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A couple of administrative notes: This episode was recorded in the spring, so some of the information is out of date.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.

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.


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Novel Ideas is back! At least for this week. The plan had been to get this episode up around the time the movie was released, so expect a lot of hedging on estimates of when new episodes will be released. Adding context makes comments about having more content up by the end of the year more understandable, more amusing, and a bit more shameful. At any rate, here is Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, perhaps you’ve heard of it? If you listen, you will hear discussions about PTSD, the morality of war, weaknesses of characterization, and-dare I say it?-feminism. Not to mention messing with the shippers, different varieties of tridents, the curative power of babies in fiction, and why Gale is the worst.

If the audio quality seems off, we recorded and mixed this on a new rig. So Gabs is present via the power of the internet rather than the power of sitting at a table and may sound like she is present via the power of two tin cans linked by a string. Our apologies. Expect more of it. Eventually.

The music bump is “Back on the Streets Again” by the always timely Tower of Power.

93 – Mockingjay – The Bad Guys Would Eat Its Meat

Our ratings:

Ben: 8/10. A more mature story than the first two with less action, but more interesting discussion points.

Gabs: 7.5/10 Peetas. (And zero Gales because he is terrible.) The book has some issues, but damn it, it’s trying.


‘night Mother

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After an unscheduled delay caused mostly by a certain male sibling’s recent life changes/laziness, Novel Ideas returns with ‘night Mother by Marsha Norman. We read this play because it is award winning and unlike our previous two plays, written by a female playwright. We brought back special guest Jessica Showers (at least at the time of recording) because she works in the theater industry. In this episode, we discuss women and Broadway, depression, conformity, and detachment. We also talk about the possibility of cotagonists, Sno Balls (and how they are the worst), candy, and a few terrible alternate endings.

The music bump is “Communication” by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and was inspired by our discussion of the theme of the play.

‘night Mother – Suicide is Hard to Joke About


An award winning play that would definitely be worth seeing staged. Is it worth reading? Tougher question to answer.

Gabs: 7/10. Interesting, but hasn’t stuck with me completely.

Ben: 7/10. About the same.

Angels in America

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Our drama push continues this week on Novel Ideas with Angels in America by Tony Kushner, a very long two part play about… AIDS, maybe? This is a massive work, resulting in a longer than average episode where we mostly thrash about and try to figure out what various fantastical occurrences actually mean. In this episode, we discuss change, reluctant prophets, conservatism, and homosexuality. We also talk about why Tony Kushner won’t be appearing on the podcast, stupid alternate titles, chewing down a tree, and try to figure out what’s up with Joe. In the angelic realm alone, we examine the sexual habits of angels (always banging), the genitalia of angels (many and varied), and how angels maintain creation (mostly via jizz, as it turns out).

The music bump is “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” not merely as yet another one of Ben’s terrible attempts at humor, but also because it actually appears in the play, though perhaps not in a traditional context.

Angels in America – Angels Be Crazy


A very lengthy play (actually two plays) that is rather confusing to read at times because it’s supposed to be staged. Still has some power and effect though.

Gabs: 7/8 angelic vaginas.

Ben: 8/10 bouquets of phalli.