the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for July 2018

No review this week, but lots of books to talk and think about.

 

I just finished reading Nexhuman by Francesco Verso, wow, what a book!  A gripping (and maybe creepy?) plotline, a future built around so many “what if” questions, discussion of the unintended consequences of uploading our minds into robot bodies,  this book is like a keystone for so much other science fiction that I’ve read. Lots of hard science questions and possible answers presented in a social scifi / coming of age / doomed romance (maybe they are doomed?) novel that doesn’t shy away from visceral violence. Still thinking about it and putting my thoughts together, and I will probably have to read portions of the book again before writing a review.   Anyway, if you’re looking for something different and smart, something that puts the pieces together, keep your eye out for Nexhuman, out in August from Apex Books. Full review coming soon, when I’m able to talk about this book in coherent sentences.

Needing something a little easier on the gut, I picked up Shadows Over London, by Christian Klaver.  He’s famous for his Supernatural Sherlock Holmes novellas, and I’ve had this Victorian urban fantasy on my shelf for a while.  Christian is a super nice guy, and it’s been too long since I read something of his. 70 or so pages in, and I’m up to my eyeballs in the Seelie Court, the Unseelie Court, a stained glass prison, four siblings who give me some super happy The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe vibes, and way too many cats.  Kinda worried now that this isn’t a happy little Victorian urban fantasy with faeries, kinda thinking there is plenty of violence and death in these pages?  And sorta wanna reread Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks all of a sudden.

On the short fiction front,  I found my way to Cat Pictures Please, (Clarkesworld) by Naomi Kritzer, and Fandom for Robots, (Uncanny) by Vina Jie-Min Prasad.  Stories told by sentient AIs? I can’t get enough of it!  A robot figuring out how to act like a human, how to understand all the weird shit humans do. . . it helps me feel normal that sometimes even I don’t understand the weird shit humans do.   You should go read those short stories I linked to. Each one is a five minute read, but they are so good you will wish they were longer. It’s ok, you can read them again.

 

I promised you pigs and jellyfish princesses, didn’t I.  Pigs first! If you are as obsessed with Fullmetal Alchemist as I am (omg, did you see? They are releasing hardcover editions!  Goodbye $300!), then you know the creator behind that series, Hiromu Arakawa, has another manga series called Silver Spoon.  Silver Spoon is just a high school slice of life story – no magic, no fantasy, nothing supernatural. All these students are at an agricultural high school, many of them are expected to take over their family’s farms and agro-businesses. The main character is a city boy, and he chose this school to get as far away from his overbearing parents as possible. He doesn’t know the first thing about chickens or horses or pigs, and he finds himself fascinated by understanding more about where our food comes from.   

 

So much food and animal science, I love it!!! This is a great manga if you don’t think you like manga. It has ZERO annoying tropes, great characters, excellent art, and food science! Like why you need to age pork for a few days.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

 

Yep,  The Scar by China Mieville is still in my top five list.  Top Five Favorite Books, EVER. Yes, this book is that fucking amazing!

 

You know, sometimes you don’t read a book for years, and then you go back to it, and it’s not as good as you remember, and you wonder why you squeed so much over it in the first place, because yeah it’s a good book, but it ain’t great?

 

Yeah, so, The Scar was the opposite of that.  I saw a ton more this time. I know the plot, I know what happens, I know the big reveals, I even know some of the tiny intimate scenes that really don’t matter. I know all of that stuff, I’ve seen it five or six times already. This read tho, this time I was able to see everything else.

 

I saw the creation of physical scars in the plot. I saw how those scars change people – sometimes it is a reminder of pain, sometimes a reminder of rebirth and positive change.

I saw every time Bellis was used. I saw that sometimes she knew when she was being used. I saw what that did to her.

I saw Tanner gain his freedom, and then gain it again.

I saw how language can give a culture freedom, and can also be used as a prison.

I saw what people are willing to do to get what they want.

I saw the mistakes I’d made in my previous reads of this book.

I saw that while I only wanted to look at Doul through splayed fingers, that I could listen to him with no fear. I found that I desperately wanted to be his audience.

 

Welcome to a spoilerific discussion of China Mieville’s The Scar. This book came out in 2002, so not only do I not feel bad about giving minor spoilers, I’m confident enough in my vaguebook abilities that if you’ve never read this book, none of this post will make any sense to you.  And hey, if it makes you interested in reading The Scar or any other China Mieville? bonus!

 

Johannes confides in Bellis that Armada attacked the Terpsichoria because he, a famous scientist, was aboard, and they wanted his knowledge.  Getting Johannes was just one step in the plans of The Lovers, we don’t even see their plans before Bellis and Johannes get to Armada.  What did they do before? Did The Lovers know, or have an inkling that they’d need a High Kettai speaker? Could they have been on the look out for the woman who wrote High Kettai grammar books? Could they have orchestrated what happened in New Crobuzon to get her on a ship, with Johannes being just a bonus? And used Johannes to lure her to their side?

Read the rest of this entry »

I recently reread China Mieville’s Iron Council, which came out in 2004 and was the third of his loosely related Bas-Lag books.  If you’re not familiar with this new-weird sci-fantasy series, you can read the three books – Perdido Street Station (2000),  The Scar (2002), and Iron Council (2004), in any order. These books take place in the same world, but follow different characters often in different parts of the world. Embassytown (2011) is most certainly not a Bas-Lag book, but in my mind it has the same feel.

 

Anyway, after finished Iron Council, of course I had to reread The Scar!  Mieville’s The Scar has long been one of my all time favorite science fiction (fantasy? other? i have no idea what this book is, except that I love it!) books, so it has been a joy to be reading this book over the last week or so.

 

With Iron Council so fresh in my mind, I can’t help but compare the two.  I’m also coming to these books with far more life experience and understanding of the  short term and long term consequences of governmental and societal decisions.  Upon reread they have completely different books. Better books with far more layers than I expected.    It’s been fun thinking about what Iron Council and The Scar have in common, but worrisome at the same time.  If they have this much in common, does that mean Mieville was telling the same story twice?

 

If you’ve not read much Mieville or any Bas-Lag books, this blog post will made no sense to you. #SorryNotSorry.

 

here’s what I mean:

Both books deal with the hubris of bending nature to our will in the name of progress – Iron Council had an unspoken thing about how easy it is to destroy nature and the homes of the people who already live there, all in the name of building a railroad. Even when the railroad is independent, there are descriptions of how the ground must be torn up and scarred for them to pass over it.  In The Scar, no spoilers, but the rulers of Armada have the hubris to assume all and any sea creatures can be exploited.

Read the rest of this entry »

Iron Council by China Mieville

published in 2004

where I got it – who remembers? this book has been on my shelf for probably 10 years.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I’ve not read much of China Mieville’s newer books, but I went nuts for his Bas-Lag books – Perdido Street Station, Iron Council, and The Scar. Embassytown, having nothing at all to do with those books, falls in the same category of new weird/weird AF.  The Scar has been on my “all time favorite scifi novels” list since I read the first chapter.

 

After ten years, it’s time to revisit.  Let’s start with Iron Council. What do I remember about this book?  Something about a rebellion, a train, a city that’s lost track of itself, lots of reMade, some reMade lady who is human down to her thighs and is a coal engine below and she has a younger boyfriend? Maybe?

 

Oh, the reMade?  Yeah, so, there isn’t exactly prisons in this world. If you break the law (or piss off a rich person), instead of going to prison or a work camp or getting the firing squad, you get reMade in the punishment factories. Maybe you come out of there with a horse’s body, or fish scales covering your eyes or mouth, or guns instead of arms. Maybe you come out of there with a child grafted on to your back, or your face, or your feet switched with your hands. Maybe you’re not even recognized as something that was once human when you come out of there. But you can still work, right?

 

New Crobuzon is a bustling city, filled with industry, thaumaturgy, hedge magic, people just trying to make a living .  There are rail lines within the city, but out in the wild lands? No easy way to get anywhere. A wealthy businessman incorporates, creates a railroad that’s going to go as far as it can. This is how New Crobuzon will make it’s name across the continent!  (there’s a much bigger conversation here about what a railroad does when it goes through land. Who it helps, who it hurts, who benefits from it and who doesn’t, the human cost of the whole thing)

 

The further the railroad gets from home, the long the cash train takes to get there, the more weeks and months between when people get paid.  The prostitutes were the first to strike, because they were sick of fucking on credit. When they stopped taking customers who had no cash, the rail workers striked, refusing to work another minute without pay, because no pay means no fucking. Even the reMade, who were technically slaves of the corporation, went on strike. The strikers took over the train, and fled into the wilderness, and took the train and the tracks with them.   The strikers? Yeah, they the ones who know how to lay track, grade land, build bridges and blast tunners. The train was theirs now. The Iron Council was born out of a sex strike.

Read the rest of this entry »

Archivist Wasp, by Nicole Kornher-Stace

published May 2015

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

She’s been told her whole life that she was chosen by the Goddess Catchkeep, that only she and the few like her had the ability to be Catchkeep’s avatar.

 

A ghost told her she’s famous in the underworld, that the dead speak of her skills, her knowledge, and her compassion.

 

When she gained the title of Archivist by poisoning the previous archivist, she took the name Wasp. Her true name has been buried deep.

 

It will take a journey to the underworld for Wasp to realize how much of her life is a lie.  More than just her true name has been buried deep. Under the shrine, under the town, under what passes for civilization are the lost and forgotten secrets of the dead.  The dead rarely speak, but they nearly always communicate, usually by physically attacking living people.

 

As the Archivist, Wasp is responsible for catching any ghosts found in the region, asking them a specific set of questions, keeping them if they are useful, and releasing them if they prove worthless. Violent ghosts are destroyed.  To guide her, she has the notes of the archivists who came before her, some notes are better than others, some archivists collected more knowledge than others. The life of an archivist is usually short and violent, this is not the kind of job you retire from.  There can only be one living Archivist at a time, so their knowledge dies with them.

 

I recently read the soon-to-be-released sequel to Archivist Wasp, Latchkey (July 10th, Mythic Delirium Books) so I’m reading these atmospheric and compelling books backwards. In a way, it’s neat, because I went into Archivist Wasp knowing things about the world that Wasp doesn’t know yet.  Latchkey actually had very little in the way of spoilers for the first book, so it was thrilling to watch Wasp as she learns how the harvesting knife works, and I finally got to see what really happened to the Catchkeep Priest.

 

As expected, Kohnher-Stace’s balanced prose in Archivist Wasp perfectly captures Wasp’s lonesome post-apocalytpic world, just as it exquisitely captures the inhumane violence of Wasp’s life as a temple upstart and then as an Archivist.  Imagine Hunger Games on steroids, where teenagers are viciously murdered in cold blood because there can be only one winner, now crank up the masochism and throw in some angry, hungry, and very confused ghosts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Time Was, by Ian McDonald

published April 2018

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

Stories tell us who we are, but books are the vehicle. Physical books are vehicle, medium, and method,  a metaphor unto themselves, they are both particle and wave.

 

I’ve read Time Was by Ian McDonald twice now, both times started out exactly the same: A quick glance at cover art that communicates nothing, a quick skim of the back cover copy, a quick shrug. A few pages in an immediate annoyance with Emmett, who speaks quickly and with little context, a man who isn’t ready to let anyone in. Then I meet Tom, who I immediately feel protective over as I imagine his quiet smile and puppy-dog eyes.  In the moment that Tom’s eyes meet Ben’s, I feel honored just to be in the same room with that beautiful blossoming emotion of their immediate chemistry.

 

When Emmett stumbles upon a battered and slim volume of poetry at the death of a local bookstore, he find a folded and faded love letter inside.  Entitled “Time Was”, the book has no copyright date, no publisher information. Used bookstores lucky enough to have a copy appear to be under strict instructions to never sell the book, only to always have it on the shelf.

 

Emmett has grazed the edge of the mystery of Ben and Tom,  two men who were forced to discover a means of communicating across time by leaving letters in specific books in specific bookstores. To sully something beautiful, a particular book was their dead drop. But it’s been decades since the war, why are the instructions still being followed to the letter?

 

Whoever is writing Doctor Who these days could do a lot worse than writing an episode based on Time Was.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,097 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Archives

Categories

FTC Stuff

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.
Advertisements