An intriguingly complex book about a variety of Zimbabweans living in Edinburgh. The novel tracks the experiences primarily of three men of different cAn intriguingly complex book about a variety of Zimbabweans living in Edinburgh. The novel tracks the experiences primarily of three men of different circumstances, the the various people connected with them. What starts as a rather straightforward stroll through their lives turns into, at different times: a political intrigue, a descent into madness, explorations of existential angst from multiple angles, a social commentary on youth, a postmodern romance, and a family drama. The author blends elements from multiple genres into a satisfying whole. His account spans a dizzying number of issues with a light and deft hand.
It contains one of the best, though concise, descriptions of descent into homelessness I have read, and it deals accessibly with the complex discombobulation of emigration that throws class, gender, and race up in the air - recounting the stories of arbitrary (or not?) winners and losers.
This is not exactly a beach read, although you can read it there. It gets a bit heavy in places, but the pace keeps moving in surprising directions. ...more
The main character in this book is charming, creepy, wise, and sometimes wildly out of touch with reality - as I was at age 12, as are probably most 1The main character in this book is charming, creepy, wise, and sometimes wildly out of touch with reality - as I was at age 12, as are probably most 12-year-olds with a few toes dipped in the pool of adulthood. The author anchors the story in the mundane details of his life in a suburban Indian family in Ohio, and weaves it through with Kiran's fierce understanding of his own uniqueness and possible godhood in the face of the usual social ostracism and teasing. This is not your average social outcast coming-of-age story, and it misfires once or twice (his sudden realization about gayness seems out of place), but it is one of the best depictions of tween-ness that I have read. You will cringe as Kiran makes terrible choices, laugh at his forthright logic, and find yourself rooting for him, and even his parents, despite his occasional vandalism, lying, mean-spiritedness, and brushes with porn....more
A touching, poetic, dream-like book about the ordinariness of extraordinary loss. This book starts in the beginning as the narrative of a child, witnesA touching, poetic, dream-like book about the ordinariness of extraordinary loss. This book starts in the beginning as the narrative of a child, witnessing and understanding things from his child-sized point of view. He describes his observations of the world and responds with childish self-centeredness and understanding. He describes everyday scenes - life in detailed glimpses of memory, haunted at the edges by his awareness of the disappearance of his brother. And then, somehow, toward the end, you begin to understand that it is a story not only about the boy's brother, but also about their home village, and about Nigeria itself. Somehow, in plain and simple language, the book becomes quite deeply about the losses experienced by those who have left home - in part by choice and largely by circumstances beyond them. Books like this can risk torturous inward journeys and philosophical meditations - but this one makes the same journeys and same meditations by drawing together memories and simply remembered and carefully described events of daily life....more
Jemisin comes through again. While the first book of the series was excellent but felt a little short on the character development, this one rounds ouJemisin comes through again. While the first book of the series was excellent but felt a little short on the character development, this one rounds out its characters more fully, telling the second half of the story begun in The Killing Moon. The characters from the first book are present - often in the form of ghosts and legacies, in a further exploration of cultural blending and change. Jemisin's brilliant development of religo-cultural civilization is on fully display as cultural values and norms bump against each other, and cultures shift. The characters of Hanani is a particular interesting exploration of a gender pioneer, as the first woman in the historically all-man Hetawa. The shifts in Gujaareh brought about by the Kisuati occupation and the cross-cultural pollination of the Banbarra are also very well drawn and interesting. Jemisin's exploration of the medical/dream humors is also given further exploration as a nightmare plague sweeps through the city. And of course the political and interpersonal dramas keep the pace nicely....more
The author has a gift for crafting imaginary worlds that fall somewhere between what I'd call fantasy and science fiction. The worlds seem inspired byThe author has a gift for crafting imaginary worlds that fall somewhere between what I'd call fantasy and science fiction. The worlds seem inspired by historical civilization research but are not based on our own time and place. They are not technological in the sense of space-based fiction, or advanced computer and star wars style technology - and yet they are grounded in a clearly defined scientific, technological, religious, and political systems. It is clear that the author does her homework, crafting complete geo-political, scientific/magical worlds. In the humorous and illuminating brief self-interview in the back, the author talks about how the setting of this book was inspired by her study of ancient Egypt, as well as her study of Jung, Freud, psychodynamic theory, and dreams.
Set all that aside, and you have a fast-paced tale of political intrigue, corruption and power, religious devotion, and the powers of love and friendship. The characters are distinctive and well-drawn, and even the worst of the "bad guys" somehow have more complex motivations, even drawing sympathy at times. While the book is very good, it wasn't my favorite of what the author has written. The social castes and political units confused me at the beginning (I should have consulted the glossary more carefully), and the characters weren't as fully fleshed as in other Jemisin books. What was most exciting for me, and maybe for the author as well, was the religio-political system. What if dreams allowed us to heal? What if a political system was built around securing peace above all else? What is it like to live in a society that welcomes death while also affirming life? What if the world is a moon orbiting a gas giant - what religious understanding might its people have of their place in a cosmology of the Dreaming Moon? That imagination is what makes this book so good....more
Yes this is a story about the reinvention of self, about personal journeys of liberation within a social hierarchy that has somehow convinced you thatYes this is a story about the reinvention of self, about personal journeys of liberation within a social hierarchy that has somehow convinced you that its abusiveness is for your own good. It is a story about grief and anger and love and fear. And it is so good at telling you these three stories - Essun, Damaya, and Syenite - as they slowly twist toward their common connection points. But this is also a story about a science and civilization, where the mythology says the earth hates life, where tectonic activity repeatedly threatens extinction, and the lore is coded with means of survival (and yet is also in the hands of the empire). There are two types of humanoid, and many races of people bound by a central empire's culture and conquering, and special people born with gifts that are powerful and stigmatized by fear and forced (with acquiescence as a means of survival) under a cruel thumb. The author has created a world and a culture that is familiar enough to read and relate, but with such inventiveness - the creatures and cultures, the civilization's mythologies and its social orders, the earth science and histories. I do hope there are more in this series, because I could barely put this book down....more
I've never been into Shakespeare and know little about King Lear. But I have been stranded in an airport, wonA post apocalyptic meditation on humanity
I've never been into Shakespeare and know little about King Lear. But I have been stranded in an airport, wondering what would happen it all just stopped. This fantastic book skates back and forth across time, across the divide of a flu pandemic, before & after. The plot is tied by its opening scene, characters connected to the actor who had a heart attack on stage (who gains a kind of fame that no one could have imagined), and a comic book rendering of a broken world. It's not the action that grips, but the contrast between what was and what is. The way people adapt, and the definition of mundane and normal. The many ways we can twist the story of our survival into giving life or taking it. The way we may be always be trying to be home, or make home. ...more
Honest, humble exploration of Islam and Western secular thought
Too often we think of Islam and the West as separate, distinct, and opposing. This bookHonest, humble exploration of Islam and Western secular thought
Too often we think of Islam and the West as separate, distinct, and opposing. This book layers a secular American liberal point of view with an honest and respectful exploration and a gentle, yet firm view of the Quran in Muslim life. The narrator willingly acknowledges her own limits and blind spots, a rare glimpse of humility from an American point of view. She is matched by the graceful, clear-speaking, and thoughtful scholar. Rather than a textbook or a history, this book is a meditation on the meaning of spirituality itself, and of a pious, carefully considered life. I appreciate the way the author and her friend illuminate the limits of secular, Euro-American imagination when it comes to understanding the Quran and the cultures and communities of those who follow it. ...more
The stories woven together create a mysterious world combining steampunk, 19th century scientific discovery, and post-aAction-drievn with illumination
The stories woven together create a mysterious world combining steampunk, 19th century scientific discovery, and post-apocalyptic social commentary, with a dusting of alchemy/magic. The stories are driven by action, and the mystery of a packet of papers that has something to do with the history and destiny of the characters. While I enjoyed following the interwoven stories, I found the charts rather flat or simply drawn (some of this may be stylistic choice, as the 19th century components were primarily overwrought love letters and an unpublished novel). The characters seemed to be confined to type, or suddenly showing resolve without much grounding in a sense of self. The action and illustrations,, and e inventiveness of the story itself, carried me through with satisfaction, but I prefer my characters with more of an internal life. ...more
Its that old trope where the loser gets inhabited by an ancient alien (commence training montages with a beautiful trainAlien spy geek adventure story
Its that old trope where the loser gets inhabited by an ancient alien (commence training montages with a beautiful trainer and an elderly martial arts teacher), sprinkled with alternate history tidbits about how this alien inhabitation has influenced human history and evolution. Add a love story, a historical grudge, and a good dose or sarcastic alien speaking in italic repartee - and you have a good story on your hands. ...more
My favorite elements are here: the peculiar underpinning to a normal world, the swashbuckling and heroic adventures, e tigA fitting end to the trilogy
My favorite elements are here: the peculiar underpinning to a normal world, the swashbuckling and heroic adventures, e tight squeezes and last minute miracles, and the steampunk science. That author continues and concludes the trilogy with the same momentum and a satisfyingly conclusion. The action travels even more across time and geography, addressing, at least a little bit, my critique of the stories' unimaginative Anglo-centrism - and yet I can only imagine how much more exciting it would be if the characters came from more cultures and geographies. ...more
This is classic Gaiman: a mythical, magical twist on everyday life. An ordinary schmuck accidentally-or-maybe-on-Exactly what you want from Mr. Gaiman
This is classic Gaiman: a mythical, magical twist on everyday life. An ordinary schmuck accidentally-or-maybe-on-purpose gets drawn into a London Underground that coexists with the world as we know it. The author riffs on the regular world with a cast of characters and an adventure that reminds us that our "mundane" and overlooked details (rats, or Earls Court station) are part of something magnificent right under our noses. ...more
This is a great, quick little YA read with two engaging characters. Darius and Twig she a friendship where they"In a sane world, we would be heroes."
This is a great, quick little YA read with two engaging characters. Darius and Twig she a friendship where they understand each other as they deal with trying to follow their talent and dreams out of the reality that too many people around them at stuck in. The story is told with directness, heart, and a strong narrative voice. ...more
This final installment takes on a new voice, the godling Sieh. The author captures his unique, child-like, Trickster vA fitting end to an epic trilogy
This final installment takes on a new voice, the godling Sieh. The author captures his unique, child-like, Trickster voice so well, and continues the saga, reminding us of the events that came before, yet standing on its own. I am sad to see the end of stories about this world - unless she chooses to write more! The world in this trilogy is so complete and immersive, with deeply considered divinity and mortality, and so many lessons about the complicated nature of existence. I look forward to reading more from this author. ...more