Dawn is a brilliant, moving book. I realized that I had never read anything by Octavia Butler - one of the few highly successful African-American womeDawn is a brilliant, moving book. I realized that I had never read anything by Octavia Butler - one of the few highly successful African-American women writers of Science Fiction - so I set out to remedy that. I'm very glad that I did.
Lilith is a strong, complex character, and the reader sees the plot unfold entirely from her perspective. Her struggles - within herself, with the Oankali, with other humans - prove her to be smart, adaptable, human and fallible. How her personal convictions grow and shift while she learns more about her situation make up the greatest part of the drama.
It won't be giving much away to tell you that Lilith and the other survivors have been taken on board an alien spacecraft. The aliens are keeping most of the humans suspended or separated while they learn about them and repair the damaged Earth. The alien-ness of the Oankali is wonderfully done. They can act human, and are bipedal, but every time Lilith thinks she understands, something new is revealed. I am always intrigued by a truly alien race, and few authors do a good job with them.
Dawn deals with human sexuality and relationships in an intriguing, dark, adult manner, without being in almost any sense a “romance”. The complexity and ambivalence of this book was fascinating to me. I absolutely loved it
I will definitely be seeking out the sequels to this.
The Worm Ouroborous is the chronicle of an epic war between the Lords of Demonland, who are generally honest, brave and mighty, if bloodthirsty, and tThe Worm Ouroborous is the chronicle of an epic war between the Lords of Demonland, who are generally honest, brave and mighty, if bloodthirsty, and the Lords of Witchland who are (with a few notable exceptions) weaselly and pompous, and quarrel amongst themselves.
Don't misunderstand from the short synopsis, though, because the story is full of characters who are both larger-than-life, and surprisingly complex. I very much appreciated the inclusion of powerful, politically minded women on both sides of the quarrel. For example, the lovely Prezmyra, Princess of Pixyland. By her marriage to Lord Corund she holds Pixyland and Witchland in alliance, but her brother the King of Pixyland is also close with the Demons. She is a fascinating character, at times perhaps on the “wrong” side, who still acts in accordance with her personal honor.
Premise: Susan Trinder was raised a thief, in a family of thieves. An older male friend convinces her to go in on a scheme to swindle a young gentlewoPremise: Susan Trinder was raised a thief, in a family of thieves. An older male friend convinces her to go in on a scheme to swindle a young gentlewoman out of her fortune, by posing as a maid. Think you know how this story goes? You’re wrong.
“When I try now to sort out who knew what and who knew nothing, who knew everything and who was a fraud, I have to stop and give it up, it makes my head spin.” - Susan, page 117
Fingersmith is a maze of lies, tangled history, pornography, madhouses, jails, thieves, murderers, and passion. Susan tells her story in the first person, but doesn’t give away much of what’s to come, just enough to darken her story with a great deal of foreboding. It’s an uncomfortable story in many ways, full of unhappy people acting out their unhappiness in desperate acts and hurting everyone around them. It’s completely compelling from first to last, though.
Sue and Maud (the aforementioned young lady) are the main characters. They are completely different in temperament and history, but are consistently drawn together.
Sue is determined to live up to (or down to) her mother: a burglar hung as a murderess. Maud has a complicated relationship with hers, a woman who died young, but visits her grave often. Sue has a substitute mother in Mrs. Sucksby, a woman who consorts with thieves and fosters and sells infants, who raised Sue from a child. Maud is raised by her uncle, an off-putting eccentric, obsessed with his books and studies.
Gentleman, a man of many names, is the catalyst for the story, but the women are always the heart of it. Sue is simple in ways, but good-hearted, clever and determined. Maud is emotionally cold, but brilliant, strong and focused. Neither of them are characters I might want to know personally, but both are characters I wanted to see happy, despite them often being at odds.
This book takes turns being a slow-burning mystery, a thriller, a drama, and a passionate romance. I’ve been reading a lot of books recently that I don’t want to tell you much about, and this is another. The first person account means that secrets and plots are revealed only slowly over the story. However, I will tell you what sold me on reading this one was knowing that it is a lesbian romance-thriller, plus it just sounded amazing. ...more
Premise: David’s family has lived in the valley for generations. Many members of the family go out, work in vastly different fields, but they remain cPremise: David’s family has lived in the valley for generations. Many members of the family go out, work in vastly different fields, but they remain connected to each other. When rumors begin of coming disaster, the valley becomes the last hope for them all.
This is a unique story that also manages to capture a sense of the common bonds of humanity. It is split into three sections, with three different view-point characters, separated by generations.
The writing is lovely; the characters are complicated and sympathetic. There were a couple of future-science things that made me think: “wait a minute, I don’t think that’s how that works”. Like the best books of its type, though, it’s the social and cultural ramifications of the developments that are interesting and important, not whether it’s scientifically plausible.
This book is the story of the survival of the human species, and what physical survival might mean to the human spirit. It’s about love and life and art and humanity’s relationship with nature.
It’s about individuality and both the danger and the value it holds for communities. It’s about creativity and the way it comes into conflict with safety.
For me, this book was served by knowing very little about the plot, but I don’t think it would hurt your reading to know more about the premise: it’s about a project to save the human race through cloning in the face of a worldwide drop in fertility due to radiation poisoning. At least it is at first.
Because really it’s about love and families, children and societies. It’s beautiful, and one of my favorite Hugo winners to date....more
I can't believe I never read this before. A simply fabulous series of short stories based on British History/Myth, and the blurred boundary between whI can't believe I never read this before. A simply fabulous series of short stories based on British History/Myth, and the blurred boundary between what was and what is. Much like the Just So Stories, these were written for children but may be enjoyed by all. I love the almost ritual repetition of structure, and while some of the stories are weaker, some, especially in the second half, are amazing....more
Premise: The Castillar dy Cazilar, once a minor lord of the kingdom of Chalion, is travelling home. He had gone into danger and war by his choice, butPremise: The Castillar dy Cazilar, once a minor lord of the kingdom of Chalion, is travelling home. He had gone into danger and war by his choice, but was left in slavery and pain through betrayal. Now, though, all he asks is a place to heal and do some small service to a noble lady who was kind to him as a young man. The Provincara and her granddaughter, however, will soon have more use for Cazilar than he could have hoped, and his kingdom will ask more of him than he could have feared.
I should know better. I should know better than to think I can tear myself away from a Bujold book for anything short of paid work. I put off quite a few things, including more dirty dishes than are prudent, in my dash through the last half of this book. Even though I had read it before.
Do I need to say I loved it?
Do I need to talk about the brilliant prose, the unique characters, the wonderful story? The eponymous Curse is fascinating, the world beautifully drawn, Cazaril sympathetic and strong and sweet. As a hero I particularly liked his mental and moral strength, both tempered with an unwillingness to look for trouble.
There are so many good touches here, but I'd like to mention just a couple specifically, as good examples of what makes Bujold a master of her craft.
One: great use of words. Lots of authors make up words for things in their fantasy kingdoms. Who do you think 'Roy' means, as a title? You've probably already guessed the king, and you're right. Royal, also roy is Spanish for King, so here it evokes Spain as the loose basis for the setting. The best fantasy terms are evocative of their meaning, either in sound, shape, or derivation. So to speak of Royesse Iselle lets you picture the princess, without having to mentally translate, while layering in the flavor of this particular culture.
Two: great fantasy religion. There are lots of fine ways to do a made-up religion, although many of them seem to come down to a medieval Christian analogue or a Greek-style pantheon. Other authors use a dual god/godess system, but a few can come up with a religion that feels plausible but not derivative. The Quintarian faith system is one. It blends aspects of various traditions with a few fantasy strokes to come up with a whole that feels totally real.
In sum: this is a wonderful fantasy novel with a unique hero, full of adventure, intrigue, and occasional divine intervention....more