Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Sunday Review

Karen Memory
My book this week was Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear.

This book was recommended in the comment sections on File 770 and in Renay's Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom.

Like last week's book, I came to this one completely cold. I didn't even know it was steampunk until I got a few pages in. I haven't been in the habit of simply trying books without finding out it they are "my type", but with a desire to nominate for the 2016 Hugos, I feel like I just have to try some new stuff out. So far, I feel I'm doing ok taking other people's suggestions.

First up: the completely non-spoiler review. If you don't like steampunk, you may have some issues with this. I, personally, love well-done steampunk and found this to be a great read. In addition, if you have any hang-ups about sexual issues, you'll probably want to avoid this book, as it's set in a *ahem* seamstress's shop in a frontier town. A shop with a nice parlor downstairs and a lot of men who visit regularly. It took me some time to get into the book, as the first-person voice is idiosyncratic and the word usage is intentionally wrong in places to convey it. But I came to really enjoy the main character the more I read, although my writer instincts sometimes flinched at the use of language.

Ok, Spoilers ahead (use rot13 to read). Bx, gur svefg guvat V bhtug gb zragvba vf gung V irel zhpu rawbl fgbevrf frg va sebagvre Frnggyr. V qba'g xabj jul, V whfg qb. Naq juvyr Encvq Pvgl vf abg, grpuavpnyyl, Frnggyr, gurer vf ab bgure cynpr vg pna ernyvfgvpnyyl or. Vg'f tbg gur Nynfxna Tbyq Ehfu, vg'f tbg gur Fbhaq, vg'f tbg fxvq ebj, vg'f tbg gur envfvat bs qbjagbja naq vg'f whfg irel zhpu Frnggyr. Fb gur frggvat fhpxrq zr vg irel dhvpxyl, rira vs V unq n uneq gvzr trggvat vagb gur fgbel vgfrys. V'yy abgr gung Obarfunxre jnf nyfb frg va n fgrnzchax Frnggyr, juvpu znqr zr yvxr vg rira zber guna V zvtug unir bgurejvfr. Frnggyr naq fgrnzchax frrz gb jbex jryy gbtrgure, sbe zr. V erpbtavmr gung bgure crbcyr qba'g unir gur fnzr srgvfu, ohg guvf vf qrsvavgryl bar bs zvar.

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This book has a decent chance to make my Hugo nomination list. I feel it was a pretty slow read, which counts against it. However, it was nicely goofy, very well told and fun in a way that only steampunk is truly capable of being. I'll be thinking on it for awhile, I can tell.

A novella I read recently but haven't yet reviewed is "Penric's Demon" by Lois McMaster Bujold. I bought it as soon as it was available and read it as soon as I was able. Bujold is, at the moment, the only author I would buy a work from by the strength of her name alone. I learned about this novella from Bujold's Goodreads Blog.

Did I like it? Oh yeah. Penric is a good character who is, like many of Bujold's characters, hemmed in by other people's expectations. He's able to break out of it entirely by the unhappy/happy accident. In short, it's a typical Bujold story in a lot of ways. I found the story to be the perfect length, covering just what we need to know about both Penric and his new guest. The promise of potential untold stories is often the most frustrating part of Bujold's work... this is no different. I'd love to revist Penric in the future in some manner, but I know that this is the story the author chose to focus on, so it's probably the best one in Penric's life. This will be on my Hugo nomination form.

And here's a novelette I read:
  • "Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfang. It is in the nature of science fiction to be fantastical, but I really found this one hard to swallow. The world, as presented, just doesn't make physical sense to me. The whole "folding" of space just doesn't work for me. The rest... well, I have mixed feelings. The main character is a bit of a cipher until the end, while the others are all cardboard cutouts he's just dealing with. Yeah, it's a novelette, not a novel, and there's little time to develop characters - but I didn't feel much of a connection with any of them. And the political situation as described, which leads to the folding city, also doesn't seem realistic or believable to me. I can suspend my disbelief as well as anyone else, but this particular story did not work for me. No, it won't make my Hugo nomination form.

I've also read short stories:
  • "Pocosin" by Ursula Vernon is a heartbreaking tale about death, second chances and people who know a lot about the world. Like "Jackalope Wives", it's told in a gentle, folksy way. And it has some deeper meaning in it, as well. I'd be lying if I didn't say I wish I could write half as well as Ursula does, but she writes about things I'd never think to write about, so I don't even stand in envy of her so much as happy awe. This one has a very good chance of being on my Hugo nomination list.

  • "You Have Always Lived in the Castle" by Cat Rambo is a chilling little piece. Very short, and frightening in its implications. It's told in second person narrative. For some reason, it reminds me of Doctor Who: Warriors Gate. Part of me wants to learn more about this universe, most of me thinks of it as a horror tale. I'll think on it a lot more before deciding if it goes on my Hugo list.

  • "The Parliment of Cheese and Curds" by Camestros Felapton is a parody based on one of the awful works nominated for the 2015 Hugos by the puppies. This short story is actually readable, unlike the original, and funny, also unlike the original (which was just a pathetic attempt to be pompous). No, I won't nominate this for a Hugo, but I did find it oddly refreshing, if a bit cheesy.

For my current list of Hugo 2016 readings, check out my Hugo 2016 Posts page.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jul 8th
  • Earth 2 Society #2 - Ah, well, that's why Sloan crashed the ships. But I'm not sure I get all the nitty-gritty about it. I'm guessing we don't know who caused the attack that Sloan was reacting to? And I'm not sure what Sloan's "current" action is going to do to the planet. Ok, I'm interested.
  • Justice League of America #2 - I'm not quite as cynical as Aquaman is portrayed here, but I'm kind of with him on the notion that powerful beings from other worlds who arrive and declare they are gods aren't really the kind of thing you can trust. And, looking at what happened to Wonder Woman, I think he may have dodged a massive bullet there with that cynicism.
  • Justice League United #11 - That is one bizarre team-up. I found the collection of the team to be neat, with each one being pulled in by a different method. That has got to be the most muscular version of Mera I've ever seen. She's clearly been weightlifting. I'm a little confused by some of the other choices, but... well, I'll have to wait and see.
  • Arrow: Season 2.5 #10 - Slade knows far too much. He's like Ollie's dark side. Overall, I'm happy this series is coming to a conclusion soon. With the season after it already over, there are bits that just don't work for me.
  • Star Trek/Green Lantern #1 - The visuals of the crew of the Enterprise really threw me for a loop. I don't know if the regular series has switched to the movie version of the crew, but I sure wasn't ready for it. The rest? Good set up. I'll wait and see how it goes before judging the series.
  • Secret Wars 2099 #3 - I really don't like this version of Miguel. In fact, I'm not sure I like anything about this version of the Marvel Universe, although Sub-Mariner and Hercules going at each other had its moments.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency #2 - Deadly ancient Egyptians, crazed serial killers and Dirk... I don't know which is the most frightening. It's nice to see an Oz reference.
  • Doctor Who 11th #14 - Wait, so is this the end of the Arc arc? Also, nice cliffhanger.
  • Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen #3 - Well, in this issue there's a fairly solid narrative of setting up the trap and battle plans, and some little jokes and call-backs to other events... not too bad. I still find this book hard to follow, but this issue holds together fairly well.
  • Oddly Normal #8 - I want a closet that big. Heck, I think almost anyone wants a closet that big. Inkwell would sure enjoy it. Anyway, another good issue as Oddly learns just how much normal is appreciated.
  • Rebels #4 - I feel like I need to go read the previous issues again because I felt like I'd lost the plot thread in this one. It's a good enough book, and the description of the battle and the famous "whites of their eyes" quote was lovely. But I also felt like I'd skipped an issue or something.
  • Mage Inc. #1 - Keira is an intern at a mage's union and her first assignment is to go out with another mage to collect union dues. This was surprisingly good. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I liked how she handled the mundane tasks without fear and took the less mundane in stride. I'm looking forward to the next issue.
  • Spongebob Comics #46 - Ooooh, a slightly educational issue! And more of the usual stuff. If you like Spongebob, you'll like it. If not, skip it.
  • Extra Review
  • Doctor Who: San Diego Comic Con Exclusive - A friend picked this up for Eric and I and I've finally had the chance to read it. Clara wants to go to Comic Con International, and so the Doctor takes her there... only to find out there's a nasty entity that appears in reflections and photos every 1021 years while trying to get back into reality. Fun stuff, and interesting to see what the Doctor was becoming as the entity affected him.


Anonymous said...

//No, I won't nominate this for a Hugo, but I did find it oddly refreshing, if a bit cheesy.//

:) I like to think it is full of dairy goodness.