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[personal profile] bookgazing
Ah,Battle At the Binary Stars - the episode that was perfect until it was abruptly awful. Hold onto your helmets - watching Episode Two of Star Trek: Discovery may cause emotional whiplash.

Huge Spoilers )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Last year, at San Diego Comic Con, Star Trek fans watched 1:45 minutes of slow-mo spacecraft action, and it became clear Star Trek: Discovery was going to be emotional. Then, in May, Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh walked across a sand dune together, and it became clear that Star Trek: Discovery was going to be EMOTIONAL. Major new mainstream sci-fi where two chromatic women talk to each other? Major new mainstream sci-fi where two chromatic women are engaged in a mentor/mentee relationship? This is most definitely the future liberals want.

Minor spoilers follow )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Book cover of Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee


Ninefox Gambit is a novel built from numbers. Big numbers. Deep space equations.

If, like me, your last encounter with serious maths was in the 90s then Ninefox Gambit may seem a daunting prospect. Stick with it — all those chains of calculation lead to some exciting places. A fortress of impenetrable ice. A spaceship helmed by an undead General. A world in need of change, revenge and justice. Forget those Statistics textbooks you used to doodle in. This is science fictional maths where there's space travel and explosions for everyone!

Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Transistor cover


From the creators of Bastion, Transistor is a sci-fi themed action RPG that invites you to wield an extraordinary weapon of unknown origin as you fight through a stunning futuristic city. Transistor seamlessly integrates thoughtful strategic planning into a fast-paced action experience, melding responsive gameplay and rich atmospheric storytelling. During the course of the adventure, you will piece together the Transistor's mysteries as you pursue its former owners.


Susan
"Buy a bundle with the soundtrack?" I asked myself at checkout. "Why on earth would I do that?!" LITTLE DID I KNOW.

Ira
LITTLE DID YOU KNOW. As the game's developer, Supergiant, is apparently wont to do, the soundtrack for this game is absolutely gorgeous and woven into its storytelling and characterization. The music is a great way to start this review because it's so much a part of the game's atmosphere and worldbuilding. The game is set in a city, Cloudbank, that is ever-changing based on the votes of its populace, from what's on restaurant menus to the colour of the sky to the weather. We start the game with Red, the female protagonist, and a man's voice coming from the titular sword, the Transistor, and we face the Camerata as our antagonists. The cast also includes a variety of diverse characters, including people of colour and queer folks, though the way the narrative treats them is... complicated. Red is a silent protagonist, but the sword talks plenty, providing narration, commentary, and interaction. This is accomplished by absolutely superb voice acting on the part of Logan Cunningham, the voice of the Transistor. It's especially effective when he has emotional moments with Red or when he's being affected by the Spines.

Transistor screenshot: stopping to hum


Susan
Logan Cunningham carried so much of the game for me, entirely on the strength of his voice acting. The man in the transistor is our narrator, our primary source of explanations and world-building, and the voice acting adds so much colour and emotion – which is really what you need in a game where the protagonist can't speak for herself. The way he says Red's name breaks my heart, there's a world of backstory in the way he says "Hello again, Sybil," his pitch-perfect reactions – Ira, I don't think I can tell you how much I liked that voice acting, and the bits you picked out are the bits that got me too.

(The other voices are good too – Royce sounds like Matthew McConnahey's character in True Detective, played back at a slower speed, Asher is the right level of awkward stiltedness for someone trying to reveal and conceal the truth at the same time, and the distortions of Sibyl are appropriately unnerving – but the man in the transistor is the stand-out part for me.)

The voice acting is also what sold me on Red and the transistor's relationship in the early stages of the game. Who and what they are to each other isn't really clear for at least half of the game – I admit, I spent the first few levels going "Please tell me he's not a charming creeper taking advantage, that is a trope I recognise" until I caught up. But through the voice acting, it's crystal clear that he adores her, even though he's essentially talking to himself the entire game.

This structure – the transistor speaking mostly in monologue rather than dialogue – means much of the story and characterisation is told in gaps. Because Red doesn't speak at all during the game, you have to actually look for her characterisation. A lot of it is done through what the other characters say about her, or through her gestures and comments on the OVC terminals – public-access computer terminals set up all over town to enable the mass voting that Cloudbank relies on – but interacting with most of the terminals is completely optional, which means that you can actually skip half of the characterisation of the game's main character. But the way it's done is excellent - she can leave comments on news items and surveys, so you can watch her type, delete, type -

("Is it following me?" she writes, but she posts something different entirely.)

Transistor screenshot: stopping to hum


And there are only two chances that I've found to have Red and the Transistor actually interact, both of which come through the OVC terminals (one I actually MISSED the first time around - when I say that it's possible to actually skip some of the characterisation, I'm not kidding!).

Ira
At this point I want to pause and consider the problem of silent women. Read more... )

SPOILERS BELOW

Spoilers )
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[personal profile] justira
All the Birds in the Sky cover

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

Friends! What do you do when you deeply want to like a book and you just can't? Well, I suppose you take out all your feels in a review. Fair warning, this review discusses abuse, and, after a while and a marked cut, spoilers.

All the Birds in the Sky is a book about tropes, which is not surprising coming from the former editor in chief of io9. As the Tor.com review puts it, "it’s also a book about 'these sorts of stories' and genre fiction, though less directly." It's a blend of sci fi and fantasy tropes, and of tropes about the two coming together. Sci fi + fantasy is my stop — it's what I write myself, and I was very excited to see a mainstream book that mixed the genres. However, I ended up not really liking the execution. Patricia, a cis woman, represents magic/nature and is a witch. Laurence, a cis man, represents technology and science and is an engineering genius. Wired says that Charlie Jane Anders "worried a lot about playing into expectations", and in many ways I feel she was right to worry. The setup is not just classic, it's classical, drawing on the oldest associations of the masculine and the feminine in our culture. But as I said, this is a book about tropes — and about playing with them. The whole thing has a punchline that subverts many of the tropes that had been in play up to that point, but I'll discuss that after the spoiler cut. First, I want to talk about some things about the book that I liked!

Positive stuff! )

With slightly less enthusiasm I can also recommend the writing, which was by and large smooth with a surprisingly effective image or two scattered here and them like gems. I want to pull out a piece that worked for me and shows many of the themes of the book:
But maybe Laurence had been right and these devices were what made us unique, as humans. We made machines, the way spiders made silk. Staring at the red wasp-shaped chassis, she thought of how disgusted she had been with Laurence, not long ago. And maybe she shouldn't judge him — judging was a kind of Aggrandizement — and maybe this device was a culmination of everything she'd always admired about him from the start. And, yes, a sign that they'd both won out, over the Mr. Roses of the world.

"It's beautiful," she said.
p.151-152

In some places, it really works.

It's just that things get a bit tonally weird at various points, and this is where we transition to some talk about abuse and personal reactions.

Abuse and Personal Reactions )

Now, on to the spoilers!

Spoilers below )

Notes

  1. This is not to say I think the book overall reads like YA, because (a) it doesn't and (b) "this should be in the YA section" is often lobbed at women and is a form of gatekeeping, preventing women's stories from joining mainstream SFF adult literature and harking back to how women are seen as more juvenile and called by juvenile names. No thank you. (back to text)

  2. Not that there is anything wrong with heterosexuality and living the stereotype. I had a long talk with [personal profile] renay about this, and it's not that people who live like this have anything wrong with them or that Charlie Jane Anders is obligated to challenged gender norms at every turn on top of all the other risky work she's doing. There is something wrong with heteronormativity and gender norms, but nothing wrong with living agency-filled lives that embody the tropes. This post by bikiniarmorbattledamage outlines the difference between agency and sexism. The thing is, these are all fictional characters created by Charlie Jane Anders, and all the choices they make are ones she wrote for them. (back to text)




Supplementary Material
Renay on All the Birds in the Sky in her Lets Get Literate Column
Renay on All the Birds in the Sky in our Favorite Media of January 2016 roundup


Other Reviews
The Book Smugglers; see especially Ana's discussion of how this book busts down male privilege
Tor.com
SF Reviews
Locus
Journal Sentinel
The Amazon Book Review, with Interview with Charlie Jane Anders
SF Bluestocking
Civilian Reader
Wired
SF Signal
Page to Stage
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[personal profile] litomnivore
Villa Retreat Dress

If you try and tell the story of Star Wars only through its costumes, then you’re going to end up telling the story of Padmé Amidala. That’s the story I overheard as I moved through Star Wars and the Power of Costume; a father explaining to his son the succession of the queens of Naboo, a young man telling his girlfriend about how her love of Anakin Skywalker ultimately caused her death, and myself chatting to a woman who had inadvertently (or not!) dressed for the cold in an outfit that recalled Leia on Hoth about Padmé’s last sartorial power play over her coffin.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] justira
 photo cover_planetfall_zpsl8doeyuf.jpg

From the award-nominated author Emma Newman, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing...

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony's 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart...


This review is split into two parts: the spoiler-free and the hella spoilery, because this is one of those books that's hard to talk about without ruining some or all of the experience. And Emma Newman's Planetfall is an experience I highly recommend, so if you're not sure about it, read the first half of this review and perhaps that will convince you. Afterwards, come back and talk about anxiety with me!

I mention anxiety because it is a central theme of the novel. No, that is not enough. Anxiety is more than a theme, it is the immersive medium of the novel. Renata Ghali, or Ren, is the 3D printer engineer for a colony on an alien world. When her love, if not her lover (the text is never clear on this), Lee Suh-Mi comes out of a mysterious coma with visions of humanity's destiny on an alien world, Ren and roughly 1,000 colonists follow her to the stars. One of the first things I want you to know about this book is that it stars a 70-year old biracial bisexual woman. That alone is worth remarking on. But beyond that the book is a fascinating exploration of the spaces between community and privacy, religion and science, and, yes, anxiety and ritual.

Spoiler-free review )

Unlocking the mysteries behind the anxieties is the driving force behind Planetfall, and it's a thoroughly enjoyable process.

And now, to SPOILERS

Spoilers beyond this point! )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Red, white and blue Short Business logo


When he got to the coast, the sun was setting, and the brightness blinded him. He drove down a rattling road to get to the sand. There were waves still, white and green and blue, and he made a sound he wasn’t expecting to make. He thought about red oceans and orange caverns.


Maria Dahvana Headley's "Solder and Seam" follows the journey of an alien revolutionary, living on a quietly post-apocalyptic Earth as a farmer, as he steers a wooden whale to the sea. It's a real weird story; part of the New Weird subgenre I adore, and yet became a little estranged from in 2015. Is it even called the New Weird anymore? I'm so out of touch.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Red, white and blue Sidetracks logo


You can’t say no. Not that you’d want to. Not if you’re a real soldier.

And I am. I’m a real soldier.

A real fucking hero.

I’m made of light.


Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Today, we present a fantastic guest post about the newest "Super" show in town - Supergirl. Our guest poster, chaila, is a vidder, fangirl and heroine addict who has previously written posts for Lady Business about Wonder Woman, Sarah Connor and feminism in Pacific Rim. We love her words and are so excited to have her at the blog today.


Internet, like many of you, I have been waiting with bated breath for Supergirl, and now it's here and I'm so happy!

Supergirl flying

This is a squee post based on the first three episodes of Supergirl on CBS. It's probably risky to write a squee post after only three episodes of anything, but I'm going to do it anyway. Note that this is not a post about the ways it's not perfect, though of course it isn't. There has already been a lot of discussion about those things. This is a post about some of the choices the show is making and some of the things I appreciate the show trying to do. It's a post about the parts of Supergirl that make me really, really happy.

This post contains capslocks and gifs, because that is just how I feel about Supergirl!

Some words about Supergirl, most of them are 'YAY' )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Red, white and blue Short Business logo


The discovery of the pocket universes had proved the Titius-Bode law — all orbital systems of the pocket universes had stable and self-correcting orbital resonances with each other. In those resonances was the music of the spheres, and in those resonances, my calling.


Read more... )
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The concept of Manhattan’s School for Visual Arts having a festival to highlight the accomplishments of its alumni seems kind of obvious. After all, it’s a bragfest for its notable alumni, an inspiration for its current students, and a way to give tangible form to the value of said students’ creative arts degree to anyone who might be funding said degree. But 2015 is only After School Special’s second year in existence, after 2014’s successful festival, despite the school opening its doors in 1947. It is by and, ostensibly, for the school, but the SVA was kind enough to open its doors to the general public, for which I was very grateful.

Largely because it allowed me the chance to revisit Pacific Rim for free on the big screen and get to hear one of the film’s visual effects supervisors, John H. Han, talk about his work on the film in a Q&A session following the screening.

I haven’t seen Pacific Rim since its theatrical run in 2013, but that’s not really on purpose. I am very bad at rewatching and rereading things, especially if they’re aren’t the top-tier cheese I take out for guests, like the glorious trainwrecks that are The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Rock of Ages, or The Three Musketeers (1993 or 2011, take your pick). But I have, after spending a year in spitting distance of an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (I MISS IT SO MUCH), developed a taste for rewatching films in theaters. It makes it more of an event and there’s a much higher chance that I can consume nachos while doing so. And Pacific Rim, with its logline of “robots fighting monsters,” was meant to be seen on a big screen.

Two years later, how does Pacific Rim hold up?

Read more... )

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[personal profile] justira
Time Salvager photo cover_timesalvager_zps2f94b49a.jpg


Wesley Chu's Time Salvager has a serious tell-don't-show problem, and the biggest disservice that results from it is to the female characters. I have to admit I was not as excited about this book as a lot of other people were, but that's solely because I read the preview chapter available online and realized that the writing was terrible. It's clunky, it's sterile, and it's just not worth reading.

But let's talk about what the real problem of the book was for me. Well, two of them, intertwined. One, and the lesser transgression, is the lack of editing — and I can barely bring myself to call this the lesser of the two evils, as I'm an editor and hold that a good edit can work wonders for a manuscript. Those are wonders Time Salvager sorely needed. But that's only one problem. The other, which a good edit may have indeed fixed, is that Time Salvager silences its women. Some vague spoilers follow.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
My library ordered some books for me, so now I am in possession of six October Daye books. Here is the proof. Odds on how long it's gonna take me to plow through all of these? (One is done, but finished too late to end up in this column; it's possible you heard me screeching in agony.)



Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing


Survival is insufficient.


“All I’m saying,” Dieter said, twelve hours out of St. Deborah by the Water, “is that quote on the lead caravan would be way more profound if we hadn’t lifted it from Star Trek.”


Kirsten Raymonde, the heroine of Emily St. John Mandel's novel Station Eleven, lives in a dystopian version of Toronto. Twenty years after a violent flu virus has ravaged the world, killing huge numbers and rendering society technologically poor, Kirsten works as a professional actress. She tours with a band of musicians and actors called The Travelling Symphony who perform Shakespearean plays and classical music as they pass through the small towns that constitute post-epidemic society. The motto of the symphony, 'Survival is insufficient', a Star Trek quote from the old world, informs their company's choice to keep going even if sometimes 'it seemed a difficult and dangerous way to survive and hardly worth it'. Their motto is so important to Kirsten that she has it tattooed on her arm.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
The last four days: four solid days of Socializing With People. I slept for ten hours last night. It was like being drunk. Is this what cons are like?



Read more... )

I've started Court of Fives by Kate Elliott, which comes out August 18. Her elevator pitch for the novel is "Little Women meets American Ninja Warrior in a fantasy setting inspired by Greco Roman Egypt." That's probably relevant to someone's interest. ;)
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[personal profile] helloladies
Cover of Nnedi Okorafor's book Lagoon showing a green illustrated sea scene with squid, sharks and a person at the bottom of the ocean surrounded by a spotlight


Today Jodie is joined by Meghan, from Medieval Bookworm, for a co-review of Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon. Did this novel of aliens, squids and a magic closely tied to Lagos' oceans sink or swim with the ladies?


Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Red, white and blue Short Business logo


The first strange thing Nadia pulled from her pocket was a piece of fudge. It was a perfectly ordinary piece of fudge. But Nadia hated fudge, and couldn’t imagine how she’d come to be carrying it around. She remembered this in particular because it was a bright, cool autumn day and she’d dug into her jacket pocket instinctively, looking for change to leave in a busker’s open violin case, and had come upon the piece of fudge instead. After staring at it awkwardly for a moment, she dropped it into the violin case and hurried away before she could see whether the busker was scowling at her or not.


After reading Amal El-Mohtar's "Pockets" and "The Truth About Owls" back to back I suspect I'm going to spend June cramming all of her work into my eyes. Although very different in tone, both of these stories appealed to me for similar reasons. Both display a concentration on the pace and flow within individual paragraphs, show off El-Mohtar's sharp eye for detail, and manage to hit my feels by leveraging just the right amount of melancholy optimism. If loving "The Feels" is wrong I don't want to be right (also it's not wrong).

Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
This week was dominated by me catching up on paid work between, I'll be honest, writing a lot of words about baking delicious treats for your werewolf boyfriend.

Totally unrelated, Teen Wolf comes back at the end of June and I'm not emotionally prepared.

Reading the last week:

Well, after looking forward to Uprooted for almost a year, putting off reading it because I was terrified of not loving it as much as I wanted to love it, and finally starting it while trying not to inhale it so I could savor it (I failed), I have finished and it was WONDERFUL. I loved it so much. It's giving me all the same warm, fuzzy emotions I felt with The Goblin Emperor. They don't compare beyond "whisked away to uncertain future!" but they're both so heartwarming. I wasn't sure I'd ever find a book that made me feel like The Goblin Emperor did ever again, but here it is!

Agnieszka was a delight to follow. The premise of the book really doesn't tell you how layered this story is at all. You go in knowing that every ten years, the wizard that protects the valley from the evil Wood comes and takes a young girl to serve him, and once she's gone she doesn't come back for ten more years, and then it's never for good, as they always leave. Agnieszka — and everyone else — is convinced he'll take her best friend, Kasia. But, of course, everything goes wrong from there and the story goes deeper and deeper into the history and political situation of the world. Every time I thought I knew what would happen Because Tropes, I was quickly assured I had no clue.

Plus, the Dragon was like, Rodney McKay if Rodney McKay transformed into a wizard with magical skills instead of Science. Into it.

On Goodreads, it shows me Friend Reviews and everyone who has it added and the list goes on and on and on and on. Everyone has been talking about this book and loving it (although I've seen a few valid qualms about some of the relationships) so if you haven't heard of it I need you to a) please share your hermit secrets with me and b) look it up and see if it sounds like your type of fantasy. I've always loved Novik's work; even stories that aren't my jam go down super smooth. She's so great at flow in narrative (that mysterious thing I can never explain), and this book definitely has that to spare. If I could hand Uprooted every major SF award right now, that would be half as many accolades as it deserves.

I also caught up on my Captain Marvel issues, which I got behind on because I was busy with books. I loved the previous volume of Captain Marvel a lot, but the issues I read this time were hit or miss. The story about Chewie was super cute, but then there's an whole story about having to speak in rhyme that was embarrassing. It's not that the premise was bad, but the whole conceit of rhyming regular speech was basically an invitation for me to be mortified for the characters/writer when it just completely fails to work. I do appreciate how many of the characters here are all really different women, and I would have been totally cool with at least ten more issues of Carol, Tic, and Rocket's Adventures in Space, but Secret Wars or something.

(I still don't understand Secret Wars. Apparently universes are colliding and characters are DYING? I don't…why, Marvel? Why?)

Anyway, I have two more issues and then I'll start Carol Corps, which I remain dubious about because Secret Wars. Battleworld. Where Doom is God or something. Ugh.

I'm currently reading an ARC of Trailer Park Fae by Lilith Saintcrow (what a rad name), who is a new-to-me author for review at B&N SF. I'm muddling through Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, too, because I'm going to dubcon [tumblr.com profile] rozurashii into a comic with me or keel over trying. Because I don't have enough projects already.

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