After talking to Nathan Ballingrud on my podcast, I have been keeping my eye out for stories of his I had not yet read. I knew "The Atlas of Hell" wasAfter talking to Nathan Ballingrud on my podcast, I have been keeping my eye out for stories of his I had not yet read. I knew "The Atlas of Hell" was in this volume, and I had seen acclaim for the anthology over all. So I actually bought this for myself! This is only exclamation worthy because I already have a big shelf of unread anthologies of short stories at my house. And one of my reading goals for 2016 is to get through some of them. It makes perfect sense that I would instead buy a new one. :)
It is always daunting to approach an anthology so this time I went with the authors I had previously read first - Nathan Ballingrud, Karen Joy Fowler, and Karen Tidbeck; then to the authors I at least have on my radar and have meant to read - Julio Cortazar, Caitlin Kiernan, Usman T. Malik; last I read the others. I find it impossible to summarize these stories as a whole because "weird fiction" is... weird. For some it means tweaks of fantasy, fairy tale, or horror; for others it is metaphoring the heck out of an idea; still others take a normal place or situation and turn it on its side. I find the weird-within-normal the most unsettling, and also the easiest to point to and say "that's weird." There is just a lot of crossover with other genres and many of these stories could easily belong to the year's best fantasy, horror, etc. Luckily for me I have many more weird anthologies on my shelf so perhaps I will continue finding an answer to this question of weird.
Before I comment on individual stories, I did want to say that I was disappointed by the number of typos in this book. With two editors and 21st century technology, I don't understand how anyone can have an inappropriate apostrophe, a misspelled book title, or the wrong article in front of a word beginning with a vowel ("a alien.") I don't know what happened but I hope they pay more attention to basic grammar and spelling in volume three. They are slightly pardoned because of the beautiful cover art (I know artists and editors do not have the same job.)
Now without further ado, my favorites in this volume:
"The Atlas of Hell" by Nathan Ballingrud - seriously, the Louisiana swamps are scary enough, no need to create hell-traveling bone-growing swamp monsters. Ballingrud is one of the authors that starts with normal places and people and then it goes places you don't expect. Loved the ending.
"Wendigo Nights" by Siobhan Carroll - a disease you can get once you've heard about it, while trapped without supplies in a polar expedition? Terrifying. This could easily be a horror story.
"The Earth and Everything Under" by K.M. Ferebee - great witchy story! Actually made me cry too. Weird.
"Nanny Anne and the Christmas Story" by Karen Joy Fowler - this is a take on a scary story you might tell as a child but the brilliance in it is that by the end you don't necessarily know what happened exactly, and not knowing is far, far worse.
"Resurrection Points" by Usman T. Malik - interesting very real-world setting, with special abilities trying to fit into religious conflict in a community
"Migration" by Karen Tidbeck - This story doesn't have anything familiar but it is so unsettling!...more
I read this because I wanted to do so before watching the television series (so far, a few episodes in, I needn't have bothered as the show is not verI read this because I wanted to do so before watching the television series (so far, a few episodes in, I needn't have bothered as the show is not very similar to the book!). An alternate history where the United States and the allies lost World War II, Soviet Russia has been flattened, and the country is split into Nazi controlled (east coast toward the plains) and Japanese controlled (Pacific States of America) with a neutral zone including some of the Rockies.
One important question that Dick was asking in the early 1960s and we still for some reason have to ask - how quickly could our country slip into a Nazi regime?
"I never thought I'd see that Nazi racial law get passed in the U.S...."
That one really stuck out to me after one too many presidential candidates blustering about blocking Muslims. Nazi rule in this book is so severe that they have massacred all the Africans to be able to use that land for farming and mining, and have started moving into space exploration. They tolerate the Japanese but are slowly moving into another westward expansion. (It's their only direction left to go!)
There are a few too many major characters in this short novel, and I kept forgetting who Mr. Baynes was. I like that there is a female, and that she is fierce - Juliana.
The second half of the novel revolves around a book that has been banned by the Nazis and is being read and discussed by all the characters - The Grasshopper Lies Heavy - an alternate history of if the United States had won, starting with not having their ships at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. So an alternate version of what really happened.
I suppose this is most interesting for history buffs who enjoy imagining the far reaching ramifications of each little historical ruffle, chess-players, shall we say. I think I prefer my PKD when he has evil librarians or electric sheep....more
This was discussed on Episode 045 of the Reading Envy Podcast; you may also read my review from earlier this year. David Mitchell is always a pleasureThis was discussed on Episode 045 of the Reading Envy Podcast; you may also read my review from earlier this year. David Mitchell is always a pleasure to re-read!...more
I never checked these off as read! Loved these books when I read them - the setting, the strong women, the pagan religion elements - all within the stI never checked these off as read! Loved these books when I read them - the setting, the strong women, the pagan religion elements - all within the story of King Arthur. Even the film adaptation is pretty good....more
I first heard of this book when I interviewed a bunch of academic librarians about books they had read recently for Episode 027 of the Reading Envy PoI first heard of this book when I interviewed a bunch of academic librarians about books they had read recently for Episode 027 of the Reading Envy Podcast. After one librarian mentioned reading and loving it, it came up multiple times. I wasn't sure where I had been, because I hadn't heard of it at all despite running in multiple circles where there are lovers of science fiction and fantasy.
I'm torn on what to rate the book for several reasons. First of all, fantasy is not typically my thing but I enjoyed this. I enjoyed this despite the fact that it contained many of the usual tropes - youngster coming of age discovers they are actually royalty/magical and gets thrown into new/scary situations where they have to save everyone- check. Running through the forest - check. Evil queen - check. But then there are some other elements in there that stood out more because they were in this context - the fact that they are running around in what used to be the United States of America, but there is no technology and books are antiques. I would hope to see and understand more of the world in future books in the series because it feels rather vague yet intriguing in this one.
The character of Kelsea (even if I hate the name) is nice because she is not attractive or thin, but she is smart - both book smart and street smart, which helps her make good decisions and not get killed. But Emma Watson intends to play her in the film version; unless she pulls a Bridget Jones I'm not sure how she'll pull off overweight and plain. And I wondered if knowing who would play the main character in the film didn't ruin the fun of reading fantasy, where your imagination gets to really dig deep.
There is magic present, but Kelsea is not trained to use it, she just accidentally uses it. I was surprised not to see the usual trope of WISE WIZARD to TRAIN THE YOUNGLING but maybe that will happen later - she did get some training in swordfighting at least. Not a lot is explained about magic - is it only the queens who have access to it, is it always associated with the Dark, etc.
The other issue at hand is that I found myself skimming from time to time. I like the parts with Kelsea but battles bore me, and I don't need every ride through the forest to be described. But this is why I don't often read fantasy. So maybe it's not the book, it's me. I'm still going to read the second book because it's still very readable.
I should also say that while the character is young, the book is not YA, based on the detailed violence and sexual content. However I almost think that to make it truly adult it needed to be darker somehow. Higher stakes. Most situations work out too easily, her mistakes are extremely minor. I feel like Harry Potter was in greater danger....more
I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I previously read two novels by Nalo Hopkinson, but had not read any ofI received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I previously read two novels by Nalo Hopkinson, but had not read any of her short stories. Overall they are idea stories, as long as they need to be (or as short, since one was only two pages), and range from urban fantasy to dystopia to the weird to magic to myth. I loved the author's note at the beginning explaining the title, which is not from any of the stories, but a summary of her own experience.
"The Easthound" This one starts with a mishearing of the eastbound train and goes from there to a world where puberty brings beastly things.
“Soul Case” This story is a great example of how Nalo Hopkinson weaves Caribbean themes into her stories, from an island of "maroons" defending their lives from slave owners.
“Message in a Bottle” Oh this is probably my absolute favorite story because I just didn't expect where it was going. Beware of children.
“The Smile on the Face” Gilla... monster? Another triumph of everyday life mixed with some surprises.
“Left Foot, Right” This reminded me of her more recent book with the sisters and the death.
“Old Habits” I lied, this one is my favorite, the mythology of mall ghosts.
“Emily Breakfast” Emily Breakfast is a chicken.
“Herbal” How many floors up can your elephant reach?
“A Young Candy Daughter” A lovely holiday tale.
“A Raggy Dog, a Shaggy Dog” Okay this one is more of the weird variety, an orchid grower with orchid tattoos, who uses the fire alarm to keep the plants hydrated.
“Shift” Oh bizarre. I'm not sure I quite grasped it particularly the Shakespeare references....
“Delicious Monster” Wow, more mythology intertwined with everyday life.
“Snow Day” Written for a challenge, maybe my least favorite.
“Flying Lessons” Shortie
“Whose Upward Flight I Love” Super shortie, but perhaps the most personal, the triumph of nature in a too-cold place written by someone who is from warmer places...
“Blushing” Oh my god. Blackbeard with a twist.
“Ours Is the Prettiest” Part of the Bordertown shared worlds idea.
“Men Sell Not Such in Any Town” Are you Enlightened? Soon enough?...more
After a recent reading given by the author, she said in answer to a question that this is her favorite novel she's written for adults so far. I can unAfter a recent reading given by the author, she said in answer to a question that this is her favorite novel she's written for adults so far. I can understand why - she's had a longtime fascination with folklore and mythology threading through her work, sometimes more explicitly than others. I felt more similar as I read this the way I did when I read some of her earliest novels - that she was a master of world mythology and I would never know as much as she did nor could I possibly understand/appreciate the layers this understanding would add if I had it while reading her books. I haven't felt that way in her more recent works, not in Palimpsest (which is still the Valente novel closest to my heart), nor in the Fairyland books (where she creates her own mythology!).
I like the idea of turning a folktales or two on its ear, which she apparently has here, I just don't have enough knowledge of Russian folktales to fully appreciate it. I like the idea of taking that folktales on its ear and then dropping it into Soviet Russia with ration cards and freezing soldiers and seeing what happens. I loved the imagery in the beginning of the bird-husbands and the character married to the house (in my head he is a house elf but that's probably not the right word for him.) I like all these things, I just didn't FEEL anything. It felt much more academic, a well-executed exercise.
I see that Goodreads has this listed as Deathless #1 so I wonder what comes next!...more
This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It was also discussed pre-publication on Episode 021 of the ReadiThis audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It was also discussed pre-publication on Episode 021 of the Reading Envy podcast, if you want more background. I had not read the book at the time.
This is a debut novel from Marguerite Reed, and I feel I should first say this is not the kind of novel I typically read. It is also not a typical novel. Some of the elements combined together in a way I was not expecting and I had to talk myself through it. I think I'm using the review to think it through even further.
The novel takes place on a planet called Ubastis, a relatively unexplored and uncolonized planet that is being considered as a new home for humanity. Vashti, who the publisher summary refers to as a xenobiologist, is on the planet for further study. She holds multiple roles, from safari guide of sorts to political activist, to mother. Several scenes in the beginning of the novel detail Vashti having important conversations about her husband's death and what she should be doing, interrupted by her toddler being hungry or wanting help with the bathroom. I have to admit that I was a bit startled by this element. I'm not used to women being mothers in military science fiction (a label I am hesitant to use but is the closest I can come). Thinking about it more, I realized that in all those urban fantasy type novels, the main subgenre where you see kickass female heroines, those women are always lone wolves who have hot sex or revenge sex or daddy issues. Their solitude allows them to have the strength and independence. I feel like the author really pushed herself to create a more complex character, one who is grieving the loss of her husband, struggling with self-harm and guilt, and still loving a tiny child that occupies some of her mental and physical space. It isn't something I have seen before. Her humanity is tangible, almost uncomfortable, and it becomes more important as the story moves forward.
There is a lot more going on, from discussions of humanity to independence. This is the first book in a series and Marguerite Reed definitely ends the book with a clear direction in mind. I think readers of urban fantasy with kickass women would really like this, and enjoy the change to space and genetic modification as the setting.
I listened to this in audio and liked the narrator for the most part. She does something strange where she whispers the last word in a sentence, or speaks it in a very low tone. It took me a while to get used to it, and ended up speeding up the recording to 1.5x which helped a great deal. I realized I was waiting for the last word of every sentence and missing what the words in the sentence were, and had to start over. Let me see if I can replicate it in text, with words in asterisks the words spoken low or whispered.
"In Moira's apartment I ate and drank what she set in front of *me.* She remembered something of tact, thank God, and did not interrupt until I had finished scraping my *plate clean.*"
I don't know if this is the narrator's style, if it is the style she chose for the book, but at first it really took me out of the listening experience. I played it for a few others to see if I was crazy and they noticed it as well. By the time I got halfway, I stopped noticing it and the last half of the book flew by....more
I read this because it was nominated one month for the Sword and Laser book club but lost to a book I had already read.
There are elements of this novI read this because it was nominated one month for the Sword and Laser book club but lost to a book I had already read.
There are elements of this novel to like. The combination of Scandinavian and Chinese culture for the society of New Qian was really the best part, especially the section combining the northern lights with the Chinese festivals. Beautiful! Magical!
The theme of water scarcity is frequent these days, although having a teamaster in each village/town/city with the secrets of the water was a new twist.
I felt like much of the writing itself was repetitive, somehow separated from the true emotion of the story. Even in moments that I felt should have great despair, it felt like Noria was floating through life. Strange.
I read this because it was selected as the May book for the Sword and Laser book club and I hardly ever get a chance to read along! I had not heard ofI read this because it was selected as the May book for the Sword and Laser book club and I hardly ever get a chance to read along! I had not heard of this author or this book in either form (it is also known as The Sea-Kings of Mars.)
It is important to look at the era a book was written. This is from 1953, pre-moon landing, pre-scientific Mars information. It isn't surprising, then that the main character (Carse) and all the other humans on Mars don't mention struggling to breath or survive. You just have to suspend a lot of disbelief.
Is this the first book with time-lords? Perhaps Doctor Who fans should be reading this book. It's like Indiana Jones on Mars meets time travel meets pirates. It was actually a lot of fun to read and I thought some of the descriptions were more beautiful than I would have expected from something pulpy, and the different groups were creatively presented. Who wouldn't want to envision Mars in a former glory era? Ah heck, I'm adding a star.
I can't remember which book it is I read, maybe Burroughs, but I remember a short tale about a trip to the moon where all the people needed were rifles and fur coats. This feels kind of like that. I didn't care for the main character who is a bully and a thief but still enjoyed the book overall....more
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss.
The other books I have read by Gene Wolfe were intricate, dense books of deI received a review copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss.
The other books I have read by Gene Wolfe were intricate, dense books of detail and magic, books that almost required a re-read once you reached the end. This is not like those books, and I'm trying to separate my surprise at the change in writing style from the book itself.
The publisher describes it best:
"E. A. Smithe is a borrowed person. He is a clone who lives on a third-tier shelf in a public library, and his personality is an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Smithe is a piece of property, not a legal human.
A wealthy patron, Colette Coldbrook, takes him from the library because he is the surviving personality of the author of Murder on Mars. A physical copy of that book was in the possession of her murdered father, and it contains an important secret, the key to immense family wealth. It is lost, and Colette is afraid of the police. She borrows Smithe to help her find the book and to find out what the secret is. And then the plot gets complicated."
At its heart it is more of a mystery novel with a twist. Light and fun to read, but I'm not sure it's a reread type....more
A very fun YA novel in a new series by Gail Carriger, about a young woman who gets recruited to finishing school, but it is the "other" definition ofA very fun YA novel in a new series by Gail Carriger, about a young woman who gets recruited to finishing school, but it is the "other" definition of finishing.
The characters and world feel similar to the Parasol Protectorate series but much more an adventure series, with much milder romance.
The audio is highly recommended, because the reader does a great job at accents and distinguishing the characters from each other....more
I had a copy from Edelweiss but waited too long to get into it, and my download expired. I wasn't sure I would finish anyway. I started out assuming iI had a copy from Edelweiss but waited too long to get into it, and my download expired. I wasn't sure I would finish anyway. I started out assuming it would be a lot like Divergent, and it is similar in that people can get tested and placed into an affinity group. But not everyone tests into one, and not everyone gets tested. Affinity groups seem to be an evolution in the family unit, replacing it, but it is fairly new in society. By the place I reached in the story, one group had received information that they had the potential to change the world, and were starting out to do so (likely with some significant push back.)
Kind of utopian, and as many utopias go, looked bound for dystopia....more
This is really more like 3.5 stars. The ideas are fun but there are too many for the length. I would have loved a full novel to explore more of it forThis is really more like 3.5 stars. The ideas are fun but there are too many for the length. I would have loved a full novel to explore more of it for longer. I suppose this is a reflection of the crowd-funded process when something is written outside the normal method (you know, with editing!)
But virtual worlds... near-future San Francisco... quantum computers... detective stories... falafel... if you like those things you are likely to enjoy it....more
This is going to be a difficult review for me to write. First of all, you should know that I love Margaret Atwood, from her poetry to her literary novThis is going to be a difficult review for me to write. First of all, you should know that I love Margaret Atwood, from her poetry to her literary novels to her dystopian novels. I consider Oryx and Crake as one of my favorite reads and one of the novels I recommend most to people who either read science fiction and need a bridge to "regular" literature and vice versa. I quit a book club over that book, Margaret!
I was excited about Positron when Margaret Atwood was first publishing it in serial eBook form. You can hear me talking about the first three episodes way back on Episode 003 of the Reading Envy Podcast. I actually had to go back and edit that post because the serial eBook episodes are no longer available for purchase, and seem to have disappeared entirely from Amazon. It was a lot of fun - campy, silly, sexy - I was devoted and planned to buy all the episodes.
Unfortunately the transition from serial to novel did not go well. I had heard the book was "completely different" but that was not true. I'm not sure that came from the publisher so I am not accusing them of anything, but at least the first episode was present within this novel verbatim (the "I'm Starved for You" fuchsia lipstick part for those of you familiar with it.) The novel still reads like a string of episodes and the parts written to pull it together feel halfhearted. The beginning of the novel is actually pretty boring compared to the world that the serial version of the world started with. I think the back story should have been intertwined into the novel because by the end some of these elements are repetitive - in the way a serial can get away with, when you can't guarantee the reader has read all of it. But repetition is far from necessary in a self-contained work. In the end, problems like this just come across as rather lazy. And Elvis sexbots and mandated jail time can only go so far on their own.
Perhaps a novel can generate more money than a serial publication. I would have preferred getting to read something new. Maybe Atwood could have sent THIS novel to the time capsule and let us read the other one!
Part of my low rating of this novel is inexorably linked to my audiobook listening experience. I had a review copy that could only be accessed using Penguin Random House's new audiobook application, which has a way to go before it will be a viable product. I had to listen at 1x speed which made the draggy parts more draggy, and since my place didn't save, I had to remember where I was and restart sections. My original download ended at track 11, so I was stuck with Elvis on the plane and couldn't fathom that kind of ending. Luckily I double checked and was able to download the last three parts. I dragged my feet going back to it, which is not a good sign. I DO think the two narrators did a good job, and since the story alternates between Charmaine and Stan, it was a good use of voice talent.
I keep waffling between two and three stars, but I reserve three for books that are decent, good, but simply not for me. I'm afraid I like this novel less than that, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, and I wish it didn't exist. It has left a bitter taste in my mouth. So I have taken it upon myself to add it to my science fiction and fantasy shelf, because Margaret Atwood hates that. (That does help a little. 2.5 stars.)
I was provided a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, which you can see I have given. I would have bought this book immediately if I hadn't had a review copy, so I actually appreciate the chance to not make that mistake....more
I can see why this is such a fantasy classic. I was well-served to read it alongside other people, forced to read only a few chapters a week - this alI can see why this is such a fantasy classic. I was well-served to read it alongside other people, forced to read only a few chapters a week - this allowed me to notice more things and appreciate the small bits in a way I don't usually do. Besides having a decent story, Beagle has a good balance of quirky, humor, romance, and deep thoughts. Perfect for younger and older readers....more
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
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
I think this book falls into the category of just not really my thing. There are some books of China Miéville that I have really loved - Embassytown bI think this book falls into the category of just not really my thing. There are some books of China Miéville that I have really loved - Embassytown being my favorite so far. I think there was less going on in that world, and because of that, characters were free to tell more of a story. In this novel, there are so many creatures and places and intrigue to describe, it was hard to settle in to any of it in an enjoyable way. I think I would have really liked the reluctant librarian hostage as unlikable as she is, if I had just spent more time with her in the library. I was interested in her understanding (and confusion) with some of the men but many of those storylines fell flat in favor of the action in the story. So some of the time there wasn't enough action, some of the time it was a focus right when I was starting to care about the rest of it.
The nice thing about Miéville is that every book is so different, that not exactly enjoying this won't deter me from trying future books. I'm not sure I'd return to Bas-Lag/New Crobuzon, but perhaps another universe.
I read this because it was a pick for one of my book clubs, where we meet in a virtual space. I can't wait to see the costumes!...more
Great adaptation of this book! While Adam feels like the focus in the book and audiobook, this seemed to better feature the angel/demon duo, kind of aGreat adaptation of this book! While Adam feels like the focus in the book and audiobook, this seemed to better feature the angel/demon duo, kind of a sad end to a very civil war, soon to end with Armageddon.
Still too many uses of the word ineffable, but I think that's a joke....more
It was an interesting experience to reread this book, because I remembered nothing about the plot or characters, just the world itself.
In the introducIt was an interesting experience to reread this book, because I remembered nothing about the plot or characters, just the world itself.
In the introduction the CBS Radio production of Brave New World in the mid 1950s, Aldous Huxley (serving as narrator) indicates that he meant the book as a warning about what would happen with our society if we continued on the path of consumerism and technological advance to the detriment of our humanity. He uses the term "negative utopia," and twenty years after the publication thought he had overestimated the number of years it would take us to get there - the novel was set 800 years into the future, and 20 years later, he decided it may be more like 200. He is very stern in this recording, a prophet of warning.
I think this time around I was struck most by the debate about happiness. Is happiness truly the greatest pursuit? Or should it not be the "first thing?" (subtle C.S. Lewis reference, booyah)
In the world of BNW:
"You can’t make tragedies without social instability. The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma."
Conditioned to only want what you can have, and if that's not enough, a mood-altering drug to balance you out. That's the world of BNW, until it is disrupted by John the Savage and a few Alpha males who long for things their society is not set up for - one desires isolation and one desires poetry.
Women are resigned to "engaging" with men on a regular basis, pregnancy is simulated to cheer them up, birth control is something they are conditioned to do, and marriage and other long term relationships are considered pornographic. The greatest compliment a man can pay a woman is to say she is "pneumatic." But if this is a negative utopia, perhaps Huxley knew that increasing the number of castes, and keeping women from the top, would only be a part of the calm but controlling world he feared.
I wish Huxley would have written a novel set on one of the islands where the outliers are sent. It seems like the conversations and advancement of ideas in those places would have been more interesting than the rinse-repeat-condition universe of The World State. ...more
I picked this from my bookshelves (one of the many to-read) to take on a trip to the Bahamas, and ended up reading most of it on the ship. The premiseI picked this from my bookshelves (one of the many to-read) to take on a trip to the Bahamas, and ended up reading most of it on the ship. The premise is interesting - a woman's father dies and as she mourns and hits menopause, her old "finding" abilities start coming back. Items from her childhood start reappearing (often dropping from the sky, but also an entire cashew orchard) and then a little boy washes up on shore.
I liked the setting although the island, Dolorosse, is imagined. The language throughout has a Haitian patois to it, and that alongside the description of the landscape and food makes it feel like a real place. But I liked the place far more than the characters. I sense you are supposed to dislike the main character Calamity but the rest of the people in the novel are a bit unknown to us, leaving me just with the character I didn't much like.
I saved this book to read until I was on a trip to Florida, so it had been about six months since reading book #2 in this trilogy. At first a few of tI saved this book to read until I was on a trip to Florida, so it had been about six months since reading book #2 in this trilogy. At first a few of the details that are referenced were specifics I had forgotten, but it made more sense as I went on.
There are some answers in this book, some of what I was expecting, some that was surprising and more disturbing. A very good finish to the trilogy and I was glad to read all three in one year. I know this was an impossible feat but I wish more trilogies were published this close together!
Something about VanderMeer's writing really creeps into my head. I must have read this too late at night after wandering a remote Florida island, because I woke up shouting with visions of (view spoiler)[ time-traveling, space alien atemporal whales (hide spoiler)] in my head. But that is why I read-in-place, trying to pick books that match the places I travel. Can you match Area X?
"This island is about fourteen miles long, six broad, and forty in circumference, containing what I would estimate as about eight-four square miles or more than fifty thousand acres. The pine-and-oak forest comprises most of the interior, sprawling down toward the shore on the landward side, but the side facing the sea has been assaulted by storms, and there you will find mostly scrub and moss and gnarled bushes."
"You are only partly alive. We can help you more than you can imagine."
I had never heard of this book before it was selected for an SFF Audio Readalon"You are only partly alive. We can help you more than you can imagine."
I had never heard of this book before it was selected for an SFF Audio Readalong discussion, and I think I liked it more after we talked about it for an hour or so.
There is a lot to think about here. The novel is in four sections and quite a bit of it has hints of other dystopias - the community with scheduled sex and neighbor-reporting is similar to We, the drugging of society feels like Brave New World, and I was completely expecting it to go in the direction of the ending of 1984.
This book won the Prometheus Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society for examining concepts of freedom. Hmm, I have read 18 books from their list. What does that mean?
But that may be the most interesting part of the novel, or at least what I was thinking about while reading it. Many people rate the book low because of the rape scene, and while it feels gratuitous in the moment, I actually think it is our first huge clue that Chip is a questionable hero. What is he going to do if he overthrows Uni? Would he be someone to follow? And what is worse, knowing the truth or living a passive, expected life?
And one little quote, one I felt very deeply considering recent events:
"We’ve got to fight, not adjust. Fight, fight, fight." ...more