November Medialogging
By Dwip November 30, 2014, 3:24 am Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

This month, we finish off Highlander once and for all, and make a triumphant return to books. Get used to that – I’ve got another large book series coming down the pike I want to catch up on for this series. More on that next month.

YTD stats:

March: : 4 books; 4 fiction (1,450 p.) / 3 videos; 1 movies (2.6 h.); 2 TV seasons (15.2 h.)
April: : 5 books; 1 graphic (136 p.); 4 fiction (1,269 p.) / 1 videos; 1 TV seasons (6 h.)
May: : 8 books; 5 graphic (1,352 p.); 1 fiction (465 p.); 2 non-fiction (829 p.) / 2 videos; 2 TV seasons (11 h.)
June: : 17 books; 5 graphic (1,584 p.); 12 fiction (4,483 p.) / 1 videos; 1 TV seasons (4.8 h.)
July: : 7 books; 6 fiction (3,221 p.); 1 non-fiction (576 p.) / 7 videos; 1 anime series (10.6 h.); 4 movies (7.7 h.); 2 TV seasons (10.5 h.)
August: : 2 books; 2 non-fiction (894 p.) / 3 videos; 1 anime series (10.8 h.); 2 TV seasons (20.5 h.)
September: : 8 videos; 3 movies (6.3 h.); 5 TV seasons (48.1 h.)
October: : 4 videos; 1 movies (1.7 h.); 3 TV seasons (41.6 h.)
November: : 3 books; 3 fiction (1,702 p.) / 2 videos; 2 TV seasons (24.7 h.)

Year to Date: 46 books; 11 graphic (3,072 p.); 30 fiction (12,590 p.); 5 non-fiction (2,299 p.) / 31 videos; 2 anime series (21.5 h.); 9 movies (18.3 h.); 20 TV seasons (182.3 h.)

Details for November after the jump.

11/09/2014 S.M. Stirling, Island in the Sea of Time (1998 Roc mass market paperback, 608 pages – Personal collection, 2005)

Island in the Sea of Time is a book wherein the island of Nantucket one strange night finds itself very suddenly and irrevocably not so much in 1998 AD as in 1250 BC, the victim of a never explained phenomenon known as the Event. And now the inhabitants of Nantucket and one stray Coast Guard ship must find out if they can survive, and dare I say, thrive.

I first picked this one up in college. It’s not hard to understand why – I was a history major, after all, and a book that promises to go into rather great detail about various historical processes, events, and people is something akin to crack amongst certain of my people.

And let’s just get it out of the way, this is a very process driven book. If you’ve never given much thought to how, say, advances in agricultural technology worked, this book and its sequels are your huckleberry, and the whole thing is a lot more fascinating than you might imagine it to be. Moreover, Stirling does a good job making the infodumps on why, say, mechanized agriculture gets the job done better than bending your entire society over sickles come harvest time.

If that all sounds pretty macro, these books also feature a pretty engaging though somewhat larger than life cast of characters, featuring a katana-wielding swashbuckling black lesbian Coast Guard commander, utterly mercenary Coast Guard lieutenant named after the famous filibuster William Walker, a fairly generic small-town cop turned president, a sadistic doctor, and various and assorted professors, astronomers, and Bronze Age tribal types.

That said, everyone descends at various into cariacture depending one suspects on the opinions of the author, which is why your far left liberal Greenpeace types get dealt with rather mercilessly early on, though various praise Jesus types also get their comeuppance as well. Since my encounters with both lead me to something akin to the conclusions reached in the book, I am somewhat less bothered by the experience than some.

I’ll have more to say about some more things in the other two installments of the series, but for now let me just say that this is one of my favorites. It hit me at just the right time in my historical education to resonate with a lot of things I was learning, with a lot of the fiction I was reading, and like many others, it made me dream a lot of dreams.

11/10/2014 Bill Panzer, et al., Highlander: The Series, Season 5 (2004 Anchor Bay DVD, 864 minutes, 18 episodes – Personal collection, 2007)

As with all other Highlander seasons, this one gets its own post.

11/15/2014 Bill Panzer, et al., Highlander: The Series, Season 6 (2005 Anchor Bay DVD, 620 minutes, 13 episodes – Personal collection, 2007)

Previously on Highlander, all the seasons got their own posts. This one too.

11/20/2014 S.M. Stirling, Against the Tide of Years (1999 Roc mass market paperback, 454 pages – Personal collection, 2005)

Now 8 years after the Event, Nantucket prepares to deal once and for all with William Walker, who is now the ruler of the Mycanean Greek realm of Great Achaea. To do so, they’re going to have to deal with the great civilizations of the ancient Near East, including Babylon and Assyria.

In a lot of ways, the first book was sort of a prequel to the next two, which introduce a whole raft of new characters, the central conflict of the series, and a set of issues that are a step above what Our Heroes experience in Island in the Sea of Time.

Where the first book had a sort of techno-Romans meet the Bronze Age feel to it, complete with SPQR and the gladius-wielding legion, this one rapidly turns into something akin to 19th century imperialism without quite so much manifest destiny going on.

On a macro level, we’re now dealing less with the technological effects of civilization and more on the societal effects of that technology. There’s a lot going on here about democracy versus absolute monarchy, advanced medicine and virgin field epidemics, immigration policies, and how the tendrils of one culture spread to other places. This is all fascinating stuff for us history major types, and while the Nantucketers are perhaps a bit too smug about how great they are, they kind of remind me of my Roman history professor when he was asked about why so many Germanic tribes wanted to join up with the Romans and why Roman culture spread so well. “Some cultures are just better than others, aren’t they?” He’s not entirely right there, but there are times when he’s not entirely wrong, either. Maybe this book is one of those times.

On a character level, most of the ones from last book are back, with some new ones besides. They’re mostly handled without the clunky cariacture bits of the first book, especially the Bronze Agers who you might expect to be – guys like Kashtiliash and Isketerol are genuinely interesting and likeable guys, in their ways. After a certain point, the sheer amount of sex and the number of male/female military pairs who suddenly realize they ought to date does get to be a bit much, but mostly I dig it.

11/30/2014 S.M. Stirling, On the Oceans of Eternity (2000 Roc mass market paperback, 640 pages – Personal collection, 2005)

In which Our Heroes and their Babylonian friends bring the war to Isketerol and William Walker and the Forces of Badness in the somewhat triumphant conclusion.

This is mostly a continuation of the arc begun in the second book – namely the war against William Walker. And, I must confess I find the whole thing to be a little bit muddled. With the exception of honest to god flight making a comeback and some things about weapons evolution, this is mostly straightforward political and military fiction with some adventure novel thrown in. As a whole, it’s a lot less fascinating than the first two books, though it does have its moments.

On the plus side, Stirling pretty much told you the first book so he could then tell you about the Trojan War gone haywire complete with Agamemnon, Odysseus, and the gang. This is highly compelling stuff, complete with the obligatory Homeric references and Odysseus being a badass.

On the downside, both this book and the last give a lot of screentime to a sort of crazy Lewis and Clark expedition with somewhat less Lewis and Clark and a bit more polyamory and action/adventure movie stuff. This was cool the first time, but on subsequent rereads I find myself thinking the whole plotline was kind of wasted and could have been a vehicle for something more interesting or just left out completely.

There’s also an exceptionally interesting bit regarding one of Walker’s followers in the court of Rameses II, which probably would have been a truly awesome spinoff novel had Stirling ever bothered to write it. Unfortunately, it’s reduced to a few segments of this book culminating in a battle that just kind of feels tacked on compared to the climactic Allies vs. Great Achaea battle that happened just previously.

And maybe Stirling would have had more room if he hadn’t spent a bunch of pages rewriting the entire movie Zulu in the Bronze Age. It’s not that this was even bad, per se. It’s actually a fairly rousing set of scenes. It’s just that it goes on way longer than the novel needed it to go on, leaving less room for the more interesting bits.

I could go on in this vein, as I’m rather conflicted by this whole book and by the directions taken after it, as I’ll be getting to in time. That said, these books remain favorites, remain a large part of my imagination, and have caused me to read everything S.M. Stirling has published since. So I’m only so conflicted here, you might say. Mainly I just wish we had gotten more Nantucket books. Almost 15 years on, I’m still hoping.

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