Quarantine Reading

During the U.S., really my state’s, “lockdown” or “quarantine”, my reading quantity really has not changed significantly.  But, I figured I’d throw up a post to share what I’ve been reading and let everyone know I’m still alive.

As everything started here, I was in the middle of Fonda Lee’s Jade War, the second in her “Green Bone Saga” after Jade City.  It’s significantly longer than the first, because Lee falls into the camp that believes sequels should be longer than the first book in a series.  (I don’t believe that, but whatever floats your boat.)  The action expands beyond the island of Kekon (a fictionalized semi-modern Asia, incorporating elements of Japan, Hong Kong, and other sites) to see other parts of the world.  That element is cool.  Basically, the whole series is best summed up as The Godfather meets Hong Kong wire fu action movies (which were also the author’s two main influences).

I finally got around to Brian Jacques’s Redwall, which I somehow missed as a kid.  The book was first published when I was nine (the age my son is now, and he’s devouring the first four books).  While it was somewhat formulaic and, by current standards, “typical” aside from the switch to animal protagonists/antagonists, I think I may have enjoyed it more if I’d gotten to it as a kid.  I also take into account that what seems “trite” about the book now was not so much in 1986, before the genre really exploded.  In that respect, I think it was ahead of its time and formed a sort of bridge between the talking animals of folklore/fairy tale and modern children’s fantasy.

Wu Cheng’en’s Monkey (trans. Waley) is another that I finally got to.  I was first introduced to Wu Cheng’en and The Journey to the West while in China in 1987 (about 9 ½ years old) through some, now beaten and battered, illustrated kids versions of the story.  Unfortunately, I only had five of those books (out of many).  I always wanted to get to the rest of the story, but it fell in and out of mind; I had problems finding a good translation.  Then I stumbled across Waley’s translation at a library book sale.  Looked him up later and found that it’s an edition commonly assigned in university level Chinese literature/religion (in translation) courses.  Sadly, it only includes 30 of the original 100 chapters, but the foreword notes that they are representative and some of the best chapters.  So, there’s that.  Over all, it’s a fun book and story, from Monkey’s birth through the completion of the journey and his ascension to enlightened status.  I only wish the translator had kept the character names largely untranslated (or translated them in footnotes, as I understand some of them are puns).

With those books read and the libraries closed, I went back to my re-read list.  Started back into Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series.  Finished The Alchemyst and I’m currently about 1/3 of the way through The Magician.  Enjoying them again, the second time through.  The worldbuilding and history Scott created are both interesting and multi-layered.  The time travel element is handled well, as is the “physics”, or perhaps metaphysics, of Shadowrealms and the passage of time.  On the whole, still greatly enjoying these books.

2 comments on “Quarantine Reading

  1. Calmgrove says:

    Pleased you’ve put your head above the parapet, Brent, as it’s worrying when bloggers drop out of the blogosphere, however temporary.

    Despite living in Hong Kong for most of the first decade of my life, I regret I’ve not explored as much of China’s history and culture as I feel I should have done. I have a compendium of short pieces about Chinese tales, some of which I have a memory of being indebted to Waley’s work, so I could go back to that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When we were there in the 80s, my parents got me the five Journey books, a book of cartoons (can’t recall author off hand), and a book of Peking Opera. One of our translators got me a bunch of Chinese kids books (illustrated & written in Mandarin). Kind of inspired me to take the Traditional China history course in college, along with Religions East & West.

      Liked by 1 person

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