Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Books read, early August

Marie Brennan (swan_tower), A Star Shall Fall. Discussed elsewhere.

Colin Cotterill, Love Songs from a Shallow Grave. This is the new Dr. Siri mystery, in which he goes to Cambodia. I really liked most of it, but it's a terrible place to start the series--it relies on your investment in the characters. Also it was an example of something that happens in some of my favorite mystery series with a fair amount of frequency: the author gets caught up in writing about the characters and the setting (good) and ends up with what is theoretically the central mystery plot coming out fairly thin and unsatisfying--in this case in a way that left a sour taste in my mouth. Which is not the first time this has happened in this series, sadly. It's not enough to ruin the series for me, because I really do like the characters and the setting, but it was a major "Oh seriously, Cotterill" moment, when I wanted someone to go whap him one. But only in the last five pages or so. Be forewarned. I will still want the next one in the series when it comes out.

Guy Gavriel Kay, Under Heaven. For such a large book, it's a pretty intimate story. A familial story, almost. I loved the premise of the beginning, the son laying battlefield ghosts to rest by the dozen and the hundred to honor the father. I loved the ending one of the characters got, riding to a home that wasn't home any more but could become home again. I couldn't love the whole book. It just wasn't one of the Kay books that wrapped itself around my heart and my brain quite that thoroughly. But I did like it, and I think it's worth reading for sure.

Mary Robinette Kowal, Shades of Milk and Honey. Discussed elsewhere.

George Mann, The Osiris Ritual. Discussed elsewhere.

Nevil Shute, Beyond the Black Stump. This is the first Shute that has really not managed to work for me. I like what it's doing in not flinching from depicting what can happen in a genuine cultural clash between two people who want to have a romantic relationship. It goes wrong for me in two places. First, the man in question is an American of almost exactly my grandfather's age, and the value judgment that he and his friends and family--that Americans of their age and class--are portrayed as having is one I simply do not believe they did. These are people I know very, very well--better, I will venture to say, than Mr. Nevil Shute. I will be quite ready to say that Americans of this age and class had, on average, many appalling beliefs and practices in 1956 when this book was set, and I am not trying to say my grandpa would never have been like that, because my grandpa was clearly several, several steps above the norm and cannot be used as a standard. No. I am saying that the things Shute portrays a nice, kind, normal American man as viewing as ordinary are things that the sneakiest, nastiest wretches my grandpa knew would have gone to some trouble to hide at that time. It was simply not realistic. The second thing that bothered me in this value clash was related to the handling of race and racism. I absolutely believed that the white, small-town Americans of 1956 had a great many racial prejudices, on average, and would react poorly to the situation presented by the main Australian character in this book. Absolutely. Yes. But the Australian character is so completely smug about a situation that is so completely appalling. Throughout the book, any character who has any Aboriginal ancestry is not permitted to eat in the same room with the white folks--they are not referred to as "man" or "woman" (rather than things like "gin"--like a jenny-mule, essentially--or "half-caste") because "man" and "woman" apparently imply pure white blood--they are presumed to have mental capacity proportional to their European ancestry--and the sign that the Australians are more racially enlightened is that they are willing to say openly that their male relatives screw the so-called Inferior Race and make so-called Inferior Half-Breed Bastards upon them? So far beyond ick. And in Shute's calm and reasonable voice, it was even worse than it would otherwise be, it made me feel sick. It felt like a favorite uncle had just started hitting me in the stomach. At this point the culture clash really did look like Your Appalling vs. My Implausible, and the book completely fell apart for me. Which was very sad, because I've really liked the other Shute I've read. I still look forward to reading more, because you have to take people in their context, and he was in some ways trying awfully hard in his. But it doesn't mean making excuses, and this was just wrong and awful in large chunks. I'm still reeling a bit from this one.

Janni Lee Simner, Bones of Faerie. A fun, quick read, where teenagers find that things--including themselves--are not as they thought, and what can--and should--be done about them varies accordingly. Post-fantasy-apocalypse Missouri is particularly vividly done, which skills people would have in which towns that seem close to each other now but would be very different with a major cultural upheaval--good stuff, with characters making choices that make a lot of sense in their context. Recommended without regard to age.
Tags: bookses precious

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