the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘urban fantasy

Last month,  Book Forager and I read Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters. This book came out a while ago, but we both realized it was a book we had been meaning to get to. . . and just needed a nudge to finally read.   As we each got through different portions of the books, we’d email back and forth our thoughts and questions for each other.  Our conversation morphed in a shared Google Doc for us to chat back and forth about our favorite characters, the weirdness of this book, the ending (holy crap that ending!!), and that a book that is ostensibly about a serial killer made me cry.

 

Below, is one half of our conversation,  head over to Book Forager this weekend to read the other half!

 

 

Who were your favorite characters?

Book Forager: I’m torn between Layla, TK and Clayton. Layla is such a badass and I still think she’s the hero of the book. Yes, she’s a teen who’s trying to sort everything out in her head and work out who she is, but she’s got some serious backbone. She takes on VelvetBoy and Travis (which was awesome!), and she seems to understand better than anyone else what’s going on in the factory at the end. She admires Cass without realising just how frigging awesome she is herself.

 

I loved TK from the moment he found those red shoes and handed them over to Ramón instead of keeping them for himself. Everything about his story breaks my heart. At the end of my copy of the book there was an interview with Beukes (was there in yours, Andrea?) and in both that and her acknowledgements she mentions James Harris from the NOAH project at the Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, who allowed her to use details from his personal history. I’m guessing that’s why TK feels so real. Real or not, he’s loyal and smart, an incredibly sympathetic character, and has an odd super power involving chairs.

 

And Clayton. He’s just so well written. I have a soft spot for characters who struggle to interact with the world in an acceptable way. He’s incredibly creepy, and deluded, and I’m not sure I can scrape up that much empathy for him, but I still have a little. At least I did at the beginning. I feel like he’s not quite fully formed, if that makes any sense? I’m guessing he may not be on your favourite characters list Andrea, but how did you feel about Clayton Broom?

 

Andrea:  You guessed right, Clayton totally creeped me out! And yes, I 100% get what you mean that he didn’t feel fully formed. Do you think that was on purpose?  That he’s looking for something that will make him feel (or literally be) fully formed? I’m such an idiot, I thought my book didn’t have the interview in the back. . . .  and I just looked again, just now, and of course it’s there. How did I miss that before??

 

At first I really liked Jonno, more on him in a bit.

 

It’s funny, at the beginning of the book, it looks like Gabrielle and Jonno are being presented as the main characters. And yes, they are both important, but I felt like as the book progressed, Layla, and by extension, Cas, become the main characters.  It is awful that this thriller about a freaky AF serial killer is really Layla’s coming of age book? She starts as this quiet “don’t look at me” kind of girl who is overshadowed by her boisterous best friend, and the tables kind of turn by the end, in a good way.   The crazy shit Layla and Cass do to Velvetboy? Holy crap! And like, I don’t think Layla figures out exactly who she is by the end, but she sure figures out who she isn’t. And wow, what a bonding experience between her and her mom!!!

 

Layla has a unique way of looking at the world,  and I think for teenagers, that unique way is totally normal.  But us adults, we’ve forgotten how to look at the world in such a unique way. If she hadn’t been at the warehouse at the end, the book would have had a much more gruesome ending, I think.  I wonder if Beukes sort of wrote the lead up to the end backwards? Like, she knew Layla had to be there . . . so how to engineer the scenes before to make sure Layla is there? I bet all authors do something like that, where they know certain characters need to be in certain places for certain things to happen, so how do to you make sure people have a legit reason to be where they are supposed to be at the right time?

 

Book Forager: Huh … this is going to sound dumb, but it never occurred to me that Clayton’s not-quite-fully-formed-ness was something deliberate. But that makes complete sense (I feel a real wally!) of what happens to him in the woods (even though I think Beukes is deliberately vague on that score, perhaps to keep the reader guessing about the supernatural elements until later on), and why.

 

Yeah, I felt like Gabrielle and Jonno were going to be the key players too, and I liked the way Layla and Cass slowly moved into the spotlight, how the whole book starts out feeling like a typical procedural and slowly twists into something much more.

Did your favorite character(s) change by the end of the book?

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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

Fearful Symmetries – I picked this anthology up from a used book dealer. Edited by Ellen Datlow, the TOC includes Pat Cadigan, Laird Barron, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Michael Marshall Smith.  That’s the extent of my knowledge. How do you fare with anthologies?

 

The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez – Yes, this is the collection that has the famous robot panda sex story. and it is a damn good short story!! Actually, every story in this collection is fantastic (review here), as is Hernandez’s kids book that is out in March (review coming soon)

 

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.  My favorite Murderbot book. review here. If for whatever reason you only read the first novella in the series and then stopped, please do yourself a favor and read this second one.

(huh. hadn’t realized until right this second that I had so many short stories/novellas in this five for friday photo. oh well)

 

Rule 34 by Charles Stross.  I really like Stross’s Laundry Files books, enjoyed Accellerando and Glass House (although I worry those two have not aged well).  Anyone read Rule 34? How is it?

 

Fix by Ferrett Steinmetz – Crap. I meant to put the FIRST book in this trilogy in the photo, and instead I grabbed the LAST book. OOPS. What a fun urban fantasy read! If you like stories where everyone has unique magic, and they have to learn most of the rules as they go, this is the series for you! Protagonist is a father who is just trying to protect his daughter, and you’ll get to meet Valentine, one of my favorite female characters, ever.  Oh, do you like the movie Fight Club? you will really, really love the second book in this series! here my review of the first book, Flex.

 

 

have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?  If you’ve not read these, do any look interesting to you?

No review this week, but lots of books to talk and think about.

 

I just finished reading Nexhuman by Francesco Verso, wow, what a book!  A gripping (and maybe creepy?) plotline, a future built around so many “what if” questions, discussion of the unintended consequences of uploading our minds into robot bodies,  this book is like a keystone for so much other science fiction that I’ve read. Lots of hard science questions and possible answers presented in a social scifi / coming of age / doomed romance (maybe they are doomed?) novel that doesn’t shy away from visceral violence. Still thinking about it and putting my thoughts together, and I will probably have to read portions of the book again before writing a review.   Anyway, if you’re looking for something different and smart, something that puts the pieces together, keep your eye out for Nexhuman, out in August from Apex Books. Full review coming soon, when I’m able to talk about this book in coherent sentences.

Needing something a little easier on the gut, I picked up Shadows Over London, by Christian Klaver.  He’s famous for his Supernatural Sherlock Holmes novellas, and I’ve had this Victorian urban fantasy on my shelf for a while.  Christian is a super nice guy, and it’s been too long since I read something of his. 70 or so pages in, and I’m up to my eyeballs in the Seelie Court, the Unseelie Court, a stained glass prison, four siblings who give me some super happy The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe vibes, and way too many cats.  Kinda worried now that this isn’t a happy little Victorian urban fantasy with faeries, kinda thinking there is plenty of violence and death in these pages?  And sorta wanna reread Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks all of a sudden.

On the short fiction front,  I found my way to Cat Pictures Please, (Clarkesworld) by Naomi Kritzer, and Fandom for Robots, (Uncanny) by Vina Jie-Min Prasad.  Stories told by sentient AIs? I can’t get enough of it!  A robot figuring out how to act like a human, how to understand all the weird shit humans do. . . it helps me feel normal that sometimes even I don’t understand the weird shit humans do.   You should go read those short stories I linked to. Each one is a five minute read, but they are so good you will wish they were longer. It’s ok, you can read them again.

 

I promised you pigs and jellyfish princesses, didn’t I.  Pigs first! If you are as obsessed with Fullmetal Alchemist as I am (omg, did you see? They are releasing hardcover editions!  Goodbye $300!), then you know the creator behind that series, Hiromu Arakawa, has another manga series called Silver Spoon.  Silver Spoon is just a high school slice of life story – no magic, no fantasy, nothing supernatural. All these students are at an agricultural high school, many of them are expected to take over their family’s farms and agro-businesses. The main character is a city boy, and he chose this school to get as far away from his overbearing parents as possible. He doesn’t know the first thing about chickens or horses or pigs, and he finds himself fascinated by understanding more about where our food comes from.   

 

So much food and animal science, I love it!!! This is a great manga if you don’t think you like manga. It has ZERO annoying tropes, great characters, excellent art, and food science! Like why you need to age pork for a few days.

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Good Guys, by Steven Brust

published March 6th 2018

where I got it: Purchased new

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What can you do with magic?  Pretty much anything you can do without it, except magic makes things much easier, and much faster.  Students at the Foundation learn chemistry, molecular biology, and physics. They need to know how everything in the natural world works, so they can learn how to properly manipulate it for the results they want.  The applied science of magic is a lot of knowledge, even more practice, and boat ton of will power.

 

Steven Brust’s newest stand alone novel, Good Guys, is Dresden Files meets Columbo, meets a study in the glory that is non-verbal communication.  Donovan Longfellow heads up the American field team for the Spanish Foundation, a secret society staffed by magicians, sorcerers, recruiters, researchers, and assorted administrative staff. As the story opens, Donovan is breaking in his new field specialist, Marci. Fresh out of training, and still thinking she can have a healthy relationship while working for The Foundation, Marci is bright eyed and bushy-tailed, reminding me a little of Gwen from Torchwood. The team is rounded out by Susan the acrobatic ninja, and yep, the three of them are the entire American field team for the Spanish Foundation – saving the world by day, and often working  2nd jobs on the side to make ends meet.  They might be saving the world, and the Foundation offers pretty good health insurance, but the hourly wage sucks.

 

The novel opens with a murder committed by magical means.  Donovan’s team is put on the case, and as the murders stack up, the killings become more and more gruesome. None of the people who are murdered were particularly nice people. Someone is trying to send a message, but what are they trying to say, and why?   The Foundation tends to frown on people using magic for selfish or violent reasons, so why should they care that a bunch of assholes are getting knocked off? Other than the fact that he’s getting paid for it, why should Donovan care?

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In no particular order, here are the new books that have come into my house recently. (and this doesn’t even the count the ratty used paperbacks I’ve purchased, the e-book of Mythic Delirium I bought, and other books that friends have let me borrow).  My love for books is happily out of control!

 

What looks good to you?

As they say, if you can read a Steven Brust book, do it.  Witty characters, meaningful snark, well crafted mysteries, subtle clues and references.  I zipped through his newest, Good Guys, last weekend.  Compulsively readable, I need to read it again before I write a review, as I’m sure I missed a ton of good stuff.

You ever wonder what’s really happening when your tummy rumbles? Want to know more than you ever wanted about poop? If you answered Yes to at least one of those questions, Gut is for you.  I was looking for a paperback copy of The Secret Language of Trees, and came across Gut instead (yeah, B&N has zero organization to their science books).  I like knowing how my insides work.

 

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace comes out in July, it is the sequel to her acclaimed novel Archivist Wasp. I’m a jerk, and never read the first book, but here’s hoping I can just dive right into the new one!

I think I kinda freaked out Jerry Gordon at ConFusion when he said he’d written a novel about David Koresh and I was like “who in their right mind would do that, holy shit  tell me more”.  I’ve been waiting for this ARC to show up in my mailbox ever since, and I started reading it, oh, about 5 minutes after I ripped it out of the envelope.  Breaking the World releases on April 19th, we’ll see if I can get the book finished and a review up before then.

 

In that same envelope with Breaking the World was the April issue of Apex Magazine. Yes, this is available in print now! Subscriptions are reasonable, and it is hella bragging rights for me to walk around with a magazine that I am in. so, yeah. the April issue has an essay from Jerry Gordon, talking all about the behind-the-scenes of Breaking the World. Guess I better come up with some way better interview questions for him. . .

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson is  for my local scifi bookclub. I’m about halfway through and kinda losing the thread. I dig the main character, but am having trouble getting invested in the plot. I think too much is being jammed into too few pages? Anyone read this? What did you think?

 

The Freeze-Frame Revolution comes out in June, and I meant to just read the first chapter or two to get a taste of it, and two days later I was done and wanted to read it again. Review is already in the works, but I figure I better wait till just a little closer to June before posting. Short version of the review? this book is very, very good. Way too much crammed into too few pages, and it works beautifully.  because, you know, Peter Watts.

Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders doesn’t come out till September, so I guess it should sit on the TBR pile (my entire living room is turning into a TBR pile) until the summer. Looks like a fast fun read, maybe sort of Cory Doctorow-ish?

 

One of Us comes out in July, I’m not sure what exactly this is, but the early critical reviews are basically “this book will break you”.

Apocalypse Nyx comes out in July,  so once I finish all the stuff I’ve been dipping my toes into, I better get this one read. June will be hear before you know it!

 

Phoresis by Greg Egan comes out at the end of April.  It’s Egan, so that means it is dense and hard scifi. I’ve dipped my toes into this one, read maybe half of it. There is lots of “let’s science the shit out of this”. What I really need to do is start it again, from the beginning, and take notes. Because, Egan.

Silver Spoon was a happy surprise at B&N. I loved the anime of this, and really, anything by Arakawa is going to be fantastic. I’m interested to see how faithful the anime was to her original manga. The story follows a city boy who doesn’t know what he wants to do for college, so he ends up at an agricultural school, and finds himself surrounded by new friends who grew up on farms. It’s a nice coming of age story.

 

 

well? what looks good to you?  if these books were floating around your house, what would you read first?

 

 

 

Borderline, by Mishell Baker

Published in 2016

Where I got it: It was a freebie at an event I attended (free book? SCORE!)

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You know the TV show Torchwood? Imagine if it was urban fantasy:  swap the aliens for fey creatures, swap the alien technology for magic, swap Cardiff for Hollywood, and double up on the snark and you’re on your way to having something a little like Mishel Baker’s Borderline.  I’ve got a weakness for snarky novels written in first person, so I was hooked on Borderline about 20 pages in.

 

Millie hasn’t got much going on these days.  Her stay at a psychiatric center is paid up for another six months, and she’s gotten pretty used to her prosthetic legs.  When a strange beautiful woman waltzes in and offers her a job, Millie says yes out of a combination of boredom and curiosity.

 

Upon arrival at what is known as Residence Four, Millie learns the first rule is “don’t ask”.  Everyone here has some kind of medical, physical, metaphysical, or mental health condition, and it is and disrespectful and rude to assume, presume, or make light of someone’s predicament.  You wait until someone feels comfortable enough with you to tell you about their personal life. And if they never feel comfortable enough? Well, that’s your problem, not theirs. Oh, and all these people work for a group that helps control the traffic between our world and the Fey world by ensuring Fey glamours are functioning, and that only authorized Fey are here on Earth and that there is no violence between the two groups. Part of the pact is that if we harm any Fey, they will slaughter us. Hmm… so I guess a little more like Men in Black than Torchwood? Also, how come no one will tell Millie who Elliott is?

 

Millie brought a lot more than her physical baggage to Residence Four.  She has Borderline Personality Disorder, she’s still working through the events that led to her failed attempt at suicide, she’s still getting used to her scarred and battered body that doesn’t look like how she feels, and now that she’s free of both film school and a psychiatric center she’s also interested in some end result based flirting.  None of which jives with the ad hoc family at Residence Four, so things are pretty awkward for her right from the get go. Through her first person perspective, we get a lot of “because of my Borderline Personality Disorder, I often . . . “, giving me just enough information to be really dangerous. I do some of those things, sometimes. Does that mean I have BPD?

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Imprinted (available January 2018) is the forthcoming novelette in Jim C. Hines’s Libriomancer series, and The Squirrel on the Train (November 2017, Subterannean Press) is Kevin Hearne’s latest Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries novella.  Two super fun and funny little stories!

 

Jim C. Hines concluded his Magic Ex Libris series with the fourth book in the series, Revisionary.  The magic of this series sounds rather basic at first – the world’s collective love for books, stories, and the items found therein allows Libriomancers to pull physical items out of books. Urban fantasy awesomeness and characters who will absolutely shred your heart ensue.  Because character relationships, people’s abilities, and the danger ramp up pretty quickly, this is a series that needs to be read in order.  But. . .  with an itty bitty spoiler (that really doesn’t spoil anything) you can read Imprinted even if you are not caught up on Magic Ex Libris.  That’s me, by the way. I’m the person who isn’t caught up on Magic Ex Libris.

 

Revisionary was supposed to have been the end of the series, right? Well, it wasn’t for Jeneta. She still has a story to tell!

 

Seventeen year old Librariomancer Jeneta Aboderin has a unique libriomantic ability, it’s an ability Isaac might never even thought of had he not met Jeneta. But her power brings risk with it. What if she isn’t strong enough to control her ability? What if she is able to control it, and ends up disrupting the foundations of libriomancy?

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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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