Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Excerpt: Black Snakes

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This one's a recent read. It's also a bit of a weird choice.

Not because I don't think the book is good--I found Written in Red really imaginative and amusing. I quite liked the characters and the more mundane aspects of this fantastical world kept me engaged.

But it's a weird choice because I don't find the writing to be particularly amazing. It's not bad. It's good in the sense that it's clear and direct and doesn't try and lose you in flowery/long-winded descriptions. But it's also not necessarily memorable. The dialogue is fine and even the voices of certain characters come through depending on the perspective, but there aren't any prose passages that really stood out to me.

Yet I think the direct, simple nature of the prose works in its favors when it deals with the prophesies thrown at Meg. It can be disjointed, but not because it lacks clarity, but because it's just images flashing all at once. The simplicity of the writing helps you concentrate on the images and ultimately I think it works brilliantly.

Spoilers ahead, as this is a pivotal scene that takes place near the end of the book.

"Speak," Tess said, her voice rough with the effort to deny her own nature. "Speak, prophet, and I will listen." 
Box of sugar lumps. A hand withdrawing. A man's hand wearing a thin leather glove. A woman's hand, the nails polished a pretty rose color. A dark winter coat that had nothing distinctive. The sleeve of a woman's sweater, the color a bright, unfamiliar blue. The ponies rolling on the ground near the barn, screaming and screaming as black snakes burst out their bellies. Skull and crossbones. Sugar full of black snakes. The ponies screaming. A skeleton in a hooded robe, passing out sweets to children. A skull laughing while children screamed and screamed as the black snakes ripped their way out of those young bellies. 
"Hands," Meg whispered, her strength visibly fading. "Skull and crossbones. Black snakes in the sugar." 
"Your words have been heard, prophet," Tess whispered. "Rest, now. Rest."
- Written in Red by Anne Bishop

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.