redheadedfemme: (Default)
What the #@&% Is That? by John Joseph Adams

(Note: "Grawlix" are the symbols in this book's title, used in lieu of "fuck".)

4 of 5 stars

John Joseph Adams has a well-deserved reputation as an editor; I own several of his anthologies, and they're usually high-quality stuff. For this book, he teams up with Douglas Cohen.

This anthology's theme is reflected in the title: in every story, a character must say "What the [blank] is that." (Usually "fuck," although there was a "hell" and a "devil.") According to the forward, the book was originally slated to be a Lovecraft mythos anthology--and it is still dedicated to Cthulhu--but the subject matter was eventually expanded to include all monsters. In my opinion, this is a good thing, as it enlarged the anthology's scope (and, I believe, its quality) considerably. (Not that I'm down on Cthulhu in and of itself, but twenty stories of blood, guts, slime, gore and various unidentifiable body liquids and/or parts would get tiresome after a while.) The horrors here are wide-ranging, from the surreal to the straightforward Lovecraftian to an old-fashioned werewolf noir.

Most of the stories ranged from good to very good, although the one I downright disliked, Laird Barron's "Mobility," was unfortunately the lead-off tale. Needless to say, these stories are not lighthearted, and more than half of them have depressing downer endings. This naturally flows from the anthology's theme, but be warned. Some highlights include "Little Widow," by Maria Dahvana Headley, a delightful magical realist piece about three sisters, the survivors of a cult, and angelic dinosaurs (and just about the only story with a halfway happy ending); Christopher Golden's "The Bad Hour," about an Iraqi war veteran dealing with PTSD, both the normal and the supernatural kind; Seanan McGuire's "#ConnollyHouse #WeShouldntBeHere," a story told as a series of Tweets that overcomes its gimmicky premise to become genuinely scary (you have to pay attention to the timestamps with this one); and "We All Make Sacrifices: A Sam Hunter Adventure," by Jonathan Maberry, the aforementioned "werewolf noir" story and possibly my favorite in the book.

This anthology is well worth your time. Recommended.

 
redheadedfemme: (headbanging writer)
Red Right Hand by Levi Black

3 of 5 stars

I wish there were separate stars for plot, characterization, etc, because I would rate this book higher than it is. In terms of plot, pacing, and atmosphere, it passes with flying colors. But there is one element of the protagonist's characterization I absolutely abhorred, and it damn near ruined the book for me.

This is another of the recent crop of Cthulhu Mythos reimaginings, but this author plays it completely straight. The hook is simple: “Imagine that one of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones (in this case, Nyarlathotep) showed up at your door and said, ‘You work for me now.’ ” (From the back cover blurb) Needless to say, this book is bloody, gory, slimy, and overflowing with all sorts of bodily fluids, both human and alien. A strong stomach is required, and I would recommend not trying to read it during a meal. That said, if you can stand it, it is a fast-paced rocket ride, a dark Lovecraftian noir that I’m sure many people will like.
However )


The book ends suddenly with the main plot thread unresolved, so expect a sequel. I'm not sure I will be reading it, though.
redheadedfemme: (Default)
Red Right Hand by Levi Black

3 of 5 stars

I wish there were separate stars for plot, characterization, etc, because I would rate this book higher than it is. In terms of plot, pacing, and atmosphere, it passes with flying colors. But there is one element of the protagonist's characterization I absolutely abhorred, and it damn near ruined the book for me. 
 
This is another of the recent crop of Cthulhu Mythos reimaginings, but this author plays it completely straight. The hook is simple: “Imagine that one of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones (in this case, Nyarlathotep) showed up at your door and said, ‘You work for me now.’ ” (From the back cover blurb) Needless to say, this book is bloody, gory, slimy, and overflowing with all sorts of bodily fluids, both human and alien. A strong stomach is required, and I would recommend not trying to read it during a meal. That said, if you can stand it, it is a fast-paced rocket ride, a dark Lovecraftian noir that I’m sure many people will like.
 
However )
 
Gah. There is an absolutely unnecessary bit of characterization that made me angrier the further along I read in the book. The main character, Charlotte Tristan (Charlie) Moore, H.P. Lovecraft's great-grandniece, has a Tortured Past that includes gang rape. This, to put it bluntly, is gratuitous bullshit. I mean, for frak's sake, the basic setup (The Elder Gods fighting over humans and the planet) is quite fraught enough all on its own, without dragging in this disgusting bit of sexism that adds nothing to the character and the stakes. I am so sick of this trope. Anyone thinking about trying this book, be warned. 
 
The book ends suddenly with the main plot thread unresolved, so expect a sequel. I'm not sure I will be reading it, though.
redheadedfemme: (Default)
Wonder Woman by Grant Morrison

3 of 5 stars

This is apparently yet another reboot (or "reimagining") of Wonder Woman. Most of us know the basic story, of course. So my goal in reading something like this is to see if the writer can find something different, add some new tweak to the legend. Looking at it from this angle, the results were definitely mixed. 
 
First, the upside: writer Grant Morrison seems to have a good grasp on the characters of Diana, Hippolyta and the other women of Paradise Island. Diana is very young (she's described by one man as a "teenage swimsuit model who can benchpress a Jeep") and at the beginning of her journey. Needless to say, she gets quite a shock when she first sets foot in "man's world." Etta Candy has become Beth Candy, who is a larger-than-life delight. This writer, at least, does not sugarcoat the obvious: with no men to be found, the women of Paradise Island can and do form relationships with one another. Queen Hippolyta is a complex figure, wanting to protect the daughter she created out of her anger and the seed of Hercules.
 
The most drastic change is Steve Trevor: he is now African-American. As such, he states that "like a lot of people in 'man's world,' my ancestors were enslaved and persecuted by men with too much power." He does not want to see that fate happen to the women of Amazonia. But Diana, the daughter of Hercules, is, as her mother describes her, "proud, restless and rebellious." The final panel shows her taking her robot airplane and setting it down in the middle of a town square, coming out on the wing and saying, "Hola, Man's world--it's time we had a talk." 
 
The art is...well. It could be better. It's way too busy in some panels. The pacing of the story seems a bit uneven in spots. I think this reboot shows a lot of potential, but it's not quite there yet.

 
redheadedfemme: (Default)
Feedback by Mira Grant

2 of 5 stars

If I'm to be honest (and there's no point in writing this if I'm not), this book disappointed me. I am a great fan of the original Newsflesh trilogy. The first book, Feed, made me cry (and anyone who's read it will know what I'm talking about). Shaun and Georgia Mason, Buffy and the rest are great characters, and the premise pretty much reinvigorated the standard zombie-apocalypse genre, I think. 
 
This book continues the story of that world, taking place concurrently with the events in Feed. Our narrator, Aislinn "Ash" North, is an Irwin (those who, in this universe, actually get out in the field and kill zombies). She and her team of bloggers are covering the Democratic candidate for President, just as the Masons were covering the Republican candidate in Feed. We get quite a few zombie attacks in this book, there is a conspiracy revealed that is much more straightforward than the somewhat convoluted plotting in the original trilogy, and our team ends up on the run in the wilderness. 
 
All well and good. However, the reason this book falls flat for me is the characters. To put it bluntly, despite the author's best efforts, these people are simply not as interesting as the Masons. Ash marries her Newsie (news blogger on their team), Ben Ross, to get a green card to work in the country, but she's really in love with her Fictional (fiction writer on their team), Audrey Wen, and the three of them are in some sort of fake polyamorous relationship. Then there's the other member of the team, genderfluid Mat, who unfortunately gets offed (or zombified, rather) about two-thirds of the way through the book. Mat's characterization, as far as I'm concerned, is not well done. I realize the author is trying to be consistent by calling this person "they" and not describing them, but the end result of this is that the character came off as vague and opaque, and I didn't care about this person very much. 
 
The writing is as good as ever, but the story just sort of peters out at the end, with an unsatisfying conclusion. To me, this book is ranked at the bottom of the Mira Grant books I've read, behind the original Newsflesh trilogy and the Parasitology trilogy. 


redheadedfemme: (Default)
 The Fireman by Joe Hill

3 of 5 stars

To make a long(ish) review short (and after completing this 747-page behemoth, I have a fresh appreciation of brevity) this book is basically Joe Hill's version of The Stand.
 
The story leans more towards the science fiction end of the spectrum than horror. There are a few elements that might be construed as supernatural, and they seem a bit out of place with the rest of the narrative. Instead of The Stand's virus, we have a spore that inhabits human hosts and eventually, in most cases, results in spontaneous combustion. This inevitably leads to the breakdown of society and the usual attendant horrors; anarchy, mass death and starvation, and roving tribes of people exterminating the "burners," the infected. 
 
Unlike Stephen King's magnum opus, Joe Hill keeps a tight focus on one character, nurse Harper Grayson. He makes it a point to characterize her as an ordinary Everywoman. Harper is not some kind of kickass urban fantasy heroine, but rather someone trying her best to cope with a terrifying time. She becomes pregnant at the beginning of the outbreak (the timeline of the story is the length of her pregnancy), and nearly the entire nine months is spent running and hiding from her crazy, vicious SOB of a husband, who threw a fit when Harper wouldn't join him in his planned suicide pact after they became infected. (Jakob is a bit over the top as a villain, actually.) After her first escape from Jakob, she falls in with a group of infected people who are learning to control the spore; apparently the hormone oxytocin can convince it not to incinerate its host. (Some people, including the titular character, demonstrate an impressive cooperation with the spore, which gives them incredible flame-generating powers. Unfortunately, some of this stretched my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point.) This group gradually turns into a rather frightening cult, which takes up most of the middle part of the book. There is a lot of fighting, running and hiding, and a great many character deaths (including the completely unnecessary death of a cat--come on, Joe. That was just gratuitous and wrong). I suppose this is intended to keep the reader on edge, George RR Martin style: none of our supposed protagonists are safe. It got damned tiresome after 700 pages. 
 
In fact, I will say right here that 2-300 pages of the book could have been chopped out with no great loss. This is not to say that Joe Hill is a bad writer. To the contrary, his prose is excellent. He writes good action scenes. I don't think his characterizations are as compelling as his father's; he seemed to be setting a few scenes up to make the reader cry, or at least tear up a bit. I did none of that. (Except when Mr Truffles died, and it's telling that I felt worse over the death of a cat then the demise of the Fireman.) I did finish this book, but it took more than a week and I was dragging at the end. 
 
So: very much a mixed bag. If Joe Hill ever writes a normal-sized book, I might take a chance on that. But I'm not diving into one of his doorstops again.

 
redheadedfemme: (powerpuff 2)
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

5 of 5 stars

This is a tricky book to recommend, because the basic premise is pretty triggery and requires the reader to have all their spoons in a row. Even me, and I’m usually not put off by such things. So, here is a very basic rehash for readers to decide if they can handle this book, because the author is uncompromising and relentless in taking his horrifying premise to its logical end.
Here be spoilers )

Needless to say, this is a tough book to read, and I wouldn't blame anyone, especially people of color, for being unable to finish it. It is beyond bleak in many ways. But it is unforgettable.
redheadedfemme: (Default)
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

5 of 5 stars

This is a tricky book to recommend, because the basic premise is pretty triggery and requires the reader to have all their spoons in a row. Even me, and I’m usually not put off by such things. So, here is a very basic rehash for readers to decide if they can handle this book, because the author is uncompromising and relentless in taking his horrifying premise to its logical end.
 
Here be spoilers )
 
I've heard some complaining that the world created here could never have happened. Perhaps so. But SF, as a genre, regularly deals with some pretty impossible things (faster than light travel, a staple of space opera, just for starters) and for me, if the book makes its own internal sense and sticks to it, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief. The author does not flinch in exploring the ramifications of his premise, up to and including the final twist, the Hard Four's version of the Final Solution. So many of those ramifications discussed along the way, in throwaway lines and matter-of-fact details (the prose is tight and restrained, almost Hemingwayesque, which serves to drive home the horrors of the story being told), are so uncomfortably close to the reality we live in...it gave me the shivers, and still does, just thinking about it. 
 
Needless to say, this is a tough book to read, and I wouldn't blame anyone, especially people of color, for being unable to finish it. It is beyond bleak in many ways. But it is unforgettable. 


redheadedfemme: (Default)
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5 by G. Willow Wilson

5 of 5 stars

When I reviewed the previous Ms. Marvel, Last Days, I noted that the series had regained its usual quality following what I felt was a disappointing third volume, Crushed. This installment completes this return to form, taking its place alongside my favorite so far of the series, Generation Why
 
I must admit that I haven't (so far) read any of the other relevant Marvel storylines, so I have no idea what went into Kamala Khan's becoming an Avenger. Not to worry. G. Willow Wilson does an admirable job of compressing these outside developments into three finely-drawn pages, and then we go back to the themes that make Super Famous such an excellent addition to the series. 

SPOILERS...SPOILERS....SPOILERS
 
In this volume, Kamala is torn between her duties as an Avenger and her family and friends. We realize, before she does, that she is stretching herself way too thin, and is trying, as she says, to be "too many things to too many people." Before this is resolved at the end, we are treated to two entertaining stories that drive the point home. In the first, her best friend Bruno (who she told in Last Days she couldn't be with because she had to devote herself to being Ms. Marvel) finds a girlfriend, Michaela "Mike" Miller. (By the way, Mike is an awesome addition to the series, and I hope we see more of her.) There is a bit of complicated arglebargle about Jersey City being taken over by a development company, Hope Yards, which turns out to be a front for the Avengers' old enemy, Hydra. Kamala and Mike work together to defeat Hydra (at least this time) and send it scurrying, but the tension between Kamala's private and superhero lives is driven home. 
 
In the second story, Kamala's brother Aamir meets a young woman named Tyesha and wants to get married. Kamala's attempts to continue in school, help with the planning of her brother's wedding, and bust Jersey City's bad guys lead her to create copies of herself, aka "golems," so she can be in three places at once. This, of course, gets out of hand, and she ends up fighting a giant version of herself, and calling in Captain Marvel and Iron Man to help her out. 
 
(Yes, Tony Stark has a couple of brief cameos here. These lead to the single funniest panel in the entire book, where he folds his arms, looks down at Kamala, and demands an explanation: "Spill it. Whatever it is. Otherwise, you're gonna have to explain the whole thing to Patriot Pants, and you know how he is." One can only imagine Robert Downey Jr. delivering this line.)
 
After taking in Carol Danvers' advice, Kamala realizes where her priorities lie. The themes of home and family espoused here may be simple, but sometimes the most basic ideas are the most powerful. In any case, Super Famous is delightful, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

 
redheadedfemme: (Default)
The End of the Perfect 10 by Dvora Meyers

3 of 5 stars

This book was okay. The subject matter--the scoring format and history of gymnastics, from the viewpoint of the women who did or did not score a perfect 10--was interesting, and the author seems to have done her research, but she is not the most exciting writer in the world. She pales next to, for instance, Laura Hillenbrand. Also, with all the recent articles coming out about sexual abuse in gymnastics, the fact that she does not delve into this subject seems a glaring omission. Still, this is a fairly engaging book, especially when the author talks about individual competitors, such as Simone Biles.

I wouldn't buy it (and haven't), but you won't waste your time reading it. 

 
redheadedfemme: (Default)
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4 by G. Willow Wilson

4 of 5 stars

This volume of Ms. Marvel is much better than its predecessor, Crushed. That disappointed me, but in this volume we're back to the series' usual standard of excellence. 
 
I haven't read the overall Marvel storyline, so I don't have any idea what's going on with the "incursion zone" appearing over Manhattan. To my mind, it doesn't really matter, as this volume is full of excellent character moments. Kamala meets up with her idol, Carol Danvers; she reveals who she is to her mother; she talks things out with her best friend, Bruno, and tells him that for now she must concentrate on being Ms. Marvel; she reconnects with a couple of friends; and in the most interesting vignette, we get to see a little bit of Kamala's brother Aamir, who just wants to "go to the mosque, volunteer, and read books." 
 
The only complaint I have about this is that this volume only collects three of the comics, and the back half of the book is taken up by an Amazing Spider-Man crossover, which is pretty much filler and nowhere near as interesting. 
 
I'm not into graphic novels to the extent that many people are, but this series has for the most part been a winner. Let's hope this high level of quality continues. 


redheadedfemme: (taking book)
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

5 of 5 stars

This is the sequel to this year's Hugo Award winner for Best Novel, The Fifth Season. That was the best book I read last year, and I was thrilled when it took home the rocket. This second book of the trilogy is, I think, just as good as the first, but in a different way.
 
(Warning: Spoilers follow. Proceed at your own risk.)
 
Second books in trilogies are often accused of being boring, or not as good as the first. To be sure, they have a necessary and unavoidable task, which is to set up the third and final book. Nevertheless, if handled right, they can become their own unique thing, especially if they take the story in unexpected directions. A prime example of this is the middle book of Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy, Ancillary Sword. I am of the minority who liked that book better than the first volume, the multiple award-winning Ancillary Justice, not the least because the sharp right turn it took and the seeds it planted paid off beautifully in the final book. The Obelisk Gate doesn't take this particular tack--the story continues as first established in The Fifth Season, and the narrative is more conventional (which is a relative term, as the POVs are either second person or third person, present tense). The protagonist Essun's chapters are still told in second person, but we don't have the braided three-character narrative, which is gradually revealed to be one person (Essun) under different names and at different points in her life. 
 
What The Obelisk Gate does do, and do damn well, is take a spectacularly deep dive into its characters: Essun, her daughter Nassun, and the stone eater, Hoa, who is revealed to be the actual narrator of the story, with his sections in first person (and in first person as if talking to Essun--I'm not sure what "tense" that would be). Nassun's chapters are heartbreaking, the story of a little girl who is gradually forced to become what she thinks is a monster, a monster who will destroy everyone she loves. This is part of the setup for the third book, where I'm afraid, if I'm reading this right, Essun and her daughter will square off in a deadly, world-changing conflict. 
 
This book also answers a great many questions raised by the first volume. When I read The Fifth Season, I thought it had a very science-fiction feel, with the heavy emphasis on geology and what seemed to be psychic powers. In this book, the concept of "magic" as the basis for orogeny is introduced, although it's a unique definition of "magic" that, to me, still has a definite SF feel. (Your mileage may vary, but this book could be called "science fantasy" instead of "science fiction.") I love it when things are explained and those explanations make sense within the context of the story, as these do. 
 
Overall, this book is not quite the shocker The Fifth Season was. That story shook its readers (or at least this one) to the core, with its rich setting, its assured writing, its spot-on pacing and characterizations, and its unique structure. Now, in this book, the settings, characters and conflicts are set, so it is a quieter sort of story than its predecessor. Nevertheless, it is a very rewarding tale in its own right, and I can hardly wait for the final volume.

 
 
redheadedfemme: (Default)
Invasive by Chuck Wendig

2 of 5 stars

This book proudly wears its references on its sleeve. It's the child of Them! and Jurassic Park, with a large helping, now that I think about it, of George R.R. Martin's Sandkings. This is, depending on your point of view, either a good thing or a bad thing; the book is either paying homage or shamelessly ripping off. Personally, I think Wendig's book suffers by comparison to all three, and in my view it is not as memorable as any of its forebears. 
 
This does not exactly make it a bad read, but it is not an outstanding one. It is fast, furious, snarky, depressing, harrowing in places, and unfortunately forgettable. I'm sure a movie will be made from it one of these days, but I won't be seeing it. 
 
My main complaints are with the characters and the pacing. With the exception of the protagonist, the characterizations are shallow, and I didn't care about any of these people. (I eventually grew to resent the one- to three-page vignettes of characters that only existed to be devoured by our genetically engineered killer ants. At least Chuck Wendig was an equal-opportunity fridger--both men and women suffered this fate. But I would rather not have been introduced to them at all than to repeatedly see how many ingenious ways the ants can kill people.) The protagonist, Hannah Stander, was actually a well-fleshed-out character, and I wish the story had been told from her first-person point of view rather than the frantic, jittery third-person present-tense POV used. This ties in with my second complaint: the relentless, damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead pacing once the action gets going. There was no time to think or breathe. Again, that will make for a good film, but I don't care for it in a book. There has to be a chance to pause and reflect, to give the reader time to absorb what's happened and get ready for the next plot twist. 
 
Ultimately, this was a summer beach read, nothing more. It's not something that's going to stick with me, or a book I will care to revisit. 



 
 
redheadedfemme: (Default)
Breath Of Earth by Beth Cato

5 of 5 stars

One reason I bought this book is its fantastic cover. It intrigued me: who is this woman and what is she holding? Then, after downloading the sample chapter from Amazon, I was hooked. I had to know how this story ended. 
 
This is a steampunk alternate history, incorporating real-life characters (Theodore Roosevelt was prominently mentioned, though he never appears; I hope he shows up in the sequel) and tackling some sobering themes, including oppression of women and persecution of Chinese immigrants. The latter is a little-known and shameful history in early 20th-century California, as the author explains in her Author's Note. She had to do considerable research for this book, as the story is set at the time of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 (there is a bibliography of her sources in the back). It shows. The scenes set in the quake and its aftermath are harrowing. 
 
But her worldbuilding impressed me the most. This is the most important element of a good story for me, followed by characterization and plot, and Cato aced all three. This is is a world where magic and mythical creatures--here called "fantastics"-- exist (one small detail that tickled me was an offhand comment about unicorns pulling wealthy people's carts in the San Francisco Heights), magically powered airships roam the skies, and "geomancers" prop up world economies and wield vast power. They are defined thusly:
 
Geomancy, however, was a rare skill among people and relied upon kermanite, an even rarer crystal that acted as a supreme electrical capacitor. Wardens absorbed the earth's energy from earthquakes and then channeled their power into kermanite, which was then installed in all varieties of machines. No other battery could keep airships aloft.
 
Kermanite had stimulated the Roman Empire two millennia past; now it was the Manifest Destiny of the United Pacific [United States and Japan; in this history, Japan and its airships helped the North win the Civil War] to govern the world, thanks in no small part to geomancers.
 
Unfortunately, the attitudes toward women in this history remain the same, and our protagonist, Ingrid Carmichael, a woman of color, bears the brunt. She is a female geomancer who is not supposed to exist, and she struggles under the same discrimination and constraints. Beth Cato sets all this up admirably in the first couple of chapters, and then we are plunged into a crackling good story, with mystery, intrigue, romance, well-developed secondary characters (including a transgender man) and culminating in the terrifying set piece of the earthquake. The book doesn't end there, but damn those chapters were outstanding. 
 
It's always a pleasure to take a chance on a brand-new author and be so well rewarded. If you've never given Beth Cato a try, read this book. You won't regret it.


 
redheadedfemme: (Default)
Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers

2 of 5 stars

This was....okay. It's basically a court intrigue with a thin veneer of science fiction and space opera slathered on top. It follows a pretty standard formula: the heiress who fled home gets dragged back, the empire is in chaos, her family members are being murdered, and she has to decide whether to take up that life she turned her back on. Along the way she picks up unexpected allies, proves to be doggedly hard to kill, and in the end is crowned Empress after all. 
 
That could be a good story in the right hands, but unfortunately this isn't. The writing is just adequate, and the characterizations are shallow. There's an attempt to create a unique culture, a pseudo-India (as in the subcontinent, not First Nations) transplanted to another planet--most characters have Indian names, there is a pantheon of Indian gods, and everyone wears saris--that I wish the author had never included because it just comes off as painful and awkward. Another not-so-great worldbuilding idea is that the society is matriarchal because the radiation from when the planet was first settled killed off most of the men, the women assumed leadership roles, and now men are viewed as being generally inferior and incapable of ruling, or some such. Obviously that's a commentary on today's society, but it's not terribly well-thought-out. 
 
This book isn't really bad; it falls more into the category of "a mile wide and an inch deep." It's a decent read, but it lacks the thought, depth and spark that would make me search out the sequel. 


redheadedfemme: (Default)
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

This is my second five-star read of the year, and as far as I am concerned it is knock-your-socks-off good. Having said that, this is not an easy read by any means. In fact, the first chapter alone will undoubtedly put off many potential readers, who will wind up scratching their heads and asking: "What the hell is going on?" This is due to the book's extreme in media res format; you are thrown into the middle of a battle and introduced quickly to the main characters, with no explanation or backstory. The narrative is, basically, sink or swim. 
 
This book is set in a far-future universe, with protagonists who are called "human" but share very little of what I would consider human, with technology that could be described equally as virtual reality, magic, or Arthur C. Clarke's formula of tech so advanced that it is indistinguishable from magic. Any of the three might fit, and part of the fun is figuring out your own formula for how everything works. The reader has to do this because, again, there are no explanations. Yoon Ha Lee is apparently the anti-infodump writer, although he does rather better with his characters, especially his undead general, Shuos Jedao (whose consciousness, or uploaded brain, or something, has been imprisoned for four hundred years in a "black cradle," and hauled out only when the ruling hexarchate wants to put down another rebellion).
 
This book sounds confusing as all get-out, but it sucked me right in and I didn't want to leave. The protagonist, Kel Charis, who is put in charge of quashing the rebellion at the Fortress of Scattered Needles and unleashes Shuos Jedao to do it, is a fascinating character: singled out because of her penchant for mathematics (which becomes bloody damn important at the end), and thrown into the middle of something she does not know how to handle. The relationship between Charis and Jedao is the heart of the book. 
 
This book will greatly reward re-reads, I think, because in going through it again the reader can pick up more clues about the technology (and what "calendrical rot" means--I still haven't quite figured that out, although I think it has something to do with these "calendars" influencing the fabric of reality in a given location). In any case, this book is breathtakingly original, and it will be up for awards next year if I have anything to say about it.

 
redheadedfemme: (Default)
 Generation Roe by Sarah Erdreich

3 of 5 stars

This little book is a good primer on the state of the pro-choice movement in America. It was written in 2012, long before the recent Supreme Court decision striking down HB 2, Texas' terrible abortion law, and thus is somewhat pessimistic about the movement's future. Despite the recent SCOTUS victory, abortion rights are still under siege in many areas of the country, as this book points out. 
 
Topics include "Hands-Off Training," discussing the (lack of) training offered by many medical schools in how to perform abortions; "(Mis)Representations of Reality," pointing out the distorted view of abortions, a common medical procedure (1 in 3 American women has an abortion during her reproductive lifetime), offered on TV and movies; and "I Went to the March for Life, and All I Got Was This Lousy Fear of Choice," the chronicle of the author attending the March for Life and visiting a so-called "Crisis Pregnancy Center." The most interesting part of the latter section is the author's recounting of literature she picked up in said CPC, and how dishonest it is. From page 197:
 
"I knew going into this CPC that I would not receive any pro-choice information. But I was still shocked at just how factually inaccurate and misleading the abortion information actually was. Just because a clinic is 'faith-based,' as the woman I met with pointed out--to say nothing of not 'abortion-minded'--does not give it the right to provide women and their partners with lies." 
 
Huh. Well, color me shocked (not). 
 
This book is well-written but doesn't tackle its subjects in any great depth, unlike another book I recently read on the topic, Katha Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. It's certainly worth reading, however.


 
redheadedfemme: (Default)
The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

4 of 5 stars

This book is pretty much a grab bag. Neil Gaiman, one of the reigning rockstars of comic book and fantasy writers, started out as a journalist. That training still comes through in many of these pieces; there's a sort of laidback evenhandedness in how he approaches his subject matter, even when he's definitely advocating an opinion, as many of these pieces do. (Libraries and literacy are apparently two of his favorite topics.) Neil's trademark style and voice are front and center in this book, a sort of wry British drollery that can carry the reader through some things that would seem to be, at least on the surface, as dull as dishwater. But Neil has a delightful habit of picking apart his subjects, nosing his way into all sorts of odd nooks and out-of-the-way crannies, and in the process giving a unique perspective that the reader most likely hasn't thought of before. 
 
The book is divided into ten sections, dealing with beliefs, people, introductions, film, comics, music, fairy tales, art, and "real things." This last section is the most hard-hitting, I think, because Neil gets pretty personal, laying bare some of the challenges and tragedies of his own life. The very last essay in the book is the introduction to Terry Pratchett's collection, A Slip of the Keyboard, written before Sir Pterry died. It's a poignant, memorable ending to the book. 
 
This is not a quick beach read by any means. Most of the essays here are meant to be digested slowly and savored. In some ways, this collection is for the Neil Gaiman completist, but there's plenty here to hold the attention even of those who have just read his fiction. 


redheadedfemme: (taking book)
James Tiptree, Jr. by Julie Phillips

4 of 5 stars 

More than forty years ago, James Tiptree Jr. wrote some stories that pretty much turned the world of science fiction upside down. Stories about women, and gender, and gender identity, and feminism. He won awards and corresponded with many SFF people, including Joanna Russ and Ursula K. LeGuin. In 1976, after his mother's death, it was revealed that "he" was not a man at all, but rather a woman, Alice Bradley Sheldon. 
 
This is a rich, complex biography of a complex woman. I remember reading somewhere that the author took ten years to write it, and I can well believe it. The amount of research required for this must have been incredible. Julie Phillips had access to all of Alice's journals and letters--she, or he, was quite the letter-writer, an art I think has been sadly lost. The portrait that is painted is that of a troubled, complicated person, possibly manic depressive and obsessed with death, born too early for feminism and never at peace in her own body, who eventually killed her husband and herself. Yet she left behind an incredible legacy of stories that are still turning the field on its head today. (For evidence of this, read a book published just last year, Letters to Tiptree--I reviewed it here--where many of today's top female SFF writers compose missives to Alice B. Sheldon, explaining how she inspired them.)
 
This is one of the best biographies I have ever read. It doesn't read like a novel--it's thorough and methodical, and if you're the kind of reader who wants a swift pace and a sure resolution, you won't find it here. Some might say it's slow and plodding. But I found the book and its subject fascinating. This book won several well-deserved awards, including the 2007 Hugo for Best Related Work.

 
redheadedfemme: (Default)
Why the Right Went Wrong by E.J. Dionne Jr.

4 of 5 stars

This book, it seems to me, is a must-read to explain the 2016 elections and the sorry state of today's Republican Party. As E.J. Dionne states in the introduction, "This book offers a historical view of the American right since the 1960s. Its core contention is that American conservatism and the Republican Party did not suddenly become fiercer and more unyielding simply because of the election of [President] Obama. The condition of today's conservatism is the product of a long march that began with a wrong turn, when first American conservatism and then the Republican Party itself adopted Barry Goldwater's worldview during and after the 1964 campaign." 
 
(Does anybody besides me think that Barry Goldwater would be spinning in his grave over Donald Trump?)
 
Dionne documents this central thesis in exhaustive, well-researched detail. It takes nearly 500 pages to wend his way through more than 50 years of Republican history, showing exactly where they went off the rails and why. He makes the point that, unfortunately, Donald Trump is the logical endpoint of the ever-increasing conservative extremism and insistence on purity, and ends the book with this.
 
"A turn toward moderation and an embrace of those who have been left out--these are the tasks essential to the conservative future.
 
"Conservatives rightly revere those who came before us, but they will not prosper if they continue to yearn for a past they will never be able to call back to life. They may win some elections, but they will not govern effectively on the basis of an ideology rooted in the struggles of a half-century ago." 
 
I despair of this ever happening, and thus the book was, for me, a pretty pessimistic read. But it was an enlightening look into why one of America's two major political parties is currently thrashing itself to bits.

 
 

July 2017

S M T W T F S
       1
23 45 678
910 1112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Words To Live By

There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away. ~Emily Dickinson

Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins. ~Neil Gaiman

Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in. ~Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. ~Stephen King

The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read. ~Mark Twain

I feel free and strong. If I were not a reader of books I could not feel this way. ~Walter Tevis

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one. ~George R.R. Martin

Most Popular Tags

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Style Credit

Page generated Jul. 22nd, 2017 02:59 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios