This story was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
An amusing, light and fluffy story.
It's the second story to be set in the restaurant Sin duThis story was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
An amusing, light and fluffy story.
It's the second story to be set in the restaurant Sin du Jour, and I've not read the first; that didn't seem to be too much of a hindrance. I think I missed a little bit of the tension between characters (and initially I thought the two main characters were lovers, not housemates), but the cast is reintroduced well enough that I had no trouble following the various interactions.
The basic premise is that there's going to be a goblin wedding - well, the crown prince of goblin-dom is marrying a human - and this version of goblins is that they are the bright and beautiful... in fact most of them are Hollywood celebrities. You already know who the Goblin King is (yes, really, Wallace went There); I'm not entirely sure who the queen is meant to be: she's described as the most famous supermodel, and my mind went to Elle Macpherson, but maybe that's just because I'm Australian? Perhaps it could be Naomi Campbell? Anyway, such beautiful creatures naturally require an extravagant wedding aaaaaand then things go bad. Some of the story is around preparing for the wedding (goblins eat jewels, of course) and some of it is dealing with, um, rampaging lusty reptiles. So half almost cosy culinary fantasy, half magic/mayhem fantasy.
Don't read this for deep philosophical reflections. Do read this for a bit of banter, a bit of snark about celebrity, and people getting themselves out of sticky situations in amusing ways. ...more
This novella was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
I may not have the context with which to really comment on this story - I have a bit of knThis novella was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
I may not have the context with which to really comment on this story - I have a bit of knowledge of America in the 1920s but not all that much; my understanding of race relations in America is slightly better than superficial but not exactly deep. Also I have next to no knowledge of HP Lovecraft's work
With all of that said, I really enjoyed this story, so as someone without masses of history about the period of the story that's a pretty good recommendation.
The story is split in two, with two different narrators - which actually really surprised me, so that's kind of a spoiler I guess. The first half is told by Tommy Tester, a young black man who makes a living by hustling, basically. He wears a musician disguise to be both seen and unseen; he gets jobs that need that sort of look. One day he encounters a wealthy white man, Robert Suydam, and things... get weird.
The second half of the story is from the perspective of a white policeman, Malone, whom Tommy encounters early on and then later. He's not entirely a stranger to unnatural occurrences, and gets more involved in the weird stuff Tommy and Suydam conjure up than he would perhaps like.
The plot isn't especially intricate but it's certainly compelling enough to keep me turning the pages. On top of that is what (with all the caveats above about my knowledge of the period) I found to be a very interesting commentary on race relations. The (white) police treatment of black people in Harlem wasn't a surprise, dealt with bluntly but with compassion I thought; Suydam's manipulation of race resentment struck me as all too plausible (hello living in Australia in 2015). I don't know whether the attempt to make Malone sympathetic to the plight of non-white immigrants was an attempt at not making all whites evil, or whether it reflects reality; possibly it's a case of both being feasible? Makes the story that much more compelling, anyway.
I received this book from the publisher at no cost.
This is a really hard story to talk about without major spoilers. So initially, let me know: the prI received this book from the publisher at no cost.
This is a really hard story to talk about without major spoilers. So initially, let me know: the premise is quite clever - man makes machine that may well interfere with the very fabric of reality - and there are some nice points of world building. There's a point at which you may well wonder whether your version of the text has somehow been corrupted (I did), but it's actually the story itself, as you discover when you keep going (... unless your copy actually is corrupted...). However, I had some issues, mostly in the characters which I'll mention in the spoilers section; partly it was in the prose itself, which at times just felt clunky.
(view spoiler)[So the premise of the story is that the machine can reach across alternate realities to somehow patch in a thing from over there into this reality here. What the story does that's quite clever is follow different versions of the scientist who's made this machine across the different realities as the same basic events happen, and they deal with the consequences; this basically comes down to trying to stop very bad things happening, like The Wrong Person being able to use it.
One of my bugbears was in who the scientist became in the different realities. I was a bit sad that in the... I think four iterations, only one was a woman. She also seemed to get a shorter section than others (maybe that was my imagination). But, you know, ok. I did like that the scientist became different people from different backgrounds - although that doesn't entirely make sense if they're meant to be basically the same person. Maybe their parents/grandparents migrated to different places? I was excited when the name became Adwan Faizan, wearing a djellaba. However it's in this guise that The Evil Opponent actively discusses the possibility of using the machine to get rid of "our enemies." Which just seems a little bit too tone-deaf for the world we currently live in.
Also, the other character who migrates across realities is the first scientist's ex-wife (husband for the female scientist). She's been seduced by The Opponent as a way of getting at her ex, and for inexplicable reasons (ok, she ends up realising she's been used by the bad guy, but that takes a while) she ends up actively helping her ex. The one redeeming feature was that she didn't fall back in love with the main guy. (hide spoiler)]
In the final analysis: a cool idea, not entirely well constructed. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
I did not love this book.
It's perfectly adequate as a re-hashing of the ideas about Faerie stThis book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
I did not love this book.
It's perfectly adequate as a re-hashing of the ideas about Faerie stealing children and possible consequences and so on, but I don't think it's as clever as it thinks it is.
I think the idea of only the old and somewhat pathetic faeries still being around is meant to be - amusing? challenging? - but instead it just comes off as a bit confusing, because the reason for that isn't really explored; sometimes an info dump can be useful. Additionally I think what happens with the mortal woman is meant to, I dunno, challenge expectations or something. Didn't really work.
Domnall comes across as a bit boring, rather than the somewhat sly, hard-working and long-suffering fae that I think was the intention. And if he wasn't meant to be that, and was instead meant to be the lazy good-for-nothing whose butt is kicked to get more done - well, that didn't really work either. The sidekick that he accidentally ended up with didn't have enough character to be a funny, ambitious, or appropriately sidekick-y sidekick, and there were a couple of uncomfortable moments between them too (of a sexual nature - nothing too squick, don't worry).
The plot itself is serviceable, and if that sounds like damning with faint praise... that's probably about right. ...more
I received this book from the publisher at no cost.
It's no secret I've been a fan of Garth Nix's books for a long time. I've only recently started reaI received this book from the publisher at no cost.
It's no secret I've been a fan of Garth Nix's books for a long time. I've only recently started reading some Regency romances, though, so the idea of Nix writing one 'with a magical twist' was an intriguing one.
The thing with Regency romances is that there's a fairly standard plot arc - indeed, it applies to most romances, right? Girl and boy, difficulties, difficulties overcome. Of course sometimes that trope is subverted, but it's still clear that that subversion is happening for a reason. I'm not saying that's a bad thing; the point is that you know what's probably going to happen, and the fun bit is all the extra stuff: what exactly will the author throw at Our Heroine? Which of the potential beaux will actually be the Right One? How witty can the banter be? How many dresses can be worn, how many snubs borne, how much tea drunk and how many headaches faked?
Um. It's possible I'm becoming a fan.
Anyway. Nix is clearly a fan of Regencies - there's a great interview where he talks of his love of Georgette Heyer. And what he has written is, exactly, "a Regency romance with a magical twist." Lady Truthful Newington's (there is only one genre where you get away with a name like that) life is just about to be turned upside down because it's time for her to be presented to society, when it's really turned upside down because the great heirloom of the family, a magical emerald, is stolen. She has to go to London to try and find it but of course a respectable young woman can't be doing solo investigating and so, resource of all plucky young heroines: she dresses as a man. Hijinks ensue; family history, useless cousins, frustrating military men (ohh...), the occasional bit of glamour, mistaken identity - they all get their look-in. Also there's banter. And balls, which necessitates dresses. There are also sandwiches and tea. Also snarky comments about the French and Old Boney (who, in this world, is of course a powerful magician.)
I haven't read enough Regencies to know whether it's a significant trope or not, but one of my favourite bits of the story is the old cantankerous aunt, Lady Badgery. She wears a fez (usually only in private). She's powerful in personality and magic and connections. Her personal history is a magnificent. If I didn't want Nix to keep writing more Old Kingdom books I would be after one that detailed the exploits of Ermintrude Badgery. Stat.
Probably my one disappointment with the book is that there's not quite enough world building around the idea of magic. Truthful's servant may have "fay blood" - and there are a few mentions of not touching iron - but this aspect, that there was once more congress between our world and faery, presumably, isn't explored enough to make this much more than a tantalising dark pink herring.
It's a fast read, and an amusing one. It's a great entrepôt into the world of Regency romance, and would lead easily into reading Mary Robinette Kowal... and of course Georgette Heyer, and then if you're properly hooked you'll never be short of a book. Recommended. ...more
This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
In Witches of Lychford, Paul Cornell takes the idea of witches being people (and particularlThis book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
In Witches of Lychford, Paul Cornell takes the idea of witches being people (and particularly women) who are tasked in some way to protect the humdrum population from things they don't understand. Here, the place is a bog-standard (on the outside) English village, which is facing a very real and common threat: a giant supermarket chain wanting to move into the village and Change Things. On the face of it those things are alarming enough for those who are traditionalist, or who moved to the country to get away from big business and the corporate nature of the modern world. Underneath, though, is a far more alarming truth - that changing things in Lychford, such as boundary markers and the like, could have devastating results for the way the 'real' world interacts with the world of Faery and other, more malignant dimensions.
Cornell's focus is on the three women who might have a chance to do something about this. By far my favourite is Judith Mawson: at 71, she has "a list of what she didn't like, and almost everything - and everybody - in Lychford was on it." There's a point late in the story where she grudgingly tells someone they are not on that list. Cranky old women for the win, I say. Judith is competent but not a superhero; she gets things done and grumbles about it - and sometimes she fails. Also, her tragedy is absolutely and completely appalling.
The other two women were less convincing to me. Having read a few of these Tor novellas it's striking to see some of the similarities - I don't know whether it's deliberate or if it's just fallen out that way in my reading. But there are some similarities in theme between this and Angela Slatter's Of Sorrow and Such, and in one of the young women there's a link to Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway because she spent time in the land of Faery and has been damaged by it. Her friend is the newly-arrived pastor, whose faith has been challenged by events in her past and who is really not feeling like she fits into the parish, where she herself grew up. Lizzie, the pastor, and Autumn both felt rather flat to me - especially coming off the back of McGuire and Slatter. Their issues were less emotionally gripping than I would have liked and they did not especially appeal to me as people, either (or perhaps concurrently). Nor did their role in solving the problems feel like it was fundamental.
Despite this problem of characterisation, I did still enjoy the book. It's not a significant addition to the fiction on witches, or the real/faery divide, but it's an interesting story and there are some lovely moments. ...more
This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
Spoilers ahead for Ancillary Justice (reviews here and here - yes I loved it enough to reviewThis book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
Spoilers ahead for Ancillary Justice (reviews here and here - yes I loved it enough to review it the second time around) and Ancillary Sword.
Sooo... first thing to admit: it took me reading someone else's review to realise that Justices, Swords and Mercies are all the sorts of ships that Breq is in charge of. How embarrassing that I did not realise that.
Secondly: yes, I love this series, I love Leckie's work, I love Breq and the world she inhabits. My love is true and remains unshaken.
Further note: I'm just going with 'she' to refer to everyone, when I have to. I think there's one person whose gender is actually confirmed (... maybe...insofar as that ever can be in these books) and it just does violence to my brain to go with he/she when Leckie herself (ahaha) goes with SHE. So nyer.
As with Justice to Sword, Mercy starts almost immediately Sword finishes off. I quite like this, since it means there doesn't need to be any tedious filling in of blanks. It also means I'd like to see an omnibus edition where you can just read the whole lot, start to finish. It wouldn't even be that much bigger than a complete edition of The Lord of the Rings. Breq continues to have issues with Anaander Mianaai, ruler of the Radch and therefore of civilisation as the Radch defines it...
... I love the way Leckie continues to play with language and has Breq complain about the vagaries of trying to, for instance, define civilisation as not just being the Radch. After all English is a stupid language in many ways so this whaling on another (imaginary) language amuses me greatly.
... Anyway those issues of course involve potentially being assassinated or friends seriously hurt, which is something Breq just won't countenance. The book is really focussed on Breq manoeuvring, and being manoeuvred, around that issue. What will she do, or not, to protect those she sees herself as bound to protect. And in this instance, that bind appears to include the entirety of Athoek Station. Which of course brings her into conflict with some of the people on that station as well as elsewhere.
Justice and Sword were interested in issues of, yes, gender representation, but also more broadly and perhaps more profoundly in colonisation and colonial attitudes, in terms of the Big-Ticket Items. That is still present to an extent - there's a section towards the end about what it means to be a species - but it's a bit more subdued than previously. Instead the focus is somewhat more intimate, with Seivarden still around and suffering without Breq and working through that. Breq too needs to learn a bit about in/dependence and what that means for her and for those around her. The AI of Athoek Station gets a bit more personality, as do some of the troops on Breq's Mercy - and, for that matter, the ship's AI. For me, it all worked rather nicely to go from Breq seriously missing being a ship AI - which she still does, and always will, that's some massive phantom limb syndrome - and that, plus revenge, is her sole motive, to here where she's worked through a fair bit of that anger and so on to progress towards being a more fulfilled individual. Which hello, hoped-for human journey, surely?
Don't let this idea that the story has a more personal focus worry you, though, in case that's something that worries me (really though why even?). There are still battles, still political intrigues, still last-ditch efforts and desperate ploys and all of the wonderful space opera-y goodness that Leckie has led me to expect. All of that plus a new Translator from the Presger (uh, slight spoiler there I guess but seriously if you've read Sword how were you not expecting that?) and this one is funny. Oh the things you can do with fish sauce.
And to those who complain about the tea drinking: really? You don't think it gets lame hearing people drinking coffee/kafe/ whatever pseudo-equivalent your author has come up with? Or going out and getting wasted on the local equivalent of vodka? Please. It's called rich world-building and it's a wonderfully idiosyncratic aspect of the Radch. Like the gloves.
Read the whole series. Just... go and do it. Seriously. ...more
This book is absolutely bonkers. Mad. And completely wonderful.
This was Tiptree's first novel, but naturally enough many of the concerns and interestsThis book is absolutely bonkers. Mad. And completely wonderful.
This was Tiptree's first novel, but naturally enough many of the concerns and interests of his short stories are present here as well. I am so sad that he did not write more novels; this made me so happy, as did Brightness Falls from the Air, that I do wonder what else could have come from that amazing brain.
Let's start by talking about the authorial situation and get that out of the way. This was published in 1978. Tiptree had been revealed as Alice Sheldon at the end of 1976. I was surprised therefore to discover that the brief bio in the end flap (oh hard backs I really do love you) makes no mention of him being her, although it does acknowledge Tiptree as a pseudonym. But I guess that pre internet, how are people going to know about the identity? Via Locus maybe, and gamines, and word of mouth. Tiptree was not such a big deal that the New York Times was going to run an expose. Presumably therefor with this publication your more casual, less crazy SF fans aren't going to know who Tiptree 'really' is - and Tiptree is enough of a name (... and male...?) to make it worth keeping the pseudonym. But THEN I turned to the back and the back cover image is Sheldon! Now I've seen the pic before and it's quite obvious to me who this is; but others have suggested that this could, actually, be an ambiguously gendered person. I'm not entirely convinced. But anyway, there's that.
Now, to plot. I'm going to be entirely spoilery because I really want to think about what Tiptree is doing here.
The story is told for about the first half or so from three alternating perspectives. The first, IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE THAT'S HOW A LEVIATHAN OUGHT TO BE REPRESENTED THANK YOU VERY MUCH, is some sort of being that is mammoth on a scale humans cannot comprehend. The wee beastie doesn't get that much page time, but it's enough to set up a vague sympathy; it's alone and cannot fulfil its duty. SAD. This being doesn't have much of a plot by itself, although it does play crucial roles in the lives and deaths of others.
The second is told mostly from the perspective of Tivonel, a flighty female of Tyree who enjoys hunting and gathering and is happy to leave such momentous tasks as Fathering to the Fathers; she'd rather be out flying on the High Winds. Because she is of a race of enormous manta-life beings who live in the winds of their planet, rarely interacting with solid matter. These beings mostly just live normal lives, thinking about who will Father their next child and whether to stay in the Deep for a long time or go flying the winds... until their scientist-equivalents report that the stars in a certain section of the sky are going out, and that they are receiving telepathic signals (which is how they communicate) from dying planets. And this wave of death is coming closer. So what can they do to save themselves and their children?
And there's the third part of the plot. The human one. Here, Doctor Daniel Dann is helping out with. Trial into the use of psionic skills with a ragtag group of people that he doesn't believe are capable of any such thing, with paranoid military types looking over their shoulder, and meanwhile he's heavily dosing himself with all sorts of not-meant-for -recreational-use drugs. He falls in love or lust or wonder with their computer analyst, and the discovers himself on Tyree. Because what the folk of Tyree discover is that they can swap minds and bodies with others. Of course on Tyree this is a life-crime, but if it's aliens and it's to save the children it doesn't really count... Right?
Eventually the plots join up, with Dann rather enjoying himself on Tyree and then some of them ending up with the GREAT LEVIATHAN TYPE THING IN SOME SORT OF MYSTERIOUS WAY. Its duty is revealed which is nice. Although then it's subverted which is for the good of others but I can't help but feel sad for a being whose entire existence is coopted by tiny little atoms of life who have the arrogance to think they know best.
Let's stop and consider for a moment that Tiptree is writing a story about experimental psychology, basically, using humans as test subjects. And the military and some sort of covert operations people are watching with paranoid glee wanting to control what goes on. Also quite a lot of this can be seen as first contact and exploration fiction. This, people, is what happens when someone with the life experience of Sheldon, and the imagination of Sheldon, writes a novel following Hemingways injunction to write what you know.
Anyway. The characters. Oh the characters. The humans are definitely the most interesting but I'll start by talking about Tyree, where Tiptree is setting up a a little gender mischief just because . You might have picked the idea that there, it's the males who care for the children. Fathering is considered the greatest and most important of skills and as a consequences the Fathers are the biggest, the strongest, the most revered. At the time we come to Tyree there are some females who are agitating for females to be allowed to develop Fathering skills, in the expectation that this will help them to develop their life field and you know, be more respected. OH THE LOLZ. Tivonel is our main focus here, and she's not one of these uppity females. In fact she doesn't really see the point in it all; why would you want to be tied down with children when you could be off exploring instead? She changes a little over the course of the story, becoming a but more reserved and interested in thinking beyond her own experiences, but that's about it. This isn't to say I didn't like her, I did - I don't know that she really needed to change all that much. It wouldn't have made sense for her to become the equivalent of a woman's-libber, since the planet is destroyed by the end and she's staying to be a part of the crew of the leviathan for possibly all time.
The humans, though. This is where Tiptree does some lovely things.
Dan isn't an especially nice person, although he takes his job seriously and tries to help those who need it. He's too caught up in his own grief to really comprehe d those around him, which begins to change when he has an experience with Margaret Omali in which they experience the worst event of the other's life. For him, that was his wife and child dying in a fire and the fear that he could have saved them. For her, it was a cliterodectomy in her early teens. Yes this is a book that mentions that this really happens. More in her in a minute. This is the beginning of Dan becoming empathetic, and he genuinely evolves and becomes more sympathetic as a character. Through him Tiptree explores the impossibility of knowing another human and the possible consequences if we did know another. We become more human. If we're not scared off. Also that taking lots of drugs is a bad idea.
Margaret... scarred physically and emotionally as an adolescent, incapable of having human relationships of any sort and far more interested in computers, is a cousin of the Parson women in "The Women Men Don't See." As soon as she's given an out she takes it, flying into the galaxy as pure life and taking up residence inside the great star beast/ship and far more at. Home there than on earth. Where, by the way, she is not alone because there's a Computer program - a ghost program from an early version of the Internet - - which has also made its way there. Of course. It is sad that Tiptree presents Margaret as incapable of even friendship because of that psychic scarring, although at the same time it's not necessarily so unlikely either, since it was inflicted by her stepfather and her mother seems not to have interfered. That's going to lose you trustIn humanity. She changes because she uses her skills to interact with something so completely alien as to be virtually unknowable, and she also starts to have friendships, on her own terms and because she wants to in her own way, not because she's expected to. And she is respected for what she is able to do.
The people who are being tested for their psychic abilities are the humans who get the rest of the page time, and it's the women who are most present. At first this is became of the way Dan looks at them, again like in "The Women Men Don't See." But ultimately they develop as their own human selves and Dan acknowledges his errors. The generic housewife type, Winona, is disregarded by Dan as having no brains to speak of and completely frumpy besides. But when she gets to Tyree, she is hugely valued because of her skills in Fathering, which of course is as it should be. She is more than just a mother though, contributing to their survival in real ways. Which don't involve sex.
Valerie, whom Dan regarded as basically a nice body and not much else, comes into her own once she is out of a system where men are all around ogling her body, as Dan had been; she flourishes in experimenting and investigating. Which is a bit hard on her friend, Fredericka, known as Frodo. Theirs is clearly a lesbian relationship, if so discretely described that I'm sure you could pretend not to see it if you wanted to. Frodo doesn't have that much to do aside from me a bit surly, but her moment of realising that Valerie doesn't need her as her only friend anymore and that this makes her sad is one of the more poignant and human-true moments of the story.
Most of the men are crazy. Noah, the investigator into psychic abilities, isn't, but he's largely ineffectual. The military man is nuts, the maybe-CIA man is definitely nuts, and the male psychic subjects are also basically nuts. Except for the young twins, who once they are reunited with one another are basically human and not nuts.
Things that this reminds me of: FarScape, since the leviathan beastie is somewhat like Moya. It also reminds me of the mysterious creature in Marianne de Pierres' Sentients of Orion series. There are some similarities to Paul McCauley work, although I can't pinpoint details. And with Margaret Omali being a computer programmer, with the TOTAL program inside the leviathan, and the possibility that our heroes are all actually existing as energy bundles within the synapses of some sort of a computer in the end, there are clearly some connections to cyberpunk too.
This book is crazy and awesome and trust me, I have not completely spoiled it and you should totally go out and read it. If you can find a copy. I'll lend you mine if you promise to return it....more
I feel like a traitor giving this book only three stars. But it has to be said that I don't feel the anthology lived up to what it was setting out toI feel like a traitor giving this book only three stars. But it has to be said that I don't feel the anthology lived up to what it was setting out to do.
Does that make me a heretic? Possibly.
In the introduction, Susan Janice Anderson discusses how hard a lot of people said they found the topic. That they had to invent an entirely new society in order to talk about men and women being actually equal (to which in my head I say, duh; you're writing SF aren't you? Maybe that's a bit harsh). It was very interesting reading about what they wanted to avoid (female monsters), and how hard it was to find models of what they did want. The Dispossessed and "When it changed" were of course mentioned.
The stories: I'd read the Raccoona Sheldon story, "Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!" Really recently for the Galactic Suburbia Alice Sheldon spoiler ep, but I decided to reread it to get the full experience. Here a woman is living in two places - from the outside, it looks like she's delusional. In that place every one is a 'sister' and I've never been quite sure whether this is a term of equality, or whether there are no men. At any rate that world is quite pleasant, living in the aftermath of some cataclysm, but her body is in the 'real' world and that doesn't have a good ending. So... you can dream of freedom but it has consequences? Note that I'm not saying these stories of beyond equality should be all sunshine and rainbows, I'm just commenting on what Sheldon is saying.
James Tiptree Jr's"Houston. Houston, Do you read?" Is another that I read for our spoiler ep - and let's stop and admire Alice Sheldon for a moment by realising that she wrote two stories for this anthology, including this mammoth novella. Anyway here three astronauts from the late 20th century have been slingshot around the sun and into the future (that bit's by accident) where they find the world distinctly changed. (view spoiler)[The world is inhabited only by women, and those clones of only about eleven thousand originals. (hide spoiler)] Does this really count as beyond equality? I'm not sure. I'm not even really sure that that's the question the story is addressing,
Dave Skal write "The Mothers, the Mothers, How eerily it sounds..." and it's an interesting enough story about recovering from some sort of environmental cataclysm (Anderson notes in her intro how many writers addressed that issue) but again it's not clear that the sexes have moved beyond equality. One of the main characters is a competent anthropologist (female) but the main action seems to take place between two male characters rather than Ana having much to do with it. Mildred Downey Broxon gives a fairly classic under-the-fairy-hill story with a slight twist in the woman going to rescue the man, in "The Antrim Hills," and I guess the fairy King and Queen are equals, and I know that the point shouldn't be to focus on the equality itself but it's hard to SEE the equality when there's no focus on it.
Including Ursula Le Guin's "Is Gender Necessary?" is an interesting interlude for its discussion of some of the issues involved in writing about sex and gender, and I liked that Anderson and McIntyre didn't feel it necessary to include only fiction.
Then there's a few stories I don't really get. Joanna Russ' "Corruption" sort of has a male-only society that's being eroded by an intruder? I think? I feel a bit uncomfortable about this story given the way the only female character is discussed and as with much Russ work I think I'm missing some points. This was definitely the case with Craig Strete's "Why has the Virgin Mary never entered the wigwam of Standing Bear?" Strete is (was?) Cherokee so I presume at least some of what I don't get here has to do with narrative style and expectations. I liked some of the ideas of exploring the clash of white/Cherokee assumptions about life, and I think the female narrator is shown to be Standing Bear's equal, but I also think I missed some of the ideas being discussed.
PJ Plauger's "Here be Dragons" is a classic story of post colonisation where things have gone bad so groups have split up etc. I quite liked it I terms of thinking about technology and how politics might develop and hierarchies and so on. But for a story that's meant to be beyond gender - slight spoiler, but I guessed I. The first paragraphs, when Captain Grimes is not described as having a beard, that this must be a woman (and she's revealed to be so on the second page). There are a few other incidental women, which I appreciated. However Grimes appears a couple of times as the captain, and competent, and then her other appearances are as being available for sex. She's not developed at all like Karl Dedalus, the focus of the story. Dedalus' mother is clearly a powerhouse and he's taken her name, but this is not enough to claim gender is irrelevant.
The final story is another I was already familiar with: it's excerpted from the novel Woman on the Edge of Time which I read a few years ago. Here Marge Piercy really has done the heavy lifting to imagine what would be required in a society that saw zero differences between sexes, to the point of making men able to breastfeed and removing the idea of live-bearing children... which the traveller from the 20th century, battered though she is, finds horrific. Now it's true that Piercy is clearly writing a much more obvious story another gender equality and that's not the only way of showing gender equality. But the society she shows does have so much more obvious equality than, really ANY other story in the collection.
Perhaps these reflections are the result of reading the stories in 2015. Perhaps they were more bold, more daring, in 1976. I can't apologise for reading in my own time. I can find it fascinating that writing gender equality as natural was clearly so hard then, and apparently still seems to be so now. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is not a straightforward novel. The plot is not linear, the characters are slippery, and so is the languThis was provided to me by the publisher.
This is not a straightforward novel. The plot is not linear, the characters are slippery, and so is the language sometimes. But it is engaging and haunting and (much as its trite to say) challenging.
1. The plot is not linear. The focal character, Demane, sometimes has flashbacks to his past experiences - and sometimes to the experiences of other people, and sometimes he's simply reflecting on history. It's not always clear when this is happening, which I think is a stylistic choice; it took me a little while to understand when that was happening, but once I left myself go with the flow it usually made sense. The only frustrating thing by the end of it was that I really, really wanted to know more about Demane's history and that of the world he lives in, with its Towers and demigods gods who have gone back to the stars... 2. The characters are slippery: this is somewhat related to the lack of narrative linearity (did I mention this isn't a problem? It's not a problem, as long as you don't mind having to work a bit). Demane is definitely not straightforward - he's got one mammoth backstory that only gets revealed in dribs and drabs, and that's nothing on Captain, whose life is like a picture that's entirely in shadow except for one tiny bit where one spotlight hits. Again, not a problem, but it does make it hard to explain what you've just read: "There's this guy who works with a merchant caravan at the moment but he's had this amazing life in the past, where he was kinda taught magic except it's not magic, and in the present he's trying to keep everyone around him alive..." 3. The language is slippery too. I'm not referring to the dialogue here, which is written very much in a spoken style (I know nothing about Wilson but I presume he's thought long and hard about the use of the n-word; I can't imagine Tor leaving that in a book without it being very deliberate and considered, either); dialogue doesn't bother me. I think the elusiveness of the language often related to the non-linearity of the narrative actually. It took me a few pages to get the hang of it anyway, and once I was properly immersed it flowed beautifully.
I will look out for more work by Kai Ashante Wilson. Well recommended. ...more
Firstly, LOOK AT THAT COVER OH MY IT IS A THING OF BEAUTY.
Secondly, Margo Lanagan is right, as usual. ThiI received this as an ARC from the publisher.
Firstly, LOOK AT THAT COVER OH MY IT IS A THING OF BEAUTY.
Secondly, Margo Lanagan is right, as usual. This is a riveting read.
Mistress Gideon, the narrator, is not a nice person. She's not a good person, either; she works for and wants the best for those she loves, and for that reason is a fierce and loyal friend... but she's not nice. And she's not good. She is terrible to her enemies.
Mistress Gideon has enemies because she is a witch. Those of her neighbours in Edda's Meadow who know she is a witch don't say anything, because it's useful having a witch nearby. But when visitors come through with a bit too much curiosity... well. Curiosity can be unhealthy.
Slatter has written a - well, not a lovely story. There's a bit too much ruthlessness and hands cut off for 'lovely.' But it is a fierce story and one that demands to be finished; it's complex and surprising. Don't expect an entirely happy ending. It takes the old story of witches being found out and burnt at the stake and makes it a far more dynamic tale, exploring motivations and cause and consequence and collateral damage.
What I liked most, in the end, is that this is a story focussed on women. Women who love and who hate and who survive and who hang on through sheer bloody-mindedness. There are brutal witches and resentful teenagers and flighty wives and despairing lovers and bitter sisters and the guilty, the grim and the determined. Some of the women are a number of those things at the same time. These women are complex and challenging and very very real.
Of Sorrow and Such will be out in October. You know you want to read it. ...more
I read this book courtesy of the publisher, via Net Galley.
Roger Crowley has done a wonderful job of acknowledging the truly stupendous effort that waI read this book courtesy of the publisher, via Net Galley.
Roger Crowley has done a wonderful job of acknowledging the truly stupendous effort that was required for Portugal - tiny, generally-ignored-by-Europe Portugal - to get a trading foothold in India... while also detailing, in occasionally remorseless detail, just how barbarous the Portuguese practises were in getting and maintaining that foothold.
I believe it's important to acknowledge things like the astonishing insight that, in order to take advantage of winds and currents, ships needed to swing way, way out west from the African coast in order to then be driven east, around the Cape of Good Hope, and into the Indian Ocean. I think we should acknowledge the hundreds of unnamed sailors who died on the voyages of exploration - from scurvy, dehydration, disease, fights with inhabitants encountered along the way - who families didn't know their fates sometimes for years, and whose names are not commemorated in geographic features. And understanding historical context is important too: wanting to get to the Indian Ocean in order to screw the Egyptian Muslims is definitely unpleasant, but (and this is not to downgrade the unpleasantness) I want to know why they did it.
Crowley does these things. Using what can only be limited information - since who cares about sailors drawn from jails and the lowest classes - he gives an indication of what life must have been like on these tiny, tiny carracks travelling across a big big ocean. And while I might have liked just a little more context about why the Portuguese king - furthest west of Christians! - had quite such fervent crusading dreams, he does do a good job of setting these remarkable few decades of exploration into a global political context.
But with all the yes-they-were-remarkable (the leaders, that is; your grunt sailor really has no choice) because of their tenacity, and vision... it was impossible for me to not to be appalled by the actions of the Portuguese, both as they travelled the coast of Africa and when they got to India. (Please note that I am of course not singling the Portuguese out as particularly barbaric!) The actions taken against Muslim traders and their families for example were shocking and, in the established context of trading in the Indian Ocean, unnecessary. And their arrogance in dealing with Hindu rulers, likewise.
I think the aspect that surprised me most - which it really shouldn't have, because I did actually know some of it but hadn't put it together - is just how well-established trading was in the Indian Ocean. It makes sense, too: after all, it's basically like a great big lake (rough and all, I know) with land on three sides - land with really different stuff that just screams out to be traded. And with monsoon winds that are regular to make criss-crossing if not straightforward then timetable-able - well of course the various different civilisations, from Malacca and what is now Malaysia over to what is now Oman, with India in between, they're going to do what humans do: explore, and look for ways to make money. To some extent Crowley presents this pre-existing as idyllic; few disagreements between merchants or rulers, and so on. I have no doubt this was not the case, humans being humans, but it was long-established and everyone seemed to be getting something out of it, so why rock the boat.
And then along come Europeans, en masse (there were a few random Euros about previously, but never in big groups). They already dislike Islam and are looking to completely stop them from trading in this area (which, nicely for the Portuguese, will also screw Venice). They completely misunderstand Hinduism, because a) they've never encountered it before and b) they're expecting to meet Christians (who do exist in the east, just not quite in the numbers the Europeans thought), so logically the Hindus must be Christians. And the Portuguese Christians demand exclusivity in trading rights (wha-??) and that the Muslims be kicked out (WHA-??) and if you don't like our terms we will shoot our fancy guns at you until there is death and destruction.
Another aspect I enjoyed of Crowley's book is his analysis of the Portuguese themselves. This is largely focussed on the leaders, since that's who get books written about them in the day (early 16th century), and because they do shape policy after all. Finally I discover that Albuquerque is a Portuguese name! (...this one didn't go to America, so I assume it was a relative.) The difficulties of leading men in what were, admittedly, difficult conditions - human enemies all around (largely of your own making but in the end that doesn't matter when they're fighting you), plus scurvy and weird new diseases... and a king whose letters only reach you once a year, who is getting advice from your enemies back home, and who wants you to pay the sailors with money you make from your trading thank you very much. Crowley does a generally good job of presenting these men as actually human, rather than icons, although at the same time they were clearly exceptional men to do what they did.
Another aspect that surprised me, which had a big impact on the Portuguese: this period is really a turning point in understanding how wars are fought (well, for the Portuguese anyway; Agincourt was a while back...). The fidalgos are all about one-on-one combat, personal honour, reckless charges and self-sacrifice. Albuquerque in particular isn't stupid; he sees how impossibly pointless these tactics are, and starts making changes. He starts making men train in squads, to work together, and with weapons that can be used in such conditions. The fidalgos however are so insulted by this that at one stage they apparently tried to break the weapons! Of men who might be able to help them not die in battle!! I just can't even.
Parallels have been drawn between this age of European exploration and the modern space age. I think these are warranted to some extent. The money, the dreams, the bravery and tenacity required - these the two periods have in common. I'm glad the moon did not have inhabitants for the Apollo astronauts to patronise and threaten, though.
Crowley has written an accessible book about a remarkable and depressing period in world history....more
Just like I like Mary Robinette Kowal's stories for talking about the bit after the falling-in-love staThe publisher sent me an e-galley of this book.
Just like I like Mary Robinette Kowal's stories for talking about the bit after the falling-in-love stage, and shows that married life can be worth stories, McGuire has presented a story about the girls and boys who come back from fairyland... and wish they hadn't.
Nancy went to the Halls of the Dead and basically learnt to act as a statue to please the Lord and Lady there. Her parents, of course, do not understand what she experienced and think she needs to be helped through whatever trauma is causing her to tell such dreadful tales. I'd never really thought to consider what Alice's parents or friends might have thought... although Swift does have Gulliver deal with some repercussions of his travels and travails (these two go together in my mind because of a uni subject that made me read both).
Fortunately for Nancy, Miss West has a school specifically for people like her; those who have gone to other places and desperately want to go back, because that is home. Which sounds all well and good and like you're going to meet people with whom you have lots in common... but not all fairylands are alike. In fact McGuire does marvellous work of sketching out how such places might be categorised, including the difficulty of ever really categorising such places, and if the place that felt like home to you was all about stillness and silence, how much do you actually have in common with someone who went to a land called Confection filled with light and colour? Yeh, adolescents have a hard time finding anyone they can actually connect with.
While simply telling a boarding-school story with such a bunch of misfits would probably have been enjoyable of its own, McGuire decides to hit them with problems as well - murder, to be specific - to play out the ramifications of trust issues, insecurity, and bonding under duress. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that not all of the characters are heteronormative.
McGuire has created a fascinating world here, and much as I would like a series of boarding-school books set at Miss West's, somehow I think that might hurt the magic. This is a wonderful novella and I'm glad it found a home with Tor. ...more
A young woman is accepted to university but her family don't want her to go. Sounds like a familiar story... buI was set an e-galley by the publisher.
A young woman is accepted to university but her family don't want her to go. Sounds like a familiar story... but the university is off-world, Binti's people don't tend to leave even their particular patch of Earth, and there's a whole mess of trouble awaiting her on the journey.
I liked Binti as a person. I liked her strength and vulnerability and that while she disregarded her family's wishes, it didn't feel rebellious or anarchic: it was so that she could be the very best she could, and bring that back to her people and family to benefit them. I especially liked that this was a young woman whose talents were in maths; the description of 'treeing' as she followed mathematical equations down rabbit holes is enchanting.
I had to go look up the Himba people, and indeed they are a real group of people in Namibia, who do use an ochre paste on their skin and hair. I really like that verisimilitude in Okorafor's work, and the suggestion that a semi-nomadic group of people in Nambia could have a story written about them involving space travel? Who'd have thought! (/sarcasm)
There's a great big galaxy here of which Okorafor has barely scratched the surface. I rather hope she returns; I think this would make an excellent YA novel, or series (the idea of an entire planet as a university, that still manages to have lakes and forests? Awesome). ...more
I read this to help my school figure out whether they should teach it at Year 11. My thoughts? No.
Yes it's an occasionally humorous reflection on theI read this to help my school figure out whether they should teach it at Year 11. My thoughts? No.
Yes it's an occasionally humorous reflection on the horrors of war and yes it's a clever enough look at life and history and expectations and blah blah but... I did not enjoy this book in the slightest. I did not even really appreciate it much for what it was doing and saying.
If the main point, or one of, is to communicate the horror of war, I guess it does it well enough. But I don't feel that it's particularly well done and there are a few bits that justify Mary's early concern about making war notseem as awful as it really was. I don't think anyone would come away thinking that war is a lark, but still... it really didn't work for me. I think there are other books that do it better and without being quite so annoying.
The main problem for me is Billy himself. As much as I am a pacifist I find Billy's acceptance of everything that happens to him, his absolute passivity, incredibly frustrating and annoying and, frankly, boring. As a fictional character: yes, I know that there are things in my actual life that are just going to happen and I can't do anything about that, so I like reading about people who have a go at shaking life to try and make a difference. As a reflection on exactly that issue of the human condition: even we, in real life, don't generally just here, passive. At least we talk or we rage or we complain or we act as though maybe there's a modicum of free will involved. Billy - the man who just lands in places and does nothing (that we see - clearly he got through optom school but that's never discussed) but still manages to have good stuff and makes no decision ARGH. Not a character who was ever, ever going to work for me.
And then there's the women. Yeh yeh it was written ages ago and I don't care. The daughter, the wife, the girlfriend - nags and obese and existing for sex (only the last two thankfully) and I felt like the hobo who died on the train almost had more humanity than the daughter and the girlfriend, especially.
If I read the phrase "So it goes" one more time I may physically react. Passivity that makes no attempt at improvement or alteration and even movement? No thanks. ...more