**spoiler alert** The one where Fer accidentally opens a passage into a realm of magic and discovers it's in big trouble already.
This is a kind of coo**spoiler alert** The one where Fer accidentally opens a passage into a realm of magic and discovers it's in big trouble already.
This is a kind of cool thing that I've never seen before: a reverse changeling story. Fer is raised among humans, not knowing she's a daughter of magic.
I enjoyed the parts of this book that took place after Fer went through the Way, though everything that happened seemed to be a little shorter than I expected it to be and a little easier than I expected it to be. I liked the characters and their magical maladies.
But I had a lot of trouble reconciling the Fer who had no friends and was in trouble for fighting with the Fer who risked her grandmother's disapproval to help an injured stranger. The girl we saw on the other side of the Way seemed to make friends without even trying -- even when she was trying not to. I realize the author is doing this on purpose because Fer is only really at home on that side, but because we never actually saw her on this side anywhere but in her grandmother's kitchen, I never really bought who she was supposed to be over here. ...more
The one that begins with a character named Charles Yu shooting his own future self as he (the future self) steps out of a time machine.
On the one handThe one that begins with a character named Charles Yu shooting his own future self as he (the future self) steps out of a time machine.
On the one hand, there's a lot of fascinating and funny meta-everything here. For example: Minor Universe 31 was slightly damaged during its construction and, as a result, the builder-developer who owns the rights abandoned the original plans for the space. At the moment work was halted, physics was only 93 percent installed, and thus you may find that it can be a bit unpredictable in places.
On the other hand, there are pages and pages and pages and pages and pages of musing. It can take fifty pages to describe a memory of dinner with his family. The pacing slows down as the story approaches what passes for action, slows down infinitely; there's some sort of Zeno's paradox of fiction going on here, where you can approach action but never quite reach it.
And on yet a third hand, that's what the story is about, so is that really a criticism?
Still, though I give it points for consistency and for vivid portrayal of theme, that doesn't make it any more interesting to read.
I adored the first hundred or so pages. By the last fifty, sometimes I couldn't tell whether I'd already read a sentence or not. That one critical paragraph I read about three times, because obviously there had been some turning point in the middle of it, but it took me that many re-reads to find it. ...more
The one where Adoulla, a ghul hunter who's getting too old for the job, and his protege, the naive Raseed, face a strange new threat with a strange neThe one where Adoulla, a ghul hunter who's getting too old for the job, and his protege, the naive Raseed, face a strange new threat with a strange new ally.
I gave this fifty pages. There's more internal musing than there is action, even in the battle scenes, and the characterization and relationships are told rather than shown. ...more
The one where high school student Elizabeth gets a new job at a place that lends objects rather than books. Some (doublets, antique tools) are ordinarThe one where high school student Elizabeth gets a new job at a place that lends objects rather than books. Some (doublets, antique tools) are ordinary; others, like those in the Grimm Collection, are very unusual.
This is a better-than-average YA novel with a few problems in the execution. I loved the idea of magical objects available for lending (not to mention science-fiction objects in the Gibson collection), and for the first three-quarters of the book, I was mostly just enjoying the exploration of that concept.
But as the kids began to face their challenges and save the day, way too much of what happened didn't make sense without post-action explanations from the librarians. ("They were using thus-and-such to make this change; they must have set the change up so that it happened under these circumstances and could only be changed by those" -- rules that the reader would have needed to be able to make sense of the action while it was happening.)
Some of the relationships really worked for me (Anjali and her sister, Marc and his brother, Elizabeth and her absent stepsisters), while others really did not. I think we were supposed to see the key romantic figure as a guy with a quirky sense of humor who was charmingly inept at relationships, but to me he just seemed like a jerk from start to finish.
And I felt like there were ethical problems going on and not being addressed -- Elizabeth is having to navigate between loyalty and honesty, and in a lot of cases I felt like the book wasn't acknowledging that she was making the wrong choice.
I liked the subtlety with which everybody's family situation was handled, and the refreshing lack of whining on Elizabeth's part. And despite these quibbles, I did enjoy the book and would seek out others by the same author. ...more
Others have mentioned how slow this feels; I think one reason for this is that the scenes are poorly shaped.Cinderella retelling. I gave it 50 pages.
Others have mentioned how slow this feels; I think one reason for this is that the scenes are poorly shaped. Events are unmoored from time. We'll have a couple of sentences of real-time depiction of action, and then without warning we'll float back out into long paragraphs of summary. ...more
The one where Jacob's grandfather always told him stories of spending WWII in an orphanage for "peculiar children," and after his grandfather's mysterThe one where Jacob's grandfather always told him stories of spending WWII in an orphanage for "peculiar children," and after his grandfather's mysterious death, Jacob goes in search of the place.
I was about halfway through the book when it became obvious to me that I just didn't care enough about the characters to go on reading. It's very obvious that the story was developed to fit the author's collection of vintage photographs. I don't find the photos nearly as interesting as he does, and a good third of what's in the book is only there to tie in with the photos. ...more
The one where a white girl named Sophie wishes for an adventure, and a trickster figure sends her back to the 1860s, where she's immediately assumed tThe one where a white girl named Sophie wishes for an adventure, and a trickster figure sends her back to the 1860s, where she's immediately assumed to be one of the slaves.
I really enjoyed this. Sophie starts out as a rather childish girl who's desperate for approval that her mother won't give her, and she really has a struggle when she's thrown into a situation for which she has no skills at all. Some of the owners are kind and others are cruel, and I enjoyed the way it really didn't matter very much -- being infantilized and exploited with a smile was only marginally better than being infantilized and exploited without one.
And I loved the way that Sophie, upon being returned to 1960, reassures herself that all she has to do now is pass as a white girl. ...more
It would be interesting to study collections of vampire stories over the years; they probably work pretty well as a barometer of social anxieties. ThiIt would be interesting to study collections of vampire stories over the years; they probably work pretty well as a barometer of social anxieties. This year's model expresses anxiety about the influence of conservative religion and about how children's lives are constricted by their parents' fears, in addition to all the usual ones: sexuality, adolescence, drugs, incurable diseases. What would the vampire stories of 1958 have looked like?
The stylistic fingerprints of Stephanie Meyer were visible on some of these, and those of Kelly Link were visible on others.
My favorite stories here were Genevieve Valentine's "Things To Know About Being Dead" (cute, funny, sad), Kaaron Warren's "The List of Definite Endings" (what are the options for a compassionate and ethical vampire?) and Catherynne Valente's "In the Future When All's Well" (a terrific observation of adolescent life, vampirical or not)....more
The one where Sunny -- who doesn't fit in in Nigeria because of her albinism and her childhood in America -- comes into her power.
This hits so many ofThe one where Sunny -- who doesn't fit in in Nigeria because of her albinism and her childhood in America -- comes into her power.
This hits so many of those YA cliches -- outcast protagonist discovers that she has special powers and a special destiny, opposition from bullies in the ordinary world and from powerful forces in the magical one, a ragtag team overcoming personal differences to fight the foe, children sent out into battle with little information or training, elliptical mentors who hide more than they share, sports given almost the same weight as battles of good vs. evil.
If it had been set in one of the standard YA locations (an American city or a medieval-ish village), I probably wouldn't have finished it, but Okorafor's settings, both real-world and magical, are imaginative enough and vivid enough to keep me reading. ...more
The life of Saleem Sinai, born on the same stroke of midnight that ushered in the independence of India.
I've really been struggling with reviewing thThe life of Saleem Sinai, born on the same stroke of midnight that ushered in the independence of India.
I've really been struggling with reviewing this, because it seems to me to be worthy of being taken seriously, and yet I didn't like it very much.
I loved the language, and I couldn't fail to be moved by the exuberance of the whole thing.
In the end I had these problems with it:
1. The ego problem.
It was never clear to me how seriously I was supposed to take Saleem's view of himself as central to everything that happened in modern India; my impression is that it was supposed to be funny-with-a-grain-of-truth. I found it a little hard to take.
There was also a bit of a related problem, the Philip Roth problem (or, dear male modern literary author, the condition of your penis is of no interest to me) -- just a little, but even a little is way too much.
2. The magic realism problem.
My opinion now is that magic realism is something that has been done already and doesn't really need to be done any more.
Also, as a reader of fantasy and science fiction, I expect an author who introduces speculative elements to actually do something with those elements. "She's a witch. I'm going to call her Parvati-the-witch, and I'm not speaking metaphorically; I want you to understand that she can do real magic; that she's really, really a witch." OK. So she ... does any magic, ever, other than the spoilery thing with the basket? Her magic is obtained how, and paid for how, and fits into the culture how? Why is she unable to prevent these awful things from happening? Damn it, what are the rules? because without rules and integration into the larger story, the most reasonable way to read this so-called magic is ... metaphorically.
3. The foreshadowing problem.
The story has this stylistic quirk where it says, "This was before I was confined with the washing and taken to the Widow's house -- but, no, I must not skip ahead." And it does this on almost every single page. And it never stopped being annoying.
So, yeah. I read all 700 pages, and enjoyed some of them, and learned some new things, and don't entirely feel that I wasted my time, but it's not an experience I'm eager to repeat.
Side topic: I went looking for some professional reviews, to see if I was overlooking something important. First, I discovered that it is really difficult to track down professional reviews using an internet search; mostly you get blog reviews and places like Goodreads, and I was looking for a reviewer who could be presumed to know more than I do. Second, this was only Rushdie's second novel, and when I finally did find reviews, I was amused at how patronizing they were! Maybe if you're going to be a pro reviewer, you should treat every author you read as if you know he or she is going to be famous and admired in a few years. ...more