Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Some Poetical Cats

A short time ago, I came across a small book. It was Henry Beard's Poetry For Cats. No, it's not a book with poems about cats. The title is somewhat misleading. It is, says Henry Beard, a collection of poems by cats. Even a quick glance through the book will show that the themes of the poems are those one might well suspect would be of most interest to cats: mice, rats, dogs, birds, vets .

Moreover, these are poems written by cats who have had some connection with well-known human poets. This small volume should be of interest to those scholars who love teasing out influences among writers: A influenced B who influenced C who influenced D who had no influence on anybody at anytime. A careful perusal of the poems by humans and those by cats who lived with the human poets could possibly, I think, show some similarities between them. As to the direction of the influence, whether the human poet influenced the feline poet or vice-versa, I shall leave it to the experts to figure out.

Here is a well-known poem by the human poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Her cat had a slightly different version:

To A Vase

How do I break thee! Let me count the ways.
I break thee if thou art at any height
My paw can reach, when, smarting from some slight,
I sulk, or have one of my crazy days.
I break thee with an accidental graze
Or twitch of tail, if I should take a fright.
I break thee out of pure and simple spite
The way I broke the jar of mayonnaise.
I break thee if a bug upon thee sits.
I break thee if I'm in a playful mood,
And then I wrestle with the shiny bits.
I break thee if I do not like my food.
And if someone thy shards together fits,
I break thee once again when thou are glued.

Or one by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

William's cat wrote the following:

so much depends

a yellow gold

washed down with bowl

inside the white

And one last example, one of my favorites, Robert Frost's

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

And Frost's poetical cat penned the following:

Sitting by the Fire on a Snowy Evening

Whose chair this is by now I know.
He's somewhere in the forest though;
He will not see me sitting here
A place I'm not supposed to go.

He really is a little queer
To leave his fire's cozy cheer
And ride out by the frozen lake
The coldest evening of the year.

To love the snow it takes a flake:
The chill that makes your footpads ache,
The drifts too high to lurk or creep,
The icicles that drip and break.

His chair is comfy, soft and deep.
But I have got an urge to leap.
And mice to catch before I sleep.
And mice to catch before I sleep.

Others in the book are "Grendel' s Dog" by an anonymous cat (trans. from Old English by the Editor's Cat)

"Brave Beocat,_____ brood-kit of Ecgthmeow,

Hearth-pet of Hrothgar_____ in whose high halls

He mauled without mercy_____ many fat mice,"

Besides the ones just quoted are cat friends of Chaucer, Donne, Blake, Milton, and of course, Shakespeare, along with many others.

If you wish to see variants of some well-known poems, perhaps some of your favorites, from a feline POV, I can recommend this book.

Henry Beard
Poetry for Cats
Villard Books, a division of Random House

Monday, April 26, 2010

Something to think about

The World Is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The wind that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan, suckled in a creed outworn,
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

-- William Wordsworth

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XXV

This quatrain completes the 1st third of the First Edition of the translation by Edward FitzGerald.

First Edition: Quatrain XXV

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

Second Edition: Quatrain XXIX

Identical to First Edition

Fifth Edition: Quatrain XXVI

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
Of the Two Worlds so wisely--they are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

This is somewhat unusual in that the First and Second Editions are the same, while the Fifth has some differences. In the past, the First and Second frequently differed while the Second and Fifth were most similar.

The only difference I can see occurs in the second line. In the First and Second editions, the Saints and Sages discussed the Two Worlds "learnedly" while in the Fifth edition, they discussed them "wisely." "[L]earnedly" has the flavor of academia or bookishness attached to it while "wisely" suggests experience grounded in reality. In either case, it makes little difference for the "learned" and the "wise" are compared to "foolish Prophets" and their words are scorned and they are silent in the grave.

It seems to me that a new theme has arisen. Previously the quatrains had pointed out that life is short and that we get once chance only, so we should make the most of it--eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. This quatrain, however, focuses on our ignorance of this world and the next. Moreover, this quatrain specifies not only our ignorance, but also the ignorance of the "Saints" and the "Sages." While their discussions are learned and wise, they are also like foolish prophets, whose words are scorned. We may know something of this world, but what do we really know of the next?

The quatrain surprisingly, to me anyway, does not believe that the religious (Saints) are any more knowledgeable than those who look more to this world than the next. This dichotomy may also be seen as the Saints being practitioners of religious values while the Sages are more imbued with worldly knowledge.

I had read that Omar Khayyam had been under suspicion of being a heretic for a time. Such dismissal of the knowledge of the afterlife would seem risky to me, considering that the Moslems have knowledge of the afterlife from the Koran, which is accepted as the actual words of Allah, transmitted faithfully and accurately by Mohammed.

Or, perhaps it's just a case of over-reading.

Any thoughts on this?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day


Earth teach me stillness

As the grasses are stilled with light.

Earth teach me suffering

As old stones suffer with memory.

Earth teach me humility

As blossoms are humble with beginning.

Earth teach me caring

As the mother who secures her young.

Earth teach me courage

As the tree which stands alone.

Earth teach me limitation

As the ant which crawls on the ground.

Earth teach me freedom

As the eagle which soars in the sky.

Earth teach me resignation

As the leaves die in autumn.

Earth teach me regeneration

As the seed which rises in the spring.

Earth teach me to forget myself

As melted snow forgets its life.

Earth teach me to remember kindness

As the dry fields weep in the rain.

-- Ute Prayer --

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus

Warning: I will be discussing significant plot elements and the ending.

David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus is probably one of those books that many more people have heard about than have read it, that many more people have started than have finished, and, of those who finished it, many more have disliked it than have liked the work. I'm in the minority here, as I've read it at least four times, and perhaps five, and will read it again.

On the other hand, there is contrary evidence from its publishing history. According to a book review by Paul M. Kieniewicz, published by the University of Nebraska, the novel "has been in print continuously since 1920." New editions have come out in every decade since 1960. I have a hardbound edition that was published in 2002. So, the demand must be great enough to encourage publishers to come out with a new edition every decade or so.

In addition, "[i]n 1985, a three-hour play by David Wolpe based on the novel was staged in Los Angeles." The novel has had its influence in the music field also. "Jazz composer Ron Thomas recorded a concept album inspired by the novel in 2001 entitled "Scenes from a Voyage to Arcturus".

I just finished reading it for an SF discussion group, and I was one of the few who actually finished it and the only one who liked it. And, as it happened with the previous reads of this work, I picked up on some things that I had missed earlier.

It isn't an easy read, and certainly not one that can be read in short snips of time--5 or 10 minutes. The novel is best read in substantial chunks, at least one or two chapters at a time.

The Wikipedia entry for the novel begins as follows:

A Voyage to Arcturus was first "published in 1920" and "it combines fantasy, philosophy and science fiction in an exploration of the nature of good and evil and their relationship with existence. It has been described by the critic and philosopher Colin Wilson as the 'greatest novel of the twentieth century' and was a central influence on C. S. Lewis's The Space Trilogy."

I was recently told that Lewis had been quoted as saying it was the "father" of that trilogy. I'm not certain that I can agree with Colin Wilson when he calls it "greatest novel of the twentieth century," but I will say it is one of the most unique novels that I have read.

The novel begins when Maskull, the main character, meets Nightspore, a friend of his, at a seance. Nightspore has brought Krag, a stranger to Maskull, with him. Eventually Krag asks the two of them if they want an adventure, a trip to Arcturus. To be brief, they enter a vehicle owned by Krag and take off. Maskull falls asleep on the journey and awakens to find himself alone, on the planet Tormance. Krag and Nightspore are nowhere to be seen.

The novel, from this point on until the last two chapters, is a recounting of Maskull's journey among the various cultures that are found on the planet. Lindsay doesn't make the same mistake that so many SF/Fantasy writers make when they create a planet--that of creating a monoculture for the entire planet.

Maskull searches for enlightenment and truths to bring back for the rest of humanity. He sees himself as one who will enlighten people. This is exemplified by his search for the Muspell light which will lead him to Surtur. In Norse mythology, Surtr is Lord of the land of Muspellheimr, which is the land of fire and light in the Norse creation myth.

Maskull travels though a number of lands but meets only two or three people from each place. Ironically, as he goes about on his search for enlightenment, he leaves a trail of death and destruction wherever he is. He either kills someone or is indirectly responsible for that person's death. It is the most unique search for enlightenment I've ever seen.

Along with the Norse references, there is a strong Hindu flavor to this work as the gods may all be the same god but under a different guises--Surtur, Crystalman, Shaper--I'm still not too clear as to how many gods are being referred to here. This may also be true of some of the characters for, at the end of the novel, Maskull, just before he dies, is told by Krag that he, Maskull, is really Nightspore. Krag himself says that he is best known on earth as Pain. Then, in the final chapter, we learn of Nightspore's struggles to join in the struggle against Chrystalman/Shaper, on Krag's side, who now says he is Surtur.

There is also a very strong Gnostic element here, if one sees Chrystalman/Shaping as the demiurge who appropriated part of the Spiritual Life Force of the Supreme Being to populate his creation--the universe. The Shaping (in our world the Creator in the Old Testament) prevents the sparks of the life force from returning to the Supreme Being. When Maskull comes across the Wombflash River, he sees the sparks of the life force attempting to escape Tormance and return to Surtur. Crystalman/Shaping, like the creator of our world, is therefore evil and the real devil. This is the equivalent of the situation in our world for, according to the Gnostics, our world is evil, and we must take no pleasure from it for that makes our task of escaping it that much harder.

Lindsay also has a unique way of creating names for his aliens. Instead of combining vowels and consonants randomly, he takes two words and jams them together. The result is a name that almost means something and might be significant in describing the person. Maskull is a combination of "mask" and "skull." Nightspore is "night" and spore." The first two people Maskull meets are Joiwind (joy and wind) and Panawe (Pan and awe), her husband. Pan could be the god of nature and awe the emotion (fear and adoration) one feels upon meeting a god.

Maskull encounters a variety of philosophies in each of the places he visits on his search for Muspell/Surtur-- from a belief that all life is sacred and the people live on a special water and air in Poolingdred to Ifdawn, a land where Will is dominant and the inhabitants think nothing of using their will to absorb any whose will is weaker, to Sant where all pleasure is evil and pain is good because it distracts them from pleasure .

The three most prominent deities are Crytalman, Shaping, and Surtur. However, Maskull soon learns that the people differ in their ideas about the three, some think all three are separate, others that all three are the same god under different names, and yet others that any two might be the same with the third one being the enemy. Still others believe in Thire, Faceny, and Amfuse who are the creators of the worlds of existence, relation, and feeling.

Overall Rating: One of the most intriguing and absorbing novels I have read and well-worth numerous readings.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Something to think about

Abraham Lincoln's Annual Message to Congress: 1862

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chaucer's The Tales of Canterbury--from the Prologue

Many years ago in grad school, I had to take
a course in Chaucer. I wasn't looking forward
to this since I had always preferred works in
which the language was transparent. In other
words, one simply sat down and read it, and
not have to struggle with the wording also.
This was certainly not going to be the case
in this course for we were going to read the
work in Middle English.

I survived the course, and I surprisingly
felt sad as I left the classroom on the last
day of class. I felt as though I were
leaving some special place to which I would
never return. I had seldom felt that way
after any class I had taken.

A year later, I had to take some major exams
for which I had to review The Tales of
. I was going to play it smart
this time and get a modern rendering of the
work. I sat down with the translation and
found it uninteresting. I dug out my old
textbook and happily read through it, still
struggling a bit, even so.

I had gotten the point that language is
important, even above the standard level
of proper usage. I also found myself
more interested in poetry from then on.
There must be a connection here, somewhere.

For me, anyway, reading The Tales of Canterbury
is much like reading a time travel story. I
find that I really do go back to the late
14th century. It contains much about the
people, their customs, the way they
thought, as well as some great stories.

Following are the first 34 lines of the
prologue. If you aren't familiar with
the language, try reading it out loud.
You may be surprised at how much more
you will understand by doing that.
Perhaps some day you might even take up
the complete work.

Geoffrey Chaucer The Tales of Canterbury


WHANNE that April with his shoures sote

The droughte of March hath perced to the rote,

And bathed every veine in swiche licour,

Of whiche vertue engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eke with his sote brethe

Enspired hath in every holt and hethe

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,

And smale foules maken melodie,

That slepen alle night with open eye, 10

So priketh hem nature in hir corages;

Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,

And palmeres for to seken strange strondes,

To serve halwes couthe in sondry londes;

And specially, from every shires ende

Of Englelond, to Canterbury they wende,

The holy blisful martyr for to seke,

That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.

Befelle, that, in that seson on a day, is

In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,

Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage

To Canterbury with devoute corage,

At night was come into that hostelrie

Wei nine and twenty in a compagnie

Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle

In felawship, and pilgrimes were they alle,

That toward Canterbury wolden ride.

The chambres and the stables weren wide,

And wel we weren esed atte beste.

And shortly, whan the sonne was gon to reste,

So hadde I spoken with hem everich on,

That I was of hir felawship anon,

And made forword erly for to rise,

To take oure way ther as I you devise.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Combination Plate 13

Warning: I will be discussing significant plot
elements and endings.

Edith Wharton
The Reef, a novel

The Reef is one of Edith Wharton's shorter novels and also now one of my favorite works by Wharton. I have enjoyed a number of her novels and short stories, but this one and 'Ethan Frome" are the ones that I would choose to read again if asked. I wouldn't mind rereading others, but these two are special.

The basic story of The Reef is quite simple, but the interactions of the four major characters are among the most complex that I've seen in Wharton's works. George Darrow is a member of the British diplomatic corp who, after many years of separation, has just encountered Anna Leath at a party. She is now a widow, with a daughter, Effie, and a stepson, Owen, with whom she is quite close. The fourth is Sophie Viner, formerly a social secretary to one of the women in George Darrow's circle.

In the beginning of the novel, Anna invites George to stay at her place while they decide their future together, but she puts it off for awhile and then delays it once again. Darrow is understandably upset by this. He is uncertain about what to do but decides to go to Paris (her home is in France) anyway. On the trip across the Channel, he meets Sophie Viner whom he vaguely remembers as part of the background at various house parties. She is no longer employed and is traveling to France to visit some friends and hopes to be able to stay with them while she figures out what she is to do next.

Darrow decides to show her what Paris has to offer: plays, opera, museums, restaurants. She puts off contacting her friends, and he remains in Paris for about ten days as he plays tourist guide. His leave is up and he returns to London while she plans to get in touch with her friends.

Months later, Anna Leath again writes him, finally issuing him an invitation.

Upon arrival at Anna's home, he is shocked to discover that Anna has hired Sophie Viner to be the governess for her daughter Effie. Just as he's recovering from this shock, he learns that Owen Leath, Anna's step-son, is planning to marry Sophie, against the wishes of the family matriarch, his grandmother. Anna has decided to support Owen in this family struggle and attempts to enlist George's aid.

Life becomes a series of crises and resolutions. One problem arises, and it is resolved, only to have another appear, which is soon solved, supposedly.
This results in an extremely high level of tension throughout much of the work, especially after Darrow finally is allowed to visit Anna. This is something I usually don't find in her novels.

Eventually George and Sophie's prior encounter comes out, and this has an effect on Owen's feelings towards Sophie. Moreover, Anna finds she can no longer trust George, even though she loves him. She realizes that she can't tell when he is lying and when he is telling the truth.

One can see some interesting parallels in the work. The POV character in the first part is George while Anna is given that role in the second part. In the first part, both George and Anna are closely involved with young and attractive people--George with Sophie and Anna with Owen. In fact she decided to put off George's visit because she wanted to spend some more time with Owen. And, ironically, it was this brought George and Sophie together, just as her decision to hire Sophie as governess brought Owen and Sophie together. Also during the first part, George needs to meet with Sophie several times to clarify some ambiguities in their relationship, while in the second part, it's Anna who finds it necessary to meet with Sophie for clarification.

The Reef is the perfect title for this work because a reef is a hidden barrier, rock or coral, that would sink a ship that runs across it. And, so it is with this novel. Anna's letter that put off George's visit has tragic consequences for all four people.

There is a film version of this, but unfortunately it is not yet available on Netflix. Guess I'll just have to wait awhile.

Overall Rating: one of my favorite works by Edith Wharton.


The Guns of Navarone, a film
Based on the novel of the same name by Alastair MacLean

This is a World War II adventure film. The British fleet must rescue several thousand British troops from an island in the Aegean Sea. Unfortunately the only approach to the island is controlled by two huge radar-controlled German guns. To attempt a rescue with those guns operable would be suicidal. Bombardment by sea and from the air has proved ineffectual. Somebody is going to have to go there and destroy them--a j0b for the Mission Impossible Team. And as in all good caper films, a team is made up, each member having a special talent.

It's a good solid war action film, which lacks the usual superhuman stunts frequently found in such films. The problems are realistic and they survive because the Germans are human also, and not Teutonic supermen nor, and the other hand, are they the mindless dolts often found in war films. The team just barely survives a storm which destroys their boat, and they lose much of their equipment. It also becomes evident that the Germans are aware of their plans because every place they go, the Germans are there, waiting for them. The question is whether there was a spy at the British HQ where the plans were made or there is a traitor among them.

Racking up the tension level a few steps higher is the relationship between the Peck character and the Quinn character. They have a history and at the beginning of the mission, when Peck and Quinn meet, Quinn says that after the mission is completed, he will kill Peck.

What makes this film stand out is its cast:
Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Irene Pappas, David Niven, Richard Harris, Anthony Quayle, Stanley Baker, and Gia Scala.

Overall Rating: good solid action film, with a sufficiently satisfying and explosive ending, and a great cast, who could read the telephone book and make it worth the price of admission.


Malla Nunn
A Beautiful Place to Die
Mystery Novel, police procedural
South Africa

A Beautiful Place to Die is Malla Nunn's first novel and is a very good first novel. I'm looking forward to the second in the series.

The place is Jacob's Falls, a small village outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, and the time is the early 1950's, shortly after the apartheid laws were passed by the parliament. Detective inspector Emanuel Cooper has been sent from Johannesburg to Jacob's Rest, for the white captain of the local police force has died, and Cooper's job was simply to make a report to his superiors. Upon arrival though, he finds that Captain Pretorius has obviously been murdered.
Cooper is now in a difficult situation; he must investigate the murder of a police officer in a small town which, like all small towns, views outsiders with suspicion.

Cooper's job is made more difficult by the separation of the races by the newly passed laws. Fortunately Shabalala, the black constable (and probably destined, because of his color, to remain a constable forever) was a close friend of the captain, having grown up together, and proves to be an invaluable aid to Cooper whenever he had to deal with the black Africans.

Another obstacle is the presence of members of the Special Branch Section, who are little better than thugs with badges. They believe the murder was committed by communist black agitators as part of their plan to instigate a revolt against the rule of the white Afrikaners. Consequently they ignore any evidence that points elsewhere. Fortunately Cooper is ignored by them and is able to conduct his own clandestine investigation under the cover of a search for a peeping tom who has been active for several months. Constable Shabalala, since he is assisting the Special Branch investigators, manages to work with Cooper and provides information about the "official investigation" of the SB officers.

As could be predicted, Coooper's investigation reveals the many dark secrets that lurk in the closets of most of the people in Jacob's Falls, and some of those secrets are relevant, while others, of course, are embarrassing but have little to do with the ongoing investigation. Even Cooper himself, we find, has his own problems that while quiescent now could mean the end of his career.

One of the most perplexing secrets isn't revealed in this volume; all we get are a few clues about the puzzle that is Zweigman, the Jewish storekeeper. Cooper discovers that Zweigman has some medical training. As his investigation proceeds, Cooper realizes that Zweigman, in fact, is a trained surgeon. This is not simply a case of an immigrant with medical training that is not acceptable in his new home. Zweigman has been licensed to practice medicine; therefore it is his choice to run a small store in a very small town. We never do find out his story, but at the end, he has decided to take up a medical practice and is preparing to leave for Johannesburg. Since Cooper also lives and works in Johannesburg, I hope he will play a role in the next novel.

Nunn skillfully interweaves the apartheid setting into the plot, so that it isn't just something included for atmosphere but an integral part of the investigation. The apartheid laws were intended to maintain a separation among the whites and the black Africans and the Asians in South Africa, but it was too late. Cooper's investigation demonstrates just how closely the races are intertwined. While the laws were designed to keep the black Africans in their place, the laws also handicapped the whites, for they also had lost a certain freedom because of the laws.

The second book in the series, Let the Dead Lie, is due out in hardbound and trade paperback editions on April 20, 2010.

Overall Rating: The novel has a sufficiently, but not overly, complex plot and several interesting characters whom I hope will be in the second book, and I'm definitely going to read the second book.


Bruce Sterling
Involution Ocean, an SF novel

Moby Dick meets Dune.

This is a slender novel, barely 180 pages in length. It lacks the depth and complexity of many of Sterling's other works, Schismatrix for example, but it is a satisfying read.

The story takes place on the planet Nullaqua, which perfectly describes the planet--no water. The ocean is actually dust. With strong winds and sails, ships sail across the dust as ships on earth do on water.

John Newhouse, the POV character, is persuaded by those living in his boarding house to sign aboard a dustwhaler in order to get a supply of syncophrine. Syncophrine is a mind altering drug, highly prized for its highs, even though long usage leads inevitably to death. Syncophrine is the product of the dustwhales, who live only in the great sea of dust on Nullaquam, as spice is produced only by the great sandworms in Herbert's Dune.

Captain Desperandum of the good ship Lunglance, though no Captain Ahab, still has his obsession, which like Captain Ahab's, is bound to result in a tragedy. Deperandum's obsession is science. On board he conducts various scientific experiments that take them away from the dustwhale habitats. Moreover, his experiments frequently are dangerous and often put various members of the crew, as well as himself, at risk. Desperandum, like Ahab, is doomed by his obsession.

And, as on so many planets, things aren't what they appear to be. Humans, Newhouse discovers, aren't the only sapient creatures on the planet. Something, unknown so far to the humans, lives beneath the surface of the dust.

Newhouse also finds love aboard ship. Dalusa, an alien birdwoman, is the lookout for the ship. Their romance is mostly platonic for she is highly allergic to enzymes produced by human bodies and will break into a painful rash if touched by humans. At the end, Newhouse, like Ishmael, decides it's time to leave and goes his way the same way he arrived on Nullaqua, alone, but changed.

Overall Rating: This is Sterling's first novel, according to the Wikipedia entry, and while it isn't a complex or as well-developed as Schismatrix or some of his other works, it is an interesting and intriguing read--what appears to be a skillful blend of an 19th century classic and a 20th century SF novel.