I stayed up late last night because I couldn't put this down. A brave, difficult, compelling, heart-rending novel by an old friend. Jenn Crowell takesI stayed up late last night because I couldn't put this down. A brave, difficult, compelling, heart-rending novel by an old friend. Jenn Crowell takes an unflinching look at one facet of the British mental health system, and one young woman (fictional, but based on real cases) who survived it. (That's not a spoiler. It's in first person, so narrated as a recollection, which tells you from the beginning that she in some way makes it through.)...more
This book had some flaws, but the tone and the prose were so solid I was willing to ignore them. It's beautifully written, giving a sense from the verThis book had some flaws, but the tone and the prose were so solid I was willing to ignore them. It's beautifully written, giving a sense from the very beginning of everything protagonist Alana has at stake: her love of ships, her family, her ability to work and live in a body that is slowly betraying her, her love of ships. I mentioned ships both first and last because the book itself is most vibrant when talking about starships and living "in the black" or "in the big quiet." They're lovely images, full of weight. When the same passionate language is used for another character not long after Alana meets her, it felt sudden. Things I liked: the prose, the seamless integration of hand-wavium into the story's high-tech world, the forthright looks at class and disability and sexuality and personhood. Alana's disability is an important part of who she is, and permeates the plot as well: it doesn't disappear when it's inconvenient. Race and sexuality don't seem to be issues in the world we are given, but there is no white straight default. I appreciate that. I like that there is no shame or doubt regarding Alana's sexuality. I like that we're given a world that includes women and men and both and neither, in which most of the main characters are competent women because why not? Spoilers in the things-that-didn't quite work for me: (view spoiler)[Everybody was a little too attractive for me. Alana fell for the captain SO quickly, and I didn't feel enough reason for her to call it love beyond physical attraction. The destruction of the world her parents were on felt abrupt: we were told it was important to Alana only in the seconds before it was gone. Her sister felt like a caricature for the first half of the book. The way Slip set Alana up at the beginning felt more manipulative than necessary given the relationship among crew members. Alana forgave some pretty awful behavior fairly easily. I'm not a romance reader, generally, but the romance in this was well integrated. It would have been even slighter if Alana wasn't such a processor, giving us her emotional state at every step. (hide spoiler)] All of that said, I couldn't put the book down once I started it. I was willing to put up with those flaws for a solid space adventure with three-dimensional, diverse characters.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
In Thomas Disch's maddening essay "Can Girls Play Too? Feminizing SF," he describes a compliment Heinlein paid to Russ by omitting her from a list ofIn Thomas Disch's maddening essay "Can Girls Play Too? Feminizing SF," he describes a compliment Heinlein paid to Russ by omitting her from a list of 29 female SF writers. He likes her strategy of "hypothesizing women who can cope in a man's world rather than, as Le Guin would have it, remodeling human nature on a maternal template." That description makes me think either I'm missing something here or he is.
I need to process this book before I write about it....more
This out-Bechdeled Alison Bechdel's most recent book. It's a brave and honest graphic memoir about the author's struggle with her bipolar diagnosis anThis out-Bechdeled Alison Bechdel's most recent book. It's a brave and honest graphic memoir about the author's struggle with her bipolar diagnosis and its impact on her art and life. I loved it....more
I'm still struggling with a review of this book. Imp is a fabulous, fascinating narrator. She explains in the opening chapter that she has schizophrenI'm still struggling with a review of this book. Imp is a fabulous, fascinating narrator. She explains in the opening chapter that she has schizophrenia. This makes the entire story suspect. What is truth? What is fact? Is it possible for something to be true without being factual? Two of Imp's own short stories become chapters of the book, but they are part of her own processing of reality. Her ghost story is peppered with references to paintings and painters and writers who may or may not exist. The lines seem sharply drawn at first but blur as the piece goes on, particularly whenever Imp's mental health deteriorates. This is a brave, bizarre, poetic, confusing, haunting book. ...more
A solid anthology. No total clunkers, but not too many stunners either. Just a lot of solid stories. I'm curious to read the science fiction collectioA solid anthology. No total clunkers, but not too many stunners either. Just a lot of solid stories. I'm curious to read the science fiction collection to see if I like it better. I really enjoyed the first seven stories, as well as the Leslie What and BJ Thrower pieces. After that it blurred together a bit. I'm happy that this series exists, though. ...more
This is a very John Irving John Irving book. He has elevated "write what you know" to an art form. There's a boy with a single mother and an absent faThis is a very John Irving John Irving book. He has elevated "write what you know" to an art form. There's a boy with a single mother and an absent father (see also Owen Meany, Garp). He grows up to be a writer (Garp). (view spoiler)[There are transgendered former athletes (see Garp) and little boys who play dressup (Hotel New Hampshire). (hide spoiler)] It's set in New England (Owen Meany, Hotel New Hampshire, Cider House Rules, um, almost all of his books?) with a boys' boarding school (Hotel New Hampshire) and a trip to Vienna (Hotel New Hampshire). There's a grand old house (Hotel New Hampshire, Owen Meany) and a domineering grandmother (Owen Meany) and a jock older male relative (Hotel New Hampshire). There's a character whose every sentence is cried rather than spoken (Owen Meany). And of course, lots of wrestling.
That's just the physical resemblance. Stylistically, I was impressed as always by his ability to weave time backward and forward. Other familiarities grated a bit. With the time-weaving comes a certain amount of necessary reminder, but I thought he didn't trust his reader enough, and spelled out every conclusion even when the event being referenced was fresh in my mind. There were certain words and phrases that he italicized every time he used them, which also felt like it was meant to serve as a reminder to a neglectful reader. There were multiple characters with the same strange psychological affliction in which they could not pronounce certain words. Every character seemed to have a habit of discussing words separate from their meanings: multiple characters used the phrase "the _____ word," say "the table word" to differentiate from the actual table.
To address the subject matter, this is the story of one man's life, and specifically his sexual development as a bisexual man. It addresses Stonewall and Vietnam and AIDS, all through Billy Abbott's eyes. Irving has written GLBT characters before, but not as narrator (as far as I remember). Irving has done an interesting thing here. If this book had been a gay author's first novel, I think it would be filed under "gay fiction" and would not reach a mainstream audience. Irving has a particular bully pulpit. He has a chance to reach a mainstream audience that he has already inured to shock, and then see if they are actually inured. I only guess at his desire to shock because of the italics and the fact that most of the beats of the story concern sexual reveals. Or perhaps that is meant to be Billy's writing style, since Billy is a novelist himself.
The characters don't always ring true, which might also be a product of Billy's style rather than John Irving's. (view spoiler)[I felt as if his relationship with his mother was left very sketchy compared to other relationships. She was treated as fragile and perhaps even mentally challenged, with minimal development beyond those characteristics; she seemed to be universally scorned or pitied. Also, I found it a little hard to believe that this many members of a single family turned out gay, and this many people in a single small town ended up with the same particular and specific proclivities repeating. I can't tell if he's implying the cause lies with Shakespeare or genetics. In one family there are two men who enjoy wearing women's clothing (one gay, one straight), one bisexual man, one lesbian. (hide spoiler)] I guess I appreciate the story he is trying to tell, even if I didn't love this book the way I loved some of his previous novels. I will say that I've never seen a book of mainstream fiction with this volume and variety of nuanced, sympathetic QUILTBAG characters. It almost felt like he was trying a little too hard.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
My flight back from Readercon was delayed by several hours, so I got to read this anthology cover to cover. I usually prefer to break up the reading oMy flight back from Readercon was delayed by several hours, so I got to read this anthology cover to cover. I usually prefer to break up the reading of a themed anthology, but there was enough variety in this one to keep me engaged. I particularly liked the Kelley Eskridge story. I would have loved to see even more variety, both in the types of speculative fiction and in the expected breadth inherent in the "beyond binary" label. Still, taken individually, most of these stories are strong; taken as a whole, this is a bold compilation and a great challenge to the sf status quo. ...more
A beautiful spin on the old Planet of Women trope. Everything about Jeep is richly imagined, from the people and their lore to the plants and animals.A beautiful spin on the old Planet of Women trope. Everything about Jeep is richly imagined, from the people and their lore to the plants and animals. The characters are distinctive and fascinating to follow, and the action is thrilling. There was a very LeGuin-ish feel to some of it - the observer in the midst - but this story was more emotionally accessible and moved at a quicker pace despite its length. I say that as someone who always finds LeGuin's books rewarding, but often has a hard time getting into them. I'm very impressed that this was Ms. Griffith's first novel, and I look forward to seeking out more of her work....more
I'm wavering between three and four stars. I think I liked this one more than a lot of you did. I like that Bujold felt confident enough in her seriesI'm wavering between three and four stars. I think I liked this one more than a lot of you did. I like that Bujold felt confident enough in her series that she could step away from her main character entirely. I'm not sure whether this one was written earlier or whether she slotted it into the chronology of the other books. Either way, I enjoyed getting to know more about Elli Quinn. Ethan's terror about women and skewed world view made him an entertaining character to follow as well. It was fun watching him adapt to the secular world. Bujold's gender reversal on the B-movie style Planet of Women was clever. I found the cast of characters in Cetaganda confusing at times, so I appreciated this book's smaller roster. Like that one, it's essentially a mystery in SF clothing; unlike that book, this one feels self-contained. I don't know if we'll encounter Ethan again, but I feel like his story has been told. ...more
This volume collects several hundred of the DTWOF comics, covering twenty years' worth of major story arcs. I lost track of DTWOF about four years agoThis volume collects several hundred of the DTWOF comics, covering twenty years' worth of major story arcs. I lost track of DTWOF about four years ago, so it was fun to get reacquainted, even if there were only about two years' worth of material that I hadn't read at the very end of the book. I also felt like it ended a little abruptly, as if the last pages of the book were chosen arbitrarily. Still, those are minor complaints. Bechdel has created a universe populated by characters with complex and human motivations. I have loved watching them change and grow and age over the course of the comic. Re-reading the early panels made me realize that many of the issues the characters faced mean something very different to me now than they did when I first read about them. This book would make a fine time capsule of queer and liberal politics from the 80s into the 21st century, but ultimately it's about a handful of people (who happen to be fictional) living out their lives as captured unflinchingly by Bechdel's pen. ...more
A sweet little book with a positive message for queer and questioning teens. It had some issues with pacing and plot as I recall, but the characters wA sweet little book with a positive message for queer and questioning teens. It had some issues with pacing and plot as I recall, but the characters were nicely drawn. The author sent it to me because she had mentioned one of my songs in the text - one of the teenagers listens to it on her CD player. It was pretty cool to see my name in print in that particular way. ...more
In the title story, the narrator's child describes how Columbus thought he discovered America but "it's sort of like if some guy rang our doorbell thiIn the title story, the narrator's child describes how Columbus thought he discovered America but "it's sort of like if some guy rang our doorbell this morning and said he'd discovered our house, so it belonged to him." So when I say I discovered Ellen Klages very recently, I do so with the knowledge that she was there already, and I'm just happy to have made acquaintance with her writing. She popped onto my radar this summer when I read her story "In the House of the Seven Libraries", a standout even in excellent company in the Firebirds Rising: An Original Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology. I remembered her name, and grabbed this collection when I saw it at a bookstore recently.
It's a wonderful collection, full of everything I love about short speculative fiction. She writes in an afterword that "science fiction is, I've read, a literature of setting. For some, that means other planets, other worlds, other dimensions. For me, it's the past, but a slightly alternate past, a reality that existed - at least in my imagination - just below the surface of everyday life." The stories here are a mixed bag of genre: some science fiction, some fantasy, some horror. They have in common a rich sense of character and place and history. The sense of history is really strong, and it makes the core of her stories at once very accessible. Lives happen. Small moments of wonder happen. I'm happy she took the time to let me see them. ...more