Books read, early April

Balak, Sanlaville, and Vives, Last Man: The Stranger. Discussed elsewhere.

Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith, Hostage. Kindle. Sequel to Stranger, very dependent on its events and characterization. If you were wanting more of that, here it is, but this is not the place to start. Implication and ramification, though, both in terms of the world and individually. I don’t see that coming out nontraditionally did a thing to harm this book.

Roz Chast, Can’t we talk about something more pleasant?. A memoir of her parents’ old age and her experiences in eldercare. In comic form. Wry and in some places dark, not as much depth as I would have hoped.

CJ Cherryh, Tracker. The latest atevi novel. For the love of Pete don’t start here, but! We have plot progress! This is not merely another book in which people drink tea, pick out coats and furnishings, and try not to get assassinated! Not that I didn’t enjoy those, but: serious plot progress hurray! (Of course, I flipped immediately from being thrilled with the plot progress to being impatient for more. Readers, man. You just can’t win.)

Adam Christopher, The Machine Awakes. Discussed elsewhere.

Mary Robinette Kowal, Of Noble Family. Discussed elsewhere.

Ken Liu, The Grace of Kings. This is why I keep reading epic fantasy: because sometimes there is a book like this. So immersive! I found my sense of how much more it was reasonable to read before doing laundry/making supper/etc. stretching out as the book went on: “Oh, only 100 more pages in this section? sure, that sounds like a sensible amount to read before eating.” The influence of the Chinese classics was so structurally pervasive that I think it even changed how I saw POV shifts. There is a thing in classical Chinese literature where you get a POV character for a short time but it doesn’t feel like head-hopping, and that came into play for me very early on in Ken’s book, that the short-term perspectives felt signaled to be an homage to that instead of just random. Other people have talked about how there aren’t very many women characters early in the book, and this is true, but I think that the last part makes up ground quickly and promises good things in future volumes, and considering the literary influences on it, it is jam-packed with women doing both traditional and non-traditional things in awesome ways. Very much recommended. Looking forward to more.

Robin McKinley, The Door in the Hedge. Reread. Wow, am I glad I didn’t pattern short story writing off this. Her structure is so weird. Most short stories–even novelettes and novellas–are not better with a prologue, an epilogue, and then two chapters. That…is not really how this goes mostly. Also she was doing lots of early-career trite stuff–if I never see a tiny sprinkling of freckles described as keeping someone from being perfect/too beautiful again, it will be too soon. Still immersive and lovely.

Nayad Monroe, ed., Not Our Kind: Tales of (Not) Belonging. I make a policy of not reviewing books I appear in. Therefore I can tell you: this book exists, I read it, I wrote part of it.

Marie Rutkoski, The Winner’s Crime. This is very much in the “characters dig themselves a muuuuuch deeper hole” school of second books. Do not, do not, do not read this first. Go read The Winner’s Curse first. Then if you don’t want to keep going, The Winner’s Crime was not the book for you anyway. Revolutions, negotiations, politics, star-crossed lovers like whoa.

Salla Simukka, As White as Snow. Finnish YA suspense novel. Second in its series but not as dependent upon the first one as some other things I read this fortnight. Very, very Finnish. Matter-of-fact romance with a trans character, very structurally weirdly handled though: it’s the sort of thing that feels like it somehow didn’t fit in the first book where she was setting backstory/expectations and needed to be there (I’m guessing) before the third book where she wants to have some kind of continuation/plot/payoff, so…it goes in the second book, but basically offstage. Strange place for a romance plot. (I mean that the romance plot itself was offstage, not just the sex scenes, which were at least highly suggestive-to-pretty-onstage for this type of YA. That inversion confused me, too.)

Jo Walton, Ha’penny and Half a Crown. Rereads. After I finished Farthing last fortnight, I basically just wanted the whole arc. I think there’s enough backstory in these to make them readable at any point, and the three non-Carmichael voices are so vividly different. I found the follow-through into Elvira’s attitudes particularly wrenching. I said last time that Jo is one of the best at theory of mind stuff, and this comes through particularly, I feel, on something like her characters’ reactions to Hitler. It appears to be really difficult for people to put themselves in the mindset of someone who doesn’t think of Hitler as they do, or else they feel insecure about whether everyone will understand that they know Hitler was really bad? or something. But Jo gets it just right, the chasm between what someone under a fascist system will think of a charming politician they’ve just met and what we know, or the things that growing up under a particular system can normalize. I love these, but I can’t reread them too often.

Robert Charles Wilson, The Affinities. Discussed elsewhere.

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