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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?

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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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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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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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.

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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Ada Palmer's sequel to Too Like the Lightning (reviewed here), book two of four. Major spoilers under the cut.

Read more... )

movies

Apr. 20th, 2017 07:48 pm
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Logan was good, although I wonder if they thought while making it that an oppressive, corporate-controlled US that people are trying to escape from over the border to Canada was more like a what-if dystopia than an accurate depiction of the present day.

Moonlight was also good, very good, I don't seem to have ever mentioned that, mostly putting it here so that when I go back looking for what movies I saw it's on the list.

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