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Author Topic: PC116: Paper Cuts Scissors  (Read 18399 times)

Heradel

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on: August 04, 2010, 01:54:30 AM
PodCastle 116: Paper Cuts Scissors

by Holly Black
Read by Matthew Wayne Selznick

Originally published in Realms of Fantasy

Sandlin stopped at the landing, gesturing grandly as he called down. “It is my belief that books are living things.”

That sent a shiver up Justin’s spine as he thought of Linda.

“And as living things, they need to be protected.” Sandlin walked the rest of the way up the stairs.

Justin rubbed his arms and bit back what he wanted to say. It was readers that needed to be protected, he thought. Books were something that happened to readers. Readers were the victims of books.

Rated PG: Contains Books, and one of the Coolest Personal Libraries Ever
« Last Edit: August 24, 2010, 02:21:18 PM by Heradel »

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ElectricPaladin

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Reply #1 on: August 04, 2010, 11:25:40 PM
I am the King under the Mountain, and I have made the first post on this story ;D!

I'd just like to lead off and say that I actually have stopped reading books because I felt that the author's moral center - the decisions to reward and punish characters based on their goodness or badness, the sense of what is poetic justice and what is tragedy - is so far off from mine that I can no longer trust him or her to do justice by the characters I have come to love. So, I understand Justin's fear that something terrible was going to happen to Linda.

Also in the world of personal confessions, I have been a goobery, love-struck adolescent who is sent gibbering by the "incomprehensibility of women," and in that stage I dated a lot of women - girls, really, as at the time I was, myself, a boy - who really got off on being incomprehensible. Of course, the whole thing was a game. They baffled me because I let them. It gave them power and helped me feel safe. I write this so that you understand when I say that Linda was an irresponsible, immature bitch it doesn't mean I didn't like or sympathize with the character. In fact, I probably would have had the hots for her, were she real. She was just a kid with a special power and no sense of responsibility about how to use it. I can relate.

So in the end, I really liked this story. The craft was masterful, which is typical of Podcastle stories, but this one tickled a few of my favorite fancies. I liked how Justin grew, coming into his power and claiming his destiny back from a woman he had let himself be entrapped by. He got his closure and grew up, and it was really neat to watch. The moment of that final confrontation really made me smile.

And, of course, as an enormous book nerd, the very idea of bringing people out of books to hang out with them is awesome. The line "Marguerite will kick your ass!" nearly caused me to swerve off the road. Of course, I don't think Anne had anything to worry about. Percy's a big flirt, but I don't think he'd ever cheat on his wife.

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Reply #2 on: August 05, 2010, 02:32:58 AM
Yeah...well...I am the Watcher by the Gate...and I post second!

Erm...okay.

I didn't think I was going to like the story at first. As a rule I am not a fan of "meta" - that is, self-aware fiction - but I found myself drawn into the world of the story pretty quick. I love the idea of all these literary characters rubbing elbows in an eccentric bookworms basement. Also, is wrong that I enjoyed the idea of Werther getting a good beating?

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Gia

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Reply #3 on: August 05, 2010, 10:20:24 PM
I liked it so much that I listened to it twice. The first time when Justin visited the collection at night and added a little something to Linda's story was great, but that was nothing compared to the second time when Justin got into a fist fight with Siegfried and had to be saved by Randolph Carter. That was epic. I can't wait to hear what happens next time.



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Reply #4 on: August 05, 2010, 10:24:19 PM
I liked it so much that I listened to it twice. The first time when Justin visited the collection at night and added a little something to Linda's story was great, but that was nothing compared to the second time when Justin got into a fist fight with Siegfried and had to be saved by Randolph Carter. That was epic. I can't wait to hear what happens next time.

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Schreiber

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Reply #5 on: August 06, 2010, 12:41:40 AM

Laughed in a crowded cafe when I heard the line "'Who is John Galt?' growled Wolverine..."



Gia

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Reply #6 on: August 06, 2010, 01:25:25 AM
I liked it so much that I listened to it twice. The first time when Justin visited the collection at night and added a little something to Linda's story was great, but that was nothing compared to the second time when Justin got into a fist fight with Siegfried and had to be saved by Randolph Carter. That was epic. I can't wait to hear what happens next time.

You're brilliant. Will you be my friend?

Sure, why not?

The third time through was a bit dull. Justin had to cat-sit while Randy went off to play Halo against some morlocks. There was half an hour of litter box cleaning. Half an hour! Oliver Twist came over to mock him a little, but none of the jabs were all that funny.
The fourth time I listened Justin had free time again because the cats had decided to go skiing. He decided to make Linda jealous by dating by dating someone else. The only character he could find to date on such short notice was Rachael Rosen. The date goes so badly that Justin needs to get the Butcher and the Beaver to distract the android as he escapes with Lancelot to go on a quest in some mangas that somebody left in the basement.



Gia

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Reply #7 on: August 06, 2010, 02:13:03 AM
I'm in shock right now. Justin just died. The only description that Lancelot can give of the killer is that he "was a Japanese youth with spikey hair and martial art skills that completely ignore the laws of physics. His companion was a young woman with oddly colored hair, large eyes and huge . . . tracts of land." The list of possible suspects includes half of all anime characters, so Randy and Lance are going to have a lot of trouble tracking down the perp.



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Reply #8 on: August 06, 2010, 02:13:30 PM
I'm in shock right now. Justin just died. The only description that Lancelot can give of the killer is that he "was a Japanese youth with spikey hair and martial art skills that completely ignore the laws of physics. His companion was a young woman with oddly colored hair, large eyes and huge . . . tracts of land." The list of possible suspects includes half of all anime characters, so Randy and Lance are going to have a lot of trouble tracking down the perp.

Oh my God, that's terrible!  To the suspects list I'd also add many of the characters from Squaresoft RPG video games, especially the Final Fantasy series.



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Reply #9 on: August 06, 2010, 02:23:40 PM
I really loved this one for the idea.  I've generally been sucked in by stories that involve books coming to life or acting as portals in some way (Myst being one of my first exposures to the idea).  My favorite line was the one where Wolverine was talking to a wolverine in a dress.

I liked the characters interesting view of books--very different from my view, but someone I know seems to have a similar view.  He takes book recommendations but he gets really upset if something bad an unexpected happens like the sudden death of a favorite character.  I have to be very careful what I recommend to him!

I liked the ending a lot. "if you love someone, set them free".  If she wants to come back, she will.

I could've done without the chapter headings based on the Dewey Decimal system.  They didn't seem to have anything to do with the sections they led into and just seemed to be there to make the story seem more library-esque.

It's probably just as well that I don't know how to pull characters out of books or put things into them or I would never leave my basement ever again.  Rand al'Thor would be duking it out with Luke Skywalker.  Dumbledore and Gandalf share a cup of tea.  Marvin the Paranoid Android visits Wonderland. 

And just imagine if I could put wake up video game characters too!  I'd better lock the Grand Theft Auto games in the safe--you can't be too careful.  Maybe we could even find out who the murderer was and lock them into a Barbie fashion design video game to spend the rest of their days! 



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Reply #10 on: August 06, 2010, 02:30:31 PM
I also thought the mention of Rock, Paper, Scissors tournaments was cool.  There is such a thing, in case anyone wonders.  We talked about it in a Game Theory class.  If you choose your throw completely randomly, no opponent's strategy is going to have any effect on you.  But humans are really really bad at randomness.  In a real random selection from 3 options, it's not going to be uncommon for the same throw to happen more than one time in a row, but a human selector is going to tend to avoid this because it doesn't feel "random enough".  There are some people who can come ahead in these tournaments and it is all about reading the opponent, though I think most people are a little more analytical than metaphorical as this girl was.  For instance, rock is a common first throw, so if you think you're playing against a common player then paper has good chances.  On the other hand, if they know what they're doing, they'll be aware of this tendency, and may throw scissors to counteract you.  If you're away of this, then maybe it's best to throw rock to counteract their scissors...  And you end up with a bunch of circular logic that Vizzini would envy--it makes my head hurt, but anyone who can actually create a reactive strategy that actually does well over the long run against other experienced players has my admiration.

Edit:  I just remembered it was a Game Theory class, not an AI class like I'd originally said.



Gia

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Reply #11 on: August 06, 2010, 09:44:17 PM
I'm in shock right now. Justin just died. The only description that Lancelot can give of the killer is that he "was a Japanese youth with spikey hair and martial art skills that completely ignore the laws of physics. His companion was a young woman with oddly colored hair, large eyes and huge . . . tracts of land." The list of possible suspects includes half of all anime characters, so Randy and Lance are going to have a lot of trouble tracking down the perp.

Oh my God, that's terrible!  To the suspects list I'd also add many of the characters from Squaresoft RPG video games, especially the Final Fantasy series.

Gandalf did some divination for Randy and Lance and it turns out that the killer is from some manga that I've never heard of, but, more importantly, he he was hired to kill Justin by Siegfried. Siegfried! The rest of that time through consisted of Randy and Sieg gathering allies for the final battle. In addition to Lance and the cats, Randy has been able to recruit the Wizard of Oz, Boo Radley, Alan Scott and Rhett Butler who is for some reason a ninja. Oliver and Rachael didn't like Justin so they're joining Sieg. The only other thing that I know was that Sieg was seen talking to Vizzini, which can't be good.



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Reply #12 on: August 06, 2010, 09:49:50 PM
I'm in shock right now. Justin just died. The only description that Lancelot can give of the killer is that he "was a Japanese youth with spikey hair and martial art skills that completely ignore the laws of physics. His companion was a young woman with oddly colored hair, large eyes and huge . . . tracts of land." The list of possible suspects includes half of all anime characters, so Randy and Lance are going to have a lot of trouble tracking down the perp.

Oh my God, that's terrible!  To the suspects list I'd also add many of the characters from Squaresoft RPG video games, especially the Final Fantasy series.

Gandalf did some divination for Randy and Lance and it turns out that the killer is from some manga that I've never heard of, but, more importantly, he he was hired to kill Justin by Siegfried. Siegfried! The rest of that time through consisted of Randy and Sieg gathering allies for the final battle. In addition to Lance and the cats, Randy has been able to recruit the Wizard of Oz, Boo Radley, Alan Scott and Rhett Butler who is for some reason a ninja. Oliver and Rachael didn't like Justin so they're joining Sieg. The only other thing that I know was that Sieg was seen talking to Vizzini, which can't be good.

What is sure to complicate matters even more is that Superman and Rand'al Thor feel so bad about Justin's death that they're working with Merlin and Thomas Covenant - who thinks the whole thing is a bad idea but has been more willing to help people since getting therapy from Dr. Brain - to bring Justin back to life! That'll show Siegfried!

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Gia

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Reply #13 on: August 06, 2010, 11:01:40 PM
Gandalf did some divination for Randy and Lance and it turns out that the killer is from some manga that I've never heard of, but, more importantly, he he was hired to kill Justin by Siegfried. Siegfried! The rest of that time through consisted of Randy and Sieg gathering allies for the final battle. In addition to Lance and the cats, Randy has been able to recruit the Wizard of Oz, Boo Radley, Alan Scott and Rhett Butler who is for some reason a ninja. Oliver and Rachael didn't like Justin so they're joining Sieg. The only other thing that I know was that Sieg was seen talking to Vizzini, which can't be good.

What is sure to complicate matters even more is that Superman and Rand'al Thor feel so bad about Justin's death that they're working with Merlin and Thomas Covenant - who thinks the whole thing is a bad idea but has been more willing to help people since getting therapy from Dr. Brain - to bring Justin back to life! That'll show Siegfried!

Yes. That is exactly how it happened. The ceremony had lots of thunder and multi-colored lights. In the mean time, Randy and Sieg had a knife fight. It was just like this knife fight => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly5jctnbgds except that the revelation at 3:15 is Justin's resurrection. Randy steps aside to lets Justin face Sieg and then they fight as Ghost Love Score plays in the background.



ajames

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Reply #14 on: August 07, 2010, 02:35:28 AM
I had lots of fun with this story, so Kudos for Holly Black just for that. I couldn't help but wonder why Justin didn't just go to Sandlin in the first place, and simply say 'I've got a problem, and you're the only one that can help me' - but maybe I can have him do this the next time I listen to this :-). Just so happens I am listening to The Scarlet Pimpernel now (finished part 8 of 9 on The Classic Tales Podcast tonight) - Sadly I always thought a Pimpernel was a type of bread and therefore had no interest in the story (not that knowing it was a flower would have changed much...).



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Reply #15 on: August 07, 2010, 03:49:17 PM
I had lots of fun with this story, so Kudos for Holly Black just for that. I couldn't help but wonder why Justin didn't just go to Sandlin in the first place, and simply say 'I've got a problem, and you're the only one that can help me' - but maybe I can have him do this the next time I listen to this :-). Just so happens I am listening to The Scarlet Pimpernel now (finished part 8 of 9 on The Classic Tales Podcast tonight) - Sadly I always thought a Pimpernel was a type of bread and therefore had no interest in the story (not that knowing it was a flower would have changed much...).

The Scarlet Pimpernel was probably the first "costumed adventurer", with secret identity and all that.

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blueeyeddevil

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Reply #16 on: August 07, 2010, 09:44:40 PM
I had lots of fun with this story, so Kudos for Holly Black just for that. I couldn't help but wonder why Justin didn't just go to Sandlin in the first place, and simply say 'I've got a problem, and you're the only one that can help me' - but maybe I can have him do this the next time I listen to this :-). Just so happens I am listening to The Scarlet Pimpernel now (finished part 8 of 9 on The Classic Tales Podcast tonight) - Sadly I always thought a Pimpernel was a type of bread and therefore had no interest in the story (not that knowing it was a flower would have changed much...).

The Scarlet Pimpernel was probably the first "costumed adventurer", with secret identity and all that.

It's hard to say, remember that the first Pimpernel book was actually written in 1905, and The Pimpernel often went in disguise, but never really had a mask or anything like that. As such, he's much more in the vein of Sherlock Holmes, who obviously came first, I think the first 'masked adventurer'  would probably be Zorro 1919, (which ties into the whole significance of the Batman origin story, etc.)


P.S. the whole pimpernel as bread thing probably came from looney tunes where the made a joke on the Scarlet Pimpernel as "The Scarlet Pumpernickel"



alllie

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Reply #17 on: August 07, 2010, 11:23:44 PM
A Perceived Political Subtext: First you have Linda in a book denigrating revolution. Then John Galt shows up. Then the Scarlet Pimpernel, who rescues the wealthy and titled from the justice of the French Revolution, and which was written by Baroness Emma Orczy whose parents fled Hungary in 1868, fearful of the threat of a peasant revolution, extreme right wing heroes all.

Hmmmm….Well, I guess I know what Holly Black’s politics are.  Or think I do.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2010, 12:07:07 AM by alllie »



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Reply #18 on: August 08, 2010, 01:06:37 AM
A Perceived Political Subtext...Then the Scarlet Pimpernel, who rescues the wealthy and titled from the justice of the French Revolution, and which was written by Baroness Emma Orczy whose parents fled Hungary in 1868, fearful of the threat of a peasant revolution, extreme right wing heroes all.

I don't know about the rest, but I'd argue that there was nothing "just" about the French Revolution. They killed good men who happened to be nobles alongside the selfish and cruel, and their wives and children - and this is from the forum's resident hippie commie bastard. As I recall, the Scarlet Pimpernel didn't go on about how terrible it was to see peasants rising up and killing nobles; he talked about how horrible it was that people were being murdered for the sake of politics of any kind.

I could be wrong about that; it's been a while since I read the book.

Anyway, Holly Black writes a lot of urban fantasy with characters from across many economic and sexual-identity communities. She might be a libertarian or otherwise fiscally conservative, but I really doubt that she's a comfortable member of the American right.

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alllie

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Reply #19 on: August 08, 2010, 03:20:01 AM
A Perceived Political Subtext...Then the Scarlet Pimpernel, who rescues the wealthy and titled from the justice of the French Revolution, and which was written by Baroness Emma Orczy whose parents fled Hungary in 1868, fearful of the threat of a peasant revolution, extreme right wing heroes all.

I don't know about the rest, but I'd argue that there was nothing "just" about the French Revolution. They killed good men who happened to be nobles alongside the selfish and cruel, and their wives and children - and this is from the forum's resident hippie commie bastard. As I recall, the Scarlet Pimpernel didn't go on about how terrible it was to see peasants rising up and killing nobles; he talked about how horrible it was that people were being murdered for the sake of politics of any kind.

I could be wrong about that; it's been a while since I read the book.

Anyway, Holly Black writes a lot of urban fantasy with characters from across many economic and sexual-identity communities. She might be a libertarian or otherwise fiscally conservative, but I really doubt that she's a comfortable member of the American right.

I don't remember much about The Scarlet Pimpernel either but as far as reading about it on wikipedia it seems Percy Blakeney didn't try to save any of the lower classes when they were the ones being tortured and killed. It was only when the worm turned that he became a hero and then only to rescue those of his class sentenced to die. Still, given the author and her class and family history that's not surprising. The lives of the less affluent classes aren't worth much to people like that.

As for the injustice of the executions, I'm pretty sure that the Nazis believed Nuremberg was equally unjust. I remember an old movie about the French Revolution when some people are being taken to the guillotine and one man is protesting and demanding, "What did I do? What did any of us do?". A man in rags responds, "You ate while we starved!" I think that would be enough. If you starved, if you watched your children starve while the wealthy lived lives of plenty with their feet on your neck, that would be enough to make you see their deaths as justice.

Also I've read most people had trials. For instance Antoine Lavoisier, a rich man but still an important scientist, was tried and sentenced for his work as an administrator and investor of the "Ferme Générale" a private tax collection company. All 28 former members of the company were guillotined on 8 May 1794, including Lavoisier. Wikipedia says he was one of the few liberals to find himself in that position.  He was later exonerated by the French government.

But it does make me appreciate the comparative gentleness of the American Revolution.

I do consider Randians and Libertarians part of the American Right.



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Reply #20 on: August 08, 2010, 04:21:15 AM
Whoah, boy, but I shouldn't be getting into this. Here it goes...

I don't remember much about The Scarlet Pimpernel either but as far as reading about it on wikipedia it seems Percy Blakeney didn't try to save any of the lower classes when they were the ones being tortured and killed. It was only when the worm turned that he became a hero and then only to rescue those of his class sentenced to die. Still, given the author and her class and family history that's not surprising. The lives of the less affluent classes aren't worth much to people like that.

And they call me a commie ;D.

I'd argue that - If I Recall Correctly, of course - in The Scarlet Pimpernel only the rich were dying. The novel is definitely a fictionalized and simplified account of reality, not an attempt to be faithful to history. It's true in the real world that the poor died as well, but it's not necessarily true in the world of the novel.

For that matter, it's true that Percy Blakeny didn't get involved until people he knew started dying... but we also know that until he changed his ways, Percy was a shallow, selfish jerk. That's character development, not politics.

As for the injustice of the executions, I'm pretty sure that the Nazis believed Nuremberg was equally unjust.

Perhaps, but they were wrong :P.

Actually, I haven't got much of an argument here except to say "so what?" Just because there are multiple views of what's right and wrong in different situations doesn't invalidate taking a stance.

I remember an old movie about the French Revolution when some people are being taken to the guillotine and one man is protesting and demanding, "What did I do? What did any of us do?". A man in rags responds, "You ate while we starved!" I think that would be enough. If you starved, if you watched your children starve while the wealthy lived lives of plenty with their feet on your neck, that would be enough to make you see their deaths as justice.

Speak for yourself. That's a mighty big kettle of philosophical worms you just opened, there. Please don't presume to tell me what my opinion would be and how I would react to a hypothetical situation of your devising.

Also I've read most people had "trials."

Fixed that for you ;).

More seriously, I believe that many of the trials in the French Revolution were significantly flawed by a modern American standard of the term: no jury of peers, no impartial judge, no standards of evidence, and a rather confused idea of what constituted "guilt" and "innocence." I'm not sure many people were ever found innocent by these courts, and the crime was "being of the wrong class."

I do consider Randians and Libertarians part of the American Right.

Funny, a lot of them don't ;).

More seriously, probably the problem here is that "right" and "left" are insufficiently complicated terms to describe political allegiance in America. When I say "American Right," I usually just mean "the Republican Party" because anything else is too complicated. I've talked to some Libertarians who are so conservative they're liberal. You'll note that I didn't say she definitely didn't vote Republican, I said that I doubted she was a comfortable member of the American Right. Which she probably wouldn't be. Doesn't mean I know how she votes.

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Reply #21 on: August 08, 2010, 01:14:02 PM
And they call me a commie ;D.
I appreciate your input. I too would be called a commie even though I don't think communism worked. I think what works best is regulated capitalism mixed with limited socialism and with a strong social safety net, aka, social democracy.

But science fiction has long been a haven for socialist utopias and I would hate that to change. I love Bellamy's Looking Backward and Jack London's The Iron Heel, not to mention Star Trek, TOS and TNG.

There were so many icons of the right in this story that I kept twitching at each of them, perhaps unfairly. I even twitched at Wolverine, wondering if it was the cartoon character or one of the kids in the rightie epic Red Dawn. It distracted me from what was otherwise a good story.

Sorry Holly.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2010, 01:16:42 PM by alllie »



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Reply #22 on: August 09, 2010, 05:29:52 PM
I think the story was well-told, although the introduction of the friend (Sarah?) seemed a bit forced as a sort of kick in the ass to make Justin DO something. I also didn't like the "library comes to life" aspect -- I mean, sure, great idea and we've all wondered what might happen if Indiana Jones started sleeping his way through the Bronte sisters, but I just wasn't feeling it once the story wasn't personal anymore. It stopped being about Justin and whatshername and started being about Wolverine not knowing who John Galt is. Also, the beginning (explaining Justin's feel on libraries and library school) didn't feel like part of the same story -- I expected something much more mystical.

So... no. Not my favorite.

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Reply #23 on: August 09, 2010, 06:49:50 PM
I have been hesitant to comment on the actual body of this story because I have met Holly Black on a few occasions (I live in the same region, and my girlfriend is friends/acquaintances with her) and I dislike critiqueing the work of someone I know unless I'm actually speaking with them (it feels like talking behind their back). I'm not trying to name drop (I've specifically been trying to avoid it, actually) but insofar as I know, her political leanings don't reflect any particular Randian/libertarian sentiment, though it's never really come up.
However, that isn't really the point, I don't think the inclusion of such iconic lines as 'Who is John Galt?' (paraphrased a bit in the text) or such notable literary figures as Percy Blakeny represent any sort of political undertone any more than the inclusion of Romeo in the text indicates approval of teenage suicide pacts, or that the inclusion of Wolverine indicates approval/approbation of secret Canadian super-soldier programs. 

I mean, really...

I understand wanting to talk about Ayn Rand (I personally hate her work/philosophy/politics, but I think they're worth discussing) and for that matter the relative merits of the influence of an author's perspective on historical works. From there the is the gateway to the great issues being discussed by the English/Literature/History faculties of practically every college in the U.S,: the importance of author's intent, the significance of literature to society, whether stories are out social/cultural memory, the means by which we as a species grow, mature, intellectually evolve not on the individual level, but as a intellectual gestalt, into a collective creature of greater wisdom, maturity, and capacity for understanding of the universe, or...if stories and literature, all art, is just the junk RNA of society, information gone awry that serves no purpose except to allow the human creature to believe that it exists in something other than a deterministic dead-end existence, devoid of meaning or choice...

but can we do that on a different thread?



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Reply #24 on: August 09, 2010, 07:02:32 PM
Usually when such topics come up, if people seem to want to run with it, the subject will be split off and put in its own thread.

People don't seem to be hopping on the bandwagon in this case - in regards to myself, I don't read that much into the story, so I have nothing to say on those matters.

I liked the story, found it a fun ride (and who wouldn't want to disappear into books? To be honest, when i was younger I'd fantasize about disappearing into my favorite books all the time). I didn't find it called for any particular deep analysis, myself.