the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘politics

Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Machineries of Empire, #3)

published June 2018

Where I got it: purchased new

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One of the reasons I write reviews is to help myself process how a book makes me feel. I’m not super good at expressing myself verbally (or at all, actually), but somehow writing a book review helps me express myself and process my thoughts.  Somehow, with words, I am making a picture of the journey a book took me on. A picture of a journey, made of words? Magic!

 

Anyway.

 

I finished Revenant Gun nearly a week ago.  I’d been reading this book very slowly, savoring every page.  Like Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, Revenant Gun is fucking smart. I can’t tell if this trilogy is the decade’s smartest science fiction epic, a treatise on management and communication, step by step instructions for how to take down a government, or if all of those things are actually in a way the same thing.  Among other things,  The Machineries of Empire trilogy is the story of what happens when choice is removed, and then many generations later, it is given back. If you’ve never had something before, how do you know what you’re supposed to do with it? I’ve grossly oversimplified the plot, of course. Sort of like saying Star Wars is about a guy who goes on an adventure, meets his dad, and then decides to kill his dad’s boss because of a political disagreement. I skipped over all the good parts, didn’t I?

 

I finished reading Revenant Gun nearly a week ago. That day, and the next day, I was no shape to write a review. Nearly in tears, I’d emailed my best friend and tried to explain to her (hey, remember that e-mail I sent you? And I said I wasn’t going to tell you the name of the book I was talking about? Well, it’s this book!)  that a particular scene had taken place, and that I felt rather positive about that scene. That I’d liked that scene.  And then later in the book, I found out that what I thought was happening that scene wasn’t actually what was happening at all.  And now that I knew what was really going on, what kind of fucking monster was I for liking that scene??   You guys, this was beyond #Allthefeels.

 

After I was done crying (I still didn’t feel any better, I’d just cried myself out), I ordered a copy of Yoon Ha Lee’s short story collection.

 

But enough about me and my mushy feelings,  you want to know what this book is about, right?  I don’t know what’s better – the overarching theme and plot of the trilogy or that these books are so damn smart and perfectly written that maybe the overarching plot doesn’t matter.

 

I was hoping for another Cheris book, and while she does make an appearance in Revenant Gun, this final volume is Jedao’s time to shine.  He’s awake, has only himself in his mind, doesn’t seem to have an anchor, and he thinks he’s 17 years old. His body is 40 something years old, and the soldiers expect him to order them around. Makes sense, since he’s been hired to win a war.  The soldiers are also terrified of him, and he doesn’t know why. Jedao is functioning without an understanding of what happened between him and Khiaz. He’s functioning without any understanding of his place in history. Even worse, he’s the only person who had no idea who Cheris is.

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Winterglass, by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Published in December, 2017

where I got it: Received e-ARC, then immediately ordered the paperback

 

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I have been a fan of Benjanun Sriduangkaew since I read her short story of “The Bees Her Heart, The Hive Her Belly”, which appeared in Mike Allen’s Clockwork Phoenix Vol 4, in the summer of 2013. That story involved a grafting of animal habitat into human (literally), and the prose was poetically effervescent.  I’ve been seeking out Sriduangkaew’s  work ever since, knowing that every time she puts out new fiction that I am in for a unique treat.   Oh, you’ve never read her before? That’s no problem, as Winterglass is a stand alone novella available in print and e-book format.  You can catch up on everything else later.

 

For such a slender novella, Sriduangkaew deftly weaves a number of unspoken conversations into a story that at first blush, is simply a story of political intrigue laced with romance.  There is the conversation about  General Lussadh, who was once a crown prince, and is now a traitor to her homeland, yet still believes she can be redeemed.  There is the conversation about the gladiator Nuawa, who has been speaking and thinking in doubletalk so long now that it no longer matters who the spies are. There are unspoken conversations about assimilation, shame, and jealousy.

 

Simmering just beneath the surface, and so obvious that not a single character needs to (or will risk) mentioning it, is the conversation of colonialism and forced assimilation through climate change.  At first, you won’t even see these conversations, as they are slippery and easily hidden by characters who would prefer to speak of anything else. And thanks to the symphonically beautiful prose, you’ll think you’re just reading some fairy tale type story that takes place in the fantasy city-state of Sirapirat.

 

Did I mention this is a retelling and re-interpreted version of the fairy tale The Snow Queen?  And that the descriptions of food are so amazing that I am waiting with baited breath for the companion cookbook?

 

If  Yoon Ha Lee’s Raven Strategem, Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades had a love child, that booklovechild would flirtatiously steal glances at Winterglass from across the room.  I imagine they would communicate their interest in each other through a system of cybernetic hummingbirds.

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raven stratagemRaven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

published June 2017

Where I got it: Purchased New

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Looking back at my review of the first book in this series, Ninefox Gambit, I wrote a pretty crappy review.  I remember when I finished that book, my mind was absolutely blown, and I had absolutely no idea how the heck to talk about what I’d just read.  So I wrote a passable review and then ordered the 2nd book in the series, Raven Stratagem.

 

I had a similar experience with Raven Stratagem.  My mind was utterly blown, and I knew I had no idea how to discuss what I just read.

 

So I read Raven Stratagem again, paid closer attention, and took more notes. You guys.  I don’t even like military scifi. And I loved the living shit out of this book. I never thought I’d say that some military science fiction books had become my comfort reads, but 2017 is a weird place.

 

Ninefox Gambit was on a comparatively small scale. It mostly took place on one ship, with Jedao manipulating the shit out of Cheris, and then showing her how powerful a skilled manipulator can be and how easy their society is to manipulate. All Kel cadets learn about the madman General Jedao who slaughtered his own troops, but they have no idea who he was as a person. Cheris gets to learn who he is as a person. It changes her mind.

 

Raven Stratagem is manipulation on a much, much larger scale.Yes, Jedeo is running around in Cheris’s body (is there anything of her left in there? Who knows), but in this novel we also get a look at the Hexarchates and how they run their factions.  Running a faction mostly means manipulating your fellow leaders so that you can get what you want, and right now, they all want immortality.  All this political manipulation would be sick if it wasn’t so darn entertaining!

 

If the first book was algebra, then this second book is trigonometry – with a focus on the study of angles.

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regeneration_tpboRegeneration (®evolution, book 3) by Stephanie Saulter

published on Aug 6, 2015

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Jo Fletcher Books!)

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Ya’ll already know i’m a huge fan of Stephanie Saulter’s ®evolution series.  She pulls no punches, allows no escape from the way she portrays the “us vs them” attitude and keeps you from looking away for even one second.  If you’re looking for a political thrillers with modern relevance, you could do a lot worse than her debut novel, Gemsigns, the first in her ®evolution trilogy. I’ve tried to keep this review spoiler free, so for those of you who are just joining us, go check out my review of Gemsigns and Binary (in fact, after reading my review of Binary, take a nice close look at the blurbs on Regeneration).

 

Regeneration takes  place about ten years after Binary, and life in London is finally halfway decent for the gem population. They’ve integrated into society, norm families are (mostly) no longer afraid to let their children go to school with Gem children, Gem-run businesses are thriving. It’s almost as if the strife of the last 50 years never happened. Almost, but not quite.  The old guard doesn’t forget, and the new generation doesn’t quite understand what makes their parents so damn nervous.

 

The first novel in the series, Gemsigns, was a political powder-keg that revolved around a civil rights movement. It was followed by Binary, in which a society at large makes it’s first attempts to break down the barriers between “us” and “them’.  Regeneration is the next step in the process: Acceptance as a complete shift of the status quo, and how people react to it.  This novel doesn’t focus on the politics anywhere near as much as the previous two books in the series,  yet I couldn’t help but draw parallels to recent political issues that have made real life headlines. It’s scary how close these books come to reality.

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Traitor-Baru-498x750The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson

publishes on Sept 15, 2015

Where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Tor!)

read an excerpt, here!

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A hundred pages in, and I knew The Traitor Baru Cormorant would be a game-changer.  I can tell you right now this is my favorite book of 2015. I don’t even have the words to explain how this story affected me and what it did to me.   If you have ever taken my advice in the past to read a book, this is the time to take it again. The Traitor Baru Cormorant? Read it.

 

In this hard-to-believe-it’s-a debut novel, Dickinson responds to every single epic fantasy trope with “it’s more complicated than that”, and then he shows you why those complications are needed, and that every fantasy you’ve ever read leading up until right now has been sorely deficient in exploring complications. Culture, ambition, politics, conquest, morals, colonization, loyalty, rebellion, romance. Shouldn’t they be more complicated than your standard fantasy novel make them out to be? Yes, yes they should. Because they are.

 

It is not words that Dickinson uses to weave Baru’s story, but scalpel sharp razor blades. As Baru says, it’s not what the Empire does to you, it’s what the Empire makes you do to yourself.  No one will make you read this book, just as no one made Baru do anything. No one will make you slowly carve out your own heart and hold it still beating in your hands, looking for yourself in it’s glistening reflection, just as no one forced Baru to do the things she did (she doesn’t cut her own heart out, by the way, or at least not exactly). She made her choices, as will you. As you turn the pages, as you take Baru and her life into your own, you will do it to yourself, you will let those razors that masquerade as words cut you deep, again and again. And just like Baru, you won’t notice the pain until it’s too late.

 

When the Empire of Masks came to Baru’s homeland of Taranoke, she was but a child. While she was attending the shiny new school opened by the empire, her family saw what was happening around them. As Baru learned all the types of punishable sins and another definition of family, her entire culture was becoming unsanitary, illegal, and unacceptable under the eye of the empire. Everything she loved, everything that made her who she was, could not exist under the new rules.  Authoritarian? Sure. But the empire brought literacy, trade, new medicines, technology and protection from pirates. To be under the Empire of Masks was to be safe and protected, but also to assimilate completely, to keep children from ever knowing the culture of their parents.

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transmetropolitan v 1Transmetropolitan Vol 1 by Warren Ellis, artwork by Darick Robertson

published in 2009

where I got it: published new

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Journalist Spider Jerusalem has been hiding in a mountain cabin in the woods for a while. He’s gotten rough around the edges, his hair is down to his waist, he hates everyone. Hard to believe he’s only been out there a few years. One best-selling book was all it took for him to get more than his fifteen minutes of fame, and when the attention stopped agreeing with him, he went up the mountain and promised never to come down. Except for the pesky fact that he’s still under contract with his publisher for two more books.

And how the hell do you writing a biting political book out in the woods? You don’t. Spider is going to have to return his natural habitat. The City. It’s loud, it’s filthy, it’ll hate him right back, it’s full of noise and insanity and things happening. In short, it’s the perfect place to complete his contractual obligations. Thanks to his still existing journalism contacts, he’s able to get his old job back. Luckily it comes with an apartment. That’s a shithole. Now, not only does he have two books to write, but he’s got newspaper deadlines to meet, a city that evolved into who knows what without bothering to tell him, and an assistant who doesn’t take any shit from him.

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the-awakened-kingdom-by-nk-jemisinThe Awakened Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin

published Dec 9 2014 as part of The Inheritance Trilogy Omnibus

where I got it: received eArc from the publisher (thanks Orbit!)

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For those of you who are new to N.K. Jemisin, her newest novella The Awakened Kingdom takes place after the events in The Inheritance Trilogy.  I highly suggest you read the trilogy before reading this bonus novella. Luckily, it all came out today in handy dandy omnibus format! (Oh, you’ve already read the trilogy, and are joining me in singing its praises? No problem, The Awakened Kingdom is available on it’s own as an e-book)

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In some ways, godlings are just like us.  Sometimes, they want the same exact things we want. They want the love and approval of their parents, they want to make friends, they feed bad when they mess up and people get hurt. The newest godling, Shill, is no different.  She desperately wants to see her parents happy. She assumes they made her to help them be happy.   Her naivety is utterly charming, and the novella begins with Shill not even knowing to how to tell a story properly.

 

Have you ever had a four year old tell you a story? They tell it out of order, lose track of what’s happening, explain things in detail that you already know all about, and don’t explain the things you would like to learn more about. There’s plenty of backtracking, of remember of details and forgetting of others. it’s completely adorable, and there’s a part of you that doesn’t even care about the actual story, you just want to spend more time with this little person who is so very excited to tell you about their day, because you hope some of their joyful innocence will rub off on you. When we first meet Shill, she’s a little like that. Don’t worry, she’s gets better.

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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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