2 September 2017

The Burden of Einstein: A Review of The Lost Time Accidents, John Wray

Eight degrees celsius and summer isn't even embarrassed enough to send an apologetic bouquet of flowers. Waking to October weather on only the second day of September has left me less than - while these past months have simultaneously streamed by in a slow, molasses drippy way I am befuddled this Labour Day long weekend. With school out, and a kid at home, summer has literally been walks to the park but after 8 glorious weeks of those very walks, one more weekend spent cavorting on the monkey bars seems anything but awesome. So what to do, in a city this size surely there are options - The Canadian National Exhibition, an air show, ComicCon, a busker festival. On paper, all are tantalizing amazing until you realize that with you will be thousands of other human beings, clamouring to make this last summer moment the very best. 

We are staying home. 

The kiddo just snuck by with a butter knife, a chunk of ice in a tupperware container and a mission. Normally, I would be on that before he even opened the freezer door but this weekend, the last weekend before school a parent needs a pair of ignore lenses. Fun fact, a seven-year-old talks all day. Adorable, until you realize that by talk I refer to the information that only a parent can love or at least visualize inspiring for approximately 4 weeks. By week 5, you are buying a bike, securing a helmet and instructing road safety. By the middle of next week, the verbatim that drove me to the gin will retrospectively be missed. Currently, as the alarming sounds of ice being chipped in the master bedroom echoes throughout the house, I acquiesce to all the little boy shenanigans. 

With the inevitable questions of how summer was spent and what was read pass through the school ground parental greetings, I surmise yet again my reading pile will have little relevance but to a few. As with every summer, I hang my geeky cloak to done my Nancy Drew cardigan. My science fiction reading life has become a full-time passion thus a vacation from the weird is not only appreciated but required. True, dipping into the worlds of murder might seem just as odd, the classic whodunnit is this girl's idea of relaxation. Having spent six months grappling with a review for The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray and spectacularly failing, slipping into the life of a Venetian police commissioner seems irresistible.

It's not like I disliked the The Lost Time Accidents, yet here I sit incapable of solidifying my opinions of a book that kept me irksomely engaged. John Wray plays with time, history and the inevitable fear of being on the wrong side of both. What if your entire family life pursuit was for naught? 

We open with Waldermar 'Waldy' Tolliver lost outside of time, perplexingly stranded in his eccentric Aunts' New York apartment pondering and successfully leading the readers to question what the lost time accidents are. And it is this that we are pushed back and forth through history, early 20th century Vienna to present day periodically slipping out of the time stream to grapple with the Tolliver's extensive family secrets. It is a complicated plot, a novel thick with beautiful prose that inevitably weighs the reader down. Yet I twisted gladly along, gathering more clues, meeting new members of the Tolliver clan, triumphantly understanding the lost time accidents to suddenly finish the book in complete bafflement.

Inevitably, the book becomes too complicated. Excited to read a novel that spans across decades, taking us into the heart of Vienna, drawing down into the darkness of World War II all the while exploring time itself promised to be the perfect read. Yet it failed somehow, maybe the truths of the universe can only be properly surmised through the purity of mathematics. 

6 May 2017

Transformation: A Review of Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky

As our resident Elm is tussled by rainy wind, I have been contemplating the process of transformation. When I quit my nine to fiver, announcing publicly that my time was now my own, I focused intensely on the present. That first summer before the little one entered school stretches out into one long sunny joy bubble. It was a celebration of life one unbothered by schedules or boxed into quick week-end activities. My decision to quit was less a knee-jerk response to an unhappy work-life, rather it was the fulcrum of a life plan the hubby and I embarked on the moment we became naive parents. When the child entered school I would  be home. It wasn't a secret, I voiced it loudly, yet the moment it became a reality shock, fear and even anger started to whisper about me. The corporate reactions were generally easy to unravel, and as I dropped that last bundle of files off at my director's office I felt unhinged with happiness.

And then the questions started to bounce around me from all corners of my social sphere - But what do you do all day? 

Bewilderingly, being a Mom wasn't an adequate reply. Passively aggressive, that query haunted my thoughts, undermining my sense of self. I spun stories of writing ambitions, quickly adding the tagline that I used to work. Walks home from the playground, grateful for the time invested with my son were tinged with embarrassment. What did, I do all day?

As those first few months piled up into a year, and that year has now become three, I know not only who I am, but why being a Mom will always be enough. The moment I realized that the answer I sought was an impossibility, I was released. Margaret Atwood while being interviewed on the CBC radio program, Q discussed how once a novel is published, it's no longer in the writer's hands but in the hands of the reader's, subjective to a myriad of interpretations. How I spend my day, or even navigate my way through motherhood has little to do with anyone but those within my family capsule. I write my own life, how you wish to value it is completely within your own realm. 

Navigating the writing world, I marvel at how far I had to emotionally go to finally become myself. High-school defined me as the resident poet, shipped off to day camps to hone my skills, crafting essays stamped with acceptance by all my teachers. Weaving together words to create a tapestry of stories is my concept of art. I agonize in word choice, despair in trite sentiments, ponder better ways to connect my life to that spider book I just read. My complete adoration of the written word manifests itself through Thank the Maker, it was time to accept who I am, a writer.  

First crack at the SF genre, and Adrian Tchaikovsky walks away in 2016 with the Arthur C. Clarke - Britain's premier SF award for Children in Time. The hubby has voiced his wonder how I connect motherhood to sci-fi, admittedly it can be an interesting process. By page 58, Children of Time had traipsed me across two thousand years, destroying Earth, marooning my thoughts with a lone scientist above a terraformed planet that consequentially is crawling with spiders budding into sentience. The obvious connections seemed lacking as I woke, overwhelmed with spider societal dreams, pondering the transformation of living nightmares into accepting images of alien speciation. 

Earth is a husk - pulverized by war, no longer a safe harbour for humanity. Those who have survived the ice age, try to glean information from ancient technology that highlighted homo sapiens progressive golden age. The spaceships follow star charts, desperate in the belief that a new home will be found. And a new home is found, unfortunately it is occupied.

Children of Time is a master work of science fiction. A hefty tome, it seamlessly navigates from spiders to humans, mirroring each species transformations of survival. Adrian Tchaikovsky has tackled evolution successfully, wrapping it all up in a neat bow with eight legs. Of late, I have come to love a well-written Arc book - human expansion aboard multi-generational space ships designed solely for species longevity. What with the spiders, and a desperate ship of Earth's children trying to survive, you have a juggernaut of a novel. It will turn your perceptions of intelligence on end, revealing the wonders of life, the need to protect our only home. Children of Time is unapologetically science fiction. It is fun, easily readable, highly engaging, a good read for any long weekend.