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders, about which I will say nothing until I review it, except that I loved it. I will say it’s about psychics, the Cold War, Chicago and organized crime. There. No more. Oh, well it is about card tricks and… nope. No more.

I browsed Jo Walton’s collection of essays (originally published on Tor.com) called What Makes This Book So Great, and loved her wit and her folksy authorial voice. Then I treated myself to a book that’s been on the TBR stack for a long time; The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. This non-magical retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” has everything Valentine does beautifully, and in comparison to the early lives of the “girls,” suddenly my life didn’t seem so bad.

StuartMy back and leg pains didn’t improve this week, so I went to a bigger hospital and the new doctor said I might have a hernia and scheduled an MRI for Wed. That explains the persistent stabbing pains when trying to sit or stand. Got some meds and feel slightly better, but hope to put this chapter behind me as soon as possible. Being stuck in bed, I did finish the audiobook of Yooh Ha Lee‘s Ninefox Gambit (2016), a very baroque military/mathematical SF adventure that is incredibly hard to follow, given that every other word is a neologism. For a complete change of pace, I listened to Ursula K. Le Guin‘s The Lathe of Heaven (1971), a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages. As with most great late 60s & early 70s SF books, it addresses overpopulation, wars around the world, environmental destruction, etc, in the context of a PKD reality-warping story. Sadly, none of those problems have been solved in the nearly five decades since it was written.  

Terry: I haven’t reported lately because I’ve been doing very, very little reading, which I find enormously frustrating. Over the past three or four weeks, I finished Brandon Sanderson‘s Warbreaker in a great big rush — once it picked up again after a saggy middle, it was almost impossible to put down. I also read The Final Reconciliation, a novella by Tod Keisling based on the mythology Robert W. Chambers created in The King in Yellow, which I enjoyed very much. Right now, I’m reading small bits just before bed of Poseidon and Cleito by Andrew J. Peters and The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle — yes, still, all these months after starting the latter, I’m still reading it. Fortunately, I’m taking a week’s vacation very soon, and it’s an eat-read-sleep vacation (instead of a site-seeing vacation — doesn’t everyone distinguish between vacations this way?), so I hope to get at least a couple of books under my belt.  It will make my brain very happy, not to mention my heart and soul.

Tim: This week, I’ve been busy with coursework, but I did manage to read a good portion of Kurt Busiek‘s Astro City, as well as get a running start on Mark Lawrence‘s Prince of Fools on audiobook. Both are fantastic works in their own way, and I’ve been enjoying them a lot. I was particularly pleased with Prince of Fools, as while I’ve always considered Mark Lawrence a very skilled author, his earlier books about Jorg Ancrath weren’t quite my cup of tea.


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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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7 comments

  1. Marion: The Boy in the Suitcase sounds very interesting b/c of the nurse. What particular mental illness?

    Stuart: I’m very sorry to hear the pain continues. I hope that you find out what is wrong soon and that it can be treated soon. I know that when pain is a mystery, the worry adds greatly to the frustration. I wish you the best in a quick solution to this particular mystery.

    Tim: Astro City rocks.

    Batman: Take a chill pill. And read a comic; they can be quite relaxing. Image is putting out better comics than DC these days, so you might check out Alex + Ada, Saga, or really anything by Ed Brubaker, though reading his noir work might just make you want to get back to work. Whatever you do, do not read Gotham Central. You do not want to know what the Gotham police REALLY think of you.

    • Brad, it’s hard to tell because there isn’t much of it in this book, but I would say OCD combined with trauma from a childhood event we find out about, literally, in the last three pages of the book. Since this is a series, I have the feeling her mental health conditions will come gradually to the forefront in future books.

    • Thanks for the get-well wishes, Brad! As you said, the uncertainty just adds to the stress. But the new doc gave me meds that allowed me to sleep properly for the first time in over two weeks! You don’t appreciate sleep unless you’ve been deprived of it for extended periods. Now I understand how that works as an interrogation technique. Anyway, feeling a lot better than last week. Also watches somel SFF dramas on Netflix since I can’t do much else for leisure: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, The Expanse, both good.

      Good advice for Batman, btw. He should definitely try some comics to take the edge off – he’s a pretty tightly-wound guy after all.

      Marion, I was also intrigued by your description of The Boy in the Suitcase – it’s hard to have a really original plot and characters, but that sounds like it fits the bill.

      Terry, I definitely distinguish between seeing-places vacations and eat-read-sleep vacations. The latter are pretty rare for me, but it sounds glorious.

      • sandy ferber /

        Stuart, if you do have to get that MRI, make sure to use the earplugs or headphones that they give you. I just had an MRI recently and WOW, are they ever loud! Somebody could make a fortune if he/she ever came up with a silent MRI machine. Anyway, hope you’re feeling better soon….

  2. Marion, I read The Girls at the Kingfisher Club a few years ago, and loved it. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it, as well!

  3. Stuart, you poor thing!! I am sorry you are still in so much pain! I hope the MRI shows the source and that it will be relatively easy fix. I’m also thinking about your job and your family.

    Marion is about to bust. She can’t wait to tell us about Daryl Gregory’s new book.

    Tim, will you tell us about your coursework?

  4. Just had the MRI yesterday and it was a surreal experience – like Sandy said, the machine makes all kind of weird beeping and hammering noises, and the technician was playing techno music — in Japan! So I told him it felt like a cross between a techno club and a construction site, but tucked into a narrow tube.

    My new doc suspects it could be a lumbar herniated disc, and there is very split opinion on the internet about whether surgery is better than PT, acupuncture, yoga, stretches, etc. Will get a diagnosis tomorrow, but then will have to decide what to do afterward.

    I’m so lucky that I can work remotely translating and reviewing reports via remote PC – otherwise I’d be missing work, losing holidays, and then getting pay reduced. So far I haven’t missed a day of work, but some days I was lying on my side with the laptop on its side, unable ever to sit up.

    And thanks Kat, caregiving falls to my wife, who luckily doesn’t work or I would be really in serious trouble. She has been a trooper helping me out daily, but said she didn’t expect this for at least another 30 years or so!!!

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