Monday, December 11, 2006

Time travel, bubonic plague, Christmas lists, etc.

I mentioned last week that I've been coding a monograph about biological and chemical terrorism; this morning I was working on the section about bubonic plague. The discussion of buboes reminded me of Connie Willis's novel, The Doomsday Book. The book is set about fifty years in the future, when time travel has been accomplished, but not perfected. A young historical researcher is sent back in time to the 14th century--she's supposed to arrive several decades after the Black Plague, but a mistake is made and she arrives right in the middle of it.

I almost never read historical fiction (after a lengthy period of it in high school), but I love Willis's work, so I tried it, and was completely drawn in. So much so that after reading it several years ago, I listened to it in audio book form last year.

But the reason I'm mentioning it now is that they celebrate Christmas in the book--Willis is a huge fan of Christmas (witness Miracle and Other Christmas Stories), so I suppose it isn't surprising that she worked it in. I guess it should go on my list of Christmas books.

I was thinking about Christmas books again, and I remembered -- how could I have forgotten The Hogfather?? I hadn't read Terry Pratchett until a few years ago; I think Hogfather was probably the first thing of his that I read, having been attracted by a cover and then, the Christmas theme. Or rather, "Hogswatch," as the holiday is called on the Discworld. The Hogfather's sleigh is drawn by four pigs: Gouger, Tusker, Rooter and Snouter.

In the book, the Hogfather has been kidnapped by an Assassin (on Discworld, the Assassins have a union, the Guild of Assassins) hired by the Auditors, because they (the Auditors) don't like things that take on reality due to people's faith in them, i.e., the Hogfather. But Hogswatch can't take place without the Hogfather, so Death decides to take the his place and solve the mystery.

It's really a great book if you like that kind of thing. I listened to it in audiobook form a couple of years ago. Thinking about it reminded me that I have a bunch of Christmas audiobooks and that they should go on the list of Christmas books, too. I just finished listening to Blue Christmas, by Mary Kay Andrews, and I'm currently listening to Mistletoe Man, a China Bayles mystery by Susan Wittig Albert.

Two books that I listened to last year were The Stupidest Angel, by Christopher Moore, and Visions of Sugar Plums - Janet Evanovich, both of which were good. I'm not a Janet Evanovich fan, and haven't read her Stephanie Plum series (I tried to, but they just didn't grab me for some reason), but I did enjoy the holiday installment.

The Christopher Moore book probably isn't one of his best, but it's not bad for a humorous holiday story.

Just as an aside, there was apparently an NPR story about Christmas music on the radio today. I didn't hear it this morning--I was listening to the audio book--and haven't had a chance to listen yet, but the page lists several interesting-sounding holiday albums.

I should mention that the little yellow kitten found a home with Kristi's mother-in-law. I really wish we could have kept him, he was such a cool cat. But he will have a good home there.

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