renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
Renay ([personal profile] renay) wrote in [community profile] ladybusiness2018-03-20 11:45 pm

Let's Get Literate! In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Portal fantasies feel like a staple of childhood. I missed most of the literary ones. I loved In Other Lands, but as much as it is a portal fantasy it's also a critique of them, a loving celebration and deconstruction of their tropes and politics, and I probably missed 95% of everything this book does. Does it do what it set out to do well? Yes, says the portal fantasy newbie, whose experience with portal fantasy as a Youngster comes in the form of the following:

  • Through the Ice by Piers Anthony and Robert Kornwise
  • Labyrinth, starring David Bowie
  • The Neverending Story; too bad about those racial politics
  • Cool World starring Brad Pitt, which I watched when too young
  • Space Jam, the best sports movie after Cool Runnings

I understand if people, looking at this list, take my opinions about In Other Lands with a grain of salt. Because I missed Narnia until my 20s and quit after two books, only cared about Alice in Wonderland because of the weird poems until my 30s (I still have poem about The Jabberwocky memorized) and only watched my favorite portal fantasy ever, Spirited Away, after I came to college.

In Other Lands drew me in because I recognized so much of myself in the main character, Elliot. He's rude, cruel, and casually degrading to everyone around him except one of his best friends, Serene. His other "best friend" is Luke Sunborn, who is what passes as a popular kid in the Borderlands. They clash over and over, but because Serene and Luke are close, Elliot has to put up with Luke, too. Elliot is so emotionally maladapted due to parental neglect and societal bullying that his main mode of operation is to strike first in every situation with the most cutting words possible. In Other Lands is his journey as he slowly begins to acquire some emotional intelligence. It felt so close to my own journey that I started to wonder if Brennan secretly visited my former classmates and did interviews about their experiences that she later turned into dialogue for Elliot.

There's burgeoning war, politics, identity crises, romances of youth, a brutal look at the price of parental apathy, and yes, mermaids. If you love portal fantasy, I rec it cautiously as a portal fantasy novice. If you love sarcastic asshole main characters who slowly learn to be good, I enthusiastically rec it. And if you've been wanting some bisexual rep in your portal fantasy, here's an excellent place to start.

I give it ten golden harpy feathers.
novin_ha: Destruction Girl Hotaru ([sailor] destruction girl)

[personal profile] novin_ha 2018-03-21 06:44 am (UTC)(link)
I'm so glad you liked it! It was my top 3 last year easily, and the only time ever I pre-ordered a physical hardcover copy from abroad (because of how much I loved it when it was on LiveJournal). I've been proselytizing it ever since it came out.

And I found its analysis of misogyny to be scathing, and the picture of family trauma poignant and touching and done just right.
novin_ha: Zuko is having all his feelings and I feel that ([avatar] zuko is completely calm)

[personal profile] novin_ha 2018-03-22 05:05 am (UTC)(link)
I did rec it here at least once, possibly more than once, because I have very strong opinions about this book.

I cried my heart out reading this book but in a good way...
katarik: DC Comics: Major Slade Wilson and Captain Adeline Kane, text but I can make you better (Default)

[personal profile] katarik 2018-03-21 11:03 pm (UTC)(link)
I love a lot of portal fantasy -- excuse me while I drop Seanan McGuire's _Wayward Children_ trilogy here as lovely novellas which you may enjoy -- and IN OTHER LANDS is beautimous and wonderful; I loved it when it was a free novel on her LJ and I am so looking forward to loving this version.

Were you aware of "Wings in the Morning", the short story that _The Turn of the Story_ is the prequel for? _Turn_ became IN OTHER LANDS and no one has yet been able to confirm for me if "Wings" got turned into the ending chapter of IN OTHER LANDS. (My library, you see, still has it on hold for other people first.)
katarik: DC Comics: Major Slade Wilson and Captain Adeline Kane, text but I can make you better (Default)

[personal profile] katarik 2018-03-22 12:13 am (UTC)(link)

Okay so I will try to word this in the LEAST spoiler way possible.

So in Turn of the Story, it ends with Eliot not in a relationship with anyone and Serene as his closest non-human friend. Golden is also a character who does not appear in Turn; he's introduced in "Wings".

By your closing in the actual entry, I assume the half-harpy character is determined to be half-harpy in the text of IN OTHER LANDS as opposed to in "Wings"?

katarik: DC Comics: Major Slade Wilson and Captain Adeline Kane, text but I can make you better (Default)

[personal profile] katarik 2018-03-22 12:35 am (UTC)(link)
Sounds like yes!

What might be fun for you is tracking down _Turn_ and comparing it to IN OTHER LANDS, to see what wound up being added when it became a buyable book. Also entertaining is the fic for _Turn_ specifically, when it was being written as a serial and nobody knew how it would all shake out.
katarik: DC Comics: Major Slade Wilson and Captain Adeline Kane, text but I can make you better (Default)

[personal profile] katarik 2018-03-22 12:47 am (UTC)(link)

I do not envy the taggers trying to sort out the fic for IN OTHER LANDS vs. the fic for Turn!

:D Enjoy it! Thank you for your posts and the work you put in for the comm!

umadoshi: (riceball love (snowgarden))

[personal profile] umadoshi 2018-03-22 03:22 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, "Wings" (which is in the Monstrous Affections anthology) was the first thing SRB wrote in this world, and it's Luke's POV, so when Turn of the Story spiraled into novel-length, she ended it right where "Wings" picked up. Then when Turn got worked into In Other Lands, she wrote the "Wings" time period from Elliot's POV. (I can't say "the 'Wings' events", because of course the boys aren't together all the time, so each version has some things the other doesn't.)

IIRC Golden does appear in Turn, though--the break between Turn and "Wings" is right at the half-harpy reveal.
umadoshi: (kittens - sleeping)

[personal profile] umadoshi 2018-03-22 03:25 am (UTC)(link)
In Other Lands does an INCREDIBLE job of retaining all the magic of Turn of the Story while fleshing some things out and smoothing some others. There's some new material worked through the book, on top of the "Wings" time frame having been rewritten from Elliot's POV to end In Other Lands properly, and it's all just lovely, IMO. I hope you love the new version as much as I do.
katarik: DC Comics: Major Slade Wilson and Captain Adeline Kane, text but I can make you better (Default)

[personal profile] katarik 2018-03-24 02:11 am (UTC)(link)

!!!

"WINGS" FROM ELLIOT'S POV

YES OMG BEAUTIFUL

librarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry give to meeeeeeeeeeee nooooooooooooow