I took awhile to read this book, breaking off and reading other books in between chapters. The central character was engaging enough, the central concI took awhile to read this book, breaking off and reading other books in between chapters. The central character was engaging enough, the central concept fascinating. And when I passed the halfway point, I couldn't put it down.
What slowed me down as I started out, though, was the level of explanation of the real history and culture around the more fantastic elements. It probably didn't help that one of the books I read while trying to get into this one was Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon, which plunges the reader straight into Lagos culture and expects one to keep up because there's a story to get to. The Ghost Bride, in contrast, strives to leave no reader behind while introducing the Malaya of 1893. It's not the wrong choice for all readers, by any means - I'm honestly trying to figure out the best way to get this book to my mom, because she'll probably love it. But too much hand-holding throws me out of a story. Also, the singular footnote. One. Footnote. Why.
But overall? An intriguing story, lots of family drama - including figurative skeletons come to light - and interesting takes on Chinese and Malaysian mythology. A good summer read....more
Have I ever rated a short story collection five stars before? Most collections have five star stories but also include a few works that are not quiteHave I ever rated a short story collection five stars before? Most collections have five star stories but also include a few works that are not quite that. This collection? Solid home runs. Some are humorous, some serious, some dance the fine line in between. A beautiful book that found me at exactly the right time.
Phenomenal worldbuilding (of a world constantly being destroyed and remade). A dominant culture built on the idea that anything that promotes survivalPhenomenal worldbuilding (of a world constantly being destroyed and remade). A dominant culture built on the idea that anything that promotes survival must be right. A main character who will grab hold of you and not let go.
I read this monster in a breathless week, and I cannot WAIT for the second book in the trilogy to come out. (If you are bad at waiting, you might want to hold off - this is not one of those trilogies where the arcing storyline is only loosely woven into the first book so that a reader can stop there and feel satisfied. This is not a stand alone novel!)...more
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 bYes, 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"]>...more
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 goesFrom 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....more
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 anA 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....more