Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two Sentence Tuesday: 10 March 2009

I'm taking a bit of liberty with today's blog. Instead of posting one passage from my own work and another passage from something I'm reading, I'm going to post two passages from my current to-be-read pile. Why? On the surface, I like them both and I can't choose. Underneath the surface, I don't have anything ready.

Awhile back, on David Cranmer's blog, we all had a discussion about how many books, if more than one, we read at the same time. At present, I have about five I'm working my way through. It just depends on my mood really.

Here are two sentences from Dan Simmons' latest opus, Drood:
The date of Dickens' disaster was 9 June 1865. The locomotive carrying his success, peace of mind, sanity, manuscript, and mistress was--quite literally--heading for a breach in the rails and a terrible fall.
For a book that 771 pages long, the work reads quickly. Wilkie Collins is the narrator and the incident in the above passage really happened. Dickens' train car was the only first class car to survive when his train jumped over a broken span of a bridge. The event changed him and he never completed another book (his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, remained incomplete when he died five years to the day in 1870.) In Simmons' imagination, Dickens, as he tended to the wounded of the train accident, encounters the dreadful visage of a man known only as Drood and becomes obsessesed with finding him. That is the crux of the story and, one hundred pages into it, it's a work of art.

On another plane altogether, I am finally getting around to Theodore Judson's The Martian General's Daughter (2008). I read Lou Anders' blog (what is it with people whose last names end in 's'?) regularly. He's the editor of Pyr Books, a SF/F imprint. I had read a lot of good reviews about Judson's book and wanted to pick it up. What astounded me was it's size. If Drood tells its story in 771 pages, Martian General Daughter does it in 252. I have lamented that there is no SF version of Hard Case Crime, good, quick reads with SF tropes and not all that world building stuff that weighs down a rapid narrative. Judson's book seems to be just that. And I want to know how he did it.

Thus, the opening sentence:
When the word of Pretext's fall came to Peter Black's camp the general was seated beneath a conveyer belt on the Twelfth Level, watching a sales presentation made by the scrap men of Antioch Station. Many hundreds of workmen in small electric carts were parading past General black and his staff officers while they displayed samples of the supposedly uninfected metal they were hoping to sell to the army.
What I appreciate about sentences like these is the broad paintbrush. The sentences evoke something grand and big, big enough, to be sure, to hold 'hundreds of workmen.' And there are enough questions ('scrap men'?; 'uninfected metal'?) to make you want to read more without one of those gotcha opening sentences we are so accustomed to write. The hook is there, but it's subtle. I like that in a book.

I shall report on these books at a later time.

As y'all read this, I'll be on a golf course celebrating my wife's birthday. For more two-sentence fun, head on over to Women of Mystery.

4 comments:

David Cranmer said...

I have a ton of unrelated and quite possibly worthless thoughts.

Talking about Drood and Dickens reminds me of a wonderful pastiche Edward D. Hoch did of Dickens (for EQMM last year) on one of his American travels and a mystery aboard a ship.

Whenever I'm writing with a names that ends in is s I have to stop and think about the plural punctuation. I mentioned this annoyance to my wife just yesterday.

Bowing to the Future looks like an informative blog and I will check it out periodically. That Saturday Morning Watchmen is a hoot.

Oh, and do you get permission to take such scandalous liberties with Two Sentence Tuesday?

Barbara Martin said...

I'm looking foward to reading Drood as I have been a long time fan of Dickens.

Clare2e said...

Scott-

2x2 liberties, be damned! I just saw this and it's 9pm! For heavens' sake, leave a comment so we know you're playing, and we'll put a link to your post. We want to start a feeding frenzy, especially since you're dipping into such interesting stuff!

I'm a big Dickens fan, and the idea of a SF Hard Case-type imprint is provocative in the extreme.

Hope you and your wife had a great time on the links, and don't make me have to come over and plant my spikes in your hinder next week.

Scott Parker said...

David - I'm off to find that Hoch story. Every since I reviewed that Dickens/Christmas Carol book, I've been in a Dickens mood. And, yes, the Saturday Watchmen cartoon is quite funny.

Barbara - Part of me wanted to read a Dickens bio before I started. I chose not to. However, I can tell that if a reader knows Dickens' work well, all the little nuances will be obvious, like character names, etc.

Clare2e - I thought about sending y'all an e-mail last night (when I wrote the blog) but forgot to do so. Thanks for the good words and I expect to have some of my own material next week.

This is a fun project y'all started.