the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for April 2021

Having recently read and freakin’ LOVED  The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. That book was written in 2015 and flew completely under my radar, so I got thinking: what other neat things was I reading the same year The Library at Mount Char came out? 

Luckily, everything on the internet is forever, meaning it’s easy as cake to link to you some books I enjoyed in the halcyon yesteryear of 2015. .  . 

C.S.E. Cooney’s collection The Bone Swans came out in 2015, and this is such a gorgeous collection, I can’t even.  Among other things, the titular story “The Bone Swans of Ammandale” includes a retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin that I still get shivers when I think about it.  Oh, and if you like super weird horror, her “The Big Ba-Ha” is also a brilliant piece of writing.  and wow, this list is gonna keep me busy for a good long time! 

I read a lot of Kage Baker in 2015.  her Company books came out in the early 2000s,  but I didn’t discover them until much later. If you like characters who really do change over time, and the really, really long game, I can’t recommend her The Company series enough.  I’m kinda surprised HBO hasn’t glommed onto this series – immortal cyborgs? time travel? romance? rogue AIs? intense manipulation of humanity’s past and future? seems like HBO gold, if you ask me.  Yeah, I know, the first book in the series In The Garden of Iden is a super cry-fest, but there’s less crying after that book, I swear!

another book I read in 2015 that came out decades earlier was China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh. I really gotta reread this one, I remember it being a rather quiet story, but oh so effective. 

2015 was the year The Traitor Baru Cormorant came out.  I knew that book was going to break me into a million pieces (and it did!) but what I didn’t expect was an epic fantasy novel that would get me so interested in how economics and finance and money (and politics) works, but here we are.  I kinda blame that book for me spending a hot minute being very responsible for tens of millions of dollars flowing through a company. (it wasn’t my money. I was just in charge of accounts receivable for a few quarters).  God damn that was an amazing book. The middle book in the series ending up working a lot better when I was able to read book 2 and then book 3 as one long novel. 

The Gabble by Neal Asher is a short story collection of hard scifi stories that take place on other planets. Basically, humans are going everywhere, and being really stupid about dealing with the species we find when we get to other planets. We apparently expect all creatures everywhere to act like docile zoo animals. HA HA HA.    Yeah, so the thing most creatures have in common is that they are hungry and humans are stupid.  

I got to read a lot of Kaoru Mori’s manga series Bride’s Story in 2015.  If you like sweeping historical family stories, gorgeous and detailed (but not distracting) artwork, embroidery, and beautiful clothes, this is the series for you. It’s a look into a number of families who live in Central Asia in the late 1800s.  Yen Press did gorgeous hardback versions of Bride’s Story, everything about this series is such a pleasure for the senses. 

2015 was also the year I read Babel-17 by Samuel Delany. I’m a sucker for books about language and how language shapes us and we shape language, and how language shapes how we think and see the world.  It’s like, we see the world with our eyes. . . but the sounds that come out of our mouth and go into our ears, our brains use that stuff to determine how we actually view the world.  I’m an absolute fiend for language, but? I like I might like Delany’s Nova more than I liked Babel-17.  It’s been years since I read Nova and I still vividly remember the characters and some of the plot points, and I can’t say the same for Babel-17.

Thank you for coming down this rabbit hole of 2015 reminiscing with me!

Yay for Deep Space Nine streaming on Netflix!  LOL, I guess it’s always been streaming on Netflix, I just didn’t realize it?  Something I appreciate about these older shows is the the older sound mixing technology, stay with me on this for a few sentences, ok?  You watch new stuff, and the people’s voices are a whisper, but the music and explosions blow you out the room. I’ve tried every setting on my sound bar, and the voices keep getting quieter and fuzzier and the sound effects keep getting louder.  I have ZERO patience for fucking with sound bar settings, actually, less than zero. The only solution I’ve come up with is to watch it with the subtitles on, so I can hear the characters whispering.  Older shows?  The sound technology is old enough that people speak at a normal volume, and the sound effects and music are also a normal volume. I can enjoy the show without having to spent 30 minutes fucking with the sound settings.  I still watch nearly everything with the subtitles on, but for a very different reason.

Anyway, let’s dish about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, season 4!  Time for some Klingons, politicking, diplomacy, and illegal use of cloaking devices! 

The Way of the Warrior (eps 1 and 2) –  Season 4 starts out with a political bang!  The Klingon Empire has convinced themselves that Cardassia has been taken over by the Founders, because of course no civilians could possibly oust the Obisidian Order without outside help. So they are going to invade Cardassia to expose the foreigners and also protect the Alpha Quandrant from the Dominion!  And before you know it, Deep Space Nine is crawling with Klingons, and everyone on the station  is increasingly nervous.  Worf comes aboard Deep Space Nine (Michael Dorn I love you so much!!!) as a sort of cultural ambassador between the Federation an the Klingons, and Worf himself is stuck between two worlds. He still hasn’t gotten over the loss of the Enterprise-D, he feels he has to tone down his Klingon-ness to be accepted by the Federation, and he feels that he can’t go home because too many Klingons view him as too human/gone soft.  Worf’s personal plight hits me right in the feels. Everyone wants Worf on their side because of who he is and what he knows, but he still feels the outsider.

The Klingons start to doubt their invasion plans after Sisko reminds them of the Federation-Klingon alliance they are about to jeopardize. Oh, and Sisko and Kasidy’s relationship is going so well!  So much happens in these two episodes!!  Technically, the Cardassians are the Federation’s enemies, or at least we aren’t in a treaty with them, so what obligation do we have, to warn them of a possible invasion by the Klingons?  But Sisko feels obligated to lower casualties if at all possible, so in a brilliant sneaky way, he manages to get the information to Gul Dukat.   The second part of this two-parter is solid action, space battles, high stakes diplomacy, and chases through space.  The Klingons are everywhere and harassing every ship they come across, Sisko is trying to get the remains of the Cardassian government out alive, and it becomes a game of how good is your cloaking device. Freakin’ fantastic season opener!

   Read the rest of this entry »

 

I realized I’ve been watching Deep Space 9 Season 4, and not blogged any of that.  Need to fix that one of these days. 

I finished Hench, by Natalie Zina Walschots,  it’s fantastic.  I wasn’t expecting this book to be a leadership/management/career talk book, but it kinda is? 

Do you like author interviews? of course you do!  Over at Nerds of a Feather I interviewed Elly Bangs about her new book Unity,  and over at Apex Magazine I interviewed Annie Neugebauer about her short story “If Those Ragged Feet Won’t Run”. (earworm? you’re welcome!)

we’re still packing packing packing. 30-ish  boxes of books so far. Found some paperbacks that won’t be coming with us, and also found a good cause to donate them to:

appalachian prison book project

not sure what I’m going to do first at the new house. Should I:

grill everything because we’ll finally be able to have a grill outdoors

unpack

stare at the washing machine because I can now do laundry any time I want

meet the neighbors and offer them something off the grill

figure out what all each light switch is connected to

buy more food to grill




library at mount char

Sometime in the late 70s, the American military tried to kill a god. 

 

They failed. 

 

Thirty years later, the god’s children are all grown up. And one of them has a murderous intent to kill her Father. 

 

I came across Scott Hawkins’ 2015 debut novel The Library at Mount Char in some book listicle about “books that don’t make any sense until you’re half way through”, and yep, this book is exactly that.  If you’re the kind of reader who wants a prologue, wants a ton of history before the main plot gets going, if you want to know the character’s histories  . . .  yeah this is not the book for you. 

 

This book is absolutely and gloriously bat shit insane.  

 

I spent the first hundred pages thinking things like:

 

Ok, that’s weird. 

 

Huh. that was even weirder. And gross. 

 

Damn that was a well placed joke!

 

Well, that’s creepy as fuck.

 

Wait, what? 

 

Good kitty. Stay calm kitty. You’re a really big kitty, sweetie, aren’t you.

 

Here’s a taste of the prose:

 

“On the morning after she murdered Detective Miner for the second time, Carolyn came awake on the floor of Mrs. McGillicutty’s living room.”

 

The prose, the dark humor, the characters who struggle to relate to each other but must work together, the forbidden knowledge, people with god-like powers, the long game, the author forcing the reader to be patient, the way everything (yep, that too!) is explained at the end. .  . you know what The Library at Mount Char reminded me of?  It reminded me of Gideon the Ninth, but with a lot fewer swords and a lot more guns.

 

If I even attempted to explain the plot of this book, I’d sound like I’m just grabbing random words in no order, but I’ll try.

 

Carolyn is one of twelve orphans adopted by Father. He set each child to study a different section of his vast library, such as languages or medicine, and the children were forbidden to share what they had learned with their siblings.  Break the rules, and punishment was swift, often including death. But that was okay, Father would just resurrect the dead child. He might then kill the child again, just to make a point.   This is how these children grew up, they forgot their lives before they were adopted. They adapted. They developed some truly epic coping mechanisms.  One of them figured out how to be invisible.

 

Now adults, and forced out of their home, the adoptees must figure out how to live like Americans. Which usually involves wearing shoes. And something called cell phones. Robbing banks is frowned upon.  Give Father’s children a break, they really are doing the best they can, even Margaret. It’s not entirely her fault she smells like death warmed over. 

 

And one impossibly painful piece at a time, Carolyn’s dangerous, crazy, and inevitable plan is coming together. The only person she can trust is that klutzy American Steve. He’s such a dork. But he has a pick up truck, and he knows how to break into houses. . . .  And oh yeah, what did eventually happen to Erwin? 

 

This books sounds super dark, and it is super dark and very, very fucked up, but it’s also super hilarious. Part of the humor is that there’s a chapter at the end entitled “So, What Ended Up Happening with Erwin?”

 

And OH THE LONG GAME!  Kage Baker would be proud!   the last few chapters of this book was a masterclass in invisible guns on tables.  it’s as if the entire thing was backwards origami, and then it unfolds, again.

 

The Library at Mount Char was written in 2015, and as far as I can tell, Scott Hawkins never published another book.   

 

If you’re looking for something weird AF and  brilliantly written, The Library at Mount Char is the book for you. 


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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.