Literary teens, skyjackers, Vikings and Theseus; books (#SFWApro)

While I didn’t catch any movies during my Mensa vacation, I did get a lot of reading done in between the hanging out.

If I’d realized THE NIGHT GWEN STACY DIED by Sarah Bruni was a literary novel rather than a Y/A romance, I might have skipped it (as I’ve mentioned before, literary fiction isn’t usually my thing). Bruni writes very well but the story about a sort-of good girl getting lured by the bad boy to run away is stock, despite the comics references — his name is Peter Parker, he keeps referring to her as Gwen Stacy, Peter’s dead girlfriend. Yes, it does end tragically, but nowhere near as entertainingly (art by Gil Kane and John Romita, all rights remain with current holder).

THE SKIES BELONG TO US: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner focuses on the 1972 skyjacking by party girl Cathy Kernow and unstable veteran Roger Holder hoped to arrange a pardon for radical black activist Angela Davis. Instead, they wound up traveling to Algeria and hanging with Eldridge Cleaver, relocating to Paris and then parting (Holder came home, Kernow vanished, possibly into a new identity). Mixed in with this is the overall history of the Age of Skyjacking from the comical (one guy hijacked a plane to get to Smackover Arkansas) to the horrifying (a hijacker contemplated crashing the plane into a nuclear power plant) and the airlines’ reluctance at the to deal with it (protesting not only the cost of metal detectors, but the prospect of delaying passengers by using them). Koerner argues that just as headlines about skyjackers prompted more skyjacking, so the gradual slowdown in the early 1970s (the result of better security and foreign nations refusing to provide safe haven) choked the trend of oxygen (of course, the drop then led to everyone relaxing their security until 9/11). A good job covering something once familiar, now alien.

With HROLF KRAKI’S SAGA Poul Anderson’s adapts the saga of the Skjoldungs, whose high point was the title Danish king establishing an oasis of peace in the violent world of post-Roman Europe, though a very brief one (and like Arthur, the real warrior was gradually eclipsed by his doughty followers). Anderson deftly sets this up as a tenth-century Danish bride telling the saga to her English in-laws, thereby rationalizing a lot of the exposition necessary. Very good, though it suffers from the nature of saga — that is, as it’s the story of the Skjoldung lineage rather than Hrolf per se, it doesn’t follow a conventional arc

Given how much I love Evangeline Walton’s Mabinogion quadrilogy, I’m really disappointed in THE SWORD IS FORGED, the first (and only) volume in a trilogy about Theseus (something she’d contemplated back in the 1950s, but decided not to compete with Mary Renault’s best-selling The Bull From the Sea). It’s very info-dumpy at times and where Walton’s Celts respected women, Theseus is insufferably patriarchal — which is true of course to Hellenic Greece, but that doesn’t make it readable, especially as Antiope largely submits to it in the hope of improving things later (and she’s waaaay too quick to accept being abducted off to Athens). I can’t say I’ll ever wish for Books Two and Three.

 

 

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