opusculus: Black hole (Default)
[personal profile] opusculus
Man, I haven't posted in forever. Partially because of catching a cold, and partially because of general meh at life. So! Have two book reactions, about two books about as polar opposite as things get.

Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey

I think my overwhelming reaction to this book can be summed up as lolololol. OKAY SO. Getting up to speed: In the first book in this series, it is established that Mags, our hero, is a mine slave, forced cruelly to work day after day on the merest crusts of bread, seeking the sparklies so desired by the upper crust. He is further discriminated against because he's the orphan of bandits, so clearly he can't be any better! Yet he is a NOBLE SOUL who NOBLY gives a crust of bread to another mine slave even though he's constantly starving. Then the pretty white magical horse Companion comes along and chooses him and magically cures him of all the brain damage he'd accumulated from the malnourishment and maltreatment. Seriously. Oh and then he makes friends with the richest merchants ever through his NOBLE SOUL and etc. I think the book ends with him saving his bff's life NOBLY, but I don't remember how.

In the second book! He becomes a Quidditch polo stupid made up name that I don't remember hero! You would think this would make him reasonably popular, especially combined with his tendency to get into random trouble and come out looking like a hero. But NO. Clearly this would just not not put him through enough angst to make him truly NOBLE. So everyone in the Collegium knows about this prophetic vision, where the king is bloody and standing over the collapsed body of someone also bloody and carrying a knife. CLEARLY THIS PERSON IS MAGS BECAUSE...his parents weren't bandits (and so he is a good person he is!) but were foreign! And the foreseers think someone in the scene was foreign! And so everyone starts shunning Mags because apparently it is totally normal to think that someone chosen by a magical mindreading white horse to do good is actually going to assassinate the king. God, I want those evil Companions in the rumors to show up in a later Valdemar book. It would be hilarious.

Oh, and his friends are assholes. His best female friend just wants her jackass rock star of a father to pay attention to her, and regularly goes into her bedroom and sulks for days when he once again proves he's a narcissistic sociopathic asshole. Apparently fantasy schools don't mind you missing classes when your angst is JUST THAT BAD. (Man, I'm surprised Vanyel ever learned anything.) His best male friend is a healer who is bitter because he's not gifted in the magical healing arts some people are born with, and so he sucks and will never be a good healer. And his parents want him to come home and marry someone he doesn't know to try to breed kids with a healing gift on the off-chance it's a recessive gene I guess? You can imagine how often this erupts into arguments of the "YOU JUST DON'T CARE ENOUGH ABOUT ME :(" But this isn't why they're assholes! Much!

So. After Mags' been shunned for a while because of the foreseeing and everyone jumping to conclusions, and argues with Bear because he didn't do enough to help with his family (through no fault of his own, of course! HE IS NOBLE, after all), he's moping about contemplating suicide! AS ONE DOES. So his magical mindbonded horse Companion offers to take him for a ride to cheer him up! It's dark, so Mags protests that it's dangerous in subtle foreshadowing neon signs, and gets talked into it.

And his Companion breaks both his front legs.

So tell me, if your friend's magical mindbonded horse Companion breaks multiple legs in his attempt to cheer your friend up because everyone else hates him, is your first reaction to:
1. Come along and comfort him and tell him it wasn't his fault and it might heal since they are after all magical horses?
2. Come along and tell him it's all his fault for moping and that his Companion will die and that will be entirely his fault and he's a horrible friend and a horrible person?

If you guessed two, congratulations! You guessed exactly right! Are these the best friends, or are these the best friends?

So Mags runs off and becomes a potboy, scrubbing pots in a only slightly abusive home for food and a place to sleep and three pennies a year. Much is made of how no one notices how he cries while scrubbing pots because you have to have your head bent over, and also that he plans on committing suicide once it reaches winter time. At least until one day! When his Companion isn't drugged for too long, he asks Mags to come back. D'aww. BUT NO! For outside the Collegium, he has sensed an evil mind. Could this be the mind behind the future assassination attempt on the king? Gasp!

So Mags instead becomes a noble beggar and thief, until the day the guy he's following breaks into the palace. At which point Mags demonstrates his noble heroism by saving the day by killing him right before he sets fire to the stable his injured Companion is in! At which point, the foresight is revealed to be the vision of Mags heroically saving everyone. I bet they're all sorry for not seeing how wonderful he is now! <- the real moral of all Mercedes Lackey's books. Tell me I'm wrong.

And the book ends on that happy note.

In summary: Mercedes Lackey writes great books for those days you're spending in bed snuffling miserably into boxes of tissues. No thought required, and everyone involved looks so silly at being miserable that it's hard to feel very miserable for yourself.

And the other book I wanted to babble happily about is The Other Brain by R Douglas Fields. This book is utterly beyond awesome, and is basically what I've been looking for for years, except infinitely more awesome. It's about glia! Glia, for those of you who don't remember what they are, are basically the cells in your brain that aren't neurons. For ages, they've pretty much been dismissed as insulation for the nerves to keep the electrical signals from getting lost, but as it turns out, there's increasing evidence that approximately 90% of your brain isn't dead weight after all! (Well. Some people's brains. I am perfectly willing to believe that for some people 90% of their brain is dead weight.)

Basically, if I wanted to sum up the book, it's just about how glia have a huge role in the brain that people have overlooked because, well, it's easier to study the parts of the brain that emit electricity than it is to study the parts that don't emit anything noticeable. It's not the best-written pop science book I've ever read by any means, and some parts dragged on for me terribly.It's not the best-written pop science book I've ever read by any means, and some parts dragged on for me terribly.It's not the best-written pop science book I've ever read by any means, and some parts dragged on for me terribly.

But! Glia! New information on the brain! With new information on how the brain works that makes the working of the brain make so much more sense to me! ♥♥♥

...Okay I want to explain that part a little more. Most explanations of the brain pretty much go "Electric signals fire and that's how we think." This is true and all but...what happens when they aren't currently firing? I can't imagine that when your memory of a flower is stored in the brain by a constantly ongoing tiny circuit of neurons firing - it just seems like it wouldn't work for all the background information that the brain has to store. (Not to mention - god, can you imagine how much energy it would take to have to constantly fire signals so even the background information could survive?) I mean, there's weirder things in nature so I pretty much went "...okay?" at the books without actually getting it. But if those electrical signals are changing other things in the brain, and that's where the bulk of everything is happening and the neurons are just the electrical wiring, this makes so much more sense to me. Like seriously. SO MUCH MORE SENSE.

I just wish I knew a neurologist so I could ask if I'm completely off base here or if my reading's right :( Or at least had an affordable brain textbook. Why do textbooks have to charge so much. ...So basically in conclusion I am a giant dork for information about the brain. This is not news. Also if I bother finish reading this book on Christianity I am so ranting about it here. You know that any book about Christianity that starts with them turning a skeptics' group into a bible study class with the power of their totally new and insightful arguments about the nature of God is going to be awesome, right? (Hint: Scientists did not doubt the Big Bang because it was too religious. Scientists doubted the Big Bang because if you don't doubt theories and test them and instead take them on faith because they match a possible reading of the Bible, you are a bad scientist.)
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opusculus: Black hole (Default)
opusculus

January 2012

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