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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: Owl and the Japanese Circus

Owl and the Japanese Circus - Kristi Charish

A fun adventure romp with a few pieces that don't add up and a vampire hunting cat. I'll be interested in reading the next one, but I'm not sure I'm sold on a longer series.


This book was completely not on my radar until Charish's entry in My Favorite Bit, a regular feature on Kowal's blog. It immediately moved to the top of my reading queue. Because:


"her interpretation of the ‘right thing’ is often a little out of the box"

And how could I possibly not be interested in:


"This isn’t the UF heroine who confronts the corrupt institution, brings the bad guys to their knees, and otherwise redeems herself, her career, and probably the corrupt institution. This is the woman who when faced with those odds tells the institution and everyone else involved they can all go to hell."

That. That. I want that. 


I'm not going to quote the bit about her not waiting for a man to save her. It's a clever slight of hand there - a statement that manages to be true and not mean what you think it means.


I have a tendency to like women who are described as unlikeable. The Foz Meadows essay on this topics resonates fairly well with me. And that's as much into media representation analysis as I'm willing to go on this one, because what's on the page is an action packed adventure novel and not societal critique.


Owl can be described in two words, trust issues. She doesn't trust other people. She doesn't trust herself. She's excellent at making a bad situation worse, and a worse situation into an explosion. She's smart and strong, but her creator clearly selected WIS and CHA as dump stats.


And naming a low wisdom character Owl does make me chuckle.


I can't tell if there are some missing pieces in her career demise 3 months from graduation, or if we have different definitions of certain words. With Owl, either of these options is a real possibility.


Her team? I'm on board with all of them. Though less so with Rynn - see below. Captain and Nayda? I love them both. I'm really looking forward to the further adventures of Vampire Hunter Captain.


There are some things I have trouble swallowing, and I'm not sure if it's details I missed (misinterpreted?), details Charish will include in a later book, or just nonsense. 


The unbroken masquerade world presented is laughably nonsensical. I can only think of one person she interacts with in the entire book who isn't either aware of supernaturals or themselves a supernatural. And, hell, it's possible the topic just didn't come up with that one guy. I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's Owl. Maybe there is no masquerade and she's just really unobservant. Maybe supernaturals are like engineers - nobody really talks about them unless they have to directly interact with those assholes (says the woman with three engineering degrees) - and Owl somehow got into her twenties without ever having heard of engineers and concluded no one else had? She makes a lot of claims about a secret organization policing knowledge about engineers, but the only concrete knowledge we actually have: they leave keys in minivans.


In future books I will replace any instance of "supernatural" with engineer.


I'm also unclear, and rather uncomfortable in my lack of clarity, on the events of the night where she sleeps with Rynn. He claims she took him to bed, and she was so drunk she can't remember. If I believe what he says to her, I feel like I missed out on a good sex scene. If I work only from what Owl remembers (and this is 1st person) I'm fairly uncomfortable with this. Either way, I think her issues with that evening are ENTIRELY DIFFERENT than mine.


Plot wise, there's a little too much convenience in the last quarter of the book. How they actually locate the artifact seriously pushes, but not quite breaks my suspension of disbelief. The reason why they need her to translate it? Did I completely miss the forshadowing for that with the engineers? Or was something so obvious left of the page until the plot required it. Next ones I can't write without spoilers:


The game. The mother fucking RPG. Two things (at least two things) here.


Given that we've now been told engineers can't interpret flat isometrics as 3D spaces, see moving 3D movies as sound and color without content, and get headaches trying to draw it, how is an elf a regular in that game? I feel like I'm missing something here. Like one of us doesn't understand the line between 2 and 3 D graphics - it is possible it is me. She describes 3D interactions in the dungeon crawl gone wrong, and noted the difference between the 2D magic view and 3D visible light views. And one of her regular players is a engineer? The graphics are just that good? 


The game has realistic versions of archaeological sites complete with traps. Uh, what? She thinks this is cool instead of looking up the makers to figure out how the fuck that is. Also, why the hell was she using google to look for a way into a dig site instead of that game? How could you possibly be better prepared than playing through a simulation?

(show spoiler)


So, yeah, a fun book. I liked it quite a bit. I'll have a few glasses of wine with the next one, though. That will deal with most of my criticisms.