Books

A little more on the Rusalka series

After reading the first few chapters of my old paperback copy of Chernevog (the sequel to Rusalka) yesterday during our power outage and corresponding lack of Internet, I bought the revised/self-published version on Cherryh's website this morning, and wow, it IS different! Nothing major has changed with the plot (although she says the next book does apparently have plot changes) but there is a ton of sentence-level and scene-level reconstruction.

Most particularly, she explains things a lot better. Her books often leave a lot to the imagination, especially a lot of the character motivation and background worldbuilding stuff which is implied rather than stated, but in this edition she's gone back and cleaned up and made clear a lot of things that were subtextual in the original (often subtextual to the point of total incomprehensibility). It's a lot easier to get where she was going with some of the character stuff now. And she (and her editor; she credits Jane Fancher, her wife, with a great deal of the editing) greatly toned down the stream-of-consciousness narration of the original, editing it into something considerably more cohesive and conventional, while still retaining the flavor of the original.

So yeah, between the two, I'm finding the revised version definitely has enough changes to be worth choosing it over the unrevised one. The ebooks ARE expensive -- they're $9.95 each -- but these books are favorites and, to me, well worth buying.

I also bought the revised Rusalka just to compare, because I figure I've had more than $9.95 of enjoyment from it over the years. It's not markedly different -- she notes Rusalka was edited considerably less than the others -- but I was happy to notice that one of my favorite hugging scenes (of course I have favorite hugging scenes, who do you think I am), after [spoiler, highlight to read] Sasha loses his heart, literally, and his emotions along with it, and then gets it back, with corresponding "oh god what have I done" FEELINGSDUMP [/spoiler] is expanded in the revised version, with a bit more character-interaction cuteness than the original had.

Oh, and also, I rediscovered snarkydame's lovely tag to book 2 on AO3 yesterday. Sweet OT3 hurt/comforty goodness! Recommended. :) (But generally spoilery for the series up to that point.)

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I have nothing to offer on the subject of these books, except to say I enjoy you talking about them!
I totally read something like a chapter and a half of the first book off her website last night before bed. I'm...kinda hooked XD Gonna buy the book.
I bought the book :)

I am only about 5 chapters into it so far and enjoying it, but it's...strangely reminding me of Harry Potter. Did you ever get that sense? Sasha is an orphan who makes things happen by magic out of his control, living with his aunt and uncle who are at least neglectful if not emotionally abusive (always telling him he should be grateful they took him in) and there's a cousin? (Mischa = Doodley). I hear there's also going to be a drowned girl later? (No spoilers please) But that's totally making me think JKR read this book at some point and it inspired her because the similarities are just glaring in the first couple of chapters!

On a totally separate note, it's really weird for me to read this book since Russian is my native language and certain things stand out for me. Like her use of clearly Russian names. She really did her research in the sense that I can -feel- the mythology of the space they are living in in, it's written with a very "Slavic" feel to it, for lack of a better description. It's almost flawless, I would say, from my perspective. Even the way the characters talk, with brief and to the point sentences (e.g. "I’ve come a long way for a man in my condition. Have pity." It probably doesn't feel any different than what an English person would say, but there's almost like an expression in Russian that would be used in that situation and it feels almost like she's translating literally from Russian...which is really neat effect, because she wrote this in English first! I'm not explaining it well, but just certain phrases stand out to me as particularly appropriate for these particular people.)

At the same time, it is obvious that the author isn't Russian/Slavic because of their use of names. e.g. "Sasha Vasilyevitch" is something a Russian person would never say. If you use the father's name (Sasha's father was Vasily so he's Vasilyevitch; Iliya -> Ilitch for Pyetr) then you would always use his formal name, which would be Alexandr. Saying Sasha Vasilyevitch is a bit like saying "Mr. Bob". Similarly, it seems the author doesn't even realize that "Sasha" is not a name in and of itself. It's a nickname, so his full name had to have been Alexandr. In the same way as you wouldn't call a woman you just met "Bitsy" because her name is Elizabeth, even if she's Bitsy to her close friends/family, it's weird to see Pyetr refer to him as Sasha right from the start. (As an aside, "Pyetr Ilitch" is perfectly appropriate because Pyetr is the formal name.) And this use of his nickname together with his father's name is strangely at odds with what I wrote above, which is that the book has an amazingly accurate portrayal of a Slavic sort of culture.

[redacted]

Naming issues aside, I'm very much enjoying the story so far. I can see what you mean about it being perfect h/c catnip already and they've barely made it out into the wilderness. lol

Edited at 2015-12-03 04:19 am (UTC)
I'm glad you're enjoying it! :)

... that has to be really weird, though. It's odd to get such a strange mix of "just right" and "not right at all"! I had generally felt, reading the books, that the way they feel to me is very non-Western-European and very much in keeping with fairy tales I've read from the region -- although of course I had no personal experience with it, so I didn't know how accurate that impression was. It's nice to hear they do have an authentic feeling!

But it's weird that she didn't take such care with the names. And she could have! She mentions on her website that she corresponded with a group of Russian sci-fi fans throughout the writing process, getting reference materials from them and so forth. I wonder if, to some extent, she's intentionally simplified the names for English-language readers -- I mean, obviously she doesn't quite understand how it works (the "Sasha Vasilyevitch" thing -- I didn't know that either) but she does have Sasha introduce himself to strangers as -- well, she spells it "Alexander", but that is his canonical name, it's just not how the narration refers to him. I think Sasha is actually the only character where both his given name and diminutive name are mentioned, so it's possible she ran across the name Sasha first, and then found out later it wasn't an actual name, so she stuck in a couple of references to his real name and then used real names for everyone else. I'm not trying to excuse it; I just can't figure out how she could have not ever figured that out -- I mean, I knew about the given name/diminutive name distinction, and I didn't spend years researching a novel set in Russia! Which makes me wonder if she decided on purpose to "translate" just one name for each character, even if the characters themselves would be using different names, to avoid confusing English-language readers. (*I* don't think it would be confusing, but maybe editors disagree.)

... but then she seems to be going for a deliberately Russian-ish effect with having them use the name + father's name, and if she were trying to avoid confusing readers by using multiple names you'd think she wouldn't do that either, so ... I don't know. XD It may just be that she got part of the idea of how the names are supposed to work, but not the whole thing.

The books never reminded me of Harry Potter, maybe because I first read them so long before I read the Harry Potter books. What they do remind me of now, in a very weird way, is White Collar! It's nothing to do with specific characters (well yes ... Pyetr ... but the characters don't map onto the White Collar characters in any particular way) but something about the way Pyetr and Sasha relate to each other, in general, really makes me think of Peter and Neal for some reason.

In any case, I'm glad you're liking them despite the occasional instances of research fail, and I am interested to hear your thoughts on the books going forward. :D
I've been unfortunately to sick to make any progress, but it's top of my to-read list...

I think Sasha is actually the only character where both his given name and diminutive name are mentioned, so it's possible she ran across the name Sasha first, and then found out later it wasn't an actual name, so she stuck in a couple of references to his real name and then used real names for everyone else.

Yeah, I think that's what happened. That is, "Sasha" is a "real" name, it's just not a name you would use in an official situation (i.e. on a formal document, in school, at work, etc). That said, there could be situations depending on relative positions of people in society where someone in a very low position might be called "familiarly" by everyone regardless of how well they know him. But I haven't read far enough to see if Sasha's position is particularly low in their town/village, yet.

One other thing that I noticed, she uses "Father Sky!" as an exclamation. That saying really does exist in Russian, except she doesn't seem to realize that it basically means "Dear God!". It's not some pagan deity they're praying to. The whole phrase is referring to the common prayer, "Our Father, who art in Heaven", and "Sky Father" is just a shortcut to refer to the "Father from the Sky" i.e. Christian God.

But those two instances are literally the only things I noticed that revealed she wasn't a native speaker, which to me is pretty impressive! I'm really enjoying it otherwise and I hope I will have time to read it and maybe even finish it over the weekend!

(The book still seriously reminds me of Harry potter though. The beginning of HP is soooo similar in tone to the beginning of this book! I'll see if I notice the WC connection as I read further :) )
That sucks being sick. :( I hope you're feeling better!

And yeah, for not being a native speaker or part of the culture, that is a pretty good record! I am really enjoying your reactions, by the way -- and learning some things too. :D
I didn't realize she had different versions for sale on her site! I'll have to get those, I think. :D
I am REALLY enjoying the revised versions! It's especially fun because I have my paperbacks right here, so I can compare. And it's interesting to see what she revised and what she didn't. One thing I find especially entertaining, in terms of where her focus obviously was when she was writing the books -- I'm reading Yvgenie right now, and it's been VERY heavily revised (she says on the website that she was very distracted when she wrote the book, and wasn't happy with the finished version), but two scenes which are, if not word for word identical, then much less deeply rewritten than most of the rest of the book, are

[SPOILER SPACE - though I assume you remember the books well enough spoilers aren't a problem?]

[cut for spoilers]the scene in which Pyetr saves Sasha from the burning house, and the one where Pyetr gets bit by the vodyanoi and Sasha has to magic him better.

[/end spoiler]

In other words, the REST of it may have been a mess, or at least something she felt she had to fix from a 20-years-later perspective, but she put a lot of work into the h/c. XD I can relate.

Edited at 2015-12-03 09:00 am (UTC)
you may be interested in Ms. Cherryh's wife's books. (Jane S. Fancher) specifically, her Ring series. while book one is a bit... not-as-high-quality as the rest of the series, I strongly urge you to try it. Dancer, a character defined as both brave and sensitive, was an eye-opening revelation to my young myopic world. (remember: it was over 20 years ago)
additionally, it's fun to note how vastly different each writer is from each other. Cherryh is deliberate in her words; Fancher focuses on inner motivations. yet both create completely new and rich worlds.
if you should try her Ring series, please let me know how you found it.

Edited at 2015-12-02 02:55 pm (UTC)
I have not read those, no! Thank you for the rec; I'll check them out. :D