Week 1/Book 1: Brilliance of the Moon

Brilliance of the Moon by Lian Hearn

I read Across the Nightingale Floor not long after it came out, and was immediately entranced. Then, somehow, I managed to forget that two more books were planned to follow, and it passed into memory. A month or so ago, something made me think of it again, so I checked with the library, and saw that all three books had been published. I decided to reread Nightingale, to get it fresh in my mind, then read Grass for His Pillow immediately thereafter. Tonight, I finished the third book, Brilliance of the Moon.

I don't suppose that there's a lot I can say about the story itself without giving too much away. These three books (collectively called The Tales of the Otori) comprise, I think, the best historical fantasy since Lord of the Rings. In at least two ways, they're better:

  1. TotO is shorter than LotR, so you feel less overwhelmed before starting and less exhausted after finishing.
  2. Though I called both "historical fantasy", TotO is less fantasy—in fact, there's only enough fantasy that I can't not call it fantasy, if that makes any sense. LotR, on the other hand, is fantasy through and through. It's a personal prejudice, I realize, but I'm a fan of LotR despite its being fantasy, not because of it.

Enough heresy for now. :-)

I had the same feeling at the end of Brilliance of the Moon that I have too often, especially with stories of this scope—that feeling that everything comes crashing to a halt, instead of gliding smoothly to a stop. Since I'm the only person who seems to say anything about this, I'm going to suggest that maybe it's me.

The only other quibble I'll raise at this point is that Brilliance of the Moon brought the world of TotO too close to our own. Throughout all three books, references are made to "the Hidden"—those who believe in "one true God" who recognizes all persons as equals, in contrast to the rigid class system that pervades everyday life. The parallels to Christianity and feudal Japan are obvious, but not obtrusively so. In the third book, however, we learn that the "secret sign" of the Hidden is... a cross. At this point, it was no longer possible to pretend that the world of TotO was a different world, a lot like ours but not ours. (Actually, that point came a page or two earlier, with the appearance—sort of— of a "barbarian from the mainland", with skin "white as an oyster" and yellow hair. There's a third thing presented at the same time, but I'm not sharing it here.) The "and it was really feudal Japan all along!" feeling took a few more pages from which to recover.

But recover I did, and I'm glad I did. I don't know that TotO needs either prequel or sequel, but I hope Hearn has more tales to tell.

Next up: I'm working on Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time by Clark Blaise, and Flight: My Life in Mission Control by Chris Kraft.

Geek cheesecake

Angela brought the mail in yesterday, and asked me if I wanted to keep the new Micro Center or dump it straight in the recycling bin. "Keep it." I said. "We don't get Victoria's Secret catalogs anymore."


52 books in 52 weeks

David at Largehearted Boy read 52 books in 52 weeks in 2004. Jason at kottke.org tried it with magazines, but apparently failed. Maybe I'm a bit arrogant, but I'm thinking I can do this (with books) with my eyes closed without hardly trying. I'm pretty sure that I read more than 52 books last year, but I didn't keep records, so this year I'm going to list them here.

I've always been a voracious reader, but my reading rate has gone up since I discovered the Olathe Public Library's online catalog. I've kept a "to read" list for years, and thanks to the many blogs I've started reading regularly, it has (I think) been growing rather than shrinking. The biggest problem I had in the past was finding books on my list—I would visit one of the local library branches with a hardcopy of my list in hand, then scour the shelves for whichever books they happened to have at that branch. Now, thanks to the online catalog, I can reserve a book from home and they'll shuttle it to the branch of my choice.

I don't know what rules David or Jason set to follow for this challenge, so I guess I'll have to make my own.

  • Only books read entirely in 2005 count. I ended 2004 with two books on my nightstand—Why Toast Lands Jelly-Side Down by Robert Ehrlich, and Four to Score by Janet Evanovich—but since I had already started reading them, they won't count for 2005.
  • Only books that I haven't read before will count. I don't reread many books these days, but I received three of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone novels (G Is for Gumshoe, H Is for Homicide, and I Is for Innocent) for Christmas, so I'll be starting over from the beginning of the series now that my collection is complete (to date).
  • A book counts towards the total when I finish it.
  • The goal is not to finish 52 books in 2005, but to finish at least one each week, which ends on Saturday.

First up is Brilliance of the Moon by Lian Hearn.