Thursday, November 2, 2017

Past, present or future? Which do you prefer?

Can a novel set in the past have a message for the present? Can one set in the future hold a mirror up to today? And can a novel of today hold warnings for the future born in the past?

I read because I love reading. I love to lose myself in a book. I love to walk around the house, pages in hand, dreaming another life, another time. But I also read because I love to think. I love that feeling when fictional characters become so real I want to discuss the present with them. And I love the sense that characters born in the past and the future have enough to say that I can stay in long conversation, even when the pages have ceased to turn.

So my answer to the question, which do I prefer of novels set in the past, present or future, is probably all three. I love novels that make me reexamine what I think I know--novels that don't just offer a mirror or wall, reflecting back my own ideas, but ones that offer a friend by the fireside feeding their thoughts into mine.

A Family of Strangers by Kathleen Flanagan Rollins is set in the past and filled with wonderfully flawed human characters. Using a quietly unobtrusive and intriguing spirituality, the author recreates a convincing prehistoric world and gives each stranger in this ill-matched group a chance to step forward from the mistakes of the past. Nothing can be changed. What's broken is gone. But there's always tomorrow--a very wise message for today! Enjoy this truly rich and elegant novel with a rich elegant four-star cup of coffee.

Set in the present day, No Direction Rome by Kaushik Barua is a very different novel, it's spirituality (or rather lack thereof) vibrantly in-your-face, its personal immediacy enhanced by addressing the reader as "you," and its recently-wounded past carefully disguised in an awkwardly careless present. The protagonist might be hard to get to know, but he's hard to forget and his world is alternately ridiculous, real, and poignant. It's a dark tale best enjoyed with some five-star darkly brewed coffee.

And then there's Red Rising by Pierce Brown, first in a trilogy (and I can't wait to read the rest). Set in a dystopian future with some great future history woven into a well-timed backstory, and characters that are convincingly different from their present day equivalents, it holds a complex mirror to the present, inviting but never demanding analogy. Enjoy with some more dark five-star coffee--the story's dark and compelling.

I really enjoyed all three of these books, past, present and future. And I really enjoy reading in all three times.


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