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All Men of Genius, by Lev A.C. Rosen - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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All Men of Genius, by Lev A.C. Rosen [Oct. 3rd, 2011|10:58 am]
Marissa Lingen
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Review copy provided by Tor.

All Men of Genius seems to have been written entirely by Lev Rosen's id. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing for you depends on how nearly yours coincides with his. This is a book that has a girl-disguised-as-boy plot*, a special school for geniuses, steampunk automata and animal experimentation at every turn--with highly modern bows to animal rights/well-being, Shakespearean references some of which connect up and some just for the hell of it. It has a train in the basement, a snotty noble, and women of various degrees and types of virtue. It even has a clockwork--well, I won't spoil that part. If you're reading all that and going, "Ooh!", I will tell you that it also has varying expressions of sexuality, and also platonic friendships in different combinations of gender and sexuality.

This is very much the book for a great many of you.

What it does not have is a very good sense of pacing, and there is a Dischism smack in the middle where a character proclaims everything that has gone before all too complicated, and it is, and not the controlled clockwork kind of complicated where it's all going to work out in detail, but rather the kind of complicated where this skin has been thrown on the bones of this plot without as much care for the combination of colors and textures as one might have otherwise hoped (yes, this is a reference to an event in the book). Rosen never makes the error of being too careful, so I have hopes that he will get a bit better at pacing and at managing all the balls he has in the air with his next projects, since there is "there" there to actually get better at.

*Oh how I want a fantasy novel where a boy has to disguise himself as a girl to get into the special wondrous school of awesome.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: wshaffer
2011-10-03 04:54 pm (UTC)
I'll have to bump that one up the reading list, though thank you for the warning about the pacing.

I'm now rather regretting that in my current novel in progress, there is no plausible reason for the major boy character to disguise himself as a girl to get into the special wondrous school of awesome. I'm sure that my id will now be keeping an eye out for cross-dressing opportunities, though.
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[User Picture]From: guppiecat
2011-10-03 04:54 pm (UTC)
Oh how I want a fantasy novel where a boy has to disguise himself as a girl to get into the special wondrous school of awesome.


This happens in Japanese manga all the time.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-10-03 04:55 pm (UTC)
Yyyyes, but there tend to be...well. There are some cultural differences that sometimes turn out to be relevant.

I would like a boy to do this and not have a bathtub show up anywhere in the story.
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[User Picture]From: guppiecat
2011-10-03 04:57 pm (UTC)
That is a very fair point. :)

I'd also like it if Japanese manga were... well... written better.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-10-03 04:58 pm (UTC)
Yah, I don't want to tar all writers and all translators with the same brush, but...written better is hardly ever a bad thing.
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[User Picture]From: nojay
2011-10-03 07:20 pm (UTC)
Sturgeon's Law applies to manga as in all things and there is a LOT of manga pounded out on tight schedules. There's also the Japanese storytelling ethos which does things differently to the Western 3-act climactic style of writing and sometimes that causes problems for Western readers unused to the abrupt resolution of a plot or storyline or the lack of a climax.

The best "boy dressed as a girl for what seems like good reasons" manga I've read recently is Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son) which was recently turned into a very serviceable anime series. A boy Nitorin sees his school coping in a mildly disapproving manner with a couple of girls who turn up for classes in male school uniforms and decides he wants to try the same thing, sort of. For some weird reason his crossdressing as a girl isn't treated with the same level of disinterest by his classmates and the school which strikes him as somewhat unfair. The manga is getting an English-language release from Fantagraphics.

Another older manga involving role reversal is the romantic comedy "Family Compo" in which a remarkable number of the cast cross-dress in both directions for what seems like very good reasons at the time.
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[User Picture]From: merriehaskell
2011-10-03 04:57 pm (UTC)
I've been trying to write that boy-disguised-as-girl book, but it's been getting away from me.
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[User Picture]From: carbonel
2011-10-03 05:04 pm (UTC)
Oh how I want a fantasy novel where a boy has to disguise himself as a girl to get into the special wondrous school of awesome.

I was hoping that would happen (albeit offstage) in the first of Tamora Pierce's Alanna books, but no.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2011-10-03 05:46 pm (UTC)
*Oh how I want a fantasy novel where a boy has to disguise himself as a girl to get into the special wondrous school of awesome.

I have it in my head (tho' I realise that is very little use to you at this point). It is called Saturday Girl (tho' I don't know if that's even a phrase in American?), and is one of those that I would Dearly Love To Write Sometime.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-10-03 05:47 pm (UTC)
If it's a phrase in American, I don't know what it means.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2011-10-03 05:57 pm (UTC)
That's what I was afraid of. In the UK, a Saturday girl (or boy) is a school-age kid employed in a store on Saturdays. It's common parlance, and a common situation; I think most kids get a Saturday job if they can, once they're of a legal age to do so. But I love the other reading of the phrase, that a boy might be a girl on Saturdays; and hence my (unwritten) novel...
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[User Picture]From: leahbobet
2011-10-03 06:16 pm (UTC)
...oh, that's delightful. Please write the hell out of that.
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[User Picture]From: nojay
2011-10-03 08:08 pm (UTC)
The Saturday job plot is part of the ongoing story in the Wandering Son manga I mentioned in another comment here where the crossdressing boy of the title is working as a waitress in a small cafe.
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[User Picture]From: columbina
2011-10-04 04:11 pm (UTC)
It's funny, I've wanted to write many, many boy-goes-as-girl plots, but never once wanted to write a girl-goes-as-boy one. I suppose this is probably not much of a surprise to anyone who knows me.
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[User Picture]From: ashnistrike
2011-10-11 01:43 am (UTC)
there is a Dischism smack in the middle where a character proclaims everything that has gone before all too complicated, and it is, and not the controlled clockwork kind of complicated where it's all going to work out in detail,

I am reading the book and have just reached that line. I don't think this is entirely Rosen's fault. Except for the bits with clockwork automata, I'm pretty sure that every contribution to that complexity is from Twelth Night. Which is not to say your criticism is unwarranted, so much as possibly 500 years too late.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-10-11 03:09 am (UTC)
I disagree. I think when you are rewriting/retelling something, you are choosing a great deal of what to keep and what to prune out and what to add to. Saying, "Well, Shakespeare's fault," is about as convincing as, "But it really happened that way in real life!"
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