**spoiler alert** Okay, wow, I had forgotten how unpleasant I find Jaxom about half the time. He's a sympathetic character in that he gets to do all t...more**spoiler alert** Okay, wow, I had forgotten how unpleasant I find Jaxom about half the time. He's a sympathetic character in that he gets to do all this cool stuff, but the internal monologue and motivations McCaffrey gives him are kind of tool-y. His distress over having no one real place where he fits is deeply appealing, but the way he whines about it is not.
Also, hi dodgy gender issues, how I didn't miss you! They're prevalent enough in the Lessa books and the Menolly books, almost negligible in Piemur's book, but here, where you're deeply wedged into Jaxom's brain, they're even worse. His treatment of Corana, the holder girl he first takes up with in order to have a cover for training Ruth to chew firestone, is abysmal. First he almost-forces her when he's caught up in the mating tensions of the green at Fort (which is brushed away when Ruth says but she liked it), then Jaxom is glad to have his attachment to Sharra as an acceptable excuse for ditching her, except for when Sharra doesn't immediately succumb to his charms(?), he considers seeking out Corana "for a little relief", if only in idle contemplation. I suppose that's some of the class wonkiness in these books coming out, too (Sharra is not for 'relief' because she's Toric's sister, but Corana's father is beholden to Jaxom, so that's okay!), but the whole thing is deeply unpleasant.
And don't even get me started on the whole Jaxom-Menolly thing, or Jaxom and Piemur snitting over Sharra, or poor freakin' Mirrim, who has a careless tongue but has had just as rough a deal as Jaxom but is comstantly slagged on in all these books.
Still, though. Still. Like with all these books, above and beyond some of the crappy characters and weird class structure and hopefully-outdated views on women, they are so bloody compelling. Like Pern, like Valdemar, I suppose. There remains something inherently attractive about a magical being choosing you and you alone to be their special friend.
I do love the mixing and merging of Craft and Hold and Weyr in this book, as the culmination of the whole trilogy. Or, really, what I consider the six original Pern books - the Dragonrider and Dragonsinger trilogies. I'm glad there's All the Weyrs of Pern that comes after it, but really this is the close of the heart of Pernese canon for me. (less)
LMM took the charm and whimsy of Anne herself and cranked it up to eleven (maybe even twelve) with her kids, but without giving us time to get attache...moreLMM took the charm and whimsy of Anne herself and cranked it up to eleven (maybe even twelve) with her kids, but without giving us time to get attached to any of them (except maybe Walter). And at that point, most of the charm is gone. I need more if I'm supposed to transfer my affection from Anne to her kids. Maybe I should finally get around to reading Rilla of Ingleside...(less)
**spoiler alert** Loved it. Exactly the right book at exactly the right time. Perhaps the most scathing indictment of reality television I've ever rea...more**spoiler alert** Loved it. Exactly the right book at exactly the right time. Perhaps the most scathing indictment of reality television I've ever read, even as that's not what it's "actually" about. I have to say, once again I far more enjoy the way young adult authors tackle quasi-moralistic fables in a science fiction/fantasy setting than "regular" authors do (I'm looking at you, Margaret Atwood), mostly because they (especially Suzanne Collins here and in the sequel) do not forget that above all, they are telling a story. A story that pulls you along willy-nilly.
Our Heroine reminds me a lot of Tally from Uglies, but I like Katniss much better. She strikes a very good sixteen for me - mature by nature and circumstance, with strange and vulnerable naivetes.
I will also admit to a shallower appreciation of this book, as it hits a similar note to some of my v. shallow enjoyment of The Fire Rose - it does an excellent job of describing deprivation, and then it does an even better job of describing the relief of that deprivation. I have a higher tolerance for loving food descriptions than most, but I found these particularly well-timed and appreciated.
I like that the book didn't punk out. Kids go in; kids kill; kids die. I don't know what the fascination is with these Thunderdome-y situations (see also: The Long Walk, Battle Royale), but they are strangely compelling, even more so when the hero/heroine doesn't find a loophole that leads to a happy ending. Sure, there's a loophole here, but it certainly doesn't lead to a happy ending.
Mostly I'm just still hung up on the fact that there are stylists and death matches featured with equal prominence. It's like Bravo tv on LSD. (less)
Oh, man. How did I miss the poorly-disguised political ranting when I read this in seventh grade? Heinlein has, like, a fleet of axes to grind. And so...moreOh, man. How did I miss the poorly-disguised political ranting when I read this in seventh grade? Heinlein has, like, a fleet of axes to grind. And some horses to beat. And some soapboxes to stack to the sky.
If you can navigate around the creepy paternalistic politics and dehumanization of women and the valorization of a particular brand of masculinity above all else (which you need, like, a supercomputer GPS to dodge), I grudgingly admit that this is a ripping good yarn. I can see why my dad loves this book (which, you know, says a lot about both my dad and the book). It's easy to get swept up in the momentum of the piece, and I always was a sucker for a good training story. Throw in a lot of stuff about teams and struggle and bonding and whatnot, and I kind of enjoy it, when I'm not rolling my eyes at the mockery of namby-pamby twentieth century society filled with people who weren't spanked enough as children. Or whipped as adults.
The most shocking thing of all is how rereading this book gave me a newfound appreciation for the movie. I, like most of the rest of humanity, found the movie nigh-on unwatchable (except for Doogie Howser as the quasi-Nazi psyops guy, which I recognized as hilarious even on first watching). However, in retrospect, I appreciate so many of the changes they made. The military! It's co-ed! And girls get to do things! Not just give men a reason to die! And the entire thing is essentially a piss-take of the hypermilitarized culture that the book venerates! I think it might actually be funny. (less)
Oh, this one was a hard one to rank. It was a three when I first picked it up, a two when I first put it down, a four when I picked it up again years...moreOh, this one was a hard one to rank. It was a three when I first picked it up, a two when I first put it down, a four when I picked it up again years later, and a three when I put it back down a second time. I was determined to knock off a lot of low-hanging almost-finished fruit from my TBR pile this weekend, and I finally read the last thirty pages. So, hey, let's average this out to a three? Ish?
This is one of those books that tragically reinforces my extreme reluctance to get rid of books. My mom gave me this for Christmas lo those many moons ago, knowing it was a good fit for me just because of the blurb quote about how at some point, during any gathering of people, no matter how much the author loves those people, she realizes she would rather be reading. My mother, perspicacious woman that she is, recognized her wee darling in that sentence.
And, yes, that is sort of what this book is about. But only sort of. It's also got a huge whack of general audience literary criticism of female action-adventure novels, detective novels, and Catholic secular saint novels. Which turns out to be fascinating to me, once I got over expecting to read about how one balances the desire to be with people with the desire to read. I was sorely disappointed when I first put the book down, midway through the first literary criticism section, but I came back to it a few years later, and it was exactly what I wanted to read.
What was the difference between Read #1 and Read #2? The internet, I think. I have learned far more - absorbed far more - about feminism and women in fiction and women who write and so much of the stuff that my literature degree attempted to beat in my head, so I was far, far more appreciative of the discussion of women and books and women in books and women writing books in this book after a few years knocking around the internet than I was after three years of Serious Literature Classes. (Okay, part of that is probably because I spent much of the time I should have been studying Serious Literature going to Rocky Horror, writing papers on Rocky Horror and the Exorcist, and discovering the wild and woolly world of internet media fandom. Slog through Anna Karenina or the Sith Academy, hmmm, that's a toughie. ) What seemed a bit dry and a bit pointless on first read was far more engaging the second time around.
And then, hm, I kind of got bored during the Catholic secular saint portion of the competition (a bit of a letdown after the female action-adventure novel section and the detective novel section, both of which I had vested interests in), and I put it down for another year or so. Picked it up again, found Corrigan's writing style just as charming as I did the second time around, and was delighted by the reading list at the back of the book.
Recommended, at least for those interested in easy reading lit crit. The bits about a life lived with books feel a bit like a framing device, albeit a lovely one. (less)
Goddammit. If I end up reading this entire freaking series just because of the Wimsey homage character, I swear I will....not be surprised.
Okay, so,...moreGoddammit. If I end up reading this entire freaking series just because of the Wimsey homage character, I swear I will....not be surprised.
Okay, so, there's an egregious amount of dialect, and the handling of Hinduism is maaaaaaaaybe a step and a half above Temple of Doom, and the author is clearly v. proud of how she's handling issues of race in Edwardian England with a heroine whose mother was Indian, and while you're totally aware she's tanking it most of the time, you don't realize how much she's tanking it until you read the passage about suffragettes, which is actually pretty decent, and oh my god, are we not even going to vaguely address the fact that the villain might, you know, have some legitimate grievances against the British in India, even if she is batshit crazy? No? Not really? Oh. Okay then.
The romance is a little half-hearted, and the fairy tale pastiche doesn't work nearly as well for me as The Fire Rose did (which is a guilty pleasure re-read of mine), and even the magic isn't all that magic-y for me, but DID YOU SEE THAT THERE'S A NOT-TERRIBLE WIMSEY HOMAGE? Because there is. And he's not terrible. And I'm going to end up reading the entire damn series just to watch him swan onstage every couple of chapters, say something pithy, solve someone's problems, then swan back off. Hey, I recognize my weaknesses. (less)
Rollicking space opera. A page-turner but not an omg-I-must-forego-bathing-since-I-can't-take-a-book-in-the-shower, although I hear the series gets li...moreRollicking space opera. A page-turner but not an omg-I-must-forego-bathing-since-I-can't-take-a-book-in-the-shower, although I hear the series gets like that. Have also heard that these first few books later read like the first few Peter Wimseys do upon reread after reading everything. Oh, Miles and Peter.(less)
You get the feeling that this is all set-up for what's coming later, but it's always interesting set-up. I found myself strangely fascinated by the Ce...moreYou get the feeling that this is all set-up for what's coming later, but it's always interesting set-up. I found myself strangely fascinated by the Cetagandan societal rituals and bubbles.(less)
I feel like I enjoyed this book way more having read it while actually in Morocco. Everything is so much more meaningful when you're actually looking...moreI feel like I enjoyed this book way more having read it while actually in Morocco. Everything is so much more meaningful when you're actually looking at the stuccowork, driving between the different neighborhoods of Casablanca, etc etc etc!
Am still a little weirded out by the almost complete nonentity of women in the book, though. Women occasionally provide information, complain, or give birth; men do things. It was hard to tell how much of that was the author and how much is a reflection of the culture.
This opinion is, of course, colored by other books on Morocco I read/flipped through, which suffer from the same phenomenon. My choices in books for trying to get a feel for what traveling as a woman alone in Morocco were a) books about girls who grew up in harems and 2) Edith Wharton.
If TV Tropes and the [Color] Fairy books had a romance novel for a baby and dressed it in nothing but Lisa Frank-designed onesies, it would be this bo...moreIf TV Tropes and the [Color] Fairy books had a romance novel for a baby and dressed it in nothing but Lisa Frank-designed onesies, it would be this book. It is not entirely un-Xanth-like, albeit thankfully free of Xanth's whiff of pedophilia.
The driving force behind this universe is the idea that the fairy tale equivalent of TV Tropes must be fulfilled and what all the implications of that spin out to be. Blah blah romance blah blah fantasy world building blah blah. But, seriously, once I twigged to the inescapability of tvtropes.com no matter the universe, everything else was irrelevant and hysterical. It's bog-standard Mercedes Lackey characters with definite romance novel bones underneath the entertainingly fantasy/meta world built atop of it, and the hero's an egregious dick with explicit rape on his mind at one point who doesn't grovel near enough for my taste, and I'd be hard-pressed to call it good, but it certainly entertained me for an evening. (less)
**spoiler alert** Lackey should really stay away from writing about that whole "enlightened white heroine mixes with other races because she's so enli...more**spoiler alert** Lackey should really stay away from writing about that whole "enlightened white heroine mixes with other races because she's so enlightened in far less enlightened times" thing. The magical non-human beings are less obsequiously subservient to the Nice White Lady than the Benneton ad spread of Servants From Other Continents.
On the other hand, Lackey broke out of the standard romance structure for this - a happily married couple who remain happily married! A POV split between the children and adults! I do wish there were less of the "I have loved once, I can never love again" slash "I though I loved once but I didn't really know what love was so that doesn't count!" thing, but even this squidge of variety was pleasant.
Also, for the love of all that's holy, the dialect. OH, the dialect. Just. No.
(And yet I'm still reading all of these. I don't even.) (less)