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Books read, late September

Susan Jane Bigelow, The Demon Girl’s Song. Discussed elsewhere.

Chaz Brenchley, A Day on the Water and Three Twins at Crater School Chapters 9-18. Kindle. I am terrible at reading serials. One chapter at a time is drastically unsatisfying. One stand-alone Mars boarding school adventure novella plus ten chapters, however, is enough of a chunk of story that it doesn’t leave me feeling completely unsatisfied. Just eager for more. This rollicks. It is both light and earnest in ways that most of my current reading does not manage. I only wish it was done as a book already.

Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Mark read this before I did, and he said, “I’m in the middle of this book, and everybody is being nice to each other.” They are, mostly. Within whatever they’re able to do. These are people who are trying their best for each other. I find this refreshing. The fact that the word “angry” appears in the title is not at all a reflection of the emotional tone of the book, which is hopeful. Also this book is full of lots of different kinds of sentients from different planets working together. They have varying culture, individual personalities, orientations, senses of what orientations are possible (in oh so many ways)…and they perk along doing their best, and sometimes there is a crisis. If it sounds like you want this, yes, probably you do.

Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton. This is a magisterial biography. It’s the one that Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired by when writing his show, so of course there are clear throughlines there. Do you want 700 pages of Alexander Hamilton? Maybe you do. To me this is not like the Morris bio of Teddy Roosevelt where you might want to read it even if you don’t already know you want to, because it’s that good. To me this is just a really good bio of Alexander Hamilton, not a category-transcending work of nonfiction. But quite a few people want a really good bio of Alexander Hamilton at the moment, and you know what, this is one.

Paul Cornell, Don’t Worry, You Aliens. Kindle. Melancholy empty-world short, beautiful.

C. C. Finlay, ed., F&SF March 2016 sample. Kindle. I think I sort of see the point of doing a sampler like this, where there’s not much fiction and a ton of nonfiction. But I think it may not be doing F&SF a service when they’re putting it out to try to get people to subscribe, because I think that while the nonfiction they publish is fine, I don’t think that’s their main point, and giving people a “sampler” that isn’t really a sampling may not get as many readers. On the other hand: giving away content that you are accustomed to receiving pay for is a difficult proposition to sort out, and maybe this will work just fine. I hope so.

Haikasoru eds. (Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington), Phantasm Japan. There is a structural strangeness in this volume that works out great for me: Zachary Mason’s A Tale of Japan shorts are a series of very short stories throughout the volume. I don’t recall ever seeing this sort of thing in an anthology before–linked short shorts, yes, but mostly all mashed up in one spot. I liked them, and I liked having another one coming along as a palate cleanser between other stories. Other stand-outs in the volume were Project Itoh’s “From Nothing With Love” and Miyuki Miyabe’s “Chiyoko.”

Andrew Leon Hudson, ed., Ecotones: Ecological Stories from the Border Between Fantasy and Science Fiction. Kindle. Sometimes in a sub-genre you like there will be chunks of it you really don’t like. That happens to me with environmental SF and fantasy with things that are basically horror universe stories: stories of an actively, consciously hostile universe, stories in which the fabric of the universe is Angry At Us. I see why this is tempting, but I feel that it actually undermines the workings of indifference: there doesn’t have to be some conscious entity “at home” in order for things to go badly haywire with an environment. Ah well; not all anthologies are for all readers.

Leena Krohn, Datura. Kindle. A plant-focused vaguely hallucinatory Finnish phantasmagoric sort of thing. I want more Leena Krohn in English.

Cixin Liu, Death’s End. Discussed elsewhere.

Jean M. O’Brien, Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians Out of Existence in New England. An intriguing thing to write a study of–how the language white writers use and the things white writers highlight create attitudes about Native peoples in this region–but after pointing out some simple but meaningful things about “the first baby born in this village” and “the last [person of insert tribe here] died, leaving three children and fourteen grandchildren” and what each type of language assumption meant for white and Native peoples in the region, it handled itself with examples that did not seem to further illuminate. So this should be a small piece in your understanding rather than a big one, I think. Fine enough if you have no grander expectations of it.

Sarah Porter, Vassa in the Night. Discussed elsewhere.

Cherie Priest, The Family Plot. Discussed elsewhere.

Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, and Michi Trota, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issues 8-12. Kindle. I have this thing where I don’t tend to go to read online issues of Uncanny straight through because I get them on my Kindle, but then I don’t read my Kindle very much at home. So I end up with piles of things I want to read but have not read yet for obscure, personal, not-very-good reasons. Some highlights I hadn’t encountered yet included Maria Dahvana Headley’s “The Virgin Played Bass,” Sarah Rees Brennan’s “The Spy Who Never Grew Up,” and Aliette de Bodard’s “A Hundred and Seventy Storms.” Every time I let things pile up like this, it becomes clear that I’m missing out. And yet not, because the stories are still there when I come around to them.

Lavie Tidhar, ed. The Apex Book of World SF Volume 1. Quite often I want a volume like this to introduce me to new authors, people I haven’t read yet. In this volume, the stories I liked best were by authors whose work I already knew: S.P. Somtow and Aliette de Bodard. On the other hand, it’s churlish to complain about having gotten good stories from any source, so I won’t.

Fran Wilde, Cloudbound. Discussed elsewhere.

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