the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘romance

The Privilege of the Sword, by Ellen Kushner (a Riverside novel)

published in 2006

where I got it: purchased new

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Fifteen to twenty years after the events of Swordspoint: Alec is now the Duke Tremontaine, Richard St. Vier is nowhere to be found, and old grudges are still burning. But on the bright side, Riverside is slightly safer.

 

Seemingly out of the blue, Duke Tremontaine sends for his niece Katherine. She is to live with him for six months, and have no contact with her mother and brothers during that time.

 

Katherine, raised at her family’s country estate, is expectedly naive. And why she know anything about the outside world? She’s been raised as a young lady of quality, given the tools she needs to secure a proper marriage. Titles and marriages however, do not guarantee financial stability, and Katherine spends much of her time identifying what can be sold for cash and hemming her own clothing.   Even so, she still dreams of visiting the city, having a season full of lace and dresses and balls and then getting married to someone who loves her. This is what she’s been raised to expect and look forward to because no one has told her otherwise.

 

Your assumptions? I see them. Observe, as Ellen Kushner smashes them into itty bitty pieces.

 

When Katherine arrives at the Duke’s home, she finds only men’s clothing waiting for her,  her uncle’s strange, strange friends, and daily fencing lessons.  Indeed, there is a reason Tremontaine is known as The Mad Duke.  Within a week of arriving in the city, Katherine realizes fencing lessons aren’t that terrible; befriends Artemesia Fitz-Levi , the daughter of a well placed family; and learns that tromping around town in men’s clothes comes with social consequences. Within a month, she’s learned to ignore the names people call her, been befriended by the Duke’s young valet Marcus, learned something is very fishy with Artemesia’s cousin Lucius Perry who seems to have a secret life, and that Duke Tremontaine is much more than the local libertine, when it comes to subverting expectations.

 

Thus begins Katherine’s 6 month whirlwind tour of how the world really works, leave your innocence at the door, thank you very much.

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Last week I reviewed Love Minus Eighty, the new speculative fiction novel from Will McIntosh.  I might be new to his fiction, but McIntosh has already taken the speculative fiction world by storm, having won a Hugo for his 2010 short story Bridesicle, and his novel Soft Apocalypse (2012) is a multiple award nominee.  He’s been publishing short fiction and winning awards since the early 2000s, so I was over the moon thrilled when Mr. McIntosh agreed to answer a few questions about the new novel, movies, day jobs, and what’s next.

Hi Will, thanks for joining us today!

Thanks, glad to be here!

Love Minus Eighty is an expansion of sorts of your short story Bridesicle. What was the inspiration for Bridesicle?

Bridesicle started as a brief image that flashed as I was waking up one morning.  It was Mira, frozen in her crèche, and as these things usually go, for some reason I knew this was a dating center.  The story grew from there.  At first I wrote it from the point of view of Lycan, a clueless man visiting the center for the first time, but after getting feedback I ended up shifting the point of view to Mira.

Bridesicle has parallels to the world of Hitchers, but in Love Minus Eighty, we’re in a world with plenty of followers, but no actual, traditional hitchers. Why the change?

I wrote a post for the Far Beyond Reality blog that explains this in more detail, but in a nutshell, I decided giving people the ability to upload their consciousness into someone else lowered the stakes, because it allows people to become basically immortal.  It also makes for a really complicated story, if some of the characters are actually two, or five, or ten characters sharing one body.  Sometimes a technology that seems cool in a short story introduces all sorts of complications when you’re telling a longer story.

I read somewhere that Bridesicle was optioned for a film. How exciting! What was your reaction to that? Any thoughts on changes you’d like to see, or fear to see when Bridesicle or Love Minus Eighty makes it to the big screen?

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love minus 80

Love Minus Eighty, by Will McIntosh

published in June 2013 from Orbit

where I got it: received copy from the Publisher (Thanks Orbit!!)

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This review has exactly one spoiler. And the [spoiler] mentioned happens right at the beginning of the book, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

Insurance of the future has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with death. In the  future, the wealthy pay for extended freezing insurance, to be cryogenically frozen at the time of death, ideally to be thawed out later when their family can afford it. Even for those without the monetary means, the idea of being buried in the ground is distasteful.   Revival is big business, and one company has hit on a jackpot idea: allow wealthy patrons to speak with beautiful dead women at a dating center, and if a relationship develops, they can revive her and marry her. Sit down and think about that for a moment.  It’s like a futuristic version of The Bachelor, only worse. The “bridesicles” are only awake, only alive, for a few minutes at a time. Like a speed dating system from hell, she has five minutes to convince whoever has awoken her to visit her again.  Running the dating center isn’t cheap, wealthy patrons pay by the minute to speak with women who will do anything to stay awake, stay alive for just a few more seconds.

 

what would you do to stay awake, when awake is the only time you’re alive?

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I rewatched one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes the other night, “The Girl in the Fireplace”.  In this episode, The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey arrive in an abandoned spaceship. The crew are nowhere to be found but an immense amount of energy is being expended to do, well, something.  It’s discovered the different windows in the ship look into 18th century France and focus on the life of Reinette, soon be known as Madame de Pompadour.

Hello little girl! ehhm, what year is it?

Hello little girl! ehhm, what year is it?

When the Doctor first discovers the connection between the abandoned wreck and Reinette, she’s a little girl, maybe 7 years old, and she sees him through her fireplace.  They talk a moment, the connection is broken, and a few minutes later the Doctor is able to speak to her again. It’s been just minutes for him, but for Reinette it’s been weeks.  The Doctor saves her from a mechanical automaton that states it’s waiting for her to be completed.

The mystery of the episode is what happened to the crew of the ship? What’s with all these beautiful clockwork automatons who are planning to kill Reinette when she’s “complete”? And why in the world would a ship be obsessed with the life of Madame de Pompadour?

clockwork automatons may be totally creepy. . .

clockwork automatons may be totally creepy. . .

. . . but are in fact rather empty headed

. . . but are in fact rather empty headed

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garden of IDenIn the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker

published in 1997

where I got it: library

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I’d read Kage Baker’s The Anvil of the World a while ago and loved it, but where to begin with the rest of her works? Why not start at the beginning, with her first novel, In the Garden of Iden?  Her first “Company” series book, In the Garden of Iden is told in a diary style by Mendoza, a young company operative who is reminiscing about her youth and her first mission.

Saved as a young girl from the Spanish Inquisition, Mendoza is recruited into The Company, a 24th century organization of time travel and artifact hunting. Instead of sending people or cyborgs back in time to collect specimens or change history, they send a few people back with all the technology, recruit “natives”, and offer them immortality and cyborg implants in exchange for being a Company operative.  It sounds gruesome, but Mendoza happily takes this over starving to death in an Inquisition prison. As a native, Mendoza knows the languages and the customs like the back of her hand.

Yes, this is a futuristic scifi  book that takes place one hundred percent in the 16th century. That’s pretty damn awesome when you think about it.   Remember Joss Whedon’s show Dollhouse?  Garden of Iden had a bit of that feel, with operatives being trained to act and roleplay and dress and walk in a certain way, except no hypnotizing or brain scans. All the operatives remember everything that happens to them with perfect clarity. And some of them have been working for The Company for centuries. All of a sudden that sounds awesome, and, uh, really creepy.

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agyar-197x300Agyar, by Steven Brust

published in 1993

where I got it: purchased used

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Ladies, John Agyar is the kind of man your mother warned you against.  He’s charming and mysterious, and he only wants one thing from the beautiful young women he flirts with.

Some of you may have already stopped reading, because you’re not interested in *that* kind of character. As a reward to those of you still reading, I’d like to share with you the thought that screamed through my head around the halfway point of the book: “holy shit, that’s what’s been going on all this time!?”

Squatting in an abandoned house, John is told there is a typewriter in an upstairs room, and he therapeutically begins to write. At first, he just records his conversations with the boring residents of this sleepy Ohio town.  As he gains comfort with the idea of writing as therapy, and with the idea of his housemate Jim actually reading these typewritten pages, he begins to add in more important details.  The pages of Agyar are those typewritten pages.

Here’s the thing through – This is John’s diary, and he talks about what he feels like talking about. He’s under no obligation to tell you anything important.  You’ve got to figure that part out for yourself.   In so many books the story is in the ink, in the words, on the pages.  In Agyar, everything important is between the lines. If you look close, it’s all there. As per usual, this review may be more vague than needed.  I type the wrong word, and I spoil the surprise. (whatever you do, don’t read review of this book on Amazon. the surprise is spoiled instantly, and in the most unkind way)

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SAM_2392Conflict of Honors (Liaden Universe), by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

published in 1988

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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I happened to mention to a friend that I enjoyed space opera, and she thrust Conflict of Honors into my hands and said “if you like space opera, you’ll love this!”.   Knowing nothing other than that the first few books in the series can be read in any order and that this ongoing series has a massive following, I dove in.

Far in the future, humanity lives side by side with the Liaden, a humanoid race (are they related to humans? I’m not sure).  While the Liadens might look humanoid, their culture and cultural taboos are nothing like ours. Humans often work on Liaden trading ships, although they are often treated as second class citizens.

The Liaden have empathic abilities, and reminded me a little bit of a cross between the Minbari of Babylon5 and Deanna Troi from Star Trek.  They easily read the emotions of humans and their fellow Liadens, and emotional sensitivity isn’t a taboo in their culture. No Liaden would ever say something like “suck it up!” or “quit being so dramatic!”. Instead, should someone be feeling emotional strife, a Liaden healer is assigned to them to help them return to a more joyous state of being.

And Priscilla Delacroix Mendoza has certainly been through a lot. Declared dead by her family, she’s worked on various Liaden transport ships for most of her life.  When the story opens, Priscilla is a miserable cargo master on the Liaden trading ship Daxflan.   The crew of the ship aren’t treated very well, and when Priscilla is left behind on a planet, her relief with having escaped an increasingly horrific situation is equal to her concern about the damage done to her record.

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Update, this giveaway is now closed, and the winner is:

aliasgirl

Congrats aliasgirl! watch your e-mail for subject line Vampire Empire Giveaway Winner,and enjoy!

Thanks to the friendly folks over at Pyr, I’ve got an extra copy of Vampire Empire, book 3: the Kingmakers!

this beautiful book needs a new home, and with as much attention as this series has been getting recently, I’ll bet there are plenty of folks interested. Not sure if this is for you? check out some stellar reviews of the first book The Greyfriar, and the second  book The Riftwalker, and the brand spankin’ new third  book, The Kingmakers!

Rules:

1. Enter by replying to this post. If you are not prompted by the WordPress commenting interface to enter your e-mail address, mention in your comment how I can reach you -  twitter, e-mail, blog, whatever you are comfortable with.

2. this is an international give away. You must have a mailing address on planet Earth.

3. Give away will end at midnight, Eastern Standard Time on Friday, Sept 21. I will contact the randomly chosen winner via e-mail (or whatever other method they have provided me with)

A Song for Arbonne, by Guy Gavriel Kay

published in 1992

where I got it: mah bookshelf

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The real story begins when the romance ends.

Once upon a time, a man loved a woman, and she dearly loved him back. They met for a secret tryst to make a child.  Of course, her husband found out about her affair with her lover, and when the child was born, her angry husband tore the child from her arms. A few hours later, she was dead. Neither her lover nor her husband ever recovered.

Twenty three years later, our story, and the song for Arbonne, can begin.

Blaise has recently come to the southern country of Arbonne. Worse than being an ignorant northerner and a savage mercenary, Blaise hasn’t a clue about or an appreciation of music and poetry, the foundation of society in Arbonne. In Guy Gavriel Kay’s fictional France, Arbonne is country where troubadours and poets are valued beyond gold, where a young duchess rules a Court of Love, and where political marriages are solved with very, very discreet evening visitors.  In the country of Arbonne, music, love and the appreciation of beauty are everything.

Coming from a male dominated society where a man’s prowess is proved on the battlefield, Blaise spends his first few months in Arbonne recovering from culture shock.  Hired by a famous troubadour, Bertran de Talair, Blaise is soon caught up in webs upon webs of intrigue, fights started a generation ago, and a ruling family carrying a heavy burden. Even worse, it’s not long before Blaise’s identity is exposed: he’s the youngest son of a ruling priest of the war hungry northern country of Gorhaut.

In the year that he spends in Arbonne, Blaise will have to learn that this a land of subtlety and intrigue, and what one says is just as important as  what one stays silent on, and how one chooses to stay silent. He could be the best thing to happen to Arbonne, or he could destroy the country from the inside. Blaise’s story is only one facet of the complex story, and the more I tell you of the plot, the less of it you will experience through your own eyes, and that would be a crime.

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No review for you this evening, but hopefully my post will still be entertaining.

I’m about half way through Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Song for Arbonne (working my way up to Under Heaven). It’s been about ten years since I read this, and it’s just a beautiful as I remember. It’s a long, rather dense book, but oh is it amazing. If you’ve never read Kay, I highly suggest starting for A Song for Arbonne, or The Lions of Al-Rassan.

There’s a tiny little scene, about half way through, in a tavern, during a country fair, where some foreign traders challenge the local musicians for a song. It’s a fairly tense scene, and everyone knows that war is on the horizon. I’ll go into it in further detail when I write the review, but understand that in the country of Arbonne, music is everything.  And most of their music is of the romantic / love song variety. So this elder musician gets up, apologizes in advance that he isn’t going to play a love song, and plays an older piece, about a famous musician of Arbonne who had traveled north and was missing his homeland. After finishing the song, the musician then states that he did in fact, play a love song.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen the movie The Sound of Music. Yes, that old Julie Andrews movie. You know that scene, near the end, at the music festival, where Captain Von Trapp plays Edelweiss*? When I was a preteen, I fell head over in heels in love with Christopher Plummer** thanks to that scene. When I got a little older, and understood what that scene was actually about, I cried right along with him. It’s that kind of love song that the elder musician is playing in the scene I described above. And he is singing it in a similarly tense political environment as well.

Speaking of love stories, I happened to be reading A Song for Arbonne while at dinner at restaurant. The waitress says “what are you reading?” and not wanting to get into it (because I’d just read the above mentioned scene and was feeling a little raw) I simply said “oh, something old”. She said she’d recently had a birthday and had received the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, and even though she didn’t usually read romances, she was really enjoying it. The woman at the next booth saved me having to respond by turning right around and gushing that she too was reading 50 Shades, and wasn’t it, like, the best thing, ever? And, since she had just started dating a new fellow, she had asked him if he’d want to try some of the things in the book! The fellow she was sharing a table with visibly blushed, so I’m assuming he’s the guy she asked to tie her up and whip her.*** Dessert, anyone?

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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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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.