the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

I met author Tom Doyle years ago at a science fiction convention, and I was lucky enough to stay in touch with him afterwards.   He’s the author of the American Craftsman trilogy, and his short fiction and non-fiction essays have appeared in Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, Perihelion, Paradox Magazine, Kasma SF Magazine, and elsewhere.

 

Many years ago, when Doyle was at Clarion, he wrote a short story which was later sold to Strange Horizons.  And now, he’s expanded that short story into a full length novel!  You can learn more about Tom Doyle and his work at his website TomDoyleAuthor.com or by following him on twitter or facebook.

 

Doyle’s newest full length novel, Border Crosser, (Amazon link) available Oct 1 tells the story of Eris, who is smart, sexy, and can’t remember her loyalties. She has a type of purposeful amnesia – because she can not remember her loyalties, nothing shows up on the “emotional scanners”, allowing her to infiltrate anywhere she needs to go, or chooses to go. Able to trick the scanners, she’s the perfect undercover secret agent.

 

Eris’s employers are quite sure that her emotional  amnesia means she won’t survive long enough to learn about her past.  Maybe they shouldn’t underestimate her!

Doyle let me pick his brain about how emotional amnesia could benefit someone, how Eris handles her mental health condition, his favorite scenes to write in Border Crosser, his writing process, his band, and more!

Little Red Reviewer: Congrats on your new novel, Border Crosser! Is this novel connected to your short story “Crossing Borders” which was published at Strange Horizons?

Tom Doyle: Thanks! Yes, “Crossing Borders,” my science fiction tale of Eris, a border personality secret agent causing interstellar chaos in the far-future, was the kernel for this novel. That story was my first pro sale. I wrote the story during the emotionally most intense part of the Clarion Workshop, and I think it shows.

LRR: When I read the description for the book, I was intrigued by Eris’s “emotional amnesia”, and how her memory issues allow her to get past emotional scanners. Scanners at the border that detect your long-term intentions? That’s wild! I’ve got to know more about how these scanners work, how to get around them, and how you came up with this idea!

TD: The idea for border scanners emerged from choosing to write about a borderline personality character. Emotional amnesia is a common aspect of borderline personality disorder (BPD). This means that someone has difficulty remembering how they felt before about events, things, and people. Eris’s emotional amnesia has been amplified by her secret employers, who want her loyalties to be extremely flexible.

In the original short story, I didn’t give Eris a particular skill set that fully explained the label “border crosser” – it was more a statement about personality type. But the novel required something more. So I thought more about situations in which emotional amnesia could be an advantage and came up with the border scanner.

The border scanner is a minimally intrusive look at intentions (this future has good reasons to fear anything more intrusive). Such scans are standard when crossing one of the many far-future borders; for example, boarding a starship or landing on another inhabited world. It’s the equivalent of our airport security or passport control and customs.

The person administering the scan asks some standard questions, like “Do you intend any harm toward me, the government, the planet, etc.?” A person without Eris’s version of emotional amnesia would be caught by the mental scanner. But Eris’s mind has been conditioned to idle in an emotionally neutral setting during such scans. At those moments, she doesn’t intend harm, though she may want to get closer to certain people.

LRR: Tell us some interesting things about Eris. What makes her a compelling character?

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Someone on twitter (thank you, whoever you were!)  recommended Vandana Singh’s short story “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”, and offered a link to the story on Tor.com.  I gave it a whirl, and was immediately hooked. In reminded me of Ken Liu’s short story “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”, and I recognized my favorite method of story telling, which at first glance can seem to be stories that dance around a plot and characters while resolutely refusing to be trapped by said plot. And yet, so much is communicated about what is happening and sometimes why those thing happen, and what those things mean to the people they are happening to.

 

I guess it’s more like a fantastical story telling version of future archaeology?

 

Let me unpack that a little.

 

In Liu’s short story, there is no plot, there is no characters, there is no conflict. If you’re zipping through the story, you won’t recognize the beginning, middle, or end, but if you read a little closer, it’s all there. It’s just a story that gives a few paragraphs about a bunch of space-faring alien civilizations, and how they make books – how they ensure others can access their stories and their thoughts.  Within the story, there are no human interactions with the aliens, no earthly judgements of  their societies. It is as if to put a human character in would a barrier between the reader and the records of these cultures.    Singh’s “Ambiguity Machine’s” felt like that too – no barrier between the records of events and the reader, no “main character” to pass judgement or offer opinions,  just records of what had happened, along with a request that someone interpret the records.

 

For my brain, these two stories, read 8 years apart from each other, were like hearing two pieces of music that were different, but seemed to be talking to each other, even though they had never met. (yes, I know I’m weird) (and i don’t know, maybe Signh and Lui are good friends? I have no idea)

 

Suffice to say, after reading Signh’s story,  I immediately ordered a paperback copy of her collection, Ambiguity Machines and Other Select Stories. And when the book arrived, the first words out of my mouth were “oh, shit”.

 

 

You see, I like to read before bed.  Usually, i’m already half asleep when I crawl into bed, so I’m looking to read something that if I find myself reading the same paragraph 5 times, or fall asleep halfway through, it won’t matter too much.   A short-ish story, something 5-10 pages, out of an anthology or collection is perfect for this.

 

None of the stories in the Singh collection were short, and none of them looked like “easy reads”. As I got further into the collection I realized these were not stories to drift away to, while falling asleep at night, these were stories to read in the morning, with strong coffee, and to spend the day absorbing and thinking about them, so as to then dream about them at night.

 

Everything I have read so far in this collection has been heart achingly beautiful,  each story requiring me some time afterwards to come back to myself. These stories are vistas.

 

(I feel really bad for whatever I read next. No matter how good it is, I fear it will be mediocre in comparison to this collection)

 

I’m going to tell you about “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”, and about “Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra”,  even though I have more favorites.  Those others will have to wait for another blog post, I supposed.   “Ambiguity Machines” had me globetrotting via googlemaps, and “Somadeva” had me falling down the world’s best internet rabbit hole.

 

Ambiguity Machines was original published at tor.com in 2015, here’s the link:

https://www.tor.com/2015/04/29/ambiguity-machines-an-examination-vandana-singh/

Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra was originally published in 2010 at Strange Horizons, here’s the link:

http://strangehorizons.com/fiction/somadeva-a-sky-river-sutra/

 

warning, if I interpreted something correctly, there are major spoilers ahead for “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”, and I guess maybe spoilers also for Somadeva? so hey, click on those links and enjoy some gorgeous fiction before reading the rest of this blog post.  😉

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Machine’s Last Testament by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

published May 2020

where I got it: received eArc (thanks!!)

 

 

Generations ago, humanity created an AI to help us become better people. We wanted to be more compassionate, less violent, we wanted to be better versions of ourselves, and we thought an AI could help us do that.

 

What could possibly go wrong?

 

At some point in the past, and for some reason, we abandoned the AI on a planet, while we explored the universe. Did the AI need to mature? Did we?

 

TL;DR:

  • AI who loves humanity, what could possibly go wrong? Check.
  • Stylish lesbians? Check
  • Some hot sexytimes? Check
  • Secret identities? Check
  • Subtexts on maturity and transcending our regrets? check.

 

While we colonized, warred, survived, and lived lives scattered across the stars, the lonesome AI named itself Samsara grew into her programming, and came to find us in our colonies in the dark skies.  Where the Samsara found us, it maimed and destroyed, allowing a small portion of refugees to come live on its planet, Anatta.  Warlords and Empires fell before Samsara.

 

Immigrants who behave become citizens, with all that the status of citizen offers.

 

Citizens who misbehave risk losing their citizenship and being sent back to the refugee camps, or worse, being sent to an off-planet refugee work camp.  Samsara, the all seeing AI knows everything about you, where you live, where you work, what you ate for breakfast, who you socialize with, how long you lingered somewhere.  Your thoughts are private, between you and Samsara.  You believe everything you see on television when you live on Anatta, because to do otherwise is to fight an all-powerful AI who is holding your citizenship hostage.

 

Suzhen Tang works at the Selection Bureau, her job is selecting potential future citizens out of the waves and waves of filthy starving refugees.  And like in C.S.E. Cooney’s Twice Drowned Saint, these people are desperate and will do anything and say anything to get into the famed cities of Anatta.

 

If only they knew.

 

As the story first unfolded, I thought Suzhen was boring. I wasn’t sure what to make of her. Well, she’s not boring, she’s careful.  If Samsara were to find out who Suzhen’s parents are, she’d surely be arrested and pulled in for questioning.  Suzhen’s armor is her silence. For her safety, she wears the mask of a shy introvert who has no hobbies. She takes no risk that she might tell her secrets to a friend or a lover.  The few people she socializes with, she won’t even tell them that she was once a refugee too, although I’m sure Taheen guessed ages ago.

 

Ovuha is a refugee, and Suzhen finds herself drawn to this tall, well spoken woman, and grants her probationary, barely potential citizenship.  Regardless of her  Ovuha will have to prove she is worthy.

 

This is where I’m gonna stop telling you about the plot, and tell you all the things I loved about this novella, and the one thing I wish had been different in it.  The plot is fucking fantastic, by the way. But you know me, i gotta talk about all the other stuff instead.

 

First off, the language, oh dear God the prose!  Please let me grow up to be an audiobook narrator so I can read this entire novella out loud! (hmm. . . i do have a voice recorder on my phone…. ) Sriduangkaew does this a lot – these gems of words that are placed just right and phrases are just barely flirting with meter, it’s like walking through prisms of agate and watching the light fragment into all it’s colors, and you just want to fall into it all. Let me try to explain in a way that makes sense – if you read This is How You Lose The Time War and thought to yourself “this language is beautiful, but this plot is I dunno?”, and you wanted to get you a novella that can do both, Machine’s Last Testament is that novella.

 

Yeah, so I have a total fan-girl crush her writing style, ok?

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Of the three things I’m talking about today, I have finished reading exactly one of them:

 

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (the one that I have finished) – I have so, so much to say about this book. But as pertains to this particular blog post, what I expected was 300 pages of zombie thwacking action, what I got was that the zombies aren’t the real monsters, the racists are.   Fun read, great characters,  I highly recommend.

 

Machine’s Last Testament by Benjanun Sriduangkaew – I’m about 2/3 of the way through this far future space opera/spy thriller/escape the AI story. Prisoners of War are brought to the planet Anatta, to see if they are worthy of citizenship.  The worldspanning AI Samsara controls all aspects of Anatta, studies humanity, and systematically attacks all other human settlements, bringing more prisoners to Anatta. You can’t even tell your best friend your secrets, because Samsara is always listening.  Excellent read, I highly recommend! The story has political intrigue, hidden identities, romance,  and oh yeah, freakin’ gorgeous prose. (if you were one of those people who loved the prose of This is How You Lose The Time War, but wished that there was more there there, Machine’s Last Testament is the book for you. the two titles are about the same length, too)

 

I watched the first two episodes of Brave New World on Peacock (it was free). Not sure if I’ll continue in the series, and it’s probably been ten years since I read the book, so couldn’t tell you how faithful the TV show is. Anyway. . .  in the future, everyone is happy, all the time. Not feel super happy? Take a drug that will make you happy.  Privacy is unheard of,  as is being raised with a family.  Want to experience the filth and unhealthyness of the horrible past? Visit a theme park to see a shotgun wedding, nuclear families, and natural pregnancies.  I’ll reread the book, but am undecided on if I’ll continue w/the show. I liked the art direction, but the garbage quality subtitles* were a huge turn off.

 

Through a perfect storm of coincidence, I am reading/watching all of these things at the same time, and my brain went flippity flop, and found the common ground between these three stories:

 

the people running the show – the white leaders in Dread Nation, Samsara, whoever runs the city in Brave New World – these people LOVE what they’ve created.  They have made a city on the hill where everyone is safe and happy and protected  . . .  and where everyone knows their place.  And the people actually living there?  eh, if they only accepted their place, they’d be happy too, right?

 

I think that’s what hit me so hard –  that the people living there, they are told to be happy in their place. Know your place. Stay in your lane. Be thankful we’ve found a place for you here. Others of your kind aren’t this deserving. You should be thankful.   Your superiors know what’s best for you.  (excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little)

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Anyone else “save books for special occasions”?  Like, you’re going on vacation, or a long train ride, or you know you’ll be home recovering from a surgery, or something?

I bought Hexarchate Stories when it came out last summer, because I absolutely had to have it. When the order arrived, I gently put the book away, unopened, knowing I was saving it for a rainy day.

There was no specific rainy day in mind,  but I knew a day would come, when damnit, I just wanted to hang out with Cheris and Jedao and everyone else again. Yes, Sure, there was a good chance horrible things would happen to them (holy shit, did you read Revenant Gun??), but I wanted to see them again.

 

I’ve had plenty of favorite scifi/fantasy characters over the years, people who I can’t get enough of.  Locke Lamora. Vlad Taltos.  Mendoza (and Joseph, and Lewis).  and now Jedao firmly joins that list.

(yes, yes I do have a thing for orphans. i also have a thing for loyalty, heartbreak, long simmering anger that can happen in the same moment as the unexpected joy of a wonderful meal,  and that the journey is more important that the destination. )

 

So anyway, there is no rainy day, so specific occasion, all I have is all of this *waves handles wildly, implying everything *.    I needed some escapism, I needed some snark, and damnit I needed some Jedao.   And boy did Hexarchate Stories deliver in the best possibly way.   I meant to slowly read this, teasing it out? Yeah nope, read the whole thing in like 3 days,  then reread a few favorite stories. Will probably be rereading most of the book, because I can, and because it’s that good.

 

Hexarchate Stories is tons and tons of short stories, flash fiction, and a few longer stories from Jedao and Cheris’s youth.   Which means,  if you haven’t read Machineries of Empire trilogy, go read that first, otherwise most of these short stories aren’t going to make any sense to you.   About half of these stories were previously published online, and about half of them are original to this  collection. If you’d like a taste of what to expect, there’s links to some of these on Yoon Ha Lee’s website.

 

Remember how anguish-yand emotionally wrenching  Machineries of Empire was?  Good News,  the majority of the stories in Hexarchate Stories don’t have any of that!  Many of these are super short,  they are just moments in people’s lives, there is humor and snark and people just living their lives.  The stories are presented in mostly chronological order and there is a timeline at the beginning of the book. Lee gives Author’s Notes at the end of each story, just a few sentences maybe about something funny that inspired the story, or that it game from a flash fiction story prompt, or that it had plot holes that needed be fixed, etc.  By the way “chronological order” means we get plenty of stories of Jedao’s youth and him as a teenager, and some stories of Cheris’s youth.   Them as kids? omg YES PLEASE.

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the familiar blogger refrain:

I’m not in the mood to write this book review. I know,  I’ll read another book . . . falling even further behind on reviews I had planned to write.

I haven’t written a review in a while, but I’ve been reading a ton, and I’ve got plenty of review notes written down in my head.

Some books I’ve read recently:

sorry for the crap blurry photo!

 

Star Trek: Collateral Damage, by David Mack.   I’ve read some TOS Trek novels, but never read a TNG novel. I had no idea what to expect.  I certainly didn’t expect to love this book so much. Great characters, Worf rolling his eyes,  Laforge saving the day, Picard being Picard,  excellent banter and even more excellent side characters.  I worry that I’ve now been spoiled, that no other TNG novel will entertain me as much as this book entertained me.

 

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett – 2nd book in his new trilogy. Certainly doesn’t suffer from “middle book syndrome”.  NONSTOP action.  I love the magic system in this world, but I’m struggling to care about the main characters. My fave characters were a side character who is super close to his trauma, and the bad guy, because he’s pretty cray-cray.  Buckets more on this later, but i think the reasons I’m struggling to connect with the main character is because SO MUCH ACTION is getting in the way for me, and she’s like 19 years old, so she relates to the world in a different way than 40 year old me relates to the world.

 

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – while stuck at home during a pandemic, why not read a book about a pandemic that ravages earth? Loved how the story opens, super loved the end, the middle was a little draggy for me. I feel like The Girl With All The Gifts is sort of a modern take on I Am Legend?  I haven’t seen the movie of this, by the way.  Also, didn’t realize I Am Legend is a novella?  the paperback is jam packed with a ton of Matheson short stories, mostly quick sharp horror stories, lots of which take place in funeral homes. they are deliciously creepy.

 

 

If you love gorgeous artwork and Central Asia,  Bride’s Story is for you.  I basically shop for dresses out of the pages of this manga.  So much gorgeous embroidery! the dresses! the shoes! the head dresses!  the jewelry!!!   the plot jumps around between a bunch of different families, and in volume 11 we are with Mr. Smith and Talas.  Their story is super heartbreaking, and I want them to find happiness, and I don’t know if they will.  Smith is such an adorable doofus.  There’s a great side story in this volume about what happened to his pocket watch, and the “legends” that sprang up around the watch.   I feel like that lady who wanted to buy Talas’s embroidered clothing – I suck at embroidery, but i love it and I’m happy to pay a pretty penny for it.

 

Memories of Emanon by Shinji Kajio and Kenji Tsurata – totally different art style than Bride’s Story, but I love, LOVE the art style of Memories of Emanon!  The story takes place in the late 1960s, a young man is traveling home on a ferry in Japan.  The ferry is going up the coast, it’s going to take him 17 hours to get home (sorta like a really, REALLY long train ride in the US).  He meets a young woman on the ferry, and she tells him the wildest story.  What she’s saying can’t possibly be true, can it?  Great story, fantastic artwork.

 

I haven’t finished reading Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee yet,  but I’m near the end.  I bought this collection last year, and was “saving it for a special occasion”. If you read my last blog post and the comments,  being on the upswing from whatever-that-was seemed to be a special occassion, so I picked up Hexarchate Stories.  Young Jedao! and his siblings! and his mom!  and calendars and birthdays and servitors and omg I love this book so much! there is a ton of flash fiction in here, and it’s been fun to analyze the flash fiction, see how to tell a story in just a few pages. truly,  reading this book has been heavenly.  as soon as I finish it I’m going to read it again (I feel like I did that with one of the Machineries of Empire books too?).   Confession – some of my super fave stores have been the sexy/smutty ones.

 

some e-books i’ve read/am reading:

The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – holy shit damn. this book is everything!  I have handwritten notes for a review and still there is just SO MUCH.   (also, for reasons that  i’ll tell you later, finishing this book and then immediately picking up the Star Trek book had me laughing my head off).  This book doesn’t come out till later this summer, so I need to figure out when i can post a review and how much I can talk about, because I don’t want to spoil anything.

 

 

I just started reading Machine’s Last Testament by Benjanun Sriduangkaew this morning, and I’m loving it. An AI controlled sanctuary city, where if you can get in, you’ll be happy and safe (for AI definitions of happy and safe).  It’s a sort of prequel to And Machines Shall Surrender, which I loved.  Basically, if you’re trying to figure out what kind of stories and prose styles I love,  read anything by Sriduangkaew, and you’ll know.

 

What have you been reading lately?

 

and if you like short fiction, and want your TBR to explode, check out this series of interviews I’m doing at Nerds of a Feather,  with staff members at Hugo nominated semiprozines!  When this series ends, I’ll be doing an interview series with the nominees for best fan artist.  Huh, i guess that explains why i haven’t been writing a ton of reviews lately. . .

This weekend, I attended my first fully virtual SFF convention, Flights of Foundry.  In fact, at the moment that I started drafting this blog post,  panels were still happening!

 

 

Fresh from the experience, I can say without a doubt- if you have the opportunity to attend and online convention, DO IT.   Flights of Foundry had a suggested donation, but you could register for free.  I did a donation for my registration, and for how much enjoyment I got out of my experience (and no travel expenses!), I plan to send them another donation to show my gratitude.

 

Are there some negatives to a virtual convention? yes, but in my opinion the positives far outweigh the negatives.    Keep in mind I have no idea what technological things were happening behind the scenes,  what I do know is that the volunteers kept the Go To Meeting feeds and Zoom feeds running smoothly,  and there were Discord channels for chats and asking questions in panels (I didn’t register for discord, so I can’t really speak to that).

 

The panels and presentations were done through Go To Meeting, and audience members could hop in an out as they chose,  and the readings, workshops, and other smaller events were done through Zoom. (If you’ve not used those platforms before:  GoToMeeting means the audience can see the speakers but the speakers can’t usually see the audience, and in Zoom everyone has the opportunity to see everyone else, if you have 9 people it looks like The Brady Bunch grid.)

 

The vast majority of panels had sound and video,  but that didn’t mean I was shackled to my desk while I was listening to a panel.  The experience felt like watching a live twitch stream,  or listening to a live radio show.  I was listening on a wireless headset,  so I could wear my headset and walk away from my desk.

 

Here are some  more positives, and this list is long!

– Didn’t have to pay for a hotel room,  didn’t have to put shoes on, didn’t have to wait for a table at a restaurant at dinnertime, didn’t have to drive anywhere or worry about flights or worry about traveling/bad weather. all the stresses and costs of travel were gone.  I literally attended in my pajamas. (and at this point, haven’t we all forgotten how to wear shoes?)

– Registering and getting into the live feeds was super easy.  This convention must have had some tech wizards working behind the scenes!

– Panelists seemed more relaxed, since they also didn’t have to rush around a hotel looking for their next panel room.

– if I’d thought to use two devices, i technically could have listened to two panels at the same time!

– I could fidget to my hearts content because no one could see me.  Those chairs in the panel rooms at hotels? my legs are short, those things are hell for me, I’d rather stand or sit on the floor (and have, on occasion). I was listening to the panels on a wireless headset, so I could walk around the living room, go to the kitchen for snacks, do some light excersize. I could even *whisper* leave a panel that wasn’t what I expected, without being disruptive,  or hop into a currently going panel, without being disruptive.

– not only could I hop in and out and fidget without distracting others, I didn’t have the distractions of an in-person convention. No loud panel rooms next door, no squeaky panel room doors opening and closing constantly, no disruptive audience members.

– I saw that many panels were recorded so people can watch them later. I didn’t register for this service, but I saw that some panels had closed captioning for the hearing impaired!

 

the few negatives were:

– no people watching.  I just had to be OK with the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to people watch or compliment people on their outfits.  I do love me some people watching.

– no socializing, no parties, no “omg how are you!”‘s in the hallways, no random encounters, no thanking people after a panel for doing such a great panel or a wonderful reading, no autograph session. Had I registered for the discord chat rooms, i could have had a more social experience. But also? no awkward social encounters either!

– there was something about a Dealers Room, but I didn’t explore this.

 

I “registered” for a ton of panels ahead of time, which meant those showed up as super convenient links in my email that morning.  But like every con I’ve ever attended, I made last minute decisions about what panels I would go to, and ended up skipping some that I expected to attend.  I did love getting those links on Saturday and Sunday,  they were really convenient!

For those of you who enjoy After Con Reports,  here’s some very brief comments on some of the panels I attended.

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As of Tuesday this week, I’m telecommuting until further notice.  I have a mini-desk set up in one corner of the living room,  and a huge thank you to IT for sending me home with an extra plug-bar!

I’m trying to keep to my normal schedule as much as possible, I’m the kind of person who really needs structure.  This means:  Up at 6am or earlier,  exercise,  have a shower, have a coffee. . .  and well,  I used to leave for work around 6:40am because I had an hour commute.  I used to get home from work around 6:30, because hour commute.

no more hour commute.

I’ve just bought myself 2 hours a day (or more!) to read!!!  I’m trying to read in the morning, instead of obsessing over reading the news.

I’m re-reading my way through Kage Baker’s Company series,  blew through In the Garden of Iden in a couple of days, and am now a few chapters in to Sky Coyote.

We picked up a few more Witcher books, so I have those two.

 

if you’ve just gained some time, due to #reasons,  what are you taking the time to finally read?

 

 

I’d forgotten how freakin’ smart In the Garden of Iden is,  now that I’ve read further into the series there is SO MUCH foreshadowing in this book that OF COURSE I wouldn’t/couldn’t have seen the first time I read it.  Also? The sex scenes are SO ADORABLE!

I was nervous getting up to the scene at the end. Iif you’ve read the book, you know the scene I’m talking about.  I was this close to DNFing it, and going right to Sky Coyote, so I  could skip that scene, because with all that’s going on, did I really need to torture myself with reading that scene?

Mendoza managed to survive it.  Baker managed to write it.  I needed to put on my big girl panties and read the fucking scene. I took a deep breath, and I read it.  I didn’t like it,  but I got through it. The actual scene? it was shorter than I remembered.  A little easier to survive than I expected.  Still, it was brutal.  Maybe next time, I’ll skip it.

 

ok, more random thoughts on this book:

(apologies in advance for crappy grammar, shouty caps, and crimes against italics. I’ve been drinking. it’s been a week, ok?)

 

for the uninitiated,  In the Garden of Iden has time travel, romance, teen angst, grown-up snark, and immortals. It is sorta like Outlander meets Twilight, minus the werewolves and with way better writing and humor?

 

Shit, the title!!!!   Excellent play on words on Garden of Eden.  Mendoza finds herself in a paradise, and is then thrust out, having had her eyes opened to so much awfulness.   And holy crap, she is SO seventeen years old!!  the teen angst is so adorable!    And what she knows now? the knowledge she has (about life, about mortals) she can’t unknow. I think I could play with this paragraph for about forever, so i’m just gonna shut up now.

 

I like that this book is written in past tense first person.  At least that means we know for a fact that Mendoza doesn’t die.

 

srsly, what the fuck are they teaching these kids in school?

 

Joseph rocks.  The first time I read this, I thought he was an asshole.  After re-reading Iden and a few chapters into Sky Coyote I don’t think he’s an asshole at all.  i mean, he’s a total jerk sometimes, but he’s not an asshole.

 

In the Garden of Iden came out in 1997.  for context, that was the year I graduated high shool, and at the time I wouldn’t have known quality science fiction if it bit me in the ass.  For folks who were actual grown-ups in the 90s,  did this book “break the internet”?  Were people all like “what the hell is this?”, or did this book come out, and no one knew what it was and it didn’t get any buzz?  I mean, the series doesn’t really get going big time for a few books or so, but Garden of Iden is SO FREAKING GOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!   what was was the reaction when this book came out?

 

omfg time paradox!!!   Joseph, Nef, and Mendoza were sent to Walter Iden’s estate to (among other things) collect samples of certain plants that would shortly become extinct.  Some of these plants have medicinal extracts, etc.   avoiding spoilers:  if Joseph hadn’t given Iden __________,  maybe Iden wouldn’t have ______  ____   _______ , and maybe _____ ______  would never _______  ________ in the first place???  i freaking LOVE shit like this!!!

 

More in a couple days when I’m further into Sky Coyote.

This was the book I didn’t want to review.

 

I didn’t even want to read it.

 

I don’t know why, but I felt the need to save this book for some time when I really needed it.  Like it was the last bottle of whisky from a famous yet shuttered distillery. And once I opened it, it would evaporate and soon barely the scent would remain.

 

When I did crack the book open,  of course the first story I read was The Battle of Candle Arc.  And then I read that story again. And then I read Iseul’s Lexicon, which I then, read again.

I consumed this collection in such a strange way,  I consumed it the same way I use a cookbook. Once I identified a story I enjoyed,  I’d reread it three, or four times, getting into into my rotation. When I felt ready, I’d try another story/meal.

 

Strange, I know.  But you already know that I’m strange.

 

The time came for me to start thinking about the review.

 

I didn’t want to write it.  I didn’t want to put Conservation of Shadows back on the shelf along with all the other books that “I’m done thinking about”.   I’m not ready for these characters to not be in my life anymore. Can I reread these stories any time I want? For sure. But there’s something different about a book that is floating around the house because you are still thinking about it, and a book that you’ve put back on the shelf and categorized in your mind as “I’m done thinking about that book”.

 

This is what Yoon Ha Lee does:  writes fiction you don’t want to stop thinking about. You might be done reading the book, but the book isn’t done with you.

 

To write this review, I’ve made a bargain with myself:  I purchased Hexarchate Stores, so I can dive right into that,  and Conservation of Shadows is going to live on the coffee table for a while longer.  This review is not an agreement that I’m done with this book. In fact, it’ll be really fun to reread these stories in 6 months or a year, and see if they have changed, or if I’ve changed.

 

Thank you for letting me get all of that out of my system and put words to my feelings. You’ve been very patient.  I guess it’s time I talk about this collection, yeah?

 

Most of the stories touch on language (which of course, I have zero interest in), colonialism and occupation, assimilation, destruction of cultures through destruction of their language, how sometimes things just don’t translate, and how war makes us strangers to ourselves.

 

One last thing before I actually talk about the stories!  Fun new words!

 

sumptuary           morphophonemics      escritoire

logographs              entelechy

 

Isn’t “escritoire” just the most beautiful word you’ve ever seen?

 

Ok, I am getting to the stories now, I SWEAR.   In no particular order:

Read the rest of this entry »

I  dropped 3 bags of books off as donations for the Friends of the Library bookstore, I therefore feel ZERO guild about buying a short stack of boks.   I ordered some of these in January, but by the time I was able to make it to the bookstore to pick them up, it was February.

 

help, I don’t know where to start!!

(actually, I do)

 

I’ve been slowly and repeatedly making my way through Yoon Ha Lee’s short story collection Conservation of Shadows,  and Hexarcate Stories has been on my list for a while.  I thought this was only going to be maybe eight or so stories? the TOC is hella long, I am in heaven just having this baby in my hands!  This collections feels like a bottomless bag of candy. or maybe more like a coral reef that is too big to ever fully explore, even though I visit it every day.

 

 

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury – I really enjoyed Heather’s review of this,  so when I saw a nice paperback copy of it, I decided to buy it.

 

Some short novels by Richard Brautigan.  This hideous book wins every possible award for worst ever cover art.  there is technicolor cover art of In Watermelon Sugar on Amazon, what is this stupid cover art??   ANYWAY,  one of my favorite memories of this year’s ConFusion, was a bunch of us were hanging out in the lobby, we are (or at least I am) incredibly drunk. Someone asks the group what books we read that completely blew our minds.  This guy starts talking about this book called In Watermelon Sugar, I’m watching him talk and loving the words that are coming out of his mouth to the point where I want to collect them in a lightning bottle, and I’m watching as his conversation partner’s mouth falls open, and a look of pure rapture settles in on his face.  This Watermelon book sounds like if Jeff Vandermeer dropped the world’s best acid. I simply HAVE to read it.   and now I can. and some other stuff by the same author

 

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is the next book for my local book club. Have you read it? is it good?  It wasn’t on my radar until now.

 

Where to start?   I’m starting with the Brautigan.

 

 


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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.