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Books read, November 2015

This was one of those months that ends with me in the middle of reading a bunch of things, but not done with any of them. ๐Ÿ˜›

The Drowning Eyes, Emily Foster. Provided to me by the editor, Lee Harris. This is one of the upcoming novellas from Tor.com, a story set in a world where Windspeakers can control the weather — but for them to do so safely, they have to undergo a ritual which replaces their “wet eyes” with spheres of stone. Shina is still wet-eyed, but after invaders start killing Windspeakers and steal a priceless relic, she’s the only one left who can get it back. I very much liked the concepts behind this; my quibble (and it will be interesting to see whether this is a frequent reaction for me with novellas) is that I wanted more. The invaders never get explored in detail, and the story only begins to touch on the complexity of the Windspeaker thing. So it’s enjoyable, but I think I’ll enjoy it even more if this turns out to be the jumping-off point for a novel or series of novellas.

Full Fathom Five, Max Gladstone. Third book of the Craft Sequence, after Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise (c’mon, Max, why couldn’t you take pity on us and number them in order). It’s a pretty slow burn compared to its predecessors; it starts off with a bang when Kai nearly gets herself killed trying to save a goddess whose investments have gone sour, but getting from there to the underlying issues takes a while. In the meantime, this is where this starts to look like a series: not only are there references to Alt Coulumb and Dresediel Lex, but characters from the previous books show up and play a fairly vital role. And as usual, Gladstone is also exploring social issues — in this case, the question of how a small island nation (clearly influenced by the Polynesian cultural sphere) can survive as an independent state in the face of much larger powers, and what constitutes the preservation of traditional culture vs. its commercialization for tourist purposes, and when it’s okay for a culture to change. The Penitents were super-creepy; they were probably the best part of the book for me, along with the pool in which the priests of Kavekana make and keep their idols. (The story of how Kai remade her body in the pool was excellent.)

Mountaineering Women: Stories by Early Climbers, ed. David Mazel. More research. It took me a surprisingly long time to get through this, given how thin of a book it is, but that happens sometimes when a book is a collection of smaller texts. (See also why it takes me forever to read an anthology.) The bulk of the content consists of excerpts from accounts written by female mountaineers from the nineteenth century up through the mid-twentieth, with brief introductions by Mazel to give context. It’s interesting to watch mountaineering techniques and jargon develop through the decades, and also to see feminism become an explicit issue, especially around the time when women started trying to mount expeditions without any male assistance at all.

Books read, October 2015

Somewhat delayed on account of World Fantasy.

The Great Zoo of China, Matthew Reilly. This book can basically be summarized as “Jurassic Park, with DRAGONS!” Which, y’know. Kind of put it squarely in my field of interest. And it was a moderately entertaining read — but I kept being thrown out of the story by the fact that the author seemed to be watching the movie he hopes they’ll make of his book, and writing it as if it were that movie. This means a pov that wanders around aimlessly between close third and a camera-eye omniscient (complete with lines like “if they could have seen the vehicle from the outside, they would have seen X”), and choppy little not-even-scenes that are the textual equivalent of rapid camera cuts. See our heroine clinging to the outside of the truck! See the driver of the truck stomp on the brakes in a three-line “scene”! Cut back to our heroine barely holding on as the truck skids to a halt! That kind of thing works in audiovisual media; in text, it just keeps yanking me away from any engagement with the characters. I appreciated the fact that the heroine is a facially scarred herpetologist who basically saves the day with her knowledge of crocodiles, but she never really came alive for me. Also, while I’m fine with the idea that Chinese bureaucrats and soldiers might do all kinds of underhanded shit in pursuit of building an enormous dragon zoo with which to impress the world, the story really could have used more in the way of sympathetic and competent Chinese characters to counterbalance the bureaucrats and soldiers. (Not to mention the fact that the dragons are apparently all Western-style, even though the story gives a relatively clever explanation for why dragons are a real worldwide phenomenon.) Overall, I’d say give this one a miss, unless you are absolutely dying to read Jurassic Park with dragons.

The Last Airbender: Zuko’s Story, Dave Roman and Alison Wilgus, art by Nina Matsumoto. Picked this one up because I met Alison Wilgus last World Fantasy and really enjoyed talking to her, and also because I’ve been reading various Avatar tie-in comics. This one feels thinner than the others simply because it’s filling in a minor hole from the show, rather than exploring new territory; it’s the tale of what happened with Zuko between the agni kai against his father and Aang turning up. So, while it’s well done, I didn’t engage with it quite as much as with the sequel comics. I should note, though, that it also includes a section at the back which compares the comic script to the rough sketches. If you’re interested in what a script looks like, and how the vision can change from the script to the roughs to the final version, it’s quite useful.

Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy Sayers. Still working my way slowly through the Wimsey novels. I came up with a much more convoluted answer to this one than turned out to be the reality, reading too much significance into a particular detail. Wimsey undercover was pretty cute, though I feel I might have done with just a bit less exploration of the advertising industry; his interactions with Dian Momerie were . . . interesting. Not entirely sure what I think of them, though once again, it gave me a chance to see just how big an influence Sayers must have been on Dunnett.

Violence: A Writer’s Guide, Second Edition, Rory Miller. Yoon Ha Lee recommended this one, and I second the rec. When I put together Writing Fight Scenes (which is part of the 2015 NaNoWriMo StoryBundle right now, plug plug), I was very aware that I don’t actually have any personal experience with being in a real fight. Miller won’t tell you anything about how to put a fight on the page, but he has personal experience in spades, and says a great many interesting things about what being in a fight is like, what kinds of violence people engage in, and how people experienced with violence tend to behave. The book does have its flaws: it could use better organization (especially since he repeats himself occasionally) and it’s mostly concerned with violence in a modern society like ours, making it less than 100% applicable to premodern fantasy societies. In fact, I feel Miller is at his weakest when he tries to talk about historical situations; at one point he basically declares that before about 1800, the only possible responses to a violent crime were to a) go get revenge with your own two hands or b) suck it up and go on being a victim. Uh, the rule of law may have been imperfect in the past, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, and that legal remedies were never available. Furthermore, at one point he says “unless you can not only write things like the mass slaughter at Halabja, but write from a point of view where slaughtering Kurdish men, women and children to test chemical weapons just made sense, your fiction will always be missing something. It will always be two-dimensional,” which I feel is overstating his point with a vengeance. Having said that, he’s got a really fascinating perspective on sex differences, focusing not just on the socialization regarding violence but the less-obvious consequences of that socialization, and also on biological differences in how adrenaline gets processed. I’m very curious to know whether that latter point is in fact true, because if so, it’s really helpful information.

Yak Butter and Black Tea: A Journey into Tibet, Wade Brackenbury. Dear lord, this book. I’ll say for starters that I read it for the first-person account of what it’s like to tramp around at high altitude across rugged terrain, and on that front, it delivered admirably. But it’s also the story of a couple of guys who decided they wanted to go to the Drung valley, in territory the Chinese government had put off-limits to foreigners, for no better reason than because no westerner had ever been there. They weren’t anthropologists; they weren’t journalists; they weren’t serving any higher cause whose worthiness and importance we could debate. They just got a wild hair up their asses and decided to do it. At one point Brackenbury finally arrives at sufficient self-awareness to think that, hey, maybe he and his traveling companion were really screwing over the people they dealt with while sneaking around trying to get to the valley: those officials they lied to or got into arguments with might have been terrified of losing their jobs, those people who were reluctant to sell them food might not have had much to spare, etc. But on the whole, they seemed to feel that “we want to go” was sufficient justification for them to break the law right, left, and center. So if you want to read about people tramping around at high altitude across rugged terrain, this book may be useful to you — but don’t pick it up unless you’re prepared to deal with some amazingly self-centered assholes.

Books read, July, August, and September 2015

I was busy enough in early August that I completely forgot to make my book log post for July’s reading. Then in early September, I was on a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean. So you get a SUPER-SIZED THREE MONTH EDITION! . . . which is still approximately the size of some people’s one-month edition. Oh well.

Onward to the books!

Arabella of Mars, David Levine. Read for blurbing purposes, and the author is a friend. The book is a splendid YA adventure that marries Napoleonic nautical adventure to Edgar Rice Burroughs under the auspices of a girl protagonist, and I already want somebody to write crossover fic blending it with Chaz Brenchley’s “Old Mars” setting (which presently exists only in short stories, so far as I know, but I eagerly await the novel). A race to prevent a murder collides with an interspecies conflict as the native inhabitants of Mars rise up against their colonial overlords. Fun.

Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes, Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver. I picked this up for the “Age of Empire” part and wound up reading the whole brick, which tells you something. Takeaway: HOLY SHIT MOUNTAINEERS ARE CRAZY. Seriously. Do not read if you are bothered by people losing bits to frostbite or just saying “yeah, okay, so thirty people have already died trying to reach the top of this mountain but let’s give it another shot.” Or by the section where they talk about women mountaineers and the sheer, gobsmacking sexism of one Galen Rowell, who not only tried to hold the women who summited Annapurna to a standard none of the men were expected to meet — not only made slimy innuendo about their sexual behavior — but did so in a letter he signed with his girlfriend’s name because “it would carry more weight.” Ahem. Anyway, good book.

Another, Yukito Ayatsuji. I no longer have my copy, so I can’t note the translator’s name. Japanese YA horror novel. I came very near to putting it down and not coming back, because dear sweet baby Zeus it took its own sweet time getting to the point where you learned anything concrete about the weird stuff going on. I’m also not sure how much of what bugged me about the narration is the author’s style, how much is the translator’s style, and how much is just Japanese doing its thing. I suspect a lot of the elliptical sentences where the characters hem and haw around things without quite saying them is a reflection of Japanese, but the (first person) text also had a habit of stepping back oddly to report what it had just done: the protagonist would ask a question, and then the narration would say “That was the question I asked her.” Etc. Interesting to read, but not really my cuppa overall, especially since the entire plot hinges on a specific unreliability on the part of the narrator. Which is why I no longer have the book on my shelves.

Elfquest, the Final Quest, vol. 1, Wendy and Richard Pini. . . . look, I can’t review this, okay? Partly because single volumes of graphic novels are pretty slight things and don’t leave me with much to say, but mostly because it’s Elfquest and I’m not very objective. I’ll try to say things when the whole story is done, but that won’t be for a long time.

Two Serpents Rise, Max Gladstone. I agree with those who say it isn’t as strong as Three Parts Dead, largely due to the leading characters: I am very difficult to sell on “I just met this person and now I’m totally obsessed with them.” On the other hand, this one pretty much had me at Aztecs. The city of Dresediel Lex is heavily based on Mesoamerican societies, with little reflections of that squirreled away in every corner of the worldbuilding, and the protagonist is the son of a priest a generation after the war against the gods left his father without a job. But the morality isn’t black and white: instead of torturing and murdering humans to keep the world going, now they torture and murder gods. Is that better? How about the ways in which Dresediel Lex is wildly out of balance with its environment, sucking down water faster than it can be replaced, and the price of that gets passed along to society’s lower classes in ways that are less obvious than cutting out their hearts but maybe not much kinder? Is it really justifiable to refuse to allow even voluntary self-sacrifice? (And if not, how can you be sure it’s really voluntary?) I said about the previous book that I would call it grimdark based on content but not on tone; that continues to be true. Gladstone explores the thorny edges of morality without assuming that everybody’s a shitheel at heart. I will definitely go on reading.

Gemsigns, Stephanie Saulter. So, I finished this book and promptly went to my computer to email Saulter and ask whether she wanted to blurb Chains and Memory (which she did, yay). Because this is a book about the gifts and disabilities of a genetic minority, and the question of where the line is between appropriate regulation and unacceptable abridgement of their human rights. Which is more or less what C&M is about. Plus it’s really good; it does an excellent job of balancing the larger-scale issue (the legal emancipation and protection of “gems,” genetically engineered humans who used to be the property of the firms that made them) with the more intimate stories of the actual people involved. I saw the big reveal with a certain character coming a long way off, but that’s okay — it was still effective. I need to pick up the sequel.

The Martian, Andy Weir. I basically picked up this one on the strength of an XKCD comic, because that is me yes sign me up. I could criticize the writing in some respects; these days I am very alert to the challenges of writing the sort of first person narration where the protagonist is consciously telling their story to someone, and there were places where I think Weir could have done a better job shaping Mark Watney’s recordings to sound like the way a person would actually record their thoughts. (Also, there were some very jarring shifts in the third-person sections of the book, though I’m not sure how much of that was an issue of ebook formatting — there may be breaks in the print edition.) However, all of that should come with the salt of “and then I devoured it in a single sitting.” Take that for what you will. ๐Ÿ™‚

Not Our Kind, ed. Nayad Monroe. Anthology; I think I backed a Kickstarter? <lol> It’s difficult to remember which books came from what source. Short stories about alien perspectives. I’m bad at reviewing anthologies without going through them story by story; it pretty much always boils down to “I liked some of these and didn’t like others.”

The Confusion, Neal Stephenson. Lordy, I don’t even remember when I started reading this one. Possibly February of last year, which is when I finally finished Quicksilver, though I said then that I was going to take a break, so maybe not. I know that by the time I picked this up again on my vacation, I had utterly lost track of what was going on. Then I remembered that I had described the previous book as “a giant pile of words and characters and events and places and historical tidbits [which] wanders vaguely in the direction of several different things that might, in the hands of a different writer, be a plot.” And you know, if I wasn’t sure what was going on while it was fresh in my mind, it didn’t much matter if I didn’t know what was going on now. So I kept reading, and it kept being amusing, even though I really don’t know where the hell it’s going in a more macro sense. If you like Stephenson and historical fiction and don’t mind a whole lot of rambling, these are excellent. Otherwise, probably not for you.

The Check Your Luck Agency, KS Augusin (Cara d’Bastian). I bought the omnibus ebook on somebody’s recommendation; so far I have only finished the first volume. Not sure if I’ll keep reading. The concept sounded great: the protagonist Ursula Formosa works for a business in Singapore that “checks your luck,” i.e. investigates to find out whether your sudden good or bad fortune has a supernatural cause. Nineteen times out of twenty, it’s utterly mundane. The twentieth . . . unfortunately, the story is kind of shapeless, especially when you take each volume on its own. There’s a case, which turns out to be non-supernatural. Then Ursula gets recruited for a TV show, which has zero connection to the first half of the book. Oh, by the way, all that time she spent telling you she doesn’t believe in ghosts and the supernatural? Apparently she can see ghosts. And she admits they’re real. Which would be fine if she expressed disbelief to the other characters, but she expresses it in her own head, too, in ways that don’t actually read like her being in denial, and then she’s like “oh yeah ghosts are actually real and I can see them.” I like the setting detail; it’s pretty clear the author knows Singapore well, though she’s uncomfortably prone to broad generalizations about Asians en masse. But the story really isn’t hooking me, and the writing isn’t, either.

The Islands of Chaldea, Diana Wynne Jones (finished by Ursula Jones). I don’t know where DWJ’s sister picked up the manuscript to finish it, but I do know that I can feel the difference. The ending felt rushed, a few too many revelations coming up too rapidly, with not enough time for their implications to breathe. Still and all: I had to read it, and I’m glad I did.

Living in Japan: A Guide to Living, Working, and Traveling in Japan, Joy Norton and Tazuko Shibusawa. This is specifically a book about the arc of culture shock (and reverse culture shock when you go home), written by people with a counseling practice who deal with those issues a lot. Its major flaw is that it’s really, really short: I would have loved to see it fleshed out with example scenarios, rather than just mentioning “people may have trouble with X” and then moving on.

Turbulence, Samit Basu. I think Rachel Manija Brown recommended this one. A plane full of people on a flight from London to Delhi all get superpowers based on their dreams: this ranges from a supersoldier to a little girl who is a full-bore anime magical girl. It’s amusing, though it has a substantially higher body count than the tone led me to expect. I wish it had delved further into the ethical questions it raised; possibly the sequels will do so? One of the characters can basically control all kinds of digital stuff, and at one point he decides he’s tired of waiting around for the others to get their act together and do stuff to improve the world, so he goes and starts flinging money around online, bankrupting bad people and giving their money to good causes. Then he finds out this has backfired and made things worse and led to a lot of people dying. I wanted the story to keep going with that, but instead it dropped that aspect and went for a more conventional showdown — with the characters questioning the entire “conventional showdown” motif the whole way, but still, it kept going. And then it ended with some wildly unaddressed questions about the ethics of mind-control powers. So, entertaining but uneven. Also, the text is unfortunately riddled with comma splices, to the point where I had to keep reminding myself the book wasn’t self-published. The copyeditor must have been asleep at the wheel.

Writing Fight Scenes, Marie Brennan. I needed to fix an error in the ebook, and wound up finding several more as I went through.

Himalayan Circuit: A Journey in the Inner Himalayas, G.D. Khosla. A slim book from the ’50s, written by an Indian civil servant who participated in an expedition to some remote valleys for official purposes. If you want to write about that kind of terrain, he has excellent descriptions of the landscape, though he only touches on the inhabitants relatively briefly. It’s also surprisingly hilarious in places, like his extended description of what it’s like to ride a tiny Himalayan pony.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes, Marie Brennan. Page proofs.

Books read, June 2015

Very, very belated. But at least I’m managing to get it posted before August?

High volume of reading this month, and 100% of it was for work. It was revision/copy-edits/whatever, or it was material for a blurb, or it was research, or it was Hugo reading. There was nothing I finished this month that I picked up just because I felt like it. This makes me slightly cranky, even though I enjoyed a lot of what I read. Especially since so far in July, the pattern has been much the same.

Anyway, the books. I’m leaving the Hugo stuff out because I discussed it already in a separate post.

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Hugo Reading Report

I’ve accepted that I will probably not make it through all the Hugo reading before it’s time to vote. Uff da — what would I do in a normal year, when there aren’t chunks of the ballot that I’ve ruled out entirely? I have no idea. As it stands, I already kind of resent the amount of time I’ve spent reading things that aren’t what I would have chosen if left to my own devices. Possibly this means I am just not good Hugo voter material.

But anyway! I figure that before I make my (extremely belated) post about what I read in June, I should make a post about what I’ve read out of the Hugo packet. Not so much because I’m campaigning for people to vote in a particular way — rather, I want to work through my reactions to things, and my first attempt at thinking through “do I consider this to be Hugo-worthy material?”

If you need to refresh your memory on my personal Hugo reading rules, do so now. I did indeed end up reading some of the Puppy candidates, though I did not finish them all. I’m skipping over the Dramatic Presentations and the artists in this post.

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Actual Quote from an Actual Thing I Actually Read

From Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes, by Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver, following a discussion of George Mallory’s social circle in Cambridge which features a number of quotes that make you think “my, that sounds more than a wee bit homoerotic”:

“But it was James Strachey, the future translator of Freud, and not his older brother Lytton who evidently initiated Mallory into the pleasures of ‘the higher sodomy,’ as [the Bloomsbury Group] called it. The precise nature of ‘l’affaire George’ is unclear and ultimately uninteresting. What is interesting and of some significance to the history of Himalayan mountaineering is” . . .

No. No, you do not get to drop a phrase like “the higher sodomy” into your book on the history of Himalayan mountaineering and then declare it uninteresting. You were interested enough in it to mention it; you bloody well ought to explain it. If the explanation does not fit into this book, then neither does the phrase. Stick with the fact that George Mallory slept with men; you don’t have to leave your reader wondering what precisely distinguishes “the higher sodomy” from “the lower sodomy” — a question which only invites the brain to come up with increasingly creative answers, all of which are an unnecessary distraction from the tale of how Mallory came to be chosen for the Everest expedition.

(One also cannot help but wonder if Isserman and Weaver were slightly uncomfortable with Mallory’s sexuality, given that they later say “the heterosexual side of his nature asserted itself permanently when he met and fell in love with Ruth Turner,” Mallory’s eventual wife. This book was written in 2008: bisexuality had been invented by then, guys. You don’t have to use a phrase that implies Mallory got over his attraction to men.)

EDIT: My brain being what it is, of course I had to go and google the phrase. As near as I can tell, “the higher sodomy” was the groundbreaking notion that instead of just buggering your fellow students in the good old public school fashion, you should also have romantic feelings for your partner. Shocking!

I have done a Very Silly Thing

So Mary Robinette Kowal and I were on tour back in May, which gave us abundant time to chat about various things. At one event, an audience member asked several questions that began with the disclaimer of “this probably isn’t a thing you’ve bothered to think about, but” — which had the effect of proving that no, really, Mary has thought about pretty much everything in the world of her Glamourist Histories. As we were changing back into civilian clothing at the end of the event, I said to her, “I’m willing to bet you’ve thought about the uses of glamour for porn.”

To which she laughed and told me about a glamural Vincent created in his student days.

Here is the tale of Vincent’s old glamural — and how Jane wound up seeing it.

All errors are my own (and there may be more than a few, since I wrote this on the plane flight from North Carolina to San Francisco and did basically no research whatsoever, apart from asking Mary a couple of glamour questions while we were retrieving our luggage). She is in no way responsible for any missteps of either history or canon. But I when I told her I was going to write this fic, she laughed so very evilly — and I hope you all will laugh, too!

(No spoilers for the series, apart from the inevitable and rather obvious one of “which characters got married at the end of the first book?”.)

In which I help to launch THE DRAGONS OF HEAVEN

You may recall that my good friend Alyc Helms just published her first novel, The Dragons of Heaven. Well, this Saturday at 3 p.m. she is doing a reading and signing at Borderlands. And if you come to that event, you will get to see something special . . .

. . . which is to say, a cast of thousands* performing a certain scene from Alyc’s novel. Including yours truly, in the role of a fox spirit, for which I will trot out my best “bored Cate Blanchett” voice (as Alyc tells me that’s what all of her fox characters sound like in her head). So come at 3 p.m. to see the extravaganza!

*by which I mean about half a dozen

THE DRAGONS OF HEAVEN is out today!

Cover for The Dragons of Heaven, by Alyc Helms

Full disclosure: I’m not going to pretend I’m anything like objective here. Alyc Helms and I have been friends for fifteen years; we met at an archaeological field school in Wales, the same field school where I wrote a sizable chunk of Doppelganger. She’s one of about half a dozen people who read the original draft of the book that eventually became Lies and Prophecy, way back in the day. She crits most of my short stories; when I’m working on a novel and my plot runs headfirst into a wall, she’s the one I fling the manuscript wailing at her to hellllllllp meeeeeeeeeeee. I critiqued this book in an earlier draft — heck, I was a player in the game where Missy Masters first got created — and so when I tell you to go read it, I am very, very far from being an impartial judge.

You should still go read it anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cover copy:

Missy Masters inherited more than the usual genetic cocktail from her estranged grandfather. She also got his preternatural control of shadows and his enduring legacy as the legendary vigilante superhero, Mr Mystic. After a little work the costume fits OK, but Missy is far from experienced at fighting crime, so she journeys to China to seek the aid of Lung Huang, the ancient master who once guided her grandfather. She becomes embroiled in the politics of Lung Huang and his siblings, the allegedly mythical nine dragon-guardians of all creation. When Lung Di โ€“ Lung Huangโ€™s brother and mortal enemy โ€“ raises a magical barrier that cuts off China from the rest of the world, it falls to the new Mr Mystic to prove herself by taking down the barrier. Itโ€™s a superhero novel, a pulp fantasy novel, with lashings of kung fu, immense kick-ass dragons and an unfailingly sympathetic heroine โ€“ yes, itโ€™s another wonderful Angry Robot title.

Alyc talked a while ago at Fantasy Faction about the trope of white protagonists going to the Far East for their training montage and coming home essentially unchanged. This is not that kind of book. Nor, for that matter, is it what I think of as the “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of book, where the exotic locale definitely changes the protagonist — because that’s its sole purpose in the story, to play catalyst for the outsider. Missy goes to China, yes, to learn from the dragon who trained her grandfather . . . but she gets caught up in his story, rather than the other way around. “It falls to the new Mr. Mystic to prove herself by taking down the barrier” not because the Dragons of Heaven need a white person to save them, but because somebody has decided that Missy makes a useful pawn in their game. She’s not so much rescuing anybody as trying to fix the mess she inadvertently helped create.

Style-wise, it’s like a mashup of The Shadow with Big Trouble in Little China, with a narrative structure that goes back and forth between “then” (when Missy, realizing she didn’t have the skills necessary to operate as Mr. Mystic, went to find her grandfather’s teacher) and “now” (when the repercussions of that decision are playing out). It is available in many lovely formats, from many lovely retailers. It is a very fun book (actually, I believe my description that wound up on the front cover is “a hell of a lot of fun”), and I highly encourage you all to go check it out!

Books read, May 2015

Read a good deal less than I expected to last month, mostly because my free time on tour was devoted much more heavily than usual to actual writing. I did get through a few things, though!

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, Usman Malik. Novella on Tor.com. I liked it well enough while reading it, but just a few weeks later I can’t remember much about it. I’ll note that I’m making an effort to read more short fiction this year, though (including short stories, which won’t get logged here), so I can have some idea of what to nominate when the Hugos roll around next year.

The House of Shattered Wings, Aliette de Bodard. Read for blurbing purposes; this will be out soon. The blurb I sent in was “If you think the image of Lucifer sitting on a throne in the ruins of Notre Dame sounds awesome, this is a book for you.” ๐Ÿ™‚ Post-apocalyptic angel war fantasy in Paris. First, I believe, of an intended series.

Writing Fight Scenes My own books don’t count. Skimmed back through this one as a refresher for my own brain.

Hostage, Rachel Manjia Brown and Sherwood Smith. Sequel to Stranger, which I posted about here. This one moves somewhat away from the decentralized nature of the first one, which gave equal weight to something like half a dozen different pov characters; the structure of this one means there’s a stretch where the focus rests heavily on just two. Which entirely isn’t a bad thing; as I said about Stranger, having to shift between characters every chapter often risks losing my immersion in the story. It does give this one a different feel, though. I liked how Hostage was about the characters learning to live with the scars of what happened to them, and I also liked the ways in which Voske’s kingdom is dystopian without being wholly awful: the ruler is a terrible person, and terrible things happen there, but the residents also have things like electricity. I can look at that and see the possibility of major improvements in the future, if the cities start working together.

Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai, Michael Dylan Foster. Academic book on the supernatural creatures of Japan, and the changes in how they’re viewed between the Edo/Tokugawa period and the present day. Read for research purposes, and interesting, but way less about the details of actual yokai than I anticipated; he tends to pick out a couple of examples and explore them in depth, mostly through the lens of “here’s how this fits in with the zeitgeist.” Fortunately, I have other books headed my way that will take care of the other aspect.