Salutations! I hope everyone enjoyed my last series on Odd John and the Ubermensch. Writing and researching that was quite the experience for me. The rabbit hole I explored with that story led me to books and ideas I never thought would be connected. I have another series planned for the near future, but for right now, I need to do some housekeeping.
“On My Desk” is an attempt for me to finally get back around to reading books that have been sitting on my desk for an extended period of time by sharing them with you. This week I have three books that I have been reading in the last couple of months or so, but just haven’t gotten around to finishing yet.
The first is actually a manga, Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys. This is at the top of the stack, as I recently picked it up after seeing it highly recommended in a moving picture clip accessed via the Youtube.
First, a disclaimer: I am new to the world of manga, and this is the first I’ve read. As such, I don’t have anything to compare it to. Being my first manga, I’m looking at it by its own merits.
So far, I’m in love.
It has a story that sucks you in. It has characters that you watch grow and mature and become very attached to. And since it is a manga, there is also excellent artwork to enjoy.
20th Century Boys is a story about a global conspiracy that somehow involves a group of lifelong friends (as far as I can tell with being just a part of the way through the first volume).
Urasawa, the mangaka, is apparently very highly regarded in the manga community and has won multiple awards. So I trust what I’m reading is worth it.
All in all it is 22 volumes, and I’m enjoying it enough to be in it for the long haul. I plan on revisiting the series in a future post.
Apparently there is a live-action moving picture trilogy adapted from the manga. You can find all three of the moving pictures on the global marketplace of Amazon, for 20 – 30 creds a pop. So chances are I won’t be viewing them any time soon.
Next on my desk is The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It is the second book in a series dubbed the Hyperion Cantos, which came highly recommended by A Guy I Know.
To tell you about The Fall of Hyperion, I feel I need to tell about its predecessor – Hyperion. Hyperion is a story, or rather multiple stories of how the book’s main characters all come to be on the same pilgrimage to travel to the Time Tombs and ask a request from a supreme being. Think Canterbury Tales in space. Or Wizard of Oz. Both are valid.
It features a high-stakes hegemonic war over space, futuristic pyramids traveling backwards through time, a poet-turned-satyr-turned-prophet (read it and it will make sense), and a metallic, dimension shifting boogeyman called the Shrike.
Each section of the book is written from a different perspective, each story reading like an entirely different novel. Through this format, it is like it incorporates the best aspects of many different sub-genres of Science Fiction.
The Cantos novels have won multiple awards and drip with nods to other literary works, like the poems of John Keats ( I mean, Hyperion and Endymion are also both names of a couple of Keats’ poems, so it’s pretty obvious). In a way, that is one of the rabbit holes that exists within the series, and what intrigues me to read into it more — “how many nods are on this page?” I look forward to finishing the series and sharing the rabbit holes with you.
The Fall of Hyperion is a continuation of that story, but without the broken continuity and switching perspectives of Hyperion (not that that is a bad thing). The book is followed by Endymion and the Cantos ends with Rise of Endymion. There you go. One sentence about the actual book I set out to talk about. Welcome to my mind!
The last book in my stack is actually a collected trilogy: The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov. It is comprised of Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and the Second Foundation. I love books that focus on world building and provide deep and rich histories for its people and places, so it is no surprise that I would find a book about the theoretical future of a fictional universe to be pretty awesome.
The premise of Foundation is this: one of the characters predicts the fall of the galactic empire through an advanced branch of mathematics, called psychohistory. So, in an attempt to do some damage control, a large group of the galaxy’s best and brightest are sent to the far end in order to start a new empire that would not be negatively affected by the fall of the current one.
While I was reading the first book, something caught my eye, and begged me to ask the question. What in the galaxies is vegan tobacco? Asimov mentioned it many times throughout the books.
So I jumped into that rabbit hole, and apparently it is a real thing.
I thought tobacco was already vegan, you know, since it is a plant. However, it apparently can still be made with additives from animals.
Now I don’t know what was in tobacco when Asimov was writing, but the idea of a pure, no-additive tobacco (and that might be why he is using the word vegan to describe it) was something that Asimov thought about.
Enough about that though.
Being one of the great works of Science Fiction, being knee-deep in reading Foundation, it has provided me with some context that makes nods from other stories make sense. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy mentions the series’s Encyclopedia Galactica by name, and Futurama also makes a couple of minor references to things seen throughout the series.
If you have read any of these books, let me know your thoughts! And if you haven’t, maybe the little bit I have have described of them encourages you to pick one up — 20th Century Boys if you’re looking for a deep conspiracy story, the Hyperion Cantos if you want to read some of the best the Science Fiction genre has to offer, and finally Foundation if you are looking for what could possibly be THE greatest work of Science Fiction of all time.
Check back in next week for my new series of delves into the rabbit holes of literature!