Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The show must go on

Todd A. Bastin

I love asking people to make lists of their favorites; favorite foods, favorite movies, favorite books, whatever. Normally it's such an arbitrary way to get to know someone, but I like to take a person's list, find a flaw, and then attack it, forcing the person to expose herself in defense over her tastes. Then you get to know her. One's truest colors show when in defense of oneself. So that's probably why when I'm asked to make a list, I'm immediately wary. It's an invitation to attack. However, it's also an opportunity to zwischenzug. That said, my lists are never simple. Consider the following: 

These are my five favorite novels. But what the devil do Dandelion Wine and The Hand of Chaos have in common? How do Garth Nix and Cormac McCarthy work together to shed light on Todd A. Bastin?

I'm no scholar on Todd A. Bastin, but I can certainly point out a strong consistency between these five books. It's the theme of moving on, no matter the crisis. Be it the apocalypse, magical entropy, or growing up, the characters in all of these novels are adamant in one way or another about the acceptance of what's happened, and are determined, in their own ways, to carry on for better or worse. 

In The Road, the unnamed protagonists, by all practical indications, have absolutely nothing to live for. And yet the end of the world is behind them, and they'll be damned before they cease to carry the fire across their lost planet.

The Hand of Chaos, the fifth installment of The Death Gate Cycle, is the series climax, and the cast does not give up, does not change plans on account of everything that's gone wrong. No character or group stays down, and all struggle to move on from a ruined past.

Shade's Children is about a post-apocalyptic dystopia where children are harvested as mutant bio-weapons for the entertainment of an elite few. Only a small band, rescued and led by a sentient computer named Shade, hold out against this cruel new world. Though Shade's children have known nothing else, known nothing better, they push, against all odds, for something else, for something better.

Mother Night's Howard Campbell, a 'retired' American spy who served in World War II nazi Germany, struggles to move on with his life and to abandon his past. He has little left to live for, but by sheer force of his own humanity, he makes that push anyway.

Finally, Dandelion Wine, my all-time favorite novel, is about the same: the times are changing, and the world is inevitably moving forward, a force that Douglas cannot neither hide from nor begin to fight. However, instead of losing himself in the past, instead of taking solace in what once was, he learns to accept that the past should be remembered so as to make the future stronger.

It's not just this insistence on not giving up that holds these novels together for me, though. None of these stories' authors are afraid to crush hope for the characters, and indeed most of the characters of these novels fail to find or achieve what they hope for in the end, or are otherwise denied closure at book's end. By the end of The Death Gate Cycle, nobody even knows what to want anymore, yet they keep on keeping on. Even Dandelion Wine's Douglas, arguably the most positive of the protagonists from these five novels, is forced into a sequel to continue resisting the forces of change.

At the end of the day, it seems that it's the representation of people always finding a way that appeals to my sensibilities; whether it's shutting down one's mutant overlords or just learning to appreciate the little things in order to cope with the big ones, the show must go on. This reflects well the three-faceted cornerstone of my personality: that I am easygoing, patient, and stubborn. Come at me.

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