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DMS

Saturdays in Books

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

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

Review: Dreadnought

Dreadnought - April Daniels

First in a series that I've only not pre-ordered the next volume of because I don't see a Kindle option yet. Will read, for sure.

 

I don't typically love origin stories. Probably because I've overdosed on Spiderman and Batman re-introductions over the years. With great power comes great repetition, Martha. This feels quite fresh, though. Not just a subtle variation on something I've read a dozen times before.

 

Part of that, of course, is that the protagonist is trans, and that just adds layers of bullshit for her to face. And why pick just one kind of gross asshole when you can have both the toxic masculinity mascot parents failing to accept you and the genetics-is-destiny feminist who considers you an invader?

 

Part of it is also the relationships she builds with supers in different socioeconomic brackets. It's quite interesting to see someone flit back and forth between a wealthy, corporate officially sanctioned setting and a street wise, morally gray setting and struggle to grok both individually and in relation to each other. I know I've read other stories that try to approach this, but not as successfully as Dreadnought.

 

The pacing is a bid slow to start, but ramps up in the last act. Sadly, while much of this feels novel, the villain's plan, when finally revealed, is disappointingly familiar when first introduced, and still well worn territory for scifi fans even after the twist is revealed. That's kind of okay, though, since this book is much more about the journey than the destination. And while the plan is meh, the motivation behind it has a lot of potential to lead the protagonist into new, interesting territory.

 

I am so looking forward to the next installment.

Review: A Study in Scarlet Women

A Study In Scarlet Women: The Lady Sherlock Series - Sherry Thomas

I am quite optimistic about this series. The writing is compelling, and so are this particular Holmes and Watson. There are some pacing issues in the first half, but overall, it's very satisfying in terms of plot, character, and craft. And it sets up a series that looks to be a great deal of fun without leaving the reader on cliff hanger.

 

I also really want to throw out a content warning, but that particular content is a major plot spoiler, so I'll hide it behind this tag. 

 

This book includes both child prostitution& includes the suicide of one of the victims of pedophilia. There are no graphic depictions of pedophilia or suicide, but both happening are central to the plot.

(show spoiler)

 

I love Charlotte Holmes. I love both how good she is at solving puzzles and how bad she is at thinking outside the box. Which I know sounds contradictory, but isn't. If the pieces exist, she can put them together. However, a novel solution to her own problems evades her until another character suggests it, even though she's half way there. Her thinking is constrained to what is possible in society, even when she knows her own capacities aren't aligned. 

I've already pre-ordered the next book in the series.

2016 Black SFF Writer Survey Report

Note the individual sections are linked on the left.

Review: Talk Sweetly To Me

Talk Sweetly to Me (The Brothers Sinister) (Volume 5) - Courtney Milan

This is the last installment in the Brothers Sinister series, and like the other shorter works, suffers from being too short. Great characters and great dialog, but I wanted so much more.

 

Also, if you love a bad math joke, this is the romance short story for you. 

Review: I Shall Wear Midnight

I Shall Wear Midnight - Terry Pratchett

This is the kind of book that Fantasy fans who don't read YA will claim is YA, because the protagonist is the right age and it doesn't stretch their comfort zones. It is not YA. It is Fantasy. This isn't a bad thing by any means, but maybe don't recommend it to someone who is looking for a good YA read as it will just make them suspicious of your future recommendations. 

 

YA tends to have fewer giant dick jokes in the first chapter, for starters. 

 

And now that I've gotten those two points out, let's talk about what a great book this is. This is the 4th Tiffany Aching book, and the i-have-no-clueth Discworld book. All of them are good.

 

I Shall Wear Midnight starts strong (well, once Pratchett gets enough dick jokes out of his system in the first chapter), showing Tiffany working to fulfill the role she's trained for. Wearing a pointy hat may be a visual metaphor for being a woman with a career, and this work, like other Witches novels in Discworld, continues to examine issues women still face by daring to have opinions and authority and jobs. The approach to the casual sexism of society makes it as much a spiritual successor to Equal Rites as it is a plot continuity sequel to Wintersmith. Unlike Equal Rites, Tiffany is a Witch, clearly a woman's role, but what kind of woman, exactly? That's the question on the tip of the tongue of everyone she interacts with.

 

Sadly, while it does show some religious based discrimination, compared to other Discworld novels, it feels like it's pulling it's punches in this regard. And I found the antagonist rather unsatisfactory on a metaphorical sense. Like the bad behavior of too many people gets easily swept under the carpet by literalizing mob behavior as a distinct entity.

 

But, whatever, I'm still waiting for a Netflix Original treatment of this series. How great would that be?

Review: Martians Abroad

Martians Abroad: A novel - Carrie Vaughn

A fun and interesting main character in a to-short fish out of water tale. This is standalone, but I'd devour another book about Polly if she does write a sequel.

 

I'm not 100% sold on the ending, either in terms of how the plot is resolved or where we leave the protagonist, but whatever. If my big complaint is that I wanted more pages, I don't really have any complaints.

Review: A Kiss for Midwinter

A Kiss for Midwinter - Courtney Milan

The second shorter work in the Brothers Sinister series. I definitely prefer the novels to the shorts. This one definitely has some interesting scenes, but I found the hero difficult to swallow. Which is too bad, as I love the heroine to pieces. 

Review: The Governess Affair

The Governess Affair - Courtney Milan

Same great prose, characters, and sex as the novel length Brothers Sinister works, but a bit short on plot for my tastes.

 

This story takes place decades before the first novel, but is really best read after the second novel. 

Review: The Edge of the Blade

The Edge of the Blade (The Uncharted Realms) - Jeffe Kennedy

A fantasy Romance with a knife dual wielding heroine. Look at the freaking cover!

 

It's also the second in a series, and the umpteenth in another series, which I did not realize when I picked it up. I think this is the first one from the POV of this heroine, but clearly a lot has happened before this book gets started.

 

This book is not subtle about it's criticism of patriarchy, and while the heroine stays true to her badass self throughout, I do kind of wish she had had more opportunities to use those blades. Fun but not amazing. I may go back and read the first one. That will give me a chance to fill in some obvious blanks, and maybe see some more knife fights.

 

Did I mention that there are knives?

Review: Hawkeye Vol. 5 All-New

Hawkeye Vol. 5: All-New Hawkeye - Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez

Fun, but not amazing. I think I'll keep reading these. I definitely prefer the writing in this one, but it needs more Kate. Always include more Kate. Always.

Review: Gwenpool, the Unbelievable, Vol 1

Gwenpool, the Unbelievable Vol. 1: Believe It - Christopher Hastings, Gurihiru Gurihiru

What an enormous amount of fun. Gwen Poole, real girl, has fallen into comics, a medium she both loves and has myriad issues with. And hopefully myriad issues to explore them in. Join her as she aggressively avoids having an origin story and blows shit up. There's a reason I said "real" and not "normal." This is so much fun! Bullets, explosions, and fourth wall quips.

 

And isn't self awareness and violent women all anyone wants out of fiction?

Review: The Liberation

The Liberation (The Alchemy Wars) - Ian Tregillis

Buckets of blood and competent women. Regardless of whatever the back of the book says, that's what this book is, and what the whole series has been building to. Right, and a clockwork Jesus examining the implications of free will, as if gore and ladies aren't enough.

 

I'm not sure how much more I can say about this book without massive spoilers for the series. A wide variety of women involved in all sides of the conflict. There are some great scenes where different women figure out what the end game of their enemy is (and how they've contributed to making it possible) that are just glorious. 

 

This is the last book in a trilogy that I absolutely recommend.

Review: Babylon's Ashes

Babylon's Ashes - James S.A. Corey

Woo! Polyamourous Space Pirate Queen!

 

This is the best book since the second in the series. It's also one of the few books in the series that isn't plotted around imprisoning a female character - the last one managed to have two different women go missing. And it fixes my only issue with the third book by finally making Pa a POV character. It also closes out one long running arc in favor of opening up a far-more-interesting-to-me future for the series.

 

I  am so looking forward to book 7. 

Review: Rescue, or Royer Goldhawk's Remarkable Journey

Rescue Or, Royer Goldhawk's Remarkable Journal - Amy Leigh Strickland

Okay plot spread over far too long.

 

I'm really glad I did this as an audiobook since it's so freaking repetitive that it benefits from sitting for long periods of time between reading sessions. I am also really annoyed at the audiobook for not balancing the audio so the volume is all over the place. Repetition can provide such wonderful effects in fiction, but like any tool, works only as well as the craftsperson that wields it. Here is a sample from the last paragraph on page 2:

 

I would not have believed the tale of this remarkable journey had I not seen it, written in my father's own hand. These are the secrets that he kept locked away and never spoke about. All of this tells of the scars he never explained, why I never met my grandparents, and why he absolutely refused to visit New York. As I have said before, I never would have believed it, had it not been written in his handwriting.

 

*screams wordlessly into the void*

 

 

Also the writing includes a lot of extraneous details that I couldn't care less about. I seriously don't need the sartorial continuity of knowing not just what the protagonist is wearing, but what he does with the layers he isn't wearing.

 

The most "remarkable" thing about this book is how it can contain so much boring extraneous detail and repetition and only be 160 pages long. First in a series I am unlikley to continue.

Roxane Gay Update - WTF S&S?!

S&S are no longer going to publish that book, but Gay isn't going back with her project. 

 

"After I pulled my book, they changed the release date of Dangerous from March to June 13, the day my next book, Hunger, comes out. I said nothing because I was neither threatened nor concerned but it did reinforce for me that this was not a company I wanted to do business with."

This Year's Nebula Nominees

The Verge pulled together links for the stuff that's on line for free, so I'm linking to their piece rather than building my own list with links. 

 

I've read hardly anything on the this year's list, but wow is that Novel category hot as fuck.