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!

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!

More word peeves

Here are a couple more things people do with words that annoy me!

Writing voila as wala: Of course one might leave the accent off foreign words when typing them, but this is just too much.

Saying you could care less when you mean you couldn’t care less: Saying you COULD care less means that you actually care. You could care a huge amount for all I know.

 

Waiting

The hardest part of a rejection is waiting for it…

I’m at the point where it’s been long enough that I’m starting to think they might accept it. Which, if untrue, will make the rejection more sad than it usually is.

Also, I have to keep waiting before I can send it somewhere else!