Ghosts of Columbia
The Cedar City Literary Group recently completed the Ghosts of Columbia. This book was chosen for the unique reason of the author and his wife being close friends with members of the group. L.E. Modesitt moved to Cedar City 18 years ago when his wife became a music professor at Southern Utah University. He was gracious enough to come to our group meeting last night to discuss the Ghosts of Columbia. He gave us great incites as to the many ways an author is influenced. Our group does not typically read science fiction but I believe we all enjoyed a change of pace and a quick step into a somewhat unfamiliar genre.
I must admit I struggled to get through the first few chapters of the book. The setting is in an ‘alternate history’ of America where much of the geography is the same but many other things have been changed. Some of the changes were simple object name changes such as a telephone being called a wireset, and a computer being a difference engine. One of the main characters was French while many of the other characters came from Dutch decent, all of them bringing with them unique ways of expressing themselves. I need not mention my lack of experience with technical terminology. Needless to say the language took some getting used to.
I was grateful to the author for being concise, yet sometimes I wish more of my questions had been answered (such as ‘how did Johan’s son die?’ and ‘what exactly was the conflict that caused him to lose his wife and son?’ and ‘why on earth was Lysette willing to work for the country that tortured her?’). Many times I felt he was withholding information from me to keep me interested, rather than allowing the conflict to make the pages turn. After speaking directly with the author I learned that he began writing as a poet and therefore, doesn’t make a habit of using more words than are completely necessary.
Overall I enjoyed reading the Ghosts of Columbia and I immensely enjoyed discussing the book with the author. I do not have much experience with science fiction. I did read Sphere by Micheal Crichton as well as a few other SF books that I don’t remember anything about. L.E. Modesitt is mostly a fantasy writer and I am beginning to wonder if I have the mental capacity to walk down the path of fantasy again. I haven’t read true fantasy for years (I don’t suppose Harry Potter counts?). At the request of a friend in college I read a bit of Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series and I have muddled around the ‘Lord of the Rings’ a bit but that was all years ago. Apparently Modesitt’s fantasy is quite popular so I may have to give it a try. My biggest problem with most fantasy is the number of words they typically throw into one single book. I enjoy reading but when I commit myself to a 1500 page book I tend to neglect my responsibilities. After The Count of Monte Cristo AND Atlas Shrugged in a 4 month period I believe I owe it to my family to wait until winter before I make another 50 hour commitment. However, if anyone has any fantasy suggestions for me feel free to comment and I will add them to my list of ‘books to read’.