Things To Do On Page 82 Reviews

Things To Do On Page 82 Reviews!
Read page 82 out of a variety of intriguing books! Filter all the entries by clicking on their labels to find books in your genre! Vote on whether the page makes you want to read more! Muse on what you've read with a comment or two! What could be more fun?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Page 82 of A Talent For War

    Lost pilot,
    She rides her solitary orbit
    Far from Rigel,
    Seeking by night
    The starry wheel.
    Adrift in ancient seas,
    It marks the long year round,
    Nine on the rim,
    Two at the hub.
    And she,
    Knows neither port,
    Nor rest,
    Nor me.

Rigel had only one association: Sim's death. But what did the rest of it mean? The notes suggested that the poet had considered the work complete. And there was no evidence that the editors found anything baffling about it. Of course, one almost expects to be puzzled by great poetry, I suppose.

According to the introduction to Dark Stars, the first volume of the series, Walford Candles had been a professor of classical literature, had never married, and was not appreciated in his own time. A minor talent, his contemporaries had agreed.

To us, he is a different matter altogether.

The poignancy of the sacrifices required by the men and women who fought with Christopher Sim shines everywhere in his work. Most of the poems in Dark Stars, News from the Front, and On the Walls purport to have been written in the Inner Room on Khaja Luan, while he waited to hear the inevitable about old friends who had gone to help the Dellacondans. Candles himself claimed to have offered his services, and been refused. No usable skills. Instead of fighting, his part became merely
    To stand and count the names of those
    Whose dust circles the gray worlds of Chippewa
    And Cormoral.

Candles watches from a dark-lit corner while young volunteers hold a farewell party. One raises an eye to the middle-aged poet, nods, and Candles inclines his head in silent salute.

On the night they learned about Chippewa, a prosperous

(From the Ace paperback edition, a later version of which can be found here.)
My Review:

When I crack open a science fiction book, I'm generally not expecting to find a poem as the first thing on the page. But here it is, an ode to a woman or perhaps a ship, adrift somewhere among the stars, restless and driven, forlorn perhaps, or hungering for something?

Then we hit narration, and it's clear right away that the narrator is trying to decipher this poem, which is related to someone's death -- Sim. By the end of the page, we know that this is Christopher Sim, apparently an important figure in some interstellar war, and one of its casualties as well. And we see hints not only of a grand and sweeping conflict, now long in the past, but also of a richness and reality to that conflict, because the main focus here is not a battle or a fleet or a leader, but a poet, left behind and using his own ill-suited gifts to do the only thing that he can, which is to chronicle the spirit of those doing the actual fighting.

What I love about this page is that absolutely nothing happens, and yet it simply explodes with understanding. You can't read it without knowing that there's a mystery afoot here. The narrator is on some intense search for knowledge, and both the poem and the war-torn historical epoch from which it comes must factor into the mystery. In a single page, the writer lets us know that this is a book full of resonances, packed with history, suspense, stirring military conflict, pathos, and even verse.

If you can read this page and not want to know more about Christopher Sim and his war, about the mysterious woman or ship adrift in the poem, and about why these things have importance and immediacy for the narrator, then you're a different kind of reader than I am.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Page 82 of The Gambler's Nephew

Biddle tried a small laugh, but it didn't quite work. Then he tried it again, and this time it came out a little better. "There's something I want to talk to you about," he said.

"What is it?" the boy asked, taking a half step backward.

"Whatever you do, don't start edging away," Biddle said. "Do you know something? People have been edging away from me all my life. Maybe that's why I'm sitting here in the cell. Maybe that's why I took to drink. They say that edging away will do it to somebody, and maybe that's where all my trouble began, do you suppose?"

"I wouldn't know about that," Loftus said.

"I just want to have a word with you."

"About what?" Loftus said.

"About how you can bring a bottle of Monongahela Rye every night for as long as I'll be around to drink it."

"You know I can't do that," Loftus told him.

"All right, then. Just one bottle the night before they string me up."

"I can't do that, either."

"Why, SURE you can. It'd be EASY!"

"No, I can't. It's not allowed."

"I said you CAN!" Biddle said. "I didn't say it was ALLOWED."

"What are you talking about?" Loftus said, narrowing his eyes the way he always did when he started to get interested, for the distinction Biddle insisted upon verged upon being clever -- especially for a devoted tosspot.

"What I'm talking about is ... I don't think I can face the gallows without whiskey."

"You've got a Bible there."

Loftus frowned. "I know, and I appreciate it. I don't think I could do it without a Bible, either. But I've already GOT the

(Details about the book here)
My Review

A great line can get cut off in the middle and still put a smile on your face, and the last line of this page certainly does that. But there’s a lot more to it than the last line. Sentence by sentence, the writing here gives us a terrific picture of the situation. First, Biddle’s difficulty in forcing a laugh tells us that these are unusual circumstances -- and the fact that he’s trying to laugh makes him immediately sympathetic. But then the boy reacts with suspicion when Biddle says he wants to talk. What’s going on?

Well, it turns out that Biddle is in a cell, so perhaps our sympathy was misplaced. Still, it’s hard not to empathize with someone whose troubles may have started with others edging away from him. Plainly, Biddle has lived a hard life and regrets it.

Suddenly, we learn the hard truth: Biddle is not just imprisoned, but scheduled to hang.

And yet he still maintains a sense of humor, making two more wisecracks after he’s raised the specter of the noose. Furthermore, he’s not only funny, but logical. He looks to be arguing Loftus firmly into a corner, despite the boy’s reluctance to smuggle whiskey into the jail.

Your mileage may vary, but by the end of this page, I really want to know why Biddle has been sentenced to death, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want him to get killed. With just a few paragraphs of dialogue to go on, I’m already heavily invested in this character, wanting to know more, wanting to find out what happens.

Situation, character, dialogue, thought -- a great page has them all, and this one does.

Page 28 of Chasing the Ghost

“He taught you the suffering of love. A lesson that nothing is permanent. You thought that you would be together for eternity. A childish promise. Do you forget this love and the lessons that came from it so easily?”

“I don’t want to remember. It doesn’t matter.” snapped The Woman, folding her arms across her chest, hiding her vulnerability.

“You are missing him. You are missing this first relationship, the basis of all you of deeper interaction with others.” The girl paused, waiting for a glint of recognition from The Woman. Finding none, she went on.

“Are you satisfied?” asked the teenage girl, motionless, expressionless. “Do you find what you are longing for in the affairs of a lonely teenager?”

The Woman narrowed her amber eyes, the sting of insult creeping. “I don’t want to miss anything. I want to see his memories. Be part of them. I want to share his happiness and be there to comfort his pain. A lifetime together.”

“A life together is shared experiences. Not living as a single entity. The choice you are making ensures that you have nothing to offer him, when it is possible to do so. The more of him you absorb, the more of you is replaced.” the teenager advised. “What are the names of your children?” she challenged, the darkness swirling around them.

The Woman smiled genuine at the mention of her children. “They are beautiful. With wide, blue eyes and blonde hair, just like Johnny. They look just like him.”

“What are the names of your children?” the teenager asked again, her tone an exact replica of her previous question.

The Woman could not answer the question but continued to smile, reveling in her children’s similarities to their father, in their heritage, in their hands that mirrored his, in their expressions that she had seen so many times in him.

Having proven its point, the voice disappeared taking it’s physical form along with it, leaving The Woman to stew in her thoughts. She savored what could have been a memory but was lost without definition and purpose.

(Page submitted by the author, A. Grams; ebook available here and here)
My Review

This page presents an intriguing puzzle, with its nameless characters and ambiguous setting. By paragraph six, though, we get the clues that, when taken along with the book’s title, tell us these are both ghosts speaking, and that they’re talking about some form of haunting in which the Woman is absorbing or possessing her former husband.

The elements of obsession and the psychology of the Woman’s inability to face certain aspects of her past are likewise enticing, and create a dark mood.

On the down side, there are moments in which the author is too overt for my tastes, as when the Woman folds her arms, “hiding her vulnerability.” The gesture alone tells me all I need to know; the added description is redundant. Later, the phrase, “in their heritage,” is similarly extraneous. The sentence it appears in would be stronger without it.

These and other slips of prose suggest to me a writer with some maturing to do. When the girl repeats her question, in a tone that’s “an exact replica of her previous question,” the author uses seven words to awkwardly convey what could have been accomplished simply with one: “unwavering.” Then there’s the muddled metaphor of “the sting of insult creeping.” A sting can be an action (the sting of a wasp) or a sensation (the sting of wasp venom taking effect in one’s skin). In neither case can a sting literally creep, though you can make a metaphor out of the sensation: “The sting of the wasp’s venom crept across my skin.” When you go further, and have the sting be metaphoric as well, you’re mixing metaphors, never a good idea. And to me, the sting of insult is an action, so having it “creep” is contradictory. I had to stop and think the phrase through to come up with an interpretation that made sense: the feeling of the insult’s emotional sting spreading or increasing in scope. A writer should never force a reader to do that much work to understand a piece of figurative language; it subverts the whole point of writing figuratively.

A last point: given the ambiguous terms used to identify the characters, I found it odd that the one named character had such a thoroughly generic name, “Johnny.” The notion of a woman pining for a man named “Johnny” just seemed very cliched to me.

There’s some promise in the concepts presented here, but the execution undermines that promise a bit too much to draw me in.

(Note: this is a page 28 review because the work is a novella less than 82 pages long.)

Page 82 of Diary of a Small Fish

Rinaldo paid us a visit, cleared Shannon’s clean plate, coaxed us into sharing some black forest cake and Fonseca twenty year-old and bustled away.

“After a few weeks, she called me and asked if it was okay to sell the pieces. I said, ‘you mean someone wants to pay money for them?’ and she said ‘fifteen thousand for the two.’”

“Holy shit.”

“No foolin’. That was more money than I’d ever seen at one time. So I sold them and gave her a few more. When perfect strangers looked at my work, I felt unbearably vulnerable. I couldn’t even attend my own show.”

She sat lost in thought for a moment, and then with a sudden, fierce intensity she continued, “You have to learn to feel that way about everything you do. Especially with love. When you are fearless about sharing anything in your heart, you are truly in love.” The fingertips of her hand clutched together upturned, her delicate chin leading the rest of her body pressing forward toward me.

Her words made my heart quicken and thump against my sternum. A racket of clacking plates and laughter and chatter caromed off the stark marble walls and as I stared at her the noises seemed to come together to form a crystalline bubble around us. I must have been looking at her oddly.

“What the fuck did I say?”

“I felt like we were on our own planet for a second.”

She guffawed at that—I don’t know why—and I could hear her laughter echo off the walls. I scanned the crowd to see many eyes cast her way and felt proud to be with her.

Rinaldo showed up at the wrong time again, using cake and port as his weapons. But even he couldn’t break the spell. Shannon paid him no mind and he flounced off.

“We can never come back here again, you know.”

(Page submitted by the author, Pete Morin; more about the book here)
My Review

It’s hard to say no to dinner and romance and cake and wine, especially when it includes the passionate intensity of an artist in the grip of newfound success. It’s also hard to say no when an author makes things so clear with such economy. For instance, Rinaldo’s character comes vividly across despite the fact that we have no dialogue from him on this page; he is captured perfectly through his few simple actions, especially in the choice of verbs that is used to describe them. Similarly, the dialogue we do have is mostly missing its “she said” and “I said” cues, but the author has arranged the speakers’ actions and words in such a way that we’re never confused who is saying what, and he therefore has the good sense to leave out the extraneous verbiage identifying the speaker.

If I were to quibble with this page, I’d say it would benefit from a flash of Shannon’s eyes or a waft of her perfume just as she speaks the words that so engage our narrator’s heart. But for all I know, those details appear on page 81 or page 83, and the motion of her hand and form may be all that’s needed within context.

All in all, a skilled page from a writer who seems to know what he’s doing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Page 82 of Crystal Shade

“Come, Pilly,” her quavering voice whispered to the small sapphire pillow clutched in her arms. “Let’s find mommy and daddy,” she finally decided. Angeni’s soul needed to leave her haven before it could be caught up and carried away by the wind; certainly, before those terrifying doors came to eat her.

The cold marble floor chilled Angeni’s bare feet as she gathered all her bravery and stepped out of the sanctuary. Like a soft breeze, the curtain ran ghostly fingers over her shoulders as it slowly parted to reveal the long dark corridor ahead of her. Her large wings resting on her back, her white saree clung to her graceful body. Terrified and shaken, her hem rippled when took her first steps into the unknown. Columns stood silent sentry and beautifully carved angel statues peeked from the shadows. Many candles on the pedestals slept in silence. Some just put out by the wind that rushed past the curtains on the small stone windows.

Misted by errant rain, she stroked her little pillow, her only friend, Pilly who gave her a sense of safety. Her hesitant steps drew her down the endless corridor. The desperation of this fragile, mature, yet newborn Aserian woman was nearly hidden on her icy calm face. Though terrified, she was awed by the beauty as she looked around. Her curious eyes mirrored the great inner fears of the lonely soul. She tried to find someone, a familiar face in the crouching shadows, someone who could be with her, anyone. That kind Aserian man and woman she had considered father and mother. She wished her mother held her under her protective wings while her father ordered the storm with his fatherly voice to calm down – at least this is what her young soul dreamed and imagined.

“Mother? Father?” her soft angelic tone called, but no answer came. “Where are you?” she asked almost silently. Like magic, a blurry memory rushed into her mind and forced the young guardian to stop.

Grace, a woman’s kind echoing voice called in her mind. The young guardian had to reach out to the closest column for support. The faces she had seen for a moment were her real parents, she felt it; she knew it. But they were human, not the Aserians she looked for. Who were they? And who is Grace, the little girl in her dream? Was she still dreaming?

As fast as it came, the vision retreated once again in her mind as she shook her head. So confused, breathing faster and faster, the young guardian took one step, and then another. As she arrived under the stone arch at the end of the corridor, her legs rooted to the spot. She didn’t dare go further. Two dark motionless silhouettes waited and watched her from the large dim hall beyond. They terrified her. The silent strangers were not her mom and dad. Angeni looked back to the other end of the long corridor. Her safe sanctuary, which was still intact bravely stood against

(Page submitted by the authors, Istvan Szabo Ifj and Orlanda Szabo; ebook available here, here, and here)
My Review

Too many adjectives!

Conceptually, this page is intriguing. We have a sympathetic young protagonist in an eerie setting. Apparently, there are carnivorous doors in this environment, and the architecture has an evocative feel. Angeni is in the midst of a crisis of parentage, and evidently a crisis of species as well.

But as interesting as those elements may be, the adjectives simply swamp them. What is the difference between, “Like a soft breeze, the curtain ran ghostly fingers over her shoulders” and “The curtain ghosted over her shoulders”? There’s no such thing as a harsh breeze, nor one that could run solid fingers over someone’s shoulders. When the extra words convey no added meaning or sensation, they’re just clogging up the works.

Sometimes, discretion is the better part of vocabulary. I'd probably be favorably impressed by a version of this page that cut the right third or half of its verbiage out.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Page 82 of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

“Papers,” the Switchpoint said in a faint, airy voice. Its eyes were hard brass balls, glinting with judgment.

September fished the little green book that Betsy Basilstalk had given her out of the inner pocket of the smoking jacket. The jacket was deeply pleased to have kept it safe for her. She held it up so the cherubic little face could examine it. It clucked imperiously.

“Ravished, eh? Haven’t seen one of you in a while.” The Switchpoint looked dubiously at A-Through-L, who scratched at the grass with one enormous claw.

“He’s my ... companion. My Wyvern,” said September hurriedly. She hoped he would not be too offended at being called hers.

“Do you have a Deed for him?”

The Wyverary drew himself up to his full height, which was considerable. “True servitude,” he said gently, “can only be voluntary. Surely, you know that. Surely, you once chose to stand here and frown at those who wish only to enter the city. Surely, you once did something else--sold gloves or frightened children at festivals--and chose this instead.”

The Switchpoint squinted up at him. “Were a soldier, we were,” it grumbled.

The great goat-hair gate drew back like a theatre curtain. Four of the hands at the base of the Switchpoint post began to work furiously, so fast the fingers blurred so that September could not even see them moving. Slowly, a deep scarlet scrap began to spread out from the post, weaving itself as it went, a little brass thumb sliding back and forth like a shuttle. It flowed on, raw, shimmering silk, under September’s shadowless feet and through the gate, stopping there, as if to beckon them onward.

September took a step forward. The hands blurred into industry again, and the scarlet path wove swiftly on into Pandemonium.

(From the hardback edition)
My Review

First off, if all books had titles as wonderful as this one's, I'd be forced to start a blog reviewing just the titles of books. But I don't have such a blog, and most books don't have such good titles, so on with the review.

What a whirl of concepts and characters this page is! In quite a short interval, we have five characters named if you include the smoking jacket ... and how can one not be intrigued at the notion of a smoking jacket as a character? Then there’s the categorization of September as “Ravished,” a fact apparently set forth in her green book of papers, her introduction of her companion, the idea that any mention of possession can imply that one should have a Deed ...

Without benefit of the previous 81 pages, the scene is a bit of a puzzle. We don’t know what a Switchpoint is and have only a few tidbits of description to go by; seemingly, the creature is an amalgam of many parts. Still, the situation is clear; September and her Wyvern are trying to enter a city (Pandemonium, one assumes from the final line), and the gatekeeper has challenged them. More or less everything in the scene is somehow magical, from the Switchpoint to the smoking jacket to the Wyvern (or Wyverary) to the goat-hair gate. The setting recalls the gates of Oz, with their recalcitrant gatekeeper and the magical road leading up to the city. But despite the tonal similarity, all of the details come across as highly original, and provoke one’s curiosity as well. Why are September’s feet shadowless? Why is the Wyvern serving her? What’s inside Pandemonium that attracts the pair?

And on top of all the imaginative details, we find in the middle of the page two elements that elevate this passage above mere fantastical storytelling: the notion that true servitude can only be voluntary, and also the implication that those who find themselves sour and unhappy with their lot in life perhaps have their own past choices to blame.

So: inventive, intriguing, and even philosophical. If I weren’t already reading this book, I would definitely start.

Page 82 of The Pattern

April 24, 1994
San Francisco, California

The two lovers heard the newspaper flop against the front door and watched the paper girl ride down the street on her BMX bike. Stacey slowly rose and retrieved the paper. When she got back to the kitchen, she spread the newspaper on the table. Her bloodshot eyes opened wide.

Stacey put down her muffin and looked at Craig. “Craig? Don’t you know somebody that works for the Air Force in Turkey?” she asked slowly with her hangover-thickened tongue.

“You know I do. You know him too. Remember Jack? Who loved you from afar for so long he missed out? We hooked up playing Marauder last night and played for a few hours before you got home. And this is weird. This morning, when I got up to go running, my machine was still connected to his in Turkey. I was sure I logged off. That’s the second time that’s happened. Remember that big phone bill we got? I hope we’re not going to get another. I don’t know how I could have forgot to log off.”

“I do,” Stacey said. You were so anxious to get me you forgot and left it logged on,” Stacey teased.

“Very possible,” Craig answered, a smarmy grin spreading across his muffin crumbed lips.

“Anyway. That guy you know is in Ancirik right?” Stacey said.

“Yeah,” Craig answered.

“And you were playing with him last night?” she asked.

“Yes,” Craig answered a little more slowly.

“You have got to read this,” Stacey said, sliding the paper his way. Craig took the paper and began reading.

April 24, 1994
Ancirik, Turkey
Assembled From Wire News Reports

Two U.S. Air Force Blackhawk helicopters were shot down by missiles fired from two Turkish Air Force F-15s patrolling the no-fly zone over northern Iraq today. Twelve airmen were killed. There were no survivors. Air Force officials explained that an AWACS plane vectored fighters to intercept the helicopters when IFF (Identify Friend or Foe), radar and radio failed to identify the helicopters. Air Force officials refused to confirm or deny reports that the helicopters had not filed a flight plan. The flight recorders have not yet been recovered since the helicopters went down inside Iraqi territory. Iraqi officials are on the scene and are refusing access to “American aggressors.” The State department confirms that negotiations are underway with Iraqi diplomats concerning the return of the downed Airmen.

“What’s Jack do over there? He’s not a pilot is he?” Stacey asked.

“No. He’s a civilian contractor for the Air Force. He’s called a ground service engineer. Whatever that is,” Craig said.

“I hope he didn’t ground service any of that stuff,” Stacey said.

“Yeah. I hope not too,” Craig said. His teeth clenched down together and slowly ground back and forth as an ice pick of pain began developing behind his right eye.

(Page submitted by the author, jt kalnay; ebook is available here, here, and here)
My Review

I'm afraid the style of this one didn't sit well with me. The events of the page are quite grim -- an acquaintance of the characters may well have died, and even if he didn't, twelve other people did. But the dialogue and the tone of the prose are thoroughly glib throughout, starting with the way they hear the newspaper "flop" in paragraph one. "Flop" is an irreverent and silly-sounding word, and while it's an accurate description of what newspapers do, a writer should be cognizant of tone in every word he chooses. "Thump" would have been as accurate and more neutral in tone, and newspapers can also "smack into" doors.

More importantly, by paragraph three we're running into one of my biggest pet peeves: characters telling each other things that they already know. The dialogue here is almost exclusively intended to convey information to the reader, without regard to whether someone would actually speak such lines to another person who had prior knowledge of all the details. Furthermore, we have to sit through a protracted information dump about their prior knowledge of Jack and some online gaming references and a bunch of other stuff before we find out what was so startling on the front page of the newspaper. How hard would it have been for Stacey to say, "Who's that guy you know in Turkey?" and him to reply, "You mean Jack? How can you call him 'that guy' after he practically stalked you for six months because he was crushing so hard?" Her: "No, I'm being serious. Look." (Shows him the paper.) Craig (after reading): "Geez, I was just playing Marauder with him last night…" Instead, not only does Craig tell Stacey things she already knows, he goes a step further and tells her that he's telling her things she already knows.

When we get to the newspaper report, it doesn't improve things much. Journalists write in a very specific style, and structure their stories in a very specific way. You're just never going to find a newspaper article that contains the following sentence: "Air Force officials explained that an AWACS plane vectored fighters to intercept the helicopters when IFF (Identify Friend or Foe), radar and radio failed to identify the helicopters." The individual pieces of information will probably be somewhere in the article, but not all in the first paragraph, and certainly not using words like "vectored," since newspaper articles are about informing mainstream readers, not about proving that they know how to use military jargon. (Okay, never say "never," but I would be aghast to see a journalist write that sentence in the opening paragraph of a major metropolitan newspaper story.)

By the end of the page, I didn't feel any particular fondness for the characters (a "smarmy" smile never engages my sympathies), I didn't know whether I was supposed to be more worried about the safety of Jack or about the terrible hangovers that Stacey and Craig have, and I hadn't gained a great confidence in the author's style and skill at conveying information. Possibly, all of this would be improved by context; maybe Stacey and Craig are but two of many characters and aren't supposed to be very sympathetic. Maybe by the end of the scene their relative insouciance about the tragic news story will have segued into deeper emotions. But Page 82 Reviews aren't about context, and unfortunately my experience on this page just didn't make me want to investigate further.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Page 82 of Frankenstein

His tale had occupied the whole day, and the sun was upon the verge of the horizon when he departed. I knew that I ought to hasten my descent towards the valley, as I should soon be encompassed in darkness; but my heart was heavy, and my steps slow. The labour of winding among the little paths of the mountain and fixing my feet firmly as I advanced perplexed me, occupied as I was by the emotions which the occurrences of the day had produced. Night was far advanced when I came to the halfway resting-place and seated myself beside the fountain. The stars shone at intervals as the clouds passed from over them; the dark pines rose before me, and every here and there a broken tree lay on the ground; it was a scene of wonderful solemnity and stirred strange thoughts within me. I wept bitterly, and clasping my hands in agony, I exclaimed, "Oh! Stars and clouds and winds, ye are all about to mock me; if ye really pity me, crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought; but if not, depart, depart, and leave me in darkness."

These were wild and miserable thoughts, but I cannot describe to you how the eternal twinkling of the stars weighed upon me and how I listened to every blast of wind as if it were a dull ugly siroc on its way to consume me.

Morning dawned before I arrived at the village of Chamounix; I took no rest, but returned immediately to Geneva. Even in my own heart I could give no expression to my sensations--they weighed on me with a mountain's weight and their excess destroyed my agony beneath them. Thus I returned home, and entering the house, presented myself to the family. My haggard and wild appearance awoke intense alarm, but I answered no question, scarcely did I speak. I felt as if I were placed under a ban--as if I had no right to claim their sympathies--as if never more might I enjoy companionship with them. Yet even thus I loved them to adoration; and to save them, I resolved to dedicate myself to my most abhorred task. The prospect of such an occupation made every other circumstance of existence pass before me like a dream, and that thought only had to me the reality of life.

Chapter 18

Day after day, week after week, passed away on my return to Geneva; and I could not collect the courage to recommence my work. I feared the vengeance of the disappointed fiend, yet I was unable to overcome my repugnance to the task which was enjoined me. I found that I could not compose a female without again devoting several months to profound study and laborious disquisition. I had heard of some discoveries having been made by an English philosopher, the knowledge of which was material to my success, and I sometimes thought of obtaining my father's consent to visit England for this purpose; but I clung to every pretence of delay and shrank from taking the first step in an undertaking whose immediate necessity began to appear less absolute to me. A change indeed had taken place in me; my health, which had hitherto declined, was now much restored; and my spirits, when unchecked by the memory of my unhappy promise, rose proportionably. My father saw this change with pleasure, and he turned his thoughts towards the best method of eradicating the remains of my melancholy, which every now and then would return by fits, and with a devouring blackness overcast the approaching sunshine. At these moments I took refuge in the most perfect solitude. I passed whole days on the lake alone in a little boat, watching the clouds and listening to the rippling of the waves, silent and listless. But the fresh air and bright sun seldom failed to restore me to some degree of composure, and on my return I met the salutations of my friends with a readier smile and a more cheerful heart.

(The book is available for free online)
My Review

I haven’t read Frankenstein since eighth grade, if memory serves me right. But this page certainly suggests that I’ve been remiss in letting it sit so long unrevisited. That first paragraph stabs an immediate hunger into you, a yearning to know who the heck the narrator was just talking to, and what on Earth was said, that could provoke such a shattering emotional response. Would you even need to know that the passage came from Frankenstein, to make you want to turn back to the prior pages and discover what had been said before?

As luck has it, when we read further we come to understand what it is that has been asked of our narrator to so disrupt his composure. This is the scene just after the monster has insisted that Victor construct for him a mate. At least, we understand that if we’re familiar with the Frankenstein mythos. If not, we’re treated to an even more unnerving experience: the revelation that the narrator has been required to “compose a female” by some “fiend.” In either case, it’s a striking moment.

Throughout this page, the language used and the passion expressed and the penetrating presence of the natural world enfold the reader in beauty and woe, in the cathartic experience of a horror so great that it sets our narrator apart from all the rest of humanity.

The page seems to echo with every terror and triumph that existence has to offer, making it little wonder that the book helped set the foundations for both modern horror and the entire genre of science fiction.

Page 82 of Toonopolis: Gemini

Jimbob, he opened the left side his coat to reveal an array of different watches lining the inside. “Wanna buy a watch?” asked the weasel.

“No,” said Jimbob.

“Genuine fake imports here,” he persisted.

“He said no,” Gemini replied.

The weasel opened the right side of the coat that was lined with a bunch of different types of eyeballs. “How about an eyeball?” the weasel asked.

“Eew, no.” Jimbob shuddered and quickly ushered Gemini away from the shady weasel. “Why would he even have eyeballs?” he muttered to himself. Gemini observed his guide, who looked very disturbed. He could see that Jimbob was continuing to mumble to himself but could not make out what else he was saying.

“So, where to next, Señor Crankypants?” Gemini asked, trying to lighten the mood.

“We need more information on Angel. We need to talk to Madame Rouge.”

“Rouge is an expert on Rogues?”

Jimbob nodded. “Yes, and on spelling the two words correctly. More specifically, she’s an expert on Angel; she used to work here.” Jimbob pointed at a building marked only with red fluorescent lighting.

(Submitted by the author, Jeremy Rodden; ebook available here)
My Review

This page is a bit of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I'm nostalgic for the old "Wanna buy a watch" joke, and got a chuckle out of the twist that the other side of his coat had eyeballs. It was a good one-two setup, and Jimbob's queasy reaction evoked both sympathy and amusement. Likewise, the Rouge/Rogues juxtaposition struck me as clever and fun, especially since I've seen that mis-spelling innumerable times and used to commit it myself as a youngster.

On the flip-side, a shady weasel is of course the ultimate in anthropomorphic cliches, and one never likes to encounter two cliches in a single brief piece of writing without strong evidence that the author is trying to puncture the cliches rather than just relying on their time-worn familiarity. The "Wanna buy a watch" cliche was suitably punctured, though, so perhaps on some other page the weasel one will be as well.

The prose is functional and avoids significant mis-steps, though there's a minor that/which error in there. I will say that I'm always sensitive to phrases like, "Gemini observed his guide." Normal people don't "observe" other people; they look at them or watch them or keep an eye on them. Observing is the act of a sleuth or a scientist, and Gemini doesn't sound much like either one when he asks, "So, where to next, Señor Crankypants?" I can't help but notice as well that the questionable phrase accompanies a mid-paragraph shift of point-of-view, in which we move straight from Jimbob's shudder and mutter into Gemini's perspective on those actions. Now, the preceding 81 pages may well establish that Gemini is both formal in his observational habits and casual in his banter, and may consistently use a shifting third-person omniscient POV. So neither of these is a game-ender, and they may not even be flaws in the context of the overall book. But along with the cliches, they set off my warning bells.

Still, I'm a sucker for anything with rogues in it, and this page genuinely amused me twice in a very short space. If I were shopping for kids' books in a store, I would definitely flip through this one further to see if it continued to look promising.

Page 82 of Silent Night

your skin slowly becomes more elastic, enabling us to put a silicone implant in several months later.”

She had a sharp intake of breath.

“We’ll add a nipple later, much later. Then you’re done.”

Deb set her chin. She cleared her throat. “How do you add a nipple, exactly?”

“A graft. And we dye the skin to be the exact same color as the other side.”

“A graft? From where?”

“Your upper thigh. We find that works well. On the inside. It’ll bug you for awhile. People do complain about discomfort. But we like that area the best.”

“But,” she blushed. “Is there hair? Does it grow on the nipple?” Her face was hot.

He continued looking at his clipboard. “Sometimes. Then you deal with that.”

He cleared his throat. “OK. Our other options are to suction belly fat out of your stomach and put that into your breast. So then you get a tummy tuck in the process.” He put his large hands on her abdomen and felt it, massaging. “Sadly, you don’t have enough for that technique. I wouldn’t worry about it. That process is very long, lots of appointments and painful.” He sat back and looked at her in the eyes. “The last procedure involves using skin from the shoulder area and building a breast, but I see a nasty scar there. What’s that from?”

She felt dizzy. She wanted to sit down, tired of standing here almost naked, so exposed and scrutinized like a bug under glass. She felt like an old car up on a lift. Rusty, deteriorated. And this nice mechanic/ doctor was here to put her all back together. She was a virtual Humpty Dumpty. Her eyes wanted to fill. She did not let them.

(Page submitted by the author, MH Gerber; ebook available here)
My Review

A friend of mine just died of cancer, so perhaps I'm overly susceptible to the material. Nonetheless, I found this page thoroughly compelling. The author has captured an intense and personal moment, crisply spelling out for us both the clinical details and the protagonist's reactions to them. It would be very easy (and for most writers would be very tempting) to fill up a page like this with the inner workings of the character's mind (or heart, or soul, whichever you prefer). Instead, MH Gerber chooses to tell us what the patient is feeling by way of her physical responses, eschewing any description of thoughts or emotions until the last paragraph of the page. And even there, the character's emotions unfold through artful metaphor, not heavy-handed emphasis words about grief or mortification.

With a deftly placed intake of breath, a flushed face, and a couple of quick mannerisms, we've been shown rather than told what it feels like to be this person in this situation.

Just as skillful is the dialogue: simple, believable, flowing very naturally. The only hiccup on the whole page for me was the doctor's line, "We find that works well. On the inside." He seems to have meant to say that the tissue comes from the inside of the thigh, rather than that the graft works well on the inside. But even the momentary confusion that I experienced, while reading those seemingly transposed sentences, added to the overall effect, in that it was disorienting to me, and difficult to process, and those feelings were exactly the ones being felt by the character. It's completely believable that the doctor would invert those two sentences, and while they might be clearer to the reader if reversed, I think there's a real value in choosing to leave them as they are.

An excellent page, and one that tempts me to step outside of my typical genres to see if the rest of the book is as moving and rich.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Do You Have A Page 82 You'd Like Reviewed?

So far I've only reviewed books I own and have read, but I'd be pleased as punch to do a request from time to time.

If there's a page 82 you'd like to see reviewed, just send me the following:

(1) An RTF or other text file of the page;
(2) A cover illustration in JPEG or other web-friendly form;
(3) A link to an online source where others can read or acquire the book; and
(4) The appropriate genre and author tags for me to put at the end of the review.

My email for this blog is

I can't promise to review everything that gets sent to me, but as long as I only get a few a day, it shouldn't be too hard for me to keep up with.

Note to Authors: I welcome submissions from indie authors and mainstream ones alike and will happily review your page 82 submissions. Be aware, though, that I want the site to maintain a balance of books so that it doesn't just become a self-promotional site for hard-working but unknown writers. To help with that balance, please consider including a page 82 submission of a well-known book along with the submission of your own page 82.

Page 82 of The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini

But although it was only done roughly it was much more powerful than the little wax model. The Pope in fact was so flabbergasted that he cried out: “From now on I will believe anything you say.”

Then, after innumerable compliments, he added: “I want to set you working on something else which is even dearer to my heart than what you are doing now, if you feel you are up to it.”

Then he said that he was anxious to have some dies made for the Mint, asked me if I had ever made any and if I was confident enough to take the work on. I replied that I was willing and confident and that I had seen how they were made, though I had never made any myself.

Now a certain Tommaso de Prato, the Papal datary, was present at this interview; and being a close friend of my enemies he took it on himself to say:

“Holy Father, you’re pouring so many favours on this young man, and he’s so anxious for them, that he’ll be only too ready to promise you a new world. You’ve already set him one great task, and you’re adding a greater one and the result will be that one will hinder the other.”

The Pope, who was really furious at this, turned on him and told him to mind his own business. Then he ordered me to design the model for a gold doubloon. He wanted the design to show the naked figure of Christ, with His hands bound, and the inscription: Ecce Homo. The reverse was to show the figures of a pope and an emperor, both of them holding upright a cross that was on the point of falling, with the inscription: Unus spiritus et una fides erat in eis.

The Pope had just given me instructions to make this beautiful coin when Bandinello the sculptor came up. This was before he had been knighted; and with his usual mixture of presumption and ignorance he said: “The goldsmiths must be provided with designs for such beautiful works.”

I immediately turned to him and told him that I had no need of his designs for my work, but that I felt sure that before long my designs would deal some nasty blows to his. The Pope was delighted at what I said, and leaning towards me he added:

“Now go along my dear Benvenuto, put all your energies into serving me, and pay no attention to what these idiots say.”

(From the George Bull translation)
My Review

Okay, how can you not be grabbed by a page that starts off with the Pope bursting out in an astonished oath to believe anything the narrator of the book will say? Can this possibly be true? In short order, we're treated to plenty of evidence that Benvenuto Cellini suffers from no frailty of self-image; on his mere say-so, he's getting the Pope to commission him to do work that he's never personally done before, despite apparently being quite young in this scene. The odds seem good that there's some exaggeration going on here, but if so, it's certainly entertaining exaggeration. Furthermore, by paragraph four we're getting the impression that Cellini has enemies everywhere, and by paragraph eight we start to see why.

Clearly, if this page is any indication, the book at hand must be a constant barrage of arrogant self-congratulation, denigration of Cellini's rivals and enemies, and perhaps unhappy repercussions from his willingness to embarrass powerful people in front of even more powerful people. If one is prepared to tolerate an unreliable memoirist, this page promises a window upon the temper and pettiness of at least one Renaissance Pope, as well as politicians and artists of scheming character and pompous tone. And it makes that promise in a quick and light style, highly readable and with a flair for concise description.

Two ruby-and-emerald-encrusted gold thumbs up!

Page 82 of Pride and Prejudice

Between Elizabeth and Charlotte there was a restraint which kept them mutually silent on the subject; and Elizabeth felt persuaded that no real confidence could ever subsist between them again. Her disappointment in Charlotte made her turn with fonder regard to her sister, of whose rectitude and delicacy she was sure her opinion could never be shaken, and for whose happiness she grew daily more anxious, as Bingley had now been gone a week and nothing more was heard of his return.

Jane had sent Caroline an early answer to her letter, and was counting the days till she might reasonably hope to hear again. The promised letter of thanks from Mr. Collins arrived on Tuesday, addressed to their father, and written with all the solemnity of gratitude which a twelvemonth's abode in the family might have prompted. After discharging his conscience on that head, he proceeded to inform them, with many rapturous expressions, of his happiness in having obtained the affection of their amiable neighbour, Miss Lucas, and then explained that it was merely with the view of enjoying her society that he had been so ready to close with their kind wish of seeing him again at Longbourn, whither he hoped to be able to return on Monday fortnight; for Lady Catherine, he added, so heartily approved his marriage, that she wished it to take place as soon as possible, which he trusted would be an unanswerable argument with his amiable Charlotte to name an early day for making him the happiest of men.

Mr. Collins's return into Hertfordshire was no longer a matter of pleasure to Mrs. Bennet. On the contrary, she was as much disposed to complain of it as her husband. It was very strange that he should come to Longbourn instead of to Lucas Lodge; it was also very inconvenient and exceedingly troublesome. She hated having visitors in the house while her health was so indifferent, and lovers were of all people the most disagreeable. Such were the gentle murmurs of Mrs. Bennet, and they gave way only to the greater distress of Mr. Bingley's continued absence.

Neither Jane nor Elizabeth were comfortable on this subject. Day after day passed away without bringing any other tidings of him than the report which shortly prevailed in Meryton of his coming no more to Netherfield the whole winter; a report which highly incensed Mrs. Bennet, and which she never failed to contradict as a most scandalous falsehood.

Even Elizabeth began to fear--not that Bingley was indifferent--but that his sisters would be successful in keeping him away. Unwilling as she was to admit an idea so destructive of Jane's happiness, and so dishonorable to the stability of her lover, she could not prevent its frequently occurring. The united efforts of his two unfeeling sisters and of his overpowering friend, assisted by the attractions of Miss Darcy and the amusements of London might be too much, she feared, for the strength of his attachment.

(The book is available for free online)
My Review

As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, I’m afraid this page is one of its most frightfully dull ones. There’s no dialogue whatsoever, and the only hint of Jane Austen’s keen-toothed wit is the one quip mid-page: “... lovers were of all people the most disagreeable.”

Of course the page is, as are all of Austen’s pages, suffused with her elegant voice -- but even that works against her here if the reader is unwary. So effortlessly does she flow from clause to clause to clause to clause that you can read, in the second paragraph, a sentence that is 118 words long and not even realize that you’ve just read a sentence that’s 118 words long. The writing is brisk and easy to read, despite being essentially one vast tract of exposition uncolored by the first metaphor or simile, and indeed lacking almost any figurative language whatsoever. In its very fluidity, the skill of this writing renders itself invisible, leaving the casual reader with little more than a sense of precise and well-mannered vocabulary.

What is left, then, is the substance of the page alone: a string of involuted romantic relationships clearly as marked by etiquette as by passion. We don’t even receive any visuals to break up the pavane of matrimonial aspirations and sisterly fretting -- no primly painted English manors, no quiverings of a pining maiden’s cheek, no deep liquid expanses of a leading man’s dark eyes. In short, the page seems almost a deliberate warning to anyone not fascinated by the courtship rites prevalent among the English gentry of the early 19th century: if you cannot abide a parlor-full of young ladies in want of husbands, stay away!

This is a shame, of course, as the book is marked by a great many elements not even remotely present on this page. But then, I never claimed the Page 82 method to be perfect ...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Page 82 of A Gent From Bear Creek and Other Tales

All I wanted was to get in amongst them Barlows--I does my best fighting at close quarters. But at the moment I couldn't think of no way that wouldn't get me shot up. Of course I could jest rush the cabin, but the thought of seventeen Winchesters blazing away at me from close range was a little stiff even for me, though I was game to try it, if they warn't no other way.

Whilst I was studying over the matter, all to onst the hosses tied out in front of the cabin snorted, and back up in the hills something went Oooaaaw-w-w! And a idee hit me.

"Git back in the woods and wait for me," I told Bill, as I headed for the thicket where we'd left the hosses.

I rode up in the hills towards where the howl had come from, and purty soon I lit and throwed Cap'n Kidd's reins over his head, and walked on into the deep bresh, from time to time giving a long squall like a cougar. They ain't a catamount in the world can tell the difference when a Bear Creek man imitates one. After awhile one answered, from a ledge jest a few hundred feet away.

I went to the ledge and clumb up on it, and there was a small cave behind it, and a big mountain lion in there. He give a grunt of surprise when he seen I was a human, and made a swipe at me, but I give him a bat on the head with my fist, and whilst he was still dizzy I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and hauled him out of the cave and lugged him down to where I left my hoss.

Cap'n Kidd snorted when he seen the cougar and wanted to kick his brains out, but I give him a good kick in the stummick hisself, which is the only kind of reasoning Cap'n Kidd understands, and got on him and headed for the Barlow hangout.

I can think of a lot more pleasant jobs than totin' a full-growed mountain lion down a thick-timbered mountainside on the back of a iron-jawed outlaw at midnight. I had the cat by the back of the neck with one hand, so hard he couldn't squall, and I held him out at arm's length as far from me and the hoss as I could, but every now and then he'd twist around so he could claw Cap'n Kidd with his hind laigs, and when this would happen Cap'n Kidd would squall with rage and start bucking all over the place. Sometimes he would buck the derned cougar onto me, and pulling him loose from my hide was wuss'll pulling cockle-burrs out of a cow's tail.

But presently I arriv close behind the cabin. I whistled like a whippoorwhil for Bill, but he didn't answer and warn't nowheres to be seen, so I decided he'd got scairt and pulled out for home. But that was all right

(From a somewhat expensive hardcover edition with kind of a goofy cover ... I felt obliged to scrounge up the Jeff Jones illustration from the version I read as a kid)

My Review

Who are the Barlows? Who's Bill? Who in the world is this out-for-blood narrator who can bludgeon a "full-growed mountain lion" into submission with one fist and then carry it by the scruff of the neck on horseback to his enemies' lair? More to the point, does any of that matter, or do you just want to see what riot of carnage results when he tosses that cougar into the cabin?

Visceral titillation aside, there are many cues on this page that the writer has a cunning feel for what he's doing. Even a cursory analysis of the language reveals that the author has taken care to inject enough backwoods dialect to lend his prose a breezy, yokely vigor, but not so much as to render it deadening or difficult to read. Not every "there" becomes "they," and surprisingly few of the gerunds have their final "g" apostrophized. As much of the feel comes from word choice as from a hillbilly mangling of the language: "blazing," "lugged," "snorted," "squall," and "whilst" are all perfectly grammatical but sing of the rural wilds regardless. And there's an economy of narrative that moves us between disparate settings quickly and vividly. We don't learn the narrator's name on this page, but we do learn his horse's, and that the horse apparently has as much personality as the rider.

If a rip-snorting tall tale of the old west is your idea of fun, this page can't help but tell you that you ought to read the rest of the book -- even if you didn't know (or perhaps particularly if you didn't know) that it's by the same guy who invented Conan the Barbarian.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Page 82 of The Fellowship of the Ring

feat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.'

'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo.

'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look black. The Enemy is fast becoming very strong. His plans are far from ripe, I think, but they are ripening. We shall be hard put to it. We should be very hard put to it, even if it were not for this dreadful chance.

'The Enemy still lacks one thing to give him strength and knowledge to beat down all resistance, break the last defences, and cover all the lands in a second darkness. He lacks the One Ring.

'The Three, fairest of all, the Elf-lords hid from him, and his hand never touched them or sullied them. Seven the Dwarf-kings possessed, but three he has recovered, and the others the dragons have consumed. Nine he gave to Mortal Men, proud and great, and so ensnared them. Long ago they fell under the dominion of the One, and they became Ringwraiths, shadows under his great Shadow, his most terrible servants. Long ago. It is many a year since the Nine walked abroad. Yet who knows? As the Shadow grows once more, they too may walk again. But come! We will not speak of such things even in the morning of the Shire.

'So it is now: the Nine he has gathered to himself; the Seven also, or else they are destroyed. The Three are hidden still. But that no longer troubles him. He only needs the One; for he made that Ring himself, it is his, and he let a great part of his own former power pass into it, so that he could rule all the others. If he recovers it, then he will command them all again, wherever they be, even the Three, and all that has been wrought with them will be laid bare, and he will be stronger than ever.

'And this is the dreadful chance, Frodo. He believed that the One had perished; that the Elves had destroyed it, as should have been done. But he knows now that it has

(From the 1974 edition)


My Review:

Can you get much better than this page? Let's say all you know is that it's from the series The Lord of the Rings. Here, by sheer luck, is the page that tells you what the Lord of the Rings is. Not only that, but five sentences in, you get to one of the best sentences ever written: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." In a handful of paragraphs, Gandalf lays out a vast sweep of history, and also lets you know that some very bad news is going down in the present. The language is poetic, but the sense of threat is real, and as you get to the end of the page, you're speared on the hook of an incomplete sentence that promises to tell you even more about how bad our good guys have it, thanks to the nameless Enemy learning whatever it is he's learned.

Pure magic.