Binti was a tense culture clash in spaaaaaaaace, and Nnedi Okorafor continues to explore that theme in Binti: Home, which sees our heroine returningBinti was a tense culture clash in spaaaaaaaace, and Nnedi Okorafor continues to explore that theme in Binti: Home, which sees our heroine returning home to her family, forever changed by her experience, both psychologically from the trauma and physically from having alien tentacles for hair. The original novella functioned well as a stand-alone, and this more earthbound novella with far more humans than aliens was less my jam, though Okorafor does do some really interesting things to expand the world only hinted at in Binti. There is some melding of fantasy and science fiction here (or perhaps magical realism and science fiction, like in Lagoon), and I do love the importance of mathematics to Binti and her people, but the narrative lacked focus for me. It feels like a vehicle to introduce worldbuilding that may be used for a more exciting plot in the final book, although Binti does remain a character to sympathize with and root for. She definitely goes through a lot in this book, and I am curious how Okorafor will conclude her story....more
In The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Meg Elison imagined a world where a mysterious plague killed nearly all the world's women. The titular midwife bIn The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Meg Elison imagined a world where a mysterious plague killed nearly all the world's women. The titular midwife became a legend, a folk hero, for bringing hope to this desolate world. Now it's a hundred years later, and The Book of Etta shows us what the world has become.
In the first chapter a four-year-old girl sex slave almost gives a man a blow job, so the world is still pretty much shit. Look, post-apocalyptic narratives are not sunshine and roses.
Etta, our protagonist, does not hold truck with sex slavery, just like any other decent human being, and she makes it her personal mission to save as many of these girls as she can and bring them back to her home, Nowhere. Except we don't meet Etta in the first chapter. We meet Eddy, which is who Etta is outside of Nowhere when she's disguised as a man. Or is Etta who he is when he's in Nowhere? By naming the book after Etta but starting the book with Eddy, Elison immediately puts the main character's gender identity at the forefront, which is great because it's the strongest and most compelling feature of the novel.
Etta/Eddy is a far more relatable character than the unnamed midwife, who didn't even have a name. This one has two! (To be fair, the midwife did have multiple names, but none actually felt personal to her identity.) Etta/Eddy struggles with gender identity, sexuality (in a world where women are generally expected to perform the miracle of life, queerness is frowned upon), and...well, not much racism, despite being black. Throughout the book, it was the character who kept me reading, as she had conflicts with old loves and new, as he made allies and enemies, as they fought to adhere to a black-and-white moral code in a world of grey. All the shifting between Etta and Eddy, the constantly changing pronouns, could have become confusing, but instead was quite enriching as I looked for the reason for each usage, if not obvious (sometimes Etta shifts to Eddy and back within scenes, for instance). It's a book about a person trying to find out who they are and accept it, even if others won't.
The other major strength of the book is the worldbuilding, for which Etta/Eddy seems to be a vehicle, taking the reader from settlement to settlement to show the many different ways people have rebuilt society. Just as The Book of Unnamed Midwife showed varying reactions in the immediate wake of the apocalypse, The Book of Etta gives a perspective after we've reached a sort of equilibrium. It's a New World Order. This time, however, there's a definite villain in the Lion, whose threats hang over much of the story.
But this book isn't paced or structured like a typical novel, which did frustrate me, as it often does. I read the book essentially in two chunks, and the first half was meandering but not off-puttingly so, as it was setting things up and introducing characters and conflicts...but much of the second half felt like it was another book, as it focused on even more new areas of the world before hurriedly tying things together in the exciting last several chapters, which I thought could have used significant expansion. Like I said, though, the character and worldbuilding carry the book.
The Book of Etta paints a rough portrait of a post-apocalyptic world, but it distinguishes itself from so many other post-apocalyptic narratives by focusing on people who deviate from the norm—which doesn't make them deviant, simply a perspective rarely seen in these stories. And even though so many characters in the book traffic in gender essentialism (and a cheeky mirror version, at times), the main character is a shining example of the fact that humans are far more complex....more
I'd heard about Thirteen Reasons Why for years, and here are thirteen reasons why I finally listened to it:
1. There's a Netflix series coming soon. 2.I'd heard about Thirteen Reasons Why for years, and here are thirteen reasons why I finally listened to it:
1. There's a Netflix series coming soon. 2. It's short.
Okay, that was only two reasons, but Thirteen Reasons Why does have thirteen reasons why...Hannah Baker committed suicide. Yeah, this book is a laugh riot!
Jay Asher came up with a deliciously fucked up hook: Clay Jensen discovers he's been mailed a package of cassette tapes, and when he listens to them, it's Hannah Baker, a girl he hardly knew (but wanted to know better) who killed herself two weeks ago. Here are thirteen reasons why I killed myself, she says. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of them. WHAT THE FUCK. So Clay listens and follows along with the various locations around town, all the while waiting to find out how he could have possibly contributed to this girl's suicide.
Asher executes his brilliant premise very well, even if it requires some suspension of disbelief (even Clay himself at one point exclaims, "How many secrets can one school have???"). Hannah's voice is vibrant and gripping, and she spins a twisty narrative, changing whom she's addressing with each side of each tape, which makes you realize that there could be a book for each of them and how they react. Luckily, Clay is a decent person whose head to be in as we experience Hannah's story together. He finds out some of his classmates are less than decent. Rumors, slut-shaming, betrayal, Hannah Baker did not have it easy. And yet Clay is understandably frustrated with her for not reaching out...or maybe he should have reached out...maybe anyone could have...if only someone had listened. Asher effectively captures the muddy ground between "I should have done something to help her" and "She wouldn't let me." Though the people on the tapes led her to suicide, she says, in the end, it was her who made that decision. And so we see the tragedy of the whole situation, helpless to stop it, wanting her to choose a different path. The book covers a lot of important ground for young adult fiction without being too sentimental or preachy for the most part, and it's a page-turner besides that.
Or, well, a disc-changer. Thirteen Reasons Why makes a particularly good audiobook because just like Clay, you get to hear Hannah, and Debra Wiseman nails the character, though I wished for a little more emotion at times. The same goes for Joel Johnstone as Clay. I appreciate the fine art of balancing "read the book" and "act the character" but for a book with such meaty emotional material, a little more of the latter would have been effective. But! The audiobook also has a special treat at the very end that some random Audible.com reviewer named Hannah of all things did not like but I disagree.
Thirteen Reasons Why tells a unique tale that nevertheless is highly relatable to many teenagers. It's compelling and affecting, and the ending, if a bit on the nose, sends exactly the right message....more
Margret Helgadóttir has assembled a monstrous menagerie for Asian Monsters, and I'm proud to be a part of it. I love the variety of monstrous creatureMargret Helgadóttir has assembled a monstrous menagerie for Asian Monsters, and I'm proud to be a part of it. I love the variety of monstrous creatures in the book, many with which I was unfamiliar, and the detailed settings ranging from Pakistan to the Philippines. The creepy black-and-white art adds to the horror, plus there are two comics! I'm interested in checking out African Monsters and European Monsters now as well to learn about how diverse the world of monsters truly is....more
CLONE MURDER MYSTERY IN SPACE. If this premise does not pique your interest, whaaaaaat do you even read books for.
The six-person crew of the aptly namCLONE MURDER MYSTERY IN SPACE. If this premise does not pique your interest, whaaaaaat do you even read books for.
The six-person crew of the aptly named Dormire wake up to discover they've been murdered. That is, their previous selves have been murdered. They're all clones, 25 years into a 400-year journey to a new life where they can leave their criminal pasts behind. If they manage to live that long, since whoever killed them is still on the ship. Newly cloned. One of them.
Mur Lafferty wastes no time piling on the stakes, as the murderer was also a saboteur, and basically nothing on the ship is working anymore. Even the artificial intelligence that controls the ship is having some issues. So no one has any memory of what happened. Not only that, no one has any memory of what happened in the last 25 years. Things are not looking up for the crew of the Dormire, folks.
And so the investigation begins, combined with a space survival story, combined with musings on the nature of identity, combined with a paranoid thriller. Mysterious clues are uncovered. Secrets are revealed. People are attacked.
Lafferty has six characters to work with, and while each has a distinct role and personality, they don't all get equal focus. The back cover copy and the fact that the book starts with Maria Arena marks her as The Protagonist, but it's often disorienting when the POV switches to another character because the style of third-person narration remains the same and the only subtle clue that the POV has changed is that you hear a new character's thoughts. It's important to get into the heads of all the characters, though, because everyone has something to hide, and their backstories are full of bombshells that not only flesh them out but really flesh out the world Lafferty has created, in which society has reacted to cloning in both positive and negative ways, and new technologies have been exploited and adapted to do some pretty horrible shit. Because that's how humanity rolls.
While this may simply be a result of reading in fits and starts after burning through the first third, I found the middle to lag a bit, as everyone was on their own little adventures, and it didn't seem like everything was as intense as it was initially when the situation felt so dire. Even though things did continue to get more and more dire in different ways. But the last third, holy shit. The last third is full of so many wonderful twists, and pretty much all of them play fair with the reader as Lafferty had been laying clues throughout the whole book. And goddamn, that's fun. By the end of the book, you realize you are not reading the book you think you started reading.
Six Wakes is a cool new take on cloning and its possible ramifications, with a healthy sense of humor and a strong dose of spaceship mayhem, not to mention a snarky AI (the best kind of AI). It's so much more than CLONE MURDER MYSTERY IN SPACE!...more
A ghost who works at a suicide prevention hotline? Comical or creepy, depending on the take, but Seanan McGuire aims for neither in the affecting DuskA ghost who works at a suicide prevention hotline? Comical or creepy, depending on the take, but Seanan McGuire aims for neither in the affecting Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day.
McGuire has come up with a unique conception of ghosts, playing with the "dead before their time" idea and giving them the opportunity to reach that time by trading with the living. It's clever if somewhat confusing at times with the way "take" and "give" are used counterintuitively, but it's a very cool idea. Also there are witches. So many kinds of witches.
But McGuire saves most of the exposition for a few chapters into the novella, instead allowing us to learn the rules by following Jenna Pace, who died forty years ago following her sister into the dark. Jenna's instantly sympathetic, and I appreciated her outlook on death as a way to give back to the living, to earn her way to seeing her sister again. And when the ghosts of Manhattan go missing, it's up to her to give back to the dead.
Even if it's a bit handwavey at times, I enjoyed the worldbuilding with regards to ghosts (it's more sketched out with regards to witches). And the plot has a good hook, though I wasn't emotionally invested in the missing ghosts since we didn't know any of them. That being said, I liked the ghost and witch characters we do see, and the story is paced pretty well. The climax has resonance with Jenna's character arc, but the final dispatching of the villain is abrupt. Overall, however, it's a neat ghost story that, like Every Heart a Doorway, stands alone with the potential for more stories in the world....more