books

Dec. 5th, 2016 11:34 pm
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
The Raven and the Reindeer, T. Kingfisher who is Ursula Vernon, 2016. A nifty YA novelization of "The Snow Queen" fairytale, with shapeshifting, and the having-to-overcome-feeling-stupid part of being a hero, and lesbians, and realizations about dangling after jerkboys. Recommended, especially if you like Fire and Hemlock.

A Closed And Common Orbit, Becky Chambers, 2016. Sort-of sequel to Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, although most of the characters from that aren't in this one. This one is more serious and intense, grapples SFnally with some not-unfamiliar brain stuff? Also I criiiiied so much oh my gosh, really hit some of my buttons for that. Recommended but while I think you *could* read them in either order, this one definitely spoils some stuff that happens in Long Way so my suggestion is to read them in publication order.

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly, 2016. Sequel to Evolution of etc. Kelly has answered my objection about the previous book and laid out a path by which Callie might actually escape and make it to college! Really hoping we get a third one of these with some bigger time jumps so we can see her do it. Are series that start with a juvenile protagonist and follow them all the way into adulthood rarer now than they used to be? I mean, there's Harry Potter, but I feel like stuff like, oh, all the big classic old timey girls series, Anne and Little House and Betsy/Tacy, and then the fantasy classics like Dragonsong and Alanna, there's this whole thing where the content (and, especially in the older series, the complexity of the writing), "grows up" along with the characters. I don't know whether someone could sell a series like that today - specifically I don't know whether Kelly might have. I guess there's Princess Diaries, hrm.

The Case of the Invisible Dog and The Case of the Secret Scribbler, E.W. Hildick, illustrated by Lisl Weil. We've finally caught up to McGurks I remember! Not all or even most of the details - I think I would have read these in like 1984, and never re-read them past elementary school - but there's bits where I'm like "oh yeeeah, this is familiar." Invisible Dog is really charming, and Secret Scribbler involves an Actual Crime TM!

The Storyteller, Evan Turk, picture book, 2016. I don't follow the Caldecott (so no idea what they've been awarding) but I could see this making the list. Really neat story about storytelling, with nested framing stories. Junie was intrigued and wanted to discuss further, which she rarely does about her reading!

Zoom, Istvan Banyai. Q was fascinated by this wordless picture book in which steady "zooming out" reveals scenes to be pictures cleverly inset in other scenes. After we went through together he spent a long time flipping back and forth through the pages "zooming".
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Goldenhand, Garth Nix, 2016. Ties off threads from Clariel and the novelettes "The Creature In The Case" and (less directly) "To Hold The Bridge" as well as being a direct sequel to Abhorsen. This being Nix, there are some good settings and sequences here (that was true in Clariel too, despite my general lack of enthusiasm for that book, and this one is definitely more enjoyable), but it definitely felt like a "late book" for a series, as the momentum and creative energy winds down and runs out. If you love the characters you'll probably enjoy seeing them in action again and knowing they get closure on a bunch of fronts, but if you didn't feel like you needed to read "Creature in the Case" you can probably continue to ignore everything after Abhorsen without fear you're missing something great.

I did really like this bit: Read more... )

Full Fathom Five, Max Gladstone, 2014. Third in publishing order of the five-going-on-six-book Craft Sequence; chronologically after both Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise and does involve some characters/situations from those books. Creative energy still going strong for Gladstone at this point in his series, at least. The legal-thrillers-but-with-magic aspect of these means that they're pretty satisfying (truths discovered, injustices rectified) and the magic makes for some good wow in the worldbuilding. There was a bit in the middle of this one I found profoundly moving. I remember that when I read the first two back-to-back I felt like that was too much of the same thing at once, so I'm not going to rush out to catch up on books four and five of the series, but I definitely look forward to reading them when it seems like a good time.

Hold Me, Courtney Milan, 2016. In the contemporary series that started with Trade Me. You can analyze all the dimensions to these fantasies - women get the courage to take what they want! wealthy, powerful men feel lucky that these women give them a chance! but they're really well done, and aren't most books peddling some kind of fantasy of power/justice/hope/what have you. Milan writes her characters with a lot of sympathy and nuance and real-life Stuff to deal with - this whole series seems to be shaping up to have a theme of emotional vulnerability. So it's heavier, than, like, Crusie (although there's definitely still some wackiness here, including a secondary character whose future book I can't wait for). Also the couple in this one is a trans Latina woman and a bi Asian dude, which is just *neat*, like, I'm not really up on the self-published contemporary scene but I know I've never found a trans character on the romance racks at the library.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel has a great concept - people start finding parts of an enormous ancient alien robot - but I didn't enjoy the writing at all. I'm not a stickler for actual scientific accuracy to the extent of "the math and physics all actually work", but I like the ring of truth in how scientists talk about things they don't understand (experiments! data!) and how labs operate (Agent Scully aside, big investigations have big casts!). And, ugh, so much male gaze, so many tiresome heteronormative tropes. I didn't know a gender for the name "Sylvain" when I picked up the book but it very quickly became obvious it was a dude author, confirmed when I flipped to the back flap. Too bad. Anyways, I was going to conclude this by saying it would work as an animated movie, it's got some good visuals and the cartoonishness would be forgivable in an actual cartoon (think Miyazaki's early ancient giant robot/god soldier work in Nausicaa or Laputa, or the robot would also probably look great in CGI) but in fact there isn't a huge amount of giant stompy robot bang for the buck here either.

Archie Volume One is the reboot of Archie comics written by Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, other superhero titles) and drawn by Fiona Staples (Saga) and other artists. The execution is top-notch - these are masters of comics pacing, character beats, expressive faces - but, you know, it's Archie. Really well-done, smartly updated Archie, but ultimately we're talking about a love triangle that ran for 75 years and never resolved, right? I mean, I'll probably keep reading it, but, I don't know, no-end series comics may not be for me, there's something unsatisfying about knowing they'll never resolve.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Book Two of Jemisin's trilogy. Worldbuilding so good! Writing so good! World so bleak! Cut for spoilers:Read more... )
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
The Case of the Nervous Newsboy and The Great Rabbit Rip-Off. Have yet to hit one I remember from my own childhood. The copy of Newsboy the library sent us was a reprint edition and it turns out I feel Very Strongly about the original illustrator Lisl Weil, do not approve At All of substitutions. Her drawings just have so much character! I mean, look at this: https://goo.gl/photos/YfFPShbQH9svEse5A (this is an experiment linking a photo in Google Photos). Someday someone's going to request McGurk as a Yuletide fandom and I'm going to be so excited.

Swarm

Oct. 6th, 2016 07:19 pm
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Swarm, Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti, second of the trilogy that started in Zeroes. Spoiler cut for major spoilers.
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psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
One of the things I love about Miéville is that the elevator-pitch summaries of his books can sound so out-of-nowhere and then I actually read them and it's like, yeah, okay, there's a short straight line between this and his other work, I see how this fits. The Last Days of New Paris is about Surrealist fighters in a Nazi-occupied post-magical-apocalype Paris, so it is of course about The City (everyone drink, in the Miéville-trope drinking game), and the exquisite corpses echo the Remade of Bas-Lag (drink) and we've got some demons and golems and doomed revolutionaries (drink drink drink)...

Despite that I felt for most of the book like I was not the audience for this book, that Miéville was playing a game of reference-the-Surrealist that would probably only delight fans of Surrealism. Which I am not - I mean, I agree it was important as a movement/as a response to its time, and there are occasional Surrealist works I've found memorable or powerful, but for the most part it's not the wing of the museum I'm going to head to first? And I just did not care, about this sort of guidebook-travelogue wander through carefully end-noted imagery ("and on your left, it's Dorothea Tanning's sunflower...").

And then Miéville did something I'm not sure he's ever done before, and ended a novel stronger than he started it. The very last final sequence blew me away with the clarity of its argument, and in 2014 I might have thought it was over the top, but here in 2016 it feels all too relevant, to the extent that I had to reconsider whether he had justified the previous 160 pages. Whether he needed all of that buildup to land that last hit; whether *my frustration with it* was actually one of the planned-for reactions, the better to make his case at the end. I don't know; me being me, I'm still inclined to wonder if he could have done it in a novelette. At that length I would have put it on my short-fiction recs list and probably nominated it; at this length I don't really feel like I can recommend it, because it really is an awful lot of I-turned-my-Surrealism-class-notes-into-this-giant-collage before you get to the end. But, man. That end. I'm going to copy some sentences under a cut, because I feel like I might want them for something later, although they won't make sense out of context. (Arguing about fascism, utopia, and the artist as utopian, probably. This was a fascinating book to read right after Too Like The Lightning.)

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So first off, Ada Palmer was at Bryn Mawr in '99-01 and involved with Double Star, so while I don't think I ever met her, she can't be more than a step removed. Hi, if you're the mutual friend and you happen to read my lj. :)

Secondly: Too Like The Lightning is the first of four, and if you want to read it without knowing anything more about it at all, my recommendation is that you wait to do so until at least one more book in the series is out, maybe more than one. There's a large, complex cast of characters here, and no reason to think we're not still going to need to remember them all in future books - in fact I felt like the main work of TLTL was to painstakingly set up the board, piece by piece, for something that will play out in later books? Like it may actually make more sense to think of this as the first quarter of a very long single novel, just reaching plot breakout in the final chapters of this quarter.

From which you might guess that the heart of my reaction to this book is "well, it depends where it goes!" Maybe I've been watching Palmer meticulously setting up dominoes (which is not unpleasant, seeing the tricks and patterns) and then there's going to be one breathless orgiastic finish when they finally run. Or maybe it'll be more like putting together a puzzle without a lid, and there'll be all the little satisfactions of putting bits together, and then the big quiet satisfaction at the end of seeing that it all fits. I am, in general, both a sucker for this sort of thing and wary of it; my favorite books end up being the ones that are rewarding the whole way through, instead of saving up their zing for some ultimate payoff that might or might not actually pay off. I've been burned by television, by things like the X-Files or Lost, that pretended to look like a puzzle but turned out to be a heap of individually manufactured separate pieces some of which could be joined up but were never conceived as a coherent whole. Or, a more fair comparison, the Rothfuss Kingkiller books, which might in the end turn out to be a brilliant meta-work about storytelling or might turn out to be a tedious shaggy-dog story, we just don't know yet. At least Palmer is vastly less tedious than Rothfuss.

I also suspect that there's a whole layer going on that's a conversation with someone not in the room, which is frustrating when it's going over my head, but probably much more interesting if it's not. Possibly I need to have read Candide.

I think this review is sounding more negative than I mean it to be? It just feels so hard to know what to make of it. I want to compare it to Simmons' Hyperion series (four books, similar themes so far about politics, religion, transportation as a mode of social control), but Hyperion has a lot more sfnal razzle-dazzle (the farcasters, the cruciforms, the Time Tombs, etc). But maybe it's more of a Snow Crash or Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom project, about futuristic ways to organize society, although the latter had some razzle-dazzle too, and the former is *wildly* action-packed, so not a good comparison at all. I don't know! Stranger in a Strange Land, which is name-checked explicitly at one point, and might be being referenced in a whole bunch of other ways more subtly - I've read that, at least, unlike Candide, so that part of the conversation I am catching. Or possibly making up. (ETA: Dune, of course. Mentats and messiahs? Shadow/not so shadow organizations steering history? Duh, me.)

One more thing behind a spoiler cut for significant spoilers. Read more... ) ...I reread that and what I think it means is [livejournal.com profile] aryky read this one, ideally without reading that very spoilery paragraph. :)

books

Sep. 25th, 2016 11:57 am
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I'm falling behind on books. (Well, and, perpetually, almost everything else too... but right now I am addressing the topic of books...)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloane. I knew almost nothing about this except that it had been recommended by a friend, and that was a great way to read it, but I'm going to give y'all a little more detail so you know how it fits into the spectrum of things I recommend. So, a) this is a *nice* book, a book with a warm and rosy glow, I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone. b) It reminded me a little bit of Ready Player One except more universal and w/fewer annoying bits. c) Google is involved and I would love to hear from anyone who's worked at or with Google what they thought of the portrayal of Google in the book. And a couple of spoilers: Read more... )

vN, Madeline Ashby. Apparently first of a trilogy of which the third book does not exist yet, but if I hadn't read that I wouldn't have known, it read like a standalone. Posthuman rogue robot hijinks! I am so psyched to have read this book because I finally have a woman author to list with Greg Egan and Peter Watts when I'm talking about people doing hardcore non-sentimental post-human futurism. Good stuff here about identity and robot-human relations and what it means to be a child and what it means to be an adult and consent and family. Ashby is exploring some similar territory to Stross in Saturn's Children but I'm so much more interested in thoughts about what it means to be a sex class/created as sex object from a woman? Sorry, but, like, similarly, I will be much more interested in what it means to be created as laborers/as bodies to suffer danger/pain from a writer who comes from a background of having their ancestors' bodies imported as commodities for those purposes. Not that I think I've actually read that book yet but if it's out there someone should recommend it to me immediately. It's like how Butler has much smarter stuff to say about race/species relations than anyone else, there's a real example. One interesting note, there's a murder of a human child pretty early on that for whatever reason *didn't* bother me, I mean, I'm not saying I was cheering, but it didn't set off the typical waterworks of child death, it would probably be interesting if I could put my finger on why not, but I can't, just didn't?

The Fifth Season, NK Jemisin. And on the topic of child death (there's a great transition), Josh read this and enjoyed it so I gave it a second go in preparation for reading the sequel when we get it. Turns out I really had already found all of the child death/torture in my first attempt, so no new awfulness, and I got to read some nifty stuff I hadn't found before, so that was nice. Iiiii don't know, I still don't feel like I would recommend these to anyone but I guess I'll have to see what she does in the second book? There is some genuinely *really cool* stuff here in and around the world too brutal to stand. (And then I read Facebook and it's like three new horrific shootings/beatings to death by cops, so, to be clear, I am not blaming Jemisin for writing about a world too brutal to stand, we may also be living in one.)
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I really love it when books I'm reading in some coincidental order (availability, whim, etc) turn out to have some interesting theme or common thread together. Cairo by G Willow Wilson and MK Perker and The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks are graphic novels about metropolis cities and the people who come to them and through them and how they're able to ally in hope of a better future. Cairo is Wilson's first work, before Alif the Unseen (which I still haven't read) or Ms. Marvel, and is a standalone; this is the first volume of Nameless City and it says it's continuing in volume two, dunno how long it's intended to be. I would recommend both, if you like comics - Nameless City is maybe an easier read, it's colorful and the pacing is more decompressed, more manga-influenced in its wordless action panels. They have interestingly contrasting takes on who should get to speak, who gets a place at the table - Cairo took a sharper stance on, like, white people should shut up and listen, Israel should be rejected (at least in its military-occupation aspect), the only voice that matters is the ordinary citizens of Cairo, while Nameless City, maybe because it has the freedom of being set in a fictional world, seems to be taking more of an "everybody gets a place at the table, the way forward is for conquerors and conquered to work together" approach that I find very appealing but would probably make a lot of people mad if it was about a real city's history.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Man, maybe when I'm all the way down the Duolingo tree I should celebrate by reading a book in Spanish, I haven't tried that in twenty years.

Anyways. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly, is a middle grade about an 11-year-old girl in 1899 Texas who becomes interested in evolution and bonds with her naturalist grandfather. It's been awhile since I read anything in the "girl in historical setting resents limitations/expectations of her gender" genre (although heck knows I used to devour them when I was younger) so I don't remember if they all felt this bittersweet - Callie longs to go to university and see the world, but there's zero indication that this is going to be possible, and quite a bit of indication that she's going to be expected to give up her dreams and conform. So it's more like a "she's getting this magical time in her young life before reality descends" book than "and then she totally grew up to be Kate Sessions" (or whoever your fave lady naturalist is at the moment), despite her grandfather name-dropping a list of historical lady scientists. (Curie, Martha Maxwell, Anning, Kovalevskya, Isabella Bird.) There's apparently a sequel, I'll be curious to see whether this changes.

Company Town, Madeline Ashby. Near-future thriller is not my favorite genre, but as I often think about these books, this one has some clever sfnal ideas in and around the running around, including a woman whose birthmark is natural face-recognition-software camouflage, and post-Singularity AIs trying to meddle with the past. It more or less all hangs together - I found some of the scenes/plot developments at the end kind of muddled, so that I had to reread a couple of times to sort out what was meant, but I got there eventually. And it was very readable in general, in the sense of pace and momentum, and had some good lines, and a neat setting, and, I mean, near-future thriller isn't my *least* favorite genre either, sometimes it's fun to read about someone running around having fights/solving murders/etc and this one has a good protagonist and perspective, so, hey.

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell. Waaaah nostalllgia. Better critics than I have written about the somewhat awkward handling of race in this novel, so let me just say, that's there, but my white privilege let me focus more on the teen-romance parts than the dubious-representation parts, and Rowell does so well with capturing the immensity of that first romance and the intensity of every particular tiny step? I read so much slashfic where people confess their feelings and someone has a dick up their ass five seconds later, I really love the contrast of teen stories where someone very daringly touches a collarbone on the eighth date. Anyways, I ended up crying on the couch at one in the morning listening to "Get Lost" very very loud in my headphones (which isn't even my personal teen heartbreak nostalgia soundtrack, that would be more like REM/U2/Metallica, but it's become the iconic album of those emotions for me), which was an excellent outcome as far as I'm concerned, so, recommended if that sounds good to you.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling. Delilah Dirk is one of those things for me that, the instant I heard there was a second Delilah Dirk book out, I was looking up what library I could go get it at in the morning. (Okay, it might have been the afternoon.) Partnership! The travails of living a double life! Swordfighting in a dress! God I love them so much. (I bet Junie will love these in a couple of years, if she keeps reading comics...) 2016 graphic work.

The Core of the Sun, Johanna Sinisalo, translated from Finnish by Lola Rogers. In alternate-history dystopic Finland where women have been domesticated, one throwback woman pursues the illicit high of capsaicin... I enjoyed this a lot, the gender stuff is not really anything new if you already hate gender/compulsory femininity/etc, but I assume as long as women have to live in patriarchies they're going to want to write pissed-off books about that. The dystopia is nicely presented through found-text type insertions, there's some really neat writing in the synasthesic way the main character perceives emotions/sensations, and the whole chili-as-controlled-substance thing was great. 2013 book, 2016 translation.

Deadline for McGurk and The Case of the Condemned Cat, E. W. Hildick. There's a very good chance the McGurk Organization was the fictional universe of my very first imaginary self-insert character - I can't remember anything about her now, but I very dimly recall being a little embarrassed when I read Vanishing Ventriloquist and it added a talented, exotic new girl member to the club, like, hey, I knew this story. (And already knew to be embarrassed by it, apparently.) Anyways, I thought of the McGurk mysteries when Junie got into the A to Z Mysteries recently, and of course I'm rereading them, both for nostalgia and to see how they hold up a generation later. They're not bad! A little gender antiquated (Wanda, the Girl of the Five Man Band - although they won't actually meet the Nerd for another four books, so right now it's a Four Man Band - "can climb trees as well as any boy", which is "strange for a girl"), and everyone is white, but the mysteries are good, and the period details might be interesting. (McGurk's yard is full of litter, primarily cigarette butts - can you imagine a kid's book mentioning smoking now? And the solution to the second mystery hinges on someone buying an unplucked pigeon from the meat department of a supermarket - I guess in 1975 that was something you could do?) Junie has requested more of them and I intend to keep reading too; we haven't hit any of the ones I remember anything about yet, so that should be fun when we do.

Necessity

Aug. 4th, 2016 12:17 am
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Necessity, Jo Walton, third and final book in the trilogy that started with The Just City, where Athena sets up Plato's Republic with people from throughout history who wished they could live in it. These books are *so interesting*. Some of Walton's moves here landed more solidly for me than others (more under the cut) but in general, worthy conclusion, some of the ways Walton goes big surprised and delighted me. I like that every generation has its own particular problems and preoccupations and yet there are common threads/overarching themes too.

You might like it if: Nancy Kress's Beggars trilogy; if you've ever read philosophy for fun; possibly James Morrow although his only book I remember anything about is City of Truth although I must have read Towing Jehovah back in the day?? anyways, maybe not Morrow.

Read more... )
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It's science vs magic in Charlie Jane Anders' All The Birds In The Sky! This is a neat book, very contemporary, simultaneously "big" in the mythic sense and very personal. I've liked her short fiction for awhile so I was all set to like this. Some of the early parts turned out to be somewhat hard going for me - I think I've lost appetite for stories about bullied/isolated/misunderstood/abused misfit youngsters, I don't have the identification with such characters that I once did, I'm too likely to wonder what story the one-dimensional parent characters think they're in. I mean, I'm not trying to deny the appeal or value of these stories in general, I just may not be the audience. Anyways, I thought things picked up once we jumped to adulthood, so maybe don't give up until Book Three, if you're having doubts. There's some really clever stuff here, and some real emotional resonance.

You might like it if you liked: Lev Grossman's The Magicians (but without the misogyny), Mieville's Kraken (but less gonzo), American Gods, Holly Black's faerie books, possibly Charles Stross.

Content notes: implied animal harm, loss of parents.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
So this is not Mieville at his breathtaking best (Embassytown or City &the City), when he manages to focus on something and punch you with it. And it's also not Mieville in exuberant kitchen-sink mode (Bas-Lag books, Kraken) where the entire contents of his most recent ideas notebook are getting dumped in the stew. This Census Taker isn't really like anything I've seen out of Mieville before - unexpectedly sparse, intensely atmospheric, cryptic and disturbing. Mieville famously once claimed he was going to write a novel in every genre, and I think this is his take on horror. Much more spoilery discussion behind the cut below. But first, would I recommend it? I'm not sure. I think it's an *interesting* work, and goddamn can Mieville write and sustain a mood, but it's also frustrating. More like something you'd write a lit paper about than a fun bit of genre reading. My lit paper below. :) (And vocab list, maybe, Mieville makes me resort to the dictionary more than any other author. Vatic, pinchbeck, bibelots, scends.) But first, a general content spoiler, for anyone who might consider reading it but would want to be warned about certain subjects: animal harm, domestic violence.

I'm not kidding about spoilers below. Spoilers for everything.
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I've enjoyed Yoon Ha Lee's short fiction; now Ninefox Gambit is his first novel, the first book of a military SF trilogy (next one out in 2017), and it is also very good! I enjoyed the balance of combat strategy and political intrigue, the pacing of the action/plot reveals as mysteries unfold (really no first-novel clunkiness here at all), and I kind of don't want to spoil this for people who would rather read without knowing the premise, but the central character relationship is fascinating and unforgettable. There is a lot of war-typical violence here - platoons getting blown up, the wholesale slaughter of populations - but it never crossed my personal line of "jeez this author likes thinking of nasty things people could do to each other and describing them for us, eww". You might like it if you like chessmasters like Miles Vorkosigan, Adrian Veidt, various people in the Ender's Game books? You might like it if you liked the Ancillary Justice books, or Aliette de Bodard, or those Seth Dickinson Morrigan stories? Lee's universe is darker and more baroque and uncanny and arcane than the Vorkosiverse or the Ancillaryverse, I wouldn't have necessarily guessed I'd be so into it, but I was.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
So I liked A Stranger In Olondria better than just about everyone I talked into reading it, so I realize this isn't going to sound as superlative as it sounds to me, but, Samatar's sequel The Winged Histories is *every bit as good*. It's so beautiful, so rich, so well-constructed. There were things that happened that left me breathless. I am very susceptible to the pleasure of catching on; it was *so satisfying* to watch these stories unfold. Tolkien, Le Guin, Samatar, man, masters of high fantasy.

You might wonder: do I need to read Stranger in Olondria first? I wouldn't say you absolutely *have* to, it's not a straight sequel but rather a parallel story (paraquel?) but I think Stranger is a better introduction to Olondria, Winged Histories is going to dump you in pretty hard and fast if you haven't read Stranger. You also might wonder: do I need to have read Stranger *recently*? I did, and I am glad I did that (for place names, in particular) but I also greatly enjoyed my reread because I was reading an excellent book. You could probably get away with skimming, um, the middle third, ish, if you wanted the most relevant review quickly.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Folding Beijing, Hao Jingfang trans. Ken Liu, novelette. I thought this was awesome - vivid and substantive - and I'm not willing to not vote for it on account of the assholes having nominated it.

Space Raptor Butt Invasion, Chuck Tingle, short story. Speaking of assholes. (ba-dum.) I read a fair bit of m/m pwp, and this did not strike me as particularly great for that genre. I don't mean to knock the genius of "Slammed In The Butt By My Hugo Award Nomination" or "Pounded By The Pound: Turned Gay By The Socioeconomic Implications Of Britain Leaving The European Union" or "Living Inside My Own Butt For Eight Years, Starting A Business And Turning A Profit Through Common Sense Reinvestment And Strategic Targeted Marketing" but... enh.

Perfect State, Brandon Sanderson, novella. Interesting-enough MLP: Friendship Is Optimal-esque scenario, but I was bothered by Sanderson's uncritical use of a reproductive coercion storyline to further the plot. (Like, really? brains in jars, living otherwise-idealized lives, but they still have to *what*? I feel like maybe this is a place where a woman author might have noticed how deeply icky and violating that is, while a dude author like Sanderson just thought it was funny?) Also Melhi is Molly, yeah?

Slow Bullets, Alastair Reynolds, novella. A bunch of interesting elements here but somehow it didn't quite hang together for me.

Sandman Overture, Neil Gaiman + artists, graphic. Duuuuude. We'd had this on the bookshelf for awhile and I finally read it and you know how sometimes you're just like, man, authors should not try to revisit their works, stop poking it, it was good but you're making it worse? Not the case here. Gaiman & his team still have the juice, what a fucking capstone.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
So I just finished League of Dragons, the final book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, and Carry On, Rainbow Rowell's version of the final book of a YA fantasy series she originally invented as a Harry Potter analogue for Fangirl, although this is not, in fact, the series as it existed in Fangirl, this is the book it actually is, a book in our world. Novik is still active in fandom and I'm a big fan of her fanwork (as well as prowork); I don't know who Rowell is but there is *no way* she wasn't in HP fandom and I would love to know who she was if someone ever wanted to slip me that secret under the table. I'm just really fascinated by the whole business of having that context, as a reader, although it also feels like a delicate subject, maybe partly because SRB has been vocal about disliking people talking about it in her case? But, argh, this is too interesting to be too taboo to talk about! Novik and Rowell are doing really different projects but are doomed to end up on the same syllabus when someone gets to teach a class on this stuff in 2035 or whatever; I suppose you could consider this a sketch of a paper for that class.

(If you just want to know if I'd rec them, without spoilers, then yes, both; the Temeraire series is fantasy alt-history done excellently, and I think Carry On would be interesting to anyone who ever thought much about Harry Potter. (I would love to know whether it makes any sense outside of that context, but who on earth is going to want to read it who doesn't know Harry Potter?))

Under the cut there are spoilers about shipping, for the very end of League of Dragons, and for earlier books in the Temeraire series, but I've tried to avoid other references to plot events in both books.

Read more... )
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Finding Dory - cried. Thought it was very good. A couple of laugh-out-loud bits too. Discussion question: what if the movie was exactly the same in every way, but the octopus was voiced by, I don't know, Roseanne Barr*. On the one hand, yay more female buddy characters, on the other hand, do Hank's choices in the end suddenly feel self-sacrificial instead of self-actualizing. And does that one bit automatically turn into a reference to a certain famous movie I haven't actually seen but still know the iconic ending of. (*Roseanne was just who first came to mind, as, like, an older female "character actor", but then I looked it up, and the voice of Hank was apparently the guy who played Al Bundy, so Roseanne is like totally exactly the right parallel and I wonder if on some subconscious level I was cued for that by Hank's voice.)

Her Every Wish, Courtney Milan novella. I really like the thing Milan is doing of expanding her serieses into including non-aristocrat couples? Like there's always been some of that in historical romance but very often it's aristo/non-aristo, and I feel like Milan is doing cool stuff with people in social roles I'm not used to seeing in historicals at all? Like obviously there's plenty of both-not-aristos in settings in the American West, cowboys/mail order brides and all that, but, like, actual working-class people in London contemporaneously with Lords and Society and all that? This is neat stuff. I would read a hundred more chapters about Daisy and Crash and their shopkeeping lives. (I would love to have seen a little more done with the implication that Crash is bisexual, I spent most of Unraveled thinking that Smite was bi (that Richard was his ex) and am still sad he wasn't, I can see how Milan just didn't want to go into it with all the complexity of historical attitudes/legalities, but, like, bi hero? that's interesting!) I wasn't super into every aspect of their romance... I thought their conversations were a lot more interesting than their sex... but, like, family dinners, would read so many family dinners with Daisy's mom and Aunt Ree.
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