Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Alternate Endings

I am a plot junkie. I readily admit it. That is why I go for genre fiction mostly. The regular stuff is heavy on symbolism and characters and emotions, but so often not a lot happens. This is boring. If I want drama with no movement I can go on Facebook.

I recently read two books, both fantasy (though one is urban fantasy), both by women, yet the plotting could not have been more different. Because I read one right after the other I was struck by how different the endings were. So spoilers ahead for Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb and The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle. Neither are recent books, so I don't think I am ruining it for anyone by discussing the endings.

To be fair, these are very different books, the few similarities I pointed out above notwithstanding. Robin Hobb's book is the final book of a trilogy. It is epic fantasy, which tends to go for length and sweeping, world-wide plotlines. In fact this is the second of four different series all set in the same world.  There are dragons, pirates, prophecy and earth-shattering natural disasters. Enough plot for even a junkie like me. That is not to say the other things necessary for a good book are not there. The characters were well developed and the writing is quite nice, but I am focusing on a certain thing here.

The ending just didn't do it for me though. It felt like the end of the Return of the King movie. Each scene of the last half hour faded to black and seemed like the end, but no, look, something else comes up. In trying to give a satisfying ending to each character in the book Hobb carried the end past the point I wanted to read. Chapter after chapter continued the book past the logical conclusion to a feeling of compulsive tidying up. It was nice to see what everyone got up to the main conflicts were resolved, but I didn't learn anything new about the characters.  It was elaboration of already explained resolutions.

After I read Ship of Destiny I started on The Mysteries. It is completely different, set in modern times and only marginally fantasy. It is a stand-alone novel, much shorter and no dragons at all. The main character is a detective who finds lost people. There are vignettes between the main plotline chapters about mysterious disappearances through the years. He is hired to find a woman who has vanished. We begin to see the connection to a case he had years ago and the current one, as well as to the historical disappearances.

I liked the parallel between the otherworldly cases he is working on and the completely prosaic disappearances of his father and girlfriend, who both left to live other lives. The contrast between people taken and held by the fairies and people who just wanted to leave is interesting.

But then we come to the ending. The girl is saved, all is well, I suppose. Instead of tying off all the ends neatly, in the last chapter the author introduces more ambiguity. The girlfriend renews contact, the client shows some romantic interest, and a girl previous lost returns to show the mystery of the fairies isn't completely solved.  It isn't a cliff-hanger, I don't think there is a sequel. It didn't feel like that kind of ending, "Tune in next week to see what happens to the hapless baby!" But I do think it was a dirty trick kind of ending. Leaving the reader wanting more is great, but adding that extra just at the end was weird.

So here are two book with unsatisfying endings, one gave too much closure, one too much left open. Endings are tricky things. I don't know how many books and movies have been great up to that last twenty minutes. The worst example I can think of was a science fiction book that had the aliens completely conquering the earth until the last minute intervention of the vampires (not mentioned earlier in the book at all) saved the day.  That was silly. These books just tried too hard for a certain kind of end, and missed.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Placebo effect?

Recently I was introduced to the world of essential oils. It was a little scary at first. People get into these types of things and become all evangelical about them.  They say silly things like, "Its all natural and comes from plants so it can't have any side effects!" That makes me want to ask them if poison ivy rash counts as an intended outcome and if death isn't a side effect because it stops whatever conditions you might have?

I have been wondering about them a lot lately anyway so when some people I know got into one of the MLMs that sell the things I was interested enough to go to the parties. Those were difficult to sit through, though I think most of the misinformation comes from an excess of enthusiasm and a lack of science education.

Was probably this stuff, smells like cloves
Despite my misgivings, I know that these oils can help some things. When I was so sick in the winter a very nice woman at Bountiful Baskets rubbed some clove smelling stuff on me and I could suddenly talk and breathe like a regular person.

So I have bought a few. One works wonders to clear your head.  Much better results than any decongestant I have tried.  My two kids who need such things don't even complain about the smell that much, because they know it works.
We also have a relaxation, sleep aid one that my oldest loves.  He has always had a hard time sleeping and this stuff seems to calm him down enough he can fall asleep.  With that and melatonin he can actually rest.

And I like the orange oil. It gives you a bit of a pleasant jolt and wakes me up a bit in the morning.

But then I tried the recommended solutions when the youngest had a fever for several days and got no noticeable relief.  The OTC stuff didn't help either. We just sat in Mommy's chair and watched Voltron (over and over and over and over).

Peppermint for my headache didn't do much either.

I am looking into another place, that has similar prices to Doterra's "wholesale" prices. I just received their lavender. It smells noticeably different, more like plants, and then the strong weed smell fades and it is the normal lavender, almost soapy smell. Because of my strong dislike for MLM marketing in anything I think I will stay with the Native American Nutritionals for now.
My first purchase from Native American
I struggle with this because I know some things will work, but I know some don't and I want a better way to figure it out than experimenting on my family or trusting the internet. It gives me conniptions that I can't research it adequately.

There are so many I want to try and they are too expensive to buy, just to play pharmacist. It is so frustrating.

Hey, at least we will smell nice.

OK, one more thing that bugs me just because of who I am. So take it with a grain of salt. DoTerra's book of how to use their oils is the worst edited thing I have ever seen. It is disorganized and confusing.  Obviously just a cut and paste job by someone who didn't know what they were doing. Misspelled words and erratic grouping make it look so unprofessional. The sleek design of their products is completely at odds with the shoddy work of their book and pamphlet.  It seems odd to me that they didn't put more effort into it.