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Books read, early June

Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest. Vivid modern faery novel that does some interesting second-generation things that are hard to explain without spoilers. I feel like there are some things about family dynamics that it took the Datlow/Windling fairy tale series to drag out in the open 20 years ago, that could only be discussed at the extremes then, that authors like Black can take on with more subtlety now, and can spend more time directly on the heroism of heroines like Hazel and less on what sparked her heroism. It can be a less angry book and still rooted in some of the same themes. There is more complexity of character, more forgiveness and still themes of memory and the power of origins. I do recommend this to people who have liked tales of faery all along; it is moving farther in the direction those anthologies started, not merely rehashing the same ground and yet using a style that I think early fans of those anthologies will enjoy.

Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher, and Karl Kerschel, Gotham Academy Vol. 2: Calamity. I think that ongoing fans of Gotham and DC Comics in general might get more out of this than I did, but on the other hand they might be more annoyed by departures. It’s a boarding school story, featuring Bruce Wayne’s son as a supporting character in one of the storylines–Gotham’s kids, basically. It’s fun stuff so far, not blowing my mind but entertaining enough.

Albert Goldbarth, Adventures in Ancient Egypt, Heaven and Earth, and Popular Culture. Rereads. Of these volumes, Heaven and Earth is the one I got to first the first time I read them, the one that explains why I persevered with Goldbarth back in the day. He was trying to do the most with science in it. And yet the pervasive midcentury sexism that was there the first time I read these poems stifles me now. It…I can deal with midcentury sexism to some extent, but in a lot of these poems it just left me nowhere to stand, no room to breathe, nothing to love. No reason to go back a third time. There were a few beautiful moments, things he loved, and I could even see clear, a little, to why. But I was so desperate for anyone who tried to build a bridge between the arts and the sciences, back in my early twenties. I am less desperate now.

Ben Hatke, Nobody Likes Goblins. Discussed elsewhere.

Laura Lam, False Hearts. Discussed elsewhere.

Gonzalo Lamana, Domination Without Dominance: Inca-Spanish Encounters in Early Colonial Peru. Wow, if there was ever a book that needed its subtitle for a safe search. This is an anti-colonialist book, so it rehashed a great many of the same historical events I read in May but with jargon that recontextualized them. Which I think must be useful, and yet…not as much for me, honestly. I felt like…maybe I’m assuming too much? but a lot of the stuff that the jargon was doing with pointing out that the Spanish experience was not central and universal is stuff that people should be doing all the time anyway. I know, I know: they’re not. Sigh. Also, it was…wow, am I in a particular demographic here…very male anyway. Yeah, I said that. Okay. But it’s true.

Stella Nair, At Home With the Sapa Inca: Architecture, Space, and Legacy at Chinchero. This is an amazing book. Oh wow. It goes into great detail about the buildings involved and what they imply about the life of the high Inca royalty and nobility (and from there, what we can infer about the Inca who were not royalty and nobility). Non-architectural sources–textual sources–are also used extensively, but grounded constantly in the buildings. This is exactly the sort of book I wanted. This is exactly the sort of book you probably want, if you’re interested in the Inca and even possibly if you aren’t. Of all the Inca Imperial material I’ve read, this is the one I would recommend most highly.

George O’Connor, Olympians: Ares, Bringer of War. The publisher has sent me review copies of every other entry in this graphic novel series but this one, so I got it in the library to stay current and be able to talk to my godkids about the series. I was a bit disappointed that O’Connor chose to focus his Ares volume on the Trojan War, basically bringing in almost no obscure or small-scale myth about Ares.

Antti Tuomainen, The Healer. This is a post-climate change mystery thriller set in Finland. It gets described as both spare and vivid. I lean toward the former unless you have just been to Helsinki. Lucky me, I have! So when pieces of Helsinki geography are more mentioned than described, I have just been navigating those streets and remember which ones are which; I can picture from memory rather more than from text. Anyway: serial killer in Helsinki after a very, very extreme climate change but not a lot of science fictional change otherwise. It’s not a book I would recommend widely, but it was an interesting read given my interests.

Clayton Ward., Jr., Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, Joe Guthrie, and Elam Stolzfus, Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition: Everglades to Okefenokee, 1000 Miles in 100 Days. This is mostly pictures–sawgrass, tupelos, cypress. One of Mark’s relatives who lives in Florida liked this and sent it to us for Christmas, and I just got around to looking at it. I like tree pictures, so I liked it too.

G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel: Last Days. Compared to the volume I read last month, this was much better. I know that the apocalyptic scenario here is a larger Marvel comics scenario that Wilson and her team have to work around, but I think they did a lovely job of the characters in crisis. I am not the least bit attached to whatever else is going on in the Marvel universe. This is pretty much the only one I’m reading, because I like Alif the Unseen and wish that Wilson was still writing novels, and this is how I get her work right now.

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