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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: Paper Girls Vol 3

Paper Girls Volume 3 - Brian K Vaughan

Not as good as previous volumes, but it would be hard to keep up the same amazing, dynamite good times forever. And this issue is bad times all around, from the plight of the character in the local timeline, to the ill fated time traveler they meet along the way, bad things happen to every woman in this volume. 


And can we just stop publishing anything men have to say about women getting their periods? Like, forever? In general, it hasn't bothered me that all of the creative team on this book is men, but for that specific subplot, I do not have enough eye rolling to convey my disappointment.


Over at goodreads, karen wrote an extremely accurate response to reading this, and included some panels. Including a screen shot of one of the last pages, which left me super interested in the next volume even if I didn't love this.

Review: Gwenpool, the Unbelievable, Vol 2

Gwenpool, The Unbelievable Vol. 2: Head of M.O.D.O.K. TPB - Christopher Hastings, Irene Strychalski

Not nearly as strong as the first volume. The conclusion was pretty cool, but the journey was merely adequately executed. The jokes in this one felt a little thin, and I fear Gwen is in danger of actually learning something in the next volume. Still, I will try volume 3 in hopes of more good times and explosions.

Review: Battle Hill Bolero

Battle Hill Bolero - Daniel José Older

The conclusion of the Bone Street Rumba, a wonderful UF trilogy with some short fiction I still haven't gotten around to, was quite satisfying, but perhaps not as strong a read as the second book. Book three follows through on the plots opened in the previous two, but lacks the POV character that made book 2 so amazing, the dapper AF gun toting lesbian. She's still around, but rarely on screen.

Review: The Stone Sky

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth) - N.K. Jemisin

The concluding volume in a trilogy whose first 2 entries both won a Hugo, this will be on my ballot next year. This series is great. This conclusion is brilliant and has pay off for so many world building hooks I'm surprised it isn't 1000 pages long. 


My favorite minor reveal is the origin of Safe, a drink mentioned only a few times that has endlessly practical applications in a world periodically ravaged by apocalypses. 


Jemisin is brilliant and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Review: Food of the Gods

Food of the Gods: A Rupert Wong Novel - Cassandra Khaw

I encountered this by way of a tweet from the author quoting a sexist negative review that compared the gore herein to Kameron Hurley as though that were a bad thing. So of course I purchased it immediately.


This is two shorter works with the same protagonist presented in three parts. The protagonist is a cannibal chef, not in that he eats people, but that he cooks them for gods. Gods who are almost universally assholes wielding binding contracts and treating humans like so much meat. Are the Gods patriarchy, capitalism, or just assholes, many readings will work.


The first part is an entire noir detective novel in a single act without drenching the protagonist in misogyny. On the one hand, it never feels slow, on the other, Khaw somehow found room to squeeze in a workers' rights discussion. Part of the break neck pace is the way world building is integrated into action sequences and gore feasts. Khaw taking the approach that her reader has probably read some urban fantasy at some point and doesn't need a tutorial. And that her reader also has the internet if they need to look up some entity in some pantheon.


Then we get to part 2, and, after an exciting episode of Iron Chef where the ingredient is porn star, things feel a bit less intense. A large part of this section is the protagonist being carried from scene to scene with no agency beyond being mouthy. There are narrative reasons for this, though, so I can't really call it a flaw. Probably more a reflection on the luxury of choices available to me as a middle class white woman than a criticism of the work. 


Part 3 is love and splatterpunk with tentacles and I am so very pleased to have found yet another bloodletting feminist good time this year.


If you thought American Gods had some neat ideas but was kind of long winded and had a boring protagonist, may I suggest this as an alternative?


I had never heard of Khaw before, but now I want to read everything she has published. I've already downloaded her latest, Bearly A Lady.

Review: Duck Duck God

Duck Duck God - José Iriarte

A fun short piece that manages to be warm, weird, and insightful at the same time. Iriarte's fiction is all interesting and worth reading, and this is no exception.

How is everyone?

By the time Irma got here last night, she wasn't as hard and heavy as feared. So I am pleased to report no flooding in the crawl space and no trees down. I was kind of worried about the latter. 

Food of the Gods: A Rupert Wong Novel - Cassandra Khaw
"Do not ever forget what you are. Meat. Food for the worms, food for the ghouls. Walking, talking, shitting food."

Review: Strange Practice

Strange Practice (A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel) - Vivian Shaw

So . . . from the cover and description, I totally did not get that this was set in present day London. Only now am I noticing the London Eye visible through the window. Expectations completely off. On the one hand, I do love that it isn't bare midriff, tits and ass both out somehow, knife holding, and all that, but on the other, I wonder how many UF readers will pass right over this cover.


Whatever. Marketing gonna market. 


A very interesting book, for sure. Not so much action packed as tense and domestic in a very satisfying way. It starts with Greta (and, thus the reader) learning of the existence of the primary protagonists and just goes straight into the plot rather than spend the first 20% establishing yet another unbroken masquerade world. She knows what is what and Shaw, wonderfully, doesn't waste time assuming we don't. While "physician to things that go bump in the night" feels quite fresh as  a premise, this book isn't so much about selling a novel UF concept as about giving the reader characters and friendships to care about. Let's save the day is ancillary to let's help each other and not do anything dumb that will get us killed.


She hits a lot of the points I look for in a UF heroine but spends most of this book being frustrated and begrudgingly accepting offers to help. She holds a job and doesn't magically get stronger because the plot requires it. She also isn't hit on by every man she meets, just some of them. Sadly, like too much UF I've read, this cast is heavily male. Greta is the only POV character who isn't a man. The villains are all male. She has two female friends who do help, but from almost exclusively off screen. And, of course, one of them gets hurt leading Greta with guilt for something other people did.




That said, the stuff I liked far outweighs the stuff I am tired of. I'm quite looking forward to the next book in this trilogy. A very satisfying read indeed.

Review: Bitch Planet Vol 2

Bitch Planet Volume 2: President Bitch - Kelly Sue DeConnick

Powerful and compelling reading, just like the first volume. Interested to see what happens next.

Review: Clean Room Vol 3

Clean Room Vol. 3: Waiting for the Stars to Fall - Gail Simone, Jon Davis-Hunt

This series continues to kick ass and cost me sleep. Love the writing, love the art. I don't want to give anything away for those who haven't tried. If you're up for a violent, creepy, weird ride full of awesome female characters, try this series out!

Review: Coed Demon Sluts: Beth

Coed Demon Sluts: Beth - Jennifer Stevenson

This is one that came to my attention via John Scalzi's regular feature The Big Idea. From the title and blurb, this looks like erotica, but in the post it is referred to as paranormal women's fiction. Which is apparently where chick lit meets UF, and I am a big fan of that combo. 


Let's face it, UF and PNR are pretty bad about depicting relationships between women. Often the central cast is all male aside from the heroine, but any other women that make an appearance are victims or villains. 


This is not that.


This is also the second book I've read recently that lets women be monsters and own it, which is also pretty great. A light, fun romp that occasionally kicks you in the feels. Where the heroine needs to learn to love herself, but does so through a support network of women. Every man she meets wants to fuck her, but that's treated as hilarious rather than an indicator of her specialness.


I may need to pick up the omnibus edition.

Review: The Rift

The Rift - Nina Allan

So boring I only made it to 25%. At some point, I'm sure we'll get to the part of the book described on the back cover, but so far it's just the sad, boring life of a sad, boring person who I am very done with. 

Review: Strange Dogs (Expanse Novella)

Strange Dogs: An Expanse Novella (The Expanse) - James S. A. Corey

This may be my favorite installation in the Expanse short fiction published so far. The protagonist is interesting and the alien world is sufficiently weird. I do hope this ties into one of the upcoming books.


I'm of two minds about the ending. On the one hand, fuck yeah, but on the other, it felt rather abrupt. Like we had only just gotten going when suddenly we stop. That isn't even a real criticism from me, though. See every review of a novella I have and you'll see me make a similar complaint time and time again.

Review: Just One Damned Thing After Another

Just One Damned Thing After Another - Jodi Taylor

Epic title.


The premise of this is quite similar to Connie Willis' Oxford Time Travel books, but the plot, characters, tone, basically everything else, is completely different. So rather than make direct comparisons, let's just consider both to be part of the same sub genre of Time Travelling Academics.


I admit, I almost didn't make it out of the first few chapters. The prose felt very rough, and the story itself wasn't grabbing me. Too much slow intro on the premise and too much time spent learning the names of characters who wouldn't make it through training. But as soon as we get to time travel, I had a great time.




I do feel that the second attempted rape was a bit much. Largely because the events leading up to it were just dumb. The first one felt gratuitous, but fit into context. The second was just a shit cherry on top of a melting shit cream sunday of a subplot.


I like the protagonist. I like that the author drops things that look like foreshadowing, but are as likely to be recontextualizations as premonitions. I like the sense of humor a lot. And I'm definitely interested in reading more of these. 

Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss


I had a hard time putting this down. Not exactly action packed, but compelling in a way that made for a few late nights where I needed to see what would happen next.


The second book I've read this year structured so that the "author" is one of the protagonists. Though in this case, one not met until well into the narrative, but known more quickly by name thanks to sections of fourth wall breaking conversations characters have about the in progress manuscript's content. 


This is also the I-don't-know-th Sherlock Holmes I've encountered this year. So many Holmeses that it is a bit of a relief to have him be a secondary character. 


Rather, this book follows the monsters, the left behind experiments of the mad scientists so familiar from remake after new take, never mind their creations. 


This book is what Penny Dreadful would be if it had substance and heart and consistent characters and I enjoyed it very much.