I have sinned.
I actually ordered…a book. I told myself I should save money and not buy from Amazon, to just borrow the books I want, but I couldn’t help myself!
In fact I think I must have borrowed about thirty books from various sources. Some of them are being read, others are scattered across two houses, waiting desperately to be picked up, their egos soothed, their pages stroked… Ahem. Where was I?
Anyway the only time I buy books is for research, or if I consider it an investment. And this time I thought Liz Williams’ book Snake Agent, the first novel in her Detective Inspector Chen series, was worth it. Besides the fact I was unashamedly attracted to the stunning cover, drawn by the award-winning artist Jon Foster, the premise for Snake Agent was intriguing. It’s set in Singapore!
Here’s the description from Amazon: Detective Inspector Chen is the Singapore Three police department’s snake agent – the detective in charge of supernatural and mystical investigations. Chen has several problems: in addition to colleagues who don’t trust him and his mystical ways, a patron goddess whom he has offended and a demonic wife who’s tired of staying home alone, he’s been paired with one of Hell’s own vice officers, Seneschal Zhu Irzh, to investigate the illegal trade in souls. Political pressures both Earthly and otherworldly seek to block their investigations at every turn. As a plot involving both Singapore Three’s industrial elite and Hell’s own Ministry of Epidemics is revealed, it becomes apparent that the stakes are higher than anyone had previously suspected.
Which reminds me – just a bit – of the setting for the anime/manga Yami no Matsuei, or Descendants of Darkness. Except that protagonist Tsuzuki is, well, dead, works as a department agent in the Underworld, and doesn’t have a demonic wife. He does have a partner who acted like one, though.
Part of me worries about reading something I might end up replicating too much within my writing. I’ve got these bunch of ideas and ideals simmering in my head, and my concern is to translate them into stories I want to tell in as unique an outlook as possible. At the same time I know it’s virtually impossible to not be influenced by writing that resonates with you. I’m conscious of the fact, for instance, that the main character in Malaysian Dark reminds me of Hellblazer’s John Constantine, or Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files series – which I enjoy, although the premise for my novel popped in my head before I ever heard of Storm Front. Still, no harm in letting someone’s work stimulate you, and I recognise that as a writer, I should read and read and read as well.
Ordering a book online feels different from carting home the odd one-pound book from the charity shop, and so to ease my guilty conscience, I found myself browsing through my Amazon wish list. This is actually my Oh-I-Want-This-Badly-But-I-Shouldn’t-So-Let’s-Stick-It-Here-So-I-Can-Temporarily-Forget-It list.
Going through that list was amusing. Some of the titles were accumulated over the years, and feature a rather funky range of mostly books, computer games, TV series, movies and music CDs:
My Wish List, from Most Recent
The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
Best of Michael Moorcock
The Night Watch (Sergei Lukyanenko)
Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
DestinyQuest: The Legion of Shadow (Michael J. Ward) – Gamebook *coughs*
Night of the Necromancer: Fighting Fantasy (Jonathan Green) – Another gamebook, with the premise that you’re a murdered knight who must rise as a ghost and claim vengeance!
Jupiter’s Travels (Ted Simon) – One of five motorcycle books I shoved in there, thinking I needed research on how to write motorcycle riding.
The Visual Dictionary of Architecture – I’m fascinated by architecture and I’ve always feel this burning need to know about the style of buildings. I haven’t a clue, for instance, on how to identify Victorian from Georgian from Doric from Retro whatever. I’m pretty updated on Star Wars and Star Trek building styles however, for anyone who’s interested. I might get this some day!
Two Worlds II – Computer role-playing game. Weird name, I know. But not as wacky as Divine Divinity.
Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs: Complete Series – Don’t laugh! This 1980s cartoon show of giant robots, intergalactic cowboys and a British main character who speaks perfect Queen’s English (but is oddly from the Scottish Highlands) inspired a girl’s fertile imagination. I can still remember some of the epic plots and characters I made up from this universe 🙂
Dungeons & Dragons: The Complete Animated Series – Errr. I’ve only watched one episode in my life. Maybe two. And that’s my defence. Right.
The House of the Stag (Kage Baker)
Ramayana: India’s Immortal Tale of Adventure, Love and Wisdom (Krishna Dharma) – Yet another book I want for research.
Thundercats: Complete Season One – The only cartoon I know where cat men and women prance around the pilot episode nekkid before they put on clothes.
How to Write a Mystery (Larry Beinhart) – Back when I thought I should read up on how to write crime, after realising my knowledge of crime novels extended mostly to Sherlock Holmes. And the Famous Five.
The Little Book on Vaastu – Wha?
Wizardry and Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy (Michael Moorcock) – I actually borrowed this from the library but had to return it. Now I want to keep it, but the price is daunting!
Devil’s Cape (Rob Rogers) – Gritty crime novel with superheroes. Winning combination.
Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly (Jane Espenson) – A collection of essays and articles on the Firefly space western TV series. I absolutely adore Firefly. Whoever was responsible for cancelling it after just 14 episodes should be examined by the Scary Blue Glove Men.
Life After Doomsday: Survivalist Guide to Nuclear War and Other Major Disasters (Bruce D. Clayton) – Because admit it, all of us want to know how to survive the apocalypse.
I Dreamed a Dream (Susan Boyle) – Oh, don’t tell me you didn’t want to!
To Be Continued 🙂