1 down, 24 to go

I just finished the first book in my ambitious plan to read 25 books this year (for pleasure — I have other reading to do, too).

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Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card grabbed my attention and held it throughout the story. And now, I’m stuck, because it’s a series with two other books available, and it’s going to get in my way of getting through the rest of my list. I must stay focused. I must get the next book.

You may know Card from Ender’s Game, which I read years ago, but my favorite of his novels is Enchantment. I loved the premise of Sleeping Beauty’s story being bridged with reality/modern times. The hipster gene that runs through me was pleased to know I was familiar with this book long before Disney’s knock-off Enchanted, and the subsequent hit, Once Upon a Time.

Card is a terrific storyteller, but he really nails characters and their relationships.

The sci-fi in Pathfinder is not too over-the-top — once you get past the colonization of the human species and time travel. It’s good. And plausible, which is what makes any story, sci-fi or not, compelling.

But I go back to the characters and their relationships. This is my favorite quote from the novel, a piece I highlighted early, and drives the characters’ motivation throughout:

Children wait to learn if their love is true by seeing how long it lasts; adults make their love true by never wavering from their commitment.

I give it two thumbs up!

a little lite rambling about Almost Human and Agents of SHIELD

It’s no secret I like science fiction. I like superhero stories, too. And fantasy, though I make no excuses for a mild dislike of Lord of the Rings. I think it’s like a million pages too long.

I know, a bunch of people just judged me and found me lacking.

Anyway, what Tolkien gets right (among other things — I know the work, I just don’t like it) is the authenticity of the relationships. The characters are likable and believable, and their actions are plausible in my world of suspension of disbelief.

I’m not necessarily drawn by special effects or explosions or cool gadgetry, though it’s entertaining enough. I like good strong characters, the more flawed, the more human, the better.

Which is why I mourned the cancelation of Firefly, stood by X-Files after the sixth season, stuck with Star Trek and all the iterations, including Voyager, when the less popular Deep Space Nine was better. It’s why I stood in line to watch a midnight showing of X-Men, forgave George Lucas for crappy writing, and hope for a reconciliation in the cinema world so Spider-Man can return to the Avengers.

It’s why I’m loving Agents of SHIELD even though many are complaining that none of the heroes show up. Well, consider this, the real stories are not the super heroes, but the regular heroes…the folks who have no super powers except those qualities such as sacrifice and love of neighbor that have them respond heroically. And by the way, the show is about Coulson, and his “humanity.” Is he now a cyborg or what? I’m enjoying the hints about his death and resurrection after the battle of New York. Give it a few more episodes, Father Roderick, I think you’ll learn to love the series enough to explore its Secrets [wink].

Which brings me to Almost Human. I’m loving it after only three episodes, partly because of the concept and mostly because of the developing relationship between Detective John Kennex, and his cyborg partner Dorian. Dorian is almost human in his response to things. It’s making for some hilarious exchanges. It’s a tired old trope in science fiction, but I think people return to the idea of computers with artificial intelligence and the development of robots with emerging human qualities to be an interesting way to explore the human condition.

We’re quick to assume that the real exploration takes place in the robot’s development of human qualities, but I think it’s the opposite, that the robot serves as a foil for the human to explores his own humanity. I saw an inkling in this as John Kennex and Dorian begin to bond after the first episode, and Kennex, especially, demonstrates an unwillingness to trust, and in many respects, a rejection of life because of depression after losing his partner. By the third episode, in which Dorian risks his “life” to save human hostages, Dorian’s regret at being close to destruction elicits empathy from Kennex, who observes the end of life is, indeed, tragic.

It flirts a little with the idea that all life precious. Whether or not Kennex attributes this appreciation for Dorian’s consciousness which does not have a soul, in a reflective moment, he begins his own healing. Coulson has a similar revelation in Agents of SHIELD when he risks his life to stay with a man until the very last minute so he does not die alone. There’s great humanity in that.

I look forward to both series unfolding and hope I’m not disappointed in the themes that develop.