#REVIEW: ESCAPING EXODUS, by Nicky Drayden

Nicky Drayden has written three books, and I have read all three and at least briefly discussed each of them here. Her first book, The Prey of Gods, ended up being too much for me, and I actually didn’t manage to finish it because of how completely nuts it was, although I think it’s due for a reread sometime soon regardless. Her second book, Temper, was a much more assured novel but still wasn’t quite a home run for me. The interesting thing about Drayden’s work is that she is very obviously a writer with an enormous amount of potential, and even though I didn’t finish her first book and didn’t exactly love the second she was still very much an author I was keeping an eye on and was going to continue to buy books from.

And, y’all, Escaping Exodus is the book I’ve been waiting for. I was sooooo right to keep watching Drayden; this book is the payoff, and will end up quite highly ranked on my end of the year list, which is coming in the next couple of weeks. Drayden continues with her firehose of ideas and her intensely weird fiction; this one is about a Juliet- and Juliet-esque love between an heiress to a matriarchy and someone who is effectively a manual laborer, only they’re also traveling through space in a living generation ship while they’re doing it. Throw in atypical family structures (everyone has multiple sets of parents and multiple spouses, of both genders, and blending “matrilines” is a big part of the politics of the book) and a fascinating bit at the end where we find out that there are other spaceships out there and that the colonies on those ships have evolved, and cared for their ships, very differently from the characters in this, and … man, this is really something special.

My only gripe is that the end doesn’t land quite as perfectly as I’d like; one storyline that I was quite interested in kind of gets disregarded in the last twenty pages or so, which was a bit of a disappointment, but overall this is the book I always felt like Drayden was going to write eventually and I’ve finally got. It’s just much more under control than her previous work; you got the idea in Temper to some extend and to quite a large extent in The Prey of Gods that her ideas just got away from her, and that feeling is gone from this. This novel is tight in a way her previous work hasn’t been, and you should all read it. God, 2019 has been a great year for books.

So this happened

…for the first time ever, I have found my books on a shelf in a bookstore. Now, granted, it was the new Half Price Books that just opened on Grape Road, and the book was signed already to someone named “David,” but still– every time I walk into a bookstore I look in the S section just in case somehow magically one of my books is there, and never once has that happened until today. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again for the sake of completeness: not everyone keeps every book forever like I do, so it’s not a hit to my ego or something that David sold my book off; he may not have liked it or he may have moved or maybe he just generally doesn’t keep books for long; one way or another it’s no skin off my back. But I had a strong enough reaction to seeing my book on the shelf that I had to explain myself to the dude who was standing next to me. He seemed to genuinely appreciate how happy I was about it, too, and gave the book a courtesy flip-through before putting it back on the shelf.

(Which was also kinda weird; I thought about pointing out the obvious, which was that I wasn’t going to worry about it if he put it back, but that might have made it even weirder than it already was. Either way, no buzz-harshing on my end.)

The place is planning on doing author signings in the future, and I got a copy of the manager’s card, so chances are I’ll be doing an event there sooner or later. I will, of course, keep everyone apprised once that comes to pass. Until then, I’m just going to have to go there three times a week until someone buys that book. 🙂

Final classroom update

… seeing as how school starts tomorrow, for shit’s sake:

The room is basically done, at least on the decor front; there will probably be some more math-related stuff scattered about as the year goes on but what I’ve got is more than enough to get started with. I got the round table I wanted and brought in a single carrel desk, so I feel like the kids have plenty of options for where to sit. We’ll see how it goes; first teacher day is tomorrow and first day with the kids is Thursday. I plan on spending the first two days at least on procedures and getting-to-know-you stuff so no need to worry too much about lesson planning yet.

In other news, this is happening, and are you as excited as I am? Or as excited as I would be, if all of my available emotional energy wasn’t being sidetracked into other things right now? Because I totally feel like if I had any spoons left I’d be burning them on being super excited about this:

In which I might have been wrong once four and a half years ago

You may be aware that four and a half Goddamn years ago I wrote a review of a stupid movie that I did not enjoy. That movie was called Snowpiercer. I’m not linking to the review, at least not in the text of this post; I’m sure it’ll show up at the bottom somewhere. That post has proven since then to be The Post That Will Not Die. There has been one– ONE day in the four and a half years since it was written that no one clicked on it. It is my second highest-traffic post of all time (it will cross 30,000 pageviews sometime this month) and it is the #1 Google result in the world for the phrase “Snowpiercer stupid.”

It’s been spiking again lately, going from 3-5 hits a day to 20-25 for the last couple of weeks, and whenever that happens I wonder why. This was a not-very-high-profile bad movie from six years ago, for Christ’s sake, and I don’t understand why people are still searching out bad reviews of it. Well, it turns out there’s news about a TV series, which … dandy. This is never going away.

And then I found this video in the comments on that post. And I have chosen to embrace its central thesis fully, and I officially take back everything I ever said about Snowpiercer, if and only if it turns out that it is true that it is a direct sequel to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Yeah, that’s what I said.

Watch every second of this, please. Don’t watch Snowpiercer, but watch every second of this video about it:

In which I brag about meaningless things

This motherfucker right here …

I’ve mentioned I’m playing through Dark Souls 3 again. This was my third playthrough. The first one, I hit a wall and had to stop playing because I couldn’t come even close to beating any of the game that was left. The second was as a strength-focused build and, while I beat the game, there was still one boss I couldn’t come close to killing no matter how hard I tried. He was optional, though, so I could just skip fighting him and still beat the game.

I was playing as a sorcerer for this run, for the first time. Playing as a sorcerer in Dark Souls 3 is kinda strange. You’re frankly just not that tough for most of the game until all the sudden at the very end you turn into a monster. My wife went to bed early last night, and I’d gotten to the point where I had three bosses left to beat the game– Lorian & Lothric, who I’d beaten once with the strength build, the final boss (ditto) and the fucking bullshit-ass Nameless King up there and his bullshit-ass dragon that he rides in on that you have to kill first. I had never beaten the Nameless King. Never even really come close. I told my wife I was gonna take a couple of stabs at the last couple of bosses and then come to bed, hoping that I’d get through one of them in half an hour or so and then make a sensible decision.

I beat Lorian & Lothric on my second try, and frankly I only lost to them the first time because I got overconfident and sloppy, and Dark Souls is a series where the most basic enemy in the game will demolish you if you stop paying attention for a minute. It took over an hour of trying on my last build to get through them and I still felt like I’d gotten kinda lucky at the end there.

“Screw it,” I thought, “I’ve been playing for less than ten minutes and I’m still not ready for bed.” (In my defense, it was barely nine– I wasn’t kidding when I said Bek had gone to bed early.) “I’m gonna give the King a try.” Now, this was dangerous– I know what I’m like, and it was entirely possible that I was sentencing myself to a night where I was still up at Goddamned midnight frustrated and tired and still losing to this annoying-ass boss and his annoying-ass dragon over and over again. Because, again, I’ve never beaten this bastard.

And then I demolished his ass– over half my health reserves left– on the first try. And everyone else in the house was in bed, so the proper response to an achievement of this magnitude– tearing my pants off and running around the house yelling swear words while waving said pants over my head– seemed inappropriate. So I just sat there in mild disbelief for a moment, thought “Ah, fuck it,” and went and beat the game. Which also took two tries, but mostly because the last boss does something halfway through the fight that I’d forgotten about and I got way too close and he wasted me.

So, yeah. If you’re a Dark Souls fan? Try a sorcerer build. It won’t come together for a while, but when it finally does? Holy shit.