Unfurls slowly but steadily. Hutchinson's elegant style in constructing this book, in constructing this world, made this a rewarding and thoughtful reUnfurls slowly but steadily. Hutchinson's elegant style in constructing this book, in constructing this world, made this a rewarding and thoughtful read that holds up its own among both spy thrillers and science fiction novels. It's obscure when it needs to be, and witty but not over-indulgently so. This is science fiction among multiple axes of science, and I was particularly pleased it was, very prominently, political science fiction....more
Twenty years ago, Breq was still the Artificial Intelligence that ran a massive troop carrier, the JustiSolidly fun and thought-provoking space opera.
Twenty years ago, Breq was still the Artificial Intelligence that ran a massive troop carrier, the Justice of Torren. Now, she's the sole remaining segment of that AI, and here on an icy, hostile planet, she's outside of the empire's gaze as she stolidly progresses on a secret mission of her own. But then she discovers the dying body of someone she used to know--someone who had once served as her lieutenant, a couple thousand years ago, and then was present for a pivotal point in history before disappearing. Someone who shouldn't be alive still, someone who shouldn't be on this planet, and someone who is going to make Breq's mission very much harder.
Aside from the initial friction of juggling names and worldbuilding cues in my mind (which lasted a couple chapters, for me), this was a rather deliciously effortless reading experience. Leckie uses a really neat technique of often writing in something like first-person omniscient POV, given the nature of the multi-bodied AIs, and there was zero laboriousness to following along and enjoying watching that technique at work. Everything Leckie did with fractured selfhood was intriguing and exciting and thoughtful, and that filtered down to all of her other themes and plotlines, especially dealing with empire unity and colonization. GOOD STUFF.
The gender stuff ("she" and other "female" identified words as the default person linguistic signifier, namely) was less radical than I expected it'd be. It still relentlessly assumed a binary gender system and left no space for nongenderedness. But I liked the confrontational experience of all those female linguistic signifiers. ...more
Whenever I first start reading Octavia E. Butler, I worry that my brain isn't big enough to fully understand where she's going. By the end, however, IWhenever I first start reading Octavia E. Butler, I worry that my brain isn't big enough to fully understand where she's going. By the end, however, I worry that my heart isn't big enough to encompass the multi-faceted emotional impact of that destination: that the terrible, awful things happening--and the wonderful, miraculous things happening that are basically the same as the terrible, awful things--are going to rock me too much and leave me so disconcerted and maybe too much adrift.
To recap the first book the trilogy: aliens rescue lone human survivors upon the destruction of Earth after a war nearly wipes out all of humanity, but it's at the cost of human-human fertility: any human who wants kids will have a construct child, blending alien and human. (As you might imagine, humans don't take this well.)
This book is set many years later, and it follows Akin, Lilith's son, when he is kidnapped by human resisters.
Akin is such a compelling protagonist; he belongs everywhere and fits in nowhere, and with not a lot of resources, he has to continually save himself--that self that is both Oankali and human--in a tricky balancing act. He has to keep asserting, to others mostly, that because he is Oankali doesn't mean he can't be human, and vice versa. That just because he is a baby (and later, child and young adult) doesn't mean he is not-a-full-person, doesn't mean he's not-mature. Akin blurs a lot of lines, and his comfort in himself and his discomfort in the world are really evocative.
This book also continues the interesting thematic work about freedom and consent and survival, and it leaves me as despairing as ever about the Human Contradiction: "[i]ntelligence at the service of hierarchical behavior."
I read the first book in this trilogy, about a year and a half ago, but the focus of this second book is different, and I found no problem grasping this world and these characters. Actually, for readers like me, who might get impatient with Butler's writing when at its most exposition-by-dialogue bare-bones state, waiting between the two books probably made it a better reading experience. I think it's possible to read this book first and still enjoy it, but I wouldn't recommend it that way....more
My Real Children is a dual fictional-biography. It's the story of Trish/a, a schoolteacher who agreed to a terrible marriage proposal from a man who wMy Real Children is a dual fictional-biography. It's the story of Trish/a, a schoolteacher who agreed to a terrible marriage proposal from a man who wrote her beautiful letters and how she lived to regret and overcome it, and it's the story of Pat, a schoolteacher who broke her own heart by turning down a marriage proposal from a man who wrote her beautiful letters and how she overcame it and survived to find love elsewhere. The catch is that Trish and Pat are the same person: Patricia, an elderly woman with dementia who does not know which of these two lives she remembers--that she's still experiencing--is real.
The primary speculative fiction angle is the alternate history (neither of the timelines is our real world), and not so much the alternative lives, I thought. The bulk of the book is describing these two lives in turn. I found all the mundane life stuff so immersive, but I acknowledge that it may not be what a reader is expecting from the book's premise. Though, really, the book was at its heart-tugging best when the ghost lives bled through for the reader, if not actually for Patricia, but Walton was satisfyingly judicious in her use of those resonating echoes. Also, as someone dealing with Alzheimer's in her own family, I had my heart broken into pieces by Patricia's struggles, both as a caretaker for her mother and when she develops dementia herself.
What I liked most about the book--what I loved about it, actually--was the ending.
I really like endings that are firm but ambiguous, one last bounce on a trampoline before launching out of my sight. So I enjoyed this one. I read it really ambiguously, and I liked it that way. (view spoiler)[I didn't think Patricia literally had to choose one life, that she had to choose one timeline to die in. That she needed to do so was nothing but her own supposition ("Maybe God, or something, wanted her to choose between them, make one of them real"). Especially as neither of the timelines maps to our actual world, the final line of the book suggests to me that she's holding both of those worlds, both of those choices--the choice of now, or the choice of never--as true. That both reflect who she is, that both are the right choice. And her fragmented sense of self feels an elegiac peace in that: "She wouldn't have been the person her life had made her if she could have made any other answer." (hide spoiler)]
I did spend some of my reading time frustrated, however. I disliked that Mark had no redeeming qualities, and that Bee had no bad ones. Neither of them felt very believable, especially Bee and their family life, where they faced only external obstacles, no internal and interpersonal ones. In general, everything to do with sexuality felt so flat; I think that's partially just Walton's writing style, the distance and the lack of physicality, but it felt like a noticeable absence/handwaving when it was supposed to matter to Patricia's happiness or lack thereof. The children were at least complicated characters, even if one set of them was far more interesting to read about. The worlds of each timeline felt too flatly opposed at times, and here I had believability issues, too. Like, I'm cynical, and I struggled to believe that the whole Seven Wonders appeal would work (since when do people resorting to this level of violence actually universally agree to hold some things sacred??), or that the peaceful world had so little terrorism. This was a problem when believing in the worlds seemed like a pretty important thing for this book to really be really successful. Less THIS or THAT, less political diametrics would have kept me believing in the worlds as worlds rather than as too-obvious constructs.
But like with the Small Change trilogy, Walton does such an beautiful job with demonstrating that History Is Made Of People, which is something I find heartening to remember and ruminate over. It was a rewarding book for me, even if it wasn't always successful or always what I wanted it to be.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Gripping and supple. In a post-pandemic world (or, really, a world where the new normal is constantly pandemic), a young woman named Inez is brutallyGripping and supple. In a post-pandemic world (or, really, a world where the new normal is constantly pandemic), a young woman named Inez is brutally familiar with selling her body: she was a child prostitute, and now she's a frequent medical test subject. It's a bleak life, subject to forces both maddeningly bureaucratic and frighteningly lawless, but Inez is immune to every and any disease that can be thrown at her, so surviving is what she's good at. She falls in with some fringe reproductive/genetic technology outlaws, and after a client backs out, Inez finds herself responsible for the product of a successful experiment: her own clone.
The core of the story is the relationship between Inez and her daughter/clone, Ani. For all of the terrors that form the backdrop of this book, what hooked me the most were Inez's fears for Ani, her guilt and anxieties about her parenting skills and Ani's potential to repeat Inez's mistakes, her hunger for Ani to thrive, and her despair over the gulf of incomprehension between the two of them. It's a mother-daughter thing, really, and sometimes, what made me ache the most was Inez's anxieties over normal girlhood and teenager stuff, and how she didn't know how ordinary the two of them really were. Throughout it all, Inez's love and fear for Ani are palpable.
The first person POV was really enjoyable. I found Inez so compelling. Her driving principle is "See what happens," and I found this openness and engaged-ness on Inez's part irresistible. Dibbell displays a good sense of control at the sentence-level of her prose, knowing when to understate, when to get emotion across with punctuation ("I agree!" was a favorite line of mine), when to let Inez's humor and secrets shine through
There was narrative stuff that sometimes bothered me. I suspended my disbelief for Rauden's initial tons-of-exposition-by-dialogue simply because it was so frenetic and so obvious and so silly and because Inez's reactions were all wonderful and interesting, but a lot of the world-building never cohered completely for me. Some of the narrative repetition became more tedious than rhythmic (except for counting Ani's age; I forgive anything that builds up that kind of emotional nerve). And I'm just never a huge fan of those foreshadowing anvils, even if they did make complete sense for the conceit of Inez's narration. Sometimes, the language was too on-the-nose for my taste, throwing me out of the story world that had otherwise kinda consumed me: like, Inez being called "I," and the admittedly playful jokes about subject/object sentence diagrams. Definitely enjoyed the thematic work going on, but it was a bit too clean for my tastes at times. I liked the book best when it was being messy and less explicit and all I had to hang on to was Inez's reaction. I believed her, believed in her, from beginning to end, and so the narrative and world-building nitpicks I had mattered far less because of that.
I thought a lot about Orphan Black and C4's Utopia while reading this, as well as the mother-child relationship in Room. ...more
Wow, I may never sleep again after this. This was intense and layered. I've enjoyed a lot of Valentine's short SFF and thought Persona was good if not for me. But I wanted to read this because I wondered if it'd echo my very favorite of her stories, "A Bead of Jasper, Four Small Stones", which is about space travel and survival and connection and loneliness and home. And, well, Dream Houses is totally about all those things, too, but its emotional range and its tone and its protagonist are in a whole other galaxy, metaphorically speaking.
This was dark and had some of the most beautiful, moving descriptions of music that I've ever read. It went there, to the dark places I dreaded it would, and not only did it go there, it lingered there....more
Oh hey excellent successor to The Sparrow. Do you like your first contact sci-fi to feature alien children and mystics and scientists? Do you like thoOh hey excellent successor to The Sparrow. Do you like your first contact sci-fi to feature alien children and mystics and scientists? Do you like thoughtful cultural analyses? Do you like Slytherclaws as protagonists? Do you like characters motivated by immutable philosophies? (And can you handle a lot of philosophical musing?) If so, you might like Dark Orbit.
I really liked the worldbuilding, the characters, and the fact that it's social science fiction that plays a bit with hard sciences, too. I did not like how the story concluded so vaguely; the wrap-up kind of hurried through revelations and then the major ethical problem of the book was NOT resolved and kind of referenced in a "Well, that'll be an interesting day when THAT is decided! But that's not today, so!" way, which was really, really disappointing.
Also, I'm now totally obsessed with beminding. ("To be true to one's self, one must be true to all others.")
I'd be interested in reading critiques about how disability and mental illnesses were handled in this book....more
Sweet-natured science-fiction. The experience of reading TLWTASAP is a lot like a watching a season of a television show about a rickety spaceship's pSweet-natured science-fiction. The experience of reading TLWTASAP is a lot like a watching a season of a television show about a rickety spaceship's plucky, good-hearted family-of-friends crew. Throughout the book, the emotional states and small character development of various crew members take center stage, relationships shift subtly, cultures are explored, history is discussed, and then they all fly on. It was very lovely, to the point that when big actions, people's-lives-are-in-danger moments happened, I had to read ahead a little bit before I could relax, to make sure the rug wouldn't be pulled out from under me.
This book is attentive to identity, and it's attentive to violence. The violence the characters have experienced or experience in this book, while not defanged, is mostly contained and the narrative is not concerned with justifying or unjustifying violence. The book is more interested in how people handle ongoing violence, and how a culture should respond to violence. Or, rather, a collective of cultures: the galactic not-really-an-empire-exactly here is a cooperative confederation of cultures, of which humans are a very tiny and not very powerful part. TLWTASAP is also concerned with opening up the concept of normal, which I think is the one of my top reasons to read and love science-fiction. The character of Ohan was particularly interesting to me, and his plotline (dealing with illness, mortality, cultural beliefs) was one of my favorite parts of the book.
There was a television/cinematic quality to TLWTASAP. Scenes were vividly staged and characters sharply drawn, but they couldn't always shake off the sense of contrivedness: there was a little too much speechifying at big emotional moments, and a little too much Whedonesque snap to some of the characters that made them feel two-dimensional, even when they weren't. Near the end of the book, there are a few motivations/choices that weren't very fleshed out and that left me going, "Well, OKAY, but this'd be more satisfying if there'd been more build-up…"
But I was very happy spending time with this book, and I'm looking forward to the sequel....more
What I found most interesting about my experience reading The Best of All Possible Worlds was that it was entirely possible to read it as a romance. NWhat I found most interesting about my experience reading The Best of All Possible Worlds was that it was entirely possible to read it as a romance. Not just as romantic science fiction or science fiction with romantic elements, but as a genre romance, period dot full stop: the romantic arc extended throughout the book and the romance directly tied into the character development and the plot. And given the episodic nature of the book, the romance shared equal billing with the worldbuilding as the book's points of focus.
I did enjoy TBOAPW, not just because it was science fiction AND romance, but because the worldbuilding was often SO COOL. Anthropological science fiction is so much fun to read, so much fun to think about, and TBOAPW spends a lot of time investigating all sorts of creative cultural mixes. The existence of psionic, telepathic, empathic powers, and how this affected things ranging from relationships to theater, was all very interesting. The idea of a planet built by and devoted to refugees of the universe's greatest disasters (guided by the mysterious Caretakers) is SO COOL, and I love how Lord ran with developing all these ideas and concepts. However, this was also a place where I felt like I wanted something different from what the book wanted to do, though: it has a very episodic plot (at this place, we did this and this happened; we traveled to the next place, where that happened and this happened--and yes, I know, Candide is probably on one of the book's influences, up there with Pride and Prejudice and probably The Left Hand of Darkness and Star Trek), which meant there was a lot of coverage in a diverse range of cultural and scientific and societal stuff, which was all fun to read, but the events of the story often just felt so disconnected from one another. It was good that the romance arc was interwoven from the very beginning: the tension and gradual trust involved in the slowly budding relationship between the protagonists really helped hold the book together for me.
The tone was another one of my stumbling blocks to loving TBOAPW more than I did. The majority of the book is first-person and chatty, and that's a stylistic technique and tone especially neat to see employed in a science fiction novel. Because the book's plot was so episodic, this first-person journal-ish kind of account worked. But, man, did it sometimes feel limited, especially when I wanted to know more about the Sadiri, or when I was annoyed by the jarring nature of how progressive the book seemed to want to be (for example, fantastic representation of all sorts of women of all ages--pretty essential when the Societal/Cutural Need To Procure Women To Breed With is a major part of the plot motivation for the characters--as well as normalized representations of polyamory) but how in practice, the ways the book fell sort of actual progressiveness annoyed me (there's a character, Lian, who is registered as "gender-neutral," but Delarua makes what was probably supposed to be a chatty [but I found obnoxious] comment about hugging them and knowing what they actually "are" but isn't going to tell the readers, and then there's the weird narrative assumption that because they're gender-neutral, Lian is also asexual/aromantic; and omg I'm going to sound like a total fucking bore here, but there was not enough interrogation of the assumed gender binary and gender roles and heteronormativity and that kind of stuff when, as stated above, the Need For Women To Breed With is the important, motivating force in the narrative). The book takes pains to show how women weren't just need for their reproductive abilities but also as part of cultural/societal reparation, but there was just such an uninterrogated oldfashionedness and conventionality to i, all the same. I mean, this fits in with it being a romance novel, upholding the courtship narrative and heterosexual pairbonding for the good of the community and all (and I'm not criticizing it FOR that, because…well, I have a GoodReads library that demonstrates that I mostly read romances involving heterosexual pairbondings ANYWAY; I'm criticizing how little examination the narrative devoted to this, when it seems like this kind of planet, with so much diversity in just about EVERYTHING, would have plenty to interrogate about it).
I just vastly prefer my science fiction to be less conventional about gender, because I want all my imagined futures to be less conventional about gender. Anyway, this was an enjoyable, unique book, but I did kind of end it wanting to reread the more thematically-coherent Ammonite....more
I read this because of Niall Harrison's Strange Horizons review, especially for the comparison to Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox re: meta-narrative experimenI read this because of Niall Harrison's Strange Horizons review, especially for the comparison to Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox re: meta-narrative experimentationesqueness. And I wasn't disappointed, because there's a lot to think about in Elysium's treatment of love and grief and death and memory, about stories, and the narrative was gorgeous: splintered and poky, raw and open to layering hurts upon hurts but still retaining a hopeful heart.
It soared. Sometimes it crashed. And it lived.
For readers unsure about wanting to be spoiled beforehand (and this is a book that doesn't reveal its entire hand until later in its pages): I enjoyed this book even though I was spoiled for its basic concept (I did read the first two sections of that SH review before reading the book but didn't read the third). I liked having that background knowledge and handful of spoilers to help me through the instability of the early parts of the book, and it didn't ruin the book. There were enjoyable revelations all throughout the text just from reading attentively....more
Fera Jones is a champion boxer known for her knockout punches. When she starts fighting and beating men, the attention of the world falls on her in soFera Jones is a champion boxer known for her knockout punches. When she starts fighting and beating men, the attention of the world falls on her in some uncomfortable ways. Why she fights seems like a simple matter--because she can, because she's good at it, and because the money helps her and her ill father--but over the course of the story, what becomes most important is that how she looks into the past--her past--helps her discover what kind of future she wants to fight for.
For such a short story, there's some lucid, remarkable world-building. A lot of the gender politics--which comprise the most obvious and most boring aspects of the story--came across as laughably old-fashioned (this story was first published in 2000). Like, the "feminist studies" department at Smith College that runs illegal genetic experiments, and the FemLeague political party that's the third largest party in the country and whose head is a denim overalls-wearing man-hating stereotype. I LOLed quite a bit over stuff like that, unfortunately. Given that more people today are more familiar with the complexity and fluidity of gender, and how this is becoming a greater and greater focus of feminist movements (I say this optimistically, I know), the gender politics in this story were a throwback to second-wave feminism fears and stereotypes instead of a glimpse into the future. The economic and class aspects, however, were the most interesting to me and, I thought, the most pertinent to today's real world. Namely: there's a perpetual underclass, some literally living underground, and matters aren't helped by the legalized drug Pulse.
Pulse is a "gene drug [that] altered the structure of the pleasure centers of the brain, temporarily allowing consciousness some measure of control over dreams. With just the right amount a pulsar, as the users called themselves, could create a complex fantasy, build a whole world and live in it for what seemed like days, weeks." Pulsars tend to check out of real life, unable to hold down real jobs, preferring their dream worlds to their daily lives. Additionally, "it turned out that after four or five uses, the brain collapsed in on itself without regular ingestion of the drug. It was an addiction from which death was the only withdrawal." While wealthy Pulsars can afford private health insurance coverage and can keep acquiring the drug as necessary, the poor aren't as lucky and tend to suffer and die when they're broke and unable to source more drugs, and all Pulsars die sooner rather than later, due to long-term effects on their brains. Fera's father is one of these Pulsars, and through the course of the story is undergoing experimental treatments to try to cure him. Fera's relationship with him and the motivation he provides her--and the insight he can provide into the life of her long-lost mother--was the most compelling part of the story to me.
My favorite passage was when Fera asks her boyfriend Pell--who is one of the impoverished Backgrounders and who becomes her trainer during the story--if he loves her:
"We don't use that word underground."
"What do you say then?"
"I look for you, I see you, I won't turn away."
"That's a lotta words to say the same thing."
"It's not the same thing. Not at all. 'I love you' means 'I need you.' The way I say it means that you can count on me. The way I say it is strong."
The story ends with a glimpse of resisting ownership, asserting independence without ignoring interdependence, and I thought this conversation about love was the starting kernel of that theme....more
I was expecting all that racism to be purposeful for narrative purposes; I found that it wasn't. If you're going to make me sit through repeated descrI was expecting all that racism to be purposeful for narrative purposes; I found that it wasn't. If you're going to make me sit through repeated descriptions of a brown person as simian and chimpanzee-like (especially when the same POV also refers to aliens as human), at least use it to spark some sort of thematic turmoil or maybe even a self-realization on the part of the protagonist. Don't make me sit through that shit for nothing.
I should be the universe's easiest sell when it comes to mixing religion and science fiction, but the story was tedious and the main character too much of a dumb-ass to cultivate an interesting story. I'd rather have the aliens' stories, or the stories of the other USIC employees, who despite (view spoiler)[being unemotional, asexual ascetics (hide spoiler)] were more interesting than Peter. I did think the long-distance relationship between Peter and Bea was more engagingly and movingly portrayed than the stuff on Oasis, but jfc when I read science fiction, I need a protagonist more nuanced than this, preferably one with more brain activity than this one.["br"]>["br"]>...more
I could have read an entire book narrated by the swordfish. Loved her POV.
So, the alien invasion of Lagos begins in the ocean, and it coincides with tI could have read an entire book narrated by the swordfish. Loved her POV.
So, the alien invasion of Lagos begins in the ocean, and it coincides with the literal cross-pathing and metaphorical destiny-entwining of three strangers, there on the beach beside the invasion: Adaora, the marine biologist cooling her head after a troubling fight with her husband; famous Ghanaian rapper Anthony, compelled to seek fresh air after a concert; and battered soldier Agu, who fled from his unit after he attempted to intervene when his superior attacked and raped a woman. Nearly as soon as they meet, these three are swept out in the ocean, and then, things start getting really, really strange.
This book's primary strength is in its wide-view, cross-sectional sociological interest in What Happens When Aliens Invade. There are a lot of POVs utilized in the narrative, and since the book is often a love letter to the city of Lagos, there is a lot of focus on communities, groups of people and the ways they interconnect, overlap, hurt, bleed one another, are the same in many ways, etc., and that was all engaging. The members of the evangelical group overlap with members of the LGBT group who include someone in the group planning to kidnap and ransom an alien, etc. There's not a lot of deep character development to be found, but with the book's wide focus, that didn't seem to be necessary for this particular story.
Readers who want an action-adventure alien story, one with a heroic journey, will probably be disappointed, as are readers who want a tight narrative or deep characters, but I like this kind of science fiction: mosaical in form, ecological and sociological in interest, with an intent to use The Strange to learn more about ourselves as humans.
Also, the militant environmentalist swordfish. ♥♥♥...more
It is winter now in Area X. Do you know where your borders are?
Acceptance is an unsettling but satisfying conclusion to the Southern Reach trilogy, cIt is winter now in Area X. Do you know where your borders are?
Acceptance is an unsettling but satisfying conclusion to the Southern Reach trilogy, chronicling human interactions with a stretch of land conquered by inhuman forces and now resistant to comprehension. (And see, I wrote that, and okay, it kind of gets at the wider premise of the books, but it's also far too dualistic and too trite and too wrong to explain it all. So.) The first book, I thought, was perfect and could stand alone (my review here), but the trilogy as a whole was really good, and a really engaging reading experience for me.
I'm not usually into Weird fiction, not into Horror, and not into unexplainable shit, but I still really liked this trilogy. While the middle book was purposeful in its bureaucratic, lulling listlessness and splinters of creepiness, it was still listless, and long stretches of it were dull to read--and it's only now, after having the final book shed light on so much of the second book, that I can better appreciate its flashes of brilliance. Like the first book, though, this third book is pure energy; I both couldn't read quickly enough and couldn't read slowly enough. I wanted to have all three books in front of me so I could go through them with highlighters in hand, cross-referencing themes and imagery and clues.
Acceptance is about meaning-making, what's knowable and what's not, naming and identifying, the foolishness of causality as an organizational principle humans cling to. There's epistemology and biology and parents fucking up their children and how it's all terroir. And then there's the setting. The setting! VanderMeer could just write about the natural history of the forgotten coast and it'd be compelling. Of everything--after so many prickly, distant characters and shadowy conspiratorial forces--it's the setting that feels so real and so vivid to me. VanderMeer's prose, even when describing the obscure at the limits of the imagination, can be so clear and quick-sharp ("Lowry isn't your direct boss, is more like slant rhyme, not there at the end of things but still in control"), even if it sometimes gets too fragment-y for my tastes.
I liked how this final installment utilized multiple points of view, from multiple points in time. It shifts beautifully between first-person, second-person, and third-person, depending on the character, and VanderMeer chose among the key characters whose perspective are not, of course, objective, but are essential for this story: (view spoiler)[The Director (the Psychologist, Cynthia, Gloria), Saul Evans (the Crawler, the lighthouse keeper), Ghost Bird (not the Biologist), Control (John Rodriguez), and also--much to my excitement--the Biologist (singularly named, singularly known). (hide spoiler)] With so many voices from so many different whens, the book played beautifully with the concept of time, and the way time is used to create/force meaning, and when I arrived at the epilogue, I realized how much my assumptions were making me an active participant in this meaning-making out of what may not have meaning at all.
The other thing I really liked about Acceptance was the inclusion of Saul Evans, the lighthouse keeper of Area X before it was Area X. He's been present in some form in the prior two books, but here, in the final book, we get his life before-ish the catastrophe. Saul was a preacher before he was the lighthouse keeper, a man of sermons and negotiator of divine mysteries, and I liked his sections of the book not just because I demand religion in my science fiction (they often do such similar work omg why isn't more science fiction also about religion okay!) but also because belief in the existence of God isn't at all the interest of the book (that'd be obvious & low hanging-fruit to mull over in the universe of the Southern Reach trilogy, and so I like how deftly VanderMeer avoids that route) or of Saul. The focus is on his actions, his relationships with other people, his role of mediating experience.
Once, from this vantage, he'd seen something vast rippling through the water beyond the sandbars, a kind of shadow, the grayness so dark and deep it had formed a thick, smooth shape against the blue. Even with the binoculars he could not tell what creature it was, or what it might become if he stared at it long enough. Didn't know if eventually it had scattered into a thousand shapes, revealed as a school of fish, or if the color of the water, the sharpness of the light, changed and made it disappear, revealed as an illusion. In that tension between what he could and couldn't know about even the mundane world, he felt at home in a way he would not have five years ago. He needed no greater mysteries now than those moments when the world seemed as miraculous as in his old sermons.
So. I recommend the trilogy, while noting that a) this is not where you should look for solutions, answers, or explanations, and b) the second book is different and not as successfully executed as the first and third books, but it's still necessary to read.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I loved how so many of these stories echo Dawn, which makes me even more eager to read more of Butler's long fiction. I thought there were four very gI loved how so many of these stories echo Dawn, which makes me even more eager to read more of Butler's long fiction. I thought there were four very good stories, one frustrating but still thought-provoking story ("Book of Martha"--THAT is what you suggest to God? I am unconvinced), and two meh stories in this collection. One of the very good stories, "Bloodchild," is available online....more
The most gripping book I've read recently. There's a lot of interesting intellectual work being done about love, captivity, oppression, resistance, anThe most gripping book I've read recently. There's a lot of interesting intellectual work being done about love, captivity, oppression, resistance, and collaboration. The latter two themes interested me, because in a lot of ways, Dawn was an antidote to the hero-rebels-against-oppressive-government stories dominating a lot of popular fiction, and it's pretty brazen in portraying challenging, layered, complicated systems of oppression, and in its insistence on asking constantly, "At what cost? By whose choice? Is this a choice? Is choice something to be prioritized? What about survival itself? What does survival even look like?"
So, yeah, there's a lot of uncomfortable stuff here, amid an immediate and intense story about the questionable survival of the human race....more
This book was ridiculous, and I really liked it. It was a perfect summer read, and it served up exactly what I wanted: an exciting action adventure scThis book was ridiculous, and I really liked it. It was a perfect summer read, and it served up exactly what I wanted: an exciting action adventure science fiction medical thriller YA with the flimsiest of plots but a strong voice. Though all its flaws shined through, still I read on, enjoying every popcorn-y moment of it....more