Book Nook: Some Fiction and Non-Fiction (Sophie Scholl and The White Rose)

It’s actually been a while since I’ve read much fiction. The month of June was a busy month. Following is a list of novels I read between February and probably around April:

The Laughing Corpse (an Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novel) by Laurell K. Hamilton
Year of the Unicorn by Andre Norton
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Ancestors of Avalon by Diana L. Paxson
Dime Store Magic by Kelly Armstrong
The Spell Sword (published in the omnibus, The Forbidden Circle) by Marion Zimmer Bradley

And, some of my favourite graphic novels:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Retreat (season 8 – volume 6)
Fallen Angel: Reborn (It guest-starred Illyria! :))
Angel: Only Human
Angel: Last Angel in Hell (Angel volume 6)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is published by Dark Horse Comics while Angel and Fallen Angel are published by IDW.

My current fiction reading list is:
The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (I rather liked Dime Store Magic, but am curious as to how well she can write as different characters since she writes in first person)
Crossroads of Twilight (book ten of The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan
Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh
A Storm of Swords (book three of A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin
Gormenghast (the sequel to Titus Groan) by Mervyn Peake
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (I am on part three of book two, page 443)
The Transition of Titus Crow (published in Brian Lumley’s Mythos Omnibus) by Brian Lumley (or possibly Necroscope seeing as I enjoyed Lumley’s writing, I am curious if I might like his other series as well)
Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn

I find I rather like the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. It is “smart and sexy” like many reviewers have commented. At the same time, the stories are adventurous mixed with a little bit of mystery, and a certain if morbid sense of humour. One distinction of the Anita Blake series that I like is that vampires have rights. It’s an interesting premise that subtly creates a different world for an urban fantasy series. It also provides some real food for thought about how we determine who has rights. I personally think it goes beyond the tired “life versus death” duality, it’s about conscience and the ability for people, animals, a species to feel pain. But I digress into a topic best left for another time.

Ancestors of Avalon was an interesting enough story. It has a happy ending at the very least, and you probably expect that since it’s about how the Atlanteans arrived on the British Isles. The novel itself starts some time after The Fall of Atlantis, which Bradley actually wrote before The Mists of Avalon. While I liked The Mists of Avalon, I found that The Fall of Atlantis had its own appeal. In many ways, the Atlantis story is darker than the Avalon one, the heroines slightly more tragic. At least that is my sense in comparing the two. Perhaps it’s simply because we know King Arthur is meant to die in the Avalon story, but in the Atlantis story we have no preconceived notions as to what is to happen to the Atlanteans. Arguably, the appeal and success of The Mists of Avalon over The Fall of Atlantis was simply that King Arthur and his sister, Morgan le Fay, are popular mythical characters/legends.

Ancestors of Avalon was meant to bridge the stories of Atlantis and Avalon together. It was written after Bradley’s death by Diana L. Paxson, who co-wrote Priestess of Avalon. There are some differences in Paxson’s writing as compared to Bradley’s. It’s only slight though. It’s actually hard for me to describe the difference because it seems such a slight difference that I can’t put my finger on what exactly is different. Maybe the language is slightly more modern. That’s my best guess for now. If you’re a Bradley fan, maybe you have a different sense about it than me and might have a better way of describing the differences between Bradley’s writing and Paxson’s. I had no real problems reading Paxson, so it’s no big deal to me. Just a curiosity.

After reading Dime Store Magic, which was rather an amusing story, I decided to read Armstrong’s first novel, Bitten, in her series titled “Women of the Otherworld”. Another urban fantasy series like Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Armstrong does not just write about one character, but rather writes about a variety of characters. The first character in the series you are introduced to in Bitten is Elena, a female werewolf – in fact, the only female werewolf. As mentioned, I decided to read Bitten because I wanted to see how well Armstrong writes from another character perspective. So far, I have no complaints, but I have yet to finish reading Bitten.

I’m still trudging my way through Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. I’m on book ten and like many of the previous books, the book is at least 800 pages. I said “trudging”, but don’t get me wrong, I like The Wheel of Time, it’s just sometimes you wonder if Jordan couldn’t have told the story with fewer words. LOL. Really, I’m only complaining because I don’t read as fast as I’d like to, I’m not a speed reader, although I can skim quite well if I’m pressed for time or am searching for something particular in what I’m reading. However, I read fiction for the sheer joy of reading and occasionally I linger over passages for various reasons (amusement at the writing, found something humourous, just can’t believe I read that, and so on). I do like The Wheel of Time story, and like many others, want to know what’s going to happen when the last battle, Tarmon Gai’don, comes. I’m on book ten right now, I have up to book eleven. After that, I might take a break from the series and see if Brandon Sanderson actually finishes the story by book fourteen. There’re a few other books I wouldn’t mind getting around to reading (nevermind the other things I need/want to do).

Currently, I am reading a non-fiction book. Sophie Scholl and the White Rose is an account of a group of Munich University students (in Germany) who were involved in a passive/nonviolent resistance movement against Hitler’s regime. I meant to read this book for a while because I’ve always been drawn to stories about resistance movements since they are usually about the fight for freedom against an oppressive and tyrannical force (government or otherwise). In light of recent events in Canada, I was reminded of the book again and thought I should just read it now. Sophie and Hans Scholl were a sister and a brother who grew up during the Nazi regime. She was twelve and he was just over fourteen at the time of the Nazi takeover. Both were “free-thinkers” having grown up with a liberal-minded father. Later, they would both be part of The White Rose, a passive resistance group hoping to educate fellow students to oppose the Nazi regime. Hans and Sophie Scholl were later executed for treason. One other member of The White Rose was executed along with them, later other members were also executed.

It’s been 65 years since the end of World War 2 and 92 years since World War 1. While I may have grown up with an awareness of how horrible the events of those two wars were (in primary school, we were introduced to some war amputees; the missing legs apparently upset my system so that I actually fainted afterwards – I since have built up a better control over my body so I don’t faint quite so easily, also I ascribe my fainting issues back then to lack of proper nutrition and diet), I fear that over time people will forget and will never understand the horrors of those events. I still remember when Remembrance Day was actually a holiday, but then it changed and although we were still required to go to school on Remembrance Day, the school still held Remembrance Day ceremonies. That eventually changed to simply having a moment of silence at 11 a.m. I have no idea if they even still do that now in school, though the Wikipedia article linked above suggests they do. Yes, I do fear that as we move further away in time from the World Wars, people will never understand how truly terrible it can be to have another one. We have been lucky to not have had another world war for 65 years; yet, at the same time, has this made some people complacent? The threat of oppression from a tyrannical government or regime is never too far away. This threat does not just occur over night, but quietly and subtly. All it takes is the wrong person (or rather, right person depending on how you want to discuss this) to gain a position of power for that person to gradually and subtly make changes that lead toward oppression from a tyrannical government. Then, to end that oppression we will need resistance groups to fight the tyranny, to help spread knowledge and information, we will need resistance groups like The White Rose and many others.

Thus, I am reading Sophie Scholl and The White Rose to remind myself of a time when we didn’t have civil liberties/human rights, to remind myself that throughout history, we will always need the freedom fighters, the resistance groups; otherwise, human civilization is doomed to die, doomed to fail. A thousand years later, will humans still be here? Or will we be a lost civilization? And if a lost civilization, what will be the cause of our ultimate destruction – a war amongst ourselves or devastation from a “natural” disaster that we caused? Either way, we are responsible for whether or not human civilization will continue, if we indeed actually care about it continuing. “What is the meaning of your life?” I ask. Something for my readers to think about.

~~~C

P.S. Yes, I did read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was younger, probably when I was around the age of twelve.

3 Responses to “Book Nook: Some Fiction and Non-Fiction (Sophie Scholl and The White Rose)”

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