Finally read something by Gaiman that I enjoyed (sorry Neil, it's probably me, not you)! Now on to re-read A.S. Byatt's Ragnarok since I'm in a fine mFinally read something by Gaiman that I enjoyed (sorry Neil, it's probably me, not you)! Now on to re-read A.S. Byatt's Ragnarok since I'm in a fine mood for the death of the gods. ...more
"Totalism, Erick Erikson had cautioned, could set in when the search for identity becomes an insistence on a 'category-to-be-made-absolute,' displacin"Totalism, Erick Erikson had cautioned, could set in when the search for identity becomes an insistence on a 'category-to-be-made-absolute,' displacing psychological complexity and self-awareness. Instead of teasing out the component desires and conflicts and injuries that shape a personality, instead of inspecting (and confronting) the social and economic conditions and history that form and deform individuals lives, identity could dangle the dangerous panacea of a single global fix. Could a nation succumb to the same temptation? What happens when a government champions a unitary image as a substituite for reckoning with its country's real historical baggage and grappling with its citizens' real problems? The political equivalent of totalism was totalitarianism."
It seems reductive on my part to tie this book into the current state of affairs in America, considering that it is at its heart a very carefully wrought, poignant story of Susan Faludi struggling to create a relationship with her estranged father after the latter surprises her with news of a sex change operation, but given Stefáni (nee Steven) Faludi's experience as a Hungarian Jew during WWII, it's also impossible not to draw parallels. Either way, although a section about Hungary's history near the beginning was dry (and horrifying in retrospect), I'm glad that I read this. Here is the most asinine thing I think I've ever written, but there are a lot of things that I don't know & I've been reading primarily non-fiction this year because I want to know as much as I can. Did I about Hungary's ruthless, shameful actions during WWII? No, but I do now, and that knowledge creates another facet of context that I'll carry with me from now on. I lately have this thirst to fill my brain up with everything I possibly can....more
Give me resistance, give me marching in the streets, and then give me books about an eleven-year-old chemist who rides her bike around the village solGive me resistance, give me marching in the streets, and then give me books about an eleven-year-old chemist who rides her bike around the village solving crimes and threatening to poison her sisters for the end of the day when all I want is to try to take my mind off of how fucking shameful & reprehensible my country is....more
Although I can't know for sure without confirmation from the writers who are James S.A. Corey, I will always believe that either this book was meant tAlthough I can't know for sure without confirmation from the writers who are James S.A. Corey, I will always believe that either this book was meant to be a commentary on the then-looming possibility of of a trump presidency - or I'm so affected by the grotesque reality I live in now that I can't help but see parallels in everything.
"' . . . Everyone thinks that it's simple. New, invasive species comes in and it has advantages and it outcompetes, right? That's the story, but there's another part to that. Always, always, the local environment resists. Yes, yes, maybe badly. Maybe without a clear idea of coping with novelty. I'm not saying it's perfect, but I am saying it's there. Even when an invasive species takes over, even when it wins, there is a counterbalancing process it has to overcome to do that . . . and that counter-process is so deep in the fabric of living systems, it can never be absent. However well the new species is designed, however overwhelming its advantages seem to be, the pushback will always be there.'"
There are some issues that I have with this, most notably the inclusion of several different characters who each got at least one chapter, which I felt made it hard to connect with certain people long enough to really care about them. There are four characters in particular who live on Medina & each get a single chapter that I could have done without all together. The ending (view spoiler)[where the biggest bad guy in the whole solar system just disappears in a poof (hide spoiler)] is completely unsatisfying and a little deus ex machanic the way it plays out. (view spoiler)[The only thing that's going to please me is if Marco shows up again in another book with all of the other ships & stuff that the rings disappeared (hide spoiler)] But while I have issues with some of the choices the writers made, it is not this book's fault that I gave it only three stars. The fiction you read during the dramatic escalation of fascism is apparently the fiction that you have a hard time concentrating on. I could never focus long enough to read this for longer than five or ten pages at a time, which cheapened all of the buildup of a GALAXY-WIDE WAR, which is a shame for me. I assume that if I live long enough, I'll reread this & assign it four or five stars, even though I will always believe that the ending was a little lame.
This is a sweet, deeply inclusive book that reminded me of a not-scary Leviathan Wakes. It's been recommended to me by friends because of its portrayaThis is a sweet, deeply inclusive book that reminded me of a not-scary Leviathan Wakes. It's been recommended to me by friends because of its portrayal of a diverse cast of characters, all of whom vary in appearance, gender identity, and sexuality, and it was nice to read kind stories about a cast that wasn't dependent on the viewpoint of white, cis, straight guys (which is something that the Expanse is sort of ok at too)(I don't read a lot of spaceship books, which is why I keep drawing that comparison). Chambers is obviously very fond of her crew and I was too, especially Kizzy. Their camaraderie was a lot of fun, but even though I truly enjoyed the diversity and the lightheartedness, I eventually found myself bored with the story. This felt like YA to me, which of course is not a bad thing, but YA isn't really my cup of tea. Three stars for the joy of simply experiencing thoughtful portrayals of a variety of characters, especially right now, but I'm not in a terrible hurry for the sequel....more
Pros: The relationship between Elka and Penelope, everything about being in the forest, the scary as heck situation with Missy, Magistrate Lyon (althoPros: The relationship between Elka and Penelope, everything about being in the forest, the scary as heck situation with Missy, Magistrate Lyon (although I could've sworn she wasn't a blond), and (view spoiler)[cannibalism! (hide spoiler)]
Cons: The repetitive nature of Elka's inner monologue, the magic wolf, and the conflicting metaphors used to cloud Trapper's actions (view spoiler)[When she first twigs to his murdering, she talks about him going on wolf hunts & that's the euphemism for "kidnapping women & chasing them through the forest & killing them." Okay. But then it's "deer" that they're butchering, and then it's "pigs" that they're seasoning and I know it's a little thing but I got kind of tired of it after 300 pages. He doesn't come back with anything, just covered in blood when he hunts "wolves," but Elka only talks about one specific time where she goes "deer" hunting, so where are all these other "deer" they butcher coming from? Possibly they were killing literal deer all of these other times but I got the sense that the reader was supposed to call every previous mention of deer into question after getting that reveal. Although I figured that the deal was going to be that Elka just didn't "see" the fact that they'd been eating people the whole time, especially after she saw Josh as a deer in her snare instead of a person, by the end of the book I found that I preferred the notion that Trapper went "wolf hunting" on his own & she just didn't know what was up. But that bit about Nana was COLD (hide spoiler)]
I don't feel like three stars is the best rating for a novel that I liked well enough to read in two days yet have a lot of little annoyances with, but since there are no half stars this is where we're at. This kept me up really late one night in a bit of a daze, unable to put the book down during the saga of Elka & Penelope & the boat and all of that, but I was over Elka by the last 50 or so pages. I feel like this could have used a more strenuous beta read and a little more editorial tightening, but I do thank Lewis for going there since not many authors will. Two and a half....more
The horror of a totalitarian dictatorship exists in its gulags, in the violent squashing of dissent, in its brutal removal of those who disagree. "I lThe horror of a totalitarian dictatorship exists in its gulags, in the violent squashing of dissent, in its brutal removal of those who disagree. "I later learned that this was Ri Yong-ho, the Vice Marshal of the Korean People's Arm, who was removed from his post by Kim Jong-un in July 2012. He has not been seen in public since, and it is believed that he was either sent to a political prison camp of executed." But this book is a testament to the more banal horror in the lives of everyday people, in what they are not allowed to do and say, in the brainwashing of an entire country's worth of citizens who are taught to believe that they are the best, that their Great Leader is the best, even as they are malnourished and go without electricity, warmth, and humane treatment.
Suki Kim was given a list in preparation for her time at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology that reads like it should be included in the book of short horror stories I just read:
Do not approach or start a conversation with anybody outside the campus. A minder and a driver will always accompany you. All trips require permission beforehand.
When you talk to students, be very careful about the topic of conversation. Never hint that there is something wrong with their country.
Pray with your eyes open. No foreign magazines or books will be allowed in Pyongyang except those declared and pre-approved.
Do not speak Korean and always use English. Remember that people around you will know English and understand what you are saying, so be careful what you say.
Do not get into long conversations with the guards or minders.
Do not make comparisons. Be careful with gifts. You must not give one thing to one person. It could be considered a bribe.
Everything you do and say will be watched. Even your dorm room may not be secure. They could go through your things. If you keep a journal and if you say something that is not complimentary, please do not leave it in your room. Even in your room, whatever you say could be recorded.
"We accepted our situation meekly. How quickly we became prisoners, how quickly we gave up our freedom, how quickly we tolerated the loss of that freedom, like a child being abused, in silence." ...more
I am totally not going to make a joke about how life these days is just one scary story after another . . .
I'm usually skeptical of collections likeI am totally not going to make a joke about how life these days is just one scary story after another . . .
I'm usually skeptical of collections like this. I don't know if I'm picky or what, but I usually don't find the claim of ". . . in each and every one there was that icy frisson of fear . . ." to be accurate as far as my tastes go, but color me pleasantly surprised because five out of six of these are really solid and creepy and well worth the read, and two of them are so good I've continued to think about them a day after reading this and it doesn't get any better than that. Mild discussion of the contents of each story, and while I'm not planning to give much away, read no further if you want to go in completely blind like I did.
"Wild Swimming" - This story had a line that truly made me shake: "I'm very used to lakes, the fact that there's nothing but dark below you, going down tens, often hundreds of feet." Um, yeah, no. We went camping several times this summer at a site that had a lake that people could swim in. I found that when I got out to where my feet could no longer touch the bottom, I tended to panic a bit & flail around until I got to shallower waters. I know how to swim so it wasn't that I was afraid of foundering in water over my head, and I know that there are no sharks in mountain lakes no matter what my six-year-old would like me to believe, but the thought of dark, watery space below me fills me with such unreasonable revulsion that I couldn't do much more than wade (but the wading was nice). Elodie Harper might not have intended this to be the scariest part of her story, but it added such an element of aversion for me that I ended up really enjoying this despite being able to immediately predict what was going to happen.
"Eau-de-Eric" The weakest one of the bunch. I understand that the horror is supposed to be in Kathy's actions rather than Ellie's stuffed animal, but this escalated in a way that I found really artificial (view spoiler)[particularly Ellie biting her mother repeatedly (hide spoiler)].
"The Spots" This is one of the stories that stuck with me. I just finished Without You, There is No Us, a non-fiction account from a teacher in North Korean, and the description of The Leader, the single leopard remaining in the People's Menagerie, the "November plotters," the basement of The Great Hall of Conciliation, etc. were so apt I assumed at the beginning I was reading specifically about the DPRK. Five stars for this one.
"The Unpicking" Ahhhh! Brecht Evens's Panter is one of the most unsettling books I read this year and it apparently left me with the lasting impression that (view spoiler)[stuffed animals (hide spoiler)] are completely evil, so the actions of the group in this story haunt me still. "'Oh. An Unpicking doesn't have rules. And we don't need any balls, or mats, or skittles. We do need someone to be the Baby. I think Bunny would make a good Baby.'" Shudder.
"La Mort de L'amant" A perfect case study in how an author can ramp up tension without saying too much. "He drew a hidden thumb across a hidden handle." By littering a few careful words across the landscape of his story, Stuart Johnstone builds pressure and makes you draw your own conclusions about what has happened. I love it when authors can do that.
"The Bear Trap" I honestly didn't see that coming. (view spoiler)[In much the same way that I didn't realize how much I needed to have Isaiah Quintabe foil an abductor with a grenade launcher until I read it, I didn't know how much I needed to see a young boy triumph over a thief by feeding him to his pet bear until I read that. (hide spoiler)]...more