the Little Red Reviewer

Recent reads: Robots, Fairies, Pigs, and a Princess Jellyfish

Posted on: July 30, 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.

 

Food Science YEAH!

You ever read (or start to read) a story and it is SO TOTALLY NOT YOUR THING, but then you find out something happens later in the story or in the next book in the series and suddenly you are all intrigued, because whatever that thing is, it IS TOTALLY YOUR THING?

 

That is happening to me with Princess Jellyfish, a manga series by Akiko Higashimura.  Let me tell you what I liked about it first, and then I’ll tell you what really annoyed me, and then I’ll tell you what intruiged me.

What I liked: The artwork.  I get violently annoyed when in an ensemble manga or anime when all the characters looks alike, and the only way to tell the girls apart is by hair style or who has tights on under their skirt. Anime watchers, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  In Princess Jellyfish, all the housemates look completely different, like they were all drawn by a different artist. So that was cool right out of the gate.

 

What annoyed me:  All the women who live in this house are hardcore nerds for something. If you aren’t a hardcore nerd, they don’t want to talk to you (and if you are a man, they certainly don’t walk to talk to you! They don’t hate men, they just aren’t interested in men).  Their interactions  reminded me of the more toxic experiences I’ve had with fandoms. And yes, I brought my baggage to this manga, sue me. For example, I no longer say I am a fan of Star Trek or Star Wars. I can’t tell you the name of specific Star Trek episodes, or which seasons had awkards romances between which characters or what exact date TOS premiered, I don’t know the names of every droid and ship in Star Wars, I’ve never played the video games, I haven’t read past the Timothy Zahn books. I now describe myself as a “casual watcher”, because i’m not nerd enough, i’m not “fan-enough” for fandom.  I got that kind of vibe from many of the housemates in Princess Jellyfish, and it pissed me the fuck off. The main character in the manga, Tsukimi, likes Jellyfish, and remembers as a child that she had a bit of running joke with her Mom about a Jellyfish Princess. Even if Tsukimi liked fashion (which she doesn’t!!!!), the other women in the house don’t want her talking to the very fashionable Kurako, who stops by the house way to often to say Hi and loves giving people make overs.

 

Why can’t Tsukimi be a nerd and a princess? If she starts dressing fashionably and doing her hair and learning about make up, will her housemates make her move out?  There is a scene where Kurako does her make up, and she is terrified that her housemates will see her looking like that. The idea of that made me sick to my stomach, that they’d kick her to the curb because she wouldn’t be nerdy enough anymore. that they’d brand her as a fake geek girl.  Oh boy was I pissed off!

 

But then I saw the cover art for the 2nd volume.

That’s Tsukimi and Kurako! And she looks so beautiful! Like a princess! Like someone who is confident in how they look!  She’s dressed like that, and the series has who knows how many more volumes and chapters, so the housemates must have realized that it doesn’t matter how she dresses, it doesn’t matter if she has make up on, none of that matters, because she is still their friend.

Also there is some plot line about the house being sold and all these shy nerdy women have to convince a local council (planning commission?) why the house shouldn’t be sold or knocked down or something, and I guess there is some humor.  So yeah, this series pissed me the fuck off, but now I really want to read it and see what happens.

 

And now you’ve gotten robots, fairies, pigs, and a jellyfish princess. And somehow I spent 50% of this blog post talking about something I’ve hardly read any of but have LOTS of thoughts of. Happy monday.

 

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4 Responses to "Recent reads: Robots, Fairies, Pigs, and a Princess Jellyfish"

Ha! I’ve just finished volume 5 of Princess Jellyfish and it gets way more annoying/interesting/intriguing as only a manga can. I just can’t stop though … :-/
Silver Spoon sounds fun – have added that to my wishlist – thank you. 🙂
And Nex Human and Shadows Over London both sound entirely awesome – they’re now on the ‘to buy when funds allow next’ list – thank you again. 😀

Liked by 1 person

Shadows over London is still fun, but the further I get into it, the more editing issues it has. It is self published, so could just be this particular version.

Liked by 1 person

Thank you for letting me know. Duly noted. 🙂

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Hmmm, OK, duly noted. 😀

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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.
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