I've been reading a variety of interesting stuff lately, of all kinds. And learning from all of it, one way or another. Not all of it is science fiction(in fact, I'm rather picky about the sci-fi I read, so I haven't read much, lately). But I've learned things from all of it.
Currently I'm reading Katherine Neville's The Eight. Or rather, rereading it. I read it almost 20 years ago, commuting to and from work on a long bus ride. It has been reprinted, since Ms. Neville recently wrothat Ie a sequel called The Fire. What is rather strange is, when I started reading it, I couldn't remember that I had. This is not usually the case. I remember picking up some romances I'd read early in my reading/writing career, and finding I'd already read them! This was not the case with The Eight, at least not till I got to a part of this long, complicated, and many-layered tale that involved that famous French Revolutionary and Napoleonic character, Talleyrand. His explanation of how he came to walk with a limp sounded vaguely familiar.
As I am not through rereading this book, I will not comment any further, except that it looks like a fascinating and exotic mixture of elements, and evidentlhy Ms. Neville was very successful in putting them together, since it seems to have been What I I have learned so far is that a lot of changes in "preferrred writing styles" seem to have happened in the last 20 years or so. For one thing, she switches points of view a lot. She doesn't exactly use an "omniscient" point of vies, but she achieves this by switiching scenes and "voices"(the main narrator in modern times tells her tale in first person, but most scenes are in third person, whether in the past or the present). She also uses a rather "formal" way of writing, e.g., consistently using "upon"where most American writers, at least, would probably just use "on". I didn't notice any of this when I first read the book, but since I've started writing my own book(s), I notice these things a lot more. There is nothing really wrong with such usage; it just kind of leaps out at me. I've also noticed she made some rather odd, and in some cases, egregious(to me, at least), mistakes, which, I suppose, is natural for a writer writing a book of such broad scope.
To name just a few I've spotted so far(but apparently didn't or forgot about when I first read it), she has Russian the Gregorian calendar in the time of Catherine II(better known as Catherine the Great in the West), and the West is on the Julian calendar. The reverse is the case. The Russians continued to use the Julian calendar until 1917, when, in the throes of their revolution, they "upgraded". The West had been using the Gregorian Calendar(two weeks ahead of the Julian by that time), since the 16th century, though the British didn't adopt it till the 18th century, for religious/political reasons.
Then there is the little matter of names. Russian names are often confusing to westerners, but there is no excuse for confusing Alexander with Alexei(Alexis to Westerners), especially when she "umlauts" the name Potemkin(pronounce Potyomkin in Russian).
Still, all this proves is that no writer is perfect, and so far, the book is very entertaining. It has been a "learning curve" for me, because when I first read it, I had no idea that I would ever be writing anything. And now that I am writing something, I am finding the book very entertaining reading, despite its flaws, but I am looking at The Eight in quite a different way than I did before. But then, this is true of all the books I read nowadays.
I will probably review the book later, as well as read, and review its sequel. Stay tuned.