First read of the new year! And it was oh so lovely. Bodies in Motion is a multi-generational novel told through short stories - or perhaps I should cFirst read of the new year! And it was oh so lovely. Bodies in Motion is a multi-generational novel told through short stories - or perhaps I should call it a collection of short stories woven into a novel. Each chapter focuses on a different member of one of two interconnected Sri Lankan/Sri Lankan American families. Most of the stories deal in love - marital love and forbidden love and familial love; loves that grow over time or that curdle over decades. And balanced alongside love is the tension between the needs and expectations of family and of one's own self. That tension is most acutely experienced by the women, but it touches everyone.
As each chapter unfolds, the perspective of the point of view character sheds more light back on earlier pieces of the greater story. This is definitely a book that will benefit from re-reading - but each story still feels complete unto itself, often featuring a sucker-punch to the emotions.
I wanted to like this book! I just never quite did. I've read a few books in recent years set in turn-of-the-(previous)-century New York, and I find tI wanted to like this book! I just never quite did. I've read a few books in recent years set in turn-of-the-(previous)-century New York, and I find the era fascinating. And I've read The Ghost Map, which is a surprisingly page-turning tale of tracking down the source of a cholera epidemic in London fifty years earlier. But I don't think it was too much prior knowledge that distanced me from the book.
No, I think it was the choice of narration. The story is told in the form of a journal kept by a Jewish teen named Prudence. Prudence's entries range from slightly overwrought ponderings on the nature of death to extremely prosaic "I went here and did this" dictation of events. I honestly preferred the overwrought natural philosophy entries, because they captured some actual emotion. (Also, I may have been a slightly overwrought teen writer myself.) And while I do love a cleverly constructed sentence, I've certainly also enjoyed books where the language is strictly a vehicle to move the plot forward. But Prudence's tempered emotional connection to the events and the people around her - with one notable exception - makes it hard for me to connect in turn with her. The world-building is also somewhat hampered by the choice to tell the story entirely via a journal - the world Prudence moves through is painted in the broadest strokes, often just briefly at the start of a scene. Character-wise, this makes sense, as it is largely a world she's been familiar with all her life and she has a very inward orientation. Reader-wise, I was sometimes left with a rather stark stage for the characters to act upon.
The aforementioned notable exception to Prudence's emotional distance is not 'the science fellow' who has a crush on (or at least takes an inappropriate interest in) her, nor the female doctor who offers a role model, nor her direct boss, (view spoiler)[though she does announce a crush of her own on him (hide spoiler)]. It's Mary Mallon herself. Her interactions with Mary - her fear and her sympathy both - and her imaginings of what Mary's life had been and how Mary might feel about the accusations subsequent quarantine are some of the best moments of the book.
The ending is satisfying, and the book is a quick read, one that actual teens may enjoy more than I did. But I don't expect to pick it up a second time.
(Also, and this is a complete quibble, I found the description of an uncle "who ran an oyster bar that wasn't very kosher" odd, given that oysters are by definition not kosher - the presumably figurative use of the word in that time period knocked me for a loop, even though I don't know if it's actually as anachronistic as it felt.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Wow. Beautifully written, brought me to the verge of tears repeatedly, yet also made me laugh out loud on a couple occasions. The author misled me twiWow. Beautifully written, brought me to the verge of tears repeatedly, yet also made me laugh out loud on a couple occasions. The author misled me twice without ever using an unreliable narrator - letting my own expectations get in the way, allowing the reader build on false assumptions until casually revealing the truth behind certain passages. I adore that. This book deserves a real review, which hopefully I will find time to come back and write, but I couldn't put it down without taking a moment to say, at least, "Wow."...more
So. Ender's Game. One of many classics of the genre that people can't believe I haven't read. Now I have, and I feel I hadn't been missing all that muSo. Ender's Game. One of many classics of the genre that people can't believe I haven't read. Now I have, and I feel I hadn't been missing all that much. When talking it over with my dad, I described the writing style with the tactful "straight forward," knowing he'd been a fan of the series during the Eighties. He raised the back-handed compliment bar to "written for thirteen year olds turning fourteen." So, there's that.
The plot is also straight forward - but the momentum was great enough to keep me reading, despite none of the characters having much characterization. Ender himself is, while theoretically a child, written largely like a tiny, smart adult. The other children are barely sketched in with singular character traits. Alai is pretty. Petra is the girl and a sniper. Dink is almost nice. (Ender's family back home consists of two basically absent-from-the-story parents, an abusive/sociopathic brother and a sister who is too nice for the battle school, more beloved and loving than anyone else because... plot? Because she's a girl? Because reasons. The Wiggins siblings have their own plot line, which presumably is better filled out in other books of the series.) The process of raising Ender to be a perfect weapon against the Buggers makes very little logical sense, and the adults in charge remain enigmas to the readers as well as to Ender, but the plotting doesn't encourage one to slow down and question the plot points.
Had this book been written more recently, I would have tossed it aside early on when the vanishing small number of girls recruited into the battle school was explained away by "Too many centuries of evolution are working against them," because SERIOUSLY? Seriously? Women fight. Always have, especially in defense of our homes!
If I planned on giving this book a rating, it'd probably be a two star story. However, there's no way to be sure I can separate my ambivalent feelings towards this book from my negative opinion of the author, so. No rating. Now I think I'll go reread some Kameron Hurley to cleanse the palate....more
I keep trying to hook people with the concept. "It's about a person who used to be a spaceship! And all the corpse soldiers within it! But the ship waI keep trying to hook people with the concept. "It's about a person who used to be a spaceship! And all the corpse soldiers within it! But the ship was betrayed and is now down to a single body." And then I go on to mention Breq's chronic frustration with attempting to identify gender in order to use gendered nouns and pronouns. Humans from outside the Radch are so prickly when one guesses gender wrong.
And all of that is great, and exciting, and a true example of what science fiction can be... but the reason I read the book - devoured it, really - is much simpler: I love the main character. Breq, Justice of Toren's One Esk Nineteen, is interesting. Smart, of course, determined and focused, but also brave in ways she doesn't count, and caring in ways she doesn't expect. The Justice of Toren's multiple simultaneous viewpoints in the chapters set in the story's past serve as a slowly unfolding tragedy and provide a window on what Breq was and all (s)he lost.
I don't understand Seivarden (it would be difficult, since Breq doesn't understand him, and we see this universe through her eyes), but I somehow liked him anyway with all his character flaws and the risk he continuously presents to Breq's quest and even security. I wanted better for Awn. I was fascinated by the Radch, by the time she/he made a true appearance on the page.
And I loved the ending. Loved. I see that there is a "loose" trilogy planned, and I simultaneously want more of this weird world and its characters, and I want Ancillary Justice to continue to stand perfectly on its own, because what could possibly follow in these footsteps? ...more