Nightstand Books #3
Welcome back to the Nightstand series. Now with better lighting! Seriously, I hope this image is a bit clearer than the last one.
This month I have been so busy editing Through the Viscera that I have really fallen behind on my reading, so no new books this time. The selection represented here are all books I’ve read in the past.
We’ll start from the bottom up. The Icarus Hunt was recommended to me by fellow author Jenelle Leanne Schmidt and I finished it about a month or so ago. I had never read anything by Timothy Zahn, but when she mentioned him, his name immediately rang a bell. A friend of mine named John had mentioned him several years ago when I was talking to him about my books. Apparently John worked with Zahn’s wife during college and that was around the time he got his first book either written or published. So, even though it’s not a strong connection, it made me all the more interested to see what he was about.
And man, this cat can write.
The Icarus Hunt is hard science fiction, but it reads more like a mystery/crime novel. The writing was extremely smooth throughout and the ending was fantastic. The only drawback for me were some mild language issues and the fact that the main character was a bit unsavory at times. But everything else made for an interesting, keep-you-guessing romp through space that was highly original.
The next book up, Phantastes, is one that I read probably over ten years ago and which I probably should reread again soon. It was the first George MacDonald book I ever read and it’s a classic fairy tale, though darker than you might expect. Because I read it so long ago, I’m actually a bit fuzzy on the details. But the enjoyment I got out of the book is still very clear in my memory and I’ve read several MacDonald books since and there’s not been a bad one in the bunch.
If you need any more incentive to consider picking up Phantastes or any other MacDonald book for that matter, consider what C.S. Lewis wrote about MacDonald:
I have never concealed the fact that I regarded George MacDonald as my master; indeed, I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.
How’s that for praise?
Finally the smallest of the books physically is nonetheless the weightiest of the three by far. The Silmarillion is Tolkien’s posthumous masterpiece. To an even larger degree than The Lord of the Rings, this book is a polarizing work. People seem to either love or hate this work. Count me as firmly in the former camp. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I enjoy The Silmarillion as much, if not more than The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Ok, maybe that’s taking a bit far. Let me put it this way. To me, the three works, while distinct in their own right, are essentially the same thing. So choosing between them is a bit like picking which of your children you love the best. It can’t be done.
The most common complaint I’ve heard against the book is that it’s too dry, too much like reading history, and not enough dialogue and action. And those are all valid criticisms. But to me those are precisely its charms. Here we get story in its undiluted form, it’s straight up myth, pure and simple, unfettered by narrative structure or frilly dialogue and all those trappings of a proper novel. Here we get to drink from the fountainhead. It’s a sweeping epic that in some ways makes The Lord of the Rings feel like a bit of an afterthought.
Don’t get me wrong, I love The Lord of the Rings. It’s an amazing work, but Silmarillion is just as good. Different, but equally a masterpiece. And I think I may give it special favoritism because it is so unique. I mean very few other authors I am aware of have ever written anything like it. It’s just not the sort of book the mass market wants to read. And that is sad. Because if you can get past the lack of the familiar structure of a novel, the stories here are absolutely amazing.
I doubt I will have convinced any Silmarillion naysayers with what I’ve written here, but I for one, am so thankful that Tolkien’s genius was not confined to just The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. And I’m thrilled that I get to keep a copy beside my bed.
Until next time, may your nightstand never run out of amazing stories.