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Story #12 and #13

Among Plants and Animals by Andrei Platonov, translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler & Olga Meerson, in the October 22, 2007 issue of The New Yorker.

Like "The Citizen," which both jsboehm79 and I reviewed a while back, this story comes from an earlier age and definitely shows some of the era's predjudices.  It comes from 1930s Russian literature, which in itself lends a certain tone to the proceedings.  I'm not as well read in Russian Lit as I probably should be, but I recognize that narratorial voice, those somewhat clipped yet incredibly descriptive sentences.  Parts of this could as easily have been written by Chekov, or in a more modern time by Tatyana Tolstaya.   It betrays its era in the differences between the goals of the male and female characters.  The story focuses on a somewhat impoverished Russian family -- the older parents share a house with their adult son and his wife and child.  The men are content to go to their jobs, come home, and then go out and wander the woods  "hunting."  The women want them to work harder, to be recognized, to become heroes of the worker class so that they can be rewarded with gramophones and watches and new suits.  The same story told by Tolstaya would not cotton to those gender stereotypes.

Still, it's a good story about the interior life of people whose exterior life alternates between bland and harsh.  There are some wonderful descriptions of nature (including a great early scene with a baby hare), and each character's interior monologue, when shared with the reader, adds to the story rather than being intrusive.

At the end of the story, just before the translators are listed, a note says this story was written in 1936.  I'm not sure if that means an untranslated version, or some other translation, might be available on Project Gutenberg or some other public domain site.  I just did a search at Gutenberg for the author and came up empty.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Polish Boy by Orson Scott Card, from First Meetings In The Enderverse, Tor Books.

I know that blakemp recently reviewed "First Meetings" on his blog and over in bookshare, and that inspired me to dig it out and finally read it.  I read the first story tonight.

For those who don't know, all of the stories in the book take place in the universe Card created in his short story and later novel "Ender's Game" and its sequels.  The stories flesh out the backstory of Ender Wiggin's family.  "The Polish Boy" is the story of Ender's father, John Paul Wiggin, as a six year old boy living in Poland in the early days of the Hegemony; a note says this story takes place between the two Bugger Wars.

One of the things I like about Card's writing is that he does not condescend to his preadolescent characters.  Yes, they are precocious to a fault -- that's the major tenet of the universe, that these kids are amazingly above-normal for their ages.  I came to genuinely like John Paul in this story, far more than I liked his adult self in "Ender's Game."  Other familiar faces pop in (or rather, younger versions of those familiar faces).  The story moves along swiftly, does not dwell on extraneous detail.  It also doesn't try to be too sly; Card knows he's writing a story for people who are already familiar with Ender's universe.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
caffyolay
Jan. 18th, 2008 07:44 am (UTC)
I'm planning to read Orson Scott Card for the first time this year, starting with Ender's Game. I'm looking forward to it immensely as he seems to be a favourite with many people. The Polish Boy anthology is one to get hold of after I've read some of the Ender Wiggins books I suspect.
talekyn
Jan. 18th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
Yes, I would definitely recommend holding off on First Meetings in the Enderverse until you've read at least Ender's Game. I found Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow to be the two best books in that series.

I'd also recommend Lost Boys if you like horror, and Enchantment if you're in the mood for a good fairy tale.
caffyolay
Jan. 18th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC)
I'm doing an Orson Scott Card challenge and decided I should read Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide before I even think of reading anything else. But I've made a note of Ender's Shadow. I see it's another series but presumably connected, so that should prove interesting.

I've seen the movie of Lost Boys, presume it's the novel of that? I do like horror, yes. Fairy tales, I don't mind if they're original but am not so keen on the reworked sort that some authors do. Depends really. Will definitely check out Lost Boys though. Thanks for your help!
talekyn
Jan. 18th, 2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, no, the only thing Card's Lost Boys has in common with the movie is the name. Not even a similar premise. (There is a well-regarded horror movie out there with a similar premise, but to tell you which one would probably give you an unfair set of expectations about the book.)

Ender's Shadow basically retells Game from another character's perspective, but then branches off in subsequent books.

Believe it or not, I have yet to read Speaker or Xenocide although I keep intending to.
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