Friday, September 24, 2010

I Want Prizes

Goodreads has a whole page--pages and pages, really!--of free book giveaways.  Some of them are for things that were already on my to-read list!  I ran through and entered a bunch of them, and now I'm on the edge of my seat.  The newest Terry Pratchett!  An Asian warrior princess romance novel!  All kinds of cool stuff!  Most of the drawings have odds somewhere in the range of a 1 in 50 to 1 in 200 chance of winning.  I'll let you know if I have any luck.

I finished Things We Didn't See Coming, by Steven Amsterdam, the other day.  It was really excellent.  I've found a couple of his pieces that have been published in online journals since then, and the difference is interesting--it's like looking at a second draft vs. a final draft.  But the book, which is a collection of stories from the life of the same character, is really great.

The first story takes place on Y2K eve, when the character is nine or ten.  He and his parents are leaving the city to go stay with his grandparents in the country, avoiding any potential trouble.  His father's pretty freaked out, his mother thinks he's overreacting.  There's nothing here that might not have really happened, but the characters you meet, the glimpse you get of the narrator's personality, is interesting, affectionate, slightly uncomfortable.

Then you jump forward about five years, and he's a teenager staying with his grandparents to keep out of trouble.  There are food shortages, barricades, things aren't going well, but the story is about a road trip, about aging, about all kinds of things.

Another jump, another place in his life.  Another disaster, another glimpse of a world that is falling apart in all the ways that people can't do anything about--floods, drought, epidemics.  And the rag-tag life he leads--crime, bureaucracy, wealth. 

I'm not a fly by the seat of my pants person, and there are plenty of books out there about people who act on impulse, drift through life, do whatever comes along.  But somehow this one caught me, maybe because the world he lived in is so different from mine that I can see how a person might come to this position.

But it's not something I think about very often: what if I didn't know where my next meal--heck, my next drink of fresh water--was coming from.  Often enough I've read about other people with this life, but these stories seemed so normal and immediate that, strangely enough, this fictional world was less another place than other real stories that pose that question.

I almost ended on the overly-clever line, "Didn't see that coming."  But that wouldn't really mean anything and it was way too precious, so let's just leave it there, shall we?

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