One of my favorite books is Robert Asprin's Another Fine Myth. Today, I was leafing through it and saw one of my favorite sections of it. Let me share.
"Ah! What a shining example of civilization!" chortled Aahz exuberantly as he peered about him, delighted as a child on his first outing.
We were sauntering casually down one of the lesser used streets of Twixt. Garbage and beggars were strewn causually about while beady rodent eyes, human and inhuman, studied us from the darkened doors and windows. It was a cluster of buildings crouched around an army outpost which was manned more from habit than necessity. The soldiers we occasionally encountered had degenerated enough from the crisp recruiting poster model that it was frequently difficult to tell which seemed more menacing and unsavory, the guards or the obviously criminal types they were watching.
"If you ask me, it looks more like mankind at its worst!" I mumbled darkly.
"That's what I said, a shining example of civilization!"
Now, one of the hazards of being a writer is that you start to notice how other writers have put together the material of their craft (words). While this section is not E-Prime, it is still a masterful use of words.
Aahz chortled, not laughed, as he was acting like an excited kid. His companion, Skeeve, does not see what there is to get excited about. The author tosses trash around all over, bums and litter being the same (some politicians in my town feel that they are), while rodent eyes (criminals and rats) watch the main characters. He tops this all off with a description of the town and its original purpose, and the subsquent decline of its soldiers. Skeeve says what he thinks, and Aahz agrees (Aahz is not the type of being that you would take to the opera, or any place nice--it is nothing personal; I just suspect that he would consider stealing silverware and snores when he is bored).
In the space of 138 words, Asprin has established a new setting, showed us some conflict (different idealogies) between the two main characters, and made some social commentary. It is a brilliant piece of writing which illustrates why Another Fine Myth is one of my all-time favorite books.
Someday, I hope to be able to write that well.
Book Review of Another Fine Myth on Helium (by me, of course)