Took most of the month off, evidently, judging by the scarcity of posts. However, did read some books:
The Ballad of the White Horse, G K Chesterton. Excellent. It’s the first epic poem I think I’ve read since Virgil or Milton, maybe. Chesterton takes an historic event – the defeat of the Danes under Giuthram by King Alfred of Wessex in 878 – and makes it into a tale of the Christian soldier’s endless battles against paganism, even going so far as to have Alfred relate a vision of times where the pagans do not wage physical war, but rather seek by subterfuge and stealth to steal the land from Christians. In hands other than Chesterton’s, this could get silly, but GKC pulls it off with his iusual aplomb.
Read it out loud, to the kids if you have any handy. This really should be the official poem of the Sad Puppies.
The Time Machine, by H G Wells. Classic. Wells has a predictably grim view of humanity. He’s one of those odd charming Englishmen who behaves himself out of culture and habit, even if his philosophy provides no reason to do so. And he doesn’t lose sight of his audience, and writes in a way that a turn of the last century English reader will like. Only one comment on the story itself: Morlocks are almost charming as Wells paints them – weird, oddly gentle cannibals. Several times, they had the opportunity to just kill him, but instead they seem to more or less grope him so that he escapes when outnumbered a hundred to one. As bad guys, the barely work. I’m guessing this is because Wells’ sympathies really are with them rather than the Eloi – they are, upon his protagonist’s theory, the descendents of the noble working classes, while the Eloi are degenerate bourgeois of some sort. Eat the rich, after all.
The War of the Worlds, by H G Wells. Another classic. Wells again portrays most people as being basically animals hiding behind a thin veneer of civilization, The parson he gets stuck with is particularly spineless and mindless. Go figure. I was surprised later in the book when a navy ship took a daring and ultimately suicidal run at the Martians – that was what I, and I’d bet all his readers, would expect from British military. But mostly it’s just people hunted like rabbits and about as daring.
The imagination and imagery of the story are striking and very good, and would no doubt have been even better were I more familiar with the English countryside around London. The book ends on an almost upbeat note, introducing the ideas that humanity would become united by the notion of alien intelligences, and that technology would take a huge leap forward by just examining the Martian wreckage (that was the first thing that went through my mind at the end of Independence Day – what glorious wreckage to reverse engineer!) Yet earth cannot be assured that the Martians will not try it again, so there is a bit of a pall on things. Well, that and thousands dead and London destroyed…
Almost done with Firestar by Michael Flynn, and just used a birthday present Amazon card to order the sequel Roguestar and to order Architect of Eons by John C Wright. Soooo, got my reading for the next couple weeks all lined up.
And Hegel and all those education history and biography books are calling me right there from the shelf….