I probably would not have read this book if it hadn't been selected for the Sword and Laser book club for March 2015, and in the same month get announI probably would not have read this book if it hadn't been selected for the Sword and Laser book club for March 2015, and in the same month get announced as one of the Nebula nominees.
It's not my normal fare, in other words. It was described to me as a steampunk-fantasy court drama novel, but I would characterize it more as a coming of age, fish out of water, court drama novel. The steampunk is far in the background and as much as I don't geek out about those kinds of details, I think more of them would have made the world more interesting - more magic too, please! It's there, but so far in the background.
The other parts of the world, from the elaborate family names to the complex kingdom rulership borders, to the elfin-goblin conflicts, were interesting and didn't feel like many other things. Actually I did keep thinking of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin but I'm not sure others will see the parallels.
The best part, in my opinion, is the character of Maia the goblin emperor. I think the author writes him very compassionately, although flawed. He has quite the wardrobe.
I am surprised this isn't the first in a trilogy or series because it feels like everything just gets settled by the end, and after all of this world has been created, it might be nice for the author to keep writing in it.
You would think this fulfilled my fantasy reading for the year, but no. My usually post-modern literary book club has selected a fantasy novel for our next read, one I never would have read.... well here we go....more
Some of my skimming moments seemed to fall into two categories - too much meander in the writing. This happens a lot in personal stories such as in the one about the high school car accidents. The other is the second-person employed in an essay about a traumatic or catastrophic event - you you you - I didn't like the combination and it felt confrontational somehow. So I didn't finish the tsunami essay for this reason.
My favorites seemed to be more about pleasant subject matter, which surprised me because it seems harder to write in a captivating manner about happy topics. But I think this is where Paterniti shines, rather than the Khmer Rouge.
Highlights: "He Might Just Be a Prophet" - I never tire of reading about Ferran Adria, and now that he has closed El Bulli, it felt nostalgic to read this piece. Paterniti does not just eat there and write about it, he spends more time with the chef. The tone captures Adria's spirit and the descriptions are the best attempt I've seen to try to give someone the experience of the cuisine without having it in their mouth.
"The Giant" - about the tallest man in the world, Leonid Stadnik. It isn't putting him up as a hero, bearer of woes, but it does portray the good and the bad of having an incredibly large body. I spent so much time looking at pictures and reading other stories about Stadnik after reading the essay, I knew he had me hooked.
"Holding my hand, he ceased to be a giant at all. Rather, in his world now, I became the dwarf."
"Driving Mr. Albert" - a bizarre story where he is driving around with a doctor who stole Albert Einstein's brain (and with the brain itself). This didn't seem real. Does it have to be real? A bizarre thing happened where he mentions the Asmat of "Irian Jaya" (now called West Papua) and what they believed about consuming someone's brain... just a bizarre connection to all of my recent New Guinean reads, completely unrelated to the rest of the essay. (Well, not completely, but you know what I mean.)
"Never Forget" - this is the one about the Khmer Rouge and S-21. Phew. Any time you read something about this, it's bound to be emotional, but he explored an aspect of it I didn't know anything about. 3 people surviving a prison that held 15,000. A person responsible for most of those deaths being given only a 19 year sentence. The connection between this genocide and the others, and the unclaimed American responsibility.
"Or in other words, our own genocide forever comes next."
"The Last Meal" - Oh my goodness. He writes about food best when it is slightly off-kilter and this is the story of the French President, François Mitterand, and his legendary last meal. The story is stretched to include the author also consuming the ortolan, complete with hood to block the noises from the others/God. What a fascinating, disturbing tradition that I thought only belonged in a fantasy novel! ...more
Neil Gaiman is an excellent teller of stories, and I usually enjoy his audio. This is an entertaining short story, not as twisty as some of his, but I liked the musical interludes and accompaniment. He seems to be writing several stories set in the Hebrides and this was a nice trip there.
I'll have a longer review of the set of stories soon!...more
As usual with short story anthologies - some I was not interested in, some I loved. What I wish was less often - how many of these stories I'd read alAs usual with short story anthologies - some I was not interested in, some I loved. What I wish was less often - how many of these stories I'd read already, published in other compilations. I know it's an author's prerogative how they bundle and republish their work, but I'd prefer to be given new stories.
Don't skip the introductions. They put each story into context and one has a hint of a future novel (very exciting!)
-The Thing About Cassandra
-The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains (recommended: the separate Audible production with the FourPlay String Quartet)
-Black Dog It is important to note that depression is often referred to as the "black dog."
-The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury - a lovely tribute to an author and more generally, ruminations on what happens to works once they're out there
"I sometimes imagine I would like my ashes to be scattered in a library. But then the librarians would just have to come in early the next morning to sweep them up again."
-In Relig Odhráin - largely because it was set on a tiny island that both the author and I adore. I would love to go back and read this story again while standing near this place.
Stories I'd already read: -Click-Clack the Rattlebag -The Sleeper and the Spindle -Feminine Endings...more
This was a cornerstone of my Readings in Ethnography course in graduate school. Basically a classic of anthropology that also had an impact on the fieThis was a cornerstone of my Readings in Ethnography course in graduate school. Basically a classic of anthropology that also had an impact on the fields of folklore and ethnomusicology. And happens to be set in islands off the coast of but belonging to Papua New Guinea!...more