Books - The Lyorn's Den
Wed Oct. 11th, 2006
11:02 pm - Books
The next morning I awoke at 6 am, read a little more and studied my maps. Navigation systems, google maps and all that are quite fine, because you can never have all the maps you need, but it's like looking out of airplanes: You do not have the orientation, or the landmarks, you have no idea of the big picture and how it all fits together. One good look at the map and I understood where I had taken wrong turns, and why, and what to do instead. So, this morning, I managed to drive to work without being confused once. I still used the Navigation system and liked it, because the big picture won't get you to the right building, but I for the first time I was able to have some looks at the scenery.
Many of the buildings look a little lost, too little building with too little height in too much landscape. The small houses nearly disappearing into the woods and the hills in Sweden or Ireland do not do that, they tend to look snug and comfortable in their green and grey surroundings. Maybe it's the colour, this golden brown which I cannot compare to anything at home, and which makes even the average dull green of a meadow in Germany look inappropriate and over-coloured. It's a generous warm colour, like heather, and makes the land look even bigger than it is. Or maybe it looks that way because the land really is that big. It's quite pleasing to the eye, but makes the buildings seem lost, like kids out on their own. The industrial areas are not of a compact ugliness desiring to become a singularity, but also strewn over the amazing landscape like someone's belongings in an untidy room. The sky is bigger, and brighter, and I do not know how to name the clouds. One golden-brown-green mountain dominates the area. It's called Mount Diabolo, about 1200 m high, which is quite a lot considering how close to the sea we are. I'd like to go up there, but the Wikipedia entry on the place warns against tarantulas and black widows, especially in September and October. Eek!
Work was, well, work. My worries about dress code were, fortunately, mostly unfounded. People are dressed better than in my old office, but that doesn't mean much. Jeans and shirts are just fine. There's a small cafeteria where you can get lunch. The food looked OK, but I wasn't hungry (my metabolism is still set on "vacation"). The iced tea brand I fondly remembered from thirteen years ago had substituted sugar with high fructose corn syrup, a substance I plan to avoid, if possible. Sugar is going to be some kind of a problem, I feel, because I distrust these modern brews, and I hate the taste of artificial sweeteners. (I just read in Wikipedia that cats are the only mammals that do not care for sweets, because they have no receptors for that taste.)
Before returning to the hotel in the evening, I went grocery shopping. The best thing about grocery shopping in the US is that the aisles are actually large enough to maneuver a shopping cart in. Second best it, lots of new things to try out! The worst thing is all this "no fat" and "not-really sugar". Second worse it the prices. The groceries I paid 26 USD for would have cost 11 Euro at home. I guess I'm going to have dinner in the hotel often. Far more fun to spend the money on books!
Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher, 2001
That evening I read "Fool Moon". The story takes place about half a year after the events in "Storm Front", and this time it's werewolves. (That is not a spoiler. Anyone who looks at the cover and doesn't know that it's about werewolves has never read anything about werewolves before and so won't have any idea what to expect from them.)
The mystery was well constructed, and the characters reasonable believable and interesting. Still I liked it less than "Storm Front". The reason might be the "same old" effect (but that's unlikely, as "Storm Front" was solid bread-and-butter too, nothing unusual that one could tire of quickly), or more likely me having overdosed on werewolves some time ago, or maybe reading Sayers first, who, to be honest, is in a quite different league. I guess it was the werewolves. I disliked the fact that the book was about werewolves from page one. Even though some of the werewolves are cute, awesome, or just plain cool, despite being some of the oldest monsters in the book. Another point was that the hero got mangled really badly pretty early in the book, and having him holding on by the skin of his teeth for two hundred pages stretched credibility. And I'm starting to get extremely annoyed with one of his love interests. He mindlessly admires that woman, and feels that he's doing her wrong, even though she almost gets him killed twice per book by not believing him when he tells her the truth, scorning his warnings, ignoring the expert advice that she's paying for and trying to arrest him for no better reason than that she feels he might know stuff. Of course he knows stuff, stupid, that's why you're hiring him as a consultant! She also permanently complains that he's lying to her when all he does is not shooting off his mouth at every opportunity. (I just can't stand people like that. It's personal.) She gets about a dozen people killed that way in the book, and he takes the blame. Stupid.
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy Sayers, 1928
Well, at least Lord Peter isn't. Stupid, that is. In "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club", he manages to be sympathetic towards all the suspects, no matter how suspect or unsympathetic they seem to be, and gets yelled at only when he deserves it. (Placing justice higher than friendship might be all noble and good in theory, but it's still betraying a friend for justice, and the former has every right to yell.) The story is a classic mystery with a dead relatives leaving lots of money and tricky wills, and the culprit is the last person one would have suspected. (Unless one had read a lot of classic mysteries and knows how to look out for that least suspect person.) One of the things I like most about Sayers is probably nothing of her doing, because she simply described the times she lived in, but in her writing the 1920s and 30s really come to life. The way society changed after the Great War, how nothing seemed the same to the young, and people tried to find their place in a different world while they were creating it. Lord Peter, secure in his status, can observe it and understand it and has the privilege not to be judgmental, which helps him seeing through all the misdirection of a classic mystery and get the guilty party. I like that as a perspective.