After Palmyra’s entry and Vassilis‘, here is Sotiria’s take on quarantine.
My Bookish Lockdown Friends
A time of uncharacteristic isolation is upon us. While we have employed every video-chatting platform to stay in touch with our loved ones, we have also turned to our favorite forms of art and entertainment to fill our time productively.
As a long-time bookworm – and a person with headphones permanently affixed to her ears –, I am no exception. So let me introduce you to the books and music I’ve spent the last few weeks with.
The New Acquaintance: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book
What an amazing first encounter with the writing of Neil Gaiman! The Graveyard Book is a multiple award winner, but beyond that, it’s a book that speaks to one’s feelings by stirring up memories of childhood, family, and growing up. It tells the story of Nobody Owens or Bod, who lost his family to a murderer when he was a toddler. Bod was saved from the same fate by the ghostly inhabitants of the nearby graveyard, who adopted and brought him up. Each chapter tells a different story, a specific highlight of Bod’s life in the graveyard.
We see him grow from a toddler to a teenager and discover all the facets of life any other kid does – friends, teachers, dangers. In Bod’s case, these are accompanied by the supernatural and fun – or creepy – discoveries one would make when living in a graveyard. Gaiman’s writing style is interesting; it’s descriptive without slowing down the pace, matter-of-factly while efficiently conveying emotion. The ending particularly moved me, and it is the simplicity of the writing that makes the emotion underneath even stronger.
The resolution concerning Bod’s family’s killer is the only thing that didn’t leave me entirely satisfied; it is a little predictable, and a couple of things depend too much on chance to fall into place. But that is minimal compared to the entertaining and heart-warming experience of reading this book. This is simply the story of a kid growing up in a graveyard – immeasurably fun, hauntingly honest and beautiful.
I don’t normally listen to music while reading a book, but the music I listen to throughout the day is often affected by what I’m reading at the time. When reading The Graveyard Book, I found myself drawn to the eerie but sweet soundtracks of Tim Burton movies like Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas (makes sense, I guess).
The Friend of a Friend: Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law
The Alloy of Law starts Brandon Sanderson’s second trilogy in the world of Mistborn. I had already read and loved the first Mistborn trilogy; now I could plunge back into this partly-familiar, partly-new world, as the new story takes place three hundred years after the events of the first series.
Waxilium or Wax is a nobleman-turned-lawman-turned nobleman again, facing a crisis only a lawman can solve. His sidekick, Wayne, is a miscreant-turned-lawman, and he’s possibly one of my favorite Sanderson characters.
His voice is the most distinctive despite the third-person narrative, and he is simultaneously the comic relief and a genius who can turn into a thousand different characters by changing his appearance and way of speaking.
The Alloy of Law is a Western in a high fantasy setting, and it’s even more satisfying than you’d expect. In some ways, this was the best book to read during the lockdown. It’s not a story that will necessarily leave its imprint on you – as the original Mistborn trilogy did for me.
The scope is a bit smaller, the characters are fun though not very diverse. But it was a great read during this particular time because it is funny, action-packed without being too dark (not sure that’s the case in the sequel though), and it took me back to the world Mistborn. This world was already familiar and dear to me, and now I could discover how the society and magic system I already knew would evolve over the centuries. After all, Sanderson’s specialty is in creating original magic systems, and then using these in increasingly unique action sequences.
I listen to a lot of epic music when reading high fantasy, particularly pieces by Audiomachine. This book also has me listening to the Istanbul (Not Constantinople) cover by They Might Be Giants; credits go to The Umbrella Academy series, where I first heard this song accompanying a fun fight sequence.
The Trusted Old Friend: N. K. Jemisin’s How Long ’til Black Future Month?
Having read all of N. K. Jemisin’s published novels and still craving more, I’m finally becoming acquainted with her short stories. And now I’m hooked by short fiction in a way I’d never been before. How Long ’til Black Future Month is a collection of short stories by Jemisin, titled after an essay she wrote a few years back (you can read it on her website).
It’s truly inspiring to read a collection with such refreshing variety in every aspect of storytelling.
In her essay, Jemisin talks about her struggle to reconcile being a black woman and a fantasy fan and writer amidst a genre that keeps reproducing the same old, white-dominated stories and excluding numerous people’s voices. In her short story collection, she gives us real-world speculative fiction, as well as a look into the process of finding her own voice as a writer. This is a treat in more ways than one.
Firstly, Jemisin’s stories have always been among the most realistic I’ve read in terms of the characters that populate her world; she’s interested in the extremely varied range of human experience, and she does her best to explore all of it. Secondly, I’m a long-time fan who was left in awe after most of her novels, and I’m excited to see that her short stories are equally powerful, each a sucker-punch of emotion and inspiration for thought like her novels. Lastly, it’s great fun to discover more of Jemisin’s worlds – her worldbuilding is arguably the most original I’ve encountered – and to realize she’s so versatile in genre.
The stories in this collection range from her usual high fantasy and science-fiction to urban fantasy and even historical fiction. It’s truly inspiring to read a collection with such refreshing variety in every aspect of storytelling.
Apart from my usual epic music, I’m currently going through the video clips of Janelle Monae’s songs included in Jemisin’s essay; they’re a great companion to Jemisin’s work, giving immediate insight into her call for representation.
Μιας και φτάσατε μέχρι εδώ θυμηθείτε πως μπορείτε να διαβάσετε και άλλα άρθρα μας από την πιο φωνακλάδικη συντακτική ομάδα, μπορείτε να δείτε illustration και comic που φτιάχνουμε.
Μπορείτε να μας βρείτε σε Instagramκαι Facebook, να διαβάσετε το webcomic μας NoHeroes! και να μας στηρίξετε στο Patreon μας!
By Sotiria Kotzochampou