the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for May 2011

Thanks to a busier than expected work schedule lately,  I haven’t got much reading done.    Here’s hoping the work schedule goes back to normal one of these days.

I have no book review for you today, no author love letters, no recipes for chocolate covered snacks,  no photos of book pr0n,  nuthin’.

So I totally cheated, and pulled some goodies off my Google reader that I thought you would enjoy.

Enjoy!

Pat of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist is trying to decide if he should start Tweeting or not. Go tell him what you think of Twitter.

I have no idea what Mona Lisa Motion Comic is, but it looks hella cool.

Stainless Steel Droppings has a rockin’ new look, it’s teh uber-slick!

Lavie Tidhar’s new novella, Osama, is available for pre-order. I was lucky enough to get an E-ARC of this, so stay tuned for a review. Tidhar’s steampunk-ish The Bookman didn’t do much for me, but I’ve greatly enjoyed his short fiction.

My buds (Hi Scott! Hi Chris!) at Iceberk Ink have a “spoilerific” Doctor Who post. I haven’t looked at it yet, not sure I want to. But you can.

>Firefly didn’t much care for Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, but I’ve enjoyed the miniseries on TV and playing the board game, so this is a historical fiction that I’m interested in reading. If I can survive Sarum I can survive anything, right?

Also, Mii cupcakes. That’s kinda creepy.   And odd.

Or, as I’ve been saying lately, “that’s ood”.

Now I want an ood cupcake. wonder if it tastes like singing?

The Falling Machine (Society of Steam, book 1), by Andrew Mayer

published in May, 2011

Where I got it: received review copy from PYR

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Being “Victorian”, most steampunk I’ve read takes place in Victorian England, so it was very refreshing to read a steampunk that takes place in the United States. Even better, to a city I’ve visited before, New York City.  Mayer has taken the hustling, bustling, industrializing, Brooklyn-Bridge-just-starting New York City of 1880 and added superheroes, villains, automatons, and mad scientists.

Sarah Stanton, daughter of famed industrialist Alexander Stanton, lives a life of privilege. Although she isn’t supposed to leave her house without a chaperone, and she can’t vote or own property or choose her own husband, Sarah has been allowed to study under the inventor Dennis Darby.  Darby, leader of the international group of superheroes known as The Paragons, and creator of the walking, talking, thinking automaton known as Tom, is Sarah’s favorite person in the whole world.  When Sarah witnesses Darby’s violent death, his dying words regarding the future and her place in it become her responsibility.

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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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We picked up Jeff Vandermeer’s  The Steampunk Bible the other day, and while I haven’t had a ton of time to look through it, I’ve drooled over the photos and read a handful of the guest essays.

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as you can see, It’s book pornalicious.

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Cat Valente? After reading your essay, I love you even MORE! “parents, talk to your children about steampunk . . “
(more photos after the jump) Read the rest of this entry »

Last night was an evening of the most wonderful trifecta currently known to mankind: dinner with friends, booze, and gaming.

we played a newish game called Alien frontiers.  The game was easy enough to learn, and in my case, easy enough to win.  It didn’t require insane amounts of strategy or card playing, it was mostly a dice rolling, steal from your neighbor, resource spending kind of thing. Actually, a really good gateway game for non-gamers.

don’t let the complicated looking board fool you, it’s a very simple game:

You gain points by landing colonies on the planet in the center of the board. Whoever controls the colony gets the bonus, and the card for the colony. Now, take a close look at the names of these colonies:

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Infoquake, by David Louis Edelman

Published in 2006

where I got it: Library

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“trust me”. . . “what could possibly go wrong?”  I love it when a story starts out with phrases like that. Means I’m in for a fun ride, because having characters utter phrases like that is akin to leaving a gun on the table.  You know everything that could possibly go wrong will, in ways you could never imagine.

On this future Earth, “bio-logics”, biological software, similar to nanobots, runs through your blood, through your brain, through your guts,  allowing humanity to work smarter. Governments are organizations you sign up for, not live under.   Thanks to  bio-logics programming and the Multi Network, business transactions and personal meetings are done virtually.  This isn’t quite a Neuromancer future, but it’s a stop on the way. Most certainly not a world I ever want to wake up in, but it sure is a blast to read about!

The bio-logics industry is massive.  A million little fiefcorps write programming all day long, hoping to make it big, make it to number one on Primo’s (sort of a cross between a stock exchange, Consumer Reports, and an uncorruptable search engine). Natch, the charming and brilliant master of the Natch Personal Programming Fiefcorp has a plan to make it to number one.  He could become very rich very fast, or he could crash the entire system.  If only he trusted his employees enough to tell them what the hell he’s up to.

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Doctor Who: The Forgotten (graphic novel),  by Tony Lee with artwork by Pia Guierra

published in Nov 2010, from IDW

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it:  simply couldn’t resist.

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I either need to stop going to the comic shop, or just start signing my paychecks over to them.  And come on, could you say no to this? Do you really I could say no to this? didn’t think so!

Finding themselves in a strange museum and with no sign of the TARDIS, a fascinated Martha Jones wants to go exploring, but The Doctor finds he’s lost his memory. He knows who he is, knows what he is, but he can’t seem to remember anything before his current regeneration.  Even stranger, they find this is a museum dedicated to The Doctor himself! Along with the artifacts, keys, seals and stones is a room with images of all of the Doctor’s previous incarnations, and special items they carried – an umbrella, psychic paper, a cat brooch, sound familiar? Martha suggests he take a good look at the objects, perhaps it will help bring back his memories.

As Martha pushes The Doctor to remember everything he can as fast as possible, it quickly becomes apparent something much more sinister is going on.  The museum is crawling with Autons, spiders, Clockwork Men and video cameras. Someone is watching, and waiting.

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The Damned Busters, by Matthew Hughes

Release dates-  US: May 31st 2011, UK May 5th 2011

Where I got it:  Received Review copy from the friendly folks at Angry Robot Books

why I read it:  Interesting premise + totally cool cover art = sign me up.

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Meet Chesney Arnstruther, diagnosed in childhood as a high functioning autistic, his social skills are limited to the occasional game of low stakes poker, reading comic books, ogling over women who jog in the park, and speaking on the phone to his televangelist obsessed Mother, Letitia. Employed at an insurance company, Chesney gets to spend his days doing what he loves: working with numbers. Averages, graphs, predictions, statistics, those are the things that sing in Chesney’s heart.  Logical and practical, he respects his mother’s religious leanings, but Chesney’s personal faith lies in numbers, percentages, and algorithms.

You can get the gist of how things get started by following the genius cover art:  Man stubs hand with hammer in presence of an inadvertent pentagram. Demon is summoned, offers man  his hearts desire in exchange for his soul. Man says “No thanks!”, and before long, all Hell breaks loose. Well, not so much “break loose”, as goes on strike. Yes, the Demons of hell are organized.  And Chesney suddenly finds himself smack dab in the middle of their union negotiations.  He never sold his soul or signed a deal with the Devil, so what are they do with him?  He’s a special case, so he gets a special deal, one named Xaphon.  With the looks, sound, and personality of a prohibition era gangster, the demon Xaphon is Chesney’s to command for two hours out of every 24.

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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.