Throne Of The Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed – Book Review

This was another book I’d been meaning to read just because it was a non-eurocentric traditional fantasy, and also because it was recommended by a friend. Beneath Ceaseless Skies had a twitter contest that I entered and won an audiobook copy, which was great – I love audiobooks, but they’re so expensive!

There’s a bunch of 1-star reviews on this book on good reads, and almost all of them justify it by saying they didn’t like the amount of blessed this and by the grace of the almighty god, etc. I don’t think that’s fair at all. I think those are all prejudiced Americans who are terrified of other cultures. I rolled my eyes at those reviews.

It was a great book, and nice to see something set in a middle-east inspired setting with such a balanced cast of characters, not to mention not being filtered through a lens of western hatred of Islam. Not only is there a variety of different character personalities – from the uptight, uber-religious Raseed right through the irreverent Doctor Adoulla, but also represented are varying cultures within the middle east, to remind us that there is as much, and probably more, variety of cultures within the middle east as there are in North America. From the crowded city, to the nomads, to ancient empires, I’d say it was richly imagined, but I don’t think it’s far from the reality of the region.

Aside from the golems and alchemists and child eating man-jackal, of course.

As far as the plot, I’ll say what others have said – it’s a good old fashioned traditional fantasy. The author doesn’t hide behind any bullshit “Women didn’t do anything important back then” and has several prominent female characters. I loved that the main character, Adoulla is an aging wizard, and yet he’s not pushed to the background and denied a romantic plot for being the age he is.

The reader was great and I think he did the story justice with different accents and voices. Thanks go out to Beneath Ceaseless Skies for providing the audiobook.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment.

Find it on Goodreads.


St Andrews 50th Anniversary

Last Saturday was the 50th Anniversary of St. Andrews airport. I was there all day, starting with the pancake breakfast. The C-FLUG ladies were there in force, selling raffle tickets and such. Unfortunately the aeroplane rides scheduled for the kids got stormed out – we got rained on but-good. I was scheduled to be marshalling aeroplanes, so I ended up kind of wandering and seeing if anyone else needed help.

They were tidying up early, seeing as the rides were rained out, when the global reporter showed up. She seemed to be kind of looking for something to film, and Jill was busy, so I introduced myself and got on tv. Here’s the link:

Later in the evening was a dinner, and I was lucky enough to get one of the donated tickets for the C-FLUG pilots. The dinner was great, but even better was the RCAF Air Command Band, who played swing and sixties music all night. The C-FLUG pilots all got up to dance right away, and kept the dance floor packed at an event that the band is likely used to there being maybe one or two couples dancing. They were great performers, and the music was awesome.

Carman Fly-in: How Does The Helicopter Fly?

So last Sunday was my first ever Fly-in. For the uninitiated, a fly-in is an event held at an airport, usually with food for a nominal fee, and it’s for pilots to literally fly in to get together and hang out. It’s pretty much a party for pilots. Sans alcohol, because it’s illegal to drink and fly, and we’re all getting high on our own special drug anyway on the way in and out. And yeah, it would probably be faster to drive than to go to the fuss of dragging the plane out of the hangar, fueling it up, yadda, yadda. So why the bother of flying if it’s easier to get there by car?

Because we can, of course!

Jill of course wants to get C-FLUG out to as many events as we can, to get awareness out among other pilots, and women who might potentially be interested in learning to fly. So I’m very much aware at these sort of events that I’m an ambassador of sorts, and try to be as outgoing as I can. There weren’t loads of people, so it wasn’t too bad. I had a pancake and sausages and orange juice, and Jill introduced me to some of the people she knew. I introduced myself to anyone I caught checking out C-FLUG.

You what’s awesome? Being at an event like this, and having people come up to you and go “Are you the pilot of this plane?” and getting to say, “Yup.” It’s hard to explain what that feels like. It’s not like normal everyday groups of people, where I say “I’m a pilot” and everyone is like O.o. Really? You’re a pilot? This is an event where most of the people there are pilots, and unlike the flight school, none of them know me. So it’s someone who doesn’t know me, guessing that I’m a pilot. There’s a certain amount of acceptance inherent in being asked that question in that particular way. I don’t have to convince them. They’re not surprised. They’re welcoming, an if anything congratulatory, and happy to have me among them. I think Jill and I might have been the only two female pilots there, but like I’ve said before, no one who knows aviation questions my ability to fly because I’m a woman.

Anyway, this fly-in was organized by the medivac helicopter group, STARS, so they had the helicopter come in and do a landing demonstration. They did a low pass over the runway, which was pretty cool, and then landed. Once I finished eating, I went to check it out. I went up to one of the crew and asked him “Okay, so which one of you is the pilot?”

He sighed and said, “They always want to talk to the pilot.”

So I went and found the pilot, and when he was done chatting with another guy, I climbed on the side of the helicopter to peek inside the cockpit and check out the controls. And I asked him “Okay, how does the helicopter fly?”

He asked me how detailed an explanation I wanted, and if he got too technical, to let him know.

I told him “I’m a fixed wing pilot. Proceed.”

Now, Nathan, my dearest husband, bless his soul, gets tired of me talking about aeroplanes. I get it. I get tired of hearing about his video games. I love it when people ask me questions about planes, and it’s even better when they know a little bit and I can start to fill in more for them, like the engine panel at Keycon, where some people who knew car engines were asking about how aeroplane engines were different, and asking about RPMs and stuff, and I had all those numbers off the top of my head. It’s awesome.

Well, when this helicopter pilot realized that someone who knew enough about engines and aerodynamics that it wouldn’t all fly over their head, wanted to hear him talk about his helicopter, I swear to god, his eyes lit up. And I got the how to fly a helicopter 101. Pretty much the equivalent to what they’d teach you on your first flying lesson in a fixed wing aircraft. It was neat, learned a lot of things I’d always kind of wondered about, like how does it turn, and how do you make it go forward.

I wonder if I get published, and then put helicopters in the sequel to Redwing, if I could write helicopter flying lessons off on my taxes as a business expense?

Cross Country Time Building – Lousy Weather

So I hadn’t been flying so much for a while, first because of the stupidly cold weather grounding C-FLUG, then after, because I was working on Redwing because someone who matters may have offered to look at revisions.

But I’ve got back in the air, three times in the last week. Jill says C-FLUG missed me. I did some circuits, and the second day, once I was less out of practice, Jill went with me and commented she wished she could make all her landings like the three of mine she saw. I bet she tells all the girls that though.

Anyway, I’ve been on a couple of cross country flights with Jill in her Land Africa and her Pietenpol, to Lake Manitoba, and Beausejour, respectively. She let me fly and navigate both times, so it helped keep me in practice, but both times were impromptu, so I didn’t get any navlog planning done, and just flew by pilotage. It helped that it was familiar territory, with easy landmarks.

So when I planned to fly to the Carman Fly-In, June 8th, it was in a direction I’ve only been once during the day, not the area I spent most of my time training. I did my best to prepare, and got a weather briefing. They said there was a slow moving trough approaching, patches of showers, etc. I could see as much when I got to the airport, but the visibility didn’t look any worse than the ten mile vis I’d dealt with once before.

That day I went out in ten mile visibility, it was haze. Today it was different. It was virga and rain, and wind. When I took off, there was no wind on the ground. But when I hit about five or six hundred feet, I hit the turbulence, and it was rough. At one point, early on, one gust startled me enough to make me gasp. I honestly started thinking, holy shit, should I be turning back and not going?

Part of my decision to keep going was that Jill was flying ahead of me, and knowing that she was making it through that mess in an open cockpit plane that was lighter than C-FLUG. I looked around and the patches of rain were still only patches – there were spaces between them. The air was rough, but after the first few buffets, I kind of assessed how I was handling it before deciding what I was going to do. What I can handle is often a fair bit more than what I think I can handle, and I’m not the pilot I was when that one gust knocked my wings 45 degrees on my second solo cross country. I’ve got maybe eighty hours of flying since then, and I realized that yeah, it does make a difference.

I decided I’d keep going, as long as I was fairly sure I could turn back if I got someplace I couldn’t get past. The air got rougher when I got close to the murky patches of rain, so I stayed away from them. I flew around them, thinking all the while, as long as I can see a certain distance, I’ll keep going. And that distance was probably a fair bit more than the distance that would have been in a more experienced’s pilot’s head, but it was less than it would have been when I first got my license.

I didn’t get lost. I ended up significantly south of my intended course, trying to avoid the patches of dark  rain, but I never hit a point where I was expecting a landmark ahead and didn’t eventually spot it, unless I could see it was hidden in one of the dark patches. That certainly made navigation more difficult, but I managed.

It was definitely a learning experience, and it’s built up my confidence. When I thought back, it really was the worst weather conditions that I’ve flown through thus far as a pilot. I’ve flown through visibility as bad, but through calm air, and through rough air, but with good visibility, but this was both. It would have been nice to have had a 172 today, that wouldn’t have been buffeted around quite as much, but still, I learned a lot about where my limits are and what I can handle, and it really is so much more than what I could when I first got my license. I’m really pleased with myself.

When you learn to fly, they talk about personal limits a lot. Or at least my instructor did. So I always have that in mind, and on the one hand, you don’t want to get yourself into anything you can’t handle, but on the other, you don’t learn if you never push your limits. And that’s what time-building is all about. Practice, and learning, and experiences like this are a necessary part of the learning process.