I've been slowly moving my old book reviews from the early 2000s over to Goodreads, probably much to the annoyance of my friends here who I'm spammingI've been slowly moving my old book reviews from the early 2000s over to Goodreads, probably much to the annoyance of my friends here who I'm spamming with all those updates, but it had the benefit of reminding me of how much I liked the other Jean Rhys books I've read. So when I found this at a used bookstore for a dollar I snapped it up. (Originally it was 60p... not sure how that pricing math works.)
Three tight, strong stories about women who feel alienated from mid-century society. Each has a really strong and distinct narrative voice, but together they paint such an interesting picture of outsiderness and poverty and anxiety and womanhood and loneliness. Plus her writing is a joy to read. She's so underrated and so good.
Also while I was reading, two tiny pressed flowers fell out from between the pages. I love that so much.
Any of my Goodreads friends want my copy? I'm happy to pop it in the mail....more
[2006 review.] I put this on my to-read list after reading excellent reviews of it and I wasn't disappointed. I'm not a big fan of the short story gen[2006 review.] I put this on my to-read list after reading excellent reviews of it and I wasn't disappointed. I'm not a big fan of the short story genre -- I'd rather get fully immersed in a novel -- but all of these stories are wonderful. The main characters are really believable girls or women, and while there are definite recurring themes, the stories vary enough to stay interesting. Also triple bonus points for a story written in the second person ("Note to Sixth-Grade Self")....more
The first Ryman book I read was his novel The Child Garden, which was quite a mashup of fascinating ideas and bits that were quite difficult to followThe first Ryman book I read was his novel The Child Garden, which was quite a mashup of fascinating ideas and bits that were quite difficult to follow. This book is similar, though the two are generally segregated into different stories. It did well at making me Feel Feelings and Think Thoughts about the worldbuilding, which is my favorite kind of scifi.
The things I loved the most in this collection: the exploration of age and aging in the future; the intersection of aging with technology; interesting extrapolations of both technological and social trends.
Example, from a narrator in a retirement home in the future: "My eyeglasses are running through all the photographs of staff, and finally I see him. I click a bit of my brain, like I’m going to ask him his name. The glasses tell me."
My favorite stories were that one, VAO, about today's young people in old age (replete with geriatric criminal gang); You, about a future where people can co-live other people's lives through recorded realtime experiences called lifeblogs; and Blocked, a great amalgamation of SE Asian culture and apocalyptic planning and gender exploration. Really disliked a couple of the others, but it still comes out ahead. Hooray Geoff Ryman....more
I never know what to expect going into a book of UKL short stories, but I'm always hoping for something from the Hainish cycle. This delivered in spadI never know what to expect going into a book of UKL short stories, but I'm always hoping for something from the Hainish cycle. This delivered in spades, in the three final stories, interconnected around the same idea so interestingly that they could make a nice novella. This is the farthest into the future of anything I've read in this universe (though I should point out that the same characters basically never reoccur between stories/books; I only know when a book is set based on references to technology or politics). In these stories, physicists have developed faster-than-lightspeed travel and are trying it out, but it turns out human perception plays a huge, complicated role in how/whether the technology works. The first story is a crew's very weird experience as the first to test the new churten technology, the second is a delicious, eerie all-is-not-as-it-seems trip to an uncontacted planet, and the third, "Another Story," is a heartwrenching, fascinating story about O and family and regret. One of my favorite things about her writing and this kind of scifi in general is the extrapolation of the human element from science fiction concepts: sure, nearly-as-fast-as-light travel makes you age much more slowly than people back home, but how does that actually feel? I could read this kind of thing forever.
The whole time I was reading these three I had the delicious feeling you get when you've studied all the exact right things for a test: I knew about the religious/scientific overlap of Annares-based physics because I'd read The Dispossessed earlier this year, understood the Gethen family in the Shoby's crew because I finished The Left Hand of Darkness a few months ago, I was excited to read about Dalzul because of the references to him in The Telling, and I knew about sedoretus, the four-person marriages on O, from The Birthday of the World and Other Stories, the mixed-species crews from the word for world is forest.
This is the strength of the Hainish cycle, I think: you can start essentially anywhere among the novels and stories she's written in this universe and not be lost, but the more you read, the more you understand, in fulfilling, interesting ways. The worldbuilding is so rich but so laid back at once, which takes a very deft hand.
Of the other, non-Hainish stories in this book, a few are fine but unremarkable (published quite early, I think). The two that stood out for me were "The Rock that Changed Things," which I read as social commentary story on class/race/overlooked art forms, and "Newton's Sleep," which I so wanted to be at least twice as long. The privileged, white inhabitants of a spaceship, who've fled an earth in chaos, begin having mass hallucinations about everything they've left behind: other races, animals, nature. That's the frustrating part of SF shorts, when there's a big idea trying to fit into just a few pages.
Those last three stories, though! I'll be thinking about them for quite a while....more
Where have these books been all my life? To make the least original observation possible, really good scifi is good at mirroring reality in intriguingWhere have these books been all my life? To make the least original observation possible, really good scifi is good at mirroring reality in intriguing, thought-provoking ways, and this does that perhaps more than any other scifi I've read. The intersections of race and gender and class in this world were so fascinating and moving I kept finding myself wanting to start discussions with people about them, like they were current events.
These stories are about slavery, and the downfall thereof -- the parallels to the old American South are obvious, but in the worldbuilding there were also shades of so many other cultures and current events: the world of Things Fall Apart, ultra-segregated Islamic societies, present day sex trafficking. Fascinating ethnographies, amazing characters, bleak and moving storytelling. Ah, Ursula, I love ya....more
Quelle horreur: I waited too long to write this review and now I've forgotten a lot of details. Retold fairy tales by contemporary authors: some greatQuelle horreur: I waited too long to write this review and now I've forgotten a lot of details. Retold fairy tales by contemporary authors: some great, some not, as you'd expect. Interestingly, they're grouped together by fairy tale, so you get a bunch of Rumpelstiltskin stories in a row and so on. It was kind of fun to see the different takes on the same source material, but ultimately I wish they'd been more randomized -- it got kind of tiresome to see the same story so many times in a row, and pieces that suffered by comparison to better renditions might have seemed just fine on their own.
The wide variety in style, tone and subject was fun: lots of things (maybe even the majority?) set in the present day, in addition to more traditional fairy tale settings, though some of the stories were too surreal for my taste (and I dig experimental).
I really liked all the different takes on the story of the girl who sewed the nettle shirts for her brothers turned into geese. Also the stories by Kim Addonizio, Aimee Bender, Neil Gaiman, and of course my beloved-forever Kelly Link....more
Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books were some of my absolute favorites while I was growing up, but I found when I came back to them a few years ago that tUrsula Le Guin's Earthsea books were some of my absolute favorites while I was growing up, but I found when I came back to them a few years ago that they left me relatively cold; the language was more formal than I like in my books these days. Enter these short stories about life on a number of planets in the same universe. This is scifi anthropology at its finest: really interesting speculative concepts explored and taken to their logical extremes, without sacrificing strong characterization or detail. Someone else's review calls them ethnographies, which is very apt.
Each story was better than the last; I loved the planet where women outnumbered men 16 to 1, and the world reminiscent of the Civil War South, and all the others. Best of all was Paradises Lost, about life on a multigeneration spaceship: it's possibly the best piece of spacefaring fiction I've read, which is saying a lot. She also manages to do Weird Alien Sexuality without being either boring or gross, which is impressively rare.
So good. Can't wait to read more of her scifi....more
Five short stories/novellas about African children in horrific circumstances. Often compelling and interesting, but really hard to read, particularlyFive short stories/novellas about African children in horrific circumstances. Often compelling and interesting, but really hard to read, particularly the last two stories, because the subject matter was so difficult.
One story in particular, Luxurious Hearses, I felt would have been much stronger if it had been much shorter. Then again, maybe feeling interminable was exactly the point....more
Collection of Neil Gaiman's miscellaneous writings, many from early in his career. A couple of the stories were great, most were fine, but I found theCollection of Neil Gaiman's miscellaneous writings, many from early in his career. A couple of the stories were great, most were fine, but I found the "poems" basically unreadable. (At one point he flat out says that it's just a prose story with random line breaks added.) Also egregious use of Papyrus font in the edition I read.
My favorite story was fairly atypical for Gaiman: a scifi piece about a cancer-curing pill that lets people change gender at will. There was also one about a schoolboy obsessed with pulp novels that was pretty great, but the utter clunker of a last line almost ruined the whole thing.
Good: having little writeups about each story -- it's always fun to get glimpses into what the author was thinking. Bad: putting those writeups at the beginning of the book, when I'm obviously not ready to read them yet, but not QUITE at the beginning of the book, so I'm always flipping around between pages 20 and 40 trying to find the bit for the story I just read....more
My previous experience with Geoff Ryman can be boiled down to: great concepts, when I understand what the hell is going on, so I worried this book ofMy previous experience with Geoff Ryman can be boiled down to: great concepts, when I understand what the hell is going on, so I worried this book of novellas might be the same. Happily, the stories were all way more comprehensible than I'd worried, and the concepts were just as original.
My favorite story was probably the last one, "Unconquered Country", about war in a futuristic Cambodia; the worldbuilding -- personal story layered over cultural context layered over the scifi elements -- reminded me of Maureen McHugh. I also really liked "Fan", about artificial intelligence and fannish obsession, and the chilling "O Happy Day" -- "futuristic holocaust spec fiction," to quote another reviewer.
The first story, "Fall of Angels", is probably the most difficult to get into, because it's the most hard science-y, but it mitigates that with gay space angels and stream of consciousness solar aliens and sociopolitical history.
All in all this made me much more eager to read more Ryman....more
I picked this up at the library because it had short stories by both Kelly Link and Diana Wynne Jones. Unfortunately the rest of the stories were pretI picked this up at the library because it had short stories by both Kelly Link and Diana Wynne Jones. Unfortunately the rest of the stories were pretty hit or miss, with more miss than hit. My favorite two, besides the Kelly Link (which I'd already read; WRITE MORE, PLS, KELLY), were Quill by Carol Emshwiller (really intriguing storytelling that flirts with first person plural) and Kara Dalkey's Hives, which is like Veronica Mars meets futuristic Mean Girls....more
The only other Carter I'd read is Wise Children, so it was great to discover her short stories are just as good. These riff on existing fictional or hThe only other Carter I'd read is Wise Children, so it was great to discover her short stories are just as good. These riff on existing fictional or historical figures: Lizzie Borden, Midsummer Night's Dream characters, Peter and the Wolf. Stellar writing and a great hand for atmosphere (although I felt there were some troubling racial connotations in "Black Venus," the story about Baudelaire's mistress)....more
I've been obsessed with retold fairy tales since, oh, early elementary school. These are NOT for elementary schoolers, but they're fantastic: dark, goI've been obsessed with retold fairy tales since, oh, early elementary school. These are NOT for elementary schoolers, but they're fantastic: dark, gorgeous, horrifying, scintillating, gory, smart, feminist, and really really well written. The first story, the Blackbeard retelling, was definitely the best, I think. ...more
In the imaginary contest I've created pitting Amy Bloom against Lorrie Moore for my affections, I think Amy Bloom is winning.
The last story in here isIn the imaginary contest I've created pitting Amy Bloom against Lorrie Moore for my affections, I think Amy Bloom is winning.
The last story in here is particularly cool; Google tells me people are describing it as metafiction. And I want to recommend the title story to everyone I know who's interested in trans issues....more
I didn't like this as much as her earlier book, Self-Help Stories, which surprised me, since I'd heard this was better. The stories were a little tooI didn't like this as much as her earlier book, Self-Help Stories, which surprised me, since I'd heard this was better. The stories were a little too samey for me to really love the collection. (One woman who knows she's being cheated on but fails to do anything about it is fine; get a whole flock of them in a row and you start to get frustrated with them.) Also she did less experimenting with form, which was one of my favorite things about Self-Help.
Then again, it's still Lorrie Moore, and there are still sentences and passages so fantastic they make you catch your breath and go back to read them over again:
"Though she would have preferred long ago to have died, fled, gotten it all over with, the body--Jesus, how the body!--took its time. It possessed its own wishes and nostalgias. You could not just turn neatly into light and slip out the window. You couldn't go like that. Within one's own departing but stubborn flesh, there was only the long, sentimental, piecemeal farewell. Sir? A towel. Is there a towel? The body, hauling sadness, pursued the soul, hobbled after. The body was like a sweet, dim dog trotting lamely toward the gate as you tried slowly to drive off, out the long driveway. Take me, take me, too, barked the dog. Don't go, don't go, it said, running along the fence, almost keeping pace but not quite, its reflection a shrinking charm in the car mirrors as you trundled past the viburnium, past the pin grove, past the property line, past every last patch of land, straight down the swallowing road, disappearing and disappearing. Until at last it was true: you had disappeared."...more
Speculative short stories. Some I found only middling, but some were great -- the werewolf one will haunt me for a while -- and I enjoyed her knack foSpeculative short stories. Some I found only middling, but some were great -- the werewolf one will haunt me for a while -- and I enjoyed her knack for gradual reveals....more
This isn't due out until October, and I'd been counting the days, but Mairead got me an advance copy! I LOVE KELLY LINK, guys.
This has three previouslThis isn't due out until October, and I'd been counting the days, but Mairead got me an advance copy! I LOVE KELLY LINK, guys.
This has three previously published stories (including the awesomely creepy "The Specialist's Hat") and a bunch of new ones. I think my favorite was (the almost novella-length) "The Surfer," which was exactly like if Kelly Link wrote a Maureen McHugh story -- a human story in a nearish future with a fascinating political and technological backdrop. So awesome.
As far as what makes this YA versus her other books, all I can really put my finger on is that there were fewer contemporary stories -- not only the scifi one mentioned above, but a couple of straight-up fantasy stories. All of which were great, of course.
Fantastic short stories, excellent, enjoyable writing. These focus on the complex, sometimes transgressive relationships between people, especially faFantastic short stories, excellent, enjoyable writing. These focus on the complex, sometimes transgressive relationships between people, especially families. She does that incredibly difficult thing, conveying depths of emotion without ever coming out and saying what characters are feeling. She basically rocks the show-don't-tell rule.
And she does it with such a light touch it seems easy. These characters are icebergs, and she makes you feel the hidden mass of what they're feeling without ever hitting you over the head. I also loved how she uses small details of everyday life and daily routines to create an atmosphere. I'm definitely going to track down more of her stuff....more
Imaginative, well-written speculative fiction. Lots of cool what-ifs: if the Tower of Babel hadn't been destroyed (which the author describes in a notImaginative, well-written speculative fiction. Lots of cool what-ifs: if the Tower of Babel hadn't been destroyed (which the author describes in a note as Babylonian science fiction), hyperintelligence, a documentary-style story and more. The title story made me cry, and I keep thinking about it a week later.
And I loved that there were notes at the end of the book where the author talked a little about each story -- all short story books should have that.
Also, awesomely, this is a whole scifi book that ISN'T offensive toward women....more