lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles) and Searching for Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles Book 2)

3/5. A princess runs away and volunteers to be the "captive" of a dragon, and foils various wizardly plots.

Cute! If your definition of cute involves making a girl cool by cutting down every other girl in the world. They're all so vapid, you know, and girly, ugh.

Anyway, this is middle grade fantasy, and it will do, if that's what you want. But like her other series I have tried, this one starts out with a sweet and poised first book and then goes rapidly downhill into obnoxiousness. I see the writing on the wall here, so I'm bailing early. You can't fool me, Patricia C. Wrede, I'm never reading whatever the hell that third Sorcery and Cecilia book was called again.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Fangirl: A Novel

3/5. The story of Cath's first year of college. She has an anxiety disorder, and her twin isn't talking to her, and she has lots of work to do on her slashy fanfic magnum opus, oh and there's this boy….

Aw man, this book was so hard to read because reading about anxious people makes me super anxious. But don't let my issues stop anybody else, because this is awesomesauce. Actually, more accurately, this is so fucking truefax. Cath's struggles with writing original fiction, the intensity of her feelings for her fanfic, the beautiful way this book creates intimacy between people by having them share fanfic read aloud . . . yeah. Been there.

I love the way this book is about slash. It's just part of who Cath is, and some people get that and some people don't. And if the reader doesn't, well, whatever, basically. There are excerpts sprinkled throughout from Cath's WIP and her older work, and from her canon book, and they made me facepalm and chortle in turn. Cath's writing is that awkward but compelling stuff that an eighteen-year-old with genuine talent will turn out . . . and that will horrify her a decade later. Yes, also been there, thanks.

My only objections are (1) that I was utterly uninterested in the romance here. Just . . . nothing; and (2) Cath's fannishness is oddly isolated. She doesn't seem to have real online friends, just fans, which is a little weird.

But if it's a young adult book that normalizes and validates fannish behavior you want, then here you go, this is a good one.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Carry On

4/5. Simon Snow is in his last year at British magic boarding school. He has a prophecy about him, and more power than any ten mages, and a mortal enemy to fight, and also the lesser enemy of his roommate. Who at some point he starts inadvisably making out with.

So everyone keeps saying that this is the book that Cath in Fangirl writes fic about; that is totally not true, as this book does not match in style or content the excerpts we get in Fangirl. In truth, this is a grownup version of the fanfic story Cath writes; grownup because this is clearly tighter and more mature than Cath's eighteen-year-old style.

So really, this book is the AU version of the slash fanfic that a character in another book writes about a different fantasy series that doesn't exist. Got that? Great.

I liked this. People are being predictably obnoxious about the Harry Potter analogs, because it is 2015 and we are still not over denigrating transformative works, not even close. And yeah, this book owes a lot to Harry/Draco fanfic. This book owes a lot to Harry Potter fandom at large. That’s the thing about it – this book isn't really about Harry Potter. It's about Harry Potter fandom, which is an entirely different and more extraordinary beast. This book is about those esthetics, emotional and stylistic. About my esthetics, I realized halfway through, because I grew up in Harry Potter fandom, and in a fundamental way, reading a book about the hero of the magical world falling in love with another boy is like coming home.

Also, it's a young adult novel that is getting marketed as much for its fantasy elements as for its queer romance (and by "marketed for queer romance" I mean shoved in the queer romance ghetto, obviously). So there.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Cuckoo Song

4/5. 1922. The thirteen-year-old daughter of wealthy parents wakes up after a near-drowning. With gaps in her memory; and a bottomless, terrifying hunger; and hair that turns into leaves overnight; and dolls that try to flee her; and a sister who calls her a "thing" and hates her guts.

I talk about what I'm reading a lot with my nearest and dearest. Seriously, my poor wife gets the disorganized and incoherent thought soup that I yank these reviews out of. You know, my sparklingly coherent and organized reviews. You know.

But anyway, I keep saying "Frances Hardinge" to people, and they keep saying "Who?" And that. I do not understand that.

So hear ye, hear ye.

Frances Hardinge. Frances motherfucking Hardinge.

She writes young adult…ish. Fantasy….ish. Her brain is a magical tree that bears strange fruit, and I want to eat every single one, even when I know there are teeth on the inside. And people do not know who she is, which is incomprehensible to me, because she's written more than a half dozen books by now, and they only get better.

As a first Hardinge, I recommend Fly By Night, which beings with our young lady protagonist starting a fire and gets more madcap and wonderful from there, or Gullstruck Island which is the best young adult about colonialism I have ever read. Both of those books will give you a sense for Hardinge's powers, the way she yanks stories off their tracks and drops them into new ones, and where she puts the bite (spoiler: everywhere), and how no one can stop her writing amazing young women relating complexly to each other.

This one is kinda advanced level Hardinge. The first quarter is a slow motion, claustrophobic interpersonal car accident, and it kind of fucked me up. And then the accident happens, and the book leaps right off the road, and we have sisters, and jazz, and spells to trap the dead, and magic by architecture, and a motorcycle with a sidecar, and a woman chased by perpetual winter, and other kinds of sisters. It's a wonderfully prickly, complicated book that made me brace, on every page, for pain. And then surprised me, at the end, with a drop of mercy. Not her most accomplished, on a technical level, but there is something . . . unrestrained about the horror at the center of this book that really got to me.

Frances Hardinge, you guys.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
The Westing Game (Puffin Modern Classics)

4/5. Seventies YA, from before we called it YA. Sixteen tenants of a new apartment building are drawn into an elaborate scavenger hunt for a vast inheritance.

You guys, I had not reread this since my early teens, when I read it many . . . many . . . many times.

I think Turtle Wexler is my patronus.

This is so great. It is a mystery, but not really the sort you are supposed to solve. And it's a story of eight pairs of disparate people coming together. As the book might say, one of them is a thief, one of them is a bomber, one of them is a bookie, and one of them is Turtle. The book pauses to ask them, in a couple of places, who they are. They have to sign for receipt of various inheritance documents, and each time they must name their profession. And each naming is different. Who are you? the book keeps asking, and the answers start out funny, and then get more and more truthful, and in some cases more and more raw. "Person," Angela signs at one point. Ouch.

Anyway, if you want a #diversityin YA book, here's one for you. This sucker is barely sixty thousand words, at a guess, and yet it juggles sixteen main characters, and passes lightly but directly over transgenerational immigrant issues, and disability from about seven different angles, and the intersectionality of blackness and womanness, and immigrant families again, and class-climbing, and class-transgressing, and and and. I mean, I didn't always like every little gesture it made, but it caught me flat-footed at least once thinking I had spotted its ablism when nope, I really hadn't, it knew all along what it was doing, and that was something I hadn't spotted at all.

Also, Turtle. Who is twelve and neglected and smart, and who plays the stock market, and isn't scared until she is, and who can and will kick you if you get in her way.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

4/5. ARC. I don't have an overarching summation, so here, have some bullet point thoughts:

• This is A Civil Campaign level plotless social drama. By which I mean the social drama is the plot. This book has a climactic picnic scene, okay. Not nearly as funny as ACC, though.

• Portions of this book are set inside a futuristic fertility clinic, and it made me smile, because yeah. Fertility clinics are fuckin' weird, and conceiving by science is fuckin' weird, and this book had a finger nicely on that.

• Lois McMaster Bujold learned the word 'monosexual,' you guys! *wipes tear*. She still, unfortunately, has not quite grasped that one's sexuality in re the genders one is attracted to is an entirely separate facet from one's sexuality in re how many partners one wishes to have. Which is weird, considering just how many people have taken her to task over the year's for Cordelia's infamous summation of Aral: "He used to be bisexual, now he's monogamous." (Hint: bisexual doesn't actually mean simultaneously banging people of two different genders. A bisexual person doesn't become straight by marrying someone of another gender, or queer by marrying smoene of the same gender. No really, my extended family, I still get to be bisexual, fuck right off). Aaaaanyway, despite having apparently regreted the prior Cordelia observation, LMB still doesn't seem to quite get it. And more fundamentally . . . for anyone who doesn't know, I guess this is a spoiler? Though I'd assume everyone knows by now – this book is about what happens when there is a long-term V relationship with occasional jaunts into triangle, and then the point of the V dies, and how the two left come back to each other, eventually. And this book is . . . very concerned with people's queerness, and like, negative a million percent concerned with polyamory. I exaggerate there are a few throwaway comments on that aspect, but by and large, this book just doesn't . . . notice? It's like, the queerness of the queerness all but swallows the queerness of the poly, which are two very different things, thankyouverymuch. And that disappointed me.

• I said it before on twitter when the spoilers first broke, and I'll say it again: Miles spending decades of adolescent and adult life oblivious to his parents's queerness and polyamory is A++++++. Because yep. He would

• Things I quite liked: this is a book about single parenting by choice, and non-traditional families, and gamete donation, and yeah, that was really good for me.

• Less good. Everyone must have babies. Everyone. Everyone. Babies are not optional. If you are in this verse and you think you do not want babies, well, that's just because you didn't think about it right, and as soon as a real possibility is presented to you, babies you will want and babies you will have. Babies babies babies.

• Another thing I liked: Cordelia is living a long, varied life. She is in her seventies here, embarking on the fourth or fifth major life change. There is a lovely and subversive sense of her as a woman in her prime, in the middle of it all. And also a lovely evocation of how an ideal long-lived future might be, where you could have multiple successive phases of family-building and work, and family-building again, on the scale of decades, without being rushed by biology. Being rushed by loss and grief, though, of course.

• I miss Gregor. I have always, always wanted the Gregor book that Vor Game was actually not.

• This book feels like an end, in a way none of the prior books that were maybe sorta an end did. I don't know why, it just does. I'd be okay with that, actually.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Castle Hangnail

4/5. Kidlit, or whatever we're calling the books just a step younger than YA. Castle Hangnail needs a master, or the Board of Magic will shut it down and all the minions will be homeless. They think they want an evil sorceress. They get Molly instead. Molly is twelve and round and likes to garden. She has great stompy boots, though.

Aw, this is -- I believe the technical term would be -- totes adorbs. I haven't read Vernon before; I was vaguely aware of her as a children's author, but was surprised when my wife immediately identified her as the author of the Digger webcomic. So I suspect that Castle Hangnail has adorbs drawings to go with the adorbs story. Drawings of Edward the suit of armor, or the minotaurs, or of Pins the animate sewing doll and his goldfish, or Molly talking to moles, or – or whatever the heck we should call Major Domo.

This is sweet and warm, with that feel of a motley family slowly – in some cases reluctantly – forming around someone. It has a distinctly Diana Wynne Jones feel to it; it is, around the edges, about the self you are in contrast to your foils – the good twin and the bad twin – versus the self you are just as yourself.

lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Lost Stars

3/5. Star Wars expanded universe, spanning about fifteen years before, during, and after the original trilogy. The best of friends grow up together, fly together, go to the imperial academy together. And then Alderaan happens, and they start asking questions. But the answers they arrive at are very different, and take one through defection to the alliance, and the other up the imperial command chain.

So, confession: Star Wars was my first fandom. Like 'make up dreamy nonsensical fanfic playlets in my head while my second grade teacher droned on and on about things I already knew' fandom.

I suspect this is Claudia Gray's fanfic. Except hers is way way way better than mine. Hers is thoughtful and humane. The two main characters love each other deeply, and agree on most basic points of philosophy and ethics. But that takes them in opposite directions for utterly plausible reasons. They argue, and get mad, and get hurt, and they don't understand each other, except how they still do, to the very end. The catchphrase of this book is look through my eyes, which says a lot.

And, I mean, there's only so much depth and sympathy you can add to the imperial cause when they actually named the thing the Death Star. Because, uh, like, what did anyone think it was for? But Gray does a damn sight better than anyone else I've ever read.

That was nice.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
And thus begins a year of reading only women. Or, more accurately, not reading men.

The House of Shattered Wings

4/5. House politics and old curses in alt history post war Paris ruled largely by fallen angels.

This novel is basically manga. Just, you know, *gestures*, the esthetics of the thing. This book is all fallen-down churches, and underwater dragons in the Seine, and trees squeezing buildings to death, and fallen angels wearing wings made of metal and blades.

I would have said, if I'd known what I was getting into, that this isn't my sort of thing. But this worked for me anyway. These fallen angels don't remember why they fell, or much of what came before; they cannot expect miracles or answered prayers, and there is a hole in their lives where God no longer is. The whole book is, in the negative spaces, about that lack, without ever being particularly about religion, if you get me. It's a book about being betrayed, and falling from grace, and falling….and falling. The same story plays out a good half dozen times here, with the angels and their God, with the angels and their students, with a soldier and his emperor, and each person falls in their own way.

Lovely, with a flavor of decaying decadence about it. Not my thing, and yet somehow my thing.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Tigana: Anniversary Edition

4/5. Years ago, a conquering wizard cursed the land of Tigana out of existence. Only those born on its soil can say its name, or remember it exists, and they will slowly die out as their children forget. A small pack of minstrels set out to bring it back.

I really liked this. And I wish I didn't.

I mean, what a great concept, right? This is what I wish fantasy was more often about, turning magic upon some of the fundamental ways we organize ourselves as people, and wrecking those ways, and seeing what happens. Here it's a nation silently erased, a people scattered and forced never to speak of their home. I mean, the injustice of this worked on me, of all people,* so you know the book is good.

That said, wow how much do I wish our copyright system was more sensible and someone could officially remix this book now. Someone like Leckie, say, or Jemisin, or de Bodard, or Monette, maybe. Someone, uh, not GGK.

Because, well. In the beginning of this book, as one of the protagonists was introduced and we found out he was queer, I instantly thought spoiler ) and yuuuup, called it. Not only that, but more spoilers ) Which is not even starting on the concubines, because of course there is a concubine, there is always a sexual captive in GGK's books, always, he has a sexuality, you guys, and it encompasses all varieties of women as concubine/sex slave/prostitute, and every time I read a book of his I get that bit more skeeved out. Anyway, without spoilers this time, what happens to the concubine – what the narrative ordains as her just path – makes me seethingly angry.

So this is a beautiful book. Truly. It touched me in a way I fully expected it not to. But it's also by GGK, so it's wildly overwrought, and, well, fucking gross in a lot of ways. And I wish someone else had written it, because that book, written by the right person, could be one of the best books I've ever read.

*I'm one of the least nationalistic people you're likely to meet. I take no pride in my country, or all the handwringing despair most of my friends seem to; either of those would require believing that my country actually exists as an identity in any meaningful way, other than a nonsense concept people trot out for rhetorical convenience. None of this particularly matters for daily life. I just blank out any sentences including "America is" or that otherwise attempt to claim some sort of meaningful national identity. Oh, and I find the Olympics a nearly intolerable exercise in mindless jingoism. This book worked on me anyway, largely because it focused on the destruction of culture as the true evil done (which is right, I think –there's a reason that cultural destruction, even without the taking of life, is considered a kind of genocide). The book (I think? I read this in June and my notes are somewhat . . . unclear) treats identity as synonymous with that culture, which I don't think is right, but that's not really the point, and it worked on me anyway.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
The Shepherd's Crown (Tiffany Aching)

3/5. The last Discworld book.

Well, that's that, then.

It's not a particularly inspired book, but nor is it the dire mess of some of the recent offerings. Not too surprising, I guess – it's basically the same book he'd written four or five times previously, so clearly the steps were familiar: threat from outside, faeries, how the progress of technology and particularly the railroad changes the face of the world, coming into power as a function of coming into self-knowledge.

No, all that, *handwave*. Been there, done that, and much better than this version.

No, this book is made by the first quarter, which is all about the death of a witch. And as constant Discworld readers will know, a witch is aware of her impending death, and is able – required, even – to prepare for it. Dig her own grave, do the final washing up, scrub the place until it shines. And then lie down and wait.

The first quarter of this, the last Discworld book, is about that. And, um. Ouch.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Time Salvager

2/5. In a far future dystopic solar system, time operatives go into the past to steal its resources. Until one operative – let's call him Mr. Manpain – brings someone forward because she has a vagina and he wants to get in it.

Okay, I am getting kind of uncanny. Ugh, I thought, halfway through this book, I bet this got optioned for a movie. Bingo. Michael Bay will direct. Why oh why is it that I can spot a terrible summer blockbuster at fifty paces? But also can't spot a book that would make a good movie with a map and directions?

Anyway, whatever, I anticipated every "twist" this book had to offer, because duh, and hissed and winced as it treated every woman as an object to be killed or saved by/for a man, and complained with increasing grumpiness about why we couldn't get more of some of the interesting worldbuildy bits and less of, you know, everything else. Particularly Mr. Manpain, blech.

So very much not seeing the movie.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Fair Play (All's Fair Book 2)

4/5. M/M mystery featuring a retired FBI agent turned college professor digging into his father's radical past.

Brains are scary sometimes. I read the prequel to this book five years ago over a long night of hospital waiting. I finished the sequel on Thursday in a waiting room. During surgery this time, not after, but jeez! I totally did not plan that. Well, not purposefully, anyway.

Anyway. Needless to say, this series is tied up with medical stress for me. The sequel was as appropriate as the first book – soothing, just involving enough to be useful, emotionally satisfying. Lanyon has such a good grip on writing established relationships; the tensions between them, the push-and-pull, the sense of working together to build something difficult but lasting. They both struggle with trust in this book, and their mutual intimacy issues, and, uh, yeah, this works for me.

Now I just hope the next book isn't timed for another surgery.

Note: Kindle version is currently $3.99, which I assume is some sort of sale. Then again, M/M pricing is a continual mystery and puzzlement to me, so.

Other note: So Josh Lanyone "came out" as a woman, and . . . yeah. Thanks for that live fire demonstration of how you are utterly steeped in misogyny, pro M/M community. Jesus.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Stranger on the Shore

3/5. M/M. A reporter investigates a twenty-year-old child abduction, and clashes sexily with the attorney of the victim's wealthy family.

A good book that wasn't to my taste. Lanyon does these standalone mysteries that exist somewhere in the hinterland between pastiche, homage, and fanfic. Here, the predecessor work is The Great Gatsby, and well, I kind of loathe Gatsby, so this book's contemplations and gestures were lost on me. I mean, our protagonist is an outsider to wealth, which is part of the point of this book about outsiderness in your own life, but honestly . . . Gatsby. Meh.

But if you like Gatsby, or the sort of book where there would be haunting music playing in the distant background of every scene of the movie version, you'll like this, because it's Lanyon, so it's actually well done.

Note: If you are such a person, looks like the kindle edition is currently discounted.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal Novel, A)

4/5. Napoleonic fantasy. The tale of the black man who finds himself, unwillingly and infamously, at the head of British magic, and what happens when Prunella comes into his life. Prunella being – well, rather indescribably marvelous.

Oh gosh, you guys, just go read this. It is witty and indulgent, in the way period fantasy must be. But it is also about the victims of imperialism, living their lot every day from the inside. It has balls and dragons and complicated families and faeries and the quiet, subtle slipping into love of two very alone people, and that crackle of wonder and mystery of magic. And Prunella, who is the best.

This delighted me, and entertained me, and occasionally upset me, in exactly the right proportions and the right ways.

Highly recommended.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School Series Book 2) And Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School Series Book 3)

3/5. A couple more titles in that young adult alt Victorian urban fantasy finishing spy school series.

There is something not quite right about this series. The adult titles maintain this airy soap bubble of frothy charm, and they make it look effortless. But there's some internal wobble in the young adult set that I can sort of put my finger on, but also sort of can't. Like, okay, in one of these books, our heroine is thinking about someone on the opposite side of a conflict from her, and notes that he's not bad, he's just evil. "Not that there was anything wrong with that." Which typifies this universe, and this series more specifically; it's not about good and evil having any particular valence, because good and evil are really just words that have a lot more to do with how people dress than anything.

That's the charming part.

But – here's where I get a bit hazy about it – but the racism. This is an AU where servants have been replaced largely with mechanized laborers, and yet – it is carelessly implied – there is still an African slave trade, and all that flows from that fact. It is still a scandal for a young lady to fall in love with a black laborer, specifically because of his race more than his class. And I just. Idk.

I guess I just really don't want to be reading a book whose charm is that evil is an esthetic choice, but oh also racism, ha ha. I'm not drawing this connection very clearly, but yeah. No. This series isn't right.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Fated (Alex Verus Book 1), Cursed (Alex Verus Book 2), Taken (Alex Verus Book 3), Chosen (Alex Verus Book 4), Hidden (Alex Verus Book 5), and Veiled

3/5. Urban fantasy of the lone wolf dude mage gets an apprentice and friends and entangled in wizard politics variety. The series deliberately invites Dresden Files comparisons – there is a specific in-text reference to that wizard in Chicago who advertises in the Yellowpages very early on, as if Jacka wants to make the comparison before the reader does. So fine, I'll make the comparison. This is less misogynist than Dresden Files, significantly less D&D, but has basically the same damn backstory and broader world, the same lack of awareness of what noncon is, the same love for high school level discussions of morality, and the same addiction to battles with half the creativity. Also similarly, I love the supporting cast far more than the putative hero.

Fun popcorn reads. I did read all six, you'll note, though it's also worth pointing out I had pneumonia at the time.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns

2/5. Young adult fantasy about the sixteen-year-old princess married off to a neighboring kingdom, at least before her destiny catches up with her.

A solid meh. I try not to judge young adult too harshly because I'm very bad at knowing what is age appropriate and what isn't (and I frequently question the validity of the concept in the first place), so I try not to condemn a book for younger readers on the basis that it's boring as wallpaper. It might be that boring to me, but what do I know, to an eleven-year-old, this might be revelatory.

Unfortunately, if I had charge of an eleven-year-old, I wouldn't want her receiving these revelations. About a fat heroine with an eating disorder, whose fatness and disorder are treated as the same thing, and who – of course – becomes thin as part of her journey to power. I mean, I don't always have a good eye for fatphobia, as a congenitally skinny person, but come on.

However, the holy navel piercing is pretty funny. Like, for real. We know the heroine is chosen of the gods because they give her a special godly stone in her bellybutton. I could not make that up.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)

I've been thinking I would do one of those things where you read only women and genderqueer writers for a year (details still fuzzy). And I figured before I did that, I'd run through some of the male writers I've had on TBR for years.

Yeeeeeah. That's . . . convincing me that doing without men for a year is a fantastic idea.

I gave this classic epic fantasy four hundred pages. It's – you know the thing where you read so much work that is responding to the earnest, straight-up original that you forget the earnest, straight-up original actually exists? And then you read it and you're like whoa, what the fuck?

This is thousands of pages of epic fantasy about the pubescent kitchen boy in a castle becoming apprenticed to a wizard doctor and getting caught up in the magical fight for a disinherited prince and a kingdom overtaken by evil, and there are scary elves, and prophecies, and magic swords, and he's going to become a man, you guys. Oh yeah, and he has mysterious parentage. And it is

And I just. There aren't many women in those four hundred pages I read, not so's you'd notice. But there is a minute, obsessive interest in this pubescent boy, and I just.

I do not want to read thousands of earnest pages tracking the rate of descent of his testicles, you know? Like, there are so many better things I could be doing with my life.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology

4/5. I backed this collection on Kickstarter and got an early release copy. Took me a while to get through it, though, so it seems to be out now.

The introduction to this collection specifically notes it is not intended to be a full survey. Which it isn't, and shouldn't be. It's just unfortunate that – and I knew this going in – the Vandermeers and I have very different tastes. They really like the Weird and the surreal, and I often don't. I spent the full first third of this collection sighing a lot in boredom and complaining to my wife about stories whose entire purpose is to turn women into thematically significant animals or objects. You know the sort of thing. It's not my thing. Those of you who do enjoy it, I wish you well of it.

Anyway, I still enjoyed this, and do recommend it. This introduced me to a lot of authors I was only peripherally aware of before, and made me think. Some brief story notes on a few pieces that jump out as I look back.

Ursula K. Le Guin, "Sur" – One of my favorites. Tale of the women who were secretly first to reach the South Pole. Beautiful and restrained and warm and cold at the same time.

Susan Palwick, "Gestella" – This story of a werewolf aging at a different rate than her (misogynist) husband was the most viscerally upsetting in the whole collection, to my mind. I almost didn't read the last page, but ultimately made myself. I owed it to the protagonist.

Nalo Hopkinson, "The Glass Bottle Trick" – A Bluebeard story, told, frighteningly, from within his home.

Joanna Russ, "When It Changed" – Another version of 'men arriving into a society of all women.' And a good one. Not particularly subtle, but the thing is it needed to be unsubtle, because the patriarchal assumptions it is pushing against are too pervasive for many readers to see around without a lot of help.

Octavia E. Butler, "The Evening the Morning and the Night" – Hm. I had a lot of issues with this story of living with impending disability, and ultimately I shook my head over it. But I was engaged, I'll give it that.

Hiromi Goto, "Tales from the Breast" – One of the few Weird stories that really worked for me. Hallucinatory and disturbing story of post delivery and breastfeeding.

Carol Emschwiller, "Boys" – Hm. Sort of interesting (post apocalyptic? Unclear) story of a gender-separated society, that gets less interesting the more I think about it, because the more I think about it the more I realize the story doesn't work unless you base it on a lot of gender essentialist assumptions before the first word was in place. Which might have been part of her point. Or not. Also unclear.


lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)

November 2015

22232425 262728


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Nov. 27th, 2015 11:45 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios