The dream-quest of Vellitt Boe
by Kij Johnson. There was so much here to love! An older woman, once adventurer now retired to school mistress of a girls’ college, must take up her walking boots again to track down and bring back a student who’s gone off with a man from the waking world… The language is luscious and meditative and a pleasure to read but … nothing happens. I stopped at 50%, because all she’d done was journey from uncomplicated point to uncomplicated point. She gains a cat, which is charming, but while the setup is wonderful, it wasn’t enough to keep me going longer than half way through. I want
to want to go back and finish it, but… Penric and the shaman
by Lois McMaster Bujold. Continuing tales of Penrice and his demon Desdemona. This was a lovely, if non-gripping read. The point of view switched helped keep me engaged, and there’s a wry humour and a warmth in both Penric’s thoughts and Bujold’s voice that’s a pleasure to read. I enjoyed spending time with them, and while neither the plot nor the set up hooked me as such, I finished it.The ballad of Black Tom
by Victor LaValle. This was the first one I read, so it’s fading slightly. I remember being wrenched
by [character’s] murder, but the writing came across as slightly more wooden than I wanted, and I think I disliked the point of view shift, and particularly because it meant I was being asked to watch a previously liked main character go evil. Possibly I’m missing something.Every heart’s a doorway
by Seanne McGuire.
(About a third of the way in?) God. This is achingly good so far. A tiny bit clunky in itchingly-easy-to-fix ways, but otherwise a wonderful
take down of portal fantasies, and what it feels like to go home, and what sort of world you’re in and what you had to do to survive. I give points for the first explicitly stated asexual character I’ve ever read, and a relatively matter-of-factly handled trans character, although there were levels of brow-beating/sexualities 101 that made me wince a little. It’s such a great set up, and there’s so many interesting, potentially dark, complex places (like all those portals!) McGuire could take the plot and … And then…WHAT.
Plot gets pasted in, painfully, in the form of a murder mystery that includes the headmistress
telling everyone to keep the murders of students
hush-hush, and students doing their own autopsy and dissolving one of the bodies in acid
to hide the murders from the police in case the authorities shut down the school and I just… This story feels like Binti
from a while back - everyone loved it, and I. Just… What? The idea was so great! The idea was ripe
with possibilities! And it did something as mundane (I use that word with many meanings) as a poorly thought out murder-mystery (seriously, a thorough search of that house should have had that wrapped up within an afternoon, never mind in time for a second murder). Maybe the sequel will do something better, but I am so wary.A taste of honey
by Kai Ashante Wilson
This is a ‘plunge straight into unkown fantasy world, paddle to keep up’ style of worldbuilding, and I drifted along, not really keeping track of the finer details, trusting the author would keep me in the loop about the very imprtant things, and enjoying watching two men flirt and then fall into bed and love. It reminded me of this piece
. I wasn’t paying much attention to the world, frankly, and then it starts getting pointed out how homophobic this world is. I’m generally not one to tap out of stories for that -- I know several people who can’t stand homophobia in their escapeism, essentially -- but then there’s a passing, glancing reference to how this world’s government murders its queers, and the gruesome, agonising method, and Nope, I’m Out. I didn’t want that image in my head and now it’s There, and everything’s all abruptly, viscerally too much; I no longer wanted to try and put the effort in to understanding what was going on with this world. :/
So back to The dream-quest of Vellitt Boe
by Kij Johnson, which continued to be the gentle adventure of an older woman, with more depth that made her feel
like an old(er) woman -- some of those lines about past relationships and falling into bed with men made my chest ache for her, it was so lovely and real-feeling. Even when things take a turn for Holy Shit, Things Happening Now, lives in peril in grisly ways (shades of The stars are legion
by Kameron Hurley, even), i was here for it, and with only a few pages to go I’m delighted by where Clarie Jurat has ended up. I wish the differences between the waking and dreaming world had been drawn a little earlier, but it’s still Good. [Having now finished the last few pages] I just about shouted with fierce delight at the denouement, and am left in the deeply satisfying position where there could
be more story to tell, but I don't need to read it to love, love the closing scene. Also the author's notes point out this is her attempt to see her beloved-as-a-child Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
through adult (and female) eyes, which, yes good, full marks. Go to the top of the class/my voting ballot.
Up next: The Cenus-taker
by China Miéville maybe. I keep lightly bouncing off it, and I also have the Dirk Gently novels being very very tempting. We’ll see.