Some personal reflections on the year ahead

I thought long and hard about whether I should even have gaols for 2012.

I vacillate between wanting to achieve something with my reading (and blogging to a lesser extent) and just reading what I am in the mood for at any given moment without any thought for anything but my own interest and enjoyment.

Both options have good and bad things about them.

If I aim to achieve something with my reading then no doubt I will find many more new authors, challenge myself, read a wider variety of books from a wider variety of countries etc. I suppose I would have to define what it is exactly I hope to achieve and how I want to set about doing it. My fear though is that in doing so I might read books I am not really all that interested in reading at points in time when I am not really interested in reading them. This would remove the pleasure from the activity (or some of it anyway) and I don't want to lose my pleasure in reading for the sake of achieving some currently undefined 'something'.

Then there is the option of reading for the moment – reading what I am in the mood for and when I am in the mood for it. This option appeals to me the most I have to admit. Reading is a pleasant thing to do to pass the time and activate my imagination, not something serious I do as a vocation or anything at all like that. So why not treat it as such? On the other hand, this does need to be balanced with making sure that I do challenge myself on occasion and try new genres and authors. Otherwise I risk becoming bored.

What I feel like I really need to do is start asking myself some bigger questions about my reading:
  • What do I expect of myself as a reader?
  • Do I challenge myself enough and if not, how important is it to me to challenge myself more?
  • I listen to podcasts, read other blogs, read the papers and a literary magazine. There are always mentions of authors I would like to try and literary movements I have never heard of waiting to explore. Do I want to broaden my knowledge of literature, and if so, how and where do I start?
I think that these are questions that really need to be answered for me to really figure out whether I want to start pushing myself a bit more or keep cruising as I am now.

Having all that in mind, what I think I have decided is that this year my main goal should be to be realistic.

My goal originally was going to be a very simple one – keep my reading the same but stay up to date with my reviews. This year I was very guilty of writing reviews weeks (even months) after I had read the book. This of course meant that my original impressions and thoughts had disappeared as my experience with the book faded from my mind.

It seems like the perfect goal to at least stay on top of reviews and write them as soon as possible after I have read the book. The purpose of the reviews ultimately is for me to reflect on the books – meanings, themes, styles, intentions, language etc. By reflecting I hope to learn. I can’t do this if I am writing reviews months down the track.

Upon further reflection my goal is simply this – be realistic.

I am due to have a baby in 5.5 weeks (can you believe it!). I have absolutely no idea how this will change my life. I know that it will, but I don't think it's possible to fully appreciate what these changes will be and how significant an effect they will have on my life until they are actually here.

I have no doubt in my mind that in reality, this baby will give me a bit of perspective and questions like the ones I have posed above will seem very silly and unimportant in the scheme of things.

When I say my goal is to be realistic – at this point in time it means to not expect anything of myself. I will read when I can, what I want. I will blog when I can, what I want. I will leave the bigger questions to later.

So, all in all for my readers that probably means that you shouldn't expect anything different this year from Page Turners. I will be keeping things as is and the volume of posts will no doubt decrease. I am happy with that and I hope that you all will all be too.

Review: Embassytown by China Mieville

China Mieville’s Embassytown had a lot of potential. Modern day science fiction from a universally admired author with a reputation for producing quality writing and exciting plots. I only wish it could have lived up to my expectations. 

Embassytown’s plot certainly seemed to have potential. It is written from the perspective of Avice Benner, a woman who grew up on the planet of Arieka in a town called Embassytown. He describers herself thus:
“When I was seven years old I left Embassytown. Kissed my shiftparents and siblings goodbye. I returned when I was eleven: married; not rich but with savings and a bit of property; knowing how to fight, how to obey orders, how and when to disobey them; and how to immerse.”
On Arieka, the human colonisers live side by side with the original inhabitants or Hosts, who have a completely different Language system and who are incapable of telling lies. Avice leaves the planet to travel the Immer and is only convinced to her return to her home planet when she marries a linguist named Scile who is fascinated by the Hosts.

This is about as far as I got into the book.

I could recognise that there were some interesting ideas in this book, particularly about the use of language. It seems an interesting and rather unique subject matter for a hard science fiction novel.

The issue I had with the book, and ultimately the reason I abandoned it, was because I found it far too conceptually challenging to be enjoyable. I don’t know if I used the correct phrase there, but this is what I mean. There were too many invented words and Mieville provided no explanation for what they referred to. In fact, Mieville invented many fictional concepts, characters, names, words, experiences, existences etc names, but he didn’t devote enough time to explaining what they were or what they meant.

I don’t mind having to figure things out for myself, but I at least need some descriptive clues to do it, and I felt that these were completely lacking. What it meant was that I spent the entire time I was reading Embassytown trying to figure out what I was reading instead of just enjoying the story.

In the end, I felt as though he left me with no choice but to move on to the next book.

1 / 8

Has anyone else has a disappointing experience with China Mieville? I really want to read something of his that I enjoy, but now I am nervous about exploring his works further for fear of being disappointed again. Any suggestions?

I think it only fair to add that since I attempted to read this book and since I wrote the review of it, I have read a couple of reviews that have made me re-think my initial reaction to Embassytown. This is a book that requires a lot from the reader and I think that perhaps I might not have lived up to my end of the bargain. At the time I read it I was pregnant (still am come to think of it) and this has had a serious effect on my brain capacity (no joke sadly). I was also on holidays, and if there is one thing I want from a holiday read it is that it is easy and fun (ok, two things). 
I am not going to give up on this one entirely. I think I will approach it again when I am in a better frame of mind and am willing to put in the effort that Mieville has asked of me. I hope that this effort will eventually be rewarded. Since this is unlikely to happen any time soon (need to get the baby out first) I might see I have better luck with another of his books.