the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘politics

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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city_of_stairs-cover1City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett

published Sept 2014

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

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Where to start with City of Stairs? To say this book has everything sounds so cliche, doesn’t it?  To say it is funny and subtle and daring and fascinating would also sound cliche. But I’m going to say all of those things anyways, because this is one of those comes-a-long-once-a-decade books that transcends. It’s like one of those Hubble images where scale is all but impossible, where you can zoom in or out, and continually find new structures that your mind tells you shouldn’t exist. That shiver you feel? It’s your worldview expanding.

 

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Hubble image of the Pillars of Creation, taken in 1995. click here for more info on this image.

City of Stairs is a sort of political book that’s got nothing to do with politics, it’s a fantasy where there are miracles but not exactly magic, it’s got romance that’s not traditionally romantic, not to mention culture and beliefs and history and archaeology being treated as if they are living things sitting right next to you waiting for the right moment to tell you their secrets. Like I said, it’s got everything.

 

I was recently listening to a podcast about Cordwainer Smith, and one of the Karens mentioned something about how Smith had come out of nowhere, that he wasn’t building on what other writers had done, and it was as if he was reinventing science fiction. Robert Jackson Bennett is a modern day Cordwainer Smith in a similar fashion. But, if forced to make a connection comparison (because we all like those!), to say “this book is like this other book”, the only one that comes to my mind is The Scar, by China Mieville, and only because of the depth of secrecy involved and the ultimate and intimately personal goals of some of the characters.

 

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City of Stairs starts with a courtroom ruling, followed by a train arriving in the middle of the night.

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pen palPen Pal, by Francesca Forrest

published Feb 2014

where I got it: Received review copy from the author

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From the cover art, my husband thought this novel might be a romance. Personally, I had no idea what to expect. But I was hooked about 5 pages in. It was as if at the same moment, Em threw a fishing line into the ocean, and Kaya lowered a line into the lava lake, and they both caught me and reeled me in. Good thing this book has quality binding, otherwise my copy wouldn’t be in such good shape by now because I pretty much carried it around everywhere.

 

I very recently read Long Hidden, which features marginalized characters and stories. Everything in Long Hidden was historical fiction, stories and situations that should never be relegated to the margins, but still, are history. I didn’t plan to read the books concurrently, but while reading Pen Pal I watched marginalization in action, happening right in front of my eyes.  And it was shockingly sobering.  Due to adult content, Long Hidden probably isn’t appropriate for the under fifteen crowd. But Pen Pal is perfect for the YA crowd, and for any reader looking for stories from the margins.  And if you’re just looking for a damn good book with two empowering women, Pen Pal is that too.

 

On a lark, young Em puts a message in a bottle, and throws it into the ocean.

“If you find it, please write back to me at this address. Tell me what the world is like where you are”,

says the end of the note. From her home in a floating community in the Gulf of Mexico, the bottle finds it’s way to a tiny island nation near Malaysia and into the hands of Kaya, a political prisoner whose prison hangs over a volcano.

 

Written in an epistolary fashion, Pen Pal is the intersection of Em’s and Kaya’s life, and it is fantastic story. What could a twelve year old girl from a  floating community have in common with a suspected insurrectionist? More than you might think.

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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.