Tuesday, May 31, 2005

So, Night Watch by Sean Stewart. This one usually dukes it out with Mockingbird as my second favorite Sean Stewart book. What elevates it for me is the chapter where Nick dies. Similar in tone and plot to Jack London's short story "To Build a Fire", every time I read it I'm moved to tears by Nick's calm struggle against the cold and his determination to survive so he can rejoin his wife and daughter. It's all the more poignant because he previously comments that the only thing he trusts is the cold. And then that is the very thing that kills him. This struggle is echoed nicely later in the book where Jen is trapped in his mother's apartment building, trying to keep the demons at bay.

There are books that are good by [whatever genre] standards and then there are books that are good by literature standards. I've read some science fiction authors in the last couple of years that I had previously loved but have now discovered aren't actually that good. They are merely good by science fiction standards. Sean Stewart, I'm happy to say, is good by literature standards and was actually one of the authors that first made me realize science fiction writing could be poetic and deep while still telling a fantastic story. I think that's one reason why I don't read much science fiction anymore; it has so many authors that are merely good by its standards. I suppose I became disillusioned by finding authors that could take those conventions and transcend them through original ideas or language and writing ability. Why should I waste my time with merely decent books that require me to lower my expectations?

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