Wednesday, January 7, 2009


This should be fun: instead of my usual three-part review, I'll try to cram it all into one. Today's book is Seabird, by Sherry Thompson.

Since the synopsis has been done to death, I think I'll just mention that there's a world called Narenta that keeps getting into trouble that requires outside (=terrestrial) assistance. The current problem is that a trio of homicidal wizards is on the loose, threatening the place with war and other re-runs.

The solution is Cara, a teenager who would rather get back home, even if it isn't Kansas. Her problems begin when she gets an objet d'art shaped like a seabird. She doesn't even notice the MADE IN NARENTA tag. If she had, she would've thought it was someplace in China. But faster than you can say "floccinaucinihilipilification" backwards in Pig Latin, she finds herself on a strongly bird-themed alien world. She tries to un-volunteer herself from her Great Mission, thereby proving that she doesn't follow Spider-Man comics, where the primary moral is that if you don't beat up the robber, your saintly uncle will die, giving you a complex for the rest of your natural-born days.

So rather than help out the relatively nice people who try to befriend her, she decides to pick whatever's behind Door #2, hoping it will send her home out of the goodness of its heart or similar organ. As a result, Bad Things Happen, The Innocent Suffer, and Reviewers Begin Capitalizing Gratuitously.

I Hate When That Happens.

Will Cara straighten out and do the right thing? That would be telling!

Some points worth noting:

Awe. The emphasis on the awe experienced in God's presence is a good thing in this age where God Is My Buddy. We have lost the proper sense of awe, so reminders are welcome.

Consequences. As mentioned above, blowing off your call can get others hurt. Rebellion and other sins hurt and kill innocent people.

Violence. Quite a lot of it. The Narenta stories are set in times of war, so people tend to die, and sometimes it isn't pretty. It's not generally gory, either, and, given the setting, not particularly gratuitous either.

Magic. Some people automatically reject the idea that godly characters could use magic. But it depends on what magic is in the story. In the real world, magic uses demonic power to try to circumvent God's law. But in stories, magic may be a secondary form of natural law (as in the Chronicles of Narnia) or even an alternative form of technology. In Seabird, magic appears to be a spiritual phenomenon with essentially the predictability of physical law. That's a bit of an odd combination, and some may find it reminiscent of the modern search for formulas in the Christian life, beginning with the Sinner's Prayer (curiously, promoted even by those who despise other written prayers) and continuing through methods to achieve prosperity, get prayers answered, and otherwise manipulate God. So the complications here should be discussed by parents with teenage readers.

Slowness. Seabird is rather slow initially, though it picks up once the bad guys show up.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.


TWCP Authors said...

I am not a reader of fantasy, so as is the norm for me, found some concepts confusing. Once I stopped dwelling on how fantasy characters were supposed to act (e.g./ who were the good guys/ bad guys) in "real" life, I was able to read through the book quickly and with a lot of enjoyment.

Your post is witty as usual, Mr. Rice. I am puzzled, however, at your choice of "floccinaucinihilipilification." I know you choose words with precision/ intent.


xanthorpe said...

As reviews go, I liked this one a lot! I'm all for technical, stuffy, literary doubletalk - if you're reviewing Ayn Rand - but Seabird is a, um, bird of another feather altogether...sorry Sherry :-)

Steve, your style also bodes well for me reading LoS if I can ever pry it from the 15-year-old hands of my son.

Please don't enter me for the Seabird drawing; I try not to be greedy. I won a copy of LoS during last month's blog tour and besides, I already have two copies of Seabird (at least).

This is a tremendous thing that CFRB is doing and I've already sent a link to a local Christian radio station (WEGS 91.7FM) to try and score you all some free advertising. Not sure if they've plugged CFRB yet but I'm praying they do.

Great work Steve and great novel Sherry!!


ForstRose said...

I agree it started out slow but as I also mention in my review that seems to be the case in most fantasies partly due to a need to introduce the reader to the alternate worlds that make up the settings.

David said...

Well, I guess I'm among friends. I found it slow getting off the ground, even confusing at times, but once the story got going, it really got going good. As a C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien fan I wasn't bothered by this at all. You see, it took me 5 chapters to get into The Lord of the Rings, but I am so glad I stuck it out. I've since read the trilogy several times over (to the point where I wore out the paperback boxed set and now have a hardcover boxed set that is starting to show wear). Sherry's world of Narenta is like Middle Earth or Narnia and needs some explanation to get things started. I'll probably read her books several times over as well.

David Brollier

cathikin said...

You know I always look forward to your reviews, fake, faux, or otherwise. Even when they're totally serious. Anyway, all that to say this was another winner. Now I have to find a dictionary and see if that long word is real. Most of us would have settled for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious...

Rick said...

Spiffy review, Steve.

Cast the story in a different light. ;)

UtM, SherryT said...

Steve, thanks for the comical crit!
Please forgive me for transcribing a recent post to the Lost Genre Guild list. I know that not everyone commenting here is a member there.

I looked it up on Wikipedia. Two entries in the Usage section sparked my interest:

* Sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s, the word was used on BBC Radio 4's (then the BBC Home Service) "Round the Horne." The cast were discussing the Flanders and Swann song, "Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud;" one member argued that any word could be substituted for 'mud', and Kenneth Horne tried out 'floccinaucinihilipilification'. It didn't work very well.

"Food" makes a great substitute for "mud" in that song. I was dieting the first time I heard the song, and immediately made up my own version,

"Food! Food!
Glorious Food!
Nothing quite like it
When you're in the mood!
So, follow me! Follow!
And we will swallow
Gobs and gobs
Of glorious food!"

* In the 13th episode of Pinky and the Brain, the word with its definition was mixed in with the rest of the rolling credits.

I never noticed that -- and I was a big P&tB fan. I used to stand directly in front of the TV and sing along with the opening credits when the show started.

'Course, I was much younger then.

Uh. In my fifties.

Under the Mercy,

p.s. I've posted a new summary of the "Seabird" blog tour entries at:!

p.p.s. Re Steve's review of Seabird -- it's not only funny, he didn't once perform the act of floccina...whatever on the work he was reviewing. Thanks Steve!

Steve said...

We have a winner for "Longest Comment." I'd send her a copy of Seabird, but I think she already has one.

UtM, SherryT said...

Steve said...
We have a winner for "Longest Comment."
Well, I couldn't compete with you for the longest word.

Actually, no one should be surprised. When was the last time you saw a YA book that ran to almost 350 pages?

Dave said...

"Made in Narenta." Love it! Thanks to everyone who reviewed this book. I'm proud to have it as one of the first-ever Gryphonwood novels.

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