Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Changeling's Island, revised

I wrote about  Dave Freer's book, Changeling's Island, when it was released as a Baen ARC back in January. It's now on Amazon, and is therefore eligible for review. So review it I did, again demonstrating the value of recycling and cut and paste. However, this blog post has additional original content, and is therefore MUST reading.

Part the first: The Review of the Book, in which I have made Few Changes

Tim Ryan is a nice young man who has had a string of bad luck.  Part of that luck is having parents who are much more interested in being nice to themselves than being parents.  Another part is that he has fallen under the influence of a glamour-girl of his own age, who uses her feminine wiles to persuade him to make all sorts of bad decisions, the most recent one being shoplifting (rotten little snip!).  However, unbeknownst to him, much of the bad luck he's having is due to the fact that he is being followed and "assisted" by mumble pixie mumble fairy mumble.

( I am not an expert on magical terminology;  I will therefore not attempt to recreate the names and titles and designations of all the magical figures.  I would get them wrong, and I'm simply NOT going to devote massive efforts to get it right. Sorry.)

Then we come to a sort of turning point.  Tim doesn't turn, at least not yet, but his circumstances, and therefore his luck, undergo a BIG change: he gets shipped off to live with his grandmother on Flinder's Island.  Important things happen immediately.  First, of course, he gets away from the combined rotten influence of his mother and the glamour-girl  (you can cheer at this point). The second thing that happens is that he meets a girl on the airplane who is not a rotten little snip, and he is nice to her, thereby winning her gratitude.

What follows is a wonderful, delightful, classical coming of age story.  Under the influence of his grandmother, a lot of hard work, and a non-toxic school situation, Tim gets a chance to express those good characteristics which were there all along.  Let me emphasize the " hard work" aspect of that prior sentence, because it is that, as much as anything else, which helped him make the transformation.  He has to learn everything: how to milk a cow,  fork potatoes, and herd sheep.  He falls into bed exhausted every night.  Early.  Frankly, it's not a lifestyle I would enjoy, but if I had gotten the opportunity at age 12, it likely would have been the making of me.

Supplementary material: Yesterday, on Mad Genius Club, Dave wrote a column which addressed some of the things he wanted to accomplish in writing the book. A troll from somewhere sailed in and did what trolls do, and was tiresome about it as well. You may find it to be interesting reading, IF you disregard the troll statements, and just read the points raised by Dave and others as counters.

Other thoughts:
1.  I'm going to go on a snarky rant about the cover.  You may want to change the channel now, because this is both trivial and snide.  It's also no reflection on Dave at all, because he has nothing to do with the cover.  It is, in fact, discussed elsewhere that the cover blurb has very little to do with the content of the story.  I do not know how these circumstances come about.  Stuff happens.  If I were running the publishing company, things would be much worse.  I get that.  Even so, I MUST point out that the cover art contains a prominent feature which does not exist in the story: a blond mermaid.  Now, there IS a female aquatic being, but she is neither blond, nor a mermaid.
I have friends who are artists, and they are… artistic.  They do wonderful, creative things which do not necessarily reflect the reality that we share, but instead are glorious features of their own internal reality.  It's a basic part of what makes them artists.  I have to accept that aspect of their art if I accept ANY aspect of their art.  And let me make this clear: it is excellent artwork on the cover.  It includes most of the significant elements of the story, and it's really well executed.

2. I grew up in an affluent, and non-farming society, and it almost killed me. At one point, during the Depression Years of the 1930s, my grandfather and grandmother provided housing for her mother and a sister and her kids, because nasty circumstances. My grandfather had a good job working for the railroad, and it kept everybody housed and fed. Their was a huge veggie garden and fruit trees on the property, including a scuppernong orchard, which the ladies used to make wine for their fruitcakes. However, this was not a farm. I know the difference; I've been on the two south Georgia farms which represented the old home place and that one of the sisters married onto. BUT! My maternal grandfather got away from the farm when he went off to fight Kaiser Bill, and he never returned. My paternal grandfather got away from the farm when it burned to the ground, and and he worked as a carpenter and as a truck driver. To the best of my knowledge, NONE of the next generation worked as a farmer, so I am at least two generations removed.
So, how did it almost kill me? Lack of purpose.
For that to make sense, you have to know that I was 16 years old in 1969, and that the communal movement was huge. Our shared fantasy was that we were all going to buy land and get away from the poison of the cities, raise our crops, smoke our dope, and share free love.
That didn't work out.
But what DID take hold was the idea that just participating as a cog in a soul-less machine was meaningless, and that's what it felt like was happening. I was living in a society with incredible wealth, so that i never had to apply muscle power to raise food, and I was never given a substitute for the daily desperate task of having to work all day if I was going to eat.
It's a tough problem. We HAVE to have a meaningful reason for getting out of bed, once the taskmasters who raised us, FORCING us to get out of bed, have booted us out.
Shall I tell you my solution?
No, not now. I think I'll take a nap, instead.

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