|Books read, early April.
||[Apr. 16th, 2011|02:36 pm]
I'm on the Non-Western Fantasy panel at Minicon, so I decided to read the books in that category that were on my to-read pile and my library list sooner rather than later. That doesn't make everything I read in the last fortnight a non-Western fantasy, but there is a pronounced tendency that is not accidental.
On the other hand, I want to note on the panel that I did not have to go asking around for recommendations, because there were already so many things on my list that I had added simply because they looked good, not because I knew I was going to be on a panel or was doing a project. If you read fantasy and you're only reading the Western-inspired stuff, you're totally missing out. There's still room for so much more to be written and published in this general grouping, but the field is no longer at a point where you have to be a specialist to know of good non-Western stuff that's out there, and that's a very, very good thing.
Isaac Asimov, The End of Eternity. Discussed elsewhere.
Elizabeth Bear (matociquala), Seven for a Secret. Kindle. I was not speedy enough to pick this one up in its physical incarnation before there were essentially none left and the prices became rather steep for a novella. So hurrah for ebear ebooks. In this one, Abigail Irene Garrett is old, and being old is not merely a matter of a white wig on a character who otherwise acts 23. Nor is it a matter of acting like a character her age in this approximate technology year or beyond. Accommodations are early-mid twentieth, and so are the accompanying limitations, so while Abby Irene is not leaping around rooftops or running through the streets, she's still herself and able to research and help with a very classic problem of the genre. Or maybe of a different genre entirely? Hmmmmmmm.
Mike Carey, The Naming of the Beasts. Consequences, consequences. I do like this series and how it follows through on things, how the good guys don't always agree on major issues, how the main character is allowed to mess up seriously. I don't recommend this as a starting point, because I think a lot of the power is dependent on the books before, but I recommend the series as a whole for sure.
C.J. Cherryh, Betrayer. Let no one say this book does not shed enough blood: it took a chunk out of my left pinkie with a paper cut that bled long enough to be deeply annoying. Otherwise, though, it totally does not shed enough blood. Nor does it resolve what I thought would be the central question of the trilogy and instead will stretch into the next trilogy, I guess. (If you have not figured out that question, I'm willing to say in comments or e-mail.) Poor Bren.
Paul Clemens, Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant. I think this is a case where the author's reach exceeded his grasp. He mostly seemed to want to write a history of the working class in Detroit, or else a detailed history of how a plant shuts down, and it wandered off into "Paul Clemens hangs out with working class guys and shoots the breeze" a lot. This is not a bad thing, it's just not nearly as ambitious as the thing he seemed to be trying to do.
Karen Healey, Guardian of the Dead. Set in New Zealand and drawing heavily on Maori mythology, but in a generally very sensitive and aware sort of way. I felt like Healey wanted to have it both ways on a few minor points of her character's appearance, but that was a minor point in the face of a generally good book.
Michael Innes, Appleby's End. I understand why the Innes omnibus I got was given to me with this one in mind! I read it last, because it was physically last of the three, but oh, it was so much better than the others. It paced reasonably, it had funny bits, it did a good job of figuring out how many people you could keep track of in any depth and what tags would help with the less-deep characters, and...yah. Much better. There were still a few random racist references of the kind that were apparently just ingrained with someone of this age/class/etc., and they're jarring in part because there are no non-white characters for them to be directed at--it's just apparently a "normal thing people say," but it's no worse than in Josephine Tey, to give a level of frequency/intensity that might help calibrate. There was a great deal of literary fun in this one--almost certainly a precursor of recent Reg Hill stuff.
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, The Shadow Speaker. I'm trying to remember whether there was anything but incoherent liking that I wanted to say about this book. Like Zahrah the Wind-seeker, it's very much a YA quest novel in structure, but the characters and worldbuilding make it very much its own thing; the details matter very much.
Eiji Otsuka, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service: Volume 1. One of you recommended this series, and the library has it, so I figured I might as well pick up a volume. I didn't really imprint on it enough to want the others, which I think is partly a result of already having watched a lot of crime shows in a different format and finding the initial plots very predictable that way, and partly a result of being really not very visual. Other people who are more visual may well enjoy the Buddhist league of justice for the dead in this one.
Cindy Pon, Silver Phoenix. Um. So. Um. Most of the problems I had with this book--and oh, there were many--qualify as spoilers for major plot elements. The bit I thought was most pernicious? Spoiler. The bit I thought was horrifyingly laughable? Spoiler. But--well--seriously. I'm just going to spoil an early bit anyway: if someone is sexually assaulted. And someone else gets mad at them because the sexual assault of this other person in some way interfered with their plans. "Sorry" does not cut it. My sympathy for the character who is pissed off at the victim of assault for her assault interfering with his life in some way is nil. If you want me to treat this person as anything but a complete irredeemable jackass, he is going to have to go far, far beyond "sorry." And that happened early enough to taint the rest of the book for me, because the character who reacted that way was not, shall we say, a minor character. There were also the issues of self-exoticization (seriously, they are called chopsticks, pretty much everybody who reads English knows the word, you do not have to come up with some fantasy-y term for them), and I am kind of tired of any culture that has arranged marriages requiring that an arranged marriage to the most horrible man possible has to be a motivating factor for a sympathetic heroine. So yah. I was terribly disappointed in this book.
Jenn Reese, Jade Tiger. This has "Juno" on the spine, which is one of the imprints that signals, "Mris! Run away! Run far! Run fast!" I read it anyway. The fight scenes are fun and, in my opinion, well-balanced: they're very vivid, easy to picture in movie terms, but people's ability levels are varied, and whether their attempts succeed (and to what degree) varies a lot--a professor with little to no training is not actually going to be able to defeat a martial arts expert just because he picks up something for a weapon, but he can maybe do some damage, and like that. I was kind of lukewarm on the rest of the book--people were not suspicious when I felt they really ought to have been--but the fight scenes are worth reading, especially if you are handling fight scenes yourself or like to compare and contrast books that do them well. Not that I'm thinking of any of you in particular. Of course.
Ysabeau S. Wilce, Flora's Dare. The language of these books always takes me a bit to get into, because it's very slangy and idiosyncratic, and it's on the border of twee for me. But I do settle in with a few chapters, and this was exactly what I like about middle books: complications multiplying, consequences following on previous implications, things not what they seemed and things exactly what they seemed. The bits that were structurally inevitable were ornamented with enough worldbuilding detail that I didn't mind the inevitability.