Wasabi bombs, chemical warfare (Advil), prodigious amounts of tea with honey, and severe laziness are doing their work: the cold is moving out of head (into my chest, alas), and I'm feeling almost human again. Sure, I'm coughing, but I can hear
So here's all the reading I got done while I was too sick to do much else:
#4 -- The Haunting of Hill House
, Shirley Jackson
I'm still not sure what to make of this: I'm told the big question of this book is whether Eleanor is really perceiving ghosts or is just going insane; whether there is a ghost at all or it's just the group dynamic coming apart. It didn't matter so much to me; what was interesting was...all the chances these people really had to band together against external threat and didn't take it. Even if it was just a perceived one; once the Professor's wife gets there they do close ranks a little, but...
I'm still chewing on this. That in itself says something.
#5 -- The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
, Patricia McKillip
This was...wow. Perfect in a neat little gutshot way, perfect enough to have me cheering for an emotionally distant character and swearing at the book, sitting up straight in the bathtub, going oh you better not!
when Bad Things were happening. This gave me true things in the way the Riddle-Master books did, and they sort of feel like they were written around the same time: the whole setup with the Blammor reminded me of the riddle of the woman with the dark nameless beast in her house of many beasts, and how it grew and grew and she eventually died of fright, and there was no real answer to the riddle of what it was.
(Yeah, I think that's a cross-reference there: a possible future of Sybel.)
This...says some very simple things about love and hate and hope and fear, and the...nature of those things as points on a spectrum, not direct opposing things. It says them subtly enough that you have to tease them out just a little, and obviously enough that the ends of those threads are easy to find and pull at. And it showed me, smack between the eyes, what was wrong with the beginning of Claire de Lune
(which was then fixed).
I want to write like this.
#6 -- The Throme of the Erril of Sherill
, Patricia McKillip
This did not do so much for me. I can sort of see what was being reached for here, but the style sort of jumped on the substance and stamped it to death: Caerles is asked by his lover's father, the King, to find something that doesn't exist in return for her hand. So...eventually, having actually gone out and seen the land and loved it, writes it himself. The prose here is really ornate, so much so that I could never really grab the guts of this, or the depth: yeah, she's playing with archetypes, but it just didn't work for me this time. There wasn't enough...exploration or subversion or thought on what the archetypes do, mean, are. Had to push to finish this.
#7 -- Siberia
, Ann Halam (Gwyneth Jones)
(It's not really a secret. She signs it at the end with her actual name.)
This is...a neat, grim, smart little book. Sloe, a girl raised in a wintry prison camp by a scientist mother, is entrusted with the secrets of her mother's Lindquist kit, a device that grows wild animals from a seed. Together, she's told, they will make their way to the city and freedom, and save the species that live in the tubes in the kit. But one thing leads to another, and Sloe finds herself making the journey alone, unsure of who she can trust to aid her on the way.
This is one of those books where...the tone of it is such that to Sloe, the world she walks through is just her world, and when you as a reader step back it actually hits you just how bad things have grown here. There's traces of Soviet Russia throughout, bits of things that wouldn't completely be described with the term Orwellian. It's just thick with atmosphere -- both phsyical and political, and they're both as oppressive.
This is marketed as YA. I think it might be one of those YA books that is infinitely creepier to adults than to children.
#8 -- Princess Academy
, Shannon Hale
On the other hand, this was light in some ways, perhaps telling the same story to both adults and younger readers, but it's a very subversive little story. Prophecy foretells that the girl the Prince will marry will be from a certain village on a mountain, one that is the only source of linder, a marble-like stone. All the girls of a certain age are sent to a school to learn how Princesses behave, and pick up a few other things in the meantime: about linder, about economics, and general self-worth.
There were a lot of sly little ideas tucked into this supposed fairy tale: about economics as power, information as power, and how a little education can turn into a dangerous thing if you think enough to use it. As well as the (more usual) young adult statements about growing up, finding your place socially and in the world, getting along with your fellow YA readers, etcetera, this made for an interesting variation. Miri doesn't just save her village from an external physical threat, she saves it from an ongoing, internal, systemic problem: the poverty that they live in because they don't know enough to fight back.
I have rarely ever seen a fantasy novel where the "saving the world" is progressive
, not just a return to the status quo from whatever threat arises. Miri leaves things better
than they were before, in a noticeable way, one that'll matter three generations from now in more ways than a statue and a folktale.
My socialist commie pinko Canadian self says we need more books like this. Stat.
#9 -- Transmetropolitan #1-3
, Warren Ellis
I was lent these by a friend
who has decided I need to read more comics. As he was footing the bill for mailing them to me, I was happy to oblige. *g*
I really liked these: I liked the snarky, sharp, almost angry insistence of them on the message they're driving. I liked the edged flair with which the stories are told, and the passion of them; I liked the little bits of worldbuilding detail that are hiding in the corners of each frame, not even calling attention to themselves. I liked Spider Jerusalem as a protagonist, even though he gives you lots of reasons not to like him too -- and I see why a lot of people I know like him a lot too. The stories are...episodic in a lot of ways: I think that might have gone over better in individual issues, and not consumed in all one sitting like I read them (also, foible of format). I definitely enjoyed and got into the several-issue arcs more than I did the stand-alone stories.
I can definitely tell it's building to something, though, and I get the feeling that'll be a massive statement on politics and truth in general. And I think I shall read more.
#10 -- The Lies of Locke Lamora
, Scott Lynch
It's my habit not to comment overmuch on books that have yet to be released, just to make double extra sure that I don't spoil anything for anybody.
That being said, you will buy this in July if you know what's good for you. It is smart and irreverent and twistyplotty without feeling like the author's screwing around with the world or logic to set things up so the plot twists. It is populated by some really interesting, flawed, human people. It's in a city that's simultaneously beautiful, Darwinian-sick, and richly drawn, but without the near-self-consciousness of Mieville's New Crobuzon. There is one thing I would have liked to happen -- a little more completeness to some of the backstory arcs that tied into the main narrative -- but I hear there's six more books in the works, and thus I can wait happily.
No really. Buy it. I'm telling you to.
And now I am going to try to write. Amen. *g*