Author: Ben and Gabs Roman

The Fifth Season

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This month Novel Ideas discusses The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. This is a recently published fantasy novel, released this summer, so those of you who are inclined to worry about spoilers: There will be spoilers. In this episode we talk about interesting narrative structure, justifiable anger, cast diversity, and slavery parallels. We also mention that Atlantis is not a thing, pirates with ambiguous sexuality, systematic oppression (and why it is bad), and why one shouldn’t ignore a floating amethyst Washington Monument outside of their window.

The music bump is “Lava Lands” by Jeff Lorber, created by his brain, but not violent enough to sunder a continent. Kinda funky though.

99 – The Fifth Season – Brain Volcanoes

Our rating: We were in agreement that this might be the best thing we’ve read this year and not just limiting that to books read for the podcast.

Ben: 10/10. Great world building with deep and complex characters. Not to mention a heavy dose of badass.

Gabs: 9/10 Rings. Lots of unanswered mysteries, but cast diversity is greatly appreciated.

Girl in the Road

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Novel Ideas is back for another month of sibling book-related antics. This time with The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne. We chose this book as part of our ongoing campaign to read more fiction about and/or by non-white, non-male authors. In this episode we discuss women in science fiction, elements of good world building, travel narratives, and feminism. We also talk about partially digested (probably not) snakes, how not to share your Golden Meaning, give advice on whether to murder (hint: no), and strange personal belief systems.

The music bump is “The Road” by Tenacious D.

98 – Girl in the Road – Classic Cotagonists

Our rating:

A different spin on the travel narrative with an ending full of “wat.”

Ben: 7/10. Not knowing what was going on for at least half of the story did not prevent me from enjoying it.

Gabs: 7/10. Points for the concept, but deductions for the confusion.

Sherlock Holmes

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This week’s episode of Novel Ideas is about three short stories from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon, discussing “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” “Scandal in Bohemia,” and “The Final Solution.” We discuss the light characterization, feminism, various adaptations, and Victorian writing style. We also talk about Sherlock Holmes as a prank show, Holmes’s dickery, whether its secretly a monster of the week show, and badass Irene Adler spin offs.

A couple of administrative notes: This episode was recorded in the spring, so some of the information is out of date. I think most of the inaccuracies are self evident. For example, it is no longer May and we already posted our episode on Andy Weir’s The Martian. There are some minor technical issues, but hopefully nothing too distracting. I erased a long stretch of Gabs’s voice skipping like a scratched CD, but left in some our comments afterward because they amused me. Also, the Novel Ideas e-mail is no longer in service. Oh yeah, and we didn’t plug Minerva! We’re part of the Minerva Mag Podcast Network! Check it out!

The music bump is “Discombobulate” by Hans Zimmer, the theme from the 2009 Guy Ritchie film adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes – Victorian Gentleman Bro

Our ratings:

It’s been quite a while, so no numerical ratings. We’d have to split them across three different stories anyway. We both thought “The Final Problem” was pretty uninteresting, but the other two stories were pretty good. If you haven’t ever read any Holmes, check out “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” which is probably the most representative of the overall Holmes canon.

Go Set A Watchman

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Novel Ideas returns with a rare venture into the topical, reading Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, the very hyped “sequel” to To Kill A Mockingbird. In this episode, we discuss why the word “sequel” might by appropriately contained within quotation marks, the murky ethics of this book’s publication, racism, and (of course) feminism. We also talk about whether this story takes place in a closely parallel alternate universe, shoddy research standards, how to get someone’s attention without backhanding them, and Ben’s utter lack of interest in Hank. And for a special bonus, we get at least two good Gabs rampages.

The sound quality is a little odd this week as I tried to use a more sensitive recording set up, but forgot to kill the fan in the background. Our voices are clearly audible, but the background is white noise city. My apologies. -Ben

The music bump this week is “I Wanna Go Back to Dixie” by Tom Lehrer, a satirical take on songs that glorify the south and things commonly associated with the south.

96 – Go Set A Watchman – Everyone Is People

Our Ratings:

Ben: 5/10. The flaws in the writing and Atticus’s heel turn bother me less than the fact that if TKAM didn’t exist, this book wouldn’t stand up for ten seconds under its own merit.

Gabs: 4/10. Didn’t hate it, but it was too unpolished. Also annoyed that a book dealing with racial issues only had black people in one scene.

Wuthering Heights

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Welcome to a very special episode of Novel Ideas. This week we join the Minerva podcast network. If you found us through Minerva Magazine, we’re pleased to have you! A quick word of warning: this podcast contains some adult language, so if that concerns you, consider this fair warning. Our spoiler policy generally doesn’t matter as much for classics, but you should also be aware that we spoil anything and everything because we want to be able to discuss everything in the book in detail.

For this episode we read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, a classic love story that might not be either of those things. We discuss those points as well as 19th century literary devices, the dangers of passion, Victorian values, and (of course) feminism. We also examine why it isn’t okay to hang puppies, weird hate auras, modern adaptations, and the questionable biology surrounding Victorian pregnancy.

The music bump is “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush, which is apparently sung from the point of view of Cathy’s ghost.

95 – Wuthering Heights – Hanging Puppy Love

Our ratings: All of the characters are terrible people, but at least it isn’t very fun to watch them interact.

Ben: 3/10. I didn’t enjoy reading it even a little bit. One extra point subtracted for having multiple instances of puppy hanging.

Gabs: 3.5/10. An extra half point awarded for demonstrating the healing power of reading.

The Martian

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For those of you who were expecting Sherlock Holmes… it has mysteriously disappeared. In its place is The Martian by Andy Weir, a hard science fiction account of a lone man  surviving on the surface of Mars. We recorded this one with special guest, Adam Milton. In this episode we discuss the resourcefulness of astronauts, the geniuses at NASA, the realities of running an organization, and the power of the human spirit. We also comment on the lack of rain on Mars, the likely effects of months of loneliness on our respective psyches, wacky parody sequels, and potatoes. Because potatoes, that’s why.

The music bump is “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees because it is Mark Watney’s theme song, even if only through an utter lack of alternatives.

94 – The Martian – Snark Tank

Our ratings:

Gabs: 7/10 potatoes. It’s a good book if you’re stuck on a bus.

Ben: 8/10. Big points for science and snark!

Adam: 8/10. For managing to make science interesting.

Schedule Update

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We have decided on our next episode of Novel Ideas! We will be reading three short stories from the Sherlock Holmes canon, written by Arthur Conan Doyle. The three we have chosen are: Scandal in Bohemia, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, and The Final Problem. We’re hoping to record next week and have the episode posted some time during the week of April 13.