Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Silent Land, by Graham Joyce

The World Fantasy Award nominations are out, so I am reading the ones not overlapping other categories.  The fantasy awards take one into different territory than the Hugos and Nebulas, and the first of these books I've read represents this. 

The Silent Land starts out like it's going to be a horror novel.  Zoe and Jake are caught in an avalanche.  He digs her out, but they find the resort they are staying in is completely abandoned, no living things around.  Then the weird things start, mostly familiar from the horror scene--they cannot leave, nothing is decomposing, there are ominous presences.

But the ominous things are just a backdrop--the story is centered on the relationship between Zoe and Jake, and what their love means to them.  Their deep love, and ordinary imperfections, are shown very well.

In the end, the book is a death metaphor.  Much like The Last Temptation of Christ, where Jesus lives a whole other life while on the cross, the time that passes for the couple is actually time under the snow.  That made the novel right for me.  No real spoiler here, this ending is pretty much telegraphed about halfway through the book.  It's a very quick read for a novel, less than three hours for me and I'm not a speed reader.  Since it's not really my usual thing, it's not certain how long it will stay with me.  But it's worth getting out of the library, which I did.  3 stars.

Library Economics

It's nearly nine miles one way to my library.  If I make a special trip to get there, that's 18 miles.  The federal reimbursement rate for driving one's own car on govt. business is currently 59 cents per mile.  My car is slightly cheaper, let's call it 50 cents.  That is to cover consumables only--gas and maintenance.

So it costs me nine bucks to drive to the library and back, and another nine bucks to return the book.  I also own a Kindle and a Nook, and can get books delivered as electrons--no delivery truck.  Usually around 8 bucks apiece.  So I need to be getting three books every time I go to the library to make it worthwhile, if I don't count my personal time driving. 

I do it because I still support libraries as public spaces, and I am donating books there now.  The main value of libraries seems at this point to be to provide free internet access to those who come.  This is a good thing, and I support it.  But how much longer will this make sense?  Very hard to say.

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