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Interrupting Soliloquy

I enjoy most things, and don't believe that enjoying things means that I shouldn't rip it apart critically. Also don't think reading is the panacea of all ills, so I read a lot of comics and play a lot of video games.

Currently reading

Speak: The Graphic Novel
Laurie Halse Anderson, Emily Carroll
Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East
Gita Mehta

The Black Tides of Heaven

The Black Tides of Heaven - JY Yang Man, I'm pissed. Couple of years ago, I also envisioned a book where children are essentially genderless until they chose at a certain age, and I was like "that'd be cool! So cool! I'm a genius." I'm not super pissed particularly because I feel robbed (well.) but because it was done super well in this book and probably better than I ever could've. So... goddamnit.

I haven't had a whole lot of interaction with silkpunk, being that a lot of it tends to be written by people who have a fascination with "Asian culture" but not a whole lot of insight into it. [b:The Grace of Kings|18952341|The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty, #1)|Ken Liu|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1403024981s/18952341.jpg|26965646] wasn't... horrible, but I didn't hugely enjoy it, and its gender politics was so irritating that I wasn't tempted to look twice as its sequel until someone told me it got better.

But I never had to worry about this book, which is simply lovely. I love its fantasy, which, interestingly enough, reminded me a lot of Pierce's Circle of Magic series, though that isn't to detract from its own originality. I love the politics in it, the machinations, and I kind of like that everyone hates their mother, who is pretty heartless. Always nice to read books that don't treat blood relatives as obligatory devotion! I read most of this in a day and I never felt like it went too quickly or it dragged. It packed a perfect punch, told a well paced story.

Nitpickiness? Not really a complaint - I was kind of hoping Akeha would be nonbinary, but the whole thing regarding gender is done so well I didn't end the book with it hanging over my head or anything. Again, it's not even a complaint, it was just something I was hoping would happen!

Overall a book I appreciate and adore in a multitude of ways, and hoping it comes up in awards next year because I looooved it.

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything - Lydia Kang, Nate Pedersen I feel like I gotta give this 5 stars on account of it being 100% what I expected, which is essentially a book length Cracked article in the shape of a book.

It's gross, horrifying, and great.

The City of Brass

The City of Brass - S.A. Chakraborty This book just burns through you like a cleansing fire, bright and intense like the flames that make up the djinn. It follows the story of a con-artist named Nahri who is in the possession of magical abilities she barely believes in. Saving herself from starving in the streets of Cairo is a much more pressing matter than the mystery of why she can speak any language she comes into contact with, or why her skin knits itself from wounds that would have killed anyone else. But as is the wont of books like these, when Nahri finds out she is the last of a blood-stained and fanatically pure-blooded line, she is thrown into a political firestorm that spans the elements and all of the djinn families. Trust me, this is a fantasy series that sears itself into the back of your eyelids with vivid imagery and impeccable world-building, and you'll see the city of brass in your sleep.

Provenance

Provenance - Ann Leckie

Back into to the Radch universe but at a different angle, Leckie brings us a much more politically bent adventure. Ingary, in a desperate attempt to be the heir of her mother's political title, puts all her cards on one risky move to get a criminal out of prison and to reveal the location of lost, precious "vestiges" that her home planet of Hwae depends on as a society. As things go awry, Ingary is forced to consider what is important to her and to her society, and whether truth can dismantle belief. It's all fresh, Leckie filling in the edges we were missing while we romped with in the trilogy, and asks us all new questions.

Yellow Future: Oriental Style in Hollywood Cinema

Yellow Future: Oriental Style in Hollywood Cinema - Jane Chi Hyun Park I mean, I liked it. Being that it was the second book on Asian Americans in media that I read this year, I liked it significantly less than the other one, but a large part of that was because of its scope. Yellow Future told me it'd talk about Hollywood and I mostly feel like I got a rant about Blade Runner and Ridley Scott. Not that... there's anything wrong with that necessarily, I just wish that I would have known that that was what I was getting into. I suppose I just didn't feel that this book was comprehensive? It was meticulous and detailed in the few things it did talk about, but it didn't cast the wider net that I wanted. It's still an interesting and worthwhile book by any means, it just wasn't as broad as Techno-Orientalism, which I understand is both due to Yellow Future's more specific topic and singular author. Even so, I still wanted it to be more than what it was.

And it's an expanding area of observation, and I'm fine with that.

Dread Nation

Dread Nation - Justina Ireland This book is a perfect representation of its main character, Jane. Bold, brave, poking at stuff that the folks in charge tells us to not poke at, and unremittingly sharp (and fun, even). In the middle of the Civil War, the dead picked themselves up and began to attack the living. In the interests of survival, the living set aside their differences to fight them off. But the sins and hatred of the country go deep, and even in such times of trouble, prejudices and the lines of race don't disappear. Not only is this book carved into a deeply satisfying point, it makes a great case for the fact that zombie stories can continue to be told in fresh ways.

The Stone Sky

The Stone Sky - N.K. Jemisin I know that it's a travesty that I find positive reviews much more difficult to write than negative reviews. I know that says something about me, that I'm able to find the bad much easier than the good. The way that I think about it is: if something isn't broken, I don't notice. If something IS broken, it's all I can think about. It's not exactly that, because certainly, the unbrokenness of (ironically) a series called The Broken Earth made me fall over myself in how astoundingly good it was. But often I'm robbed of the meticulous ways I pick apart bad aspects of books and I just end up blubbering incoherently because I can't cogitate how to describe HOW GOOD something was. But I have to say something more than that it was good. This series was more than just GOOD.

I. fucking. loved. this goddamn trilogy.

There are so many things I found unconventional about it. When I think of the Broken Earth series, I don't think of anything else. With [b:Ancillary Justice|17333324|Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)|Ann Leckie|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1397215917s/17333324.jpg|24064628] the LeGuin is apparent; the Austen shines through in [b:Sorcerer to the Crown|23943137|Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal, #1)|Zen Cho|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1430239646s/23943137.jpg|43548024]; Valente's works often bring me heavily back to Lewis Carroll and so forth, but when I think of Broken Earth? I think of Broken Earth. It's a series I'll compare other books and authors to, not the other way around. Sure, there are things in it that aren't not-familiar. As with all writers, or really anyone, Jemisin draws from other stories and ideas. But how Jemisin grips these stories, wields these stories. It sets a standard in so many ways.

So this whole review will be me waxing lyrical about it - well, goddamnit. There hasn't been much this year, both generally and in my reading, that I've gotten to wax lyrical about, so if it's gonna be this phenomenal work of literature then so fucking be it.

Perhaps the best way to go through it is, in the same ways I catch onto negative things in other books, examine what the book gets right.

The writing is so good. It's no overt poeticism, as it t'were. It's not what I think of when I think "written well." What comes to mind is typically purple prose similes and metaphors (being that I'm somewhat partial to them), but that isn't how Jemisin writes. What Jemisin has perfected in her prose is the fluidity of thought and a constant movement and continuation of words and sentences. Time just falls away when I read these books. It's not an unfamiliar sensation, but more often for me this happens when the prose is simple and the plot is the driving force, or sheer enjoyment of characters and having fun with a book makes me not pay attention to words as a focal point, but this was one of the cases where the propulsion of the text itself pulled me through, though the plot isn't anything to disregard. I know that this was incredibly difficult to pull off - how many times she must have gone through the words I don’t know, but the result is some of the smoothest reading I’ve ever done. Not that I wasn't having fun or enjoying myself, but it's not as if this series is a happy go lucky romp.

So I've heard some criticism of one of Jemisin's other books - I believe in the Inheritance Trilogy? I could be wrong, but it came up during a discussion of Mary Sue characters. Not that I want to get into that long drawn out conversation (which would definitely involve my loathing of Kvothe), but since reading that I thought about the Broken Earth. I'd say it sidesteps the issue entirely, especially as it comes to Essun, who is sour, rarely kind, but thoughtful and cautious when she makes herself, and also bitter, angry, and vengeful - in a lot of ways, Essun could be an entirely unsympathetic character. She’s so compelling to me, and in regards to "prodigy" and "genius" - being that it's typically very tied to Mary Sueness - I felt like she was someone who struggles through not being a perfect genius from the onset. Her tenring status is something she must grow into, something gained. Alistair does seem to have a talent for it, yes, but the progression of a mentor being someone who spearheads the path, and then must hand over their discovered knowledge to someone to finish the job? I thought it was unique, not a typical way to frame power and knowledge. Essun wouldn’t be Essun without Alistair, but Alistair couldn’t have concluded the book himself.

I suppose that you could argue that what Essun lacks in prodigy-ness, Nassun makes up. But Nassun is taught from an even younger age, and her handle on her orogenity combined with her immaturity and her growing turmoil is a cause for alarm and fear, and she’s never treated like a messiah. Frequently, when child prodigies are written, they're essentially birthed with the mentality of a 40 year old philosopher, but Nassun is treated, acknowledged, and, most importantly, is allowed within the text to act like a child.

And speaking of Nassun, one of the strongest aspects to me about Broken Earth was the relationship between Essun (arguably just Essun as a good/bad mother figure in general - she is a mother so many times and yet fails/feels she fails them in such a variety of ways) and Nassun, which is wildly complicated, difficult, with clear parallels to real stories black people have with their families and how it relates to discrimination. Though Essun is not without fault (certainly not), the way she "protects" Nassun is endemic of a deeper fear instilled by their society, and the resultant fallout is minutely complex, speaking to how such cycles continue. Not even going into the horror show of the nodes and the fate of Corun and its very explicit parallel to Margaret Garner. But oh, Nassun and Essun. So unfair, so understandable, so heartbreaking. To know that Essun did what she felt she needed to - that Nassun would not have survived nearly as long as she did without what happened to her, but those childhood wounds went so deep, and I yearned for a long conversation that I knew I wouldn’t get between them.

God, and the big plot reveal in each of these books hit me hard every time. I know that the one in the first book was more or less predictable, but it was really impactful (not to mention that I had convinced myself that the three of them were so different from each other) and the ones in the following books, what that implied about this world and its societies and its people…. Just. So good! See, this is where I get lost. I can't talk too much at length about why it's so good and spectacular because spoilers, but I also can't condense a billion little ways the plots spoke to me into a couple of words. All that comes out is "it was good." I don’t want to give too much away, but Jemisin really has artfully integrated so many things in this book about race, propaganda (more specifically, intentional misinformation that trickles from the top down), motherhood, family, there’s so much here. It’s a book that I know that if I reread again and again, there will be something I didn’t notice before. This book is like Shrek times infinity. It’s just phenomenal layering.

I will never forget this book. It isn’t a book I’ll think of as like “oh hey, that was good.” It’s a book I’ll think of as “my god, that book was just so amazing, maybe I should read it again”?

Jemisin owns my soul now, I guess? She earned it.

James Bond: Service

James Bond: Service - Kieron Gillen, Antonio Fuso It's actually really interesting to me how Gillen was able to take a really old-fashioned character and made him feel new - especially within the context of the story he was telling. Bond is a very old staple, but in these pages he's revamped, young (perhaps there could be some criticism in how a lot of Gillen's works tilt this way but I didn't mind here), fresh, and snappy, facing the past rather than walking with it.

In a relatively quick handful of pages, Gillen writes a new type of Bond, arguably a millennial Bond, with less resources and double the pressure, fighting the good fight against nostalgia and overpatriotism (making a good subtle commentary about the intertwining of the two) - and I was okay with that. I would almost be interested to see this Bond go up against his older predecessors, but maybe that'd be a bit weird.
SPOILER ALERT!
Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles, Book One) - Tamora Pierce

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooookay. This is a tough one.

It's a long post. Not exactly super spoilery, but it's long. I had a lot of complicated feelings about this.

There's a lot of baggage and things I feel like I need to unload at the beginning, so that everyone knows where I'm coming from. I'm very much a Pierce fan, but I tended towards her woman warrior types and the Emelan-verse. Her woman warrior stuff was why I started reading her in the first place. I never liked Immortals as much as Protector of the Small, and I was never particularly charmed by Numair. THAT SAID, when this book was announced, I thought I was going to lose my goddamn mind. Even her poorer books have been good for the most part, and at least good to read. I'm rarely irritated or frustrated by Pierce's works, and often when I am, I look at it from a context of decades of writing. I was upset that the Tris book wasn't here, but I was happy to get a Pierce book, whatever the context - I felt similarly when Battle Magic came out, and then I loved Battle Magic. Even if it was BEFORE all my favorite characters really get introduced, and it's about a character I wasn't enthused about, understand that I was really, very happy to get a Pierce book, and that I was 100% prepared to like it. Even love it.

(spoilers: I didn't love it.)

Oof. If this book was split almost perfectly down the middle, I would say that I really loathed the first book and had my problems but generally enjoyed the second book. Let's really get into one of many things that divide the first half from the second half.

Arram. Yeah, so I've never hugely enjoyed Numair. He was an interesting enough character, but I wasn't ever particularly taken by him, but his use in the Immortals as an instructor and as a clear demonstration of the break between power=/=strength was interesting enough. But one of the reasons I never wanted to get into his past is that, increasingly as I grew older, I've read his story. I've read his prodigy destined for great things story again: [b:The Name of the Wind|186074|The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)|Patrick Rothfuss|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1472068073s/186074.jpg|2502879], and again: [b:A Wizard of Earthsea|13642|A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)|Ursula K. Le Guin|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1353424536s/13642.jpg|113603], and again: [b:Eragon|113436|Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)|Christopher Paolini|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1366212852s/113436.jpg|3178011] and again: [b:Ready Player One|9969571|Ready Player One|Ernest Cline|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1500930947s/9969571.jpg|14863741] and AGAIN: [b:The Grace of Kings|18952341|The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty, #1)|Ken Liu|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1403024981s/18952341.jpg|26965646]- critically acclaimed books that I personally think are garbage because I'm sick of this story. And the unfortunate thing about Arram's time in the book is that it does nothing, nothing to allay that, deconstruct that, or just about anything that examines the trope at all. Arram IS the character toe to tip, as they say. He's a genius, completely powerful - and though his POWER gets deconstructed, his GENIUS never is.

If Arram had been older - if he'd at least been the age of Ozorne and Varice, maybe I'd have less of a problem. But the insistence that Arram be as young as he is, to constantly press upon the reader his prodigy-ness, his intellect, his goshdarn destiny, makes this trope incredibly more obnoxious. Nothing is there to temper Arram's intellect, or even a consideration as to what it might be like to BE such an intellect, like the crippling insecurities that might come with it. Arram isn't ever not good at something he cares about. He never gets frustrated about that - he never has to. Ozorne gets twitchy (briefly) when it turns out that Arram outmarked him in exams once. I would have honestly really, really, really appreciated a scene where Ozorne returns the favor, and Arram's spiral afterwards, whether he recovers quickly or not. Or Varice does, when she's existing as a character outside of being a love interest (more on this later). Arram never has to confront being bad at anything - when he is, it's with a laugh and a shrug, of things like cooking magic or war magic, which he wants nothing to do with (oh but it's implied he could be SO GOOD AT IT).

And it never stops! I thought that Breq having to mention that ships had FEELINGS TOO got irritating in [b:Ancillary Sword|20706284|Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, #2)|Ann Leckie|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1413464739s/20706284.jpg|40026175]! Nothing compares to the endless barrage of "have we mentioned yet that Arram is smart and destined for things?" Yes, I get it. Can I move on now? Can I read this book? Can I get this cool scene with my Grandma Sebo yelling at a crocodile god without being constantly reminded of Arram's already written destiny and greatness? "okay. But have we mentioned that Varice is beautiful?"

God, Varice.

So let me lay my cards out. Characters like Varice are Not My Thing. I've always been a kind of masculine girl, and I reveled in books that allowed girls to be that way. That morphed into a direct resentment of feminine things, and then I grew up enough to realize that was a failing, and now I spend a lot of time watching/reading/consuming things that have feminine female characters trying to put it on perspective for myself. Why do I dislike a female character? Is it because they like things that *I* find frivolous? Is it JUST because of their feminine aspects? Is it ONLY their feminine aspects? Especially in the case of Varice being the only prominent peer female character in the book, I dedicated a LOT of my time trying to like her, understand her, accept her. I tried so hard.

But the thing about Varice is that I don't dislike her because she's very feminine. That's just the icing on my hating her cake.

It really gets summed it very well the first time she's introduced, which hit one of my least favorite pet peeves right in the kisser. Sort of my Bechdel test for literature (and it being a LOW BAR to meet), if a book introduces a female character with a quantification on her level of attractiveness, I am immediately not that into it. This counts, essentially, double for books written today, because I think writers should know better than that. It also isn't a singular pass/fail thing re: female representation in books - as with the Bechdel test, it doesn't account for everything, like attractiveness being a vital aspect to the character, or beauty (or lack of) not being the character as a whole, or it being a misstep in a book otherwise filled with decent female characters.

Oh, but that's the rub, see.

Varice has little character outside of her informed beauty and intelligence, and it's not even deconstructed as with Thayet and Arram seems incapable of pushing through Varice's appearance to know or care who she is beyond it. And with Arram go the reader, so...

And this book does it every. single. time. Varice gets introduced to a scene. Every. Time. Every time she is reintroduced to the narrative, she walks in looking pretty or lovely or gorgeous or beautiful. Oh, we could get into the discussion of Varice demonstrating intelligence in certain things she says and does. I even appreciate and like scenes where she manipulating guards and political upper folk and being good at it. I like her insistence on the validity of kitchen witchcraft, I didn't have a problem with her being a little superficial regarding the games. Varice is a teenage girl - the fact that she can be sure of herself in these ways is important, and I can appreciate that. But overall, she's stuck in the corner, chained by her "pretty and intelligent labels" and I did not feel we got enough demonstration of her intelligence. WHY is she elevated the way that Ozorne and Arram are?These examples are not nearly as clear or as established as with Ozorne. What are her ambitions? Who are her family? They didn't want her to be a kitchen witch - this is all I know of them, really. Is there a reason she's so skilled at the manipulation of people?

Maybe this will all be elaborated in later books. It could be an interesting parallel to the fact that Numair can hardly salivate over a 13 year old being that he's 27 from the start of the Immortals, and so the final relationship between him and Daine>Arram/Varice. Maybe that's going to come in a later book! Here's a list of things I kept thinking I might want elaborated in future books:
- Varice
- More discussion of house slaves
- Arram's insufferable intellect
- The fact that Laman is used almost specifically only as a vessel to give the audience a PSA about how being prejudiced is bad and then DISAPPEARING
- Arram having definable faults that he has to confront in the text of the book
- Alternate sexualities and the society's perception of them at least being consistent? Are they accepted? Are they not?
- Indication that Varice is important to Arram outside of his romantic interest in her? Ozorne is a constant presence throughout the book because Arram is thinking about him all the time, or talking about the royal family, which leads back to Ozorne. Where is Varice in these thoughts? Varice has so little presence that I'd relax about it for a while but then get an abrupt "hey Varice is here, being beautiful" and get riled up again. At least let my annoyance be consistent - I just don't know what Varice means to Arram outside of romance.
- Just so much more nuance. on So Many Goddamn Things.

And I can accept that those nuances might be coming. Pierce has always been very good at writing perspective, and it might be that Arram isn't read for nuance but this is also a MASSIVE EXCUSE TO MYSELF. Nuances can be demonstrated within a text without the main character necessarily cottoning onto them. You know who's good at doing things like that? TPierce! There's even a REALLY good aspect of Arram/Ozorne that gives example of this! The fact that Ozorne is clearly more than a little ruthless and perhaps unstable and that Arram insists on looking past it and deluding himself with statements like "he's not normally like this" and often becoming scared about Ozorne briefly but moving on from it. Bad thing! Main character avoids! Refuses to see! Almost intentionally! Doesn't really notice himself doing it! Oooo aaaaa.

So I'm left with feeling like there was a good way to actually do the things that I had problems with, that the author is more than capable of it, but it simply wasn't present. And so I end, asking myself: Maybe in the next book?

This happened so many times that I got sick of myself thinking it. A book should be able to stand by itself - if these things ARE going to be discussed, be pretty clear about where that discussion is going to be going. The only thing that assures me that it WILL be elaborated on is my faith in the author - admittedly an impressive amount. I have that faith. But I shouldn't have to purely depend on that faith, nor expect readers who aren't familiar with her to have it.

Ozorne is one of the best things about this book. He is well-developed, occasionally terrifying, and we constantly see Arram's concessions to his volatile behavior. The way that Ozorne acts and feels, even if it's being a little too overt, those of us who know what will happen understand and see the seeds. And those who don't know Ozorne can tell something big is on the horizon. Something will happen, it's not good, and it has something to do with Ozorne and the throne. See? All the seeds and places are being set into place. I KNOW, even without knowing the future, that there is something to continue on in furthering books without losing the impact of Ozorne's development in this book alone.

The second half of the book finally starts the hinting, and had a lot of incredibly well written, introspective sections about a lot of different problems, themes, and plot furtherment. This isn't to say it wasn't without its problems, but it got into what makes the first book of a series interesting enough to read a second one. But a lot of the stuff I had an issue from the first half isn't pulled apart anymore, and thus I'm looking to the future to do it for me without any feeling that it will. OTHER than my faith in the author. It should not be this way.

The evidence of how incomplete the book feels also lives in the plot structure, which is Academy-academy-academy-fieldtrip-fieldtrip-fieldtrip-END. It doesn't have a cyclical feeling, though it tries to squeeze past me by reminding me of the first scene with the water at the very end to force a "came full circle" feeling. It didn't work. The plot just.... continues. It goes. There isn't much of a closed, tight feeling to the book as an individual entity. Everything seems to hinge on what's going to happen next.

And I hope it's good. I hope.

The Salmon of Doubt

The Salmon of Doubt - Douglas Adams There's honestly really no way of me writing about this book without gushing all over the place. Despite the undeniable brilliance of his other books, Salmon of Doubt very quietly takes you into the mind of the introspective and thoughtful Adams that must have spent time staring deeply into the unknowable. It gets to the core of what he wrote about and why; his fascination with science which he would eventually find amusing and eventually have it evolve into jokes that he'd write into his books. And to draw all of this together, the infuriating ease with which he places words together. Though he was notorious for procrastinating and finding the writing process as arduous as almost anyone can testify, Adams was also known (after being forced to) for being able to sit down and write straight for two weeks and come out with a book. And his humor from his blog writings are so casual and flippant that there's no way to not feel awful about how unfunny and unwitty you are.

I appreciated this book for the glimpse it gave into Adams' mind, which turned out to be a minutely aware and self-searching one about technology, about himself, about life, the universe, and everything. A bittersweet compendium celebrating the man he was and mourning the future books he'll never write, the observations he'll never perfectly word in a single apt sentence.

UPDATE ON "2ND" READING:
Technically it's not my second reading, but it's been a really long time since I sat down and read the whole thing again from start to finish. It's a book I remember huge chunks of, listen to the audiobook when I'm feeling restless, dip into it when I half remember a passage and want to reread the whole section and then end up reading the whole several following chapters. In a way I've read it quite a lot. But it's been a while since I really read it all the way through, taking in every word and really parsing everything he says.

Turns out that I've grown up a lot in that time.

I read it, incidentally, as a break from reading another one of my favorite writers whose most current work hasn't been evoking a lot of enthusiasm in me. What could be more appropriate, when disappointed by an author whose current work I feel like is somewhat regressive, than reading an author whose work never had time to grow?

Adams died at the relatively tender age of 49. It was unexpected, heartbreaking, and every time I go through this book, either briefly or wholly, I am struck by the sadness of that. He never got to see all the ways that the internet has exploded, for better or for worse - and the thing about Adams was the fact that, for the most part, he was expertly attuned to seeing technology as being for the better. His writings in this book about technology are the stuff I come back to the most. At a close second are his religious philosophies. What I got from his books at the time was not a resentment of religion but a fascination in our physical world. That our world was amazing and beautiful enough that religion wasn't required - but that didn't necessarily mean doing away with it or imposing that on other people.

And that's where I get a little relieved that I didn't have to watch Adams evolve. Because I've watched Dawkins do it, I've watched Fry do it. I've watched it turn into a spurning of religion in any form. Adams manages to hang onto his acknowledgement and understanding of it, but it's with a hint of European condescension and not exactly a difficult hop, skip, and a jump to the atheists of today. He paints it as something for the primitive locals to accept and the educated foreigners to understand. In that way, I'm glad that Adams is trapped forever in 2001 and older. It's one thing for someone to say that then; it's another thing for that mindset to holdout to this day. And I wish and want and hope and believe that he wouldn't have kept his foibles for another 16 years.

And by god are his foibles reflected well in what was left over of Salmon of Doubt. He's never been the greatest with female characters - I believe that it helped massively that Lalla Ward and Mary Tamm were sharp enough people to input personality into anything for the times he wrote Romana. They're invariably "attractive" (a massive pet peeve of mine being that female characters are introduced with a quantifier on that account - something, incidentally, that the book I was avoiding did) and often inscrutable. Richard and Arthur are both, in a way, bland, but are also both, in a way, interesting characters with interests and focus. His fumbling with characters like Kate and Trillian, bland with no personality or interests (or interests that change wildly from one story to the next), brings to sharp relief how bad he was at writing them. I don't exactly understand what was so incredibly inscrutable about the women-folk to Adams, but it does make me glad I don't have a book from him to be disappointed by. And yet, at the same time, I suffer under the missing half of Salmon of Doubt - about a cat that is missing its bottom half, like some sort of hellish ironic parallel. It remains unfinished, unfound, and despite apparently an entire well of writing in his harddrive, unknowable, taking the fate of Gusty Winds with it.

I love Adams - when I think of people whose works I've been invariably changed by, influenced by, Adams sits on top of that tower, beaming beatifically. But I'm old enough to opine myself, to have perspective and opinions separate from him (I didn't, once), and with that perspective, it's not that he's fallen in my eyes, it's that I've risen a lot since I last really perused him. This book is still incredibly important to me, and I won't deny that reading Dawkins' eulogy at the end still brings me to tears.

The End We Start From

The End We Start From - Megan Hunter It was very pretty, but towards the end I got a little bit tetchy with the similes and metaphors. That did manage to coincide with around the same time that the story got a little bit more padded, and the sense of the story having a purpose returned. It was also very short, but I can see the type of day and mood I might be more it than I was. There's also something to be said, I think, for an apocalyptic novel centered around having and living with a baby. Not in a bitter, angsty way, not with the baby missing and needing to be found, but to live or survive with and around a baby. Like, The Fireman got pretty close to it, but there's so much else happening that it's not a majorly central focus. In a more in depth novel, I'd want a closer examination of what to do when you don't have something that the baby needs, but it wasn't trying to be that book, and for once an element of edginess was blissfully absent in an apocalyptic novel.

It's not... much more than that? But it didn't advertise anything more, so.

Record of a Spaceborn Few

Record of a Spaceborn Few - Becky Chambers *SCREAMS*
I am so ready to be devastatingly loved and buoyed by a book. THE TEARS ARE READY TO BE SHED.
SPOILER ALERT!

The Wonderling

The Wonderling - Mira Bartok It's fine. I can see why Candlewick is really excited for this book; it's crisply written, it's got a lot of quirk, and its Dickensian influences are fairly obvious.

But like, that's it. Its racial metaphors are poorly defined and the problem with it being a pretty clear Dickensian send up is that Dickens did a lot of this already, and it doesn't improve on some of his faults, like "good" characters who aren't particularly defined in their "good"ness. I get that memorable villainous characters are a Dickens hallmark, but his "good" characters have always been incredibly bland and this book doesn't improve on that. The villain is fleshed out in this one, which is an improvement. She comes with motivation, bitterness, and backstory, but her good sister is just good! Just good! It made me feel overwhelmingly sympathetic to the villain, but it doesn't even use that unfairness as the reason she deserves some empathy. It ends with a trite little "she was small once", like a lifetime of neglect and overt favoritism shouldn't probably be discussed more extensively? Especially when it's clearly the defining aspect of her past? I'm fine with "cool motivation, still murder", but her motivation is barely even touched on outside of the book telling us what it is. Considering Phoebe is such a total non-entity in this book, probably could have used that to flesh out both the sisters as opposed to just dumping it in the middle of the book and then having Phoebe be this randomly angelic pure being with no personality who wanders in 20 pages before the book is over to give it a happy ending.

At the same time, I rarely felt a special-ness to Dickens characters, and Arthur is covered head to toe in it. The book is like "you're the Wonderling!" at the end, and I was put off entirely. What does that mean? Is that good? I assume so? I assume that it's good and special because Arthur is the main character, but that's the only reason. What IS a Wonderling? Should I care? I don't know and the book is over! So I don't! I guess people were waiting for him and he's special and stuff. His unique ability helps a bit in the book, and could be making a point about language and culture divides but if that's what was intended then the poor racial allegories I mentioned earlier make it a little muddled.

It's fine. It's a fine book. It's just fine. The only reason I don't give it 2 stars is that I recognize that it's only me being incredibly unimpressed by this, but it's... it's fine. That's just. All it is.
SPOILER ALERT!

Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic

Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic - Armand Baltazar, Armand Baltazar It's closer to 2.5 stars, really. I thought it was less than bad, but I did not find it enjoyable.

So the good:
Even reading an ARC copy of this book indicates how beautiful it will be. With glimpses of the full color panels on the front and back, this book is going to be gorgeous. The few times that the book melds the story along with the illustrations gives those scenes a cool impact, reminding me of reading the Brian Selznick stuff, though Baltazar doesn't go to the extent that Selznick did. First and foremost, it's an action adventure book, highlighted and made unique by its illustrations.

The bad:
And that's about the only thing that makes it unique? The concept is very interesting, with the idea that time periods have become sequestered into their own sort of countries after a calamity made it so that they all exist at the same time and that electricity doesn't work anymore. It allows the techy stuff to be techy without necessarily being comprehensible, which is sometimes the downfall of children's books that have engineering elements.

But the plot and the story and the characters are very staid. The tropes that it uses, though I don't have a problem with books being trope-y, are just used in really boring ways that bring nothing new to the table. It's a generic wonder boy action plot wearing a very fancy coat. It's a nice fancy coat, but it's all it is. I thought I'd appreciate Diego more in the sense of actively seeking children's lit with more diversity and the idea of him being in full color on such glossy, professional picture brings me a lot of happiness for children who aren't me who will read this, but beyond that Diego is very bland. He's unique because he is the protagonist, and he gets away with stuff because he's the protagonist.

Nothing could get me over Lucy and Paige in this book, because I spent the whole time trying to not be annoyed as to how they were used. They're both very "strong female characters" who still need some saving at some point or another, and can't exist in the same circles without attraction because boys and girls are different, and is that Avril Lavigne kicking up another chorus of Sk8ter Boi again? I never felt like Lucy was given a real active role other than to create drama. We're told she's cool and that she's Diego's equal (being that she is the obvious love interest), but like most "strong female characters" she's just below equal. She still needs to be saved by Diego, Diego is the one who finds their parents, Diego is the one telling her she needs to be free and independent. A scene that reflects one done in Pacific Rim, and maybe it'll still go that way, but that was a movie where Mako was indeed actually for real beat Raleigh in his same field of punching things and is never treated like a plotpoint of destiny. She doesn't happen to have the magical MacGuffin for the Thing to further anyone else's plot. Lucy does, though.

I see what the author was trying to do, but man, other than a lot of pretty set pieces, the book was a little hollow. I understand that you can't stop children from being in a war when that war is the only thing that makes the plot interesting, but if you're going to talk about moral ambiguity in war, there is little else more ambiguous than a bunch of 13 year olds being on the front lines and an adult man who is totally fine with that. I get it; it gives the action to the plot - but then why even bring it up, why then show an impact of "war is hell" at the end. War is hell; if you're going to talk about that - talk about it. The whole Animorphs series basically ends with teenagers being so psychologically damaged by the war they've been fighting since they were young teens that they go on a suicide mission. I don't see this series ending in a similar way - it doesn't have the depth. I can take fluff, but I can't take a book trying to act deep when it's also trying to be actiony fluff.

I didn't hate this like I hated books like [b:Click Here to Start|27272299|Click Here to Start|Denis Markell|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1453056773s/27272299.jpg|43103080] because that book made me claw at pages with hatred, but I was rolling my eyes a lot with this book, especially in Lucy-heavy sections. And a couple of the "Diego is the chosen one" sections. I definitely didn't really enjoy it though. The explicit messages are blunt and hollow, the implicit messages are outdated.

A Mouse Called Wolf

A Mouse Called Wolf - Dick King-Smith, Jon Goodell Okay but for real. Excellent and adorable.

The Refrigerator Monologues

The Refrigerator Monologues - Annie Wu, Catherynne M. Valente "I belong in the refrigerator. Because the truth is, I’m just food for a superhero. He’ll eat up my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend."