the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for May 2021

The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum comes out on June 8th from Erewhon Books. I received an ARC from the publisher.

You know how some books give you #allthefeels?

 

The Unraveling gave me #allthethoughts in the best possible way.

 

At its heart, this novel is a coming of age/stumble into becoming an adult story. But everywhere else, it’s a giant beautiful thought experiment. Lots of science fiction and fantasy are thought experiments, and that’s what makes them so fun! 

 

Fair warning though, getting into The Unraveling might feel like more work than fun.  During the first few chapters I was on the strugglebus – who are all these people? What do all these terms mean? What the heck does doublebodied mean?  For about 80 pages I was just as lost as I was intrigued (not unlike an Iain M. Banks Culture book, now that I think about it). 

 

With zero introduction or infodumping, the narrative starts when the action starts, with a bustling family of many, many parents getting their only child, Fift, ready for the most important event of zir life. What made more sense much later was how nervous some of Fift’s parents were.  #NotASpoiler – Fift does just fine.  Well, at least at first. 

 

In my opinion, the most important things about The Unraveling, the things that kept me reading and kept me thinking, had nothing to do with the plot. This  book had so many ideas and social concepts that I have never seen  before, so many “why not?”’s that I’d not thought of before, so many “what if’s”, so much that was new to me!   Could be none of what’s in this book is new, but I doubt it.

 

What were all those why nots, and what ifs?  Let me tell you all about them! 

 

The BIG THING in The Unraveling is how gender is handled. The two genders are Staid (pronouns: ze, zir, zem) and Vail (pronouns: ve, vir, vem).  For someone who has spent the literal last 40 years seeing she/he in stories, it took me a long time to get used to the pronouns. Ok, but here’s the cool thing – gender in this book has absolutely nothing to do with your plumbing, because why not?  I did not expect it to, but this worked really well for me!

 

Staids are expected to be “the still center” with lives focused around intellectual studies, and Vails are pushed towards physical and emotive pursuits (I am grossly simplifying). Marriages are of  typically of many adults of mixed genders, with the one major rule being that Staids do not share The Long Conversation with Vails, and Vails do not share their mat fights or other aggressively physical activities with Staids. The gender expectations are pretty strict, which was funny and fascinating.

 

Thanks to way-in-the-future-science, people can have whatever biology, plumbing, and body modifications they want whenever they want, customized however they want, allowing anyone to look any way they please, and to be a mother or a father with anyone they want.  (and the science part doesn’t really matter, because this isn’t a story about how the science works. It’s a story about how people work) I thought that was all pretty damn cool, even though it did take me a good 200 pages for my brain to stop asking “yeah, but is this character a boy or a girl?”, because not only didn’t it matter if someone was a boy or a girl, this world doesn’t even have a concept of that. It’s perfectly fine to ask someone if they are a Staid or a Vail, and you’d typically be able to tell by their social behavior, but it would never occur to someone in this world to ask if someone was a boy or a girl, they don’t have the vocabulary for that and they don’t have a concept of that.

 

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Looking for some satisfying fast reads? I gotcha!

At Apex Magazine I recently interviewed A.K. Hudson about her twisty story The Life and Death of Mia Fremont: Interview with a Killer. The interview gets fairly spoilery, so I suggest reading the story first. and then you tell me:

Who killed Mia Fremont?

LOL, and then just TRY not to walk around all day making Twin Peaks references!

Over at Nerds of a Feather, I recently interviewed Suyi Davies Okungbowa about his new novel Son of the Storm, and I also recently interviewed Sue Burke about her forthcoming novel Immunity Index.

Unpacking is going very slowly. I’m back to work full time, every day we remember something we need at the hardware store, we’re moving things into better spots in the kitchen, and who wants to unpack when I can walk around our beautiful backyard, getting to meet all the trees? (except the nightmare tree)

I did end up opening a few random boxes looking for some nice bedtime reading, and found my ancient copy of the novelization of the movie Alien. Maybe not the best bedtime reading because it is scary, but I’ve read this book probably 6 times, and seen the moving probably 30 times, so nothing in this book is going to surprise me!

My husband started unpacking our manga and graphic novels, and I came across a copy of XXXHolic by CLAMP, and I remembered that I really enjoy that series and that I never finished it. the first omnibus I picked up was #2, and that’s ok because I’m pretty familiar with how the story starts, so I feel comfortable starting with #2. I better find the next half dozen omnibuses! omnibusi? omnibusae?

Anyway, this is a great series with beautiful artwork and fun quirky characters. Some nice throwback vibes too, as it has cross over moments to Cardcaptor Sakura!

Thanks to playing everyone’s favorite twitter game “anyone know what this tree is?” I’ve learned that I have a few dogwood trees on the west side of the house, and an overgrown lilac bush-tree-thing out back.  And then there is this tree that will live rent free in my  nightmares for ever.  At the end of each branch are large growths that are the size of large slugs or caterpillars, only 50 times larger.  I don’t know if these things are chrysalises? or a disease?  and leaves are trying to grow out of some of these things?

Last time I tried to upload the picture to wordpress, wordpress crashed and ran away. So i’ll just link you to a photo, and brave tree doctors can click and try to diagnose what’s happening with this poor tree.

gross tree

should I cut this thing down? Or will that just piss off the malevolent spirits that have taken up residence inside it?

 

Anyways, what are y’all up to? 

after so, so many years of saving, financial planning, saving some more, and then getting outbid left and right, we have moved into our dream home!

We ended up with 50-ish boxes of books, including fiction, history, graphic novels, manga, and cookbooks. There is a giant stack of books boxes in the living room, and another slightly less scary stack upstairs. I thought unpacking the kitchen was intimidating. . . . I don’t even know where to start with the books boxes.

I was thinking that my upcoming TBR should be “I’ll read at least one book that is in this random box that I’m opening!” but knowing my luck, I’d land on one of my husband history books boxes, and end up reading about British looms in the 1880s. Which, could be interesting?

Our backyard looks like a freaking fairy wonderland.

but I HAVE been reading this last week! a few pages here and there while we were packing the last boxes, and trying to stay awake after unloading them all:

The Best of World SF by Lavie Tidhar – stay tuned for my review to appear in Apex Magazine!

The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum – boy do I have feelings on this book! This is one of the most unique and original science fiction books I’ve ever read, and also one of the hardest to get into. In this far future, you really can be in three places at once! I’m happy I kept reading, because I really did end up getting very invested in the main character, even if half the time I wasn’t quite sure who was talking.

And I’ve got an ARC of Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Jillian vs Parasite Planet to read. I really need to order a copy of Firebreak, as if Kornher-Stace wrote it, I want to read it!

Moving is exhausting, mentally and physically. and somehow, living out in the country, our internet speed is literally twice as fast as when we lived in an urban city center? So I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix these last few days, when I wasn’t tired enough to sleep but too tired to move. Been binge watching Shadow and Bone, yes, that Shadow and Bone. And I’m enjoying it! I watched three episodes in a row yesterday! Some quick thoughts:

  • I only turned the show on because of the hype, and an early scene screamed Fullmetal Alchemist, so I kept watching. Some grisha (folks with magical abilities) are practicing, and we see someone snap her fingers to create fire. It was so Roy Mustang I couldn’t even, so OF COURSE I had to keep watching!
  • I love LOVE the costumes! those long robes? omg the embroidery! the hairstyles!
  • I was worried that this was going to be Game of Thrones sexed up, and there would be boobs everywhere. Boobs would have their own plot devices, a la Game of Thrones, boobs, boobs, everywhere! Look, I’m not against boobs on tv, but I like a good plot that’s got more going on than LOOK, BOOBS! this show has a smidge of nudity, and it’s done right.
  • Who is the chick who is chained up in the boat? I’m sure I should care about her, but I have no idea who she is.
  • Inej is THE BEST. Please don’t let Inej be some kind of ultra-villain, please!
  • Ahhh Ben Barnes, you are so hot. But please don’t try to act. Just stand there, look hot all dressed in black, and don’t do or say anything. Srsly, Ben Barnes has exactly two looks in this show – staring intently at Alina with his mouth closed, and staring intently at Alina with his mouth slightly open. That is literally all he does.
  • Not sure I’ll be reading the Shadow and Bone books, the whole thing does seem a little too YA for me, but I am enjoying the hell out of the TV show.

Kinda wish I’d marked the box that has my Witcher paperbacks in it, those sound like a good read right now.

I do have a book review I’m working on, for Rosenbaum’s The Unraveling (because omg, so. many. thoughts!), but I fear for the next little while this blog is going to consist of new home adventures, tree and flower identifying, and book chat and mini reviews, rather than long form articles.

I am only 10 minutes from a giant used bookstore and the public library. . . .


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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.