Boneyards pulls the series back up from the mild disappointment that was City of Ruins. Rusch puts the focus on Squishy, the Cassandra of Diving intoBoneyards pulls the series back up from the mild disappointment that was City of Ruins. Rusch puts the focus on Squishy, the Cassandra of Diving into the Wreck who repeatedly warns of the dangers of the ancient "Stealth Technology." Like Ruins, Boneyards uses a multi-threaded narrative to good effect.
The cover design is better than Ruins, but still grows awkward with repeated examination. ...more
Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring '20s collects a set of short stories based around the '20s and '30s. Stories include Lovecraftian hoBroken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring '20s collects a set of short stories based around the '20s and '30s. Stories include Lovecraftian horror ("The Automatic City," "Madonna and Child, In Jade"), urban mythic ("Semele's Daughter," "A Drink for Teddy Ford"), psychological thriller ("Fight Night"), and hard-boiled mystery ("The Purloined Ledger.")
Perhaps more interesting is the inclusion of stories that look beyond the usual boundaries of urban fantasy and fantastic alt-history. Frank Ard's "Chickadee" gives us an anthropomorphic Chicken, and "Jack and the Wise Birds" by Lucia Starkey explores rural folklore. While the problem of passing has frequently been an implicit theme of supernatural literature, Barbara Krasnoff's "Button Up Your Overcoat" explicitly connects the dots between Nella Larsen's Passing and fantasy narrative.
Gay and lesbian characters and history are a central feature of three stories. "Semele's Daughter," focuses on witches and witchhunters in an alternate history where both magic and booze are banned. "Der Graue Engel" is comic sci-fi story set in the Wiemar Republic, similar in tone to Spider Robinson's Callahan's stories. "Nor The Moonlight" offers alt-history body horror in post-WWI Paris.
As with most collections, I found the stories to be a mix. "The Automatic City," is the perfect blend of Lovecraftian and steampunk horror. "Jack and the Wise Birds" does a brilliant job of mimicking oral history. "Chickadee" is just plain weird, and "Nor The Moonlight" satisfying in its horror. Overall the collection is well worth the $3 ebook price.
Daughter of Elysium is an interesting novel set in the same universe as Door into Ocean and Brain Plague. The central characters, The Windclans, are cDaughter of Elysium is an interesting novel set in the same universe as Door into Ocean and Brain Plague. The central characters, The Windclans, are credible as a family unit in a genre that tends to push family relationships to the margins. Much of the novel works on the contrast among the various cultures. The Windclans come from a matriarchal culture that values children. Through Raincloud's role as a translator, we're introduced to the nearly immortal people of Elysium, the feminist anarchy of The Sharers, and the feuding patriarchal people of Urulan. Rather than treating any of the cultures as a utopia, Slonczewski raises credible virtues and flaws among all of them.
Perhaps where this story is weak is that it tries to address too much. Ecological relationships, responsibility for uplifted species, cultural conflict, post-human longevity, religious diversity, economic policies of developing nations, and ethics all become important themes, only to drift away as the narrative changes. The final confrontation felt slightly anticlimactic and rushed.
But overall, it was a good read about credible characters in a rich universe. Slonczewski does a fair job of trying to blend the personal, social, and scientific aspects of science fiction. ...more
This book has an engaging heroine with interesting flaws and good character development. However it's marred by clunky prose, by-the-numbers conflictThis book has an engaging heroine with interesting flaws and good character development. However it's marred by clunky prose, by-the-numbers conflict development, and a fairly shallow treatment of the big ideas that are introduced. ...more
It's just my luck that I seem to be reading Slonczewski's Elysium cycle backwards. A Door into Ocean is the first, and most explicitly political of thIt's just my luck that I seem to be reading Slonczewski's Elysium cycle backwards. A Door into Ocean is the first, and most explicitly political of the four novels, focusing on non-violent action and culture.
Like most novels using this theme, *A Door into Ocean* focuses on the contrast between two cultures, with representative characters engaged in the process of discovery and conflict. The Sharers of Shora are a woman-only culture that have engineered their genes, environment, and culture into an ecological balance. Their language has no constructs for the subject-object distinction, lacking obvious ways to express power-over relationships like order and obey.
In contrast, the world of Valedon is militaristic, industrial, and plutocratic. Although nominally united under a single government, individual city-states engage in wars of dominance and occupation for control of resources. Behind both is the mysterious Patriarch of Torr, who has recently risen to unite far-flung colonies of the lost Primes under a religious rule that dictates the development of technology.
Much of the action comes from the efforts of the various protagonists to understand each other. Both Valans and Sharers see each other as dangerously inhuman. In an attempt to resolve this conflict, Merwin the Sharer adopts the young man, Spinel of Valedon. It's through Spinel's eyes that we see the contrast of both cultures.
The conflict leads to a war of occupation with the Valans ordered to bring the Sharers under the rule of Torr. Ultimately, this becomes more of a moral conflict than a military one. Both sides have the technological capability to engage in complete destruction of the other, a fact that leads to a MAD stalemate of competing threats that only complicates the fear. The Sharers choose to resist through increasingly desperate and suicidal acts of non-violence. While the Valan leader becomes increasingly entrenched in a pyrrhic effort to break the will of what he doesn't understand.
The conclusion is perhaps realistic in failing to offer a general solution for the problems introduced. Problems of coexistence between two radically different cultures can't be solved overnight. (In fact, they're conflicts that continue in the background through the 1,200+ years of the Elysium Cycle.) Although Slonczeski's sympathies appear to be firmly with the Sharers, she avoids romanticizing them and describes their own unique flaws.
Overall I found it to be a compelling and enjoyable read. Slonczewski credibly introduces the biotechnology of the ocean world of Shora without too much technobabble. The characterization of world through its inhabitants is credible and compelling. ...more
**spoiler alert** I read this back when it was first published and felt the need to revisit it again, even to the point of buying two different copies**spoiler alert** I read this back when it was first published and felt the need to revisit it again, even to the point of buying two different copies of it.
Starving artist Chrysoberyl agrees as part of an experimental protocol to become the host to a community of sentient microbes. The specific strain she gets, Eutheria, turns out to be highly temperamental and creative. There is more than a bit of science fiction handwavium in the medicine and biology involved, but it gets right to the meat of the issue.
Most of the novel centers on multi-species ethics and responsibility. Humans are gods to the intelligent microbes, with the power of life and death. However the microbes are not powerless in this relationship, having the ability to control human beings by directly manipulating dopamine in the brain. On the one side are the Olympians who control their microbial populations through sometimes brutal executions and genocide. On the other side is the microbial Leader of Infinite Light who entraps humans with the promise of unending pleasure and addiction. The conflict of the novel centers on trying to find a compromise between these two extremes.
The setting is beautifully realized. Points I liked about it was the somewhat careful consideration of a culture in which inter-species relationships are potentially more scandalous than same-sex relationships, good development of Chrysoberyl as a heroine, and richly considered and detailed settings.
It falls a bit short in plot and pacing. It's hard to tell where the climax comes, and stretching out the romantic relationship was a bit strained. Chrysoberyl's solutions to problems works perhaps one more time than it should, and the shifts in supporting characters at the ending seem a bit too tidy for my taste. For a work that's so focused on biological aspects of cognition, it seems a bit glib regarding the possibilities that sexual orientation and gender identity might be physical. ...more