The Peregrine by J.A. Baker

Turns out the version I purchased of  The Peregrine also contains another writing, ‘Hills of Summer’, so I was much nearer to the end than I thought in my previous post. I’m now finished, and it ends just as it began, with prose of the highest order.

This is the kind of book that can only really be appreciated by someone who is a writer, or someone who reads a LOT, or someone who is a fanatic about nature. Fortunately for me, I am 2.5 of those, so I enjoyed it immensely.

There is barely a plot, so be forewarned. This is, on the surface, a series of journal entries written by someone who is watching hawks(peregrines). Every few days, a journal entry of what he saw that day, focusing on the hawks.

But there is a sort of arc to it. Each entry, the writer gets more and more obsessed with the hawks, and starts to imagine that they are accepting him as one of their own. He writes increasing asides about how humans suck (in prettier words) and the hawks are glorious and amazing. The end of the book is a clear end and is great when you look at the whole thing in context.

But, for someone looking for an actual story with plot and tension and conflict and enemies and goodguys, you’re not going to get that.

What you will get is prose that is so delicious and rich and new and perfect that you’ll be highlighting every other line. And you’ll get birds and nature up to your eyes and beyond, you’ll get imagery so lush you’ll drown in it in the most wonderful way.

If you’re a writer, you’ll appreciate the skill. If you’re a reader of many things you’ll appreciate the newness (maybe) and if you love nature, it will make you feel like you’re out in it.

Give it a shot!

The Orville, episode 3

I was only last week thinking about one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, ‘measure of a man’, the entirity of which takes place in a courtroom, and thinking how that kind of story could never be on TV these days. And then I get an episode like this episode of The Orville. On a comedy show… ???

Bortus’s egg hatches, and its a baby girl. The only problem is, Bortus’s people are all males. Any rare females that are born have a special procedure done to make them into males. Bortus, of course, wants the ship’s doctor to perform the procedure on his new child. Ethical dilemmas ensue.

And the entire episode is debating on whether it is right to change the sex of the child. Whether the Union has the right to stop another culture (species too, but let’s not go there) from doing what they think is right for their own child.

On a comedy show.

I can’t help but think that Seth is secretly giving a big ol’ middle finger to the Hollywood establishment with this series. Sort of showing them up by having actual good storylines, that make you think and care more than these big budget spectacles do, on his goofy comedy show.

This is real sci fi. While Star Trek: Discovery has aliens blowing eachother up and space ships fighting all over, this goofy comedy show is showing up with actual ideas and interesting concepts.

This is how it’s done.

The Orville, episode 2

Another fun, adventurious episode from the Orville that started with a classic TNG style opening.

After receiving a distress signal from a nearby ship, the crew of the Orville are surprised to find that captain Mercer’s parents are on the ship. He and the first officer take a shuttle over to the stranded ship, but upon entering it, are teleported away. The ship is an illusion, and vanishes, leaving behind a buoy, and the captain and first officer are gone.

Cue rising music, and cut to commercial!

That is great stuff.

Despite the slightly overdone ‘alien zoo’ plot, the episode was enjoyable and fun. I did have a bit of a problem with the ‘moral’ of the episode, though.

When going to the fake stranded ship, the captain leaves Kiran in charge. After they disappear, she doesn’t know what to do. She is very young and has no leadership experience. She contacts a starfleet–er, I mean Union admiral and is instructed to return to earth and leave the captain and first officer behind as dead in the line of duty.

So of course she follows orders.

Until everyone gets grumpy with her, and says that the captain would have gone after her, and so on, until she is guilted into taking the ship after the captain.

The problem is, there was a very good reason she was ordered to come back. The aliens who took the captain are very technologically advanced, and the entire ship could be at risk, and all those lives shouldn’t be risked in order to maybe save two people.

If Kiran had taken a shuttle and some volunteers to go after him, okay. But she took the whole ship with hundreds of people on board, disobeyed direct orders and risked all their lives… and is awarded with a medal at the end of the episode.

I get what they were going for… but Picard would not approve!

Otherwise a good episode, Bortus and his egg was really funny, and overall a lot of fun and thoughtful stuff.

A slow burning fuse

I’m still reading  The Peregrine , and it is taking me a while. It is such beautiful writing but with no conflict, it is easy to set it down. But I always come back eventually, for the beautiful writing. It’s like an expensive box of rare chocolate, you have one now and then and savor it, instead of wolfing it all down in one sitting.

But now, about 30% through the novel, it is starting to grab me with interesting things. Things other than descriptions of nature. It took a long time to get there, but I don’t think it would have been possible without all the buildup and setting of the tone and scene. And it is amazing, once it starts…

Now I’m getting the ‘what will happen’ urge to go back to it. Now I know something strange is going on, and I wonder what the conclusion will be. But I really don’t think it could have been done if it just started out that way.

Some things require patience and build up and preparation… sadly, things most people don’t have time for in entertainment anymore. If something isn’t exploding on page one, we put the book down.

I found myself imagining how a movie of this would be. Just shots of birds and animals, and a man walking through nature, watching, and his reactions to it and slow change in personality… no dialogue, no running around shooting or crying or fighting or arguing. Just shots of hawks killing wood-pigeons, and the man staring weirdly at the picked clean bones.

I’d watch it… but it would never be made.

 

The Orville, episode 1

I had zero interest in seeing this show back when the trailer first came out. Though I used to enjoy Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane’s brand of humor (farts, falling down, and mentioning things you’ve heard of before) is just not my thing anymore. But during my constant complaining about Star Trek: Discovery, I keep getting told to watch The Orville. What is going on? Why should any Trek fan want to watch a bunch of idiots making poop jokes and mocking one of my favorite pastimes?

Well, because it doesn’t do that at all.

Yes, there is some goofy humor, but it isn’t gross or stupid or mean, and actually made me laugh a few times. And more importantly, it is spread VERY thin, and gets thinner as the show goes on. It doesn’t do the supremely annoying thing where every dramatic beat has to be punctuated by a joke to break the tension.

Aside from the humor, the other thing I was worried about was the ‘ex wife as first officer’ scenario. I was ready to be sighing continuously at the constant bickering and cruel backstabbing I’d have to endure. But again, it didn’t happen. There is one big argument, and a few little quips, but they are apologetic, they want to work together, they are decent human beings. What a goddamned relief.

More importantly, the show captures that sense of excitement and exploration that is severely lacking in Discovery. You know, the actual discovering. When the captain first undocks the Orville and they fly off to adventure, I almost shed a tear. It’s just the thing I’ve been wanting since I saw the final episode of TNG all those years ago.

MacFarlane must be a Trek fan, because the love is shining through. It’s almost as if the humor is just a trick to get people to pay attention, and then all this interesting sci fi stuff happens.

I’m already looking forward to watching the rest of these episodes far more than I’m looking forward to the next Discovery episode. Because for Discovery, I already know they’ll just be blowing up more Klingons.  But for the Orville I’m wondering, where will they go next?

Star Trek: Discovery, episode 4

Well, I’m still watching.

This episode, once again, keeps dragging me along like an abusive relationship.

I get a little hint of interesting in that the deadly creature in the Captain’s chambers is somehow a giant Tardigrade. This is a super cool idea because Tardigrades are super interesting and I don’t think I’ve seen a Tardigrade monster in sci fi before. Also cool is that Michael doesn’t want to harm the creature, and is more interested in learning about it for curiosity’s sake than cutting it up for war purposes.

But then we’re back to war. The Discovery (a science ship) has a handwavy engine based on magic mushrooms that allows it to instantly appear anywhere in the Galaxy, and we better use that to bomb some Klingons! Nevermind what fans of Trek actually want to see, like, jumping instantly into unknown parts of the galaxy to explore crazy weird planets–no, lets just have some explosions.

Bored!

I keep hoping that just MAYBE one of their jumps will send them somewhere they can’t get back from, and they’ll be forced to do a bit of discovering. But so far we’re just doing war things, with a few interesting science fiction crumbs thrown out for the fans like me to keep us just on this side of starvation.

 

Rejection

I often feel like I’m in an unresolved quantum state of love/hate toward my own writing. It fluctuates so quickly sometimes that I can’t even read it. Nothing cures that like a rejection. Rejections magnify all faults and mute all positives. Now, maybe I can actually look at this story long enough to work on it. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the submission game, got to get used to this distressing waiting and constant disappointment again!