Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Boys are Back in Town

Just finished reading Christopher Golden's The Boys are Back in Town. Very atmospheric, really pulled me in. Fast read, good ending.

Magic plays a major role in the story, which is a big plus for me, since I'm a big fan of the paranormal and supernatural suspense. Some of the references to magic in this book bother me, though. The phrase, "Magic always costs," used in the latter part of the book, for example. I'd agree that nasty magic always costs, but good magic (healing, helping) doesn't. But, ya know, maybe I'm being too picky. I mean, this is fiction, and it wouldn't be much of a story if the lead character had gotten into good magic while he was in high school. He wouldn't have had any reason to time travel back to fix things. And besides, people often do things in high school that later they wish they hadn't, right?

The other problem was that the magic isn't realistic (I know, some of you think that any magic isn't realistic), but I got caught up in the story enough to willfully suspend my disbelief. Personally, I like the books that make the magic realistic enough that you think, "Gee, maybe that could happen!" but let's face it, magic that close to reality isn't anywhere near as exciting as the magic that has people levitating, creating flames in the palms of their hands, or traveling through time. Golden's magic is a little out there, but it has to be to carry the story, and the story is good enough for me to feel okay about that.

I like Golden's writing a lot, what I've read of it (Straight on 'Til Morning and The Ferryman), and loved it in The Boys are Back in Town, but I noticed a few strange things. (And don't get me wrong -- I'm certainly no expert, and wish I could write half as well as Golden!)

The first was his use of product names in the beginning. I know that some writers do that because they feel that it makes the scene more realistic -- didn't King do that? I think I remember seeing it in some early novels -- but the instances were so close together at one point that my mind just kept repeating the phrase, "product placement" for a couple of pages.

The second was his use of the phrase "scrabble for purchase." I think he used it twice, and the reason this is strange is because I've noticed that phrase before. I can't remember if it's in his books or someone else's, but I noticed it because the phrase caught my attention the very first time I read it in someone else's book. So, I did a Google search to see if I was imagining things. Look at all the hits! Is this a catch-phrase or a literary allusion that I missed? Or does he just think it's a cool phrase? (For all I know, I could have read it for the first time in one of his other books...) Hmmm... Will have to follow some of those Google links.

But all in all, it's a good book. I've never been a teenaged boy, but I've thought that he captures youth and the "coming of age" very well. And besides, this book -- like Straight on 'Til Morning -- is set in Framingham. I grew up there and set my own novel, Darksome Thirst, in Framingham, and am a sucker for books set locally. His occur on the north side of town and mine on the south, and his are set about ten years later than mine, but it's still fun to recognize places and customs.

A good read, even if you're not a local.


Copyright © 2004 Morven Westfield

Monday, December 20, 2004

Happy Holidays and Eeerie Screams in the Night...

Okay, that got your attention, didn't it?

I was sound asleep this morning when I became aware of a loud, unearthly screaming, a sound I had never heard, a sound that was so loud you'd think the windows were open and we were sleeping on the first floor.

But we weren't. We were on the second floor, with windows shut tight against below-freezing temperatures.

Compulsively, I looked at the clock. 2:38-A.M. I wondered what creature it could be at this time of night. It sounded so unearthly that I did for a moment believe some aliens had crash-landed in the back yard and were screaming in post-crash agony. What else could it be out here in suburbia, so close to "civilization" that in the summer I can hear the steady drone of the Massachusetts Turnpike?

I was so frightened that it took me a few minutes to remember that my husband was there beside me. "Can you hear that noise?" I asked. "Yes." "What IS it?" "Some sort of animal."

Animal? He sounded so sure of that. But I'm one of those types that need to know what's going on. Grabbing my glasses from the nightstand, I quietly crept to the bathroom where I could get a good view of the backyard.

Nothing. Nothing but a very light dusting of snow.

I stood for a few more minutes, listening, and then crept quietly to my office where I scribbled a few notes to remind myself to research this in the morning. "2:38. 12/20/04. Foxes? Waaa Waa oooh oooh..." Not having the skill of musical notation, I wrote two straight dashes, and something that looks like an elongated N -- my primitive shorthand for "The first sounds were flat, and then there was a sound that rose and then fell again and rose again." And in my sleepy/scared state, I'm sure I was totally inaccurate in my observations of the tonal changes, but I knew I'd hate myself if I didn't at least TRY to note them.

A Google search this morning indeed yielded results that pointed towards foxes. Grey foxes, even, which I've seen by the driveway. Apparently they mate in December and have these eerie calls...

One web site had a number of sound downloads. One reminded me of a noise I had heard a year or two ago that would have had me dialing the MSPCA had I been able to figure out the direction from which the sound came. It was something that sounded like someone strangling puppies...

And so as we near towards the returning light, a persistent theme in religions around the world, I am again reminded of the dark, the mysterious, the unknown...

I just wanted to wish you all a bright Yule, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy Belated Hannukah.

Have a safe and healthy holiday,

Copyright © 2004 Morven Westfield