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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
The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes I’m writing this review for [a:Wm Morris|5311981|Wm Morris|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1320610576p2/5311981.jpg], who said he wanted to know what I thought of this book, so if I happen to say anything that you find interesting, be sure to thank him. Because this is the kind of book I’d ordinarily mark as four stars and fill the review with little <3's and move on. I'm the sort of terrible person who, given nothing to criticize, has nothing to say. But here I am trying to explain myself when I don’t even know how to organize all these thoughts I am having.

First. Beukes has written a primer in how to write misogyny without being misogynistic. It’s rather beautiful in how she’s managed to write violence in a way that isn’t sexy. How she’s managed to include a POV character who gets off on murdering women in a way that doesn’t objectify his victims. Part of the trick is who’s POV she selects for each murder scene. Sometimes the victim, and sometimes the killer. The ones from the killer’s POV all have a common thread that I’m not going to ruin for you, dear future reader of this fabulous book.

Second. Wow is it nice to read something that feels so well researched without that research being crammed down my throat. She’s not going to build you a map of Chicago, there’s no time! And yet so many details from so many different times.

Fifth. I do so love time travel books. Even bad ones. And this isn’t a bad one. Sure, she’s not going to take the time to explain the mechanics to you , dear reader. You’ve seen it before or you haven’t. There are rules, and they’re stated, but not explained nor dwelt on. Close the loops. You need a ticket. The House only goes from here to here. That’s the easy stuff. The harder stuff is that now I’m a little afraid to step into the blue box with the charming fellow. I’ve seen this described as not like Doctor Who time travel, and I don’t understand how a mysterious man appearing out of nowhere and irreparably altering the lives of everyone he touches isn’t exactly like the Doctor. He even has a Companion for a while. (Hint: that doesn’t end well.) I could write at length about all the ways this is exactly like Doctor Who. Or not.

Third. I’m a big fan of short, choppy sentences. When. Used. Well. Not like I just did, but like she does. All the chapters are short. Furtive glimpses. Hurried moments. Not random flashes of nonsense. The opportunity to put this down presented every few minutes. Yet I never wanted to put it down.

Fourth. Here I’ll struggle a bit because I’ve been feeling lately like genre writing is too confined by its tropes, and this book makes me think maybe I’m wrong and have just been reading so much crap. Because, here’s the thing, she’s not doing anything new with time travel or the House or the assaulted-girl- turned-investigator. We’ve seen all these things before, but not in this particular formula. I’d make a list of books, but that would be rather spoilery, right? But all that genre shorthand didn’t get on my nerves because it’s just the framework for interesting characters to share.

I’m not even sure why I’m not giving it that 5th star. I can’t think of anything I didn’t like, but I also didn’t quite love it enough. Someone else, please read this and tell me how wrong I am.