The Eleven-Books Club meeting for Alex Bledsoe's The Hum & the Shiver was yesterday. Getting there was a bit of a series of misadventures: CFL lightbulbs are supposed to last like nine years, but in practice it is more like thirty seconds, as I tear open the package & send it hurtling to the floor. Since those lightbulbs are powered by a demon of madness, I went onto the EPA website to get clean-up instructions. Yep! Mercury everywhere, time to open all the windows & let the air conditioning out into the heat wave. Good job, dummy! Then after a lot more running around like a chicken with my head cut off ("we can't find our wine key!") it was time to go on with the show. The computer was all hooked up; Jennifer used to be the only one who knew how to do it, but she did some tough love "teach a man to fish" stuff earlier, made me figure out what settings needed to be swapped. Digitally we had fordmadoxfraud telecommuting in from the Left Coast & Terra on a crappy connection right out of Shanghai. In the flesh we had fatbutts before anyone else & then carmyarmyofme (who reviewed it here) & littlewashu next up to bat, with newcomer Matt arriving for his first meeting-- he hadn't read it but gets credit for showing up-- & last but not least, Beatrice (whose review is here). A nice crew!
Right off the bat, earlier this morning Jennifer had corrected me on one issue: "noses that run & feet that smell" is word play, like "why do we park in a driveway & drive on a parkway?" America! What a country! & what is the deal with comedians wondering what the deal is with airplane food? You are on a flying rocket & you can't understand that maybe a full restaurant kitchen is not a priority? Anyhow, other people did back me up on Craig Chess not really being all the way there, as a character; it wasn't just my knee-jerk reaction to a man of the cloth. Hey, Slacktivist is like my favorite blog! Anyhow, Carmen & I basically agreed about everything, except about whether or not I needed to be yelling at the television whenever I addressed David or Terra. We didn't like how Bronwyn never dealt with the haint, especially since that ghost story is the first thing we see, & the intersection of Iraq & the Tufa. We wanted her to remember her trauma; others were glad we didn't have to live through torture & rape, but no! No, we thought that the flashback would actually be her going full-on murder fairy, Cú Chulainn, like using magic to kill everyone, wings unfurled, even though she wasn't in Needsville.
Which was my theory; that Bronwyn wouldn't be tethered to the valley, that she would sing new songs & start a third clan. We didn't get it here, but well, Jennifer, Beatrice & Carmen have all read the next book, Wisp of a Thing, & said there might be more leaning that way. Which was my cue to talk about, for the zillionth time, the author's other series, Eddie LaCrosse. See, Bledsoe is really good at leaving breadcrumbs all over the place. Sure, that question wasn't answered, but it will be sooner or later, maybe book three or four. He creates a world like a canvas, or like a puzzle; you've got to fill it in from the corners & borders. I also compared the books to The Culture series, in that I don't think the books are in order, or a traditional series with sequels, but rather sort of a milieu, a setting. I for one don't need answers but I still don't feel like Bronwyn's stubbornness quite wrapped around to a redeeming resolve; she didn't deal with the haint & she didn't learn her mothers song. David, I should mention here, loved this book, saying it was his favorite after Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry, & he disagreed thoroughly, thinking Bronwyn was perfect.
Everyone liked Don Swayback, with me & Lilly saying he was our favorite. There is a part in the book where Bronwyn says something like "who cares about staying pure-blooded, if there is even a smidgen of Tufa in them, they'll hear the night wind when she calls," & that is a really interesting statement in light of Swayback. Is the Tufa tradition of intermarriage necessary to, you know, keep the last bit of magic in the world from being extinguished, or is it miserly, is it just hoarding the songs away? I don't know the answer & I am curious how the other books play it out. I'm also curious about the Melungeon people; a real world "tri-racial isolate," of which there are quite a few. I don't think this veered near "magical Native" territory, but the fact that there are these isolated ethnic enclaves, where nothing fits the usual narrative, is pretty neat. Racial background, cultural, linguistic...all just fairly opaque. Anyhow, we'd drank our fill & said our pieces, so everyone filtered out, except Matt who stuck around to hang-out & watch a couple of episodes of The West Wing & devour a couple of boxes of Triscuits with us.