maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-05-20 07:20 pm
Entry tags:

Interim Hugo reading post

Finished:
Ninefox gambit by Yoo Ha Lee. This was such an odd reading experience. I wouldn't have picked it up had it not been for the Hugos, and I'm glad I read it, But! It felt like there was an amazing book under this layer of language that I wasn't literate in At All. So I had the gist of what was going on, and tantalising hints of what the world building must be under all of that, but none of the deep understanding. For all that I rail against clunky exposition and over explaining, I really could have used some here. The segments where we briefly follow soldiers on the ground, or an assassin going about their work, were legit pleasures of characterisation and storytelling and tension, but the overall work? *flails* I have no idea how to rank this one.

Up next:
Probably The obelisk gate frankly because it's only a hundred page sample, and I can knock that out relatively quickly.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-05-08 09:49 pm
Entry tags:

Reading meme, which is basically just "The Hugos" for a while

Have finished:
Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu [sample chapter/s]. I read this a little while ago, so it’s blurring a bit. It’s the third in a series that naturally requires the first two books, by that read. The treatment of a voluntary euthanasia also left a bad taste in my mouth for indefinable reasons, so I’ll leave it at the sample chapter.

The city born great by N. K. Jeminsin: Huh. Not a bad read, but it only grabbed me for one elecrtifying paragraph 2/3rds of the way in and then it let go again. Well written and solid, but not outstanding on first read, or as the first short story of the lot.

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong: holy hell. This was gripping and transfixing, but was sort of like watching a battle on a tightrope: I couldn’t look away, but I also wanted somewhere stable to stand. I’m super into time loop/reiterations but I wanted a touch more grounding. Top of the list so far for language alone, though.

“Our talons can crush galaxies” by Bo Bolander: fuck, I love her langauge so much. This gets a remarkable amount across for something so short, and does it well.

Paper girls, vol. 1 a group of girls in 1988 on their paper run ride into... welp. I wavered on this early on, and then I realised it was because boys get this story all the time, and this was Stranger Things with girls, and in fact was in many ways more original than Strangers Things and fuck yeah, I’m here for this and legit want to read more. The artwork didn’t do much for me, but the story was more than enough to keep me transfixed to the page. These girls are flawed and complicated and fundamentally just kids and <3. It's also interesting and original enough that I actively want to go find Vol. 2.

Black Panther: A nation under our feet by written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze.
This felt more like a part 3 that had to suddenly cater for an influx of new readers, rather than an actual start of a new series. It did it as best it could, but this new reader was still left confused and adrift for a good chunk of it. There were many things to love: Fierce elderly black matriarchs! Queer black female fighters! I didn’t care that I couldn’t tell whose side the fighters were on! Things pulled together in the last few parts (they were on the ... bad guys’ side? Maybe?), but I’m left hesitating about how to rank the volume as a whole. It has made me interested enough in Black Panther and Wakanda to make me want to go and pick up the first volume of the previous series, so that’s something.

Monstress by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda.
God. Okay, *this* is how you introduce a new world. They get all the advantages over Black Panther because they know everyone’s coming cold to Monstress, but still, this was skilled weaving of story, worldbuilding, and action in positively lush artwork. The first chapter was also viscerally, brutally violent (prisoners being tortured, characters being mutilated for cannibalism-type purposes) and so claustrophobically well done that I was left feeling sort of nauseated even though it’s still images. I’d seriously considered putting it down, but the violence eases and makes way for the characters and the rest of the world. There are women everywhere! Guards, antagonists, protagonists. It’s fascinating: magic and war and multiple factions and species within both sides. It really does feel like something I’ve never read before, and I’m interested to pick up the next volume.

Ms Marvel vol 5: Super famous by written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa.
I nearly didn’t pick this up - I bought it in support of the actual diverse side of Marvel, but I hadn’t really clicked with the comic a few years back; the comic already had a Hugo (Yay!), it was Volume 5 of a bunch I hadn’t read, blah blah blah. I am SO GLAD I picked this up. The bumpy backstory has made way for a character and narrative that in this volume hits the ground running and effortlessly powers through. There’s unremarked diversity all over the place (unremarked lesbian parents, a guy being raised by his grandparents, and of particular note: a fat girl gets a) drawn, b) drawn respectfully, and gets to be a love interest, and be funny and sharp, and utterly unashamed about the fact that she eats food and enjoys it <3 <3 <3). It’s also warm and funny and it’s made me laugh out loud on the train and want to hug the book to my chest. Seriously, this is so wonderfully feel-good and tackles things like work/life balance and figuring out what you want and hero-dom, and - I can’t believe I need to say it, but HYDRA are still the baddies! It’s going to be a *tough* call between this, Monstress, and Paper girls, Jesus.

(Side note: Vision is the last Hugo graphic novel nomination, but I’d already racked up a rather large comics book bill, and I’m sideeyeing the premise in ways I can’t immediately put my finger on. I’ll read it if it’s in the Hugo packet. Also Saga 6, which I have bought, but with limited reading time, and they’ve already won a Hugo, and there’s a bunch of volumes to catch up on... etc etc another one for the packet)

Currently reading:
Ninefox gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. Because it was cheap on Amazon, honestly, and right there when I opened up the app (curse easy purchase!). And the sample was good. And then I’m reading along and in the next few pages there’s a caual nbd mention of the main character “the last time she’d been playing this particular game had been against the pretty female communications technician she was dating, Shuos Alaia...” \o/. Feeling v good about my $4-or-so purchase :D

Up next:
Ninefox is going to take me a while, but then I'll jump to the short stories to knock those out.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-04-25 10:23 pm
Entry tags:

Wednesday reading meme.../ Hugo reading

Have read:
A closed and common orbit by Becky Chambers. Oh my god, this was a delight on so many levels. Long way was like the moon shot that didn’t quite make it, but the potential was So Close, and here she’s tightened her focus, taken the shot and freaking nailed it. I almost wish the blurb had been a paragraph shorter, and am glad I didn’t read it too closely as it was, because drawing the dots betweeJane and Sidra was this quiet little satisfying click all of its own.

The characterisation and the thinking about what it would be like to be an AI dropped into a body was so good -- Sidra wanting to stand in the corner on a table to mimic a security camera angle, for example. And wanting to be a ship again but also wanting to be a part of people’s worlds, and ugh, feels. The external tension of Jane’s survival is also wonderful and Owl <3 <3. I give particular brownie points for the narrative sounding like a 10/14/18 year olds as she ages. It was an interesting, curious thing to me that Chambers close to make the meat/threat animals so explicitly feral dogs when she could have created a different species of threat entirely. Content note for killing and eating of dogs, if that’s something you’d rather not read. But it’s so well worth reading. Strongly rec. Although I suspect the rest of the novel category is going to be just as strong, so voting this year is going to be hard.

Hugo sampling:
Context: I’m a slow reader, comparatively, so the novel category is the biggest ask of my time (I’m going to carefully turn aside from the new series category!) so I read the amazon samples of the books to make a judgement call on time vs payoff etc etc, and all these impressions are of the first chapter/s of each accordingly.

All the birds in the sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I was sideeyeing the voice of the bird So Hard, and not convinced by the narrative voice, either, and then I got totally sucked in by the invention of the wristwatch that timetravels ... two seconds forwards. That invention, and specfically how it’s handled, definitely got my interest enough to want to pick it up properly.

Ninefox gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. I... I had no idea what was going on for 80% of this. And yet, I read all of it, and ... and. Complicated thoughts. Had it been a year or two ago I would have put it down much earlier as a Puppy pick -- Very Srs Military Bizness. And yet it was Very Compelling very srs military bizness, even though reading it made me feel utterly non-fluent in whatever fantasy/sci-fi ness was going down here. A single kudos for a female protagonist (although having now consumed a steady diet of Kameron Hurley, one lone special female character just Doesn’t Cut It, there has to be women integrated throughout now for me to trust that. That said, it was a legit brave choice to have that dense a world building plus battle without explaination, AND to pull it off that compellingly. It gives me hope for the rest of the book. Will pick it up.

The Obelisk gate by N. K. Jemisin. For some reason I wanted to not like this, and not get sucked back into this world. I’m not even sure why now (I think there was a review that talked about how grim and bleak it was), but I’m pulled back in regardless. Will pick it up.

Currently reading: Am not so much in between books right now as in between sample chapters, but still....

Up next: Sample chapters of:

Death’s end by Cixin Liu. Final/3rd book in a series that I haven’t read is going to be a tall order to pull me in, but I’m curious given the first was 2015’s Hugo novel winner. Anyone able to tell me if knowing the first two is Essential or not?

Too like the lightning by Ada Palmer. It’s not available on amazon.com.au that I can see (*curses*), so getting the sample chapters to my phone is slightly more cumbersome. But the first few chapters are also up on Tor.com here so, score!

After these two I’ll probably jump straight to the novelettes (see here for an excellent compilation of Where to Find the 2017 Hugo Finalists For Free Online so I can start Finishing Things and have categories ticked off before the actual packet lands. So goes the theory!
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-04-20 04:34 pm
Entry tags:

Wednesday reading meme.../ Hugo reading

Have finished:
The geek feminist revolution by Kameron Hurley. Continued to be excellent. I’m so glad this made the Hugo finalists. I wanted a reference list/publication dates for the essays because there’s such a gulf in my head between pre-45th president and now (her article about the Affordable Care Act and how it saved her life is particularly gutting), that I wanted a context for how soon the Terrible Things were looming when she wrote various things. But this is still excellent. Going to vote it highly, I say not having cracked Carrie Fisher’s book yet.

The stars are legion by Kameron Hurley. The world building is fascinating (all-women populations on organic spaceships the size of worlds) and I want to know All The Details of this brutal, amazing creation. But the main character has amnesia (which is a trope that sometimes works for me, often doesn’t), and the other characters didn’t give me the details I craved. I’m hoping she might put out short stories after the fact, and would 100% join her Patreon to read whatever she put out about it.

Currently reading:
A closed and common orbit by Becky Chambers. A few pages in, and super delightedly charmed. This has that wavering potential to be awful for me, or excellent: I’m so distressingly squicked by the ‘aliens [or in this case AIs in first-time human bodies] fumble through human interactions for the lols’ trope, and so delighted and comforted by ‘people help newly-landed whoever integrate kindly and well’. I trust Chambers so far, but am reading carefully.

Up next:
Not sure. Might fall back on my old strategy of reading the Amazon samples of the rest of the Hugo novel finalists and seeing what hooks me in.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-04-04 08:20 pm
Entry tags:

Reading meme

Have finished:
Amulet 6: Escape from Lucien. - this took a sharp turn to the mecha. I’m not averse to giant human-controlled robots, but I wasn’t expecting them in my previously-solidly-fantasy story. Once I adjusted, though, we were back on track with cute characters and a rollicking story.

The long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers. This is a first novel, and it shows in ways that I itch to tweak (emotional beats that I want to strengthen, two-ish too many characters to handle, a little overtly barrow-pushy) but these are really just the quibbles that stand out because the book otherwise has such heart, and such a solid core. The more I read and settled into it, the more I grew to like it. Talk of humanity and cultural differences and queer relationships and found family and comfort touch. Near the end, when something actually happens, I was riveted and worrying for this found family and grieving with them. The sequel looks like it’s also going to give me so many pleasing tropes to roll around in, and I burningly want to get my hands even though I’ve got more pressing things on my to-read list.

I hadn’t wanted to nominate quite so blindly for the Hugos (the sequel was eligible, as was I guess both of them as a series), so I’m holding my breath for the reveal in a few hours.

Currently reading:
The geek feminist revolution by Kameron Hurley. So I said I didn’t want to nominate blindly, which is true, but I nominated this collection of essays before I bought it. In my defence it wasn’t quite blindly: I continue to be blown away by We have always fought from some years back; the Amazon sample came out swinging, and it was endorsed by George R. R. Martin.

Now that I’m actually reading it, it is such a personal and brutally honest take on her life and her writing. It’s at once the comfort of the feminist women who have come before, and the uncomfortable knowledge that she’s there in front of you/me and explaining that there’s no one else to do this work: we must stand together. I have the urge to highlight passages and write !!! in the margins. *watches clock for the Hugo finalists*

Up next: (space cleared for interesting-looking Hugo works :D :D)
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2017-03-17 09:42 pm

Reading meme

Have finished:
Amulet volumes 3, 4, & 5, too sleepy to look up the proper titles: continues to be charming of character and gorgeous of art. Has "And then the fire nation attacked!" level of worldbuilding that, like The Last Airbender, then builds on it to say pleasing things about loyalty and character and power (and who gets that power and why and how). Volume five made me gasp a "wow" out loud, and then an "oh fuck" at the end. I'm really impressed with all of it.

DNF (did not start?): Ghost talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal. I'd been so delighted by her short fiction a while back, and had been stoked to read a book of hers, but when I read the Amazon sample, I was startled and sadened by how clunky and wooden it was. Maybe it's the difference between first and third person, but sadface!

Just finished a minute ago: I'd been planning to Much Hugo short fiction reading from Abigail Nussbaum's short fiction post, but I only read a few, and nomination deadline is hard approaching.

I did read Gracia by Susana Vallejo, translated by Lawrence Schimel) which I haven't nominated. It was really good! But I find the 'genuine no-hope' stories, even (or maybe especially) the quiet ones, where no more children are being born and things are just drifting to a stop a-la Children of men really unsettling. It's not the story's fault, and I give it kudos for its effectiveness, even but still. I hope others can love it like it deserves.

Brushwork by Aliya Whiteley. This I did nominate. One of the complaints I have about Old man's war by John Scalzi (which I adored, btw) was that it never felt like the POV character was actually old. In Brushwork, they are that old, and they're feeling it, and feeling the eyes of the young people who come to raid the compound the characters are living/being held in and I'm too tired for a porper review but I really liked it, for all that it needed a final edit.

Up next: Now that the first part of the Hugos are essentially done, I can curl up with other reads. I'm looking foward to starting The long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers which is on my bedside table right now even.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-07-27 10:46 pm
Entry tags:

Wednesday reading meme.../ Hugo reading

This is both recounting reading and doubling as my Hugo writeups, so!

What I finshed An absolute fuck-ton, for me, over the last two weeks.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit): aaahhhh! I read it, and then flailed a lot and was very spoilery in the comments of my last DW entry. After some debate and a lot of considering of the details, it’s going on the top of my Novel ballot.


(BEST NOVELETTE)
“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015) ahhhh! Reposting review here from a few weeks ago: I. Fucking. Loved it. It took me a while to settle into the sheer amount of swearing, but once I did I was making delighted little noises at my screen. I loved the main character, I believed wholeheartedly in her grudging admittance of her feelings, and grinned fiercely at the ending. I’ll be looking up other things by Bolander, for sure.

“Flashpoint: Titan” by CHEAH Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House) Chose not to read anything published by or directly associated with Theodore Beale. Life’s too short and he’s too gross.

“Obits” by Stephen King. *makes face* What a nasty little story. Guy who writes trashy, nasty obituaries for dead celebrities finds he can write the deaths of people still alive. Guy objectifies the shit out of the women he works with, and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Plus, Character finds they have a Skill, Skill has unintended consequences, character stops doing Skill is… a nice set up, but it’s barely a story. I finished it because I usually really like King. This, not so much. The realisation that he’s still writing this type of male POV in 2015 is depressing. I’ve put this below No Award.

“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan‐Feb 2015): That’s more like it. Well executed concept that’s woven into the tale of a character and his few days running illegal and profitable message running between the First and Second Spaces of Beijing that literally fold up the city at regular intervals. Well-crafted, and uses the physical division of the city to talk about class and labor and etc. It tempted with questions and answered at least one satisfyingly. The language was somewhat wooden, but I’ll chalk that up to translation. It could have gone into slightly more depth, maybe, but it’s still a solid entry in what was otherwise a rather weak/Castalia House field.

“What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House (see above)

(GRAPHIC NOVELS)
The Divine written by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka (First Second): Meh. Had good potential. I would have ranked it higher if I thought it was going to be an ongoing series of some kind, and therefore had the potential to achieve some depth. As it is, it’s a relatively shallow, macho-military hyper-violent type story, which… meh.

Erin Dies Alone written by Grey Carter, art by Cory Rydell (dyingalone.net): Webcomic, and a delightful one. A mentally ill young woman (agoraphobic? Social anxiety? Hasn’t left her house in some years) uses computer games to cope. And then the characters from her games start rocking up. This is charming, funny, and touching. There’s speculation here that the rabid puppies nomination was for the title alone, and that Beale hates someone called Erin and has no idea what it’s actually about. I’m inclined to agree, and have stuck it at the top of my ballot. I read all of it, even the half that wasn’t eligible for a Hugo having been published in 2016, I’ll be checking back on this one every now and then to keep up with it, even. Hugo worthy? Close enough.

Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams (ffn.nodwick.com). Double-meh, or half a meh, depending on what’s weaker. A long-running stand-alone webcomic that from what I can see from google images is all deep within tabletop gaming and seems very, very male. Which is fine, but I’m noticeably not its audience.

Invisible Republic Vol 1 written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, art by Gabriel Hardman (Image Comics): Complicated and relatively compelling story of a journalist who finds an alternate take on the rise of the revolution/ruler that’s just fallen. Sci-fi was more of the backdrop, here, but the characters that inhabited the alternate take were suitably flawed and complicated and I liked many of them. Female lead (sort of. Mostly), and casually married gay characters! Nearly tempted to find the second volume, even.

(Side short story)
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong (found poking around the John W Campbell award finalists): Hella compelling tale, tightly crafted, confidently written, and very unsettling. Also queer as in NBD, and I read all 7000 words unhesitatingly in one sitting. A+. (Content notes for creepy as-fuck guys and a serial killer) This actually bumps Andy Weir off top spot for me -- mainly because while I loved The Martian, the guy now has a movie deal under his belt, and I'm betting Wong is waaaayy less known. So.

Currently reading:
The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo): I’d read several of the original Sandman graphic novels, but they and I never quite clicked aside from the character of Death. As of writing, I'm half way through. The art is gorgeous but it’s so far-ever-so self-aware of itself as a book and verging on too smug for its own good. Still reading, but this isn't going to be the thing that gets me into Sandman proper, clearly. Ah, well.

Up next: OMG, still reeling. But probably the second Dark Tower by Stephen King.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-07-17 10:58 am
Entry tags:

The Fifth Season by N K Jemisin

Has anyone read it? I just finished it minutes ago, and I have no idea how to feel. I know the odds that anyone in my circle has read it are low, but anyone want to have a spoilery as fuck conversation in the comments?

ETA: Comments are now FULL of spoilers that will shift your whole reading of the book if you haven't read it. etc etc.
maharetr: Comic and movie images of Aisha's eyebrow ring (The Losers) (Default)
2016-07-08 09:08 pm
Entry tags:

Hugo novella reading

Novellas -- reviewed in order of reading. Aiming for non-spoilery, unless there's a cut.

  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com): Currently reading. (45/100 pages) Not as tightly written as I might have hoped, but solid enough, and compelling complications that are keeping me interested. [On finishing, a few days later:] I really appreciate the non-white POV, and the paste was neat. But...but fridge light logic hit HARD with spoilers )

  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment): Confidently written, it flirts with really interesting ideas of what it means to be alive/human/have autonomy etc, and then removes the most useful hinge of that. It's also noticeably Written By A Man, which is on one hand a reasonable thing, the author presumably being male! On the other, I'm tired of the male gaze on female characters. Not a bad story, but not the best, either.

  • Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon): Okay, the opening paragraph of this one made me keen softly with pleasure. seriously:

    My mother had a fondness for poetry. When my sister died, but before the news of my own conscription, mother showed me passaged from a work by Giresun. It was a poem called “Morning Flowers”.
    This was an illegal act.


    That glorious moment of craft was not quite backed up by the rest of the story, but I still read its 200ish pages in an afternoon. One of my bugbears is setting up a “not-a-reader’s-now” but not grounding it enough in what “story’s-now” means in your worldbuilding. Which meant that when the story hurls forward early in the piece, I did in fact feel too adrift. That said, the plot and the idea behind it was compelling. Also, female soldiers, and a well-written female lead! A+ would read more Alistair Reynolds (yeah, I know, I’m coming to sci-fi late, okay?) Will rank highly.

  • The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com): I was charmed by the Goodreads blurb, and the 10% or so that I read was well-written. A group of skilled anthropomorphized animals go on a heist after their last job went badly. It’s charming, and Daniel Polansky seems like a nice guy from my very brief background reading, I just don’t care enough about this story, and my reading time is limited. Didn’t finish, not through any particular fault of the story.

  • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum): this was dense and delicious -- strong worldbuilding, and a very assured narrative voice (unsurprising, given it’s Bujold). It was dense enough that I couldn’t speed read it, and had to concentrate to settle into its rhythms, but that’s almost a plus. I liked Penric, and loved Desdemona (how the demon is also twelve others was...not a thing I retained during reading, and I’m still not clear on, but I was willing to roll with it). This was a pleasure, and I’d definitely read more in this world.



Current voting:
Penric’s demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
Slow bullets by Alistair Reynolds
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Perfect state by Brandon Sanderson
The builders by Daniel Polansky
No Award