So this week I’m reading a book called Desolate: The Complete Trilogy, by Robert Brumm, in which Earth is terrorized by the double whammy of a highly contagious hemorrhagic flu-like illness and giant carnivorous bad-tempered crawdads. Or something like that. Every time the space-lobsters show up I think of the Prawns from “District 9”.
Speaking of “District 9”, the characters in Desolate could definitely use a suit of the powered armor that Wikus finds towards the end of that film …
Dave was pinned under the creature and held the rifle sideways, jammed into the beast’s mouth as it thrashed about. Fortunately for Dave, the creature’s deadly appendages, one clawed and one with the deadly stinger, were too long and ineffective at close range, but the sharp claws and hooves on the creature’s other legs were doling out plenty of damage.
One thing I’ve gradually realized, having spent the last several months reading nothing but free books on the Kindle (thanks to Tucker’s having depleted the book budget for the next, oh, fifteen years or so) is the truth of the old Mark Twain quote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Aside from the repetitive use of “deadly” and “claws”, which is something I would have tried to avoid, I find the use of “doling” in this context to be rather jarring. You don’t dole out “plenty” of something (money, gruel, damage) — you dole out little bits of it, stingily, and only because you have to. Another passage earlier on said something to the effect of “a power failure plummeted the room into darkness”, which also bugged me, because one thing doesn’t “plummet” another; “plummet” is intransitive. Of course, in these (and other) cases, the meaning is conveyed, but each time I run into something like this it makes me stop and think about the language, and that takes me out of the story — which, despite that lengthy critique, I am in fact enjoying. After all, how can you go wrong with monstrous crayfish and an apocalyptic virus? You can’t. In fact I think this entire paragraph is a roundabout way of explaining why it’s taking me so long to finish up editing the conclusion of Shards; I keep finding spots where I used the words for “lightning bug”, when I meant to use the word for “lightning”.
“You carry the Illata. You will take it with you?” The new Lord of Abacar studied her. “Out of the city, away from here?”
“Well, I certainly don’t mean to leave it behind.”
“When you go to the Ravels.”
“Yes. When we go to the Ravels. To get the Jewel in the Maul.”
“And if I confiscated the Illata? Locked it up in the crypt again, or somewhere else, to keep it safe and unseen?”
“That didn’t work before, did it?”
“It worked for centuries.”
“Sure, until yesterday. Kihantroh used the Illata to find the Maul; it can use the Maul to find the Illata. It might be harder, now that the Illata has … changed, but eventually—”
“Eventually Kihantroh will come for it,” Blackhawk said.
“Exactly. You can’t hide it anymore. But if I take it, and we keep moving, Kihantroh might not know we’re coming until we’re knocking on its door. And there’s one more thing you need to consider before you decide you want to confiscate the Illata.”
“And what is that?”
Mercy held Blackhawk’s gaze, and smiled a little. “I won’t let you,” she said.