- The Boy and the Bell by Heidi Heilig [Jump]
- Three Cats at the End of the World by Aimee Ogden [Jump]
- A Good Egg by Shawn Proctor [Jump]
- Lava Cake for the Apocalypse by Wendy Nikel [Jump]
- My Favourite Sentience by Marissa Lingen [Jump]
- The You Train by N. K. Jemisin [Jump]
- More Tomorrow by Premee Mohammed [Jump]
- The Good Mother's Home for Wayward Girls by Izzy Wasserstein [Jump]
- The Day Before the Revolution by Ursula Le Guin [Jump]
1. The Boy and the Bell by Heidi Heilig [Top]
The Boy and the Bell is a horror story about Will, a trans boy committing a little light grave robbery, who finds someone who's been buried alive. I really liked Will, especially the sheer level of done he was with all of this even BEFORE an awful imperious vampire tries to order him around, and his narration matches that attitude perfectly. I am fascinated by the way the story brings in reanimation men and the protagonist's goal of being a doctor! The Boy And The Bell is a creepy, atmospheric story with a satisfying resolution (I'm not kidding about how great Will is) and I really enjoyed it.
(Our very own bookgazing reviewed it here!)
[Caution warnings: people buried alive, misgendering]
2. Three Cats at the End of the World by Aimee Ogden [Top]
I... Don't think I got this one, at all. Three Cats At The End of the World is about a woman who lives at the end of the world who owns three cats that either are or represent the past, present, and future, and while I think I understand the imagery and the meaning of the story, I've read it three times and I'm still not sure I've got it right! The tone of the story is good and I like the imagery, I just find it puzzling in the same way that I found T. Kingfisher's Packing to be puzzling. It's not bad! Just a little closer to surreal than I like in my short fiction, I suppose.
(Our very own bookgazing reviewed it here!)
3. A Good Egg by Shawn Proctor [Top]
A Good Egg is set on the night of a royal wedding, but centres on Humpty Dumpty as he escapes from the celebration. It's not a happy story – it is definitely a story of love thrown away for duty rather than lost – and while it has good imagery and emotions, it's not what I was looking for. bookgazing reviewed it here in more depth, so if you want a more spoilery take on it, then she is a great person to speak to!
[Caution warning: imagery of suicide]
4. Lava Cake for the Apocalypse by Wendy Nikel [Top]
Lava Cake for the Apocalypse is a scifi story about gathering the ingredients to bake a lava cake, so you KNOW I'm here for it. (I think it was recommended by forestofglory, who knows this is the way to my heart.) It's a lovely story, with the conflict and impending apocalypse woven through it right next to a sense of wonder at the world and the people who live here. It feels a bit "Look at this simpler world and culture!" in its narrative voice, but I think that was intentional for the character and the way that the story is being narrated to a third party. It's a sweet and simple story that ends with hope, and I am here for that.
5. My Favourite Sentience by Marissa Lingen [Top]
Another find from forestofglory! My Favourite Sentience is a collection of answers from school students about which sentience is their favourite, with answers ranging from city-running AIs to squid hegemony to houses, and it's such a cool example of world-building! The voice of the children is believable, and I love the humour and the darkness that are woven into their descriptions ("Except for South Tyneside" indeed!) in a completely matter-of-fact way! It's fascinating and for something so short and simple, I enjoyed it a lot!
6. The You Train by N. K. Jemisin [Top]
Unsurprisingly, The You Train is delightful. It's an almost-epistolary story, where we get one side of phone conversations between the protagonist and her best friend as the protagonist goes about her life in New York, and starts to see trains on the lines that shouldn't be running. It's great – the protagonist has such a strong voice, so it's easy to fill in the half of the conversation that we don't get. And it's such a realistic friendship, with complaints and worries and support, and it's so satisfying to read. I really liked the theory for where these trains come from! I definitely recommend The You Train.
7. More Tomorrow by Premee Mohammed [Top]
More Tomorrow follows a paleontologist lost in time when their time machine broke and stranded them among the dinosaurs, as they record how they try to keep surviving.
It wasn't really my thing? I like stories where people build stuff and try to survive, but... I dunno, I think that I guessed the ending long before we got to it (because OF COURSE that's how it ends, there's only so many ways that a story about being stranded in time CAN end), so all of it felt a bit pointless and "No, you fool! Do you not realise what you're doing!"
(The character's reaction upon realising what's happened was pretty well done, though, I will give it points for that.)
It's not a bad story; I liked the format of it, and the protagonist's absolutely I am so done with this but also think of the potential papers! tone was great, but stories with mostly-inevitable sorts of endings aren't for me.
8. The Good Mother's Home for Wayward Girls by Izzy Wasserstein [Top]
The Good Mothers' Home For Wayward Girls is deeply, immensely creepy. I think it's a story about abuse, and how sometimes leaving the hell you know for the hell that you don't is terrifying all on its own, and the way that abuse is sometimes rationalised as protection. It follows a group of girls trapped in a care home by monstrous, literally inhuman "mothers" who enforce arbitrary rules and horrific repercussions on those who don't obey.
It's interesting to me that the narrator is always "We". The first time I read it, I thought this was a separate character, but it does seem to be a collective narration for all of the girls together, a way of showing who's united and who's excluded ("We hate the new girl," in the same way that the new girl isn't entitled to her own name in the narration until the group have accepted her), letting the story feel unnervingly close even though its tone is almost distant. And the implications of the story are horrible, not just for the eldritch imagery and the way that the Mothers aren't above killing the girls they're theoretically protecting, but also the way that the girls have turned on each other in the past to make sure that no one disobeys and brings punishment down on all of them! It's horrifying and really well done, please someone come and read it with me!
9. The Day Before the Revolution by Ursula Le Guin [Top]
This is actually the first Ursula Le Guin I've read and been able to remember! It follows a legendary revolutionary (who is, I believe, integral to the world of The Dispossessed despite that book being set long after her death) in her old age, as she experiences the world she changed. It reminds me a little of Aliette de Bodard's Scattered Along the River of Heaven, which is also about looking back on revolution, although the tones are very different. The Day Before The Revolution feels melancholy to me – it's a determined, ferociously intelligent woman looking back on her life on the day that all of her work and struggle and loss comes to fruition, and while her narration is wry and impatient with her own struggles, it's still Laia trying to work out who she is! I especially liked the way Laia thinks about the younger members of the revolution (it feels very much like how our queer foreparents speak about baby queers on twitter, in that mix of pride and "Child you weren't even born when the events you'e talking about happened"), and how well-rooted and vivid the descriptions were. Although I will say that it was very strange to read it for the first time in the wake of Ursula Le Guin's own death, and maybe if I'd thought about it I would have waited a little longer!
Witchmark by C. L. Polk — I asked for queer historical fantasy mysteries, and look! Look what the universe brought me! I'm only about eight chapters in but so far I adore it and periodically need to go on twitter and scream to vent my joy.
Reading goal: 116/180 (9 new this post) Prose: 71/90 (9 new this post, 50/107 short fiction) Nonfiction: 4/12 (0 new this post)
#getouttamydamnhouse: 24/50 (0 gone this post)
#unofficialqueerafbookclub: 44/50 (3 new this post; The Boy and the Bell, A Good Egg, and The Day Before the Revolution)