Books read, early May

Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, ed., Africa 39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara. One of the things that frustrates me, that I know frustrates a lot of people, is treating Africa as though it’s a single unified place, with a single unified culture. This anthology really does not do that, taking selections from authors from all across the continent with incredibly diverse theme, style, and content. Its very existence sort of belies that sentiment, but getting this kind of content in the US is difficult. Many of the selections were a bit frustrating as they were excerpts not just from novels but from works in progress–so if you particularly liked a passage or wanted to find out more about it in context, that is not guaranteed to be available any time soon. Still, the breadth of work available is breathtaking.

Andrea Cheng, The Year of the Book. I broadly categorize kids’ books as the ones that are for all ages starting with whatever age they’re aimed at and the ones that are only really for whatever age they’re aimed at. Mileage, of course, varies. The Year of the Book is a quite nice book about friendship in various shapes and sizes, and the kind of representation it has, my Chinese-American friends would have killed for when we were in grade school–which means it would have been important for the rest of us to see too. But as an adult, I feel like it’s aimed a little more narrowly elsewhere–and that’s okay. It doesn’t make it a bad book or badly done–it’s important to recognize that not everything is for us. I’d definitely recommend it to younger audiences.

Lara Elena Donnelly, Armistice. Discussed elsewhere.

Rita Dove, Selected Poems. Beautiful time- and world-spanning work that I picked up after my local library fixed their poetry month display to…not be parochial and supportive of local harassers. Go team Rita.

Mary E. Giles, Women in the Inquisition: Spain and the New World. Grueling accounts of various types of woman hauled before the Inquisition, including women who had or were suspected of having different religious affiliations, slave women of various color “categories”/gradations under the system used at the time, and sexually and religiously dangerous women who posed threats to the status quo. I am not sorry I read this, but it took a lot out of me.

Lynne Jonell, The Secret of Zoom. This is another kid-centered kids’ book, where the characterization is not very detailed. It’s focused on doing what it’s doing with music, science, and cartoon-type families. Reasonably fun kids’ adventure fantasy.

Alisa Kwitney, Cadaver and Queen. This book baffles me. It is entertaining and reasonably fast-paced, an exciting YA fantasy romance. But several of the structural choices confuse the heck out of me. The protagonist is American (why?), studying medicine in the UK, where there are reanimated corpses serving in an alternate Victorian England. One of those Victorian corpses is the young medical student Victor Frankenstein, thereby casting permanent confusion on the “Frankenstein was the doctor/Frankenstein was the monster/Frankenstein was the friends we made along the way” question. I found myself deeply disturbed by thinking through some of the implications of the love story too carefully, and also why is there even a Frankenstein in the UK, and…look, if you relax and have fun with it, it’s a fun book, but if you’re not aces at relaxing and having fun, there will be questions like WHAT DID HE SMELL LIKE that may haunt you in the wrong ways.

George McClure, Parlour Games and the Public Life of Women in Renaissance Italy. The stuff they were getting up to in Siena! This is one of my favorite kinds of microhistory, the kind delving into the little side streams of what people were actually up to and the things in their actual lives and how it related to how they viewed the world. Siena! Valuing women because women were shrewd game players! Who knew! I love microhistory.

Victor D. Montejo, The Adventures of Mr. Puttison Among the Maya. This is a very quirky Guatemalan novella in translation, about an American tourist coming to Guatemala and trampling around getting his feet in everything and what transpires from there, sometimes throwing coins, sometimes gathering stories, generally being a 1930s American tourist as viewed through Guatemalan eyes. Glad I read it, entertaining and worth the time.

Armistice, by Lara Elena Donnelly

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

This is the sequel to Amberlough, which is one of the most urban fantasies I have ever read, and yet is not, in genre terms, urban fantasy. It’s a Weimar-inflected alternate world, a spy novel, a stage novel that Noel Streatfeild would never have recognized; it is very much its own thing.

And so is Armistice, very thoroughly a sequel and yet its own book; among other things, Armistice has a different setting–from stage to screen, from temperate to tropics, from the domestic sketches of the descent to fascism to the diplomatic ones. The stakes remain both national and intimately personal–familial, searing, heart-wrenching. There are follow-on consequences from Amberlough, but also from before that book, from the characters being full people with full lives. I am a sucker for stories of revolution, and this is one in a small enough scale to grab and hold me. It’s doing very different things than other books in the genre are doing, and I’m glad to see them done.

Please consider using our link to buy Armistice from Amazon.

 

Books read, late April

Elizabeth Bear, Stone Mad. This is a sequel to Karen Memory but with very different focus and structure. Karen and Priya have moved on–taking some of their more interesting machinery with them–and some of the discoveries they make along the way are earth-shaking. Also building-shaking. But the heart of this story is relationship stuff, established relationship stuff, ongoing relationship stuff, in a way that we rarely get to see in genre narrative. Making things work, getting things to a point where they can keep going, is a very different plot than finding one’s sweetheart, and I’m glad to see it here.

Kate Cavett, ed., Voices of Rondo: Oral Histories of St. Paul’s Historic Black Community. This is an amazing book. It’s a compilation of interviews with people who lived in the neighborhood in question, and Cavett is smart enough to let the interviews speak for themselves. There’s a great diversity of experience–economic, cultural, personal–and putting it side by side does so much to make it vivid and layered and real, with joy and suffering and the human experience in miniature, in neighborhood form. This is my city. There are probably similar stories for yours, and I recommend that you find them, because this is worth knowing about the structure of where you live, what has been lost and what remains, what your neighbors have to say about it.

Craig Laurance Gidney, Skin Deep Magic. The title of this collection is extremely well chosen; they are fantastical and dealing with race and culture in ways that go beyond the superficial.

Joy Harjo, How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975-2001. Harjo is from Oklahoma, and the southern plains sing through the poems. This is not my prairie, but I can see how my prairie will slip down into this one, hotter and dryer. Harjo’s Muscogee background also informs her poetry in ways that sing through it, and I don’t know the songs the way I do the songs from the neighbors up here, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting to read.

Faith Erin Hicks, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Jen Wang, Holly Black, et al, Lumberjanes: Bonus Tracks. This was a bunch of side tales of whimsy and wonder and friendship to the max. Already sold on it. Yep.

Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns, eds., Haiku in English: the First Hundred Years. Okay so look. We do not do this with terza rima, people. We do not look at terza rima and say, okay, sure, this is a major cultural form, extremely important to you, but we’re going to say that when WE do it, it means basically whenever we want and not ANY of the stuff it means to you, but it’s the same thing with the same name yay. And I have serious issues with the way that Anglophones do that with haiku. This is an anthology of extremely short poems, and that is it. They have literally no other requirement than that. I decided within the first few pages that I could read them on that premise or not, since that’s what they are, and I did read them, and I learned some things about very short poems. But I still object to just willy-nilly declaring that minuscule poems get to be haiku because we feel like it. ANYWAY. One of the things I learned: repetition in really short poems is not nearly as searingly effective as the poets want it to be. Mostly, in poems of less than fifty words, it’s pretty bland. Interesting to have a large data set there. I still wish that they were not so blithe about how haiku can be three words or a bunch of letters or whatever. Eh.

Andrus Kivirahk, The Man Who Spoke Snakish. This is an Estonian fantasy novel set at a sort of mythical version of the Christianization of Estonia, with the new ways symbolized by such newfangled innovations as eating bread and living in villages, and the old ways by speaking snakish and intermarrying with bears. This is a weird, weird book, and the bear-on-woman sex is right there in it, so if you are not up for that, you’re going to want to opt out here. It is…well, look, I picked it up because the Estonian ambassador was like, this is the one book you should read to represent Estonia! and huh. Huh. It idealizes a natural state that never was, it is extremely weird about sex and gender and let us not even get into the role of “speaking German” or farming tools and…yeah, so, Canadians? if you want to not feel alone about the ursine stuff? in your books? sidle on up to Estonians, they’ve got you covered. In bears.

Ian Lendler, One Day a Dot. Discussed elsewhere.

D. Peter MacLeod, Northern Armageddon: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Making of the American Revolution. Quite often I say of nonfiction “does what it says on the tin.” This does not: the making of the American Revolution is an extremely minor component of this book. What it does do is consider the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in loving detail from primary sources in more than one language. Popular songs get quoted extensively. It’s a lot of fun, sardonic in spots, but it’s very specialized, so judge for yourself whether you’re interested in something quite that specialized.

Sujata Massey, The Salaryman’s Wife. This is the beginning of a long mystery series, and maybe the later volumes are really cool. I will probably not find out, because this is very very mid-90s, in that way that was so perkily fascinated with all things Japanese in a very exoticizing way. Everything is explained in words of very few syllables: in Ja-PAN…. It also…starts with a sexual assault on a commuter train and goes from there. The ways that this book parsed as sexy or at least daring have not aged particularly well in a few places. I really liked Massey’s recent historical non-mystery novel, so I had hopes for this, and I did finish it, it just…didn’t hit me very well. Which is a shame; I could use another good mystery series. I just don’t think this is it.

Moliere, The Imaginary Invalid. Kindle. The first translation that came up on Gutenberg, and it was a stinker of a translation, no nuance whatsoever, but I speak enough French to be able to spot what the better version would look like, and anyway I was reading it in preparation for going to see a production of it. It was not a good production, this is not a good translation…and yet I’m really glad I read it, thinking and talking about it with the person I went with has been fascinating, and you can see the bones of an interesting comedy about relationships and trust through both things being suboptimal.

Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–And Why Things Are Better Than You Think. There’s a lot to like in this book–Rosling uses facts and figures to undermine a lot of well-educated westerners’ stereotypes about the rest of the world, ways in which worldviews have not been updated in 50 years or more, etc. I agree with Rosling that believing that things can actually be improved in the ways that they factually, verifiably have been improved will help us to be heartened to work toward improving more things. Hurrah. However, he goes off the rails in some areas that are not his main area of expertise, missing the point in ways that really have the potential to do harm because of his own firm, serene conviction that he couldn’t possibly have missed anything. A few easy examples: he brings up DDT as “safer than we think” because “it has not directly killed any humans.” Probably not true–very few manufactured products have no manufacturing fatalities–but in any case, direct, immediate human deaths are not the only possible point and also he completely neglects the DDT resistance that has come about in the areas where it’s continued to be used. So…stop that, Rosling. Another example: he blithely claims that menstrual pad companies “should be” trying to exploit the poorest markets as they emerge from being even poorer still, rather than questioning whether that’s really a case of “should.” Do those factors need reinforcing under the guise of pure fact? They really, really don’t, and I wish there was a good book about improvement in extreme poverty worldwide and general examining of statistics in that kind of area that didn’t wander off into that kind of bad logic.

Maighread Scott and Robin Robinson, The City on the Other Side. Discussed elsewhere.

Robert Service, Spies and Commissars: The Early Years of the Russian Revolution. If you’re looking for an account of what things were like on the ground, for Russians, this is sure not it. This is about who knew what among various groups, many/most of them foreign. So if you want to hear a bunch about Arthur Ransome’s Russian Revolution–which, surreally, I guess I did–here is a book for you. It’s another piece in that very large puzzle. I like having more pieces, but at the end of the day I’m more interested in most of the other pieces, and I expect most of you will be too.

Carrie Vaughn, Martians Abroad. Discussed elsewhere.

Martians Abroad, by Carrie Vaughn

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

Sometimes you read the first book in a series and think, this is really well written, but it’s not for me, I should circle back when this author is doing something different. And then the author does fourteen volumes of that very popular series, and it becomes easy to not think of that. But! Molly Tanzer was glowingly positive about Bannerless, and I liked that, so when Tor had its paperback release of Martians Abroad, I asked for a review copy. I’m glad I did.

It’s pretty clear that this volume is a response–not a retelling or a rewriting, a response–to Heinlein juveniles, specifically to the loathsome Podkayne of Mars. Vaughn is smarter than to name a character pee/toilet (I know, I know, “it’s Poddy not Potty,” oh yes, that enunciation makes all the difference in the world–I have talked to people from Missouri, Bob, it totally does not), so her sibling characters are Polly and Charles, not Poddy and Clark. And…I don’t know who else sees this, but…to me, it highlighted something else. That Vaughn wasn’t just influenced by the Heinlein juveniles, the “Golden Age” SF by men. Someone else wrote teen siblings named Poly and Charles, patient analytical boys, reckless frustrated angry out-of-place girls. (Anybody? No? Madeleine did that. Meg Murry O’Keefe’s two eldest kids, who get books of their own after the Wrinkle in Time series, are named Poly–later Polly–and Charles.)

Carrie Vaughn has learned from a whole world of previous generations of speculative writers. Not just the men. And Martians Abroad is much the better for it.

So what is this book. Polly and Charles Newton are Martian teenagers who have gotten shipped back to Earth to go to school at the very snooty Galileo Academy, due to their mother’s machinations, and Polly is not thrilled. Charles is generally off in his own head, trying to weather things in his own way. Polly wants to be a pilot–she wants nothing to do with Earth–but gradually through mishap and adventure makes some friends at school. And then they begin to suspect that the mishap and adventure they’re suffering are a bit more than Polly’s penchant for getting into trouble, more than the weirdness of living in a heavily biological higher-gravity environment, more than they seem.

This is simultaneously a fun adventure science fiction novel that seems like it would be entirely plausible to give to teens and a fun adventure science fiction novel that I would be entirely comfortable giving to elders who complain that they just can’t find things like they used to like. It is both. And since it’s not extensively quoting from anything–since its argument, where there is one, is by example–there’s no need to immerse yourself in “original texts” or “source material” to enjoy it. You can just pick up a story about how weird Earth feels when you’re from Mars, how weird your teen years feel when you don’t get along with your mom, how you can find friends and learn to get along with your brother and figure out how to get the career your want that you’re really good at, if you can manage not to get yourself and everybody else killed along the way because gravity wells and biological systems are difficult, and also so is space.

Please consider using our link to buy Martians Abroad from Amazon.

The City on the Other Side, by Maighread Scott and Robin Robinson

Review copy provided by First Second Books.

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is one of history’s canonical disasters for a reason. I myself have stood and looked at a place where the fence line was dislocated several feet from where it had been, because the fault line had moved by that much; the city was in flames and rubble for days afterward, and it took much longer than that to clean up. Scott and Robinson have used this as the inspiration for their children’s fantasy comic: what if that natural disaster was not natural at all, but the result of a rift in the fairy kingdoms? What if the Seelie and Unseelie courts were warring and caused the quake?

That’s the backstory here, not a spoiler for this volume. This volume is a kids’ graphic novel about the fallout. It’s about a wealthy Latinx human girl, Isabel, ignored by her separated (divorced?) parents, who stumbles into the fairy war still raging after the earthquake, picks up a talisman, and finds she can use it when no one expects her to be able to. She crosses between the human and magical worlds and forms friendships and alliances with people of various shapes and species. They are chased back and forth across the worlds, and Isabel has to help find a lasting peace for both worlds, for humans, Seelie, and Unseelie.

It’s reasonably pretty, but if the plot sounds kind of generic to an experienced reader, that’s because it is. There’s a lot of “oh yes, one of those” going on here, and the San Francisco setting feels more phoned in around the edges to me than vivid–there’s not a lot of vivid “definitely San Francisco/Carmel/Northern California” art here. There is an attempt to show the diversity of the city even as of the early twentieth century, both on the human side and on the magical side, but that’s entirely visual. The plot and characterization are just…fine. They’re fine. And once again I’m reminded that the audience for this is kids, so this may be where they learn how the shape of this plot goes. This may be their first trip through this plot. And yet on the other hand…there are other kids’ books that still manage to do something that isn’t cookie-cutter, so…this one is fine. Not likely to offend, but not likely to stick with you long either.

Please consider using our link to buy The City on the Other Side from Amazon.

One Day a Dot, by Ian Lendler

Review copy provided by First Second Books.

Picture book readers vary. There are the ones who read every word faithfully, the ones who wander off on each page going, “do you see the flippers on the nice tetrapod, Moo?”, the ones who make things up that bear only glancing resemblance to the author’s original text. Then there are the footnoters.

I am a mix of all of the above, but oh, am I ever a footnoter.

Because…mostly picture books that are trying to inform kids are aiming for simple, and once upon a time I was given a superhero name by an ex-boyfriend, and that superhero name was The Great Complicator. (He was wrong. My superhero name is The Non Sequitess. But I digress.) And I know all the arguments that kids need simple, and that picture books need simple. I get that.

But part of simplicity is choosing which simplicity. And choosing carefully.

Which brings us to One Day a Dot.

One Day a Dot is telling a very simple, very small child oriented creation story. It is telling the story of how the universe got from nothingness to you, tiny child. It starts with the Big Bang and goes through planetary formation (in the blink of an eye) and evolution and all the way to your current family, where you live as the end product of evolution.

Did you wince at that phrase, “end product of evolution”? I winced typing it, but this is a very, very linear narrative. It is a directed narrative. It is a narrative in which the self-centeredness natural to a tiny human child is not the least bit disturbed: you, tiny human child, are not only the most important thing in your own life, not only the most important thing in your parents’ lives for a few years yet (as indeed you must be to survive), but the most important thing. The. Most important thing.

For example, when a comet falls, tiny human child is told, “When the big dot hit the blue dot…the explosion turned the whole sky red. The world was on fire…and all the land-fish burned. But one thing survived.” BZZZZT sorry wrong! It will be quite important to you, tiny human child, that more than one thing survived. You are a mammal; quite a few other creatures you like will probably be mammals; but guess what? It turns out that many, many other species that are *not* proto-mammals survived the Cretaceous-Palogene Extinction Event, and it will be important to the entire world and to you particularly–especially if you are the sort of tiny human child who is interested in these things–that they did.

So…this is a book with very cute illustrations, and it gives very cute My First Bible kinds of answers to not at all Biblical narratives. And if you are the sort of person who wants a simple narrative to footnote–if you find it useful to be able to say, “okay, but not quite like that”–then you can bounce around this book with a tiny human and say, look, yes, but also no. The Great Chain of Being was not fundamentally right, evolution is not a line, and resulting in you does not mean that you were its goal, any more than echidnas or the current coloration on the moths that have been peppery in various shades, but yes, One Day a Dot, and so on for billions of years.

Please consider using our link to buy One Day a Dot from Amazon.

Books read, early April

Graham Annable, Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths. Discussed elsewhere.

Deborah Cadbury, Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain’s Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII. I think one of the things that people who are from a non-royalist country find a little difficult to wrap their heads around sometimes is which kinds of influence royal families have in which cases, in a modern situation. This book was valuable for that alone: lots of very specific instances of what the royal family could and could not do, what was expected of it, how it influenced the government and how the government influenced it. Not a staggering, world-altering book, but does what it says on the tin.

Jonathan I. Israel, The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 1775-1848. Jonathan Israel is my go-to author for things about Radical Enlightenment, and what he’s doing here is tracing threads of that going into and coming out of the American Revolution: how it influenced other countries and how those influences came back into America. He goes into places this kind of discussion often misses but shouldn’t: Haiti, Latin America, South Africa, Greece, the Netherlands. He is often trenchant and fascinating. He also has a very particular focus/fixation, and he wants his terms to keep meaning the things he wants them to mean, so “radical” is supposed to mean “Spinozist,” dammit, and round about 1848 it stops meaning that, dammit, and they did not ask Jonathan Israel. But it is generally, like his other doorstops, worth the read. He remembers that Gouverneur Morris existed and was important! He remembers Olympe de Gouges! It’s at very useful right-angles with a lot of other history of this period.

Leena Krohn, Collected Fiction. This is also a doorstop. It’s a rare opportunity in two ways: one, to read Krohn’s work in English (she is a Finnish author), and two, to read a prose writer’s work all at once, in sequence, the way one can do with the collected works of a poet. This isn’t quite everything. But it’s a substantial fraction of Krohn’s work, and it allows the reader to watch her style and ideas evolve. She does a lot of episodic/fragmentary style, which makes it easier to read such a large volume in small bites and still take it all in, the strange cities and their stranger denizens looping back around each other, insect people, plants, pelicans living among humans. I am so glad and so grateful that we have more translated strange works than we did when I was a teenager, so that I can have this.

Yoon Ha Lee, Raven Stratagem. I have always been a middle book person, and the end of this middle book particularly was very satisfying to me. I found how he handled the mathy/calendrical nature of the worldbuilding really fine. A lot of spoilers would lead up to that, so…yep, as of the end of this twisty volume I am glad to still be going with this series.

Anna Meriano, Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble. This is a warm and loving book about a Tejanx Latinx family that runs a magical bakery and misadventures of the youngest member of that family trying to claim–and understand–her magical birthright. I found it so charming, cozy without being cloying, highly recommended for kids on up. (Although it made me hungry for cinnamon rolls.)

Tochi Onyebuchi, Beasts Made of Night. For some reason I had gotten the impression that this was a very different kind of book than it is, but it was still fun. YA fantasy with lots of action and intriguing worldbuilding, young people struggling with the strictures of power and social bonds none of which fit quite right, but not using usual fantasy genre-furniture, building with very different blocks.

V.E. Schwab, A Conjuring of Light. The conclusion of a series, and wow were there a lot of ends to tie up in the parallel worlds here. Schwab had to just keep tying, and there were sections, set pieces, callbacks from previous themes…it wasn’t entirely tidy, but it did all fit together. I wouldn’t recommend starting here. This is definitely an ending. On the other hand: this series is now complete, so if you wait for that, here you go.

Michael Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor, Scarlett Hart, Monster Hunter. Discussed elsewhere.

Michael W. Twitty, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South. This is a rambling and personal account that touches on all sorts of interesting points in Southern cooking, and in the foodways of America in general. Twitty relies a bit heavily on DNA testing sites for my tastes, but he takes a long look inward and connects it outward in ways that end up being really interesting, and he’s done very concrete research into what things taste and feel like. I’m very glad I read this.

Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. I am not the target audience for this book. The target audience for this book does not read monographs about specific instances of yellow fever. The target audience for this book is looking for a breezy, humorously written book with a chapter each about different historical diseases. That…is probably a lot more people than a lot of what I read, honestly. Wright brushes past some issues in historiography (why, for example, some biographers decline to state for certain whether their subjects had syphilis: hint, it is usually because they do not know), but in general if you want an overview, this is probably an entertaining way to get one.

Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths, by Graham Annable

Review copy provided by First Second Books

This is a picture book story of two sloths who go on adventures separately and find each other again at the end. It’s graphic novel length but picture book age, so…long picture book? If a kid talks you into reading this for their “one more book” before bedtime, I hope they’re a pretty big kid, or you got conned.

The two sloths enjoy watching clouds, but one of them, Ernesto, wants to see more of the sky, different kinds of sky. Peter is more worried, less daring, but when Ernesto leaves on his adventure, Peter wants him home safe. So he goes out after him and meets his own new friends, sees his own new habitats…less enthusiastically, and in more detail.

There’s not really any kind of acknowledgment that their differences could be good, here, just: here are two personalities seeing the world, seeing the world is great, here is a cranky tapir, here is a flock of lackadaisical crabs. The illustrations have their own very specific character, minimalist without being sparse, and somebody will probably attach hard to Murphy the parrot or some other character in particular. I think this is probably more of a little kids’ picture book than an all ages’ picture book, but it’s reasonably charming, not going to be offensive to big people for the first forty-leven reads.

Please consider using our link to buy Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths from Amazon.

Scarlett Hart, Monster Hunter, by Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor

Review copy provided by First Second Books.

Scarlett Hart lives in an Edwardian-esque world filled with monsters and horrors. Ghosts, mummies, tentacle beasts, it’s all there. Underage people aren’t supposed to be monster hunters, but since the death of her parents, she and her butler Napoleon White have been carrying on the family business, with Napoleon delivering their catches/kills to the Academy. (The acronym for the monster hunting academy convolutes itself to be TRAPEZE, which tells you a lot about the convolutions in this book and which ones the author considers clever.)

This is a graphic novel aimed at young readers. It’s adventure fantasy. There are gadgets, there is loyalty and frustration at the establishment, there are conveniently absent parents to be avenged. There are a lot of stock elements, which is not wrong, just…not a lot that is new here. Which perhaps its young audience won’t mind, and it goes quickly.

Please consider using our link to buy Scarlett Hart, Monster Hunter from Amazon.

Books read, late March

Chaz Brenchley, Dust-Up At the Crater School, Chapters 13-15. Kindle. This is quite episodic, but the episodes are fun, they’re literally kids having fun in a boarding school setting but also Mars. And on it goes. Don’t start in the middle, there’s literally no reason to.

Tobias Buckell, Necahual. Kindle. The way I report what I read is a little weird, but short stories that are individual ebooks get listed in my booklog as individual ebooks, so here this one is: colonialism on an alien planet, a soldier who learns unexpected things about empire.

C.J. Cherryh, Emergence. The latest Atevi book, the latest chunk of story carved off the giant story that is this series. This is really no longer a set of individual books, it’s ongoing story the way soap opera is ongoing story, except about alien-human politics. I love it and am fond of reading the latest installment even though I don’t usually like serials, and I have friends I gossip with about the characters. I’d love to have more friends like that if you want to join that number, but…it’s a lot of investment, I do admit. And I get frustrated with some threads submerged, but they do come around again, and…more great-grandmother! more Kyo!…okay, okay.

Rupert Christensen, Paris Babylon: The Story of the Paris Commune. You know how I often say “does what it says on the tin”? This spends about 3/4 of the book talking about lead-up to the Paris Commune, doing only sort of what it says on the tin. And I see why, and it’s sort of interesting, but…Paris Commune. Really interesting. Not just in its surrounding and more-imperial bits. Lots of decadence here. I have gotten past the point of thinking that if I learn more about post-Revolutionary French government it will make sense. Now I just keep learning more about the fractal nonsense, and this is another piece of that.

George Eliot, The Lifted Veil. Kindle. This is definitely not the first George Eliot you should read. (Middlemarch, you should read Middlemarch, in fact if you do read Middlemarch there is a serious chance that you will become permanently slightly wistful that you are not reading Middlemarch again AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE.) This is a very weird little novella that has sort of the…Lydgate family dynamics without the balance of the rest of Middlemarch…plus a weird Victorian run at a speculative element. It fascinates me when the Victorians do that, but not necessarily in a good way, unless you discovered that you loved George Eliot, which…I did when reading…yes…Middlemarch. But I was on a plane and did not want to commit, so…gosh, what an odd novella this is.

Andrea Hairston, Will Do Magic for Small Change. Two-layered historical novel, interesting angles of history and characterization and relationship, related to her other novel Redwood and Wildfire but it’s not necessary to read that one to get this one. Satisfying and fun with poignant parts.

Matthew Kressel, The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye. Kindle. Another short one in ebook format, a far-far future thing where everyone is learning something, just not necessarily what they thought. (And currently free. -ed)

Kei Miller, The Last Warner Woman. A Jamaican novel about foresight and caregiving and how we tell stories. I liked the beginning of it, but I am really kind of exhausted with books that collapse into violent misogyny even if the tone is not violently misogynist, so…be forewarned, I guess. Sigh.

George O’Connor, Olympians: Hermes: Tales of the Trickster. Discussed elsewhere.

Sofi Oksanen, Norma. Deeply weird book about hair and trafficking and magic. The American cover makes it look very sweet and dreamy, and…Lord, is it not that. It is noir magic with hair salons and a great many of you probably need that weirdness who would not have seen it in the pastels of the cover art. It looks princessy. It is very, very not princessy.

Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre, Monsters Beware!. Discussed elsewhere.

Timothy Snyder, Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine. This is a bizarre and interesting book. I think one of the things I loved about it was the sense of feeling of interwar Poland it gave. What was it actually like to be in Poland between the two world wars. (“Interwar” is probably a misnomer, because Poland was not really interconflict at any point, at least not emotionally reliably so.) I get very defensive of how historians write about Poland in that period, because some of them act like Poland could have…somehow magically not been on plains between Germany and Russia? And this gets into Poland: trying to deal with Ukraine having some sense of what on earth was going on in Ukraine during the Ukrainian Famine. Which is horrific, and this is a very difficult book. And yet also gonzo-weird, because Poland: they were basically like your group of friends, they had a bunch of mathematicians, some modern artists, a few classically trained musicians but not enough to make an ensemble coherently, a couple of people with horses, and they were like, right, this is who we’ve got, we’ve got to deal with authoritarians now from several angles, who’s gonna do it, I guess we’ll send the Cubist dude in? okay? because it’s not like any of us has commando training or something? And some historians are like, Poles, haha so stupid why did they send a Cubist to try to deal with the authoritarians, hahaha! But look, when you’ve got a hammer, you hammer in the morning, and when you’ve got a Cubist and the Ukrainian Famine, you don’t shrug and say sorry Ukrainians I guess, you try with the bloody Cubist, it’s not like it would have been better if he’d been representational by inclination, and this is that book, in all its very weird and incredibly upsetting glory. (This has been your Marissa Feels Strongly About Interwar Poland Report Of The Day. Tune in later. There will be another. Who knows when. Used bookstores spit these things out for me.)

Jonathan Strahan, ed., Infinity Wars. An anthology of far-future hard SF, at varying degrees of emotional remove, and you can basically map how the story will work for me by how far the emotional remove is.