I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted and expected to like it; it's a reissue of a book published in 199...moreI received this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted and expected to like it; it's a reissue of a book published in 1990, and offers a more female viewpoint on the story of nuclear apocalypse and survival, even regrowth. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into it: the pace is slow, the writing feels stodgy, and it feels more than a bit judgemental about Christianity -- or Christians, at least. I don't see any reason why the more Christian a character professes to be, the more dogmatic and intolerant they behave. I'm very close to some very serious, devout Christians: whatever they believe about me (the fact that I'm a Unitarian Universalist, the fact that I have a same-sex partner), they treat me with compassion and understanding.
As for the writing, it's little repetitive tics that give it the sense of stodginess and clumsiness. Every other chapter for at least the first quarter of the book starts by telling us what 'Mary Hope' is doing -- bludgeoning the reader over the head with that pointed surname. To me, the structure of alternating present first person and past third person chapters felt clumsy too: quite often the one introduces the other, and yet little happens in either to justify taking up a whole chapter, let alone two.
I like the idea, but I think it would have been better served by simplicity of language, structure and style.(less)
In one way it's a fascinating book: there's an interesting world, which we get to see a lot of due to the fact that th...moreFile this under: partially read.
In one way it's a fascinating book: there's an interesting world, which we get to see a lot of due to the fact that the characters are travelling through the whole of it. You build up your picture of the world gradually, adding little details with every stop the characters make. And there's an interesting permissiveness about it, too: the travelling girls are expected and encouraged to have sex, some of it casual, and settle where they wish to -- or not, if they don't wish to. Sex is a natural part of their world, neither stigmatised nor made too much of: the girls are eager to find out about it, what it's like, but they don't worry too much about it (for the most part, anyway).
In another way, I never got close to the characters or the cultures they passed through because it was so episodic, because they stopped in each place only briefly. I felt like the narrative did that with the characters as much as the characters did that with the world, if that makes sense. I didn't really feel like I got to know anyone, not even Lillah, who is apparently the main character.
A lovely short story. Sarah Diemer paints a new world in a few strokes of the brush: I loved the world she created in the first two chapters, and the...moreA lovely short story. Sarah Diemer paints a new world in a few strokes of the brush: I loved the world she created in the first two chapters, and the way the relationship between Far and Mana is so quickly sketched in but feels real. I liked the ending, as well, the quick reversal of expectations.
Diemer's writing is clear and easy to read, too, in a way that describes the world without obscuring it; it's to the point while still giving colour and detail.(less)
The Supernaturalist is very like Artemis Fowl in tone. It's fun and quick, but I didn't get into it as much as Artemis Fowl -- the characters, I guess...moreThe Supernaturalist is very like Artemis Fowl in tone. It's fun and quick, but I didn't get into it as much as Artemis Fowl -- the characters, I guess, are the problem. I liked Stefan, and maybe Ditto, but the others were kinda 'meh'. I didn't get much idea of what drives anyone, apart from Stefan.
Plot-wise, it's okay, but everything feels too easily. The group are too easily tricked, they escape too easily... There are fun ideas in the background, like the paralegals being pretty much like cops in this world, etc. But. It didn't feel like it had much substance, really.(less)
I've had this book vaguely on my mental list of books that might be interesting for a long time, but I picked it up on pure whim. I'm interested in ho...moreI've had this book vaguely on my mental list of books that might be interesting for a long time, but I picked it up on pure whim. I'm interested in how many low reviews it has: I think the problem is that people expect something great and marvelously written from the book that inaugurated such a huge cultural phenomenon as steampunk. It's not that. It's fun, silly, often ridiculous, and in no way intended to be taken too seriously, I think.
It's a juxtaposition of ideas, written very much in the tradition of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and with a protagonist that reminds me very much of the common mental image of bumbling, unintelligent John Watson. (Which usually ignores that he is a doctor, an army man, and capable of handling fire arms, not to mention trusted by Holmes who is obviously no idiot. He has a certain lack of imagination, yes, but he's not as stupid as the stereotype would have you believe -- and certainly not as stupid as the protagonist of this novel.)
I thought it was fun, and actually pretty absorbing. Not convincing as anything serious, but fun. I'm glad Angry Robot republished it, it's been a nice diversion from waiting for the slow wheels of the NHS to turn.(less)
Not sure what to make of this. It reminds me of a lot of other steampunk I've read, it's fun enough as a diversion, it was an easy and a quick read......moreNot sure what to make of this. It reminds me of a lot of other steampunk I've read, it's fun enough as a diversion, it was an easy and a quick read... it just didn't work for me, somehow. The patchwork quilt of literary and historical references, the rather perfunctory love story, heck, the rather perfunctory main character...
There's a lot of fun to be had here, in the adventure plot and the wild sequence of ideas, but it's not something I could really take seriously, somehow. I was reminded a lot of my thoughts on Stephen Hunt's work.(less)
I only read selected stories from Songs of Love and Death, because some of the authors or the first pages didn't appeal. (For example, me and Jim Butc...moreI only read selected stories from Songs of Love and Death, because some of the authors or the first pages didn't appeal. (For example, me and Jim Butcher don't get on very well. Everyone else says the misogyny is just Harry Dresden and is part of his character and it doesn't come from Jim Butcher: it still makes me feel profoundly uncomfortable.)
So, of the ones I read, the first was Jo Beverley's 'The Marrying Maid'. I liked the idea, especially the link to the Robin Hood legend. It could've been a whole novel, really. It felt like it wanted to be a sort of bodice ripper where the courtier seduces the reluctant churchman's daughter, but it didn't quite go there -- and was too rushed to be that in the first place, since she only refused him two or three times! Also, not terribly comfortable with the whole 'there is one woman out there for you, and she will want you, and if she refuses you, well, just rape her, she'll understand' bit.
I skipped over Carrie Vaughan to M. L. N. Hanover's 'Hurt Me'. I found it interesting, but not very creepy, and sort of expected it to work out differently. I don't know that either of these stories really fit my definition of 'star crossed lovers'. There's nothing romantic about a guy who beats his girlfriend, or about the girl who kills him and then moves back into that house with her new boyfriend to torment his ghost. I guess the introduction part is a bit misleading.
Cecelia Holland's offering, 'Demon Lover', is quite like 'The Marrying Maid' in the sense that it's based vaguely on folklore. Both reminded me a little of Tam Lin, though Holland has the man rescuing the woman through his true love.
Robin Hobb's 'Blue Boots' is a simple enough little story. It made me crave a reread of the Farseer trilogy, actually, since it's set in her Six Duchies. It was nice, but not amazing... I suspect I am overly hard to please, with short stories. They're a delicate art, though.
Neil Gaiman's story, 'The Thing About Cassandra', was very interesting. Sort of what I expected from Gaiman, but the twist ending was pretty good.
Marjorie M. Liu's story, 'After the Blood', was... confusing. I wasn't entirely sure what was happening. Henry, I mostly got, but the rest, less so. Hm.
The main reason I read this anthology at all was for Jacqueline Carey's story, 'You and You Alone'. This was what I'd hoped it would be -- except that I might've hoped it was a bit longer. It's the doomed love story of Anafiel Delaunay and Rolande de la Courcel, which lies unspoken behind the first Kushiel trilogy.
'Under/Above the Water' by Tanith Lee... I liked it. I think it was well structured, and not everything was explained away.
Peter S. Beagle's 'Kaskia', not a great fan.
Yasmine Galenorn's story, 'Man in the Mirror', was quite nice. I liked that it really was star-crossed, this time, that it didn't end perfectly.(less)
I'm wavering between three and four stars for Feed. I'll start with the things that annoyed me -- and it's really one big one: the narration. There is...moreI'm wavering between three and four stars for Feed. I'll start with the things that annoyed me -- and it's really one big one: the narration. There is no reason given for why the narrator is saying all these things: if she were narrating in her head, there'd be no need for the massive infodumps, because she knows what's going on and how the zombie apocalypse started. Also, for plot reasons, it shouldn't be in past tense, it doesn't make logical sense for it to be in past tense, (view spoiler)[unless she's narrating from beyond the grave (hide spoiler)]: if that's the case, there's no explanation of that. She also mentions details that don't turn out to be relevant, in a way that makes me expect them to be -- e.g. mentioning backup batteries and how Buffy didn't check them, and then it just doesn't mention them again.
Also, I have to say, I didn't get emotionally connected with the story until the end of the second part, and I wasn't really emotionally connected until the end of the third. Mind you, I fought tears through the fourth and fifth parts, so it's not as though I never connected with it.
I enjoyed the characters, particularly the minor ones: Mahir, Senator Ryman, Emily Ryman. I did think the villain was a bit of a cardboard cut-out: you knew he'd be evil all along, just because the narrator doesn't like him.
If zombies freak you out, I don't recommend it. If disease freaks you out, I don't recommend it. If you want a zombie book with politics and an emotional kick, I recommend it. Just don't blame me if the narrator bugs you and the first part is kinda slow.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I enjoyed The Midwich Cuckoos more than I expected to, I think. I have a difficult relationship with horror stories: I have enjoyed a few, but I'm als...moreI enjoyed The Midwich Cuckoos more than I expected to, I think. I have a difficult relationship with horror stories: I have enjoyed a few, but I'm also quite susceptible to being made anxious and put on edge. The Midwich Cuckoos is one of those books that crosses the line between speculative fiction and horror, but it's more to do with a sense of the uncanny, a sense of deep unease, where the things we take for granted are just ever so subtly different, than with big horrifying things happening. That could be a problem for me, but having read The Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids, I pretty much knew what to expect of Wyndham, which made it okay -- besides which, the sense of unease isn't so awfully pronounced in The Midwich Cuckoos. It's mostly in the way it's eerily matter of fact, to me, as a reader.
I found it somewhat predictable, despite being reasonably compelling. The narrator was not especially distinct from the narrator of The Day of the Triffids, to my thinking, and the ideas about evolution were completely expected from John Wyndham. Isn't The Midwich Cuckoos, in a sense, the flipside of The Chrysalids? I only just thought about that -- in The Chrysalids, the psychics are the ones the readers follow and identify with, and they have a right to survive because they're the fittest, and the others have an evolutionary need to destroy them because of that, for the survival of their own genes; in The Midwich Cuckoos, the psychics are once again a threat that needs to be destroyed, but we see it from the perspective of the destroyers...
In any case, the ending bothered me. It seemed somehow like a cop-out, because it was so easy a solution. There's something satisfying in seeing it coming, but still.(less)
The Kraken Wakes is similar in tone to Wyndham's other invasion books -- The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos. Similar in plot, too, I supp...moreThe Kraken Wakes is similar in tone to Wyndham's other invasion books -- The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos. Similar in plot, too, I suppose, but I just don't get tired of this kind of story, apparently. There are similar themes in play about two intelligent species inevitably coming into conflict (which also arises to some extent in The Chrysalids).
The whole management of the media bit amused me rather, and made me wonder to what extent it's really true that any individual reporters would be trying to do that balancing act. Particularly when I see headlines like 'Paralysed dog taught to walk again' and 'Invisible hearing aid' when I'm watching my sister read the paper at lunch, for some reason, and it seems so very incongruous with the life or death stuff I'm reading... I just have to imagine them carefully deciding how much truth readers can take about, say, how the dog became paralysed.
Oh, except the sinking of a Russian ship that popped up on my twitter feed, from CNN, just as I was reading about the mysterious disappearances of ships in The Kraken Wakes -- that I could picture being carefully handled and spun by the reporters.
The ethics of these characters is particularly noticeable, I suppose, with the recent discovery of The News of the World's little breaches of ethics.
Once again, this rides the line between horror and SF, I think -- through both horrific imagery and a sense of the uncanny when ships disappear and strange things happen to them. It's not that scary though -- partially, I think, due to the measured pace and tone, and the fact that it's written after the events have taken place (so the characters must, perforce have survived).(less)
The Ninth Wave is a retelling of the First Branch of the Mabinogion, the story of Pwyll, Lord of Dyfed. The retelling is set somewhere in the future f...moreThe Ninth Wave is a retelling of the First Branch of the Mabinogion, the story of Pwyll, Lord of Dyfed. The retelling is set somewhere in the future from now: a sort of post-apocalyptic world where fossil fuel has run out and everything is returning to a medieval, feudal state. For that reason, Jon Boden's 'Songs from the Floodplain' made an excellent soundtrack.
Lord Pwyll is based essentially on Prince Harry, as the afterword states. Everything's modern and rational, with no real magic in it at all -- CCTV and poison in the Starbucks frappucino. I didn't think it worked. I didn't believe in it at all: it just sped through the story, hitting vague similarities, shoehorning in the recognisable details.
The most powerful part of it is Pwyll and Pryderi surfing together at the end, and Rhiannon's grief after Pryderi's disappearance and the way she and Pwyll try to keep some hope alive, together. There are powerful moments, some good descriptions, but overall, it felt very thin to me.(less)
In the Garden of Iden is more of a romance hidden inside a historical fiction in a spec-fic coating. I'm sure people keep telling me that the rest of...moreIn the Garden of Iden is more of a romance hidden inside a historical fiction in a spec-fic coating. I'm sure people keep telling me that the rest of the series is different; there's nothing particularly wrong with this, but it wasn't really what I'd hoped for.
Really, I'd hoped for some overarching plot that would really tie it all together, love story and all, but that didn't really happen to my satisfaction, with the result that it felt like set up for all the wonderful things Mendoza (the main character) will do later. Or which other characters in the same world might do later, I don't know.
It's well written, and I love the central concept, but I've had just about enough of just pre-Elizabethan period Britain through the eyes of an immortal adolescent falling in love for the first time...(less)
I don't know why I've always been reluctant about reading Daphne du Maurier's work: I don't know what I thought it was going to be like, because both...moreI don't know why I've always been reluctant about reading Daphne du Maurier's work: I don't know what I thought it was going to be like, because both this and Rebecca were atmospheric and intriguing. Slower than your average thrillers maybe, but I do think there's something in them that captures the mind. A little patience works wonders.
The narrator's background contempt for Vita, not fully realised by himself, is both well written and discomforting: the hints at the end that it could have been all in his mind are interesting -- it seems almost a cliché looking at it that way, but it read well here, and oh, the ending.
I got into the medieval story than the modern one; like the narrator I found it more real, full of passion and life -- which really, I suppose, shows it to be a fiction, or at least that the narrator experiences it in the episodic manner of fiction, while his real life remains unsatisfactory.
Anyway, like the narrator I'm glad to have experienced Roger and Isolda's stories. And I can understand the draw of them for the protagonist, and how prepared he is to throw what he has away to see them, to know them.
I'm half wishing I was writing the dissertation on time travel we all joked about in the first semester of my MA. It'd give me an excuse to keep on thinking about this book.(less)