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Books read, late December

A bit late, as the new year has been a series of minor mishaps. Ah well, no one is on a very tight schedule to find out what the last few things I read in 2015 were, I don’t think.

Mike Allen, ed., Mythic Delirium Issue 2.2. Kindle. I find that whenever I get things to read on my Kindle that are also available online, I end up mostly reading them online and then flipping through to confirm that I didn’t miss anything. Up side: this confirmed that it was a very solid issue and I should make more of a point to read Mythic Delirium regularly if this is the sort of stuff they’re putting out. Good to know.

Jedediah Berry, The Manual of Detection. Like if Chesterton and early Lethem had a rain-soaked bike-riding baby. (Okay but I meant that as a compliment.)

Leah Bobet, An Inheritance of Ashes. A heartfelt and beautiful book about the aftermath of war and its effects on the homefront. Also about the ripple effects of abuse in a family, and about keeping the world turning–practically and emotionally–with the limited resources we have, and–stuff. There’s a lot here. Go read it.

Chaz Brenchley, Three Twins at Crater School, Chapters 4-7. Kindle. I read a lot of boarding school books as a kid, and so I was sufficiently excited about Chaz’s Patreon project to let my enthusiasm for it overwhelm my general sense of how serials work for me. These are short chapters. I need to let more story stack up before I read more, because I am impatient for more about the aliens. MOAR ALIENS NOW CHAZ KTHX.

A.C. Buchanan, ed., Capricious Issue 1. Kindle. For me the standout story of the first issue of this new magazine was A.J. Fitzwater’s “She Must.” The way the prose twisted around the fairy tale tropes entertained me. I’ll keep an eye out for more Fitzwater and more Capricious.

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Talents. Reread. This is not one of my favorite of Butler’s body of work. It’s still worth the time–I’m not courting controversy to say that everything of hers is–but the crucial step of how the insightful young teenage refugee becomes the cult leader is elided, dreadfully elided. Swooped through. Skimmed. The heartbreak of the mother-daughter relationship is entirely clear. So the emotional core, she doesn’t flinch from. But the science fiction plot is oddly unbalanced for me this time through. Especially with the end commentary, where Butler is talking about what she did and didn’t know how to do in this story. A partial success, I guess.

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber. I finally got this for Christmas after years of feeling like it should be in every library system I used and not finding it where it was supposed to be. I particularly connected with “The Erl-King” and “The Company of Wolves”–yes, give me the deep forests, I am predictable both as a person and as an ethnotype–but in general it was interesting particularly remembering how early it was in the fairy tale retelling sub-genre, how much it was shaping and informing the things it looked like to my eye.

Diane Duane, Lifeboats. Kindle. A Young Wizards novella that read mostly like fanfic by its own author. Kit and Nita are side players to the main thing going on, deliberately this time, and introduce aliens to crucial Earth culture while they struggle with how to celebrate Valentine’s Day. A reasonably entertaining thing to read on an airplane, but not horribly deep, ends abruptly, uses a really cliched joke/story as its central premise.

Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, The Rabbit Back Literature Society. Finnish magic realism about books mutating and relationships mutating and garden…creatures…and general oddments. Really lovely, less repressed than a lot of fiction that gets translated from the Norden, more overtly speculative than some magic realism and yet still feels like it belongs in that category. Weird stuff. Recommended.

E.K. Johnston, A Thousand Nights. Very, very different from her Owen books. Not as funny. As one might expect from the title, it’s a riff on the Thousand and One Nights story: a desert civilization, a bride telling tales and figuring out how to survive. She is brave and strong, a weaver, a sister, and while this is not Owen and Siobhan, I don’t actually want the authors I like to get stuck doing one thing for their whole careers, so: yeah. Neat different thing.

Naomi Mitchison, Travel Light. A classic I am delighted to encounter. Bears! Dragons! Princesses who go off their own way to do their own dragonish things and stomp around alternately-named Byzantium and decline the opportunities to choose the slain! How could I not love this book from the moment the bears got involved?

William Morris, A Dream of John Ball and A King’s Lesson. Kindle. Two entirely separate things packaged together by Gutenberg. The former is a Robin Hood tale/early Socialist lecture from when you had to have some frame story excuse to be telling a fantasy at all, and it’s largely a discourse on What Was Wrong With England Then And Now. The latter is What Is Wrong With Monarchies. William Morris: fascinating about vegetable dyes, not always Captain Subtlety. I was reading this for research on him and not for pure pleasure; and a good thing too. Unless you also have a research interest in Uncle Will, skip it.

David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861. Entirely about faction politics between formally active white male politicians of some means. Had interesting spots, but if you’re interested in acknowledgment that, for example, Native Americans had agency in this period, or that immigrants were relevant in some way other than as a focus of Know-Nothing ire, this is not the book. It should by no means by the only book on the era anybody reads. For filling in gaps, okay. Nobody in this book likes anybody else in this book. I was relieved when the Fremonts showed up, because they at least appeared to like each other. Then the Fremonts left again abruptly. Drat.

Karina Sumner-Smith, Defiant. Second in its series, definitely wants the first to make sense. Backstory development while forward motion continues, focus on friendship while not losing politics and worldbuilding. Eager to see how the series resolves in the third book, and I’m behind enough on my to-read pile that it’s already available, so.

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 7. Kindle. Another of the “making sure I’ve caught up on what’s in this issue” issue.

Derek Walcott, Omeros. A Homeric epic by a contemporary Caribbean poet. I like the passages about the sea best–yes, who’s being ethnotypical again–but the characterization is fascinating, the places where it draws on the classics and the places where it’s making its own place, engaging in an erudite way with its own locale and making the classical texts feel their own context more strongly. Would like to talk about this with people who have stronger Mediterranean feelings than I have.

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