Please Do Not Taunt the Octopus takes us into the mind—and laboratory—of Dr. Shannon Abbey, who rightly believes that one should not taunt the octopusPlease Do Not Taunt the Octopus takes us into the mind—and laboratory—of Dr. Shannon Abbey, who rightly believes that one should not taunt the octopus. But despite the silly title, this latest installment in the Newsflesh universe is just as serious and devastating as expected. It starts off rather slow, mostly introducing us to Dr. Abbey and her lab, but her voice carries the narrative. It's fascinating to see this character from the other side, to see the depth behind her crafted "mad scientist" persona. In a way, the whole novella is about the need to go a little mad to stay sane in a mad world. The plot kicks off once Dr. Abbey discovers a mysterious woman in the woods, and her investigation into her identity is a good source of tension. Once she finds out who she is, though, hoo boy, things get kicked up a notch, and the tension just keeps rising up to and through the climax. A small subplot involving a CDC spy doesn't really have a payoff, which was mildly disappointing. I did enjoy Dr. Abbey's hacker friend, though, and hope to see her again in future installments. But what Grant does in this one...I can't even say without spoilers. This one's a real treat for Newsflesh fans, a must-read....more
Jackie Fierro is a pawnshop owner who has been nineteen for as long as she can remember. Diane Crayton is a PTA treasurer whose shapeshifting son, JosJackie Fierro is a pawnshop owner who has been nineteen for as long as she can remember. Diane Crayton is a PTA treasurer whose shapeshifting son, Josh, wonders about his father. The man in the tan jacket has a message for both of them: "KING CITY." Welcome to Welcome to Night Vale.
Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Craynor deftly translate their unique podcast voice into novel form: this book is everything a Welcome to Night Vale fan would want. Delightfully weird and charmingly absurd, it's chockfull of references to Night Vale canon but requires no actual podcast background to appreciate. It would work well as an introduction to the world, as long as the reader is receptive to a world that has something called a "hot milk drawer." The appeal of Night Vale the podcast is that it treats the weird as mundane, and that is, of course, the appeal of the novel: this is a strange world, and Fink and Craynor describe it in straightforward terms. In novel form, their humor is somewhat reminiscent of Douglas Adams, especially in the way they provide a curious perspective on the real world.
Reading Welcome to Night Vale is partly an extended Welcome to Night Vale experience and partly an actual book with characters and a plot, and although the former is more successful than the latter, the latter does work surprisingly well. Early on, Jackie and Diane have weird things happen to them—and you know that if it's weird for Night Vale, it's really weird—and we follow them through their attempts to understand this "KING CITY" message. What is King City? Where is it? How do you get there? What answers will you find there? What are the questions even? But we also follow their regular lives, and two key, related conflicts: Jackie can't remember her childhood or her mother and she wants to connect to her, and Diane wants to connect with her teenage son. Eventually, of course, they must join forces, at which point their conflicts harmonize and resonate, and by the end of the book, I was so emotionally attached to these two women, these two women living in a bizarre town who were even a bit bizarre themselves because they lived by those bizarre rules. It's a mean feat, and it's what pushes it over the edge from "very good book with offbeat voice" to "great book you should read and learn from."
Speaking of learning from this book: the podcast has been one of the most progressive, socially conscious voices in media, and the book continues in that vein. The main characters are both complex women (not necessarily Strong Female Characters in the kickpunching vein but women who have inner lives, flaws, desires, walruses), and the men in the book are pretty terrible (MISANDRY). Diane is briefly described as mixed-race in a nice passage, but it doesn't define her character. Diane doesn't blink an eye at the notion of her son possibly being interested in a boy. Characters of color are scattered throughout the book.
Welcome to Night Vale is delightfully weird and charmingly absurd. I know I already said that, but it's the best way to describe this book that elicits smiles, chuckles, and laughs you have to stifle so people won't look at you funny in public. It's a wonderfully engaging story about mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, friendship, and pink plastic flamingos....more
I really liked the first John Cleaver trilogy, and I knew this novella served as a bridge to the next one, but I did not know that it's not actually aI really liked the first John Cleaver trilogy, and I knew this novella served as a bridge to the next one, but I did not know that it's not actually about John Cleaver, oops. Instead, we get the POV of one of the demons! A very sad demon who eats memories, who becomes attached to the wife of a man whose memories he ate (he doesn't kill people, simply drinks their memories after they're dead). It's a fairly short novella (more of a novelette, really), but it makes you feel for poor Elijah fairly quickly. There are some lovely musings on death, memory, and human connection, and also there are demons....more
In Nova, Samuel R. Delany's classic science fiction novel, a captain recruits a ragtag group of misfits to go on an impossible mission: fly directly tIn Nova, Samuel R. Delany's classic science fiction novel, a captain recruits a ragtag group of misfits to go on an impossible mission: fly directly through a nova in order to harvest a massive amount of energy that will destabilize the economy or something and stick it to his nemesis. It's a rollicking space adventure! Well, it's in space, at least. There's a little adventure? Sometimes there is rollick.
Although the book opens on a character called the Mouse, he's basically the Ishmael of the story, and the coolest thing about him is his sensory-syrynx, an instrument that plays all five senses (kind of like that thing in the original series finale of Futurama). There's also Katin, who spends the whole novel talking about how he's trying to write a novel but he doesn't know what to write about, which gives the book some cute meta-commentary, especially since in this world the novel is a lost, dead art form. Dan has already been through a nova once before and came out blind and deaf in a horrifying way. And then there are these two other guys who have birds on their shoulders or something and speak in alternating dialogue.
But the real story is about Lorq, who gets a huge flashback chapter early on explaining how he came to know some rich siblings named Prince and Ruby, the former with a cyborg arm he's very sensitive about and the latter with...being hot, I guess. It's a race to see who can fuck each other's shit up first!
Delany's worldbuilding is massive, as he imagines centuries of human development and space expansion. The intricate details are fun, but I especially enjoyed various long monologues opining about the state of things, as they helped form a larger picture of what the world is like and how it relates to our own. Katin in particular is alternately nostalgic for and disdainful of the twentieth century, which offers a point of comparison.
Overall, though, I just didn't...care about anything, really? There are some great moments, and Prince makes for a good nemesis (he has a pretty amazing villain monologue at one point), but most of the time I didn't really know what the fuck was going on and why. Despite a clear goal of Get to the Nova set up in the first chapter, the plot meanders a lot, and I couldn't get into it. It's got a vibrant, lush narrative voice, but one that's mildly impenetrable. By the end, I thought the book was okay (and goddamn, what a cheeky fucking ending), but the style wasn't my thing....more
Nimona is a cute, fun-loving, murder-loving shapeshifter. Ballister is a grumpy, robot-armed, science-loving supervillain. They do crime!
I've loved NoNimona is a cute, fun-loving, murder-loving shapeshifter. Ballister is a grumpy, robot-armed, science-loving supervillain. They do crime!
I've loved Noelle Stevenson's art style and her sense of humor for years, and Nimona collects her long-running webcomic in glorious book form. You want a sharp, distinctive art style for a variety of body shapes and skin colors? You got it! You want character-based humor that's silly without being absurd? You got it!
The fantasy world of Nimona makes no sense—it's a medieval-inspired setting yet there's plenty of modern technology—but that's part of its charm. I love how well it actually works. Stevenson overlays a lot of modern sensibilities onto the historical (you know, "historical") narrative and it feels right; that's just the kind of world these people live in. There are dragons and knights and there are also television reporters. It's fun!
On the second page of the book, Nimona turns into a shark and yells, "I'M A SHARK!" and that tells you everything you need to know about Nimona. She's the best, endearing as all hell, even when she's complaining that Ballister won't kill people. Especially when she's complaining that Ballister won't kill people. I loved Nimona, but I found Ballister to be the most compelling character in the book, a very conflicted supervillain who has a complicated relationship and history with the town's resident hero, Sir Goldenloin. Goldenloin seems like a simple enough character at first, but he's also got layers, and all three main players become more interesting and complex over the course of the story.
Page after page—this is a page-turner—I found myself smiling at practically everything, be it Nimona's wacky shapeshifting, her playful antagonism of Ballister, fun action sequences, betrayals and darkness and tragedy and pain wait I did not sign up for this. Stevenson foreshadows early on that things may not be as sunny as they seem, and the shift to a more serious narrative happens with ease. While I think I wanted a bit more from the ending, the epilogue does put a lovely coda on the series. (And I know I have been complaining about how much I want books to be stand-alone but ugh I want more don't go away from me I just met you even though most people have been hanging out with you for years.)
Nimona is an excellent combination of funny and feels, and definitely worth your time....more
What happens to the kids after their portal fantasies? After they've experienced these incredible worlds, some beautiful, some horrific, but all...rigWhat happens to the kids after their portal fantasies? After they've experienced these incredible worlds, some beautiful, some horrific, but all...right. Now that they are trapped in our boring reality.
Many of them end up at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, where they learn how to cope with the real world and become functional members of society again. In the way, this novella is a weird mirror of We Are All Completely Fine, which also explored a group of people with a shared history of fantastical experiences brought together by a mysterious woman to try to support each other. Except here it's mostly girls, and they mostly want to recapture those experiences.
I love the cosmology Seanan McGuire creates for this universe, where so many alternate worlds exist and they can be categorized on various axes, where every girl has a unique story whose full tale is left to the imagination, the small details given more than enough to evoke the different realms and narrative rules. The first half of the novella largely focuses on establishing the world via newcomer Nancy, who misses the Lord of the Dead. Unfortunately for her but fortunately for us, her guide is her incredibly snarky roommate, Sumi, a highly entertainig wild child who is not afraid to speak her mind. We meet a few other key characters, but there are quite a few kids to keep track of by the time the plot kicks off halfway through. It's a compelling plot, but it almost feels superfluous in that the world is so big, inviting so many stories, that the one we get could not possibly quench a reader's narrative desires. (So I guess it's a good thing we're getting more stories in this world! Even though this one ends quite satisfyingly.)
Every Heart a Doorway is a fantasy about fantasies, a story about stories, where everyone from an asexual girl to a trans boy gets to have a portal fantasy. It's a novella that contains so many worlds within it. Like the TARDIS, it's bigger on the inside....more
The God Engines is not your typical Scalzi, which I knew going in. The characters aren't quippy, there's a mildly explicit sex scene, and although theThe God Engines is not your typical Scalzi, which I knew going in. The characters aren't quippy, there's a mildly explicit sex scene, and although there are spaceships, it's more fantasy than science fiction (and there's some elements of horror as well). Because these spaceships, as the title implies, run on gods. Enslaved gods. Captain Tephe has issues with the troublesome god running his ship, but he's chosen—because of his extreme faith—to go on a secret mission for His Lord, where he learns, well, secret things. The God Engines is a very dark take on gods and faith, but, like typical Scalzi, it's a good, fast-paced read. It's almost exclusively male, though: the only women who show up are nameless antagonists, and one character's gender is not identified so they could be a woman (as I initially read but then decided to imagine as a man to see if that would make the novella almost exclusively male after all). Maybe it was a deliberate choice, to represent the male-dominated clergy. In any case, it was neat to see Scalzi outside of his comfort zone....more