Sunday, 29 August 2010

Picking the pieces out of my brain

If I didn't know better, I'd think some bizarre being has visited me in the dead of night and performed a quick and nasty frontal lobotomy with a rusty ice pick. I know I've been doing research and reading for the past 2 weeks but when I try to summarise it, all the bits of information scuttle off and hide somewhere in the recesses of my sulci (or is that gyri?). But anyway, here goes.

Fiction
In the last couple of weeks I've been ripping through some great YA fiction. First up was Cory Doctorow's latest For the Win. I really enjoyed it but it was an odd book, combining the gaming world with unionism, violence, communism, a touch of neuroscience and lectures on the basics of economics as it plays out in both the real and virtual worlds. It had a wide cast of characters placed across the globe, from hard core gangster bosses to rich nerds to a pirate radio host inciting factory girls to unite for the common cause of the worker. Not what you'd usually expect from YA fiction but, apart from the occasional lapse into didactism, this was a great story. Fast-paced, well plotted, lots of action, it's a story that keeps humming along. I haven't read many reviews of it so I'm not sure how it's faring yet with the target audience. It'll be interesting to see, as in some respects Doctorow has achieved something similar to what I'd like to do, in combining topics you wouldn't necessarily consider 'young adult' into a fast-paced narrative.

Suzanne Collin's Catching Fire, the second in her Hunger Games trilogy, is one that has no shortage of glowing reviews from fans. I haven't read book one yet but found no problem getting right into this second installment. Although the basic plot was one that's been done before in the sci-fi genre over the years, Collins' characters make the narrative vivid and exciting. The created world is believable, the plot reasonably simple while maintaining strong interest with some great twists and turns (I loved the big 'wedding dress' reveal) but it is the characters that really pull you in. The fear, dread and confusion the narrator, Katniss, feels is palpable all the way through. She is stuck in a no-win situation but pushes through each and every thing that is thrown at her. A real gutsy heroine (unlike some other wussy female protagonists around at the moment), and a character to inspire.

Research
I've got through most of the first volume of Neuroconstructivism and think I have it pretty much under control. I've also skimmed through a few articles reveiwing Maraschel et al's work, most seem to be overall positive (though I did have a giggle at one that said he was annoyed that the authors hadn't cited other researchers in the field and then said he was one). So, it's accepted as a valid (if not perfect) framework and it'll do just fine by me. Next I'm tackling Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology. It covers everything I could ever possibly want or need to know on the subject, but, seeing as I'm a fiction writer and not a neuropsychologist, just a skim over the good bits will do. But I have enjoyed the first chapter which covers a bit of the history of the brain and how it's been perceived and studied over the centuries. One thing stood out - people have made huge mistakes and crazy assumptions about the workings of the human brain. And although technology such as fMRIs are making the study of the brain much easier in some ways, it seems the more that science uncovers, the more problems about the brain there are to solve.
No wonder so many find it so fascinating.