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DMS

Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

Currently reading

The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

Review: Ghost Talkers

Ghost Talkers - Mary Robinette Kowal

Alternate history fantasy murder mystery. Go get a copy right now.

 

This is fun, and interesting, and a fast read, and did I already mention fun? I've been waiting for this novel for years. Kowal briefly talked about the premise a few years back at a book signing and I might have frightened her with my enthusiasm. 

 

What if the Spiritualism movement had been real?

 

What if during WWI, the British military employed mediums so that soldiers could report one last time before going beyond the vale? And all of the debunking of seances was a cover for this strategic operation?

 

And that's just the setting. 

 

The plot is tied to a soldier reporting his own murder and a medium trying to solve it with the help of his ghost because she doesn't know who she can trust.

 

It's great. Will read again. Just a wonderfully fun book.

Review: The Duchess War

The Duchess War - Courtney Milan

I'm still not sure Romance is my genre, but I am sure I love Milan's work. This is a wonderful novel with great characters. And as I read the third one first, there's some setup work for it in here that I really appreciated and enjoyed. 

Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season - N.K. Jemisin

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

 

This is so good. I am both glad I already have the sequel and trying to not read it because the third one isn't out. 

 

This book starts with the end of the world, and then goes back and forward to give you context. I am a big fan of nonlinear narrative, and this so works for me. I'm also a big fan of how this book examines how the narratives we consume affects our ability to define ourselves.

 

This is a book about oppression, ya'll, and it's not subtle. And lots of death. And sometimes explosions and stabbing. What's not to love.

 

Cannot recommend highly enough.

 

Fantastic.

 

Perhaps not for readers who are sensitive to murders of small children. But the rest of you should read this.

Review: Timebangers, Vol. 1

One Does Not Simply Walk into Tudor (TimeBangers) (Volume 1) - Ivery Kirk, Luna Teague, Bryan Ward

"Are you saying-" She took a steadying breath. "Are you saying you invented time travel so you could go into the past and fuck famous people?"

"Well... they don't have to be famous."

Do you really need a review about this? If you're in based on that quote, you are in for a fun ride. If you aren't, well, you aren't.

 

 

Two former sorority sisters who haven't spoken in years fall back into an easy friendship neither quite trusts themselves in. One is a struggling single mother, and the other a wealthy recluse mad scientist. A mad scientist who is bad at people, and who's idea of historical research is to watch TV dramas and buy Halloween costumes.

 

I'm not going to claim this is a great book.

 

Except that it's kind of a great book. 

 

I'm so happy to live in a world that has this kind of book. Character driven erotica with time travel. Yes. How have you not already gotten a copy?

Review: The Kraken Sea

The Kraken Sea - E. Catherine Tobler

Lovely, but perhaps a bit slow paced for my tastes. I probably should have saved this for a rainy fall day instead of reading it in short bursts at bedtime.

 

I'll be interested in trying more of Tobler's circus fiction. Or even not circus fiction. She's obviously very sharp and understands strange.

Review: Midnight Taxi Tango

Midnight Taxi Tango: A Bone Street Rumba Novel - Daniel José Older

This is the second Older book I've read, and damn can that man write. This is a different set of kinds of supernatural than Shadowshaper, but just as compelling, well paced, and excellent. 

 

If you want to give it a try, there's a "short story" on Tor.com that is actually the first few chapters from one POV character in this. I didn't realize that until I hit that section, as it works pretty well as a stand alone piece. 

 

Dapper as fuck aging lesbian with a lot of guns? Yes, please. And the rest of the cast is also great. Thrown together in an interesting world, following tangents that wrap them together. Really an excellent read. Or listen.

 

I guess I should go back and read the first one. I don't feel like I missed a lot plotwise, but there is definitely some character stuff that would have been better with the background of the previous book.

Review: Zeroboxer

Zeroboxer - Fonda Lee

Solid action, and great pacing, but sadly few female characters.

 

Even more so than the male gazey first 30%, the near absences of women in this universe is disappointing. Yes, yes, this is a book where men get paid to punch men for cheering crowds. But come on. There is a women's league, which we know because we meet exactly one member, who has a nice if only briefly on screen arc of her own. Only one reporter we meet is a woman. Only two marketing people we meet are women, and one of those is the love interest (and the only prominent character in the book who is a woman). The universe has one female cop. And if I mention two moms and two fans, I've mentioned every woman who appears in the book....

 

It's been a while since I've read something where the protagonist was actually a hero. Not any sort of antihero or reluctant hero, but a decent guy who wants to be the best at what he does, and what he does is hit people. Have I ever read that kind of book where that guy was both the main character and not white?

 

 

And this protagonists journey is an excellent filter to examine the very real xenophobia of today. 

 

So, fun, and refreshing in some ways.

 

But more of the same in others.

 

I liked a lot about this. I'd love to try another book by this author that is less of a sausagefest.

Review: Skinwalker

Skinwalker - Faith Hunter

Refreshing. Violent. Fun.

 

I've had this sitting on my Kindle forever. I'm pretty sure it was one of the free books I picked up the first 3 months I owned a Kindle. Most of those books were, uh, not good? I still have a few I haven't tried opening based on how not good some of the ones I tried were. But recently a friend was talking this up in a way that made it sound like my kind of thing.

 

Turns out this is my kind of thing.

 

Does she have a job? An actual, for tax purposes, job? Yes. Yes she does. Bounty hunter, with a website, contracts, and everything.

 

Does she have meaningful interactions with any other women? Knocking this one the fuck out of the park, yes she does and they've known each other for a while. 

 

Does her origin story not include a rape? For fuck's sake, why do I even need this criteria? Yes, rape free access to supernatural powers. 

 

Does she like to eat? Oh, yes. Yes she does. 

 

It could use maybe just slightly less "all men think she's irresistible," but as on the supernatural side, that's cause for her to be on guard, I guess it works alright.

 

I don't want to get to heavy into spoiler territory, but the specific ways in which a skinwalker is not a were push so many of the right buttons for me. I love that they don't have the same goals. I love the uneasy alliance, the mix of support and power struggle. This is fucking great.

 

Will read more in this series.

 

 

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers
"We’re grown-ups, we can have ice cream for lunch if we want."

Review: The Egypt Game

The Egypt Game - Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Great characters, solid writing. Why on Earth does the back cover reveal 75% of the plot?

 

A little sad it took me so long to get to this, as my niece may have aged out of it, but maybe I can convince her to read it to her little sister.

Not Review: Too Like the Lightning

Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota) - Ada Palmer

This is a book with a gorgeous cover and the kind of fourth wall breaking I normally like that is utterly failing to keep my interest. I'm not that far in, but given the amount of other books I keep picking up rather than continuing it, I think it's safe to put this one on the "abandoned" shelf.

 

Additional note: maybe this would change if I read further, but the author seems to be having a conversation about gender that doesn't actually have a point. Like, she's playing games with pronouns because it's stylish rather than because she has anything to say. Again, not that far in, so maybe it turns out brilliantly. But not for me.

Sorry I've been so silent

One Does Not Simply Walk into Tudor (TimeBangers) (Volume 1) - Ivery Kirk, Luna Teague, Bryan Ward

Went to Worldcon last week after a visit with a friend. Which basically means I haven't had time to post or read - so I have nothing new to review. 

 

I haven't decided if I'm up for typing up any sort of detailed con report, but here's a book my roommate discovered at the con, which I went ahead and purchased.

 

Because. Yeah. This sounds awesome.

Black Spec Fic Directory

Free on Kindle, at least in the states. This is a directory to help readers find stories by black writers, organized by genre. also includes YA and MG listings.

#BlackSpecFic Links

A couple of weeks ago, Cecily Kane posted a report on Medium entitled The Antiblack Racism in Speculative Fiction. Here's a quote:

 

Under this assumption, the probability of the 1.9% average occurring by random chance is 3.21x 10^-76, or

 

0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000

0000000000000000000000000000000000000321%

 

For comparison’s sake, the odds of winning the New Jersey Pick Six lottery are 7.15x 10^-08, or 0.00000714%

This report is part of a larger project that includes several other articles under the heading of #BlackSpecFic. All, in all, well worth the read.

 

Apparently, short fiction markets have started to respond. By soliciting N. K. Jemisin for work. That's like responding to criticism about the lack of women hosting late night shows by having every network solicit Samantha Bee. Representation cannot be "solved" by highlighting names already well known in the field. In Jemisin's case, so well know she replaced her day job with a Patreon.

 

But don't read what I, a white lady, think. Read Jemison's tweets from today.

 

Yeah.

 

 

Review: Lightless

Lightless - C.A. Higgins

I like the idea of this book far better than the actual book. And when I say that, I don't mean the set of lies and spoilers that is the back cover text (seriously, spoilers in your book description, publishers? seriously?!), but the inverted YA dystopia that is this book. Our narrator for most of the book is a woman with a PhD working on a ship she designed and built the computer for. She's one cog in the giant machine that is the System (really, it's called the System) who isn't struggling against the oppressive regime so much as working amiably inside it while concentrating on her own stuff.

 

There's very little action, and most of the book is either her making endless repairs, or another woman interrogating (read: talking to) a suspected terrorist. Based on the POV characters, this is a book about women with vastly different roles in an oppressive society.

 

Except that it isn't.

 

This is a story about a young man trying to survive outside of the system (see, that time I'm speaking thematically) getting caught and having his strength tested. As examined through the eyes of the women around him. 

 

Will he succeed?

 

Will they figure out what they need to?

 

I find it conceptually very interesting, but in practice . . . .

 

The narrator who I'm supposed to find sympathetic annoyed the shit out of me. She's really not a big picture thinking. She makes a series of judgement errors involving not reporting critical information, not because she's against the system, but because she doesn't like the way the interrogator looks? I don't even know. She seriously goes down this train of thought around the 10% mark where she decides she hates this woman because based on what she's wearing, she's clearly the kind of woman who will laugh at a woman her behind her back.

 

Seriously, the entire last act of this book could have been avoided if the mechanic hadn't been so determined to avoid any interaction with the interrogator. BASED ON HOW SHE DRESSES.

 

She's inadvertently a giant walking lesson in why you should follow orders. 

 

The second narrator, the interrogator, has her shit together, but is also rather flat. She serves more as a means for the prisoner to tell stories to the reader through than as a character. 

 

The third narrator, now she's pretty awesome. I kind of want to pick up the sequel because, damn, that's a great character. 

 

And I might. The writing is decent. The pacing is solid. There's some interesting content. All the non-POV women in the book were also excellent.

 

And I might not. Because, wow, do I not want to hear anything else from the mind of that first narrator.

Review: Spider Gwen Most Wanted

Spider-Gwen Vol. 1: Most Wanted? - Marvel Comics

I like the art, and there's some clever writing, but this may actually be a bit heavier than what I'm looking for right now.