This slim alternative history takes us to WWII Paris, still occupied by the Nazis, but equally so by the colorful shifting visions and wild compositeThis slim alternative history takes us to WWII Paris, still occupied by the Nazis, but equally so by the colorful shifting visions and wild composite creatures of the Surrealist movement*. Harnessed by occult methods and released in a conjunction of greed and crossed ideological wires, a prodigious blast of imaginative power - the "S-Bomb" - rolls in waves over the city, transforming everything as it goes. Partially contained in the high-numbered arrondissements, traditionally bohemian, and cordoned off from the Nazi-occupied center, the citizens of "New Paris" go about life during wartime in a brave new world.
In Mieville's best book since Embassytown, his politics, playful imagination and innate Weirdness find a charming balance. In a tale that's part spies and rebels, part art history, and all wide-eyed phantasmagoria that wonders what it would be like if art really could change the world, Mieville packs his best aspects into a small but unforgettable gift. I loved this book. 5 stars.
*Familiarity with the Surrealists isn't absolutely necessary, but be prepared to Google some of the more obscure elements. Mieville thoughtfully includes notes on his sources, and you'll really want to take a look at this stuff anyway....more
A companion piece to Carriger's beloved Parasol Protectorate series, "The Curious Case . . ." concerns itself with the mysterious Alessandro TarabottiA companion piece to Carriger's beloved Parasol Protectorate series, "The Curious Case . . ." concerns itself with the mysterious Alessandro Tarabotti (Alexia's father), and his ever faithful servant, Floote. A charming tale of supernatural espionage and taxidermy in the deserts of Egypt....more
You know how sometimes it's almost impossible to write a review of a book that blows your mind? Ancillary Justice is probably the best book I read thiYou know how sometimes it's almost impossible to write a review of a book that blows your mind? Ancillary Justice is probably the best book I read this year. (A year which included other wonderful things I couldn't begin to critique, like The Martian and The Slow Regard of Silent Things and Station Eleven.) Hard sci-fi that's humane, featuring a complex world and politics that assume you're paying attention, elegant and vivid prose, and an AI protagonist who's anything but artificial, Ancillary Justice feels like a new SF classic....more
The rare sequel I enjoyed more than its predecessor (2011's A Discovery of Witches, which was more a 4/5), the second book in her "All Souls Trilogy"The rare sequel I enjoyed more than its predecessor (2011's A Discovery of Witches, which was more a 4/5), the second book in her "All Souls Trilogy" gives scientific historian Harkness an even wider canvas on which to strut her stuff. The story of time-walking witch Diana Bishop, her vampire lover Matthew Clairmont, and the search for the mysterious manuscript Ashmole 782 continues. Shadow of Night, however, eschews laboratories and yoga in modern Oxford, instead name-dropping its way around Tudor England and Emperor Rudolf's Prague, where the couple have time-traveled seeking answers about Diana's burgeoning powers, and the manuscript prior to its corruption.
But Diana has difficulty adjusting to the role of women in the 1590s, as well as wife to a 1,500 year old vampire with a host of secret identities. She clashes openly with Kit Marlowe (who is not-so-secretly in love with Matthew), practices alchemy with the Countess of Pembroke, trains her power with a London coven, and (barely) escapes the advances of a certain smitten Hapsburg. (Also present and accounted for? Magicians John Dee and Edward Kelly, Sir Walter Raleigh, Shakespeare and Queen Bess herself, also overly fond of Matthew.) The couple also spend some idyllic time at the deClairmont family fortress Sept Tours, where Diana finally meets Matthew's legendary father Philippe (dead since WWII in the present). But Diana's presence in the past -- and her relationship with a vampire -- draw unwanted attention at a time of witch hunts and fear, and forces both human and supernatural threaten danger from all sides.
In other hands all of this might feel like overload, but Harkness's encyclopedic knowledge of the period, deft character sketches (who knew Elizabeth the Great was such a brat?), and an almost supernatural attention to detail transport readers as effortlessly across time as . . . well, a time-walking witch. Also? Diana and Matthew's romance is (finally!) steamier, despite all the layers of muslin and brocade. And there's a dragon! (Sort of.) I thoroughly enjoyed every page. Almost certainly on my Best of 2012 list. ...more
Four big rollicking stars. A fresh, hugely amusing tale of amnesia and espionage on "Her Majesty's Supernatural Secret Service." O'Malley has a lot ofFour big rollicking stars. A fresh, hugely amusing tale of amnesia and espionage on "Her Majesty's Supernatural Secret Service." O'Malley has a lot of fun with his unusual heroine(s!) Myfanwy Thomas, and shows endless icky inventiveness in this hip, modern take on who's protecting us from the things that go bump . . . and squish . . . and slurp . . . well, anytime they feel like it. More to come once fully digested. (Ew, bad metaphor for this book. Read it; you'll see.)...more
On one hand, I wish I could convince everyone I know that Mieville is the best science/weird fiction writer working today; on the other I'm kind of glOn one hand, I wish I could convince everyone I know that Mieville is the best science/weird fiction writer working today; on the other I'm kind of gleeful to have encountered his alien genius before he really does become the next big thing (at least among smartypants nerds). He is a writer always testing the boundaries of genre, and Embassytown is likely the most “literary” book he’s written so far . . . though perhaps not the most immediately accessible. Prepare for a novel that both blows your mind and gives it an excellent workout.
You know you're entering heady territory when a novel's epigram is a quote from Walter Benjamin: “The word must communicate something (other than itself).” (Although it might equally be another, quite different, quote: “Gifts must affect the receiver to the point of shock.” I'll let you work that one out as you read the book.)
In Embassytown, Mieville continues to showcase his deft world-building skills on the planet Arieka, a crucial node in the interstellar shipping lanes. Here, human colonists coexist in a state of mutual disconnection with a culture so physically and intellectually alien from our own that communication is nearly impossible, only achieved by a select few “Ambassadors,” genetically altered and rigorously trained for the task. Though the main thrust of the narrative is a tale of political intrigue, be aware that a significant amount of time is spent pondering the brain-bursting concepts of linguistic and semiotic construction. For example: the native Ariekei are unable to communicate or conceive of anything but that which is is literally true – they are incapable of a lie, and must construct elaborate, surreal tableaux in order to formulate even simple similes or metaphors. (Our protagonist, Avice Benner Cho, is herself a simile, having as a child participated in the creation of the unpleasantly loaded phrase "the girl who ate what was given her.") But what might change for the Ariekei -- and us -- when a communication breakthrough occurs?
In Embassytown, Mieville has mostly jettisoned his tendency to revel in the minutia of the grotesque, as he does in the Bas-Lag novels. Instead he works in simple, elegant prose to consider and illustrate evolution and destabilization of the ways in which thinking beings communicate -- constructing meaning (and misunderstanding) from sounds and other signifiers, and constructing civilizations from those meanings. (Now that sentence gave me flashbacks to grad school . . .) With his latest book, Mieville once again defies genre expectations, raising the bar for thoughtful, challenging science fiction.