Monday, May 23, 2005

Sick, but reading

About this time last year, I fell really sick. I'm sick again, and with uncanny precision, we're off only by a few days (I estimate May 15th last year, as opposed to the 17th this year).

In 1985, courtesy of a stack of old Reader's Digests, I learned about biorhythms, and how they were supposed to affect us intellectually and emotionally. I remember plotting out a chart to see how they would impact me over my examination period. The results were inconclusive: I seem to remember them predicting a low day on a key examination, but I did fine. This recurrent sickness bothers me though: it's strange to think that I fall sick on a regular basis.

Next year will be the crucial year though: once is an isolated incident, twice could be a coincidence, but three times is a pattern. I used to teach this to my literature students, pointing out how stories rise in tension at this critical point, where a pattern could be made or averted, because three is the minimum number to set a pattern (you can do it with more - 4, 7 or 10, but economy is often needed to drive the story forward). That's why the third little pig matters so much: if he fails, then all pigs are doomed to be eaten by wolves, forever, because the pattern is implied: there'll be no escaping their fate. But if he succeeds, then there's no pattern: the first two pigs may have succumbed to the wolf, but it's not fated that all pigs will.

One thing being sick always does for me is let me catch up on reading. I've been ploughing through Mieville's Iron Council (yes, the paperback finally reached us). The impression at the half-way mark: more of the same, better characterization. Mieville's fundamental themes haven't changed from Perdido Street Station to The Scar to this current book, only the locations - from the city of New Crobuzon in the first book, to the floating Armada in the second. Iron Council is slightly wide-angled: he explores the continent inland from New Crobuzon more closely, returns to New Crobuzon in some detail, and shows the mobile community of the Iron Council. I've realised that for Mieville, his locations are as much characters in his novels as the people: I complained earlier that Perdido Street Station had too many characters, but I must now add one more to the list: New Crobuzon itself. Similarly, the floating Armada was as important as any of the flesh and blood characters in The Scar, as is the perpetual train in Iron Council. I've got 200 pages more to go, but at this point The Scar still seems the best of his books for me: I liked the characters more, for some reason.

Update:
Finished reading Iron Council: not bad ... not bad at all. The ending comes at you with ... well, with the inevitability of a trainwreck, if that's not giving too much away, but Mieville keeps one or two suprises for the end, and leaves us with yet another indelible and inconic image of the world he's created.

1 comment:

Neil said...

Wahj - suggest you try the Malazan Books of the Fallen series. Lots of characters and places, tough to start but ulitimately rewarding