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 twi...moreWow. 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."(less)
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 mu...moreSo. 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.(less)
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 wa...moreI 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? (less)
Col. Hadfield is an interesting guy. Unfortunately, he's not a particularly interesting author. When I realized that I had come to resent this book, b...moreCol. Hadfield is an interesting guy. Unfortunately, he's not a particularly interesting author. When I realized that I had come to resent this book, because reading it was keeping me from reading other books, I gave up. This was around page 200, shortly after he'd made it to the ISS. His straightforward writing style will probably appeal more to others, and I did find his advice interesting - just not enough to go on for another hundred pages. (less)
Yes, this book took me a month to read. I finished it out of sheer cussedness - and so that, if I posted a less-than-glowing review, people wouldn't b...moreYes, this book took me a month to read. I finished it out of sheer cussedness - and so that, if I posted a less-than-glowing review, people wouldn't be able to convincingly tell me it got better.
In Aurorarama, we have two main point of view characters, plus periodic appearances of an intrusive omniscient narrator. I rather liked the omniscient narrator, as it fit with the emulated time period.
I hated Gabriel d'Allier. He's a terrible person and (worse) not in any sort of interesting way. When we meet him, he's in danger of losing his job as a professor due to an accusation he's behaved improperly towards a female student. He is righteously angry because he did no such thing - not with that student. Though when the student tearfully comes to him with concerns about the professor who made her voice these false accusations, he ... gives her a spanking.
Now maybe, dear reader, it would be more becoming in you to leave the room, and I would advise you not to look back on the scene if you can help it: were you to linger and witness, for instance, that Phoebe has now her grey dress and petticoats over her head, you would be, and not me, responsible for it, and you could not count on either yours truly or on Gabriel to confirm that this vision was not a child of your unbridled imagination.
Gabriel is a lech and a drug abuser, he doesn't care about anything involving effort and generally falls aimlessly through the plot: an observer necessary to let the readers know that plot is happening, rather than an actor himself.
I also didn't like Brentford Orsini much. Compared to Gabriel, I suppose he is all right, and he is set up as one of the few denizens of New Venice to recognize the humanity of - and validity of complaints by - the local Inuit. It is through Brentford that we learn that New Venice is a place where dream portents are true, though subject to interpretation. We meet through Brentford's dream the Ghost Lady, whom Brentford mistakes as Sandy Lake (a once-famous, long vanished pop singer), and from his search for meaning we briefly see Kujira Etsuko (a woman whose body once literally produced drugs, thus positioning her at the center of a famous New Venice love story).
Shortly after his introduction, we readers are led through a painfully lacking-in-introspection perspective on his upcoming marriage. Although Brentford is still in love with the dead Helen (a seeming paragon and savior of the city, and the person he'd been seeking in dreams), he is engaged to and living with Sybil - who is a pop singer and utterly vacant in Brentford's perspective. He doesn't even seem to like her music/band. I just can't understand intentionally tying oneself to someone you don't even like, so Brentford pretty much lost me there. But at least he acts (even if he often waits until the last moment to choose to do so).
There's a lot of ideas in this book, probably too many. There's the usual steampunk technology and digressions into exactly how this particular dirigible is constructed. There are mentions of the various quarters of the district, arising from different cultural bases. There are a number of descriptions of the music and music scene, none of which made me wish I could actually hear any of it. At some point in the past, time started running backwards (this may have something to do with Helen saving New Venice by magic - oh, yes, and there's magic), but since New Venice is still in contact with the wider world, I'm not sure what it means that time is running backwards. There are anarchists in the literary tradition of the turn of the previous century (i.e. people who like to blow things up). There are the Inuit, whom the chapter titles call Eskimos, and who are excellent plot points but barely painted in as characters. There are spirit animals, of a sort. And, like the cover copy promised me, there are Suffragettes (herein titled Sophragettes).
While I was talking about this book to a friend, I promised that this line would make it into my review. So here it is. (view spoiler)[About two thirds of the way through the novel, every significant female character vanishes from the story. Stella runs off on Gabriel with another man (possibly under hypnotic coercion). Sybil vanishes from Brentford's wedding bed (definitely under hypnotic coercion) and is replaced by a puppet. The other women who have played any sort of significant role at this point are the dead Helen and the ghost of a woman who arrived dead at the docks of New Venice in a sled drawn by dogs, holding a mirror with "Lancelot" written on it for anyone who missed the Lady of Shallot allusion. The ghost woman's appearances are tied to Phoebe - who vanished in the company of the bad man who has now taken Sybil. Lilian/Sandy is in hiding with the Scavengers. (hide spoiler)] At this point, every woman has disappeared from the text. This sounds like a metaphor for everything I hate in bad fiction, only it literally happens!
So then I had to finish reading, even though I was seriously done with this book, because I knew - knew - that someone would pop up to tell me I was wrong and should have kept reading. But no. (view spoiler)[Sure, the Sophragettes turn up deus ex machina style to save the day - but can any reader tell what they were fighting for or against before they get swept up into Brentford's goals? A small piece of the tale is from Lillian Lenton nee Sandy Lake's point of view, but that section is not about what Lillian wants or does - it's about one of our dead ladies' desires (and entirely wrapped up in the needs one of the gentlemen). (hide spoiler)]
Brentford, from the epilogue, sums it up himself. He suddenly missed Lilian. He meant Sybil. He meant Helen. No. He meant Lilian. When the female characters are essentially interchangeable in what they mean to the main male character, there is a problem that no number of Sophragettes is going to cure.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
From the opening chapter of the first book of the omnibus, I expected more of a lighthearted romp. What I got was actually better - as the series goes...moreFrom the opening chapter of the first book of the omnibus, I expected more of a lighthearted romp. What I got was actually better - as the series goes on, the stakes get higher. By the third book, this was one of those stories where I'm constantly irritated at the POV shifts because I want to know what happens next - only to be completely caught up by the events going on in that other POV.
I'll definitely be picking up the next book in the series. Um. After I get through more of the current to-read stacks.(less)
I know, I use the "fluff" tag to indicate chick lit or romance.
This is one of those times when I'm rounding up my score because I'm in love with...moreI know, I use the "fluff" tag to indicate chick lit or romance.
This is one of those times when I'm rounding up my score because I'm in love with the concept. Conceptually, this book is brilliant and hard to resist for anyone who loves the physical reality of books. S is actually two novels, woven together through the pages of an old, library edition of (fictional) political agitator and novelist V.M. Straka's final, posthumous novel. The library book, The Ship of Theseus, has library marks stamped in it, a dewey decimal sticker on the spine, and all the stains and rubbed edges you expect from an old loaner. The story line of The Ship of Theseus follows a nameless amnesiac through a surreal seascape of vague threats, menacing Agents, and helpers of questionable motivations. It is metaphoric, or allegorical, in that really blunt way of much fiction-with-a-motive, and I know exactly which of my friends would have read it -- if it were a real novel.
But written onto the fly leaf and into the margins is another story - a contemporary story of a former grad student (expunged from the university and convinced his former professor is trying to steal his work on Straka) and an undergrad who works in the campus library and is approaching her graduation with a good deal of trepidation. Jennifer finds Erik's copy of The Ship of Theseus and reads it before returning it to his carrel. They strike up a correspondence in short notes written in the book (beginning with her pointing out that the book had been stolen from a high school library and him arguing that it had been wasted there). Jennifer begins doing research into Straka and the equally enigmatic translator of the novel, at least in part because assisting Erik makes a good excuse to escape from her own problems. Their notes are written in a number of different colors of ink, cuing the reader into a loose idea of when in the contemporary timeline a particular note was written. Additional ephemera is tucked throughout the novel - a code wheel, a napkin with a campus map, longer notes and postcards.
Sounds cool, right? Ok, let me talk about the reasons I hesitate to call this a true four star book. Which means, unfortunately, I need to talk about the final couple chapters, because my qualms are entirely wrapped up the the resolution of a number of plot points.
(view spoiler)[There's a lot, and I mean a lot, of build up to contemporary events that are never fully described in the marginalia. And while it might be unrealistic for the characters to spell out everything in their correspondence once they start meeting in real life, it makes for a less than satisfactory read. What happened when Jennifer's parents came to town? There's a late reference to her dad apologizing for wanting to commit her - which, wow, that came out of nowhere - what brought that on? Why are Erik and Jennifer so convinced in the existence of two continuing, competing versions of the secret society S? (Or to put it bluntly, should Jennifer's dad be considering committing her? Even Erik tends to downplay her fears as paranoia, and nothing seems to come of the various menacing figures throughout the book.)
Additionally, the resolution of the Jennifer and Erik story seems a bit rushed. Clearly, they are physically together at the end of the book, but despite knowing they sleep together fairly early on, the love story seems underdeveloped. Lots of early notes of her teasing/flirting and him missing it, not much middle game other than an acknowledgment of the physical relationship, and then we hit his declaration of his love for her being more important than publication. By the end they're seemingly studying Straka together as independent scholars - neither of them is in grad school, and it was not completely clear to me who ultimately was funding Erik's work or whether the funding will be continued (this struck me as less realistic than someone reminiscing in notes about things both people know about, but then I've been raised on exposition). Their final discovery of new personal information about Straka right towards the end is another complication that is not fully explored - I think it was to make the VMS and FXC storyline more sympathetic, but I found it more distancing/distracting than interesting. (hide spoiler)]
But overall, interesting concept, well-executed design, and definitely a good gift for book-book lovers.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A quick, fun read. I was very engaged with both characters, and the breaks between letters were well-handled (I never wanted the authors to go back an...moreA quick, fun read. I was very engaged with both characters, and the breaks between letters were well-handled (I never wanted the authors to go back and finish telling me about the other character first).
I love epistolary novels. I love Regency novels. And I love plots resolved by girls who are cleverer than those around them. Clearly, I was meant to enjoy this book.(less)