49. Fathom – Cherie Priest
I’ve been intrigued by Priest’s work since I saw the cover of Boneshaker while shelving in Mississippi. I’m not particularly interested in steampunk – I respect it and appreciate it but it’s not my thing-, so I haven’t read Boneshaker yet and ever since I found out that she’d also decided to write her take on the Lizzie Borden story (Maplecroft) I thought maybe that would be a better starting place for someone of my tastes, which generally lead towards murder faster than steampunk… Anyway, I couldn’t get into Maplecroft, so I had to find another starting point. Fathom is the one I found while at the Madison Public Library. I hadn’t heard or read anything about it and I had recently finished Kraken by China Mieville when I picked it up, so, I figured maybe another sea monstery story would be all right. Well, this was not actually a good starting point either. There is a murder toward the beginning, and yet I wasn’t entirely on board with the trajectory of the two cousins turned immortals helping opposite sides of a world ending scheme. I think Priest had a lot of intriguing ideas but they didn’t coalesce as much as they needed to in the final product. And I couldn’t find my ground in it and had no one to relate to or root for. I wish I could have, because I’m going to get through Maplecroft at some point and all I have right now is some suspicion that relating to Lizzie Borden over a girl-turned-statue trying to stop the world ending is not going to be good either. Maybe there will be someone else in Maplecroft to ground the story, it does have a little reality in its origin, whereas if Fathom has some, I’m currently unaware of where it came from. Perhaps the depths.
Murderface and Duncan know that guinea pigs’ hierarchical issues would be cause enough for some immortal sea monster fights. It’s a good thing they don’t have access to the sea.
70. Gone South – Robert R. McCammon
I’ve been looking at this book on my mother’s bookshelf for a long time and it’s one hell of a novel. I did not expect a single thing that happened in it; I didn’t know I was going to be reading such a tense, fantastical story that included some Elvis, some serious amounts of sweating, a fairy tale garden, drug dealers, obstinate ladies, and a conjoined twin. I felt like I understood it better after having lived in Mississippi (it takes place in south Louisiana) and I definitely know where the areas that the story took place are on a map – mainly it reminded me that there are some things about living in the South that I cannot explain to anyone. It’s retained its sense of wildness and a weirdness that is heavily on display in Gone South. And living there truly demonstrated to me that there are some things that can never be fixed, some things that will work themselves out regardless of how much I worry, and some things that are just doomed. My darling Duncan was one such doomed individual and you can see her sweet little profile in the photo below, she’s with her mother Murderface. She died four years ago today, the first of my herd of eight to pass, of cancer. She was only nine months old and time was obviously not on her side. No it wasn’t.
I think about Duncan a lot and regardless of whether or not I want them to, some of my pigs’ death days sneak up on me. I’m pretty sure one of the currently living pigs’ death day is soon to come and so the death days are reminders of what I’ve gone through and what I will go through again and again, as long as I choose to keep these little rapscallions. Granted, the benefits of having guinea pigs for me far outweigh the non-benefits. Lost my words there a bit. Oh well. Anyway, another reason that Duncan’s death day is weighing heavy four years on is that Ned Vizzini committed suicide recently. He was only a year older than me and was living a chunk of my dream career- he’s had four books published, he allowed a movie to be made of one horrifically affecting novel (that meant a lot to me), and he was writing for television. He also may have had enough money for his family to live on at any given time. And some people have to write- regardless of whether or not it’s ever going to get anywhere that anyone notices- and some people get paid too. It’s hard to understand where that kind of accomplishment would go south on you. But maybe he lost his anchors or maybe he was being pressured to just “get over it” too much, as that seems to happen to people with serious depression. I definitely lost my anchor and, just a quick public service announcement, try not to choose anchors that can die.
Murderface and Duncan Hills, brutally cute, also brutal reminders of how short the lifespan of guinea pigs can be. Happy Holidays, Mr. Hobbes!