the Little Red Reviewer

Daylight saving time,  Purim, Easter,  Hyacinths,  everyone tweeting links to their Hugo Eligible stuff. It’s that time of year. Do blogs count as fanzines and/or bloggers count as fan writers?

 

If you are so inclined,  here is some stuff I blogged in 2015 that I’m especially proud of. And if you’re not inclined in that direction, here are some well written books and short stories that deserve their own nominations.

 

a review of Bone Swans by C.S.E Cooney

a review of The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

a review of Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz

a review of Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

all that Vintage SciFi stuff that I’ve done every January for the past  not sure how many years. On the sidebar to the right, Click on all the Januarys for all that stuff.

 

 

 

CP5_front-200x300Clockwork Phoenix 5, edited by Mike Allen

Available April 5, 2016

Where I got it: received review copy from the editor

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Some people describe anthologies as a journey.  I’ve been known to compare them to techno music. But  today, I’d like you to think about anthologies as restaurants – the stories are the dishes on the menu, and the editor is the restaurateur.   Some restaurants have great atmosphere, some restaurants you only like a few dishes on their menu, or maybe there is a great Sunday brunch, or maybe it’s just a super convenient location and the food is pretty darn good.  Think about restaurants you’ve returned to again and again. There was a reason, right?

 

Tom's_Bistro_outside

 

Some restaurateurs love attention for one particular dish their restaurant specializes in, or whatever. Maybe they are the King of Deep Fried Butter, or the Home of the Original Whiskey Waffles.  Maybe they did a Taco throwdown with Bobby Flay or something.

 

And then there is that secret restaurant.  The one all the locals know about. It doesn’t look like a fancy place,  but every dish you’ve had there has been amazing. Sometimes the flavors are complex, sometimes they are simple.  You go as often as you can, with the goal of trying every dish on the unique menu before the menu changes, because the chefs and owners are always trying something new and different, because the rules don’t apply here. There are no rules, there is no pretension, there is no ego, there  are no signs proclaiming fame or autographed photos of Food Network personalities.  But, omg, the food! It is perfection on a plate! And you feel better about yourself and your life and the world every time you go there.  Clockwork Phoenix is the name of this restaurant, and Mike Allen is the restaurateur.  One sublime dish after another, and yet I still have my favorites that I keep coming back to.

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outlanderOutlander, by Diana Gabaldon

published in 1991

where I got it: purchased new

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As much as I love speculative fiction, sometimes I want something a little different. As much as I usually eat food that’s pretty healthy, sometimes I just wanna eat Arby’s curly fries.

And I am now part of the Outlander cult. One book in, and I’m all about drinking the kool aid and fangirling all over the place. This book was curly fries, really good potato chips, and salted caramel ice cream all rolled into one. It was all my guilty pleasures bound together into a doorstopper of a book that was a surprisingly fast read. Reading this book was like the best hand-to-mouth snacking ever.

And yes I know it is a TV show now. I haven’t seen the show.

Some of you are saying to yourselves “she’s finally read Outlander!”, and others are wondering what the hell the rest of us are going on about. For those of you in the second group, Outlander is a portal historical romance. It’s 1945, the war is over, and Claire and her husband Frank are enjoying a much deserved romantic getaway in Scotland. It’s the perfect location for Frank to research his family tree, for Claire to talk to the locals about herblore and local medicinal plants, and for the two of them to get some mental distance from everything they experienced during the war. And then one night, Claire touches something in a stone circle and finds herself hurled back two hundred years.

She doesn’t yet know when she is, but she knows where she is, and since she’s been listening to Frank drone on about his family tree, she knows his many-times-great Uncle Jonathan Randall is floating around here somewhere. She’ll just find a Randall, and all will be good, right? Oh wow, so wrong.

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I was an art minor in college. It took 32 credits for me to learn that while I am rather creative, I am not artistic. One of my art professors had us do a project where we created a self portrait shadow box using found items. Of what little I owned at the time, I sure wasn’t going to sacrifice any of it for some art project. And the things that I felt represented me either weren’t things, or weren’t easily available. On the day of the critique, I remember most of the shadow boxes included parts of the single serve cereal boxes you could get in the dorm cafeteria. Somehow Lucky Charms and Apple Jacks was supposed to represent all the anxiety a college freshman away from home from the first time experiences?

 

I do wonder though, if the art professors had a bet going to see how many students used stuff pilfered from the dorm cafeterias in these “found objects” projects.

 

I’ve been listening to a lot of techno music lately. It falls under different names – techno, EDM, dance remix, electronica. Yes, I know all those words technically mean something different, but in Venn Diagram land they all overlap somewhat. It’s the kind of music where someone has taken lots of bits and pieces of other songs and layered them on top of each other, and on top of a dance beat. it’s really fun to dance to. the beats per minute is usually pretty high, so it’s great music to run or work out to. If you have Sirius Radio in your car, I listen to channels 51 and 52 a lot. Hardwell, #ASOT, Tiesto’s Club, stuff like that.   Last week on channel 52, I heard a dance remix of the main theme from the movie Interstellar. Someone had taken Hans Zimmer’s music and put a dance beat behind it, and mixed it around a few other ways. It was so beautiful i nearly started crying. I only have access to this radio station while in the car, so I was nearly crying while driving too fast down the interstate.

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If i knew now what I knew back when I was taking that annoying art class, I’d have turned in a dance remix instead of a shadow box. And probably received an F, because it was an art class, not a music appreciation class.

 

More on this at a different time, but i’m one of those weird people for whom sound often has a corresponding color.  When I listen to a song on the radio, the singer’s voice may have a certain color (not all singing voices have a color, but the ones that do have a consistent color). So the whole radio song is usually the same color. Still with me? But the techno music, because the melody changes all the time, it’s like the DJ (or mixer, or composer?) is layering all sorts of different colors, painting with different sounds. In the course of 5 minutes, I get to hear lots of different colors! wheee! It’s the sound of a colorful painting, but not in an overwhelming fashion. More like it’s a few colors at a time, and those colors slowly morph to other colors. Sort of.

 

Whoever has put the song together has chosen their bits and pieces of music and put them together in a very particular way, with one sample shifting into the next, which shifts into the next, and so on.  Like an orchestral overture, a particular melody might make multiple appearances.   Maybe the composer switches up tempo, or pitch, with a faster beat being following by a slower beat, and then a faster beat, or a short melody followed by a long melody, followed by another short one.  And the entire thing together? It is a shadow box of the whole song – a bunch of found objects that when put together represents whatever the composer/artist wanted to represent.  If you’ve ever been in the terminal tunnel at Detroit Metro Airport, a lot of the techno music I like sounds a lot like the shifting colors in that tunnel.

 

I’m not sure what to call the folks who make this kind of music. DJs? mixers? artist? composer? How about “editor”?  They are pulling together things that will work together, choosing an order of what should come after what, deciding how the end user should experience their creation.  It’s like they are editing an anthology of sound.  An anthology you can listen to in 8 minutes.
there you have it: how techno music is like fiction anthologies.  And if you read your anthologies cover to cover in the order shown in the TOC, techno music might be for you.

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In the last few days, I’ve zipped through about two thirds of Gabaldon’s Outlander, read Tim Powers’ forthcoming novella Down and Out in Purgatory (very fun, wish it was longer!), and have been randomly pondering the following:

1.Whose point of view are you more interested in, the protagonist or the antagonist? Who has a more interesting story to tell – the “good guy”, or the “villain”?

2. What’s the book that took you the longest to read? How long did it take?

3. How embarrassed should I be that my bookshelves aren’t organized, like, at all? All the cookbooks are together, and the manga is mostly together, and some shelves are 100% paperbacks, but mostly the shelves are just a mish mash of books. Are your bookshelves organized? What’s your organization method?

4. home made chicken stock – start with raw chicken, or stock up the carcass from last night’s roasted bird?

 

See? I told you. totally random.

Remember all those plans I had?  To pick up The Goblin Emperor, or finally write a review of Hearne’s Hounded or Pinborough’s The Death House?

Yeah, those got completely and thoroughly disrupted. Because, on a whim, I picked this up instead:

outlander

and oh good god it is amazing. it’s a bazillion pages long and I am devouring it.  Ladies? You’re gonna want to read this.  Gents?  this is a girly book. Buy it for a lady in your life, she will thank you. it’s sexy, has tons of awesome history stuff, it’s fast paced, and also, very sexy.

 

This stuff came into the house fairly recently too:

Lyre Thief

Down and Out in Purgatory, by Tim Powers, out in June from Subterranean Press. It’s Tim Powers, so I know it’s going to be good.

84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff’s famous 1970 account of her twenty year correspondence relationship with a rare book dealer.  I haven’t seen the movie, but I know how this story ends. please don’t wreck it in the comments for people who don’t know.

Worst Contact, edited by Hank Davis – a  new anthology of mostly older first contact stories. Promises to be entertaining

The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon – out next week from Tor.  Neat premise, giggle-worthy character names.

 

too many books, not enough time,  reading plans turned upside down on a lark. the life of a book blogger, yeah?

 

the coldest war tregillis

This is a not review, because I’m not really going to be talking about what happened in the plot of The Coldest War.   To be honest, I was sorta ho-hum about most of the plot. But the characters, oh my god, with just a glance in my direction Marsh and Gretel bored holes right through  me.  And in a way, since this is an alternate history, as in something that could have happened but didn’t, the plot doesn’t actually, in the grand scheme of the universe, matter, does it?

 

The Coldest  War takes place during the early 1960s, so twenty some years after Bitter Seeds.  Klaus and Gretel have spent twenty years as prisoners of war in the USSR; and over in London Raybould Marsh and William Beauclerk have spent twenty some years trying to convince themselves they did the right things, that it was worth it.

 

So let’s talk about the characters, who you’ve already met if you’ve read the first book in the series, Bitter Seeds.

 

I feel like comparing characters in this book to gambling addicts.  Addicts because Marsh and Beauclerk keep saying they can stop anytime they want…. but they can’t. They keep thinking the next bargain will even things out, that they’ll “win” next time, for various values of “winning”.   It’s like the guy I saw buying scratch off lottery tickets the other day. He was joking with the clerk that last week he won $3 on a scratch off ticket… but that he’d spent $19 on the tickets.  There was an edge of addiction in his nervous laughter, an underscore of him saying he could stop anytime he wanted.

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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.