Wonderful voice, depressing future! I didn't love all the characters but I loved enough of them to give 4 stars...Healey's addictive prose and great pWonderful voice, depressing future! I didn't love all the characters but I loved enough of them to give 4 stars...Healey's addictive prose and great pace go without saying....more
These stories and poems are wonderful. One of the stories, "The Author of the Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts From the Journal of Therolinguistics," IThese stories and poems are wonderful. One of the stories, "The Author of the Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts From the Journal of Therolinguistics," I've read before.
Not sure where. But I loved it just as much the second time around. And it's because of this story that I can't understand why Ken Liu's "The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species" has been so lauded; no offence to him in the slightest, I am a Liu fan, but Ursula already wrote that story, better, in 1974....more
I read the prologue and the first chapter of this, after picking it up second-hand, and they show such easy command of language and character that I tI read the prologue and the first chapter of this, after picking it up second-hand, and they show such easy command of language and character that I think I'd be doing this book a disservice if I pushed through now without waiting and getting the first 2 books in the series first....more
“Ajwan” is a new YA SF novel from Emirati author Noura Noman.
(Currently available in Arabic from Egyptian publisher Nahdet Misr. This review is of an“Ajwan” is a new YA SF novel from Emirati author Noura Noman.
(Currently available in Arabic from Egyptian publisher Nahdet Misr. This review is of an unreleased, draft English translation.)
In the words of the author: “Ajwan is a proper girl's name in some Arab countries. Jown is a cove or small sea, awjan is the plural. It is a suitable name for a girl who comes from a water world and breathes water and air.”
This sprawling, action-packed story is named for a young, female protagonist whose journey spans planets and space stations, humans and aliens, marriage and motherhood, military training and mind powers.
The prose is serviceable, with only the occasional awkward phrasing as evidence of translation. The settings are enjoyably varied, as befits space opera, with much of the main story taking place on Zafir Station, Rohani’s world of Krasutka, and several Special Forces training planets.
“Ajwan” is the first book of a trilogy. I think.
Pros: Ajwan is instantly relatable; her initial spirit of adventure, the devastation of her accumulated losses and her hopes for the future. Her sometime-passivity is explained, and her memories of the parental/marital culture clash are engaging. Her ability to sense others’ emotions gives us insight into the secondary characters.
For the Bechdel Test, the book passes quite early on. Major Bolkovu is a woman, Senior Officer of the space station to which the refugees from Ajwan’s home planet have been evacuated. She interviews Ajwan as one of the few surviving Havaiki and eventually adopts her.
Yes, strong women abound and empathy *does* seem a particularly female superpower (or curse), and it is neatly placed in opposition to the controlling, brainwashing powers of the chief antagonist, At-Tarek.
Still, I cringed when Ajwan’s come-uppance for daring to meet with a boy alone was sexual assault and a battering, to which her response was self-blame, and this in “a peaceful nation which banished violence centuries ago”. When she is assaulted a second time by a fellow military recruit, instead of taking pride in her ability to defend herself, she thinks about how she deserves punishment for harming her would-be rapist. I normally enjoy getting different perspectives that aren’t found in Western-authored SF, but I did not enjoy this aspect.
In contrast, I appreciated the examination of the treatment of refugees, something that might prick the consciences of those opposed to the resettlement of asylum-seekers. I also enjoyed the passages outside of Ajwan’s point of view, in settings such as Cho-Chan and Esplendore, depicting events including the armament of a rebel group and political assassinations, which added intrigue and kept tension high.
Cons: I would have liked a better explanation of why the Havaiki, native to the ocean world and presumably originating there (there is some mention of self-alteration and the possibility of originating elsewhere, but this is never made clear) evolved to be so biologically similar to the Okamo that they are able to intermarry and reproduce without artificial intervention.
If they did evolve underwater, why have legs at all? Why have hands and speech? Why eyes that face downward while swimming instead of straight ahead? Why not more like the octopus-people that Ajwan meets on the space station? And why develop the ability to breathe atmospheric oxygen if they have always lived underwater? If they didn’t evolve, if they are humans who have genetically altered themselves, which would explain the interbreeding ability, why stop at aqua-coloured eyes? Why alter yourself to be able to breathe water, but then continue to communicate by talking, which requires air?
I’m also confused about their cities built on the ocean floor. The reader is specifically told that the pressure down there is too great for them to swim. Why not have floating cities on the surface, then? And I wondered where all the industry was located. How do you smelt or operate a chemical laboratory underwater? How do you build furniture, manufacture clothing? If all of these things exist inside an air-tight dome with filtered air, how did they build the domes?
Hopefully, these details will be explained in the next book. But even if they aren’t, even if the science is of the Dr Who/Star Trek variety, the value in this book is the relationships, especially with the prominence given to family.
They ring true.
With its emphasis on feelings, “Ajwan” should be immensely attractive to the YA demographic at which it is aimed, and it is a real pleasure to see genre works like this being produced in Arabic. ...more
I enjoyed this more than "American Gods" but not as much as "Stardust"; it was less pessimistic than the former but less magical than the latter. ThemI enjoyed this more than "American Gods" but not as much as "Stardust"; it was less pessimistic than the former but less magical than the latter. Themes and motifs from both those earlier books are repeated and merged in this volume, making it a cross between a nostalgic childhood journey (Stardust) and the grimmer journey to adulthood (American Gods) and, to me, not entirely satisfying as either....more
I think it's time I rated this, even though I haven't been reading it sequentially but dipping in an out of it.
For me, Woolf's Writer's Diary was inteI think it's time I rated this, even though I haven't been reading it sequentially but dipping in an out of it.
For me, Woolf's Writer's Diary was intensely personal on two levels, because I see her not just as a fellow woman writer but a literary ancestor in this way:
I think (hope, dream) that my writing is heavily influenced by Nancy Kress, who sees her work as influenced by Ursula LeGuin, who sees herself as influenced by Virginia Woolf.
Woolf, in turn, in this book, mentions Defoe's influence on her, so I suppose "A Journal of the Plague Year" or a "Robinson Crusoe" reread is next on my list - and then Defoe's greatest influence is the Bible so the buck stops there?
I think all writers will find something here to identify with. Woolf agonises over process:
"...the worst of writing is that one depends so much upon praise. I feel rather sure I shall get none for this story; and I shall mind a little...One should aim, seriously, at disregarding ups and downs...the central fact remains stable, which is the fact of my own pleasure in the art." - p24
...AND she would also have been a natural Goodreads user; a wonderfully scathing critic:
"I threw down [Katherine Mansfield's] Bliss with the exclamation, 'She's done for!' Indeed I don't see how much faith in her as a woman or writer can survive that sort of story. I shall have to accept the fact, I'm afraid, that her mind is a very thin soil, laid an inch or two deep upon very barren rock." - p12
"Friday, August 9th. In the absence of human interest, which makes us peaceful and content, one may as well go on with Byron. Having indicated that I am ready, after a century, to fall in love with him, I suppose my judgement of Don Juan may be partial. It is the most readable poem of its length ever written, I suppose: a quality which it owes in part to the springy random haphazard galloping nature of its method." - p13
"I finished Ulysses and think it a mis-fire. Genius it has, I think; but of the inferior water. The book is diffuse. It is brackish. It is pretentious. It is underbred, not only in the obvious sense but in the literary sense...one hopes he'll grow out of it; but as Joyce is 40 this scarcely seems likely." - p56
Actually, maybe she wouldn't be a great Goodreads member...I am detecting some criticism of the authors and not their work :p