Shadows in Flight

We once again come to a review for a book in the world of Ender’s Game, this puts me up to 10 books that I have reviews for from the series, none of them being the original book.  I’ll eventually get around to re-reading the book so that I can have a review of it on my blog, but there are so many other things that I’m still going through.  Anyway, on with the review.

Book StatsShadows in Flight

294 pages

Science Fiction

By publication date, this is the 12th book and it came out after Ender In Exile.  Chronologically in the series it takes place after Ender in Exile and the Shadow quartet, but before Speaker for the Dead.

Characters

The characters in the book are Bean and the three of his children who have the same genetic defect that he had, to be incredibly intelligent but to never quit growing and therefore die by the time they reach about 20 years old because they never stop growing.  Even though the children (Ender, Carlotta, and Sergeant) are only 6 years old in the book, they act far more mature because of their enhanced intelligence.  As always, Card’s characters are wonderfully written, and they’re all people that I would enjoy meeting.

Setting

The book takes place primarily on the spaceship that Bean and his children are traveling on, but they also explore an alien ship that they find on their journey.

Plot

While traveling at near light speed to prolong their lives, Bean and company stop to investigate a strange ship and find that it was formerly a formic vessel.  They explore the ship and find a lot of interesting things about the formics as well as themselves.

Enjoyment

I know, that plot synopsis was lame, but when you try and break any 300 page book down into two sentences it’s going to sound lame.  So here’s the deal, I read this book because it was in the Ender series, and it’s Science Fiction because that’s what Card writes.  The truth is that this book is a great example of a parent and their children coming to understand each other.  It comes back to Card’s excellent characters.  You could take the same characters, strip away the setting, and tell the same story.  It’s also wonderful to see what happens to Bean, and how he is able to reconcile his short life.

Overall Grade

Another very strong book in the Ender’s Game world.  Eventually I’m going to have to read a book by Card that isn’t in this world, but these are all great fun to read.

8/10

The Rithmatist

Hmm, where to start other than saying this is a Brandon Sanderson novel, and at this point he’s pretty much going to get money from me for every book that he writes, so of course I read this one.  On we go.

Book StatsThe Rithmatist

370 pages

Fantasy, Steampunk

First book in the series

Characters

The main character in the book is Joel, a young man attending the one of the premier schools in the country, Armedius Academy.  He isn’t especially intelligent enough to attend the school, nor is his family rich in any way, but his father had worked there for years before he died and as a way of thanking his family the principal offers him free tuition.  Joel is an interesting character, one who enjoys learning a lot, just not the things that those above him think that he should be learning (similar to myself in high school in some respects).  Joel is a bit of an outcast, liked by most of the people that he meets but never really fitting into any of the cliques that form in society.  Throughout the course of the book he also meets Melody, a cheerful young girl who is a rithmatist but doesn’t really care to be.  The juxtaposition of the two – the cheerful girl who doesn’t care for being a rithmatist and the slightly dour boy who wishes beyond everything else that he could be – is played off well in the story.  All of the side characters in the book were solid as well.

Setting

The book is set in an early 1900’s version of America where instead of being the full continent, it consists of about 60 large islands.  There is also a very large steampunk aspect to the world, with varied and powerful machines set up and used throughout the story.  It’s an interesting way to set the story within our world without it being our world.  By doing this he gains the advantages of having a story set in our world, you know the general geography and where everything is in relation to other areas, along with a rough history of the world, but he also gets the benefits of having a fantasy world, where the magic and political order doesn’t feel out of place.  It’s really a well done setting.

Plot

The book starts towards the end of a school year as Joel starts to figure out what he wants to do with his schedule.  Through a bit of trickery on his part, he manages to find a way to work with a professor who is a historian of Rithmatics, the magic of the world.  As he starts working with Professor Fitch he finds out that Fitch was chosen to investigate the disappearance of a young girl who was training as a rithmatist.  The book plays out as a murder mystery, but by the end it starts to turn into the epic fantasy style of series that Sanderson is known for.

EnjoymentThe Rithmatist2

The characters were all fun, and the story was fast paced and interesting (I actually read the book in one sitting, yeah, all 370 pages.  To be fair, it’s a YA book, but a fairly long YA book.).  I actually think that one of the biggest weaknesses for most of the book – and this is rare for me to say about a Sanderson book – is the magic system.  It’s a very visually intensive magic system, and until you see it in use later in the book, it’s a bit hard to visualize exactly what is going on.  There are illustrations throughout the book that help with this, but it’s still a bit strange (more on the illustrations later).  As always Sanderson had a neat twist on the end of the novel, it’s really this twist which allows for the expansion of the single book into a bigger world and story.  The book could have been good without it, but I’m always a fan of big series with lots of books, so that works out for me.  It’s also good because it took me most of the book to fully understand the magic system, so I’d like to see more books with the same magic system now that I have a really good idea of how it works.

Now, one of the things that helps the magic system, and in many ways the book as a whole is that there are illustrations before every chapter that depict the circles used in the book, as well as illustrations throughout the pages that depict the ‘chalklings’ as they’re drawn.  In the acknowledgements of the book, Sanderson mentions that Ben McSweeney – the artist for the pictures within the book – threw out the idea of doing a graphic novel of the story, and in some ways I think that it might work better than the prose version did.

Overall Grade

I enjoyed the book, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series once it comes out.

8/10

Footnote here, the first picture is the actual cover of the book that I have, but I think I like the second picture better, I’m think it might be the UK cover for the book, but I’m not sure.  Either way, it’s a cool picture for the book.

A Moment of Weakness

I’ve mentioned a couple of times before on my blog that I have an anxiety disorder and panic attacks.  Most of the time, I can see it coming when I’m about to have one, and in many ways I’m able to stave them off until I can get home and hopefully relax, or if nothing else not let anyone else see what happens. Thursday night, I had one and I wasn’t able to hide it until I got home.  To quote the show Scrubs, it was a moment of weakness and not one that people are supposed to see.

The part I referred to starts about 1:50 into the video.

I’m not going to get into the details of what happened that night, but I am going to do a bit of an analysis of myself.  Talking about it to another person, and having them listen and ask questions really led me to analyze it a lot more than I have in the past.  And basically, here’s what I’ve come up with.

While I’ve been able in recent years (after studying Psychology) to identify that what I’m having is a Panic Attack, thinking about it more I realize that I’ve had them at least since high school, and possibly before that, but there aren’t any that I can think of before then.

I’ve said before that I could probably be diagnosed with Paranoid Personality Disorder and Panic Attacks.  But more accurately, I should probably be diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder.  Here’s the problem with an anxiety disorder.  You start to feel anxious about something, and you start to worry that you may have a panic attack, this causes you to feel more anxious and more likely to have one.  When the spiral starts, it’s very difficult to stop.  Sometimes I can, and sometimes the best I can do is delay it so that I don’t explode in public.

Part of the problem, and part of the ongoing process for me, is to learn what my triggers are.  There are some things that I know will trigger my anxiety, but then there are times when I can’t explain what happened.  Two of the more common things which trigger it for me are counting things and making sure that doors are locked.  It’s strange because there are times when it doesn’t bother me at all, and then there are times when I can just walk away, but then there are times when it just won’t leave me alone.

General Anxiety for me, leads to other problems.  At times it leads to Paranoia, Obsessive Behaviors, and Agoraphobia.  This is a large part of the problem with many Psychological Disorders, one can lead to others and the rate of co-morbidity is extremely high.

Lastly, here is the reason why it’s so hard to talk about.  This is a problem that I have to deal with, it’s rare that someone would be able to help me with it, and I often don’t want to talk about it because I don’t want anyone to treat me differently because they know about it.  Because I know about what I’m dealing with, I would say that 99% of the time I’m able to function perfectly normal in society.  And of those few times when it does bother me, I’m often able to adjust what I’m doing or how I’m thinking and get through the day.

So while having a breakdown in public was a moment of weakness that people aren’t supposed to see, I’m going to try and find the positive.  Maybe the willingness to talk about what’s happening and the willingness to publish this post is a moment of strength.  I’ll always be dealing with this, and hopefully it will get easier as time goes on.