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Fri, Oct. 9th, 2009, 12:26 pm
Monster Bodhisattva

(mirrored from maxgladstone.com)

Recently I picked up Still Life with Crows, a thriller by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, who also wrote the fun Relic and Cabinet of Curiosities and who, really, need no linkage from me. The writing is brisk and doesn't get in your way unless you pay close attention to it (they could stand to reign in their use of semicolons a touch, for example), the characters are vivid, the mystery fast-paced, and the monster chilling. Good, clean fun (I'm uncomfortable with the word "escapist" for a variety of reasons, but that's a post for another day). If you're a thriller reader and you like glacier-cool protagonists, law enforcement politics, and a bit of the old ultra-violence, you'll like these books — start with Relic if you really want the aggregate experience.

I was in an elevator the other day, and a coworker asked me what I was reading. I described the book and mentioned that I was reading it because it's fun, and because I like writing books that have monsters in them and it's always good to see what works. I got the considering "Are you sure you shouldn't be reading Jane Austen" eye (I've read Austen, thank you, she's great and does not require the addition of monsters in the slightest, however she's not an author who fits all of my seasons) and shrugged it off.

A moment later, a squat, balding, older man sharing the elevator with us turned around to me and said, "Good for you. A lot of people out there like to read those kind of books better than ones without monsters in them." The elevator dinged for his floor, and he left.

In Mahayana Buddhism we encounter the concept of the Bodhisattva: an enlightened being who has pledged not to enter Nirvana until she has enlightened all other sentient beings and brought them to Nirvana before her. (I like the image of a bunch of Bodhisattvas hanging around near the end of the kalpa, like the proverbial southern gentlemen at the narrow door: "You go first!" "No, I insist.")

Bodhisattvas don't go around announcing themselves: they appear, provide their momentary assistance, and leave. Anyone can be ridden by a Bodhisattva, any action or thing can be their tool. Every once in a while, I start wondering about the inherent virtue of the type of writing I do. When I fall into this kind of trap, it's a true joy to have a bodhisattva drop in, give me a kick in the pants, and leave me to get back to work.

So, thank you Monster Bodhisattva! I'll return the favor sometime.

Fri, Oct. 9th, 2009 06:12 pm (UTC)

Hooray Monsters.

Fri, Oct. 9th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)

Nom nom nom.

Sat, Oct. 10th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)

<pet peeve>"rein in." </pet peeve>
Nice post, however. :-)

Sat, Oct. 10th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC)

Thanks for catching that. :) Honestly, my homonyms have gone downhill ever since I lived in China. Most of the language has returned, but rein / reign is particularly intractable. Probably because I don't use either of those words often enough... solution: use them more!

Sun, Oct. 11th, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)

Alternately, we could correct the preposition instead of the verb, and say that he needs to reign over his use of semicolons.

Sun, Oct. 11th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)

That would actually be a better description of what they need to do, honestly. The semicolons are certainly reigning over Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child in this book.