Week 5’s celebrity six sentences came from The Time Traveler’s Wifeby Audrey Niffenegger. This debut novel won two awards, sold over 2.5 million copies and been made into a movie – yet many readers loathed it. I think the problem is
not with the book (of course, I would think that, since I loved it), but with the marketing. It was promoted as a literary novel (at least, it was in New Zealand), but I saw it as primarily a science fiction novel masterfully blended with tragic romance. It’s about a bloke who has a genetic mutation that makes him randomly shift in time and space – if that’s not a science fiction novel, I don’t know what is. One reviewer on an old Bookcrossing forum, “The Worst Book You Ever Read”, said that the plot device of the main character waking up and finding that it was all a dream was a clumsy one. He’s right, it is, but that was not at all the premise of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Either he read an entirely different novel and got the titles mixed up, or he could not wrap his literary mind around the concept of time travel.
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This week’s six sentences are from the short story “Marked”, first published online in Edge of Propinquity and reprinted in Shroud’s Abominations anthology. The story originated from a prompt in a writer’s workshop; think of an opinion you hold that you believe with 100% certainty is true, then write a story arguing the opposite. In this case, the opinion was “harming small children is wrong” (I cheated a little on the ‘opposite’ bit). The character of Silver is loosely based on a crazy Irishman I once knew who had a scar on his throat and an entirely different explanation for said scar every time I saw him, each one more improbable than the last.
Within seconds of taking his seat, he leaned across the counter and introduced himself to her in a high-pitched, reedy Irish lilt. Not the done thing, thought Hannah. Not the done thing at all. And he smelt funny; he gave off a distinct odour of smoke, with faint undertones of scorched flesh, cinnamon and pond scum. She gave his outstretched hand a perfunctory shake and went back to wiping down the counter. Usually customers would do a double-take at the sight of her face and then let their glance slide away, settling on a point somewhere just over her shoulder, but he stared, for a full minute, and then asked, without apology or preamble, “how did you get that?”
This week’s celebrity six sentences come from a novel first published in 1991 by an author widely considered to be a British Master of Horror. Although there are scenes of horror in this novel, I see it more as a dark fantasy, richly textured and exquisitely imagined. Oh, and did I mention the tragic romance?
Though Pie ‘oh’ pah had briefly described the forces that haunted the In Ovo, Gentle had only the vaguest impression of the dark protean state between the Dominions, occupied as he was by a spectacle much closer to his heart, that of the change that overtook both travellers as their bodies were translated into the common currency of passage.
Dizzied by lack of oxygen, he wasn’t certain whether these were real phenomena or not. Could bodies open like flowers, and the seeds of an essential self fly from them the way his mind told him they did? And could those same bodies be remade at the other end of the journey, arriving whole despite the trauma they’d undergone? So it seemed. The world Pie had called the Fifth folded up before the travelers’ eyes, and they went like transported dreams into another place entirely.