Jul. 17th, 2016

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)
Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children)

2/5. The one about the school for kids who went to a fantasy realm and then got sent home and who are really upset about it.

I picked this up – despite my . . . lackluster response to other McGuire – because I'm working my way through Kat Valente's tremendous Fairyland series, about a girl who goes there and comes home repeatedly. Thematic, y'see.

And that was a mistake, because comparing these writers and these books, uh. They're just a different class of talent doing a different class of thing. So after the density of Valente's thorny whimsy, Mcguire's straightforward – and so painfully obvious, the characters should be considered accomplices for not solving it sooner – murder mystery simply thudded. And after Valente's playful, stylish, tricky, complicit, kind, cruel, lovely narrator, who stitches those books together so beautifully. After that, the random and inexplicable swerves Mcguire's book takes into the omniscient view seem pointless. And in one case, where we get a girl's backstory and then she is killed and the omniscient voice pops in just long enough to tell us where the doorway back into her realm that she had been living and dying to find actually was, it seems simply mean for the sake of being mean.

So yeah. Did not fare well by comparison. Might be better on its own? It's a novella with a lot of interesting stuff going on – axes of classification for fantasy realms, an explanation as to why the school is mostly populated with girls that made me grimly nod, a transkid who got kicked out of his adventure because his tale did not respect his identity. And the title is great. But yeah. Not a good comparison.

Also, the ending. Can someone who liked this tell me whether you were okay with the ending, because it bugged me a lot.
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)
Ninefox Gambit (Machineries of Empire Book 1)

3/5. A soldier is tasked with taking back a fortress, and to get the job done she is implanted with the consciousness of an infamous undead general, greatest tactician in history, heretic, murderer of his own people.

One of the cooler weird as fuck things I've read recently. This is a universe where power is defined by "math" – i.e. where civilizations create patterns of loyalty and ritual which, due to magic math, define the parameters of reality, down to what weapon's work, how FTL travel functions, what day it is, etc. Fighting with an insurgent rebellion is complicated when the rebellion redefines its own "calendar," meaning your realities only sort of talk to each other, and fighting back isn't just about violence (though lordy there is a lot of that) but about moving the complex variables.

So cool worldbuilding, though like you might expect, there's a lot of handwaving under the banner of math, and because the rules are so abstruse, it can occasionally feel like the book is cheating by dropping in some whackadoodle turn that you literally had no way of anticipating. But I mostly liked this for the main characters. They're sharing a head, and they argue a lot, and they fight a siege, and they also sit around and watch terrible romantic dramas with their robots while mutually attempting to outthink/mindfuck each other.

Ultimately I do think that the final 'redefine reality' turn of this book is far more prosaic and obvious than I wanted -- everyone else was basically expecting it, right? – and I didn't get the 'what!' mindfuck I was jonesing for. But Lee* is doing something really cool and unusual here, and I suspect that my genuine liking for this has the potential to turn into something much bigger as the trilogy unfolds.

*I did say my year of reading women could also be a year of not reading cis men.

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