the Little Red Reviewer

three parts deadThree Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

published in 2012

where i got it: purchased new

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What happens when your God dies? When your city, your world, depends on the protection of your patron god (in exchange for your prayers and devotions, of course) this suddenly becomes a very important question. I’m absolutely fascinated by cultures and stories in which the deities interact with normal people in a somewhat normal way. How would it change your outlook on life to have a conversation with someone who was all knowing and immortal? More on this in a future post, actually. It’s just too fun of an idea to leave alone.

In a bit of a mash up of Law and Order (or maybe Castle?) and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Three Parts Dead throws us into the city of Alt Coulumb, where exactly that has happened: The patron god, Kos Everburning, God of the sun, of fire and of anything that could burn, has died. The Church does the only thing they can do: they hire the best there is, the necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao. Part lawyers, part investigators, part necromancers, and part thieves of godly powers, the necromancers job is to find out how the God died. And then the haggling over what’s left of him can begin.  The contracts of a god aren’t unlike those of a corporation. When the contract holder dissolves, who gets the properties? Who gets the contracts? This isn’t the first time something this has happened in Alt Coulumb.

Three Parts Dead is easily one of those most unique novels I have read in a long time. It’s one thing to give us a fully drawn world full of living Gods who make bargains and contracts with mortals (so much protection for so much devotion, and the like), but it’s a whole ‘nother story to show us the dark sides of those bargains. What happens when the Gods can no longer keep their own promises? What happens when they are quite literally, dismantled, as corporate lawyers might dismantle a bankrupted business? In that way, Gladstone weaves a surface plot that’s nearly mainstream. Got a friend who enjoys James Rollins style thrillers and won’t touch a fantasy novel?  This could be their gateway book.

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I’ve always been a little jealous of how fast my Mom can read. Books she zips through in two days will take me over a week to read.  She finally admitted  the other day that she’d taken a speed reading course in college, and I jokingly responded with “that’s cheating!”.  Another friend in the conversation defended the speed reading course, because she’d taken the same one, and she said that this particular famous speed reading course taught one how to quickly get the most important information out of sentences and paragraphs. Presumably so you weren’t wasting your time on the unimportant stuff.

 

so, that assumes there is unimportant stuff?

 

stained glass

 

And all I could think of was Catherynne M. Valente’s Prester John books,  The Habitation of the Blessed, and The Folded World. Her prose in those novels reads like a stained glass window, where as the sun moves through the sky, the colors shift in the window, giving an illusion of continual movement and shadow as the  story unfolds in the rainbow race of color across the floor and over your body.  And on the other side of that stained glass window a symphony orchestra, complete with leitmotifs, counterpoints and returns, movements, and five or ten minutes of that gorgeous grey noise of pure potentiality when everyone is warming up before the conductor takes to the stage.

800px-Orquesta_Filarmonica_de_Jalisco

 

I realize I sound little melodramatic and over the top. And I do understand that when I say “that sounds like a sunset”, or “that sounds like purple”, that I am not actually seeing a sunset or that color (or seeing them consistently), but my brain is telling me those are the only words in my vocabulary that match what I’m experiencing at that moment. There is certainly an element of metaphor happening here, but there is also my complete confidence that those adjectives and phrases are the rightest ones.

 

For example, Shania Twain’s singing voice sounds like the color orange.  I’m not seeing orange when I hear her voice, but in my brain, that is the adjective that best fits what I’m hearing.  Singing voices tend to sound orange or like shades of blueish-purple, and men’s singing voices often taste like metal. I think there’s something to it that orange and blue are complimentary colors. Although Maluka’s voice sounds like sandstone, which isn’t part of the color wheel at all, so um, there’s that.

sandstone 1

Yes! it sounds like this!

 

Which the long way around brings me back to:  If I was speed reading, how much of  would I miss? Would the stained glass window become simple clear leaded glass? Would there be no sun moving behind it, no movement of colors on the floor for me to chase after?  Would the symphony be reduced to only the brass section, or just a string quartet, or one very bemused yet confusingly lonely oboe?

 

My Mom gets through way more books that I do. But I’ll keep my slower pace, thanks.

the-habitation-of-the-blessed

installing-linux-on-a-dead-badger-by-lucy-a-snyder-largeInstalling Linux on a Dead Badger, by Lucy Snyder

published 2007

where I got it: purchased (and she signed it!  awesome!)

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How is anyone supposed to say “no” to a book with a title like that??   And I promise, you do not need to know anything about Linux, or be an IT geek or professional (same thing?) to enjoy this book.  All you need to enjoy this  book is a sense of humor.

Weighing in at barely a hundred pages, you can easily read this collection in an evening.  It might only take you an hour or two to read, but you’ll be reading snippets of it out loud to friends and family for at least a week afterwards. The opening chapter is exactly what the title refers to: how to install Linux on a dead badger, with details instructions of which shareware to download for which devices, how to draw the blood rune, what to do with the origami, and most importantly, what to do if something goes wrong (take shelter in the nearest church. You may require an exorcist). I can already see the side of your mouth curling up.   Did I mention the book is illustrated?

Following the technical writing opening is a collection of journalism style articles about the new state of the world. With titles like Dead Men Don’t Need Coffee Breaks, Unemployed Playing Dead to Find Work, and the gut bustingly hilarious Trolls Gone Wild, Snyder takes aim at corporate bureaucracies, human resources departments with good intentions, how to make a fortune with a video camera, jobs you’ll take when you’re really *really* desperate, and how businesses  keep up with the fast pace of changing technology.  There are a few short stories right at the end, but I liked the business magazine article-esque pieces much better.

Satire. This is how you do it.

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Apex Aug 2013

As part of Apex Magazine’s Operation Fourth Story this is the second part of a two part series talking with a few of the slush readers of Apex Magazine. read part one here.

Today I’m joined by Michael Matheson for a guest post on his experiences as a slush reader for Apex Magazine. The question I posed to him was this:

What’s your favorite part of slush reading, and why is having a slush team important to the success of a short fiction magazine such as Apex?

I’m not entirely certain I would restrict myself to one thing that I love about slush reading. Part of what I enjoy about the process is the thing that, I would think, most slush readers/submissions editors enjoy: that extraordinary rush one feels at finding something absolutely brilliant in the submissions pile of whatever magazine we work for. Being able to find a wider audience, or at least vie for the work to do so, by bringing it to an editor’s attention. That’s especially true if it’s the work of someone who’s not yet had their fiction (or poetry, or critical non-fiction, depending on venue) published, or who hasn’t managed to crack a semi-pro or pro venue yet (which is a more arbitrary goal in terms of publication, but which does bring with it a much larger audience than smaller, less visible venues—and the monetary incentive is also nice). That discovery of brilliant work that the world needs to see, right this very moment, is always worth the wait.

Now, saying that can potentially sound dismissive of the rest of the submissions pile. Which is absolutely not the case. Everything that comes through the pile is someone’s hope, or aspiration, toward having something of theirs published. Perhaps it’s a particular story they badly want to share with the world; something quite personal they need to talk about and start discussion with. Perhaps they just want to be published for the sake of being published. Some will be looking to just get that one piece published to see if they could, while others want to build a career out of the thing and this is their jumping off point, or even another step along the way. All of those stories are worth seeing. They’re all parts of someone’s journey toward wherever they’re going with their writing.

apex April 2013

At a venue like Apex where we don’t currently offer feedback, reading submissions is more of a tacit acknowledgment of someone’s hard work, before you send them back on their way without really having a chance to speak to them when they’re being rejected. It’s not quite as involved a process as a rejection is from a market that has the time to offer feedback. Unfortunately, like most pro markets, Apex receives far too many submissions to write feedback for each. Even with more than a dozen (I believe we’re currently at fifteen, or sixteen submissions editors) people working the slush pile, there simply isn’t enough time to do so given the number of submissions we see in the course of a month. Let alone the bulk of material that comes in over a year’s time.

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toastpeople always ask them from coast to coast, what is it that they like most?

they like toast slush!

they don’t wanna brag, they don’t wanna boast, but these folks, they like toast slush!

(with never ending apologies to Heywood Banks)

As part of Apex Magazine’s Operation Fourth Story (my recent review and learn more and win stuff!),   Becky Allen,  Anika Dane, and Caroline Pruett have stopped by  to tell us more about what they do behind the scenes of Apex, why it’s important, and what they enjoy about it.   In a few days Michael Matheson will stop by with his thoughts.  I always enjoy these behind-the-scenes things, don’t you?

okay ladies, what’s your favorite part of slush reading, and why is having a slush team important to the success of a short fiction magazine such as Apex?

Becky Allen:

What’s my favorite part?  My favorite part has to be the diversity of ideas that people build their stories on. I’ve been reading sci fi and fantasy for most of my life, and sometimes when I pick up books it feels like I’ve read it all before. They’re genres with well-worn tropes. But, to my great delight, the majority of submissions we see are more than that. Often they’re twists on tropes, but still structured around something fresh, wrapping a delicious trope around an original, chewy caramel center. Seeing the different ways people tackle familiar ideas is fascinating and exciting.

I’ll add this, too: I love reading the slush because I’m consistently impressed by people who can fit a whole story into such a short format. I’m incredibly verbose myself and have never been able to write short stories, but find the feat of fitting a beginning, middle, and end, plus world building and a character arch, into 5,000 words, to be remarkable.

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this blog post is part of Apex Magazine’s Operation Fourth Story. If Apex picks up enough new subscribers this month, they’ll be able to include a fourth original story in future issues, and how awesome would that be! Click here for more info about Operation Fourth Story. Already a subscriber? click here. But don’t just take my word for it,  check out these other recent Apex Magazine blog posts:

Books, Bones, and Buffy interviews Cameron Salisbury, Managing Editor

Two Dudes in an Attic reviews Issue 55 (Dec 2013)

Bibliotropic reviews Issue 58 (March 2014)

Lynn’s Book Blog reviews issue 57 (Feb 2014)

Over the Effing Rainbow reviews issue 59 (April 2014)

Beauty in Ruins reviews issue 54 (Nov 2013)

Genre-Bending reviews issue 55 (Dec 2013)

new!  Bibliosanctum reviews issue 58 (March 2014)

apex 58

And for those of you who would like to take my word for it, here are my thoughts on issue 58, the March 2014 issue:

I’m yet another newbie when it comes to short fiction magazines. I’ve subscribed to Asimov’s for maybe two years now, and have picked up the occasional promotional issue of short fiction magazines at conventions and bookstores and such. But these new fangled electronic magazines you say? Read it on my phone or e-reader, you say? say WHAT?

Once I got over the omg this magazine is on my phone thing, I suddenly realized omg this magazine is on my phone, this is wonderful! I don’t need to worry about it not fitting in my purse or getting all mangled in my purse (a part of me is still mourning that poor, poor issue of Asimov’s that I shoved in my purse and it got completely mangled by my keys), or it getting soaked in the mailbox (the fate of too many Asimov’s). okay, so having Apex Magazine on my phone is pretty neat. And hello gorgeous cover art! Julie Dillon is one of my favorite artists! ok, so it’s pretty to look at, as portable as chapstick, and easy to navigate, but what about what’s in it?

Each issue of Apex Magazine includes a short note from the editor, a few short stories, poetry, interviews, and a non-fiction essay about issues that are near and dear to genre fans. The March issue opens with a short essay from Editor Sigrid Ellis (who I recently interviewed), where she talks about crossroads, the fine line between flying and falling, thresholds, and breaking through those thresholds, deciding if we are falling or if we are no, flying. She’s not just randomly talking about decision trees, she’s introducing you to what lies in the pages ahead. Characters in transitions, characters who are standing at the precipice, people at the cross roads of what will define the rest of their life. And you know what? Falling or flying, it’s up to the person in the air to decide which verb applies to them.

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EdibleBook poster rev tabloid

When I say “I eat books like that for breakfast”, what I mean is that I eat them for dessert. literally*.  Around the world, on or around April Fool’s Day is The Edible Books Festival.  Our local Edible Books evening was the first Friday of April. Hosted by the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, over twenty smart, funny, and punny edible books awaited judgement (and eating!).   Being a play on words, or a pun of some kind certainly wasn’t a requirement, but all of my favorites were word plays of some kind. observe the deliciousness! Warning – photo dump and awful photography ahead.

"Dive-rgent"

“Dive-rgent”

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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.