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(Is that still a spoiler at this point?) Anyways, yeah, The Stone Sky, NK Jemisin, conclusion of the Broken Earth trilogy.

Before I summon the spoiler cut, I want to mention the somewhat-relevant information that I looked up recently that there are two previous back-to-back Hugo winners, Bujold for Vor Game and Barrayar and Card for Ender's and Speaker, and there has never yet been a consecutive threepeat.

And now spoilers. Read more... )

Six Wakes

Aug. 18th, 2017 08:16 pm
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Six Wakes, Mur Lafferty. I'm a huge sucker for this kind of thing - six clones wake up on a spaceship in deep space, their previous iterations murdered, what happened. The combination of the train/island murder mystery and the amnesia hook, And Then There Were None, They Were Eleven (which I hardly remember now, except that I was into the premise), the first season of Lost where they figure out that someone wasn't on the plane - and a couple of y'all may recall that I once ran a one-shot along similar lines. :) It's hard to say much else without undercutting the suspense, when part of the suspense, I think, is "is this well-constructed, is it going to be satisfying". So I will just say that it reminds me a lot of what it seemed like Lost wanted to be, with backstory character-revealing flashbacks and a foreground mystery, but is a nice standalone book instead of six seasons of inconclusive ad hoc bullshit, how about that?
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Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood. My note on my to-read list was just "prioritize this already", one of those must-reads I just kept not getting to. It is very powerful and well-done but I can't exactly say I *enjoyed* it; I admit I like the plucky survivalist fantasy of "fun" takes on the apocalypse like David Palmer's Emergence (a longtime favorite) much more than Atwood's realistic squalor. The world is too bleak right now to read anything this remorselessly non-escapist. Dubious choice, me.

The Human Division and The End of All Things, John Scalzi. I had read the rest of the series and always sort of intended to finish it, and I ran out of library ebooks and I had them on my phone because Josh had bought them, so. Scalzi is very, very good at writing books that keep you turning the pages, and then at the end you think, sure, that was fine, I would buy another one of these. I don't mean this as a criticism, I really admire Scalzi's professionalism and skill in producing A Satisfying Reading Experience. He - spoilers - did something so interesting in the Old Man's War universe, creating the United Federation of Planets and not letting humans be part of it - I can think of lots of stories where 20th century humans find out there's a League of Planets out there, judging them or whatever, but not a lot of future-set stories where aliens are doing the big good thing and spacefaring humans are left out or the enemy. Creates a good built-in tension to the world, that things are not how we would want them to be, and yet ultimately he has to either undermine that premise or leave it unsatisfying. I felt like in the end he tried to split the difference and it was kind of a meh ending. (Also, whatever happened to the whole "Special Forces want more rights/recognition" thread? I kept expecting that to come back in but it was just dropped.)

It's sort of funny, I was thinking of Oryx as a classic from quite awhile ago (I would have guessed the 90s) and the Old Man's War books as "recent", but Oryx is actually from 2003 and OMW from 2005. Of course Human Division and End are more recent, 2013 and 2015, but the world is still pinned down by the worldbuilding from 2005... I wonder if more "literary" works automatically seem older to me, hmm.

YA YA

Aug. 14th, 2017 01:07 pm
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I'm not sure if that's funnier if it's like "yeah, yeah" or like "get your ya-yas out". Or neither. Anyways, books.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee, is a 2017 gay teen historical romance, written by someone who I would be shocked to learn was not in/formerly in fandom somewhere. Not that these particular characters ring a bell as fileoffs of any particular fandom; maybe it's just that it seems impossible that a person who likes this sort of thing wouldn't have discovered fanfiction. A young man pining for his best friend has his Grand Tour of Europe take an adventurous turn when he gets caught up in a plot that requires them to travel through various locations and action sequences, accompanied by bookish little sister and ultimately culminating in personal growth etc. Good stuff, recommended if you like Courtney Milan (Lee is doing some similar stuff with writing non-whitewashed historicals that don't erase race/disability/queerness/etc), or possibly, hm, I'm less sure about this comparison, but the Assassin's Curse books, or Meg Cabot? Meg Cabot did a couple of teen historicals I remember liking... anyways, I suspect that most people were either like "gay teen historical romance YES" or "nah", so I won't keep on. There is one minor speculative element, but I wouldn't call it enough to consider this an SFF work - it's more like the way some romance novels happen to have a helpful ghost, or the way Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has minor supernatural elements but is mostly action-adventure. (... although it turns out both Raiders and Last Crusade won the Hugo Dramatic in their years, so, gah, maybe this is an SFF work after all. Genre is hard.)

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is unambiguously not speculative at all, just a teen contemporary novel. Trans teenager finally living as herself explores friendship and romance in the American South. Definitely felt like an "issue book", there's a lot of stuff here about What It Is Like for this girl to be trans, which, while very well done, felt more like it was aiming for people for whom this might be their first encounter with the topic. Given my personal areas of ignorance I actually felt like I learned more about stuff like what "mudding" is and the interior layout of a trailer home (... yes, my privilege is blinding) than the trans stuff. But, you know, put it in every school library in America and it might end up in some hands that could really use it. Well done and there was some good chemistry in the romance. Content notes: suicide attempt, forced outing, violence and threatened sexual violence against trans characters.

(I realize I didn't feel obligated to do a content note for the other one. Uh, period-typical attitudes? Genre-typical violence?)
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See the winners and links to detailed results here.

Overall, I think it was a strong ballot and I'm pretty happy with most of the results. Disappointed about Splendor&Misery, but as we'll see in the detailed results, I think the answer to "can an album compete with series television" is "I guess not".

So, yeah! Analysis and reactions, behind this cut for length! Read more... )
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Yeah, so when they said "great visuals, bad writing", that was not anti-SFF snobbery talking.

Let me complain at length.

But first! Previews! I got the Wrinkle in Time preview and I can't believe the world has to not blow up until *March* for us to get to see it, augh. Looks so good. I am also tentatively interested in the romantic comedy where Reese Witherspoon plays a 40-year-old mom who trades in her husband for a small harem of twenty-year-olds... ok, I'm sure in practice it will be terrible, but I want to see what fandom can make of it? Like there's some interesting stuff there with interplay of Mom Identity and sexual identity, where she's momming two of them and fucking the third, and it's nice to see films with middle-aged ladies getting to Renew Their Lives With Youth(s), a traditionally dude-dominated genre.

Okay, now Valerian spoilers. Read more... )

So, yeah. Cannot recommend, alas. I always want the big SF films to be good but... too many of them are not. :(
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I liked it! I'm very excited the 80s are now past enough to be a period to stylize, and I'm a forever sucker for badass women. It's no must-see like Wonder Woman but if you like spies lies and ultraviolence I would definitely recommend it.
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The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi. The opening of this was terrific - starts in a kind of classic YA set-up (although in a neat India-esque fantasy kingdom instead of Generic Faux-medieval Europe) but rapidly escalates/pivots until we're somewhere else entirely. I didn't think the rest of the book quite lived up to that opening, but I still enjoyed it - some good imagery, an unusual and funny talking animal sidekick, and a much more ambitious and original story than some YA bothers to try to tell. Very flowery language - we're definitely in the, like, Romantic/epic register here vs realistically developed characterization - but I thought it was worth it for the interesting setting and story. Would maybe rec to fans of Holly Black's Faerie books or N.K. Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. This was a 2017 Norton nominee (2016 book).

The Steerswoman, Rosemary Kirstein. This is a classic from 1989, the start of a series still in progress (four so far, two more in theory). Amusingly, Kirstein spoiled the main plot for me while speaking on a panel at Readercon, although I had already pretty much figured it out (and if I hadn't read a 1989 book yet I have only myself to blame). This starts off looking a lot like General Faux-medieval Fantasy Europe but It's Not, although we're only starting to see the whole picture of that as of this book, and I'm not sure if I'm going to read more of them to develop it further or not. I don't know, I really like the concept, and I think I probably would have *adored* it if I had actually read it back in the 90s, but it felt a little clunky to me? (In a way that makes me second-guess my reaction, like, would I cut a male character more slack with all of the "Rowan brilliantly counted the number of things and ascertained their number, she observed observationally" narration? I would like to think NOT AT ALL, but I can't prove that.) Anyways, my younger self would have been thrilled by a book where the hero bangs on about rationality and honesty and she's a woman, and my current self is pleased for another entry in my collection of books by women authors I can bring up in any possible conversation about SF, so, hey. (Niven, Heinlein, Vinge.) (Two female leads and 7 stories on AO3, o femslash fans.)
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The first two of these share the property of being things that went on my to-read list with an eye towards possible interest in Hugo-nominating them and then I didn't get to them in time.

Runtime, by S.B. Divya, is a 2016 novella Nebula finalist that I would very happily have put on my Hugos list instead of "Every Heart" or "Census-Taker" (and I would guess we'll see on the long list in a few weeks). Near-future, our cyborg protag is running an extreme race over the Sierras, it's the kind of perfectly-done small scope of plot that weaves together its survival-story strand, a look-at-society, and some bigger themes/questions about fairness and opportunity. Really interesting gender stuff, imagining a world where nonbinarity is becoming the dominant gender - I am automatically sympathetic to a protag wanting to ditch their gender but I thought Divya did a good job of showing how (like any gender orthodoxy) this is great for some people and less so for others. Anyways, recommended.

The Girl In The Road, by Monica Byrne, was a 2014 novel, so clearly I'm a little later catching up on this one. Coincidentally it also couples survival-story elements with its SF and dramatic themes - in this case a trek story, putting its protagonist on a floating bridge between India and Africa (and a secondary protagonist on a convoy across Africa). I think the last setting I found this striking might have been in Forest of Hands and Teeth except this one does so much more with its dramatic linearlly-constrained setting. It's possible that there's something suspect in my hunger for stories that don't center white people, something exotifying/appropriative or whatever, but I really liked that I had to go look at maps because this story took me through parts of the world my dumb ass could barely find on a map, that inter-national and inter-racial encounters were so much a part of the story without any Europeans or Americans around. It's definitely on the literary end of SF - unreliable narrators, recurring imagery and symbolism, references and foreshadowing - although not so much so that I felt like too much was going over my head. Recommended, but I feel I should mention that this is a pretty upsetting book, involving rape, child abuse, intimate partner violence, violence against trans people, self-harm, child harm, animal harm, and POV characters in manic, dissociated, and hallucinatory states. (I am always happy to have a more specific/spoilery conversation about content stuff if that is useful to anyone.)

The Djinn Falls In Love, edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin, is an anthology from this year. Although the name might make it sound like a YA anthology in search of this year's sparkly vampires, there is no YA or romance here, this is... how do I put this. "Serious adult SFF" makes it sound like I don't take YA or romance seriously. But, you know what I mean, it is tonally/thematically mainstream SFF on the Lightspeed/Clarkesworld type axis. Standout stories to me include "Majnun" by Helene Wecker, about a djinn who has converted to Islam, "Black Powder", by Maria Dahvana Headley, taking djinn into a tall tale/fable/Western context, "Reap", by Sami Shah, an unforgettable tense classic ghost story updated to drone surveillance and simultaneously a very contemporary story that could only be about drone surveillance - "Reap" is the one I'm putting a star by - and "Bring Your Own Spoon", by Saad Z. Hossain, about djinn and human survivors in a post-apocalyptic/dystopic future. The Gaiman piece here is in fact the djinn story from American Gods (only reprint in the collection) which on the one hand is the best thing in American Gods and on the other hand is not a new Gaiman story about djinn, phooey. Other authors I've recced stuff by before: JY Yang, Monica Byrne, Amal El-Mohtar, Usman T. Malik, Nnedi Okorafor. Content notes for intimate partner violence, child harm, maybe some other stuff... there was one in particular near the end that went somewhere really upsetting.
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Paper Girls 2, comic. The main new conceit of this volume (as set up at the end of volume 1) is a hugely compelling premise for me. I kind of wish they'd been able to hit it harder/dig in deeper... I mean, the emotional tone was in keeping with the rest of the comic, but. Dude. Way to concretize what happens to be one of my core emotional conflicts. Maybe there'll be fic? Maybe I'll write some?

Raven Stratagem, Yoon Ha Lee. My reaction is under the cut, as is a GIANT MASSIVE PLOT SPOILER. Sufficient warning? MAJOR SPOILERS HERE? Read more... )
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My entire Hugo ballot, behind this cut. Read more... )
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I don't think I ever posted about this - I honestly can't remember now if I heard about the winners when they came out in May or not.

Anyways, Nebula winners!

All the Birds in the Sky beat Obelisk Gate and Ninefox (and other things) for Novel; that was (and remains) my prediction for the Hugo as well.

Every Heart a Doorway beat Dream-Quest, Black Tom, and Taste of Honey for Novella, which is also my prediction for the Hugo. (Also, whoops, never read Runtime, I should do that.)

"The Long Fall Up", which I have not read (was in F&SF), won for Novelette, beating "Jewel&Lapidary" and "Surely Drown Here" (my prediction for the Hugo). Okay.

"Seasons of Glass and Iron" beat "Our Talons" and "Fist of Permutations" for Short Story, making me more optimistic it can beat them on the Hugo ballot too (I had predicted "Our Talons" but without confidence.)

Arrival beat Rogue One for Dramatic but I think Hidden Figures is going to pull more from Arrival than Rogue One on the Hugo ballot.

Arabella of Mars beat Newbery winner Girl Who Drank The Moon for the Norton. (Goal for next year: HAVE READ SOMETHING NOMINATED FOR THE NORTON.)
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Not Your Sidekick, C.B. Lee. Charming teen superhero YA science fiction romance. I suppose technically this is authorities-with-secrets but, I don't know, it never made me roll my eyes about it? Like there were reasons that these particular kids ended up in a position to uncover the lies and fight the system other than Their Innate Teen Resistance To Conformity or whatever. Anyways, I thought it was all pretty obvious but fun and nice and had some good character beats and I appreciate recommendable happy queer teen romance. I mean, adult readers might find it too young for them, but I like there being Good Books For Teens out there, if that's not too patronizing. I mean, I can see some young bisexual Asian girl being like "holy shit A Protagonist Like Me, and she gets the girl, eeee", I don't think we're even at the point yet where we have an abundance of those. I certainly remember compulsively rereading every teen romance I could get my hands on where the girl was taller than the boy (the pattern of many of my early crushes), which was, like, one Sweet Valley High novel and a novella in a collection I've never been able to track down again. Anyways, it turns out this is the first of a trilogy and the next one's going to focus on the trans shapeshifter character, yay.

When The Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore. I picked this up because it won the 2016 Tiptree, and I admit I found it very slow going for awhile. Super-poetic magical realism family drama angst romance. I did eventually get through it and did enjoy some of the imagery and language, and how it unfolded, but I still kind of think it could have been about half as long for the actual story. But, much like the previous book, that may be because this book was not For Me; I totally think some young trans person is going to read this and it's going to be Their Book, the thing they write quotes from in their journal and get tattoos of when they turn 18, or at least put on their list of their ten books that most explain who they are. Older YA, if only because I'm not sure younger YA readers would have the patience for the style.

The Lotterys Plus One Emma Donoghue. Did I randomly find a book about a poly family on my library's middlegrade new books shelf? I *did*! Well, it turns out the two dads are married and the two moms are married and they're probably not polying much except to live in one giant house and have kids together, but, like, I am not trying to erase the distinctions here between romantic and familial love, but a middlegrade book probably isn't going to get much into that distinction anyways. This book is definitely from the wish-fulfillment-fantasy genre one might call "what kind of life would we make if money was no object" - there is an enormous lottery win in the backstory - and would probably make a fascinating period piece for people outside the contemporary-liberal cultural context, either past or future. The Lottery dream life is joyously racially and ethnically diverse, warmly accepting of disability and difference (we are very overtly taught the word "neurodiversity"), self-consciously Wacky (so many cutesy names and misheard words) and Unstructured (so much homeschooling) and Literate (some of the books that get name-dropped seem more random than others). I was... not entirely convinced on the main theme about adjusting to accepting a grandpa with dementia into their family instead of finding a dedicated care facility for him... his dementia is conveniently at just the right stage to elide some of the more gritty burdens of caregiving, and his racism and homophobia conveniently soften once he gets to know everybody (there is probably a book to be written that seriously grapples with the question of asking minor children to endure microaggressions in their own home in the name of non-institutionalized caregiving/loving generously, but it wasn't quite this book. probably needs to be own-voices.). And there's a few bits of other weirdness (an AFAB kid who says they're not a girl but is still given she/hers pronouns because they also don't claim to be a boy... I swear we have a good third pronoun for this situation...). But overall it was sweet and goofy and I've always had a fondness for the wacky slice-of-life adventures of characters with an abundance of family and money, going back to, like, Eight Cousins and Cheaper By The Dozen (which both have some uncomfortable racist content as I recall so yay for contemporary readevenvaguelyalikes). If you ever thought it would be cool if Dykes To Watch Out For and the Ramona Quimby series had a baby and it was a feelgood middlegrade, here you go!
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Rivers of London aka Midnight Riot, Ben Aaronovitch. Fun! I like this sort of thing (police procedural + geek discovers magic) and look forward to reading more in the series at some point. I wouldn't call it unmissable or anything but it was a fast read I wanted to keep reading.

Deadpool. I guess technically I watched this rather than read it. Did not enjoy (and am left baffled by how much my mother loved this movie (???)).

Leviathan Wakes, James S.A. Corey. So technically I didn't read this either, in that I started reading the pdf excerpt they gave me in the packet and it seemed to be missing lines at many of the page breaks, to the point where I found it unreadable. Also did the thing of describing what all the women looked like and none of the men and tralala life is too short to read dude authors who piss me off in the first chapter. Feel free to make the case for this book in a comment if you think it's worthy of a second chance; I am queued for it at the library so might get a readable copy one of these days.

Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, Stix Hiscock. This was pleasantly not bad! I mean, I don't think it deserves a Hugo, but it was competently-written porn-comedy. The pole-dancing scene with the nipple lasers was fun. I thought there was a little too much dick (did dinosaurs even have dicks? come on, you're writing xeno, sexualize the cloaca) but it was better than watching Deadpool.

Ms. Marvel Vol 5: Super Famous. A strong installment of a terrific series. Ms. Marvel reminds me of Buffy at its best in how it literalizes issues, except with a much more diverse and interesting cast.

Paper Girls Vol 1. Super-compelling in characters, premise, and pacing; I can't wait to read volume 2.
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Things I have read for Hugo purposes:

The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle. I have to respect "white people are the real horror" as a theme but this didn't grab me as a story. (The POV switch away from the sympathetic first character kind of killed the momentum, alas, although I can see why LaValle didn't think he could do the whole thing from his POV.)

Penric and the Shaman, Lois McMaster Bujold. I didn't feel like this did anything that she hadn't already done better in Hallowed Hunt.

"Your Orisons May Be Recorded", Laurie Penny. Good gimmick but I have no strong reaction here.

"Blue Monday", Laurie Penny. Also enh.

The Jewel and her Lapidary, Fran Wilde. A bunch of authors I respect seem really into Wilde and I just don't get it. Here, she obviously had an ending she wanted to get to but I totally didn't understand the logic that was supposed to make it necessary? And (SPOILER)Read more... )

Infomocracy, Malka Older. A kickass near-future novel with interesting political mechanics, an awesome action scene, appealing characters, the works. On the one hand it is weird to be reading about election shenanigans that don't seem to have a lot of catastrophic real-world consequences, on the other hand it was delightfully escapist. Recommended. Minor spoiler:Read more... )
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I am so happy.

I can't write a review, because Megan Whalen Turner book. (The MATCHLESS SATISFACTION omg you guys.)

I did a complete reread of the series before reading it and am glad I did. I imagine some people might read this one and then go back and reread others and enjoy them in that direction too.

!!!!!!
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Volume 6 being the one presently up for a Hugo. I had last read Saga back in 2015 when volume 3 was nominated, so I started with 3 again and caught up. I'm not sure I recommend doing that - on the one hand, it's super page-turny, so not putting it down is a good solution to the problem of not wanting to put it down, on the other hand, it started to feel a little formulaic, in the pacing of the introduction of new characters/character deaths so that the cast size doesn't become completely unmanageable? And reading so much of it at once, it was hard to not start asking questions like "is there really a point to all this soap opera", which I think is an unfair question - is there a "point" to Girl Genius, or Astro City (which I just found out is apparently going again and has been for awhile), or Firefly, or any other serial story? But possibly it would be more fun to be reading Saga issue by issue, caught up in all the immediate dramas, speculating with other fans about what could happen next, etc.

I didn't do that, though, so here I am. I haven't read the rest of the nominees yet, but I strongly suspect it's going to be hard for a middle volume of a serial to compare with the introductory, world-establishing Volume One of something new, and there are four of those on the ballot. Saga vol 6 has some good beats but it's not like the Big New Idea rush of plunging into the story in the first place.
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The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill, 2017 Newbery. A fairy tale type fantasy that's mythic at its best, uncompelling at its worst - "plotless" would be the wrong word, there's a pretty satisfying core story, but there's not a lot of action, and particularly not of the rising action/falling action sort. The story sets itself up, and then about where I started to expect some kind of breakout that would catapult us into a more urgent, immediate storytelling mode, just kept right on unfolding in a sort of methodical, sometimes repetitive way, until eventually all the pieces came together in the sort of "Janet? Brad! Janet? Dr. Scott!" climax that I'm not even considering a spoiler, because, look, this is middle grade, Romeo's not passing the messenger on the road back from Mantua here. There are some good strands of the plot web meanwhile, though; this is probably the best take on the mother-whose-child-is-taken fairy tale trope I've ever seen, with a mother who refuses to vanish quietly out of the story. And I feel like the characters and metaphors in general might have more power for actual older-middle-grade readers, who might also have fewer expectations about pace and tone? Or maybe not. I wonder if it might actually be the right amount of story for a movie - maybe a bit too much backstory, but it would be gorgeous in, like, a Miyazaki adaptation (and already in the right tone, you wouldn't need a dubious tonal shift like the Howl's Moving Castle adaptation, this is right along the emotional lines of Spirited Away. Oh, man, now that this has occurred to me my brain is redrawing my vague mental pictures of all the characters into anime designs and it's *perfect*.)

Your Name

May. 1st, 2017 08:55 pm
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I loved this anime movie - visually gorgeous, compelling premise (bodyswap! I always love the classic tropes), more tightly written than I was expecting. Some of the best handling I've ever seen in fiction of how dreams feel - or at least how my dreams feel, I sometimes have very vivid or complicated dreams that seem more real than real life when I first wake up, and then I can hardly remember not long after. And I also dream more about people from my adolescence much more than people in my current life. (I assume something got hardwired somewhere in my teen brain development...) So teenagers who are having these dreamlike experiences - spot on! I also just love so much the little details of Japanese life and setting - this movie was so *placed*, so locationally grounded, in the same way that, like, My Neighbor Totoro is. Neat to get a little glimpse of a different world. (It was out in 2016 in Japan, 2017 here, I dunno what year would count for Hugo purposes.)
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This is the adult novel that goes with One Half From The East, discussed here. I have to admit, I liked the middlegrade version a lot better, Pearl is pretty relentlessly about people being awful to the protagonists, and felt less clever in the writing, too. I didn't really need to be convinced that patriarchy and authoritarian societies suck. Warnings for child marriage/rape, child abuse, child death.
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