Lost at Sea and Promised Land

In the stress of the earthquake in Japan and the following tsunamis I completely forgot about my column, which was only half done when the earthquake struck. It's a day late and I apologize. If you read this before Sunday morning and wish to assist in disaster recovery you might want to read Maureen Johnson's post and donate to ShelterBox. She's running a contest and has many prizes to give to those who give, including ARCs of not yet released, highly anticipated novels. http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com/2011/03/11/shelterbox-in-japan/

Lost at Sea

Lost at Sea is by Bryan Lee O'Malley, author of the Scott Pilgrim comics. It's also a graphic novel, with the same style of art as Scott Pilgrim; deceptively simple, while still being evocative and charming. Like Scott Pilgrim this story is about young people, college students in this case. Raleigh is the girl who is lost at sea, adrift in confusion and grief. She's on a road trip with some other students from her prestigious school but she doesn't feel she fits in with them. She further isolates herself by listening to music on her mp3 player, effectively making a wall between her and the other students.

Raleigh is haunted by loss and cats. She had a best friend but doesn't anymore and seems to have lost the knack of making new friends. She feels uncomfortable no matter her social setting and has a litany of negative thoughts running through her mind. She sees cats everywhere she goes and they swarm through her dreams. She's also pretty sure she no longer has a soul.

Lost at Sea is the title of the book but it also describes how I felt after I read it. I wasn't sure if the confusing parts were metaphor or if I missed something. There's something about a letter being extremely important, and unread, that puzzled me. And the part about the cats and the soul seemed to just peter out. So I was confused. But, I loved this book. It perfectly nails what it's like to be young, alienated and on the outside looking in.

Promised Land
I've been suffering through a terrible bout of insomnia, the kind where you don't fall asleep until four am and then you wake and can't get back to sleep. The only advantage is that I have more time to read. (I give myself a time limit of trying to get back to sleep, then do something else until either it's time for work or I finally sleep.) Promised Land by Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice was the perfect book to help pass the time. No monsters or slashers or anything else that would make me too nervous to sleep. It's a sweet love story that takes place on a planet with very little in the way of luxury.

As the story begins Delanna is returning to her home planet of Keramos, a place she despises, to settle her mother's estate. She plans to stay for less than a day then go back to her pampered life. She is equipped with a return ticket, just enough money to see the attorney, a change of clothes and her exotic pet Cleo. A vet promptly confiscates Cleo and plans to destroy her to keep her from spreading disease to the native fauna. Delanna can't stop him but a handsome and extremely flirtatious stranger helps her get a thirty day reprieve, giving her time to take her pet back off world.

She's appalled when she meets Sonny Tanner, the son of the joint owner of her mother's estate. He's an oaf, dragging around a wagon full of geese and speaking in monosyllables. You can imagine how horrified Delanna is when she is told she has to stay on the planet, on her remote farm, for a year or lose everything. And in the best romantic tradition she and the doltish Sonny are forced into marriage. She can leave the planet with only a tiny bit of money to sustain her or she can tough it out.

This story has the traditional romance tropes like a love triangle, the city slicker stuck in the frontier, a pampered and selfish heroine, who goes through some character growth and of course true love. But it also has a well drawn world with fascinating flora and fauna. I particularly liked the way we see how the animals interact with the plant life. I'm a sucker for stories set on frontier planets so this book was a natural for me.

Bonus Treat:
Ryan Pequin writes a deceptively simple comic called three word phrase, which is quite funny. He can also write bittersweet poignant works like this nineteen page comic called The Walk. http://www.topshelfcomix.com/ts2.0/the_walk/1 If you really love this story you can buy it here: http://www.threewordphrase.com/buythewalk.htm.