the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘romance

best of all poss worldsThe Best of All Possible Worlds, by Karen Lord

published in 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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When I was a kid, I’d Ooh and Aah over the ladies dresses at the department store. My Mom very quickly figured out that I preferred the more simple styles, what she called “elegant”. No ruffles, no bows, none of that foofy stuff. It was explained to me that the more elegant dresses were more expensive because there was nothing (like a ruffle) to hide the flaws under, so a more skilled person had to make the dress. If there is a most perfectly, stylishly elegant dress in the universe, The Best of All Possible Worlds is the book version of that dress. Elegance, humor, and confidence, simplicity.  No where for the flaws to hide, and Lord writes with a confidence that says what you may see as a flaw is a design element, meant to draw your eye.

 

On Cyngus Beta, it’s fun to make fun of the Sadiri. After all, the Sadiri have a major superiority complex. Let me back up just a tiny bit.  Cygnus Beta is an open colony planet. Anyone can show up and ask for a homesteading. The citizens would never describe it as such, but it’s a last resort. You go to Cygnus Beta if you have nowhere else to go. You build a house, you start a farm, maybe the remnants of where ever you came from start a village, and you are left alone to live as you wish. It becomes your home, and you become fiercely protective of it, happy to punch anyone who calls Cygnus Beta “a last resort” right in the face.

 

It’s not that the Sadiri have a superiority complex, it’s that everyone thinks they do. The Sadiri are not loud, or brash, or at all openly emotional. Their body language is subtle, their communication is private. Because of their silence and what appears to be disinterest in others, many cultures think the Sadiri are snobs.  It’s too bad that’s such an easy mistake to make. After the destruction of their home planet, the Sadiri find themselves enroute to Cygnus Beta.

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Scale-Bright - Benjanun SriduangkaewScale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

published August 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the author (thanks!)

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Niall Alexander’s recently reviewed Scale-Bright on Tor, and  he suggested reading the accompanying and related short stories first. Benjanun Sriduangkaew recommends reading Scale-Bright first.  I followed both of their advices.  I read the short stories first, but I’ll review the novella first. Check back next week for a review of the short stories that are published along side and birthed Scale-Bright, because they are glorious all on their own, in a completely different way. Let me give you a little teaser right off the bat: if you like Catherynne Valente, you’re gonna love Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

 

Those familiar with Chinese mythology will recognize characters and words, will smile out of the corner of their mouths because they know what’s coming. Woefully ignorant (yet less so, now) of Chinese mythology, all these characters and words were new to me. Wikipedia answered my most basic questions about Houyi and Chang’e, but the words I didn’t know, words like banbuduo, mowhab and daihap, had to be figured out contextually. Those were the words that tasted the best.  For those readers who would prefer some background before diving in, Sriduangkaew wrote a great guest post over at SFSignal that is a cheat-sheet of sorts.

 

The stories she was raised with are real if not always told correctly, and the movies and plays only told the tiniest part, and Julienne, a mortal woman in Hong Kong, has been invited into mythology. Orphaned and then found by her aunt Chang’e and Chang’e’s wife Houyi, Julienne knows no one would believe her if she said her aunts were Immortals.  It’s a tenuous yet amusing dynamic between the three women – Julienne is a little embarrassed about what she sees as her personal failings, and her aunties are fiercely proud and protective of her.  They give her the tiniest of sacred protections, and she unknowlingly helps them navigate the concept of “family”.  There is more than the barest undercurrent that this is the first time in Julienne’s life that her sexuality has not been questioned or judged, that she’s being completely and unconditionally accepted for who she is.

 

Julienne knows she is on the edge of mythology, that her aunties are the women to whom these stories actually happened to, that to them they are not stories but history, that Houyi is still paying for the crime of shooting down the suns, that Chang’e is making up for all the time she lost when she was imprisoned on the Moon. But  I’ll talk much more about those two ladies later, as Scale-Bright is Julienne’s story.

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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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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.