spindizzy: Kyoko stretching and looking smug. (*smug*)
[personal profile] spindizzy posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
Hello my darlings! We're back to posts of a sensible length, containing a sensible number of opinions, and it is both really nice and really weird. (How long will it last? WE SHALL SEE.) This installment has a lot of short stories, because that's pretty much what I had the brain for at the start of the year, so full credit to [twitter.com profile] forestofglory, our OTHER excellent source of short stories, for all of her recs!

  1. The Course of Honor by Aviolet [Jump]

  2. Fandom for Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad [Jump]

  3. Taiya by Vanessa Fogg [Jump]

  4. Sun, Moon, Dust by Ursula Vernon [Jump]

  5. The Secret Life of Bots by Suzanne Palmer [Jump]

  6. Angel of the Blockade by Alex Wells [Jump]

  7. Fearless by Shira Glassman [Jump]

  8. Flutter by Momoko Tenzen [Jump]

1. The Course of Honor by Aviolot [Top]

What you need to know about me is that I am the sort of person who looks at a 17k fic at midnight and goes "Ooh, that's a bit too long to start now" and then starts a 117k story at 2:30am with no shame. Source: That's literally what happened here.

The Course of Honor is a scifi romance about a cheerful sunshine of a prince who's spent his entire life dodging major responsibility, who gets thrust into a political marriage with a man whose abusive husband died the month before. It's... Not bad? It was exactly what I wanted to read at 2:30 in the morning, in that it was a quick read that kept the pace going, alternated between hilarious and horrifying, and had a sweet romance building beneath the political troubles, blackmail, attempted murder, kidnapping, and slow recovery from abuse. It was predictable in a lot of ways (Not bad ones! Just tropey ways, and I like these tropes; as soon as it started snowing I was like "This is going to end up with nudity and huddling for warmth" AND LO IT WAS SO.), but it was compelling enough and had good enough world building and politics that I stayed up till 5:30 to finish it. Also, of course my favourite character is the hyper-competent assistant. OF COURSE.

(Plus, Jainan's reactions and mistrust had my shoulders up around my ears, ow. That was well done.)

It was fine! I don't necessarily know that I'd read it again, but it was enjoyable insomnia reading. Also: BEARS.

[CW: spousal abuse, blackmail, mental torture]

2. Fandom For Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad [Top]

I know, I know, everyone has been talking about it, and I am the last person on the planet to read it, I'm pretty sure there's a law that that's how it works. But Fandom For Robots is an adorable story about Computron, a robot who Absolutely 100% Cannot Feel Emotions and thus is definitely not obsessed with an anime. Definitely not.

It's REALLY CUTE. I feel like it really captures the feeling of being in a new fandom where all you want to do is consume everything about it, and finding that person who likes all of the same nonsense that you do for the same reason — I recognise A Lot of the fandom stuff, and Computron drawing inspiration and possibly courage from the show, which I'm really, genuinely delighted by. There's some implied abuse in his backstory, and hints of this being an alternate timeline? But on the whole, I found it really sweet and relatable!

[Caution warning: abuse in backstory]

3. Taiya by Vanessa Fogg [Top]
This one is a story that our very own [personal profile] bookgazing has talked about before, and it's one that I keep coming back to. It's about a woman putting her entire life to one side as she moves abroad to support her husband's career, and the exhaustion of trying to be okay and fill your life, and the ghost of a ghost that's haunting them. It takes place in an unspecified country and despite her best efforts the protagonist is isolated and at loose ends, which heightens the sense of unreality throughout. And its heart, Taiya is a ghost story about depression, and I feel like it's a really good depiction? I was expecting the ending to be really disheartening, so the degree of hope it found was reassuring to me. If you feel up to it, it's good!

[Caution warning: depression]

4. Sun, Moon, Dust by Ursula Vernon [Top]
I started reading Sun, Moon, Dust without actually checking who wrote it; about halfway through I was mentally drafting this review and went "Practical people, genuinely wanting to just feed people, this will probably appeal to people who like Ursula Vernon's stories —" GUESS WHO WROTE IT. Sun, Moon, Dust is about a farmer who happens to be the grandson of a great warrior, who leaves him her magic sword and the three spirits bound within it as teachers. It... Does not go as planned.

I found this utterly charming, as y'all probably knew I would. It's almost a complete reversal of the "farmboy who wants to be a hero" trope – Allpa's deepest desire is to feed people and be useful, and seeing him respond to the chance to be a warrior with essentially no thank you makes me happy. Especially because I like stories about people who want to just want to be useful. Plus, the relationships between Allpa and his family, and the spirits of the sword, and Allpa and Moon, are all great! And I love how the world building is sketched around the story (especially for little, practical details like the emperor solving a rampaging cow problem).

*dreamy sigh* It's lovely. If you like Ursula Vernon stories I am still right and this is for you.

5. The Secret Life of Bots by Suzanne Palmer [Top]
The Secret Life of Bots follows the maintenance bots on an almost-derelict spaceship as they attempt to perform repairs and track down a wild creature that somehow got loose inside it.

It's also about a heroic last stand by the human crew, but really that more of a background story.

I love this framing, the contrast between the tiny scale of the bots and their problems and the massive plot that the humans are dealing with, and the way that these problems intersect. I especially love the difference in narrative voice between the two POV characters (which should be an obvious thing in a story with a robot POV and a human POV, but... Isn't, always.), the differences between generations of bots (Utility! Naming choices! Options available to them!), and the way that both problems get resolved.

The Secret Life of Bots is fun and has both teamwork and robots; it's pretty much the most [personal profile] renay story I have ever seen.

Cover of Angel of the Blockade Cover of Fearless Cover of Flutter

6. Angel of the Blockade by Alex Wells [Top]
Angel of the Blockade is about Nata, a blind smuggler and spaceship pilot, taking on a job that is Absolutely Not Going to Go Sideways. I love stories about shady types whose jobs are absolutely not going to go sideways, so I was always going to love this one.

I don't want to get too deep into the plot, because it is very much taking the tropes of a smuggler story and giving them a shake – how it's resolved is great, and I thought it was really clever. Especially for the dynamics between the characters, and the utter degree of shameless manipulation that happens and gets called out. Nata's narrative voice is great – she has such a great degree of snark and cynicism, and the prose is really textured and full of sensory details, which works for me! It's especially good in the spaceship sections, I think the imagery is excellent there. (I am not in English class, I am not going to go on about the choices of similes and how well they shape Nata's voice and outlook, but believe me I COULD.)

I really truly enjoyed Angel of the Blockade. I've heard good things about Alex Wells' other works, so based on this I might go pick them up – has anyone read them?

7. Fearless by Shira Glassman [Top]
I have reviewed this one for the Lesbrary! It's a cute little story about a newly-out woman falling back in love with music, and also a music teacher at her daughter's school.

8. Flutter by Momoko Tenzen [Top]
I found my copy of Flutter! It's been missing for like three months, and I finally found it in a stack of library books that I apparently hadn't touched in all that time! ... So obviously I had to celebrate by not sorting out my library books and instead reading a manga I'd read like eight times before. Yep.

I've talked about Flutter here before, but if you don't remember it, it's the one about a salesman (Asada) who keeps noticing a handsome, put-together man who works in the same building, but he has no idea who the guy is! Until they end up working together on the same project, at least. It's not necessarily a dramatic story, but what surprises me is that it does still hold up. It has some tropes that I roll my eyes at (Asada is not necessarily written as "Gay for you" as much as... He's never actually thought about his sexuality before? And I am still a little grumpy at there being a dead queer man in the love interest's backstory.), but all of my complaints are cancelled out by the things that I think it does right? It talks about respectability politics! It takes the time to build up the relationship! I adore the way that Asada's perceptions of Mizuki are peeled back to go "This guy is not actually the flawless being you thought" and that's still okay.

(Q: Susan, are you still happy that it exceeds the minimum standard of "contains only consensual sex"?
A: Hahahahaha one day that is going to stop being a bar that gets tripped over.)

If you don't read a lot of BL manga (or you do, and you are like me and burned out on dubiously consensual sex that somehow leads to ~true love~), then I'm gonna suggest this as a pretty good place to start!

Currently Reading

Piper Deez and the Case of the Winter Planet by M. Fenn — I tried to read this last year before everything exploded, but THIS TIME I'M READY. So far it feels kinda pulpy, kinda noir-y, and has a pulp investigator who actually managed to tie the knot investigating things in space. I'm so ready.

Reading Goals

Reading goal: 8/180 (8 new this post) Prose: 7/90 Nonfiction: 0/12
#getouttamydamnhouse: 0/80 (0 gone this post)
#killyourtbr: 8/8 (Looking, clearing out tabs counts, I swear.)
#unofficialqueerafbookclub: 6/8 (6 new this post: Course of Honor; Fandom For Robots; Sun, Moon Dust; Angel of the Blockade; Fearless; Flutter)
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