the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘politics

 

You saw this article on BoingBoing about Steven Brust and Roger Zelazny, yeah?

I’m going to talk about these books in the order I read them. Even though in hindsight, I should have read them in the opposite order. Oh well.

 

Minor spoilers and major teases ahead.

 

So, I haven’t read every single book in this series,  and the ones that I have read, I haven’t exactly read them in order.  But it’s okay, because the books in this series are sorta kinda meant to be read in whatever order you please, and then reread in whatever order you please.  I kinda don’t want to get to the point where I’ve read every book in this series? Like, I always want there to be some surprises left. Lol I’ll be 90 years old and blind, and that’s when I’ll decide to read the one I haven’t read, and then I’ll be shouting in the middle of the night at the nursing home “That’s how Teldra and Morrolan met? You are fucking shitting me!”

 

These books are my comfort reads.  When I need something I know I’m going to love from page one,  I pick up a Vlad Taltos book, and I’m a happy camper for a few days.

 

Also, I’ve got a little bit of history with this series.

 

 

Phoenix was written in 1990, and is chronologically the approximate 9th book in Brust’s Vlad Taltos series.  (yeah, this isn’t that kind of fantasy and these aren’t those dragons. Just so we’re clear)

 

This is the book where Vlad realizes his marriage is over.  Some readers will gloss right over those scenes, I had a really tough time.  I’m a softy, ok? And he still loves her. And I think she still loves him. And I get why they split, and I respect it, but I can still cry about it, ok?

 

Anyway, the book opens with Vlad getting killed.  And he thinks about the Demon Goddess Verra, and how he

 

“had once traveled several thousand miles through supernatural horrors and the realm of the dead men just to bid her good-day”

 

And I thought that sounded hella cool, so I pulled Taltos off my bookshelf to read next.   Not only does Verra answer when Vlad calls out to her with his dying breath, she gives him a job.  All Vlad’s gotta do is kill a guy. He’s pretty good at that, so no problem. Except, his target is the king of a tiny island country that the Empire doesn’t have anything to do with, because sorcery doesn’t work there.  Sorcery is what allows the Empire to function, so if you could go somewhere where it doesn’t work . . . .

 

There’s also a drummer who might be a spy.

 

And there’s a revolution brewing at home.  This book has buckets of societal questions about the rights of the lower classes and the rights of minority ethnic groups, and the right to protest and the right to be heard. But this isn’t a book about how to start a revolution, it’s not a youth anthem, it’s not a book about toppling the system, this ain’t Hunger Games, you know.  In truth, Vlad would very much like for things to quiet down and go back to the way they were. He just wants to live a quiet life where he gets paid to kill people, and runs illegal gambling dens, you know?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (The Masquerade #2)

published October 2018

where I got it:  purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I do love a character focused narrative, so The Traitor Baru Cormorant was right up my alley. That novel was narrowly focused on Baru – if she didn’t know about a city or a culture or specific laws, then the reader didn’t either. Luckily, that narrative was focused on things Baru knew – her childhood home, accounting, how to manipulate currency, and the local politics of Aurdwynn. At this point in Baru’s life, we didn’t need to know anything she didn’t know.

 

The sequel, The Monster Baru Cormorant, starts just as the first book in the series is ending. Baru’s mission to bring down Aurdwynn was more successful than anyone could have imagined.  Maybe too successful, in fact. She was supposed to keep her lover alive. Baru was supposed to allow the Empire to keep Tain Hu has a hostage against Baru’s “good behavior”. Baru may be a product of the Farrier process, but she’s also already seen how hostages are used to encourage “good behavior”.   The Empire will never have Tain Hu.

 

Baru is now the only hostage-less cryptarch.  The other cryptarchs don’t know what to make of this – does this make her more powerful than they? More unpredictable and therefore less powerful?  They have nothing they can hold of Baru, and everyone knows it. You’ll notice I’m not mentioning the other Cryptarchs by name, because spoilers.

 

In my mind, this series has become an asymmetrical crystal chandelier of sorts.  Each aspect (Baru’s lack of hostage, nature vs nurture, the culture of the Mbo, trim, the cancrioth, how you can never go home, etc) is another facet cut into the crystal that changes how the light from the center of the chandelier falls on the room.  And depending on where you are standing, maybe you’ll see direct light, or indirect light, or only a pattern of shifting shadows. The Empire of Masks means something very different, depending on where you are standing. It follows that if you don’t like the view from where you are, that a change in perspective is all you need to see in full spectrum.

 

Those who stand in Falcrest believe they are the center of the world, the center of civilization. Those who stand in Lonjaro Mbo and Segu Mbo probably feel bad for the Falcresti, with their lack of trim, isolating culture, and limited currency.  It’s also interesting to me, how few Cryptarchs are Falcresti by birth, people now forced to serve an Empire that they have zero cultural connection to.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

published June 2018

Where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Winterglass, by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Published in December, 2017

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

 

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

raven stratagemRaven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

published June 2017

Where I got it: Purchased New

.

.

.

.

.

.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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!

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow me on Twitter!

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

Join 2,401 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Archives

Categories

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.