This is the first installment of a new feature we'll be running periodically. In it we'll ask BigAl and all the Pals a question and those who are willing will respond with an answer of a couple sentences to a couple paragraphs. (Except for Al. He's likely to go on and on for pages. That guy never shuts up.) You're welcome to suggest possible questions. To do so, email booksandpals(at)yahoo(dot)com with “Ask the Pals” in the subject line and we'll consider your suggestion for a future Ask the Pals post. Once we've had our say, feel free to weigh in with your answer to the same question in the comments.
I’ve read Frank Herbert’s Dune at least five times. The story has a magnetic pull for me. A Hugo and Nebula award winner, Dune has sold over twelve million copies. I think the novel is more relevant today than it was on its release in 1965. At its heart is an epic adventure that deals with the consequences to a planet’s ecology when humans abuse finite resources for short term gain. In addition, the technologically advanced civilization responsible for asset stripping is threatened by ruthless religious fanatics who are waging a brutal jihad. Any of this sound familiar? Here’s what one of Mr. Herbert’s characters has to say:
You cannot go on forever stealing what you need without regard to those who come after. The physical qualities of a planet are written into its economic and political record. We have the record before us and our course is obvious.
As the central character, Paul Atreides, grows in stature and ability, he is tortured by a constant and desperate internal struggle and eventually forced to choose a path he regrets. Surely one of the most conflicted characters I’ve ever read. I’m not sure I ever liked Paul, but I felt great empathy for him and understood why he made the decisions he did.
The author sets his story in a complex, multifaceted “world,” politically intricate and technologically advanced and yet strangely familiar and often vividly described—here’s a glimpse of the desert at sunset:
The sun dipped lower. Shadows stretched across the salt pan. Lines of wild color spread over the sunset horizon. Color streamed into a toe of darkness, testing the sand. Coal-colored shadows spread, and the thick collapse of night blotted the desert.
Pigeon-holing Dune as sci-fi does the story a great disservice. If you haven’t read the novel then I’m jealous, because you have a treat in store that I can never again experience—the first time is always the best.
Absolutely impossible to say as my tastes have changed over the years, but Black & Blue by Ian Rankin sent me down the path of crime novels that's now pretty much all consuming.
I don’t have a single favorite book. It all depends on my mood. I loved Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series. Until Echo in the Bone. It kinda pissed me off, so I have tossed her aside and haven’t read the last one. Yes, I can be fickle when you mess with my characters or their writing style changes mid-series.
I really like Patricia Briggs, Jeaniene Frost, and Ilona Andrews. However, I have fallen behind on their series books because I am enjoying too many new Indie authors who write paranormal, urban fantasy, magical realism, or myth related stories.
Oh, I got distracted. My favorite books of all time will always be from Dr.Seuss. Why? He is classic, smart, and endearing. I read them all to my kids and my grandkids. Sure, I could have said The Neverending Story, The Indian in the Cupboard, The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, or even Harry Potter. But Dr. Seuss was first and foremost.
My normal answer to this question has been To Kill a Mockingbird. I had a lot of reasons for picking that. One is the obvious one, it's a great story with some lessons that we could all learn from, whether you're an ancient old man like me or a teen (how old I was when I read it). It was also a pick I couldn't imagine anyone would argue wasn't a reasonable choice, even if it wasn't what they would pick. Last, it gave me the opportunity to go on a rant about it not being available as an ebook. The last is no longer true. It's been on my Kindle since the release date. I rarely re-read fiction. Plus, my virtual stack of new books to read is always so high that I haven't gotten to it yet. Maybe some day.
What is your pick? And remember to email to the address above with your suggestions for future questions.