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Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches By Audre Lorde (Audre Lorde): Like all fine things in life, to be taken in a little at a time, with great attention. That focus goes not only toward Lorde's words, but to one's reaction to them, because - I think - she exhorts the reader to be more aware of the world. There's only so much of that I can take without getting numb. (It's a contributing factor to my lack of social justice activism: I'm listening, but I'm not interested in exposing myself to the crossfire. "An Open Letter to Mary Daly" sounds eerily similar to some of the posts made during various *fail fights.) There's also a couple of pieces that don't encourage me to that end. I couldn't finish "Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger". Page after page of rage: stone in the belly, hot with freshly recalled injustice, bitter and salty as olives. I found most enlightening and useful essays like "Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference" and "Learning from the 60s" for reminding me of Lorde's core outlooks and her reaction to a historical moment. I liked "Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist's Response" for Lorde's reflections on trying to a healthy, happy, mature son in a house of two female parents; this might be relevant for lesbian parents today, at least so they know it's been done.

Audre Lorde identified as a radical. I think I identify as a moderate, perhaps selfishly: I can get the system to lurch along in my favor at least some of the time. As a woman, an African-american, the daughter of immigrants, and a lesbian, Lorde had no privilege to use as a lever in her favor, and four good reasons to critique the system with no compassion. I'm just lucky that, unlike some of her peers, Lorde does so through inviting, lively prose. Lorde challenges and rewards close attention.

Table of Contents, for reference )

The Birthday of the World and Other Stories (Ursula K. Le Guin): Ever have that moment when you want to say, "you were the cool adult when I was younger, but I'm not sure I'm that person anymore"? I have that going with Le Guin's fiction. I enjoy her writing, but a lot of that enjoyment is rooted in attachment to existing work. )

Consider Phlebas (Iain M. Banks): ...no.

Pure space opera: star-spanning war killing billions, destruction of a Ringworld, mercenaries, aliens. Real sense of wonder stuff, in the right hands and at the right time.

It was entirely not to my taste.

Somewhere between the last fat space opera and this, I lost interest in the genre. I could see the sense of wonder, just out of reach: the amazing engineering of the Orbital, the Damage tournament, the reckless scale of the Culture ship, the colorful and dangerous characters. I just didn't care about any of it, and was actively repelled in come cases.

Perhaps it was timing - December was pretty soul-sucking - but the Consider Phlebas completely failed to engage my sense of wonder.

Spoilers. )

Banks is pretty well-regarded in SF circles, so this may have been a fluke of weak writing and bad timing, but I'm in no hurry to go back to the Culture series. If I read another Banks novel, I'm going to pick up The Algebraist and see if I agree with the Hugo nomination.

Swordspoint (Ellen Kushner): "Every man lives at swordspoint . . . I mean, the things he cares for. Get them in your grasp, and you have the man - or woman - in your power", one character says, and this might be a story of maneuvering to put one's enemies in line for a quick stab to the heart. It's also a quasi-Regency fantasy of manners, but even that's an incomplete description.

I've seen Swordspoint rattling around the library for years, and finally picked it up mostly in anticipation of reading the sequel, which looks nicely gender-bending. When I picked up the paperback and saw the the Thomas Canty cover art, as well as an embarrassing number of laudatory statements, I braced myself for disappointment.

To my surprise, it didn't suck. I enjoyed the story of Richard, Alec, and the nobles of the Hill more than I expected. Whether it's Kushner's mannered prose, her delicate hand with character point-of-view, an unexpected vividness to the politics of the nobility, or some other facet of good writing at work is something I'm still thinking about. It's possibly the delight of unreliable narration. Megan Whalen Turner uses point of view and concealed thoughts to blatantly and entertainingly manipulate readers' attention in the Attolia / Eddis novels; Kushner also makes it evident she knows more than she's telling readers, and so do some of the characters, but with a restraint and deliberation that seems to say "it's more fun this way. Trust me."

The paperback I checked out from the library, a 2003 reprint, includes three short stories: "The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death", "Red-Cloak", "The Death of the Duke". The first features a would-be swordsman who is either a girl in disguise or a boy disguised as a girl - I got a little confused on that point - the second owes a debt to Fritz Leiber's uncanny and spirit-haunted Lankhmar; the third felt like I ought to be so sad, I think, but was a fitting end for a love story. I'm more curious to know what filled the years between Swordspoint and The Death of the Duke, and whether the latter is canon with respect to The Privilege of the Sword. None of the three were deathless, but it's interesting to see the evolution in style, especially from Red-Cloak, the earliest writing in the Riverside-and-Hill setting. After finishing these, I'm looking forward to The Privilege of the Sword.

For posterity, I will note that I read all of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar novels which I had not previously encountered. (Alberich duology, Owl trilogy, Skif novel, Collegium two-of-incomplete-trilogy, Lavan Firestorm novel; that's, um, a lot of id vortex.) Pray let us never speak of this again.

Numbers game: 13 total finished. 13 new, 0 reread; 12 fiction, 1 nonfiction. 2 short story / essay collections
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I'm practicing proper touch-typing while writing these up, with mixed results. Retraining my fingers is going to boost my typing score in the long run, but at the moment I am very slow. (At a sprint, 50 - 60 WPM with one or two errors. It's the misstrokes that are killing me.)

The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia (Megan Whalen Turner): In a callback to my March reading, I parse Attolia and Mallory in the same realm of sliding scale morality / monarchy craziness. You would think this would make me 100% uncool with the romance? Well, see, that is where I am like, "that is completely wrong and TOTALLY AWESOME. In a completely wrong way. " The immovable object / irresistible force is so much fun I want to cheer it on, despite the - oh, spoiler cut time! )

Also, I think Irene is pretty awesome for seizing and holding power with the odds against her. I really love the characters in these novels: Attolia and Eddis, Gen, Costis, the spymaster, Gen's father the Minister of War, and so on. The plots are not as clever as they want to be, and lean heavily on manipulating the reader's incomplete knowledge of the full picture (why yes, Gen: you do win the prize for Most Unreliable Narrator of the Year), but I am so charmed by the writer's bouncy enthusiasm I can't be bothered to get upset. I am getting my emotional payoff, even when I foresee the plot twists.

Linus Pauling and the Chemistry of Life (Tom Hager): YA bio I picked up for a quick answer to my long-term question "why isn't there a rocking awesome Pauling bio out there?" Couched in easy prose and a lot of author interpretation is a possible answer: Pauling's three careers (chemist, peace activist, self-promoting quasi-dietician) are going to be viewed in different lights, and probably are going to mean hitting up very different research and knowledge bases. This is a pretty short (read: abridged) account of Pauling's life, sort of a Greatest Hits album, but it's the quick overview I was looking for.

The Lucky Strike (Kim Stanley Robinson): Short alternate history story, short essay on alternate history, short Q&A conducted by Terry Bison. I liked the nonfiction parts best, and the story was an interesting thought experiment that let KSR talk about alt history scenarios in the essay. I'm not sure I'd recommend this as an introduction to KSR's work, because I like the cumulative impact of his longer work, but if you want a short sampler, this touches on a lot of the themes that resurface in his novels and other fiction.

Gifts (Ursula K. Le Guin): For two years, teenage Orrec wears a blindfold to protect the people and things he loves from his "gift" of unmaking. This is the story of how the blindfold came off.

In a different writer's hands, this would be 100% "Scots highlanders, with magic!" This is not (entirely) that novel. Le Guin plays this as a story about the power of stories, using the mythology of Blind Caddard, Orrec's ancestor, to set up Orrec's plight and extend that into questioning the stories the uplanders tell about themselves and their way of life. The blindfold-as-metaphor could be really clunky, especially to the jaded YA audience this is pitched for, but I didn't find it overwhelmingly twee, which speaks to Le Guin's skill as a writer.

An Acceptable Time (Madeleine L'Engle): Reread. Polly O'Keefe, living with her grandparents, falls into a time warp with self-absorbed, brooding Zachary Gray and kindly Bishop Colubra, and must help the People of the Wind resolve a dispute with the People Across the Lake - without being sacrificed as a blood offering to end a devastating drought. This is pleasing, bringing together L'Engle's "time" quartet and the Polly-centric novels, but it's more heavily and blatantly steeped in a Christian message than some of L'Engle's other novels, which doesn't work as well for me. Also, An Acceptable Time is the fourth book Zarchary Gray appears in, and also is the fourth time Zachary endangers others, must be rescued, and promises to learn from his mistakes. It would be nice if, just once, he would follow through on that promise.

Don't Bite the Sun (Tanith Lee): You may be reading a Tanith Lee novel if
  • the protagonist is a teenage girl.

  • with emo girlpain.

  • and a decadent lifestyle.

  • as well as some really over-the-top purple prose.

The latter is why I keep reading: when Lee is on, she writes wonderfully luscious prose. And when she's not, well, you get vivid reminders of how wonderful it is to be out of one's emo teenage years.

Scott Pilgrim vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (Bryan Lee O'Malley): Graphic novel about Scott Pilgrim, 23-year-old bassist and member of the band Sex Bomb-omb, in which Scott dates a high schooler, then hits on the amazon.ca delivery girl, and learns he must fight the delivery girl's seven evil ex-boyfriends to earn the right to date her.

If SP weren't a spineless idiot who thinks with his dick, this would be awesome. It's anime meets comics, in Canada. Unfortunately, I want Knives Chau and Ramona Flowers to cut out the middle-man and run off with each other. I have that sort of hate-on for Scott. Seriously, seven evil exes? Maybe that should say something about your crush's taste in men, moron! And yet I have the second book on hold at the library. Apparently, my antipathy toward an an idiot protagonist can be overcome by the suspicion O'Malley's doing it on purpose. Since the non-Scott characters are significantly less obnoxious, and there are footnotes like "Sex Bomb-omb is a sort of lousy band", and the Scott-Matt fight is pretty awesome, I'm holding out some hope.

Numbers game: 8 total finished. 7 new, 1 reread; 7 fiction (1 graphic novel), 1 nonfiction (1.5 counting the mixed KSR).
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A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Madeleine L'Engle): Reread. Charles Wallace and the unicorn Gaudior have really cool adventures. I am frustrated by Mom O'Keefe spoilers. )

Parable of the Talents (Octavia Butler): Also a reread. I like Parable of the Sower more, but I think Talents may be the better book. It uses the contrasting narrative voices well, and I like the device of the entire book being told through written words, however improbable. History is written by the victors - and the bystanders - and the people too stubborn to stop writing, and reflects those different perspectives. Sometimes, one must question who won. I keenly feel the mother-daughter estrangement, Asha / Larkin's bitter insight and refusal to fall into Lauren Olamina's orbit. When I was younger I had more sympathy for Marc, Lauren's minister brother, but now I have understanding without necessarily sympathy. Marc and Asha manage "alone together" quite well. You can tell how much Butler engages me because I get all tangled in character and motivation and lose perspective on the fact that this is all fiction.

Many Waters (Madeleine L'Engle): Still rereading! My least favorite of the Wrinkle quartet. Similar manifestations of evil show up in L'Engle's Wrinkle novels and Diane Duane's Wizard series; evil is something other, is the cruel man offscreen or the destroyer cloaked in soft, wasteful lies. Evil is pretty clearly telegraphed as such; these aren't the universes of good intentions harming people.

Many Waters spoilers. )

Tehanu (Ursula K. Le Guin): Yes, I did my best to reread the entire series, except for The Other Wind. I understand why, thirty years later, Le Guin might have felt the original trilogy didn't serve her goals, but I am less sympathetic to the execution of her patch-work. Several scenes do logical jumps I still barely follow, three rereads later, and I am displeased with Spark's plotline. (Moment of truth? I want a story where he sells Oak Farm and uses the money to buy a legitimate ship, co-financed by his ex-pirate boyfriend. If Spark doesn't know Tenar, well, I'm willing to imagine that Tenar doesn't know Spark, either. I want everyone to be complicated and more than they seem. Call it the iceberg theory of characterization.)

Anyway. Logical jumps, and other spoilers. )

A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin): The first Earthsea book, where evil is the Old Powers and your own shadow. Le Guin does heartstopping moments of poetry and fun ethnological worldbuilding, and I am unfazed by its age. The story holds up well enough for me.

Power skimmed Tales from Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin), which is exactly as I remember it. It turns out some pieces imprinted deeper than I thought, which goes to show the power of a good storytelling idea, even in the face of raving alchemists.

Bloodchild and Other Stories (Octavia Butler): Also a reread, because some days nothing will please you but a bloodcurdling love story with male pregnancy. There's two short essays in the back, and story notes after each story, which I like because it shows another angle of Butler's thoughts, and lets me sputter, "but - but -" when I slam into the places I thought one thing and she thought something else.

Notes on particular stories: "Bloodchild" will always have a special place in my heart for being completely alien; "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" is like Hell crossed with proto-Clay's Ark; I actually managed to wipe "Near of Kin" out of my memory, which shows where my lines lie; "Speech Sounds" has one of the best twist endings ever; "Crossover" scares the daylights out of me. Questions?

Goodbye, Descartes: The End of Logic and the Search for a New Cosmology of the Mind (Keith Devlin): Nonfiction. Devlin on logic, and attempts to apply logic to human communication, and how this has spectacularly failed to produce good working models of how people talk to each other. Eleven or twelve chapters, and I'm not sure if I've retained anything more than the briefest highlights of any of it. It's a topic well-treated by someone who knows what they're talking about, but it's dense; I picked this up in late August, and only now finished it. Someone who knows more about logic - in other words, isn't starting from "what is logic?" - may find this an easier read.

The Marquisarde (Louise Marley): Professional flutist and Parisian Ebriel Serique runs into the flip side of priviledge when her husband and daughter are killed in a terrorist raid that might be anything but. Her grief and hunger for revenge propel her into a well-heeled resistance group and the path of James Running Bull.

I liked the idea, but the execution was shaky. Spoilers! )

Overall, good idea, hampered by one personal quirk, a weak B-for-Boy plot, and some strangely passive prose. However, I am sufficiently intrigued I'm poking around for other books Louise Marley's written.
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I have fever, but it's of the sort that conks me out, without completely incapacitating me between naps. So have some book chatter.

The Ghost Brigades (John Scalzi): The adventures of Jared Dirac, Special Forces clone of a brilliant rogue scientist. A sort of sequel to Old Man's War: same universe, overlapping characters. Spoilers and stuff. )Conclusions: good light genre fiction, but don't think about it too hard. Also, if you have a problem with cute kids, run away.

Crystal Soldier (Sharon Lee and Steve Miller): First half of the adventures of M. Jela Granthor's Guard and Cantra yos'Phelium; prequel to the Liaden novels by the same authors. I read several of the Liaden novels in my late teens, and very little has stuck with me beyond one sentence: here we stand: An old woman, a halfling boy, two babes; a contract, a ship, and a Tree. Clan Korval. How Jela would laugh. I found the writing in the Liaden novels tended to use a lot of gimmes in ways that don't interest me, but I wanted to know more about this "old woman" and her backstory, which sounded much more interesting than her arch descendants.

Prequel writing is tough. This example didn't do it for me. )I should say that Crystal Soldier did one thing I liked: no completely superfluous B-plot to pad the page count. Also, for all my gripes about the SF content, the romance did not completely and intrinsically irritate me, as so many romance novels or stories do.

The Outback Stars (Sandra McDonald / [livejournal.com profile] sandramcdonald): Jodenny Scott, survivor of one of those space disasters, gears up for the next round. Terry Myell just wants the bullying to stop.

Australia love! )Conclusions: uneven, but promising. I'll make the library hold the sequel for me.

The Tombs of Atuan (Ursula K. Le Guin): Second book in the Earthsea trilogy. Reread. I read the Earthsea trilogy out of order - Tombs, The Farthest Shore, then A Wizard of Earthsea last. I'm trying to remember if I read Tehanu before Wizard, but I'm pretty sure I read the first book in the first trilogy before finding the first book in the second trilogy. Mostly sure. Needless to say, this misreading order has colored my feelings about the series in interesting ways. What do you mean, the trilogy's overwhelmingly important protagonist is Ged?

The original Earthsea trilogy might technically be considered epic fantasy, since it's the story of restoring the peace and the monarchy, but any Fat Fantasy Epic conventions are undercut left, right and center. Tombs is awesome about this: it's a classic "steal things from the Temple of Evil!" story, but it's told from the perspective of Evil's scornful young and nubile high priestess, and having the McGuffin solves nothing immediately. Magic can be flashy - and from his staff and his hands leapt forth a white radiance that broke as a sea-wave breaks in sunlight, against the thousand diamonds of the roof and walls: a glory of light - but it's also useful for curing goat diseases and mending things, like the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. At the end of the story, the hero sails into port, victorious, but the object he went to fetch is carried by the girl. I can see why Le Guin went back and tried to fix her universe years later - there are fundamental injustices, but life is unfair - but the books stand on their own just fine, I think.

Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler): Also a reread. The world ends. Lauren Olamina keeps going. One of the things I love about postapocalyptic fiction is the inevitable settling toward a new equilibrium, and Butler does an awesome job of that in this story. Historical injustices aren't repeated identically, but similar situations arise. I want to wave my hands and discuss the political setup and race and how everyone's wrapped up in their children.
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Instead of reading books I read the paper and did logic puzzles. I am hopeless at Sudoku, so my reading list lost a lot of ground to the numbers 1-9.

Garlic and Sapphires (Ruth Reichl): LA Times restaurant reviewer switches coasts to become the NY Times restaurant reviewer. If books could be foods, this might be a meringue. ) Recommended for light reading.

The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin): Reread. But this time, I got it. )

Califia's Daughters (Leigh Richards/Laurie R. King): I didn't like it. )

In related news, King is working on a Kate Martinelli/Sherlock Holmes novel. I'm desperately trying to reserve judgment until I've actually read the book.

A Fisherman of the Inland Sea (Ursula K. Le Guin). Reread. I vaguely recalled some short stories about FTL in the Hainish universe, eventually remembered which volume I'd read them in, and finally got a copy via ILL. It's a short, small collection, so rereading the entire thing wasn't too time-consuming. Le Guin was herself; "The Rock that Changed Things" is a nice, rock-ish parable. "Newton's Sleep" fails to move me. It's the triumph of the Message over logic, plot, and simple coherence. "The Shobies' Story" and "Dancing to Ganam" need to be remixed for increased perception screwiness and didactism effacement. "Another Story"/"A Fisherman of the Inland Sea" is fairly minor, but pleasant. The remaining stories failed to move me to more than passing irritation or fleeting amusement.

And, like, wow. Cyteen sequel in the works. Original announcement on Cherryh's journal/ progress report,
August 25 '05. Given the decade of rumors preceding this, I'll believe it when I am holding the hardcover. (And yet. Posting about it - you really can't kill hope.)
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The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett): Sam Spade acquires a client, loses a partner, and plays all ends off the middle. The narrative "voice" is fascinating - it's entirely exterior. And eventually get around to massive spoilers, ) In short, cool stuff. (7.26)

The Dispossessed (Ursula K. Le Guin): A scientist from a desert moon colonized by anarchists visits the stately, capitalist homeworld. This is Le Guin at the top of her game - the worldbuilding is great, the plot resonates with the theme, the didactic prose fits with the subject under examination. I'm still very glad that I had my filters set for Le Guin, but at least the prose and attitude didn't throw me out for once. Both societies shown are sufficiently carefully crafted that I'm willing to suspend disbelief - neither is perfect, and both are shown at their stress-points, which is where interesting stories generally happen. The first chapter was a struggle, but after that I was in the groove and loved it, especially once I noticed the plot enacting Odo's statement about departures and returns. It's been a while since a science fiction novel made my brain glow with such cerebral delight, so I'm going to suggest everyone set their reading glasses for Le Guin and read it. (7.31)

Posted and backdated August 4th, 2005
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Temp: 98 degrees.
Heat index: 106 degrees.
Humidity: 42%

These are the days when I take the college bus down the hill, to stay out of the humidity for an extra 30 seconds. Fortunately, a cold front should come through tonight and cool things off. We hope.

Strangely, reading The Maltese Falcon is great prep for The Dispossessed. At least, tD was more engaging than irritating. (I'm skimming [livejournal.com profile] coffee_and_ink's journal for Le Guin comments; she notes that Le Guin is a didactic writer. And that explains so many quibbles I have with her novels.) I've never read anything of Le Guin's that I've enjoyed as much as the original Earthsea trilogy, and I keep coming back looking for that spark.

Or maybe the heat's fried my brain into seeing stuff that's not there. Ah, summer.
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As I mull over the usual new year stuff (does money from aunts get reported on tax forms? Why is January evil? Why is it sixty-five degrees out? Okay, that's not usual), it occurs to me that there's some business from last year I never finished up: the book list!

I never got around to doing the November list because I didn't finish a single new novel. I checked "Flights" (edited by Al Sarrantonio), a '90's-ish SF anthology whose title I've forgotten, and Dozois' Year's Best 27th or so out of the library, and read pieces of from those volumes. Highlights were "Pat Moore" by, um someone whose name I've forgotten. "The Problem of Susan" by Neil Gaiman was just weird, and the two Nancy Kress stories I read confirmed that Kress comes up with cool ideas that I will never appreciate because I hate her characters so much. Which is a shame, because they're generally really nifty ideas, arg.

I did reread Diplomatic Immunity (Lois McMaster Bujold) over Thanksgiving break, as well as Ethan of Athos after break and through early December.

That was November. Like I said, not much going on except busting butt on classes. Which is exactly how it should be.

Thanks to the end of classes, December was a bit more lively: nonfiction, Le Guin, Suzette Elgin Hayden. )

2004 reading statistics:
12 nonfiction
32 fiction, new
36 fiction, reread
80 books total. Plus occasional short stories and one abandoned reread.

It seems high, but... I think it could be said that that the family tendency toward addiction has manifested in in my reading. Granted, some of these were very short books (The Silent Gondoliers comes to mind), but some of them were also very long as well, so it likely balances.

I did manage last year's resolution, at least: I read about 11 more nonfiction books in 2004 than in 2003. Yay me!

If I'd gotten around to New Year's resolutions this year, any literary resolutions would've likely been:

1.) More nonfiction
a.) course textbooks and lecture notes are nonfiction, too!
2.) Less fiction. If you had a point to make, it's been amply made.

Which means that today's plan needs to include less Watson and more McMurry.
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A woman in an airport terminal slips between world-planes, visiting a number of places far more interesting than the terminal she's stuck in. The bulk of the book seems to be traveller's anecdotes of their travels. I got 64 pages into this 246 page novel before realizing the entire novel was a gentle exercise in fragmentary worldbuilding (one world per chapter) and throwing my hands up in disgust, because at this point in my life I want a narrative in my pleasure reading. I really wish I'd thought to read this as a collection of fragmentary, narratively unrelated short stories, rather than looking for a story more coherent than "collection of traveller's anecdotes", because I've inadvertently run into more than one lately. It's not a form that does much for me, thanks much. So whether I finish Changing Planes or toss it back to the library with a cry of disgust for old women who aren't exploring is in the air at the moment.

(Me? Annoyed? Probably more than merited. It's astonishing how external forces will influence one's ability to appreciate a novel.)
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See? Not as late as July! Go me!

Cutting for major spoilers and some space. May come back and cut for space more once I post this and see how much space it hogs.

(Nine books. Nine. Shoot. Granted, some of them were short, but others were five hundred pages. Probably won't read this many novels again until I get another insane commute like August's. Given where I live, it shouldn't be more than three years... anyway. On to the stories.)

The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson (Nominated for the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novel): The Black Plague devastated Europe in the Middle Ages, killing an estimated third to half of the continental population. What if it had wiped out 99% of the European population? How would history play out if Chinese and Islamic culture dominated, rather than European? And what if souls reincarnated, grouping together in multiple lifetimes, so that stories set a thousand years apart might be the adventures of the one protagonist? Kim Stanley Robinson throws a monkey wrench in the mechanics of history and writes down how it might play out. Sort of.

Spoilers? What spoilers? You mean the ones under this cut? )

On the balance, it’s KSR. If you like his relaxed writing style and socialist/environmental politics, you’ll probably enjoy The Years of Rice and Salt.

O Jerusalem, Laurie R. King: Mary Sue Russell and her mentor/partner Sherlock Holmes temporarily escape a messy and potentially lethal case in London, risking their lives in the Holy Land in January 1919. Set smack in the middle of The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the first book in the series, but written between The Moor and Justice Hall (see below).

If I recall correctly, I first read this during a Laurie King binge a couple years ago. Beats The Moor hands down.

Justice Hall, Laurie R. King: A very direct sequel to O Jerusalem. The most striking thing about it, for me, is a theme it shares with LRK’s Martinelli series: an authorial love of generational continuity and expensive houses intersecting with some less rooted or more ambiguously rooted characters. Russell gushes about the centuries of history imbued in Justice Hall's very walls; Kate Martinelli and her partner Lee sink sweat, time and money into Lee’s dead... aunt’s? mother’s? house on Russian Hill. The central mystery, such as it is, unfolds with authorial deliberation and enjoyable twists, but is almost incidental to LRK’s interest in continuity and the changing British social landscape of the 1920's.

The King’s Peace, Jo Walton: Would you believe I didn’t pick up that this was an Arthurian retelling until two hundred or more pages in? Comments waiting on finding and finishing The King’s Name the second half of the story.

The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. Le Guin: Everyone dreams; most people’s dreams don’t affect reality. George Orr’s do, and it terrifies him. The state-assigned psychiatrist he is forced to see after a drug overdose read as an apparent suicide attempt is fascinated by these "effective dreams" and uses George to rewrite the world a bit. Okay, more than a bit. George is disturbed. The reader resists the urge to earmark and pencil in examples of Le Guin’s bulletproof literary kinks pet ideas.

Dawn, Octavia Butler: The War is gone, as is most of the human race. Lilith Iyapo (people famliar with Bible-based religious traditions will note the significance and irony of the name) is one of the survivors saved by the Oankali, aliens without the human biological imperative for conflict, but with an imperative to "trade" genetic structure with other species, willing or otherwise. The novel narrates Lilith’s reluctant acceptance of a role as the resentful bridge between the humans and the Oankali.

The Oankali have a classically cool S.F.nal idea going for them: a three sex reproductive system, involving up to five participants. They also subvert a lot of classic memes. Their behavior toward humanity is peaceful, benevolent and more invasive than any "conquer the puny Earthlings" military campaign. Their trade imperative is read by most of the characters as infecting the human genome with frightening, alien characteristics. Science fiction has reiterated the clash of cultures theme from a dominant culture’s point of view plenty of times; Dawn is about the effects on (and by) the "weaker" culture. Humans hate and fear the Oankali, but are prized by that species of assimilators for their adaptability and creativity.

This has some obvious applications to the history of the United States, and the Americas at large.

Ill Met in Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber: All hail the adventures of the indomitable Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser! Old school sword-and-sorcery of the type much mocked by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, but with a flair for dramatic language and humor. The city of Lankhmar has probably inspired a number of D&D games, and several series currently in production, such as Steven Brust’s Vlad novels and P.C. Hodgell’s Jaime books, very likely also trace some roots to Fritz Lieber’s novels. If you find any of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser novels, they’re slightly dated in attitude and their use of language, but very much worth reading for their lively protagonists and fantastical plots.

The Service of the Sword, David Weber et al: latest collection of stories set in the Honorverse. People who have read the previous three collections know the drill: Weber writes a story about Honor, the Navy, or the treecats and other authors fill in gaps that interest them. This time, Jane Lindskold, Timothy Zahn, John Ringo, Victor Mitchell, and Eric Flint step up to the Honorverse. )

A Wolf at the Door, and Other Retold Fairy Tales, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds: Short story collection filed under YA at the library. I checked it out for the Garth Nix story, a rather gruesome retelling of Hansel and Gretel, but really enjoyed several other stories in the collection. A fast, easy read, including contributions from a lot of big name authors, including Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee and Jane Yolen. Possibly my favorite story in the collection was "Swans" a retelling of the same myth used in [livejournal.com profile] pegkerr's The Wild Swans, which was about family, love, noise and silence when I wanted to hear about those things.

Edited Sept. 12 to add: The Cinderella retooling annoyed me, though, smacking into current buttons regarding the importance of self-motivation and determination in life.

Edited Oct 17 to add: Forgot about Sorcery and Cecelia, which I had to have read sometime in August.



September's book list will almost certainly be shorter, unless people are keenly interested in a blow-by-blow account of my struggles with functional groups in two different courses, but I've got some good stuff on hand: more Octavia Butler, The Paths of the Dead (finished it this weekend, and... oh. Even fangirl squeals fail. I think Brust may be leaping up the purchase priority list as soon as I confirm the pub date for The Enchantress of Dzur Mountain. And oh, thank any and all deities and divinities for interlibrary loan, which granted me Paths and will eventually eventually land The Lord of Castle Black in my trembling hands.)
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I know exactly how late this is. I'm still posting this, so I've got it on hand if I want it.

Fortunately, the August book list needs only formatting, so anyone who's eager to see that up (me, and... me, I suspect) isn't going to have to wait nearly as long.

Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Perky K. gave this to me for my birthday in June. It is as funny as advertized. I suspect I would have gotten more out of it if I watched more B-grade apocalypse horror flicks; even with that, ah, cultural handicap the book rolls along. I can see why people wanted to make this into a movie; I can guess why it failed. Read the book, people; this parody of apocalyptic flicks will never translate to the big screen, and will leave you falling off the couch with laughter.

The Bones of the Earth, Michael Swanwick: Nominee for 2003 Hugo for Best Novel. (Winner will be announced at the Toronto Worldcon. Hit the con if you have a chance, it's a lot of fun.) Paleontologists are given the opportunity to travel back in time and observe dinosaurs live in their natural habitat. Research, restrictions and the occasional disaster ensue.

Reactions and spoilers. )

Other than my inner feminist getting in a tiff, the novel was a fun romp - Swanwick obviously did his research on the field, burying me in scientific names and strange plants. I'm not sure I've vote for it to get the Hugo, but I think the nomination is justified.

The Other Wind, Ursula K. Le Guin: A sorcerer visits Ged on Gont. Ged sends him to Tenar and Therru, visiting Lebannen in Havnor. Therru grows up. Lebannen resigns himself to marrying his beautiful bride. Le Guin breaks her worldbuilding and a bit of my heart.

I knew going in it wasn't going to be high on the list of books I liked, but it wasn't until I started typing that I really got on a roll about why. )

Anyway. World messed up. Author fanficcing her own universe. May try to read The Other Wind again in a year or three, when the sting's worn off a bit.

August books to follow RSN. I hope.

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