Books read, early March

Penelope Bagieu, Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. Discussed elsewhere.

Brooke Bolander, The Only Harmless Great Thing. Radiation. Elephants. Anger, rebellion, community. There is a lot in not very much space in this novella. It’s an alternate history, but…perhaps not as far alternate as it could be.

Thekla Clark, Wystan and Chester: A Personal Memoir of W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman. I am deeply fond of Auden, and this is a friend of his writing about their friendship, more or less. The shape of Wystan and Chester’s partnership, and their friendship with Clark and her family, is described lovingly but not inattentively; she does not need her friends to be perfect to love them. And there were moments that made me feel so very fond of one of my favorite poets, and I have always had moments that made me feel so very exasperated by him, so that wasn’t really a surprise. Also this is a very short book–Clark is not trying to do a comprehensive biography, she’s doing what it says on the tin–so there’s really no time to get tired of it before it’s over.

Grace L. Dillon, ed., Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. This is the kind of anthology that is substantially excerpts from longer works rather than the kind that is largely stand-alone works, although there are a few of those. So I felt like it gave me ideas for things to pursue and read rather than complete reading experiences. (I am far to the end of the “does not read serials” end of the spectrum; this may not be the same for everyone.) Given how little-promoted indigenous SF is, this still has value. The other caveat I would give is that this was somewhat difficult to read right now given how heavily influenced it is by Sherman Alexie. He is cited/quoted widely in the introductions to other authors’ work; he is treated as the guy for this field, and…that’s not an easy thing right now, and the shift away from it seems like it will be healthy for everybody.

Rachel Hartman, Tess of the Road. A harrowing and somewhat difficult read but well worth it. Deep earth dragons, double standards, family expectations, friendships over time, boots…I feel like most of what I can say about this book will spoil the way it unfolds. It goes well with Seraphina, but it is doing quite different things; it is a companion volume rather than a copy or an attempt to cash in. I was glad of this even when it was hard on me.

Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak, eds., Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy. I was particularly glad to see that Law and Mak actually meant it when they said Asian (rather than one area of Asia or only large ethnicities) and that there were writers I had never read before as well as more familiar names I was glad to see in this volume. There’s also a really large range of genres/subgenres here.

Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen Every Day. I love Perelman’s blog. This cookbook had me nodding along; I copied out a couple of things, but a lot of it will be more useful to people who are not as instinctive about cooking as I am. Which is fine too.

Marta Randall, Dangerous Games. Kindle. Oh this book. Oh where has this book been all my life? Answer: around, and underpromoted. It has multiple kinds of aliens, it has indictments of respectability politics and the practice of pitting minorities against each other, it has a system where killing other sentients always matters even when you thought you could think of them as faceless dots on a spaceship screen, it has disabled people, old people, and children with agency, it has intergenerational respect and understanding AND its grave difficulties, it has…a lot. It has a lot. This is a sequel, so you’re going to want to read Journey first. Luckily that is possible. Also…this starts slow while she’s setting up the pieces. But DAMN does it come together.

Mariko Tamaki, Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! This is the first Lumberjanes prose novel–a kids’ book. It is great fun. It is full of exclamation points. The title is not playing around. I love all the Lumberjanes completely and unironically. I love them even more together. I love prose more than I love comics. This is for meeeeee.

Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies. How much you like this book will depend on which portions of the subtitle set you are most interested in. Taylor is at his strongest when he is considering the American citizen/British subject axis; he does very well with treating the British presence in North America at the time seriously, not just among what eventually became Canadians but along a continuum. However. The coverage of Irish issues was somewhat slight, and Native/First Nations issues were almost completely absent, and they were treated as almost completely without agency when they did appear. So that was far less interesting than I hoped it would be, alas.

Lynne Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 20. Kindle. I make a policy of not reviewing things I have stories in. I have a story in this.

Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Carey Pietsch, et al, Lumberjanes: Stone Cold and Lumberjanes: A Bird’s Eye View. Okay, I know I said I love prose more than I love comics, but…I will take Lumberjanes stories however I can get them, and this is the main mode of getting them, fine, yes, good. Lots of mythology, lots of adventure, friendship to the max. Sure, yes, on board.

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