the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘China Mieville’ Category

not only was yesterday National Buy a Book Day, but I also had it as a vacation day from work. Which meant hubby and I had plenty of time to make it to two bookstores and the library before realizing that maybe we had indeed picked up enough books to hold us for a little while.  sleeping in + buying tons of books? Sounds like the perfect day to me!

here’s what we got:

Diviner, by Melanie Rawn – looks like an epic fantasy that doesn’t take place in fantasy-Europe. Sign me up!

Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher – hubby really liked the first book, and i’m interested in reading more in this famous serious too.

Embassytown, by China Mieville – one of my favorites is finally in paperback!  I’d hoped Embassytown would take the Hugo for best novel, but alas it wasn’t to be.

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The recently announced Locus Awards are awarded every year by a readers poll done by Locus Magazine. These have been going since 1971, and are often an influencial precursor to the Hugo awards, which will be awarded later this summer.

It’s only these last couple years that I’ve been blogging that I’ve paid much attention to awards. Honestly, for the most part, a list of award nominees more often than not elicits a mostly “eh” response from me. Maybe I’ve heard of the authors, maybe I haven’t, and there’s a decent chance I haven’t even read any of the books or short stories that are up for an award.

Good thing I have a scifi/fantasy blog, and have pretty much been reading nothing but scifi and fantasy for the last little while! For the first time, ever, I’ve actually read a small chunk of these. Ok, maybe not a respectable amount, but way more than in previous years. For the first time, ever, my mind is responding with a “sweet! I’ve read that!” or at least a “I’ve heard of that, and I really want to read it!” instead of “meh”.

Here are this years Locus Award winners (bolded) and nominees. If I reviewed the piece, I’ve linked to it. A few questions for you to contemplate as you peruse the list: how many of these author, works, editors, authors and publishers have you heard of? How many of them have you read, or are interested in reading?

The 2012 Locus Awards, as announced in Seattle Washington, June 15-17th 2012:

Science Fiction Novel

Embassytown, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
11/22/63, Stephen King (Scribner; Hodder & Stoughton as 11.22.63)
Rule 34, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
The Children of the Sky, Vernor Vinge (Tor)

Fantasy Novel

A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin (Bantam; Harper Voyager UK)
Snuff, Terry Pratchett (Harper; Doubleday UK)
The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss (DAW; Gollancz)
Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente (Tor)
Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)

First Novel

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday)
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline (Crown; Century)
God’s War, Kameron Hurley (Night Shade)
Soft Apocalypse, Will McIntosh (Night Shade)
Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, Genevieve Valentine (Prime)

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Railsea, by China Mieville

published May 2012

where I got it: purchased new

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this is the story of a bloodstained boy.

A delightfully strange retelling of Moby Dick, Railsea has a number of literary nods on order – the asides that don’t have anything to do with our main characters but instead speak of the moler industry at large, the narrator breaking the fourth wall and teasing the reader, even a nice reference to Scylla and Carybdis.

Although Railsea is technically YA (no swearing, no sex, and no overt violence), Mieville never talks down to the reader. I suspect some fourteen year olds will put this book down after 50 pages, frustrated with coming across words they don’t know, whilst other fourteen year olds will simply find a dictionary or ask their parents what a certain word means. Sometimes the joy of reading is about the journey of the words, not the book you are reading.

We first meet our main character Sham ap Soorap when his moler train captures a giant moldywarpe and is chopping it up. The worst medical student ever, Sham is more generic helper on the train that useful physician’s assistant.  Young and unsure of where his life will take him, Sham seems to be going through the motions, hoping something will stand out as a sign of where his destiny lies.  The train travels its usual haunts, the captain constantly seeking information on the giant bone colored moldywarpe that took her arm.

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The rules for my “best of” post were simple: I had to have read and reviewed the book in 2011, and it couldn’t be a reread (otherwise this list would taken over by Lynch, Powers, Brust, and others).

In no particular order (saving me the impossible task of choosing my utmost favorites), here are my top reads of the last 12 months. I’m surprised so many of them are new-ish books, as that wasn’t really part of the plan. Enjoy the little teaser then click on the title for the full review.

Grey by Jon Armstrong (2007)  frantic, insane, completely over the top, hilarious, refreshing, and at times completely sick.  This is dystopia like you’ve never read before. This is body modification and mortification, life imitating art to the nth degree, and performance art like you’ve never imagined. This is fashion punk.

The Third Section by Jasper Kent (2011) The third in Kent’s Danilov Quintet, one of the most brilliantly frightening books I have ever read, and brimming with betrayals and violence, seductions and patience, this is the series you’ve been waiting for if you prefer your vampire fiction to be more Bram Stoker than sparkly.

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Apparently it’s China Mieville love fest week on LRR this week. You cool with that?  Cuz I’m cool with that.

This post will make much more sense if you read my other Embassytown posts, On Reading China Mieville and the Embassytown review.

it’s been a few days since I finished the book, and I’m having trouble getting it out of my mind. or getting my mind out of it?  Having a bit of an Alice in Wonderland moment, I’m not quite sure which way ’round that goes.  Anywhoo, I’ve got a bit more I’d like to get off my chest regarding Embassytown, Mieville, aliens, sound, and such.

Also there may be some spoilers here, so if you haven’t read the book, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

After today I should have Embassytown out of my system, mostly.

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Embassytown, by China Mieville

published in May, 2011

Where I got it: the library

Why I read it: I is a Mieville fangirl.


This article got way too long, way too fast.  and then it got spoilery.  And then I edited the crap  out of it. So stay tuned for a super spoilery part 3 that talks more about Mieville’s worldbuiling and how truly imaginative this novel is, and possibly a part 4 as well. Embassytown is turning into that kind of book.  blame Mieville. it’s his fault.

In the far future, humanity has discovered a not-hyperspace and not-lightspeed style travel (I was temped to liken it to how the Spacing Guild pilots of Herbert’s Dune travel) and we’ve started colonizing both empty and alien planets.

Avice is the narrator of our story, and she is the first admit there is nothing special about her life.  A local Embassytown girl who makes good after her 15 minutes of fame, she leaves her home town to explore the world and returns years later, husband in tow, marriage in shambles.  Suddenly awkward, Avice is no longer native, but not foreigner either.

A colony of Bremen, on the planet Arieke, Embassytown in a ghetto on the edge of the Ariekei city. There have been occasional whispers of a revolution for independence, but the Embassytowners know they depend on the financial support of Bremen, and the bio-tech support of the Ariekei.  Embassytown exists on the sufferance of their Bremen governors and the hospitality of the Ariekei, known colloquially as The Hosts.

It’s not that The Hosts can’t lie per se, it’s that their language has no method for allusion, or metaphor, or reference in general.  Their methods of verbal communication refer to the literal only.  The humans believe that since they have figured out a way to communicate with the Hosts, that they understand them.  The entirety of Embassytown is an unforgiving metaphor of the risks of getting lost in translation.

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I’m about ⅔ of the way through China Mieville’s newest novel Embassytown, and although I truly haven’t a clue how this book will end, I feel the need to talk about the way this book is written, and Mieville’s writing style in general. That way, my review of Embassytown can actually focus on the wonderfulness that is the book, instead of the everything else.

Over the years I’ve heard fans and critics alike describe Mieville’s habit of using 50-cent and sometimes overly obscure words in his novels as a not-so-subtle “fuck you, ignorant uneducated peasant”. His word choice has caused many a reader (myself included) to wonder if some of these are real words used for  cultural effect, or made up words, also used for cultural effect. It’s narrative interruptus until a dictionary is found. But for once, I choose to be the optimist.  I choose to believe Mieville’s not-so-subtle message is one telling me that having a dictionary at hand will only add to my literary experience, not detract from it.  I choose to believe that he’s saying “don’t know what this word means? the only thing stopping you from grabbing a dictionary is you”.    Enticing me, inviting me, seducing me into learning,  into building my own confidence? China Mieville, you are one brilliant fucking bastard.
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Although my New Years resolution is to read what I’ve got, that’s not to say there aren’t some 2011 releases that I am eagerly and anxiously awaiting.

Scott Lynch’s The Republic of Thieves. I pride myself of my active web stalking of Mr. Lynch, via his livejournal, facebook, twitter, anything. I’m not embarrassed to admit this man turns me into a blabbering, blubbering, squeeing fangirl. And is that not some stunning cover art for the third title in his Gentlemen Bastard series? Amazon offers a March release date, but I am quite sure the release date has been set back to summer or fall of 2011. Sad news, but that gives me the chance to read the first two books in the series again, and maybe again after that.
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 Probably the most awaited title of 2011 for fantasy fans is Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear, book two of his Kingkiller Chronicles. When it comes to epic fantasy, Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind was a game changer for me, even more so than George R R Martin. Excitement for this title is so crazy that rumor has it the ARC’s were numbered, signed for, and are being tracked via RFID to ensure zero spoilage before the release date. Any confirmation on that? AND there are T-shirts! Squeeee!!!
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The City and The City didn’t really do it for me, and I probably shouldn’t admit that I haven’t even looked at Kraken yet, but I gotta say, I am eagerly awaiting China Mieville’s Embassytown. From the approximately 6 sentences that have been released about this title, it sounds deliciously weird. Not Bas-Lag by any means, but a little closer to that addictive Mieville brand of strangeness that seems to have been lacking in his more recent novels.
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And speaking of the infamous George R R Martin, I am still holding out hope that A Dance With Dragons (fifth book in his Song of Ice and Fire series) will actually be published in 2011. And if no 2011 then I’m sure it’ll come out eventually, right? I mean, I’ve only waited five years for this book, what’s another five? I am not going to even attempt to find cover art. Yes, I am eagerly awaiting this title, but that doesn’t mean I’m not just a teensy bit bitter.

Wow,  three out of the four are the next books in series! I really wasn’t expecting that!

How about you? what are your most eagerly awaited titles for 2011?

 

Are you a YA fan who is looking for something a little grittier, a little meatier, a little SF-ier?

Are you an adult SF/F fan looking for something a little lighter, but still with the grit and humor you’ve come to enjoy from your favorite writers?

If you answered “why yes! Yes I am!” to either of those questions, allow me to introduce you to some great SF/F YA reads by authors who are known for writing for adults.  

For the Win, by Cory Doctorow - American kids enjoy online games for fun. Asian and Indian kids play online games for money, more than just what gold farming can give them. When the undertrod, underpaid, undervalued child workers are taught the word union, only good can come of it. right?

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow – big brother might be watching, but what happens when little brother watches back? Of every book on this list, this was the hardest book for me to read, and I don’t mean hard intellectually. I believe  Little Brother should be required reading in every high school government class, but I’m sure once it got some attention it would be banned.

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville - Part Wizard of Oz, part Alice in Wonderland, and very punny.  You just can’t not like this book!

The WWW series by Robert Sawyer – the first book in the series didn’t do much for me, but as far as YA reads go, this is a contemporary SF winner.  Blind teenager Caitlin can “see” the world wide web, and there is something there that can see her.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman – what can I say about this that hasn’t been said before? if you haven’t read it, you owe it to yourself to enjoy this book!

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game as YA? really? hey, it’s what all the cool kids were reading when I was a teenager. It’s a SF classic.

Which of these have you read? Which of these look most promising?

With reviews of Kraken and the City and the City floating around all over the place, and YA being all the rage, I figured it was time to pull my review of Un Lun Dun out of the archives. This was probably the funniest, goofiest, and most fun I’ve had in a while.

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Un Lun Dun.
UnLunDun
UnLondon.

In Mieville’s first Young Adult novel (he did the illustrations, too), we get his modern fantasy version of Alice in Wonderland meets Wizard of Oz, meets The City of Lost Children, complete with Binja warriors (garbage bins that are ninjas), flying unbrellas who answer only to their master, the Unbrellissimo, trash that stalks you, talking books with guilt complexes, man-eating giraffes, magic bridges, and all other manner of punny good guys and bad guys. It all starts because Deeba is most certainly not the Shwazzy. It is her friend, Zanna; tall, blonde, beatiful Zanna who is the Shwazzy, the chosen one to save UnLondon from The Smog.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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