It took me a couple of paragraphs to get used to the narrative voice, and then I was away — I didn’t put this novella down until I was finished. Creeper’s pretty fascinating, her relationship with Oya, the whole concept of the orisha and their relationships with certain humans, and of course Captain Ann-Marie is just a straight-up badass. Maybe the most badass of all, though, are the nuns. Yeah, I know, you wouldn’t expect to hear nuns described as badass, but these ones are.
There’s definitely room for more adventures in this world, and I’m hoping I’ll get to read them. I really want more of Captain Ann-Marie and her airship, the Midnight Robber. I really want to know more about Oya and the other orisha, and more about the alternative history here, and, and, and…
Yep. That’s a thumbs up from me. Also, I love the cover.
Deadline is narrated by Shaun Mason, of whom I’m rather less fond than I am of Georgia. Not that we’re quite bereft of Georgia in this book, because she’s very much present through Shaun. Literally, at times: he talks to her and imagines her replies, and sometimes even feels her hand on the back of his neck or sees her leading him to something, etc, etc. His trauma’s pretty intense, his temper’s pretty bad, and though you can sympathise with how torn up he is, he’s also somewhat unpleasant in the way he treats his staff.
It’s a joy to get to see more of Becks and Mags, though there’s not much else about this book that you could call a joy: the hits keep on coming, from terrible revelation to terrible revelation. There’s less about politics in this one and more about the science, particularly the CDC, and I found that interesting. (And monstrous. The real monsters here are not the zombies, but the other people who perpetuate their existence.)
I was a little sad that Rick doesn’t appear at all in this book: I hope he is going to appear more in the final book of the trilogy. All in all, I’m geared up and ready to go for Blackout. Deadline does suffer a bit from being the middle book, I think, but it does have some pretty tense scenes and awesome reveals, so I’m not going to drop the rating.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catherynne Valente
Not my favourite of the Fairyland books, on reflection: it’s a little lonely without A-Through-Ell and Saturday, even though their shadows are very much in evidence. It remains a ton of fun, though, and is saved from being formulaic by the fact that September doesn’t just repeat the same old adventures. The narrator is a joy, as ever: secretive and teasing and confiding and warm. It’s just all so cleverly done, the tropes and the departures from them, that I remain utterly charmed throughout.
Also, though I miss A-Through-Ell and Saturday, it’s worth noting Aubergine, who is a darling.
I still think that these books are at least as much aimed at adults (or voracious readers of any age) who get the references and understand what the narrator is doing — it’s so much more fun when you know what sly twist Valente has added now — as they are at young adults, or however this was marketed. It’s a pretty quick and easy read, but it’s clever.
One probably doesn’t need to reread this to read Before Mars, but I felt like doing so anyway. I couldn’t quite remember all the details, and I remembered enjoying it, so hey, why not? It’s definitely as good on a second time; maybe more so, because certain things take on a different significance. You know about the rather metaphysical flavour of the ending, you know what the mysteries are and where the mines are in the field, so you find yourself wincing for the characters and wishing they’d watch their step (and watch out for who to trust).
It’s still a bit intense reading about Ren’s anxiety problems, but I have more distance from it myself now, which made it less uncomfortable and more just… it’s interesting to read, interesting to see someone handle mental illness in a sci-fi setting in this way.
It’s well worth the read and the reread, and I really must hurry up and make my wife read it.
This is, I think, the third time I read Feed: each time, I firmly intend to carry on with the story, but I always need a little bit of a break after the gut punch that is the ending of Feed itself. This time, I’m successful (as I type this, I’m 100 pages from the end of Deadline), but it’s still a gut punch, and Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant really knows what she’s doing with that. I love Georgia in all her capableness, I love the world-building with the Irwins and the Fictionals and the Newsies and just… all the stuff that’s been put into making it a fully realised post-apocalyptic, post-privacy world.
It’s especially weird to read after the last US elections and President Trump, because the Senator they’re following to the White House is actually a Republican. And he’s actually a good guy whom you can kind of root for.
I think maybe the one argument I have with it is that some parts of it lack quite the tension you’d expect from being chased by a zombie horde. Personally, it works — after all, this is Georgia’s job — but still, it’s not quite the endless ride of thrills some readers might expect from a zombie novel.
I’ll stick to not touching the epidemiology, etc, here. I’m not sure I can quite see how viruses based on the common cold and Marburg could recombine — they’re so different in structure and needs — but on the other hand, to paraphrase a great fictional scientist, viruses, uh, find a way. Just look at what HIV can do.
I don’t love Shaun — he’s okay, but not my thing — but darn, am I ever into Georgia as a character. More of her all over the place, please.
Another reread of a favourite during my exam period! I originally watched the Studio Ghibli adaptation first, and loved that, and I think the first time I actually read the book it took me a while to get into it; certain aspects at the end seemed so rushed, and there was so much to keep track of. Perhaps it’s familiarity that means I didn’t really have a problem with it this time; certainly, experience helps in untangling exactly what’s going on!
While I still love the Studio Ghibli version, there’s a lot to enjoy in the book that didn’t make it into the movie. Sophie’s family, for one thing, and Wizard Suliman, and everything about Wales — which means a lot to me, being Welsh, because hey! Howl is short for Howell! And of course he takes the last name Pendragon. And of course Calcifer sings Sosban fach. And, and — it’s just a delight, okay? And there’s the stuff that didn’t make it into the book in the same way, like pretty much everything about Michael and most of Sophie’s magic.
Also, I can’t help it. I do love the adversarial not-going-to-take-each-others’-nonsense couples, and Howl and Sophie have that in spades. Lots and lots of spades. That ending is also a thing of delight, for me.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making,Catherynne M. Valente
This is a reread for me, for the sake of pure delight, and it definitely worked to uplift me during my exam period. I know these books show up in the young adult section, sometimes even the children’s section, but I really don’t think they’re primarily meant for kids: the knowing, clever narrator is surely aimed at someone with years of experience of books, including books where people go to fairyland. Surely the references — like September being Ravished — are there for the clever reader with a wide background. There are kids who have that background already, but I still can’t help but feel that it’s a book (well, a whole series) that’s really meant for adults.
Which is not to say that it’s not pure magic. Valente’s writing is just delicious, and I enjoy the heck out of her narrator. I love A-Through-Ell and I love the complex nature of the Marquess and her background; I love Saturday and the way Marids live; I love all the little details we catch glimpses of while the narrator hurries us along. (And I’m sure they’re meant for exactly that tantalising purpose.)
Perhaps some of it just a little too whimsical to really swallow, but I think that’s my fault for having too much of a grown up heart. I want to love the velocipedes, I do.
YES! Jacqueline Carey has a new book out, and you and I can get our hands on it right now. But before you rush off to the bookstore, I do have some chances here for you to win a copy of the book and, if you’re in the US or Canada, a bag full of extras! And that’s not all: below is an excerpt exclusive to this blog tour, just to whet your appetite…
A hundred yards from us, Pahrkun the Scouring Wind loomed out of the desert. For the space of a few heartbeats, my wits ceased to function altogether. Cloaked in swirling sand, Pahrkun stood mountain-tall. High in the sky, his great black head, long and inhuman, turned this way and that, glowing green eyes set in deep hollows surveying the landscape. I dropped the reins in my hand and fell to one knee, genuflecting without thinking. Beside me, Brother Merik did the same.
I forced myself to my feet, only to fall and genuflect again as Pahrkun moved with slow, graceful strides to reveal a vast tower of flame behind him: Anamuht the Purging Fire. One skeletal bone-white arm emerged from the flames to lift high, lightning crackling in her fist.
Brother Merik was shouting in my ear and pointing.
Anamuht flung her arm forward and a bolt of blue-white lightning struck the barren earth between us. In its sudden glare, the small figure of a man struggling to keep his seat in the saddle of a terrified horse was illuminated.
“. . . with the horses!” Brother Merik shouted. “I’ll get him!” Dumbstruck and nigh frozen, I did as he said, gathering up the fallen reins. The horses tossed their heads in protest, fretful and fearful. Brother Merik ran unerringly toward the Shahalim, unwinding his head-scarf as he ran. He wrapped it around Brother Yarit’s mount’s eyes and began leading them back.
The wind howled.
“Let’s go!” Brother Merik cried. “Go, go, ride!”
I tossed his reins to him. Carrion beetles crunched underfoot as I hopped about in an effort to mount my horse. A strong hand grabbed the back of my tunic and hauled me belly-down across my saddle. From this undignified perch, I managed to scramble upright, my feet fishing for the stirrups.
“Watery hell!” Brother Yarit wheezed. His face was coated with a rime of dried sweat and sand, his eyes bleary and bloodshot. “All right, kid. I guess we’re stuck with each other.”
We rode, the wind dying in our wake.
I glanced over my shoulder once as we fled. The Sacred Twins had vanished into the desert.
Thanks to Tor Books, for folks in the US or Canada I have a hardback of Starless to give away, with a bag of swag featuring a Starless quote postcard, hawk feather, #FearlessWomen sticker, #FearlessWomen pen, and star confetti. Enter below for your chance to win!
For those outside the US and Canada, I’m providing a prize of my own — the lucky winner will receive a hardback copy of Starless sent to them via Book Depository. Please do not enter this one if you’re from the US or Canada, because you have a chance at the prize above!
It’s been a long time since I read this — longer than I thought, in fact, and I’ve come to the conclusion I must have read it originally as a very young teen. I’m not sure how well I really took it on board, then: I wasn’t as much into the kind of cerebral, considering, anthropological fiction that Ursula Le Guin did so beautifully. Granted, I was excited about Sutty being a lesbian, and I found aspects of the world interesting, but I really wasn’t ready to enter into the spirit of the teaching. I was more worried about the man who walked up into thin air than about the tradition he was part of — which fortunately, the POV character never does lose sight of.
Now, well, the love of books and the desire to save a lost language and lost ways of being hits a lot closer to home. (Partially through knowing, for example, about the Welsh Not and the Treachery of the Blue Books — knowing that Welsh history, language and culture have been lost through the feeling that they were not civilised, not focused toward advancement.) I’d completely forgotten the ending and what Yara does to reconcile his conflicting loyalties, but now I’m not sure I can get the image out of my head.
It’s beautifully written — of course, it’s Le Guin — and though Sutty as a character is a bit passive at times, when you know what you’re in for there’s a lot of beauty in Le Guin’s work, in the quiet spaces around her words (“to hear, one must be silent”, after all) that let the imagination breathe.
Koko Takes a Holiday is definitely fun, in a rip-roaring blood and guts and plenty of sex sort of way. It rolls along at a tremendous speed, and it’s a really fast read because of it: there’s very little sitting around and thinking about what’s going to happen next, because what’s going to happen next comes straight through the door at you ready to pounce. That said, I was never really in any doubt that Koko would make it and probably shack up with a particular other character at the end, and I never really felt like her losses were earthshaking. She’s all ready to slide back in the status quo, no introspection, no bad memories, nothing.
Also, Flynn has the potential to be an interesting character, with his diagnosis of Depressus (which is basically depression only everybody encourages you to go top yourself because life’s not actually worth living and it’s untreatable, blahblahblah) and how he handles it, but since it’s basically handwaved away through danger and sex (“you’ve just got to change your life!” is almost literally what Koko says), it actually comes across as a little insulting (that’s not how depression works, even the ordinary kind). Depression can be a big problem, we don’t have any surefire treatments that will fix you right up, and this book’s portrayal of a society which is just all casually “yep, go kill yourself together in a regularly scheduled jump into the atmosphere from really high up” as a reaction sits really badly with me. More badly the more I think about it, actually.
Also, much grossness, like people literally pissing themselves with fear (described in loving detail) and biting people’s eyes out (also).
Ultimately, it’s popcorn, and that’s fine once in a way for me, but I can’t see myself reading any of the sequels. And I do have serious questions about the flippant treatment of depression implied in Koko’s “cure” for Flynn, now that I think about it. Ugh.