Posts filed under ‘Sci-fi’
It’s hard to review Kameron Hurley for a few reasons, not the least of which is that she’s bound to read that review at some point. Criticizing books is easy when you feel like the author won’t ever read what you’re writing, let alone care about some woman shrieking into the abyss of the internet. Hurley, as she points out, has been that shrieking woman, and so the odds of her hearing your wailing are markedly increased.
Pulling punches is not what this blog is about, however. And I genuinely enjoyed The Geek Feminist Revolution, Hurley’s manifesto (or so it’s described) about feminism in fantasy and sci-fi. Hurley is a prolific sci-fi writer with a day job who also happens to be a woman, which means she’s forced to defend herself on a daily basis from the legions of Sad Puppies who think that women shouldn’t write sci-fi. She must be exhausted. Seriously.
Sometimes, I thought she was being a little whiney or self-congratulatory. Why did she have to talk about how hard she works? I wondered. Why go on and on, and then brag about how much she writes and how great her characters are?
Prompted by Hurley’s book itself, I began thinking about how much differently I had just treated On Writing by Stephen King. The books’ goals are disparate: King’s work is half memoir, half instruction manual, while Hurley’s is meant to raise a little hell and push women to action. But both of the authors talk about their personal history of writing and how they came to be where they are. Both worked incredibly hard–both racking up debt, King as he tried to support a family and Hurley as she tried to escape abusive relationships, come to terms with her sexuality, and deal with a chronic illness.
Did I find King’s work a little self-indulgent at times? Sure. Did I ever think of it as whiney or self-congratulatory? No, not even when he’s talking about how he never plots stories out and just “lets the characters take him there.” (God, that’s annoying.)
And that’s where my own flaw in thinking comes in. Because even as I found Hurley’s tone off-putting, I realized that I found it off-putting because 1) I’m not used to hearing a woman express how proud she is of something she created, and 2) I didn’t like hearing that a woman has to work so hard to be successful. (more…)
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley was the very first book I checked out of my new public library after moving at the beginning of September.
(And, for those of you following along at home, I truly hope this move was the last in the string of roughly 12 moves I’ve chronicled over the last 16 months. At least for a while. I’m actually unpacking all my books, which means this new home is at least approaching something like stability.)
O’Malley’s inaugural novel was released three years ago, but it came to my attention only recently via Book Riot’s latest attempt to “help fill the Harry Potter void” in our lives. These lists are probably the most common sort of list when it comes to the bookish internet (heck, we here at Literary Transgressions have often wondered what to do post-Harry Potter), but I can’t stop myself from reading them every time a new one appears. Will there finally be something on this new list that actually fills the Harry Potter-shaped hole in my reading life? I wonder. Even though there rarely (um, never?) is, the optimist in me always excitedly whispers, yes, maybe this time!
I don’t want to hold you all in suspense, so: no, not this time. Book Riot’s list included the usual suspects and then some books that captured some aspect of Harry Potter (boarding school or magic or an orphan or England) or were straight-up High Fantasy. None sounded appealing.
Then, at the very end of the list, there was a little trio of recommended books clustered together: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, The Night Circus, and The Rook. Now, the first two are two of my all-time favorite books. Ever. But the third? I’d never even heard of it. I was halfway out the door and heading to the library almost before I read anything about it. You group an author together with Susanna Clarke and Erin Morgenstern and, Harry Potter comparisons aside, you have my attention. And, in this case, I couldn’t be gladder of the recommendation. (more…)
So, we all know that Michel Faber is a master of strangeness. My favorite book of his is The Crimson Petal and the White, but there is no denying that his sci-fi work is genius. Under the Skin, the story of an other-worldly woman who disguises herself as human to lure single male hitchhikers, is haunting and terrifying and deliciously unlike anything else I’d ever read.
This turned me on to Faber’s new novel, The Book of Strange New Things. Peter Leigh, a minister and former drug addict, is chosen by a large global company to bring Christianity to a community of humanoid people on a plant called Oasis, where the company has built a base. Peter leaves his wife, Bea, behind, and as he becomes more and more wrapped up in his work on Oasis, it becomes clear that Bea’s world is literally crumbling without him. And not just her world — the whole world.
The fact that “Peter” means “stone” or “rock” is not a coincidence. Peter is a touchstone for Bea, who finds herself somewhat crazed without him, questioning God and humanity and faith and everything good in the world, falling apart physically and emotionally. Meanwhile, the Oasans have found their rock in Peter, building him a church and buying wholesale into the promises of Christianity.
This was going to be a singularly insightful post on Kraken, China Mieville’s new novel. There was a lot of hype surrounding this book, and normally I’m a fan of Mieville’s work. Perdido Street Station and The Scar were the best steampunk I’ve ever read, and Kraken promised to be just as exciting. I even paid the quarter our library charges to “rent” out new books, that’s how excited I was.
After three days of pushing through the first half of the novel, I put it down to realize I had no idea what was going on. Literally no clue. There was something about a missing squid, I gathered, and about a Tattoo that had a life and mind of its own. But apart from that, I wasn’t sure. What was this bit about a talking statue? And what in God’s (or Kraken’s, I suppose) name was a Teuthex? (more…)
The Adams and Eves used to say, We are what we eat, but I prefer to say, We are what we wish. Because if you can’t wish, why bother?
God, I love Margaret Atwood. She is so prolific and yet such a wonderful writer that her continued excellence honestly stuns me. Normally, writers of this caliber tire out after a certain number of novels; Atwood is still on her game, 21 novels later.
Her latest work, The Year of the Flood, is a follow-up to the Booker Short-listed Oryx and Crake (2003). Atwood has essentially taken the world of Oryx and Crake and tilted it, allowing the reader to view the major events of that novel through the eyes of characters who formerly played minor roles.
While Oryx and Crake centered on the titular characters and their mutual friend Jimmy, who were directly responsible for the destruction portrayed at the beginning of the novel, The Year of the Flood brings the reader into the world of God’s Gardeners, an environmentalist cult whose followers are more observers than causers of the path of the narrative. (more…)
It’s important you understand. I saw you — you’re afraid of the scars. You should know what it is you see. Who rules us, their motivation and passion. Drive. Intensity. It is the scars…that give Garwater its strength.
This book is like no science fiction/fantasy story I have ever read. Amazingly dense — 638 pages, large pages, of high politics, intrigue, drama, and unfamiliar terms tossed around apparently on a whim — and intensely smart, this book is the book all sci-fi fans should point to when their higher-minded friends get snotty about their reading preferences.
Normally, fantasy authors love to explain things; when things are different, when an odd term is used, generally either the context or the exposition will explain to the reader what exactly is going on. For example, in His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman explicitly states what is different about the Church in his fantasy world from the Catholic Church of our world. Similarly, Robin Hobb explains exactly what The Wit and The Skill are in her Farseer Trilogy.
China Mieville resists that urge. (more…)