chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

I've actually been mainlining new (new to me, anyway) fiction like nobody's business. I had a lot queued up for the vacation last month, and for various reasons, I didn't get to it. Now I have. Some quick takes:

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin is everything most reviewers have said. Very satisfying ending to a very dark, sad series. Happy was not going to happen, but hopeful *did*, and beautifully so. It was a positive ending that was most definitely earned. And I really loved the world-building all over again.

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett also ended its series well, if a trifle oddly. Alas, most of my favorite characters didn't survive. There were nods to all sorts of other works, including rather a lot of Terry Pratchett, I realized after finishing the book.

Murderbot: All Systems Red (novella) by Martha Wells was a lot of fun, about a snarky, introverted android that has circumvented its "restraining bolt" programming and becomes something of a sleuth+superhero on behalf of its humans. There are already three more Murderbot stories in the pipeline. Yay!

The Furthest Station (novella) by Ben Aaronovitch at first disappointed me because I didn't realize it was a novella. But viewed in that light, it was an enjoyable brief addition to the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series. The identity of the cute little tyke whom Peter encounters was absolutely no surprise to me, though.

The Gates of Tagmeth by P.C. Hodgell was OK. These most recent Kencyrath books have rather disappointed me. I respect Baen for acquiring and continuing this series, and even attempting to obtain suitable cover art in the last couple of volumes (although crap, I still think that even a casual persual of DeviantArt would turn up better choices), but holy crud, a good editor would have helped the last few a lot, I think. And Baen is not the publisher to supply that. Jame and her fated love still generate no heat that I can discern, sadly, and I wish PCH hadn't matched up Kindrie as she did. I like both characters, but not together. This makes me think of the manga Fruits Basket, where the mangaka seemingly decided that everybody needed to be matched up at the end, regardless of whether it made any sense. Also, poor Lyra is becoming a pawn of fate/God's chew-toy more than is necessary, IMO.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? vol. 12 by Fumi Yoshinaga continues Ken and Shiro's low-key relationship and Shiro's cookery. This volume seemed to have less melodrama/tension than the last few (nothing dire happens to either partner's family, for example), although someone makes Shiro a very interesting proposal ... and the results are both very funny and very realistic.

Ooku vol. 12, also by Fumi Yoshinaga surprised me because ... they solved the problem of the redface pox. And yet it is not the end of the series! I do have to say that in retrospect, I feel a little ... ticked off? that the solution comes under the reign of the first male shogun in ages (although his mother thinks she is still in control of things) and by the efforts of an exclusively male team (although they all constantly acknowledge the inspiration of the late lamented cross-dressing genius Hiraga Gennai, who was cis-female). That might not be a worthy way to feel, but that's how it is.

Reading Now

The Brightest Fell, which is the latest installment of Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. Speaking of people who are chew-toys of the divine: Toby continues to be messed with physically and magically, over and over. I do have to say that one of the events had me going "Oh, no, not again."

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Quick, quick, quick, 'cause I'm so far behind on commitments that it's really unfunny.

I brought along a virtual stack of stuff (mostly in my Kindle) on our vacation last week. I didn't get to a lot of it, but:

The Harbors of the Sun is the conclusion to Martha Wells' Books of the Raksura, and I'm really sad to leave her dragon/bee shapeshifters behind. I have to agree with [personal profile] muccamukk that the Pearl-Malachite show alone was worth the price of admission, and that "Everyone got something to do [and] we met all kinds of old friends again." I'm not sure that I believed in the Evil McGuffin, and I'll need to re-read the story to truly understand what happened to it, but I appreciated the effect that the incident had on Jade and therefore on Moon. And Wells didn't kill off Stone, which is something that I had somehow convinced myself would happen. *sighs with relief*

Monstress vol. 2 (Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda) continues the story of Maika Halfwolf, a very Liu antiheroine (I first encountered Liu through her Hunter Kiss series). A lot of the action takes place aboard a ship, and I enjoyed that a lot. The captain is a total badass. My heart is constantly in my throat with regard to Maika's Morality Pet, the adorable little foxgirl Kippa, but Liu does sometimes let the innocent survive her harrowing tales, so maybe Kippa is *not* marked for a dire end. I'm not sure what I think of the Power Maika is hosting, though.

I'm now reading Yoon Ha Lee's Raven Strategem. I'm enjoying the new characters and Lee's sly humor, but I miss Cheris right now.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Drive by:

Progressing slowly through Too Like the Lightning. Still reminds me of Diamond Age in the setting.

A Bad Bad Thing has happened in Stand Still Stay Silent, so I have had to resort to comfort reading: the manga Bunny Drop at the moment. The event in SSSS should not be discussed here, because it is a spoiler like whoa.

Finished with the reason for re-reading Fruits Basket, so I need to bundle them all up and put them back in the basement bookcase from whence they came.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

I finished All the Birds in the Sky. It wasn't bad, but it just sort of ended: too much build up, not enough resolution. And now I'm annoyed by the title, because although it sounds really nifty, it doesn't have all that much to do with the story. This is not going to be my top vote for best novel, I'm afraid.

Also in Hugo reading, I read through Ursula Le Guin's Words Are My Matter, a collection of recent short non-fiction pieces. I love Le Guin as an essayist, and the first part of the book contains some good examples. But the back half-and-a-bit is introductions to books and book reviews, and I found those less interesting. A number of them were for non-genre literary or magical realism works that didn't sound as though they'd appeal to me. She did mention a couple of Western (as in, Western U.S.) novels that I might want to look up, which I will mention here partially for my own reference: Crazy Weather by Charles McNichols and The Jump-Off Creek and The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. Also, although Perdido Street Station pretty much put me off China Mielville for life, her review of Embassytown is making me reconsider.

Overall, unless the rest of the Related Works are very mediocre, I don't think this will be my top pick in that category.

I have just started Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, which is short-listed for Best Novel. A number of the readers on File 770 had trouble with this book, but I'm not finding it problematic thus far. Possibly the fact that I actually like Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford (link goes to Kirkus review), which was also purposefully written in the style of an earlier era, has something to do with this. I'll have to see where the book goes, of course.

Finally, I'll be re-reading some of Fruits Basket, Because Reasons. Does anyone recall the number of the exact volume in which Machi shows up? It's when she wrecks the student council room, if the Wikia is to be believed.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Drive-by post: reading All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I had been arguing with myself back and forth about getting it, but then it became a Hugo finalist, and so I got it in the voting packet.

I'm interested in it, but I feel a little uneasy about where it's going, and also it's somehow not super-enjoyable on the emotional level. I think there are too many misunderstandings and seeming betrayals. On the other hand, the depiction of the slow-motion slide into dystopia, with bits and pieces of technology and societal systems failing and people seeming to just shrug their shoulders and adapt, is kind of interesting.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

So actually I have been doing quite a lot of reading, much of it trying to get caught up to make Hugo nominations (which I did do, yay).

I'm going to be doing really quick write-ups here, because I'm covering several weeks. If anyone wants to discuss any of this in more detail, I'll do my best!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – Enjoyable ensemble cast SF: an accountant/business manager joins the crew of a small, independent working ship and finds a family of sorts. The setting is vaguely reminiscent of David Brin's Uplift series, in that Earth is a backwater planet joining a larger universe of many other sentient beings.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers – Nominally, the sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, although it follows only two of the characters from the original book. A ship's AI ends up in a humanoid (robot/android) body and has to learn to live with all that this implies; alternate chapters follow the backstory of the AI's new mentor/engineer as she grows up as a child slave in a robot-run factory. I actually enjoyed this more than the first book, but YMMV.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – Interesting fantasy of an emerging industrialized world (trains are pretty well established, but rifles are new) that until recently featured living, active gods. The action takes place in the lands that used to be god-protected, now conquered by its former slaves. The equivalent Earth civilizations used for the cultures seem to be Eastern Europe (formerly god-protected) and South Asia (former slaves), which gives a different flavor from the usual Extruded Fantasy Product. Diplomat and operative Shara Thivani, of the now-ascendant culture, investigates the murder of an academic in the central city of the former ruling nation and discovers something very disturbing. Strong female characters, including the lead. Warning: the opening scene is deadly dull … but it's meant to be, I think.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett – Takes place a few years after the previous novel. Former general Turyin Mulaghesh, an ally of Shara in the first book, is pulled out of her increasingly inebriated retirement to investigate the disappearance of an operative in backwater Voortyashtana, where an important new harbor is being built by the conquerors. Mulaghesh finds that the mysteries of what's happening in Voortyashtana have more significance to her than she could ever have imagined. I like Mulaghesh even better than Shara.

Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 20 by Yuki Midorikawa – This series remains its usual comforting, mildly spooky self, bless it. I do wonder whether the mangaka is ever again going to pick up the threads about the sinister exorcist Matoba, but he doesn't make an appearance in this volume.

Right now, I'm re-reading The Secret Garden as a break. Reading lots of new things tires me, even when I enjoy it. I have Cherryh's latest Foreigner book on my Kindle, and I'm still trying to make myself finish volume 1 of the manga A Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki, which looks like something I *should* like (but as you can tell, it hasn't really grabbed me).

chomiji: An image of a classic spiral galaxy (galaxy)
Making progress.

We’re officially ready to start writing the actual Alliance Rising book, and along with it, we’re going to put Finity’s End into Closed-Circle. That’s a hundred or so years on…some of the same bunch.

http://www.cherryh.com/WaveWithoutAShore/?p=6987

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

So I have utterly failed at reading anything of substance this week. In fact I was going to post that I had utterly failed at reading anything this week when I was saved by the arrival of the first collected volume of the web comic Stand Still Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg. Because, in fact, I have been reading a lot of bits and pieces of SSSS (why not S4? - that simply isn't how the fandom rolls, I guess) and related stuffs, like fanfiction and TVTropes entries. This is part of Yuletide prep, because I'm going to request SSSS, but I always meant to blog this comic anyway.

Stand Still Stay Silent is a science fantasy series set in Scandinavia. It starts with an extended prologue. In our recent past, a pandemic known as the Rash has spread around the world. The disease seems pretty harmless if somewhat debilitating at first, but after a few weeks, it becomes clear that everyone underestimated the Rash. In the end, as far as the central characters of the main timeline know, only Iceland and a scattering of populations in the continental Nordic countries survive.

The main story starts 90 years later with the survivors having adjusted to the New Normal. Isolated communities and a very few small cities are surrounded by wilderness haunted by weird, horrific warped creatures that used to be human beings and other mammals (they're often referred to as "trolls"). A badly underfunded research expedition is being assembled to go out into the Silent World (the lands that were abandoned by the remnants of the human race) to seek out and bring back technology and medical information. This band of misfits is our main cast.

Humorous or poignant interactions among the expedition crew members alternate with spooky or downright terrifying encounters with the trolls, who are as varied as they are grotesque. The fact that the crew members are all from different countries (except for the Finnish cousins) and mostly speak only their native languages adds another layer of complexity to the situation. And then there's the fact that not everything that happens can be explained by science ... .

Sundberg's artwork is vivid and dynamic. The palettes tend to be limited: monochrome schemes overlaid with washes in one or two colors and small spots of intense hot or cool colors. The details of the larger set pieces are impressive (warning: wide image), especially for a comic that's updated five days a week. The world-building is intriguing. The story is full of the family-of-choice and hurt-comfort tropes that make things work for me. And the storyteller punctuates the action of the series with artful infodumps in the form of in-story posters or pamphlets.

The most common criticism I've seen is that the pace is fairly glacial. Things do pick up considerably once the prologue is complete. The cast is ethnically diverse only within the confines of Scandinavia: everyone is very white. There are a number of female characters in the full cast, including two in the adventuring crew, and they have plenty of agency (one is the commander). No one is explicitly LGBTIQ, but then, romantic/sexual relationships haven't been part of the plot thus far (although a number of straight couples are shown in the prologue). No one seems affected by a disability unless you consider Lalli to be on the autism spectrum (which I do, actually).

Anyway, I'm enjoying the hell out of this one.

chomiji: A bear wearing pajamas, sitting at a desk, writing, with caption Yuletide (Yuletide Bear-Author)

If a fandom is your very favorite thing, and you have been dying for fanfiction from it, and you have gone through the trouble of nominating it and requesting it for Yuletide, and your canon consists of only two medium-sized paperbacks, is it really that much trouble to figure out that two of the four characters you nominated actually have full names and/or surnames in canon?

Dita is Perdita Verist: "I'm Perdita Verist, the new teacher, remember?"

Peter is Peter Merrill: "Peter Merrill! How many times have you been told not to climb things at school?" (The speaker is Peter's first grade teacher.)

I did that from memory (verified via Google courtesy of some sketchy outfit that has the full text of the books online), and it has been at least a couple of years since a re-read any of Zenna Henderson's "People" stories.

(I realize that whoever is keeping up this fandom at AO3 is at least as much to blame as the requestor: the tags give them as just Dita (The People) and Peter (The People).

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

ETA: Latest additions are highlighted

One of several reasons that no one's hearing much from me is that I really trying really hard to nominate things for every Hugo Award category that I can this year. I have not actually seen any eligible movies this past year, and I never watch TV, so it's unlikely that I'll have anything for the Long and Short Dramatic Presentation categories—although a number of people have linked to short films available online. But mainly, I am reading, reading, reading. And learning a lot about the many ways one can get short fiction these days.

Cut for what I've already selected )

The deadline for nominations is March 31.

I think that when I have added more to this, I will just make a post that refers to this one so that I don't have this huge list posted over and over.

chomiji: Nase Asumi with a wry smile on her face, and the caption Awesomesauce (Asumi - awesomesauce)

At her blog. Includes link to video (actually, to the video of a whole section of the awards ceremony, but she tells you where her part starts), transcript of the speech, and a lot of additional commentary.

Acceptance Speech Online! And Other Post-Hugo Neepery

chomiji: An image of a classic spiral galaxy (galaxy)

Familiarize yourself with the Hugo mess before voting

"Apparently a concerted effort gamed the Hugos ... ." - C.J. Cherryh

chomiji: An image of a classic spiral galaxy (galaxy)

Ann Leckie took Best Novel for Ancillary Justice! Go Ann go!

Also, Julie Dillon won for best pro artist, and Kameron Hurley not only for her wonderful essay We Have Always Fought but also as best fan writer.

Complete list available on the official Hugo site.

chomiji: An image of a classic spiral galaxy (galaxy)
According to Saldana, the science-fiction genre (or, at least, movies set in space) is a place where women can be fuller individuals. “I don’t have to subject myself to just being the love interest or playing a character that doesn’t feel relevant to the story or playing a woman that doesn’t feel like an actual depiction of a real woman,” she explained, adding, “When I read films in space and I’m working with these kinds of filmmakers there’s a neutral sense to the way they develop characters. It makes me feel very significant, very relevant and very excited.” —Salon

We hear you, Zoe!

chomiji: The child Gojyo from Saiyuki, with the caption What becomes of the broken hearted? (Gojyo-chan - broken-hearted)

So this happened: Oh Dear: SFWA Bulletin Petition.

It's probably not of interest to anyone but science fiction literature fans. It's a continuation of the shenanigans that started last summer when several foolishly misogynistic things happened, one after the other, in the professional rag of the Science Fiction Writers of America, followed by a stunning piece of racism on the SFWA official Twitter (see timeline/summary here). The result was that most of the SFWA members voted to change the way the content management of the SFWA Bulletin would be handled.

The petition in question objects to the proposed changes, which the writers consider to be overly "PC." There were two versions of this document. The one that was actually submitted is a tough read, full of extracts from correspondence and invocations of Freedom of Speech and concluding with a quotation from Charlton Heston, who is cited as an "early civil rights activist." The earlier version, which is also available online, was positively appalling. At one point, the writer compared the hard-working writers who will be thoughtlessly slapped around by the new rules to slaves picking cotton, at the mercy of the folks in the Big House.

No, I am not kidding.

If you can make yourself do it, follow one of the links to the actual (final) petition, and take a look at the signatories.

Who happen to include someone for whom I've long had all the respect in the world.

Damn.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Yeah, it's late: it's been a complicated week. But I didn't want to wait all the way until next week.

What have you just finished reading?

Just finished Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead, which was excellent. No less than three significant female characters, none of whom is just anyone's love interest, one of them a person of color (who is an awesome supernatural investigator and magician); magical courtroom drama; high-speed chases through a steampunkish city at night; a vampire ship's captain; gods dying and resurrected; an evil adversary who is a loathesome, charismatic, and brilliant slimeball; a nerdy chain-smoking young priest whose alter-ego is a club-hopping city boy; and much more. I'm looking forward to the next volume, which is actually to some degree a prequel.

What are you currently reading?

[personal profile] ann_leckie's Ancillary Justice, which is awesome. At the moment (about 25% of the way into it), it's equal parts mystery and anthropological SF. Leckie's style is very smooth and assured.

Also still making my way through Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm on my phone.

Finally, I'm also doing a re-read of canon so that I can beta a couple of stories.

What do you think you'll read next?

Beats me! It occurs to me that I have some volumes of Doctorow and Marie Brennan about, which I bought some time ago for a charity auction. I should probably check them out, especially the Brennan (the Doctorow was bought more with my husband in mind).

 

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

What have you just finished reading?

Not nearly such a busy reading week as last week!

I think the only things I actually finished reading were the latest volume of Blade of the Immortal (vol. 27), and the first couple of volumes of an indie comic, Tales of the Night Watchman, that the Mr. picked up at Small Press Expo. I was rather underwhelmed by it: just not my thing.

Volume 27: Mist on the Spider's Web was awesome. I should do an entire post on these most recent volumes of Blade of the Immortal sometime. Some people have noted that Rin is not much of a fighter and that Hyakurin and Makie are much more typical female characters, with Hyakurin as the femme fatale spy-type and Makie as the amazingly skilled woman with Major Issues. But then we had Ainu swordswoman Doa, and shinobi Meguro and Tampopo (I thought they were just comic relief at first — Samura's version of C3PO and R2D2 — boy, was I wrong!), and then this current volume had a marvelous arc for Ryo, the kenshi who's the illegitimate daughter of an important man. Even though it turned out badly in the end, she was fantastic.

What are you currently reading?

I have started Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead, and I am enjoying it, but it's not grabbing me hard the way that the Dirk & Steele books were. I'm also trying to catch up to the current storyline on the webcomic Yellow Peril. With the Mini, I can read webcomics in bed! (Yes, cho, welcome to the 21st century.)

What do you think you'll read next?

I have volume 4 of the manga House of Five Leaves. I should probably blog the series properly after I finish that, since I can usually tell whether I'll continue with a series somewhere around vol. 3 to 5. Also, I bought [personal profile] ann_leckie's Ancillary Justice, which has been getting great reviews.

 

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