the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for April 2019

Advertising told through Science Fiction?


I was smart, and downloaded WAY more hours of podcasts than I’d need to get myself to Maryland and back,  so now I’m working my way through the thumb drive to see what’s good and what will get deleted.


I like science-y podcasts.  I don’t need Great Courses Astrophysics,  pop-science is more than adequate for my commute.


Today’s commute included an episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain, titled “This is Your Brain on Ads”.  the podcast included a short history of advertising, like radio jingles,  fun mascots for sugary kid’s cereals, product placement in TV shows and radio,  superbowl ads, all the way to instagram influencers. There was mention that children grow out of being easily influenced by about age 13, and younger than that and they really are convinced that Lucky Charms is part of a balanced breakfast.  There was mention that the Superbowl can charge so much for ads because sports fans are the most loyal group of consumers.


There was an aside about MTV’s The Real World. Remember that show? It birthed the reality tv show phenomenon.  MTV had zero budget, and needed a TV show (otherwise they were going to have to show sportsball), so they got a bunch of regular people who were willing to work for a whole lotta attention/fame/exposure, and not a lot of money.  All the advertising that MTV sold that ran during that show was pure profit, because it cost them hardly anything to make the show.


There was a discussion of how our attention has value, and that our attention can be monetized.


And often we have zero control over how we respond to advertising.  It has nothing to do with willpower (ok, maybe a little), but the advertising companies have figured out through trial, error, and studies, what exactly will make you keep watching that stupid infomercial.


And that got me thinking.


Science fiction is really good at taking relatively normal near-future things – genetically modified pets, using robots as caregivers for people with dementia, inescapable closed circuit tv,  the dark side of social media and making your living as an instagram influencer, catching criminals, first contact with aliens, getting back to the Moon, the list is endless, because science fiction knows no bounds.


So what does a science fiction story that deals with the monetization of your attention look like?  What might it look like from the person who is buying or brokering your attention, what might it look like from the person whose attention is being purchased and monetized?  what will the future of advertising look like, through a science fiction lens?


Advertising + science fiction = ??


A title that comes to mind right away is Robert Jackson Bennett’s Vigilance, and 2007’s Grey by Jon Armstrong (which I feel would read as horribly dated now?).


What titles come to mind for you?


What might a science fiction author do with the prompt “what would advertising and monetization of consumer’s attention in the future look like?”


Exit Strategy (Murderbot Diaries #4) by Martha Wells

published in 2018

where i got it: purchased new




Murderbot is good at a lot of things.  Murderbot is especially good at having an exit strategy. Knowing where the doors and hallways are, and knowing where those hallways lead. Being able to hack software so as to disappear.  Knowing how to get out of conversations (usually by walking away). Knowing how to get away from people.


Exit strategies are helpful when social situations, or any situation involving people, aren’t your strong suit. Is always having an exit strategy just a coping mechanism for Murderbot?   We all use coping mechanisms to avoid dealing with things that we don’t have the toolkit to deal with or simply don’t want to deal with.


Let’s get some  plot bits out of the way first – Murderbot finds out that Mensah is in trouble, and Murderbot has evidence that can prove that Mensah is innocent. But, how to get the evidence to Mensah’s people?  And what if GrayCris doesn’t care about if Mensah is innocent? What if she’s just the bait, and what they really want is one specific rogue Sec Unit? Finding Mensah and her people is no problem, but now comes the hard part:  Can Murderbot trust them? Do they even want to see Murderbot again? What about Mensah, what’s Murderbot going to say to her when they inevitably meet again? Mensah offered Murderbot a home, and Murderbot ran away from her. Where does their relationship even stand now?


Murderbot needs to decide who is worth trusting, and who is worth protecting, and exactly how much is worth risking to trust and/or protect. When you’re not considered a person, when you’re considered property,  what is trust worth to you? In the end, what does trust, what does “a relationship”, what does “having a friend”, get you, if you’re not a person who has rights or the ability to exist in a way of your own choosing?


When I first started reading Exit Strategy, I thought the plot was thin and weak. I felt like I wasn’t connecting with this book as much as I had with earlier entries, and that annoyed me. Call it user-error.  More on that later, I promise.


Murderbot likes to observe people, is curious about people things, and maybe sometimes appreciates people things. But Murderbot doesn’t want people things.  I relate to this, because I feel the same way about tattoos. I am fascinated by them, I love seeing and complimenting people’s art, I enjoy hearing people’s stories about why that their tattoos mean to them, I once went through a short obsession with Russian Prison tattoo art (yes, this is a thing. No, you can’t ask).  But I have zero interest in ever getting a tattoo. I’m fascinated by them and I appreciate them, but I don’t want it for myself.

Read the rest of this entry »

No review or anything really book related this week? whaaat???  what has this blog come to?   Traveling, that’s what.  I was at my parent’s house in Maryland for a very long weekend. In between taking my niece to Build-A-Bear, attending two seders, hanging out with my family, and napping as much as possible, I   finished a few books, started a fun ARC book, didn’t get any reviews written (or started), and got to visit with the fantastic Lesley Conner of Apex Book Company and her wonderful family.  I wanted to take her doggie home with me.  Want to meet Lesley? she’s scheduled to be at the publisher pitch sessions at StokerCon in Grand Rapids MI in a few weeks.


will i get some reviews written (or at least started) this weekend? I sure as hell hope so, I’m already forgetting  the stuff i read. Someone write me a science fiction book about how an implant in my brain can better remember my #allthefeels so that if I’m writing the review weeks later I can feel the passion and emotions fresh again, and somehow also for the first time.


The funniest thing about the weekend?   To get a selfie with Lesley I had to stand on an 8 inch step stool.   Also, her 11 year old daughter is the same height as me.  I sound taller on the phone, trust me.



anyway, in the meme time,

Welcome to  Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

Fullmetal Alchemist the complete four-panel comics by Hiromu Arakawa (2019) – a must have for any FMA fanatic (which I am).  This book contains all the extra comics in back of every volume, plus a bunch of extras.  Silly, light hearted, and self referential, this is a fun way to visit all your FMA friends without crying. (Hughes!!!!!).   And yeah, Brotherhood is great, but i’m an old school fan of the original, darker anime.  This series is sacred to me, so NO SPOILERS in the comments, as a lot of people are only recently discovering this series, and i don’t want the end to be wrecked for them the way it was wrecked for me.


Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by KJ Parker (2019) – Everyone loves a KJ Parker!  And this looks delightfully wry and sarcastic!  I hope I can get to this soon, it looks very fun.


We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921-ish?) – you like dystopian novels that live on the razor’s edge of satire? Many of them were influenced by this book.  What surprised me most about We was how easy it was to read.  I should really read this again sometime, it was fantastic.  Looking for a vintage dystopian novel? looking for translated science fiction?  Get a two-fer with this title.


Meet Me In The Future by Kameron Hurley (2019) – A collection of short stories. What do you think of Hurley’s work?  I’ve enjoyed some of her work, and bounced off other stuff, hard. I think I am not the intended audience for her work.


Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (1963) – Also vintage!  also satirical!  also, my favorite Vonnegut! This book is weird as fuck, and brilliant. The first few times I read it I was convinced the made-up words were real words. What I hadn’t realized was that this book has such a cult following that in many circles, they are real words. I looked this book up on Wikipedia to learn that two school boards tried to ban this book, one board tried to ban it because they thought it was garbage. I was listening to a rock station in the car the other day, and they played a song by a band called “Ice Nine Kills”, i gotta buy all the music this band has made, just cuz of the name.

Where have I been this last week?

At my parent’s house in Maryland.  Had a great time, got to spend time with my adorable niece who is the cutest little girl in the whole world, got to visit with Lesley Conner of Apex Book Company . .  . .  and got to spent in total about 22 hours in the car.  it was a long drive made easy by the Ohio and PA turnpike, and good weather.  Driving through the mountains is fun!

also, podcasts kept me from pulling my hair out.

So, i SUCK at listening to podcasts.  Audiobooks put me to sleep, and podcasts usually make me feel guilty about not reading enough, or self caring enough, or not whatevering enough.  I don’t want a podcast that’s like a radio station’s morning show, where it’s all in jokes and personalities I’m supposed to already know. Let it be known that i am THE WORST at listening to science fiction themed podcasts. see: guilt at not reading or not liking what the hosts are super excited about.  I’ve been on science fiction podcasts! I enjoy being on science fiction podcasts! I just suck at listening to them.  I think us Sci-Fi’ers love the sound of our own voices just a little too much sometimes.

I wanted podcasts that were going to keep my attention, keep me awake, teach me about something I don’t know much about, and be fun to listen to.

Here are the ones that kept me engaged:


Ologies – where has this podcast been all my life? I LOVED the podcasts on linguistics and etymology, and enjoyed the one on personality tests. I downloaded a bunch of others but haven’t gotten to them yet.


The Uncertain Hour – i love the tagline of this podcast so much that I’ve started using this line at work “because the things we fight the most about are the things we know the least  about”.  The first season was on things you don’t know about Welfare.  The second season is about how and why we have government regulation. that sounds SO BORING, but the journalist who does this podcast makes it sound super interesting!  Season 3 is about the Opioid Crisis, and that one may be too depressing for me to listen to.


99% Invisible – The  sound quality of these episodes seems a bit all over the place, but the information is really neat. I listened to an episode about Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonia houses, one about San Francisco’s Chinatown, one about double-eyelid surgery, and one about the history of color. The color one was less interesting than I’d hoped, the other two were really interesting.


I didn’t listen to The Dream on this roadtrip, but that is another podcast I really enjoyed. She takes on Pyramid /Multilevel Marketing schemes. fun stuff!


Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

Embassytown by China Mieville  (2011) – if you like weird AF scifi, this is for you. you may also need a dictionary, Mieville likes his obscure words. I remember struggling with, but really enjoying this book when I read it. I’m interested in reading it again.


Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (2013) – when humans can be genetically modified, how will society view these genetically modified people?  I like social science fiction, so I enjoyed this whole trilogy.


The Gabble and other stories by Neal Asher (2015) – I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Asher. Many of his novels take place in a larger universe, but if you’re like me and you’re not sure where to start, his short fiction is an excellent place. mostly hard scifi, lots of aliens who think humans make a good snack.


Central Station by Lavie Tidhar (2016) – a mosaic novel of interconnected stories that take place in a future Tel Aviv, where an international space station was built – if you want to get to space, your shuttle takes off from the station in Tel Aviv!  Families trying to get by, robots trying to find their place in a society that doesn’t need them anymore. you can read this as a handful of short stories, you can read it as a loose novel, whatever you want.


The Inconvenient God by Francesca Forrest (2018) – what a wonderful little  novella! At a university, it’s time for one of the old, less needed gods, to be retired. He’s not ready to go. He doesn’t even know his own origin story. This is a beautiful story, highly recommended.





I’ve been dabbling in a lot of books this week. Making slow progress, but not quite going all in on anything.


I finished reading Exit Strategy by Martha Wells,  and I want to give this another read through before I write a review. I feel like I rushed through the first half of it.  Although knowing me, my entire review will be some version of “This is why we shouldn’t build humanoid robots. We’ll keep assuming that since they look sort of human that they want human things, and when it turns out that they don’t want human things, our feewings will get hurwt. But like, we couldn’t have respected their answer when they said ‘don’t want human things, thanks’?”


And I’ve been bouncing in and out and around these three titles. If I’m “all in” on anything, it’s definitely the supernatural thriller by Aliette de Bodard.  The end is super intense, I’ve probably got 70 or so pages to go!

Servant of the Underworld by Aliette De Bodard is a supernatural thriller/murder mystery that takes place in the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The investigator of the maybe-murder is the Priest for the Dead, and the accused murderer is the priest’s brother. There’s all sorts of dirty politics and infidelity and secret children and judgy parents and oh, the Aztec gods are real. You can talk to them, and they’ll tell you what they require as sacrifice and/or worship. and then they might kill you. I like stories where the gods are real. intense stuff!  You like de Bodard’s Xuya stories right?  you’ll like this!


the weirdly titled The History of Soul 2065 is a mosaic novel by Barbara Krasnoff, available later this spring.  As soon as I saw that “Sabbath Wine” was in the table of contents, I knew I had to read it, cry for an hour, and then keep reading.  These interlinked stories follow two families across generations and continents.  I’m not far into the book yet, but I can already see how their family trees intertwine.  I like mosaic novels.  I may do a dramatic reading of “Sabbath Wine” while I’m seeing my family for Passover this coming weekend. If you hearing sobbing coming from Maryland, that’s my fault.


If any of these get DNFd it’s mostly likely going to be Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovksy. I LOVE the concept of this post apocalyptic novel – the end came, so everyone hid in the subway stations of Moscow, and somehow survived on pigs and mushrooms.  many of the subway tunnels are haunted, different political groups have taken over different stations, gun cartridges are money, people will do anything to survive.  The concept is compelling, the execution is . . . pretty boring actually. I don’t know if it is an artifact of the translation, or if this is the style of the writer, but I am skimming the text a lot because it is so repetitive.


What are you reading this week?

Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

This week we have. . .

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville (2015) – this came out in 2015 and I’m just buying it now???   I hit a wall with Mieville’s 2012 Embassytown, it wasn’t a bad wall, it was one of those “I need to understand this dude’s writing WAY more before I read anymore of it”. I kept rereading books of his that I owned, and didn’t read much of his newer work.  Went to a bookstore recently, saw a bunch of his new stuff, came home with this collection of short stories. Still enjoy reading his old “new-weird” stuff.  Still know I’m a long way from getting all the nuances.


The Cold Equations and other stories by Tom Godwin (this printing is 2003) – that’s, ummm . . .  some interesting cover art!  My local scifi book club recently discussed Godwin’s “The Cold Equations”, a famous short story he wrote in the 50s. This polarizing short story is a scifi version of the trolley problem (oh yeah, The Good Place season 2!!!). If you’re interested, you can read this famous story at Lightspeed Magazine. I’ve not explored the rest of the table of contents of this volume of stories.


Northwest of Earth by C.L. Moore  (this version 2008) – Yo, why didn’t ya’ll tell me how awesome C.L. Moore is!? or if you did, why didn’t you tell LOUDER???  because she is awesome!  These are epic sci-fantasy, adventures in space and time, weird physics, alien intelligences, Northwest Smith is the original Han Solo, and Jirel kicks major ass.  I can’t wait for Vintage month to roll around again so I can pester everyone to read a C.L. Moore story (read along, anyone?).


The Prestige by Christopher Priest (1996) – picked this up at a used bookstore, it was retail therapy.  I remember liking the movie version of this book.  And someone told me the book is sort of epistolary?  Seems like it’ll be perfect for one of those rainy saturdays where i want to snuggle under a blanket and read for a few hours. Since I’ve seen the movie, I know the big reveal at the end, i hope I can still enjoy the book.


The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (2018) – on the Hugo and Nebula ballot!   and yet. . . I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked the characters well enough, loved the apocalyptic concept that drives the plot, enjoyed all the mathematicians who become astronauts,  i liked that the main character is in a happy, healthy marriage and that her husband is pretty cool.  So what the hell was my problem?   Don’t tell anyone, but at times I found the plot to be predictable and after a while I found the main character to be annoying.  I guess this is one of those books where if you like the main character, you’ll never want the book to end, and if you don’t, well, you’re stuck with her for 500 pages.



The Grass-Cutting Sword, by Catherynne M. Valente

published in 2006

where I got it: purchased used








Before a girl circumnavigated fairyland, before John fell in love with Hagia,  before six super- heroines discussed their stories in the afterlife, and long before Space Opera, Catherynne Valente was taking the poetry and dreamyness of folklore and turning it inside out to show you the shiny bits you hadn’t known were there.


Valente’s novella, The Grass-Cutting Sword, was published in 2006, and if you come across a copy in some used bookstore somewhere, BUY IT.  (or even better, find a copy of Myths of Origin, which includes even more of Valente’s early work!) Especially if you like folklore. Especially if you like beautiful / weird / strange writing. If you enjoy C.S.E Cooney or Benjanun Sriduangkaew, you’ll love this.


In the story notes in Myths of Origin, Valente describes The Grass-Cutting Sword as “probably the most textually experimental and angriest” of her work. Yes, it is very experimental! But none of the characters seem overly angry. Driven? Absolutely. Tragic? That too.  Oh, and  as with all good fairy tales, there is a dragon and there is a sword.

The Grass-Cutting Sword is a retelling of the Japanese folktale of how the storm god Susanoo was banished from heaven by his sister Ama-Terasu. Instead of viewing it as a banishment, he takes the opportunity to seek his mother in her underground realm.  Recognized as a god by a worshipful man and woman, he undertakes the quest to save their recently abducted youngest daughter from an eight-headed serpent which has eaten the other seven daughters.


If he succeeds in the quest he has undertaken, the parents have promised him he can marry their youngest daughter as soon as he rescues her. Her parents say she is the most beautiful girl in the world, fit for an Emperor! And Susanoo wouldn’t be so insulting as to disagree, now would he?


The narrative flips back and forth between Susanoo’s point of view, and the serpent’s point of view.  Susanoo doesn’t mind hunting down the serpent, he’s not quite sure what else (other than look for the entrance to his mother’s realm) he’s supposed to do on Earth anyways.



As he travels the countryside looking for signs of the serpent, he tells the reader the story of creation – how his parents lived on an island surrounded by jellyfish, how his mother created the islands of Japan, how her fiery child was the last she would give birth to. Susanoo tells of his own creation, and that of his sister Ama-Terasu and his brother Tsuki-Yomi.

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

I’ve read most of these!!


Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear (1999) –  genetics, evolution, mob mentalities, retroviruses, ethnoarchaeology,  peer review gatekeepers, SCIENCE!  and the world’s scariest meditation on the fears shared by most first-time parents.  that scene near the end, with Kate’s baby girl? I STILL get shivers thinking about it! (Don’t worry, the baby’s just fine. nothing happens to the baby) I have the sequel, Darwin’s Children, i vaguely remember being disappointed by it?


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014) – people seem to either love this book, or find it boring and bland.  I loved it. I like books that aren’t told in chronological order, i liked the weird slow pace that didn’t seem slow at all. If you read this and liked it, why did you like it? If you read this and didn’t like it, what didn’t you like about it?


The Narrator by Michael Cisco (2010) – this was part of one of those humble bundle e-book bundles. a few pages into this book and I ordered a print copy.  This book is weird AF, but the language is gorgeous. And it’s dense and heavy and dreamy. Sort of Catherynne Valente / Viriconium / Book of the New Sun? sort of? I really liked it!


Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (2018) I am SO TORN on this book! I love Yoon Ha Lee’s adult fiction, like, you probably shouldn’t get me talking about Machineries of Empire because I will not shut up about it, and I have a copy of Lee’s short story collection but I’m saving it for a rainy day (or maybe a celebratory day?), and Revanant Gun is on the Hugo Ballot. . .  and Dragon Pearl wasn’t really anything special.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t anything special. It’s also for eight year olds, so in a few years my niece will be old enough to have my copy.


Glitter and Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damien Thomas (2013) – says the back cover copy “Welcome to Glitter & Mayhem, the most glamorous party in the multiverse.” I haven’t read anything in this anthology, the whole thing just looks so . . .  weird? and hyper? and extroverted? It’s got a decent table of contents, fiction by Daryl Gregory, Rachel Swirsky, Maurice Broaddus,  Amal El-Mohtar, Tim Pratt, etc.


Follow me on Twitter!

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

Join 2,617 other subscribers
Follow the Little Red Reviewer on



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.