Twain, Mark. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Reason read: Mark Twain was born in the month of November. Read in his honor
There is so much to unpack in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. When one thinks of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, science fiction doesn’t readily come to mind. Sarcastic? Humorous? Yes. But certainly not science fiction in my book. The plot is simple. Nineteenth century mechanic Hank Morgan gets a conk on the head that sends him back to the 6th century. At first he thinks it is all a joke (“Get back to your circus,” he tells a knight in full armor riding an armored horse). Once convinced he has truly traveled back in time he realizes he can use his knowledge of the “future,” like an upcoming solar eclipse and the invention of electricity, to his advantage.
Woven throughout the plot is Twain’s celebration of democracy while at the same time condemning humankind through observations about social and human inequalities. He attacks British nobility and rails against poverty and slavery.
How it all ends? The divine right of the King is the be settled in another book. Good news for Twain fans. That kind of ending is like your favorite musician hinting that they are working on a new album. Stay tuned. There is more to come.
Author fact: As an aside, Mr. Twain had a killer mustache. Everyone knows that but I’ve never really looked at it before. Another confession: I have not been to his house in Hartford, Connecticut.
Book trivia: In my edition of A Connecticut Yankee there is a great deal of extra fanfare before you get to the actual story. There is an editor’s note, a foreword, and an introduction. If that wasn’t enough, there is an afterward as well. But the cooler thing to mention is that my copy is a facsimile of the original publication. Illustrations and texts are unaltered.
Nancy said: Pearl included A Connecticut Yankee as an example of the writings of Mark Twain.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Literary Lives: the Americans” (p 144). Technically, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur‘s Court is not a biography of Mark Twain so it shouldn’t be included in this chapter.
I may not be happy with my personal life in regards to fitness, health, and so on, but I am definitely satisfied with the number of books I was able to check off my Challenge list for the month of December. Special thanks to my kisa who did all the driving up and back and around the great state of Maine.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (EB/print).
- Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess.
- Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund.
- This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun.
- Time Machines: the Best Time Travel Stories Ever Written edited by Bill Adler, Jr.
- The Black Tents of Arabia: (My Life Among the Bedouins by Carl Raswan.
- Lost Moon: the Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger.
- The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer.
- Stet: a Memoir by Diana Athill (EB and print).
- Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB and print).
- Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett. Confessional: I did not finish this.
- The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (EB/print/AB).
Wilson, Robert C. The Chronoliths. New York: Tor, 2001.
Reason read: October is “Star Man” month and The Chronoliths is sort of about time travel…
Scott Warden as an old man is writing his memoirs about his involvement with the Chronoliths. When he begins his story the year is 21st century. The place is Thailand. Scott and his family are hanging out in a beach side town “busy doing something close to nothing” when a huge 200 foot structure in the form of monument appears in the jungled interior. This is no ordinary monument. Its arrival changed the climate, destroyed acres worth of trees and spewed ionizing radiation. But even more curious is the inscription, commemorating a victorious battle sixteen years into the future. Then, another monument appears in downtown Bangkok, killing thousands. Again it commemorates a victory years into the future. Because Scott and a friend the first ones to arrive on the scene of the original monument, they are irrevocably linked to the phenomenon. A scientist from Scott’s past recruits him to study the structures in an effort to thwart a future warlord from destroying society.
The Chronoliths is futuristic enough to acknowledge the world had progressed but not so much that it wasn’t recognizable to the reader. Some examples: Scott lived in a society where smokers needed to hold an “addict’s” license. Wilson makes some interesting predictions about human behavior and advances in technologies. Portable communication technologies are very similar to what we have today but were virtually unheard of in 2001.
But interestingly enough, the world had also regressed (the draft was introduced in 2029).
As an aside – I wish the editor had done a little better job of catching inconsistencies. Adam on page 146 was eighteen but by page 149 he was seventeen.
Quotes to quote: “But what the hard admits isn’t always what the heart allows” (p 60) and “Adulthood is the art of deceit” (p 153).
Author fact: Wilson is an American-born science fiction writer living in Canada. Given the climate of today, lucky him.
Book trivia: the disclaimer reads, “This is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or used fictitiously.”
Nancy said: The Chronoliths is included in a list of other books about time travel that might be enjoyed.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Time Travel” (p 220). As an aside, I should note, humans do not time travel but monuments celebrating military victories twenty years into the future randomly appear, at first across Asia and then North America.
- The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson – in honor of October being Star Man month.
- Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB) – in memory of Mehmed Pasa Sokollu’s passing. He designed the bridge over the Drina river.
- Playing for Pizza by John Grisham (EB) – in honor of the Verdi Fest in Parma that takes place every October.
- Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB) – to remember the Tom Kippur War.
- Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris – in honor of Morris’s birth month.
- African Laughter by Doris Lessing – in honor of Lessing’s birth month.
- Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth – October is Library Friend Month & I had to borrow this from a distant library.
- Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to finish the series started in September in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.
- The Race of the Scorpion by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
- Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB) – to finish the series started in August in honor of Dream Month.
- Joey Goes to Sea by Alan Villiers – a gift from my aunt Jennifer.
Early Review for LibraryThing: nada. I have the promise of three different books but they haven’t arrived yet.
Willis, Connie. Doomsday Book. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
Willis, Connie. Doomsday Book. Read by Jenny Sterlin.
Reason read: Connie Willis was born in the month of December. Read in her honor. Confessional: this book is nearly 600 pages long so I decided to start it early.
I don’t know why I get so nervous about reading science fiction. I really shouldn’t when it comes to Connie Willis. I have enjoyed everything I had read from her so far and Doomsday Book is no different. In a word Doomsday Book is brilliant. Young and ambitious student historian Kivrin has been eagerly preparing to leave her 21st century world for that of fourteenth century Oxford. Wearing a costume proper for women of the era? Check. Middle English language lessons completed? Check. Customs training for her alibi for a woman traveling alone? Check. Proper inoculations for illnesses of the day? Check. Or it is check with a question mark? Her instructors back in 2054 had made painstaking calculation to ensure she would arrive decades before the Black Death, but is it possible she slipped twenty eight years passed the targeted date? Did she arrive at ground zero at the exact wrong time? Strangely enough, the 21st century is suffering an epidemic of its own. Modern day Oxford is quarantined and fear bordering on panic runs rampant.
This is a story of parallel tragedies and the human nature that transcends all time…despite being “sci-fi.”
Author fact: at the time of publication Willis lived in Greeley, Colorado. Such a beautiful place!
Book trivia: Doomsday Book won both the Hugo and Nebula award for science fiction.
Nancy said: in Book Lust, “many people believe Doomsday Book Willis’s most accomplished novel (p 246). In More Book Lust, nothing other than to list it as a time travel book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246). Also from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Time Travel” (p 221).
Bradbury, Ray. “A Sound of Thunder.” R is For Rocket. New York: Doubleday, 1952.
This is an incredibly short story that packs a punch. It’s one of those simple as hell stories that makes you think for hours afterwards. Take Concept #1: At the heart of the story is a travel/safari company that advertizes, “Safaris to Any Year in the Past. You Name the Animal. We Take You There. You Kill It.” Let that digest. That alone is definitely something to ponder. Concept #2: The main character of the story, Eckles, wants to kill a dinosaur. Not just any dinosaur, but the king of all prehistoric lizards – the tyrannosaurus rex. Contemplate that. What would it take to kill such a beast? Concept #3: the safari can only kill an animal predestined to die or else the future will hang in the balance. Kill the wrong thing and you might upset the whole apple cart of life as you know it. And guess what, Eckles accidentally kills a butterfly, upsetting the path to the present. Concept #4: before leaving present day Eckles learns that a benevolent leader has just beaten out a tyrannical dictator for President. You can see where this is going.
Reason read: June is National Short Story Month
Author fact: Ray Bradbury’s site is here. I’m sure it’s not the only one dedicated to the writer.
Story trivia: “A Sound of Thunder” was first published in magazines like Playboy (1956).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Time Travel” (p 220).
du Maurier, Daphne. The House on the Strand. New York: Doubleday Company, 1969.
I chose this book for October because somewhere out there someone deemed October National Starman month…whatever that means. When I think of Starmen, I think of David Bowie and Starman and Moonage Daydream. Don’t ask me why. I just do. That leads me to think of Natalie singing his version of “keep your mouth shut, you’re squawking like a pink monkey bird” and that’s when things get really weird. And weird to me is, and will always be, October. Halloween and all that.
Dick Young and his old college chum (and biophysicist), Magnus Lane, are working on a potion that can send a person back in time. Their potion is in the planning stages and when we first meet Dick he has just tried to time-travel for the first time. His trip is successful and he finds himself in the 14th century. The travel itself is more a mental trip than a physical one. While Dick’s physical body stays in the 20th century it’s his mind that is actively in the 14th century. This explains why Dick can walk as if he is a ghost, undetected, through the past. Unhappy with his 20th century life, married to a woman with two boys from a previous relationship, Dick finds himself traveling back to the 14th century more frequently and recklessly. It becomes an addiction to stay “connected” to the people of the time, particularly an attractive woman named Isolda. The story ends in tragedy, as it only could. Because it hasn’t been researched properly, the drug gets the best of Dick and Magnus in the startling conclusion of House on the Strand.
Oddly rational question: “The point is this: Does the drug reverse some chemical change in the memory systems of the brain, throwing it back to a particular thermodynamic situation which existed in the past, so that the sensations elsewhere in the brain are repeated?” (p 14). Hmmm…
My favorite line: “I realised at that moment, more strongly than hitherto, how fantastic, even macabre, was my presence amongst them, unseen, unborn, a freak in time, witness to events that had happened centuries past, unremembered, unrecorded; and I wondered how it was that standing here on the steps, watching yet invisible, I could so feel myself involved, troubled, by these loves and deaths” (p 68).
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Time Travel” (p 221).