Book Review

NOTE: From now on, book reviews will have two parts, description and review. Also, when standard print rules would require italics, you will see quotation marks. These changes are being made to provide the reader with a description of the book so that the review portion does not have to incorporate an over-view. The punctuation change is because I write in MS Word and then transfer it WordPress. This results in the italics being stripped and it makes it too easy to miss things that should or should not be in italics. By removing the italics for description and adding quotes where necessary, it makes for smooth transfer to WordPress and everything is exactly I had it originally.

John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression follows the western movement of one family and a nation in search of work and human dignity. Perhaps the most American of American classics.

The novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of sharecroppers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in financial and agricultural industries. Due to their nearly hopeless situation and in part because they were trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other “Okies”, they sought jobs, land, dignity and a future. When preparing to write the novel, Steinbeck wrote: “I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects].” The book won Steinbeck a large following among the working class, perhaps due to the book’s sympathy to the workers’ movement and its accessible prose style.

“The Grapes of Wrath” is frequently read in American high school and college literature classes. A celebrated Hollywood film version, starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford, was made in 1940.

This was a classic that I never had the opportunity to read before, and I am glad that I finally read it.

This story brought the political events and the human side of the Great Depression into a format that could touch everyone. In the past, I have talked with people who lived through the Great Depression and in school I learned the highlights, but this is the first time it all came together to understand how economics and political change shaped the lives of the individual. It brought clarity to how the price of things was not simply a hardship because some people were poor, and it showed why some people became poor and how they sought to change an economic structure and not just a price sticker on their food.


Filling in the Gaps

While I have been world building, it has been messing with things already in place, ugh!

That opening scene that I mentioned finally working out . . . it didn’t fit with the new parameters for the city. So, after agonizing over how to make it right, I changed the city parameters AGAIN.

This question will probably be most relevant to SF writers: when do you call in the experts? By experts, I mean anyone that has vast knowledge and experience in a field.

The writer wants to be detailed enough in a scene for the reader to feel the experience but not be overwhelmed with a vast info dump. Our life experiences usually cover most things we need to know for a scene to feel real. However, there are still many things that crop up that we will never have had the opportunity to experience. Shooting a firearm is one that many writers come across and you are more likely to have more than one person in your audience that will know if you get it wrong.

Now, where this turns to a mostly SF audience is when you need a doctorate in physics or geology or meteorology. Because we build worlds that can be on the fringes of what our current science understands, it is a fine line to know when we can wing-it and just decide that is how our world is going to behave and when we should really pose an idea to an expert and see what they think should happen to achieve the effect you want.

After the many changes to my environment, I am on the fence about whether I need to hunt up an expert or not.