You don’t need to look any further than The Builders to find a sterling example of why we have used animal avatars in our storytelling since the daysYou don’t need to look any further than The Builders to find a sterling example of why we have used animal avatars in our storytelling since the days of cave paintings: It’s a shortcut to character. Seeing ourselves in animals is, strangely, one of the most human things there is, and Daniel Polansky plays on this — along with our knowledge of western and heist tropes — quite shamelessly. What’s so remarkable about The Builders, though, is that its characters never feel like stereotypes. They’re as distinctive and instantly engaging as if they had been essayed by expert animators, or an exquisitely cast ensemble of actors. More so, in fact, than the vast majority of other stories in the Seven Samurai/The Wild Bunch/Ocean’s Eleven mold.
The characters aren’t the only remarkable thing here, either; his prose and structure both have a giddy, I-can’t-believe-I’m-getting-away-with-this-sh*t energy to them. In fact, I’m tempted to say that Polansky at times exhibits the same kind of formal artfulness that elevates Quentin Tarantino’s films from genre potboilers to something more. The thrill provoked by chronology scrambles and playful chapter transitions reminded me of seeing Pulp Fiction for the first time. And all of it, somehow, made sharper and fresher by those "funny" animals....more
Usman Malik starts his story off lulling both his protagonist Salman and the reader. Anyone who's ever been read to as a child -- or indeed, read a stUsman Malik starts his story off lulling both his protagonist Salman and the reader. Anyone who's ever been read to as a child -- or indeed, read a story where a child is being told a story -- will feel they know where The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn is heading. Those expectations are quite rudely dispelled before that familiar story-within-the-story has even gotten started, though.
Instead of a bedtime fable, what follows is Salman's attempt to solve his quarter-life crisis by exploring his roots. It's not an unfamiliar narrative to children of immigrants, or to those of us with tenuous connections to our families. Malik isn't content to make this only about heritage, though. Salman's crisis is tied not only into a strained relationship with his parents, but also with his career and a long-term relationship teetering on the edge between "'till death do us part" and "the one that got away". It's a spot-on depiction of that perfect storm which happens when a person reaches that point where they've finally lost sight of adolescence, and every choice they make takes on an air of finality.
By pivoting from the fantastic into the mundane and back into the fantastic again, Malik is able to imbue both strains with a sharp tang of the unexpected. The final turn is not so much back into a fable, as it is a metaphysical (or mythological, depending on how you squint) flight of fancy. He uses the titular spirit to talk both about the origin of sentience and of the uneasy relationship many a believer has with fate and determinism. All this done in an increasingly rapturous fashion, which I have to admit I had trouble following at times. Not because it was unnecessarily complex, but rather because -- like with the harder kinds of science fiction -- the parts of my brain needed to understand these things are woefully out of shape.
If all the above waffle doesn't sound enticing, the simplest way I can sell The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn goes thus: Even though Malik breaks with the trope early on, no matter how far afield his tale strays, it retains the feeling throughout of being small, sat on a lap, lost in a story....more
En samling med små tekster om et dagligliv som mor og forfatter. I begynnelsen på grensen til overfladisk og blogglignende, men Thelle bygger umerkeliEn samling med små tekster om et dagligliv som mor og forfatter. I begynnelsen på grensen til overfladisk og blogglignende, men Thelle bygger umerkelig mot et klimaks. Hendelsesmessig like unnselig som resten, men med en helt uventet (og uimotståelig) emosjonell slagkraft. En liten tryllekunst av en boksingel. Gjennomskuelig, men ikke noe mindre fantastisk av den grunn....more
Any author of a secondary world fantasy who isn't willing to lean on established tropes and mythologies -- elves, orcs, wizards, medieval times, etc -Any author of a secondary world fantasy who isn't willing to lean on established tropes and mythologies -- elves, orcs, wizards, medieval times, etc -- has to weigh the needs of their story against the necessity of teaching their readers about the rules and realities of this new setting. In The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin turns this balancing act into the driving force of her narrative, letting every important character or plot revelation hinge on the unveiling of another aspect of her worldbuilding.
Readers are different when it comes to how tolerant or hungry we are for worldbuilding in our fiction. For some of us, scene setting is something we tolerate in order to get back to the action or dialogue, what we see as the story. On the flipside, there are those insatiable in our desire to see great imaginations spin a reality into being before our very eyes. Jemisin's Broken World is a beautiful, compelling creation, sure to entice those in the latter category. What's more, she's savvy enough to have found an equally arresting narrative structure, forcing the impatient among us to engage with, and -- crucially -- understand what she's created. This mechanism allows her to tie motivations and conflicts to her most otherworldly concepts, and still have them resonate and captivate.
It might seem like I'm making The Fifth Season out to be some sort of dispassionate clockwork, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Jemisin engages with some of the most important issues of our time through the prism of fantasy. It never feels like a polemic, though. Like any classic work of science fiction or fantasy, it's wildly entertaining and deeply human, while holding a mirror up to things we desperately need to be taking a look at in ourselves....more
Technological implants aren't science fiction any longer; they've been a reality since before the turn of the century. The concept itself still lingerTechnological implants aren't science fiction any longer; they've been a reality since before the turn of the century. The concept itself still lingers in sf's idea space, though. The very thought of a subdermal foreign object evokes the retrofuturism of cyberpunk, or some other no-hope near-future. Which is why Alastair Reynolds can build an entire novella around the image of an identification implant shaped as a bullet, and not risk bringing to mind the RFID chips we tag our pets with, or something equally quotidian.
Even though this space opera branches out far and wide from the grubby war-is-hell opening scene introducing the so-called slow bullets, the story's pivotal moments are still tied to this concept. Reynolds handles the motif gracefully, keeping our attentions trained on the grander, more urgent plot developments (of which there are plenty), but still making sure that his projectiles are worming their way under our skin.
Along the way, there are moments of both queasy-making cosmic horror and genuinely touching humanist uplift, but Reynolds is careful not to let either distract from the pragmatic, no-nonsense tone of his stranded cast. Their plight is about as existential as you can get while still retaining believability, but like in any other crisis, the here and now is more than enough for these people, even if their lives are crashing down around them.
Aside from the aforementioned outlier moments, I was ready to chalk Slow Bullets up as a solid, well-crafted B+ piece of entertainment. The more I think about it, though, the more ingenious its construction seems to me, its science fictional ideas not just window dressing, but powerful motifs to reflect the themes of the story.
In the last few years, controversy has arisen around the supposed loss of the aspirational in sf literature. To me, Reynolds provides a stirring response here: more often than not, there's nothing noble in progress, nothing heroic or pretty in the kind of situations that best highlight the perseverance and indominability of the human spirit. But even when we're at our lowest and most petty, there's still something life-affirming and beautiful about how we refuse to give up....more