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[personal profile] helloladies
Today we're excited to welcome [tumblr.com profile] justira back to to Lady Business to talk about Mockingjay Part 1. Ira is an awesome illustrator, writer, and web developer who gained their powers by consuming the bones of their enemies. They make art, comics, and writing when they are not distracted by way too many video games. You can find more of Ira's work at their tumblr.

Mockingjay's recent release to DVD has reignited my ambivalence towards the movie— don't get me wrong, it's great having another female-led spec fic film, especially one with Natalie Dormer running support. But the film suffered a critical lack; the ghost of the movie it could have been hovered over the film for me: the film lacked confidence. The story — the book — is, at its core, part social commentary and part inspection of PTSD. But the film adaptation lacked the boldness to pull a full genre shift, or make up for Collins's shortcomings as a writer. Spoilers for the books and movies up through Mockingjay Part 1 and its equivalent part of the book follow.

What the movie should have done was listen to its own message more. It should have listened to Haymitch.

Haymitch explains how to use Katniss effectively.

Haymitch criticized Plutarch's effort at making Mockingjay propos: they were falling flat and felt artificial. What they needed to do — what the movie needed to do — was get inside Katniss's head, inspect the authentic intersection of her internal world and the world around her. Katniss's commodification had to be contingent upon her authenticity in order to function as intended. That's when the propos were the most genuine and effective. That's when the movie shone. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
I'm engaged in an ongoing battle with Kate Elliott's backlist. Currently, her backlist is winning. I've knocked out the Spiritwalker trilogy, Jaran, Spirit Gate, and now part of The Very Best of Kate Elliott for a total of 5 (and a half). Only 17 more to go (19 if we count the upcoming Court of Fives and The Black Wolves). Is there anyone out there who has finished everything? Did they ever return from their quest? I feel like everyone who does should get a celebratory ribbon or certificate of some kind. I may print myself one when I finish. She's written nineteen fucking books not to mention ancillary content and short fiction. Why is she not a guest of honor at every single convention in the United States? Get it together, SF convention culture, geez. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
I've been driving everyone around me up the wall with my complicated reactions to City of Stairs, a fantasy novel that dropped last September. I'm still a little angry about it, but less so now that I have some distance from my immediate reaction of "NO!!!", followed by ugly crying, followed by fuming for hours. When I meet a story that's so wonderful, and I love all the characters, the adventure is fun, the setting is fascinating, and there's a rich sense of history to the world, I want it to be perfect so I can recommend it without reservation. This is another good example of what happens when a book you love just hauls off and socks you in the jaw. Not maliciously, but as we all know, we don't read stories in a vacuum!

City of Stairs is doing so many things right that I'm crushed over the fact that I came away from the book so conflicted. I went through this with God's War by Kameron Hurley, too, where I had to leave the book alone for awhile because I was just so utterly disappointed that everything I loved also existed with one story element that made me so unhappy. Everything we love is problematic, the saying goes, so what's the right balance? What do we do with otherwise excellent books that repeat troubling patterns? Because obviously burning them in a pile while crying bitterly isn't cost effective or a good way to not smell like dead, burned books. Also, you just burned all those other parts you loved. Crap.

cover and blurb )

Shara Thivani, who comes to Bulikov with her secretary, Sigrud, to investigate the murder of historian Efrem Pangyui, is so wonderful. I loved her immediately after her first scene with her Aunt Vinya, a politician of note in Shara's home country of Saypur. She's intelligent and clever, but a little bit arrogant and condescending, too. In a scene very early on she talks about jingoism and is rather holier-than-thou about it, which is fascinating as the story that follows dismantles her self-satisfaction over being better than the people who engage in the sort of overt patriotism versus her own, more shadowy version. She's compassionate and kind, but she has important things to learn about the policies she's been enforcing, and it's a treat to go along with her as she unravels the mystery of what's happening in Bulikov and on the Continent itself. Her companion, Sigrud, is interesting on an interpersonal level because how are these people, of all the people in the world, partners? But he's also delightful — he got some of the best action sequences. There's multiple professional and personal relationships here between women like Mulaghesh and Vinya, as well, which is so wonderful. The top Saypuri leaders we get to know are all women, which was extremely satisfying. If they cut each other down or challenged each other, it wasn't because they were women, it was because they were politicians.

But to me the heart of the novel is about history — both personal and national — and how history can shape so much of what we do and who we are, and what the consequences are if we learn new things about history and misuse that information. What kind of people do we become when we learn new truths or have what we think we knew challenged? We often have a choice, and that choice has far-reaching consequences much longer and more influential than we can see. What's more important: the truth or our egos? People or power?

City of Stairs is lively in its writing, canny with its revelations, and boasts a crunchy critique about colonialism that unfolds until the very end, all wrapped up in an intriguing spy narrative package. Even in dark moments there is hope, friendship, love, and compassion. I enjoyed it so much. A summary:

PEOPLE IN POWER: Shara, don't do it.
SHARA: I did it.


SHARA: Vohannes, no.


BAD GUYS: *terrible actions*
SIGRUD: *silent decision to beat some guys down*
SHARA: Oh, not again...

But I have some caveats. Although, when don't I? 10,000 points to the person who can name the last book I didn't have caveats over. Character spoilers beyond this point. )

Special Thanks!

To Sunil ([twitter.com profile] ghostwritingcow) for assuring me I wasn't a jerk, and providing excellent edits. ♥

Other Reviews )
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[personal profile] helloladies
What does it mean when a book is released as YA fantasy in one country but adult fantasy in another? What IS epic fantasy, anyway? Should everyone read One Piece (YES)? Does it matter if most of the awesome parts of a book have to be found in hindsight and require qualification? Are revenge narratives over kingdoms even interesting anymore? Does Joe Abercrombie like pain and suffering to the exclusion of everything else*? Renay and Ana from The Book Smugglers tackle these questions and more using thousands and thousands of words.

* lies; we don't tackle this at all, because the answer is obviously yes.

cover and blurb although the blurb got a little overwhelmed with itself )


Renay: So, that happened. Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies

For hundreds of years the Guardians have ruled the world of the Hundred, but these powerful gods no longer exert their will on the world. Only the reeves, who patrol on enormous eagles, still represent the Guardians' power. And the reeves are losing their authority; for there is a dark shadow across the land that not even the reeves can stop.

A group of fanatics has risen to devour villages, towns, and cities in their drive to annihilate all who oppose them. No one knows who leads them; they seem inhumanly cruel and powerful. Mai and Anji, riding with a company of dedicated warriors and a single reeve who may hold a key to stopping the deadly advance of the devouring horde, must try, or the world will be lost to the carnage. But a young woman sworn to the Goddess may prove more important than them all . . . if they are not too late.

Spoilers. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay

In August I read Jaran, because friends, I have a burning desire to jam the entirety of Kate Elliott's backlist in my eyes. I can't yet move forward into the warm embrace of her new world building, because the current publishing landscape is a barren, Kate-less land until 2015, at which point it's going to be like finding at least five or six oases in a row (okay, or three, she's only publishing three things. Only in my wildest dreams would five Kate Elliott books drop in the same year).

The point is that she's publishing a lot in 2015 so this is the perfect time to engage in some backlist adventures and catch up, if, like me, you were cruelly blocked from knowing she existed before her Spiritwalker trilogy caught your attention.

I loved that trilogy (you could read it if you haven't! here is the review that may convince you!) even though I don't consider fantasy my home genre like I do science fiction. In reality I should have read Jaran the first time I saw it mentioned on The Book Smugglers.

I loved it, friends. Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
cover for Cold Steel

Trouble, treachery, and magic just won't stop plaguing Cat Barahal. The Master of the Wild Hunt has stolen her husband Andevai. The ruler of the Taino kingdom blames her for his mother's murder. The infamous General Camjiata insists she join his army to help defeat the cold mages who rule Europa. An enraged fire mage wants to kill her. And Cat, her cousin Bee, and her half-brother Rory, aren't even back in Europa yet, where revolution is burning up the streets.

Revolutions to plot. Enemies to crush. Handsome men to rescue.

Cat and Bee have their work cut out for them. (source)


KJ: So I have start by thanking Renay for recommending this series to me so strongly, because otherwise I would not have picked it up. And that would have been a shame. Kate Elliott has long been on my list of "authors to check out someday, perhaps", but I'd never received a rec for any particular title. Since that list is very, very long, I doubt she would have moved to the top otherwise. Now I feel a burning need to at least take a look at everything else she has ever written.

Renay: By "strongly" you mean climbing the walls and going "READ IT OMG READ IT OR ELSE" and freaking you out so much that it became self-preservation, right? ;) I'm the best handseller, clearly. Count yourself lucky we live half a country apart, otherwise I would've taped the book to my face and done a backward crab crawl at you down a dark hall. WOULDN'T YOU HAVE BEEN CONVINCED? Read more... )

"The ideal is a story in which women are present all the way from the protagonist to multiple secondary and minor characters, and that their interactions with each other are as important as their interactions with men." — Kate Elliott, Author Interview, The Book Wars

Other reviews )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
book cover showing a partial body shot of a chromatic girl with a lit up leaf design trailing all down her right arm

'I think for a long time, I thought that art could save us, could save all of us. That our capacity to create beauty was enough to buoy us above the tide of bullshit.

I thought being visible for others who had to experience the god-help-us-all or worse that we had to experience – I thought this could give comfort, company, solace in desperate hours.

I saw it all in relation to the book-of-all-books, the book of everything that’s ever been written, that has the weight of history in it, which is always written by those in power, which is likely not the side anyone reading this is usually, overtly on. It felt really important to testify, to enter into the record that we were here, that we resisted, that there was dissent. I believed that art could save lives...

Part of me still knows that art can save lives, change minds, bear witness. But it’s not enough to talk about ending homelessness, ending rape, ending war. We need to be out there – however we can do it. Making things happen on more than just a linguistic level. Because words just aren’t enough. No one has died for lack of a poem. But people die every day for lack of food and shelter...

But what I wish it could do — any poetry could do — is save the world, whether by recuperating American letters and horror movies into a feminist construct, for example (Final Girl), or by re-membering female historical figures (Kissing Dead Girls), or documenting the prostitutes killed by a serial killer (Why Things Burn), or striking out at injustice in Gotham. But it won’t work. I only have a very small cape. And there is so much to write.'- (Daphne Gottlieb interviewed at The Rumpus)

"The Summer Prince" takes questions of art and political engagement, and examines them by winding its characters up in age old artistic struggles. Can art change the world? Are artists activists? How can artists use fame to change the political establishment? And perhaps most importantly of all, what good is art if it can’t save a life?

'There’s a song.'

At the same time, because of certain problematic elements in the world-building of "The Summer Prince" (pointed out to me by various smart commentators with knowledge of and ties to current Brazil) "The Summer Prince" ends up posing critical meta-questions about how art functions in the world. How do we react to a book that adds to the diversity of science fiction, but makes clumsy futuristic changes to real world settings which end up reinforcing stereotypical outsider views? How do we react when a narrative that contains bisexual characters only goes so far in re-imagining a narrative and ends up re-creating what is a painfully familiar ending in LGBTQ literature? How do we write about this kind of book in a way that encompasses the love we may have initially felt and the knowledge you gained later? The answer – complexly, extremely differently depending on who we are and with if you’re me, with a lot help for my more well-informed friends.

Spoilers )

The Summer Prince doesn’t propose a workable way for us to save the world with art. Nor, though it tries, does it totally, successfully work at expanding the SF worlds represented in Western media. It’s not going to be a book that many can feel comfortable while reading and that is a great shame for those readers who I’m sure would like great SF set in a country they love/ see a story where men who love each other aren’t torn apart by death. It presents a world where a two boys and a girl can love each other, where they can try to save the world, and there something great in that. I just wish this were a book that could be recommended all around, instead of another work to come with caveats.

I wrote this post for Aarti's A More Diverse Universe event

Other Reviews

The Book Smugglers
Foz Meadows
The Intergalactic Academy
Black Girl Nerds
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay

cover of Ancillary Justice

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren—a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose—to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch. (source)

This book is wonderful.


Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Book cover for Jo Walton's Farthing shows a blue swastika, within the swastika shape is a house with one window lit up

Jo Walton is the Judy Dench of SFF. She’s a beloved grande dame of the genre; an award winner with an impressive back list of titles, who is highly thought of by many prominent critics. I have read plenty of blog posts that extolled the virtues of her fiction over the years. So, of course, despite having three of her books in my house I have been studiously ignoring her work up until now. What makes us readers collect multiple books by an author but then shy away from actually reading them? How do we cure ourselves of this bookish sickness?

As we all know, the only way to go from being a collector to a reader is to ignore any irrational guilt about how long you’ve had one work or another and just dive in wherever you like. Sorry "Tooth and Claw", your luck is out. I love dragons, but the book I wanted to read the most was the one that promised me a policeman who was gay. Which leads me to this posy about "Farthing", the first book in Walton’s “Small Change” trilogy, which I wrote just days after turning the book's last page. Judging by the speed of my typing fingers this was a choice well made.

Spoilers for WWII and whodunnit )

Other Reviews

Reading the End
Book Lust and things mean a lot (joint review)
The Literary Omnivore
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[personal profile] renay
Cover of Leviathan Wakes showing a spaceship approaching a human-developed asteroid.

Humanity has colonized the solar system — Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond — but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, "The Scopuli," they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for — and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to "The Scopuli" and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations — and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe. (source)


Leviathan Wakes has —

Awesome space battles: ✓
Fantastic teamwork and team dynamics: ✓
Cool divisions in future!humanity: ✓
Neat space habitats: ✓
Morally dubious baddies: ✓
Brothels in space!!: ✓
Smurfette Principle in Action: ✓
Important Dead Lady: ✓

...wait. Read more... )

Other Reviews )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Book cover for Cold Magic which shows a front facing image of Cat Barahal. She has dark hair curly hair. To the left side of her is a curlicue pattern and behind her is something that looks like machinery. The bottom of the cover shows a blue mountain range.

It is the dawn of a new age... The Industrial Revolution has begun, factories are springing up across the country, and new technologies are transforming in the cities. But the old ways do not die easy.

“I was not a bard or a djeli or an historian or a scribe and I was certainly not a sage, but that didn't mean I wasn't curious…”

Young Cat Barahal thinks she understands the world she lives in and her place in it, but in fact she is merely poised, unaware, on the brink of shattering events. Drawn into a labyrinth of politics involving blood, betrayal and old feuds, she will be forced to make an unexpected and perilous journey in order to discover the truth, not just about her own family but about an ancient secret lying at the heart of her world.

Cat and her cousin Bee are part of this revolution. Young women at college, learning of the science that will shape their future and ignorant of the magics that rule their families. But all of that will change when the Cold Mages come for Cat. New dangers lurk around every corner and hidden threats menace her every move. If blood can't be trusted, who can you trust?

Renay and Jodie present an epic co-review, with extreme spoilers, of some epic fantasy. How appropriate. tl;dr )

Supplemental Material )

Other Reviews )
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
a large black winged person flying through the sky among floating islands

Moon has spent his life hiding what he is — a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself... someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community. What this stranger doesn't tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power... that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony's survival... and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell! Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save himself... and his newfound kin. (source)

I have a weird relationship with this novel, which began last year, when everyone (and I mean, it felt like everyone) was telling the world this book had to be read now. Run, don't walk! to the store to get your copy BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE1. The fervor over this title led me to it last year, predictably months behind everyone else. I picked it up in March and promptly failed out.

Don't worry, there's a happy ending here. Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
blue book cover for The Killing Moon featuring a large orange moon

The first time the reader meets Gatherer Ehiru, one of the main characters in N K Jemisin's 'The Killing Moon', he is fulfilling a commission from an elderly man's son to bring his father to peace; essentially undertaking a contract for euthanasia. As a result of this process, Ehiru collects a substance called dreamblood. Ehiru is just one of four Gatherers, important holy figures in a religious order that worships the moon goddess Hananja. They all collect dreamblood in the same way, by releasing people1 who are sick, or old, or who have been found to be somehow corrupt.

Later in the novel the reader learns that the Gatherers must take on dreamblood to survive. They sleep in the day, as they spend nights gathering dreamblood. Collecting dreamblood fills Ehiru with 'langour', a delicious and deadly word which partly brings to mind a satiated, well fed animal. I can't tell you just how much joy it gives me to say that taking all this into account I'd say, it's a pretty short hop, skip and a jump from Gatherers to 'space vampires'. Space. Vampires. How fricking delightful!

Read more... )
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
cover of Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty online 419 scam habit — and a talent for finding lost things. But when her latest client, a little old lady, turns up dead and the cops confiscate her lastpaycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job: missing persons. [source]

Zoo City is the second novel by Lauren Beukes, and tells the story of a world that's been touched with magic, where people who have committed violence against others find themselves with animal familiars. This novel had the potential to be a mess given its premise. After all, we've already had a genre-defining narrative about animals and people and I have yet to hear of another author that does what Philip Pullman does with his humans and dæmons with such grace. I was fascinated to find that Beukes not only takes on the challenge of living up to this narrative and succeeds, but also wins at paying homage to Pullman as well as making the animals and the humans they're attached to her own distinct creation. Read more... )

Other Reviews )

Supplemental Materials )
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[personal profile] bookgazing

'Feed'! 'Feed'! I don't even know how to start. This zombie book is brutal and so, so sad and I kind of wanted to punch a wall at the end of it. Clearly it has my heart forever. *ahem*

I picked up Mira Grant's zombie novel 'Feed' as part of my ongoing quest to feel ,oh I don't know actually alive, engaged and understood, by reading political fiction. You might expect zombies in a political thriller to be stand in symbols for the oppressed masses, as typically that's their usual monster symbolism role, much as vampires traditionally represented the upper classes feeding on the working class until modern novelist started re-configuring the vampire. 'Feed' however, is relatively uninterested in class politics (I'll get to this quiet, narrative indifference later) and instead spends its time exploring the ways a zombie apocalypse might be used politically by the people who hold positions of high authority. This seems a pertinent line of investigation in a time when we are all used to watching politicians spin disasters in ways which allow them to control us more thoroughly through fear.

'Feed' is set in America in 2024, many years after an event called The Rising. In 2014 two medical cures 'met' accidentally in American airspace and combined to create the Kellis-Amberlee virus, which spread throughout the entire world. This mutated new virus was rather special. It caused the dead to rise.

By 2024, Kellis-Amberlee is passed on genetically to every person born after The Rising and lies dormant, waiting to take over and re-animate their bodies after they die. People can also spontaneously amplify if the virus randomly decides to activate (although these occurrences are rare), or if they come into contact with fluids containing the virus. Once amplified or re-animated a person is legally dead, transformed into an unconscious 'meat puppet' host with no memory, emotions or sensitivity to pain. They are able to function physically, urged on by the animating virus, so that they can eat flesh which enables them to gain energy which in turn allows them to move around, spreading the virus by spitting on, biting, scratching human beings. The zombie apocalypse has officially arrived and it isn't going anywhere, ever if the virus has its way

In the post-Rising world the zombie outbreak is a global tragedy which imposes severe restrictions on people. It requires a monumental amount of organisational change, but the world does go on. See, the era of The Rising isn't just named after the rising of the dead; its name reminds society that when the dead rose up so did the living. When The Rising began, initially the government censored what the public knew, keeping them in the dark about the virus. No official reports were made detailing the actual truth, though some misleading reports, designed to keep citizens calm and distracted, were issued. The real news eventually reached the public through an unregulated channel, when a scientist took control of his 14 year old daughter's blog and started leaking the truth. When information eventually escaped about what was really going on, the enraged, betrayed general public massed together and fought the zombies using an assembly of homemade weapons and knowledge gleaned from zombie films, determined to reclaim their world. They were (after a period of deadly experimentation) rather successful. That's the first indication that 'Feed' is as concerned with the political . The general public rose in anger, instead of waiting for unreliable governmental bodies to decide whether they actually needed to be given the truth.

The America presented in Grant's book is not the post-apocalyptic world in breakdown you might expect to see appear after the dead return to kill the living, if you've watched any zombie film. In many areas people live, commerce prospers, developed life goes on; it's just that now every aspect of societal development has to take the zombies into account. This re-designed, but relatively stable version of society is replicated in the UK and presumably the world over (we don't hear so much about how other countries are coping, which is a shame and I would love to see spin off investigative world building tomes written by Grant). Such a successful defence and re-establishment of society, in the midst of an active and perpetual zombie problem, raises some interesting questions, which preoccupy the book. If the world goes on even once it's full of zombies how will the authorities, who continue to hold power, spin that situation to make it work to their advantage? And how do the people stop them from screwing everyone, from making capital off our fear and from essentially making the world worse after the initial zombie outbreak?

Enter bloggers! Ever since the officials criminally manipulated the news to keep citizens calm as their death lurched towards them, blogging has become a huge growth industry. Regular journalists exist and work for the news corporations, but the independence of Newsie bloggers like the book's protagonist Georgina (George) Mason and their serious commitment to presenting real news as honestly as their own biases allow them to, resonates with something deep inside the public. At the same time blogging is still treated with suspicion by politicians and regular journalists alike.

The official stance of many politicians seems to be that bloggers are kind of lawless reporters without ethics, but with each blogger officially licensed, their biases registered for all to see and their reports held to professional journalistic standards by their community, it's difficult for anyone to factually justify this portrayal of bloggers. The real reason why people in power seem antagonistic towards bloggers stems from the independent nature of bloggers and the heritage of revolution associated with this type of reporting. They're not on the payroll and they can't be controlled, without oh say, recourse to blackmail. And if we take George as a typical representation of a Newsie, they're natural diggers when faced with an important story that no one in authority wants them to look into. Bloggers are the force keeping politics as honest as it can be. A mass blogging industry is the public response to the betrayal of the government and associated organisations; the public restructuring of existing systems. Regular people, take control of the news! That's political flash point number two.

The bloggers presented in 'Feed' are very much people that I think current bloggers will be able to identify with, as they deal with some of the snideness we face from the established media. However, they're also members of a distinct future society where blogging looks quite different occupation than it does now, due to the unique circumstances of the post-Rising world. When I started reading 'Feed' I have to admit I thought that Grant had created a version of blogging that sounded like some author's fluffiest internet dreams. Licensed bloggers? The first question that raises in my mind is, are any licenses being deliberately withheld? Are bloggers back bowing to the gatekeepers in this world if they want to gain legal access to material? These questions never really come up in Grant's universe. Licenses are issued based on a person's ability to pass or fail merit based exams and bribery, corruption and bias never enter into that system, which seems rather unlikely in a world with power systems similar to our own. George and her team are so familiar with the system that they never raise a critical eye at it and they never encounter a textual reason to question the system, but I found it hard not to wonder about this aspect of Grant's world while reading the first installment of her trilogy.

I also wondered why everyone was blogging to pay the bills...There are probably solid reasons for the disappearance of free blogging in the undisclosed meta of the book, but it's never flat out brought up in the text and I couldn't independently work out that reasoning from the context of the society presented. Taking the blogging industry (and it is very much an industry after The Rising, where click-throughs, market share and sponsorship matter a lot) that George and her team of bloggers work in as a representation of real, possible future blogging would make for uncomfortable reading for me. So, while reading I pretty much decided to take Grant's world as an experimental fiction cut off from reality rather than an anticipated future projection. Your mileage may vary on this issue.

Questions about the potential revolutionary limits of such a regulated and monetised system of blogging become especially pertinent when you examine the economic status of most of the bloggers we meet. George and her action reporter (or Irwin) brother Shaun are the children of wealthy, famous Newsie's. Buffy, the team's IT expert, lives in a secure compound for the rich. While reading I wondered if the blogging aspect of this society's revolution was being directed by all of the regular population or if access to the blogging world relied on having independent wealth and high levels of social status.We have very little economic or family background on the other bloggers we meet, so it's difficult to assess whether their presence answers these questions. Any view that 'Feed' is a book of political revolution must be tempered with questions about the economic status of those it sets at the head of the revolution and the absence of less financially secure characters, until the text of the whole trilogy provides reasons for the missing levels of our current economic structure in Grant's world.

So there are aspects of this novel which remind me that it may not feel especially politically progressive to everyone but looking at this book from a personal perspective, any SF book that is capable of explaining that bloggers aren't the devil or some kind of annoying, immoral parasites is doing at least one thing that satisfies me 1. One of the more original things about 'Feed' is that it's an SF novel which manages to engage with the idea that new scientific advances may kill us all if they go wrong and that technology can be harnessed in useful ways! Not to give anything away here, but the evil people in this book are not the ones embedded in scientific culture. There isn't just one mad scientists or techno hardware terrorist bent on destroying the technically inept. The villains are bad, bigoted people who mistrust technology and want to use a terrible virus as a weapon (and yes these people may manage to corrupt technically gifted people, but I feel that is different from some technological genius orchestrating a whole evil plot). Thank goodness! I mean I dig scientifically created post-apocalypses, because the reality of something going wrong with technology/technology just being the cause of our environmental downfall is quite high. Still, give it up for a little understanding of the difference between 'science and technology has gone bad' and 'science and technology are Eeeevilll and corrupt those who use them'. Can I get a hell yeah for an attempt to address the dominance of certain narratives?

Moving away from discussion of 'Feed's technologically centred world to talk about the novel's main plot: George and Shaun Mason have been doing well as syndicated bloggers working for The After End Times but 2024 is the year when they get their big break. They win the contract to be official bloggers on Senator Ryman's campaign trail, as he angles to become the Republican candidate for the presidency. At this point 'Feed' reveals its political thriller heart, as George and her crew become active parts in a conspiracy where someone is using the Kellis-Amberlee virus to try and take down Ryman. The use of the thriller structure is tight and powers the plot forward with a satisfactory amount of drive. Some epic tension is created through dramatic revelations, deferred knowledge and fraught zombie encounters. Although I found the resolution to the mystery kind of lacking in dominant narrative subversion and nuance, I ate the thriller pacing and political setting of this novel up.

As George gets more access to the political inside, the reader gets to hear more of her views about how the zombie problem is being used to keep the people down, or frightened. Aside from the pacing and action adventure elements of the political plot, hearing her insights about the politics of zombies was one of the things I enjoyed most about the bloggers getting involved in the campaign trail. George is just so smart and uncompromising in her opinions. I loved hearing her intelligent, cynical voice so much, which is lucky since 'Feed' is written entirely from her first person perspective. I adore George. I just...she's like one of my favourite characters now.

Huge, huge spoilers ahead. No fooling around. )

'Alive or dead, the truth won't rest. My name is Georgia Mason, and I am begging you: Rise up while you can.'

' "I was writing"

"You're always writing, unless you're reading, screwing with something mechanical, or masturbating, I replied.

"Are you wearing clothes?"

"Currently," she said, irritation fading into confusion. "Georgia is that you?"

"It ain't Shaun." I pulled on a white-button down shirt, jamming the hem under the waistband of my skirt. "We'll be there to pick you up in fifteen. ''We' being me, Shaun, and the 'rents. They're taking the whole crew out to dinner. It's just them trying to piggy-back on our publicity for some ratings, but right now failing to care." '

'There are moments when I look at the world I'm living in, all the cutthroat politics and the incredible petty, partisan deal mongering, and I wonder how anyone could be happy doing anything else. After this local politics would seem like a bake sale. Which means I need to stay exactly where I am, and that means making sure everyone sees how good I am at my job.'

George writes like that in her professional capacity and she talks in a similar way throughout the book. Her voice is cynical, piercing, intelligent, frequently snarky and often full of passion. If you want to try more of it before you decide whether to read the book, Sarah Rees Brenan wrote a good roundup post full of quotes that show you George's voice in action for her 'Sleuth Thursday' series. I love crack whip characters whose comebacks are sharp, so George's verbal smarts captivated me early on. I've also got a TARDIS sized space in my heart for cynical ladies who see through the world's facades and call people out on their fudging (probably because they're the brave role models I need). George is a world weary journalist who wouldn't choose any other job, a lady shaped by the circumstances her career choices throw at her and her clear eyed scepticism is an integral part of that natural personality. With her shades, rabid Coke habit, firm management style and straight down the line professional drive George is the very model of a particular kind of pulp journalist aesthetic redrawn for a futuristic society.

And that idea of George as an old school character type redefined for SF carries through into the way that George approaches journalism. When she begins working on Senator Ryman's campaign it becomes clear that although she's very concerned with the concept of truth, she's also aware of the underpinnings of fair play that accompany journalism, which feels like a holdover from an older moral school of fictional journalist characters. For example she doesn't think all her readers need to know the Senator's wife has a reservoir Kellis-Amberlee condition (the same condition George herself has) as the conditions are common and don't pose a threat to people, so in George's opinion it's none of her readers concern. I like heroines who play fair, I mean really fair and objective with no fudging of the important truths but also without needlessly insisting that everything must be exposed or their integrity will be compromised. You might expect that idea of privacy to have vanished in a world with 24/7 near live reporting where access to the truth has become so important, but George maintains that important distinction in her reporting. I never really stood a chance of seeing George objectively, because her character type is so in synch with a lot of my likes. The development of her character may not be extensive (although her characterisation isn't shallow, it's more that she's purposeful and she follows a pretty clear line through life so her personality is reasonably constant throughout the novel) but she is a very well created character of a certain type. I adore her. It broke my heart to see her go.

I should probably note here, because I expect a lot of you are already drawing your own conclusions from the way I've described George, that George does generally fit the traditional shape of the 'strong female character'. I actually read 'Feed' around the time that a bunch of blog posts appeared about the problem of the strong female characters. The hunt was on in the blogosphere for more diverse representations of female strength and for female characters whose personalities weren't based around any kind of manifestation of strength, but here I was reading a pretty traditional feminist reaction character who, with her shades down, and her snarl on, shot zombies in the course of focusing on a career which endangered her life. The shortened version of her name is both male and a (maybe inadvertent) reminder of a great tomboy character from classic children's literature, who now evokes conflicted feelings in many adult women. Surely George is part of the problem afflicting female characterisation, so why did I love her quite so much?

I'm totally behind the idea that the 'strong female character' can be problematic and that the dominance of this kind of female character over any other kind can feel stifling, but I also stick by what I said at Ana's blog a few years ago when I talked about warrior women. I still like reading about female characters that fit the strong female character mould, as long as they're not excepto-girls who directly or indirectly trash other women, which George very much isn't as she has awesome female friends like Buffy who she cares about. l also like those individual characters for more than…I guess you could say their creator's choice to dress their characters in feminist armour. I mean, I like George's name, no lie. I think her smart, basic choices in dress sense sound cool. I find her sarcastic, no nonsense voice fun to read. I like that I think I perceive a feminist influence in the trappings of her character creation, but…overall I like George and George's presence is both the sum of her parts and more than the sum of her parts and also full of things that do not relate to her feminist armour at all. Like Buffy (the original) is Buffy at the same time that she is the Slayer and Billi is Billi at the same time that she is the first female member of the Knights Templar, George is both just George and 'strong female character type'. Of course the two are intertwined; it is impossible to say that George is more than the label 'strong female character', because that is so much a part of her personality that to disown it is to be disingenuous. I would be creating a separation where none exists to avoid feeling like I'm letting the feminist side down, but I also think that to reduce her down to a label because of some of her characteristics is equally simplifying.

I think my feelings on George as a 'strong female character' are along the same lines as Phoebe North's feelings about complaints that the overwhelming dead parent/orphan child trope needs to be ovah. As an individual, particular examples of this kind of characters are still appealing to me, in fact more than appealing, I embrace them with open arms. That doesn't mean I don't welcome critical discourse about characters that anyone considers ridiculous examples of the trope, or that I don't understand that when when one trend spreads too far it can feel like that trend is blocking representation of other truths that are important to people (they're important to me too, I want all the ladies represented). Nor does it mean that I think the world of 'Feed' is some kind of shining beacon of feminist writing, simply because it contains a particular kind of strong female character.

There was…let's say an uncomfortable air of casual sexism occasionally in the book, which along with George's resemblance to the 'strong female character' archetype was the cause of a fair bit of agonising. The biggest example of the book's unquestioned inclusion of sexism probably comes from the descriptions of the only female Republican candidate:

'Word on the blog circuit is that Kirsten 'Knockers' Wagman has serious breast augmentation surgery before she went into politics, acting on the assumption that in today's largely Internet-based demographic, looking good is more important than sounding like you have two brain cells to knock together.'

'Wagman believes in using her breasts in place of an informed debate'

'We're talking about a former stripper who got her seat in Congress by promising her constituency that for every thousand votes she got, she'd wear something else inappropriate to the floor'

The book returns to the idea that Wagman is scantily clad and ill-suited to politics regularly. While this could be seen as another example of the book gleefully satirising/targeting Republican politicians (the other male candidate besides Senator Ryman gets a pasting too) it's hard to deny that this particular way of writing off the female candidate makes for uncomfortable reading. The descriptions of her focus on the way she looks and dresses, then appear to link her physical presentation with her lack of intellect and political ability. They also paint a pretty traditional picture of a woman who uses her body to try to get herself into a top position, which is rlly not a straw woman idea that needs to be reinforced again. If Palin's car crash drive for office taught us anything, it should be that political disdain is still no excuse for sexism.

Add to this portrayal the images of the female journalists that George and her brother have to engage with as 'chirpy little "anchorwomen" — because every twit who knows how to post an interview on the vid is an anchorwomen these days; just ask them…' as well as the talk of female 'groupies' that follow Ryman's campaign trail and it does start to look like the narrative of my beloved 'Feed' is infected (oh obvious zombie jokes, I am so funny) with casual sexism. I hesitate to say that George is sexist, even though the story is entirely told in her first person voice, because she is just commenting honestly on the world she sees around her, a world where her creator has made some of the background female characters kind of ridiculous .And like I said she is good friends with other women. She does not trash all women and she cares about her female colleagues/friends. Still, as she doesn't really comment on what social pressures may influence the ways the women in the background of her world appear to act, but instead tends to rather harshly criticise them for having failings and feels her comments are perfectly justified, I think it has to be said that George has ended up carrying around as much casual, unaddressed sexism as a lot of ladies (including myself). do in the real world. This is realistic, but a bit disappointing in a book which in other ways adds to the progressiveness of fiction (kick ass heroine type, Republican candidate in happy lesbian marriage, not an all-white cast, female super genius computer programmer). And then there is a thing to do with the spoiler section of this post which gave me a bit of a pause, but no more spoilering so instead vague sentences and *ask me about it in the comments type motions*3.

And all of the things I've mentioned above are important and made me feel a bit weird, but…I wouldn't give up my experience of having read 'Feed' for anything. I feel, like this is going to sound odd because she is fictional, but I actually feel lucky to have been able to spend time with George, as well as Sean and all the other characters. I feel like I got to see something special in this book, where reading about the lights on the infection test kits of an inseparable brother and sister flash red to green, red to green red to green, put my heart in a vice no matter how many times the trick was repeated because I knew how inconsolable they would be without one another.

This novel managed to put so much interesting stuff in one place: political engagement; well judged pacing; characters bound by important relationships with each other; humour; no-fear use of in depth fictional science; intricate world building that made me want to keep up; a paranormal setting where telling people the truth is more important than keeping them safe by withholding knowledge (secrets for safety is one of my least favourite tropes); a focus on characters instead of zombie deaths and a brutality that rocked me and made me realise just how much I cared. Like all my favourite media I know 'Feed' isn't perfect. I'll listen to you talk about how not perfect it is if you want and I'll join in, as long as we can talk about the bits that work so, so well too. But non-perfect media goes straight to my heart all the time and that's what has happened with 'Feed' (and to a lesser extent 'Deadline', which I hope I'll talk about soon). Thank goodness Meghan has agreed to read Blackout',the final instalment of the trilogy, with me. I'm not sure how I'd cope without my reading buddy.

I mean I'm clearly still #teamunicorn, but still...'Feed'! <3

Notes - again some spoilers )

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[personal profile] helloladies
Renay and Jodie discuss a book so overtly feminist and female focused that its author surely must have dastardly plans for mankind. If you never go past the spoiler cut, how will you ever save the world from the clutches of the womenz?

cover of The Carhullan Army which shows a green background and images of winding creeper plants with yellow flowers   cover of Daughters of the North which shows a out of focus photograph of a woman's downturned face and shoulder

The state of the nation has changed. With much of the country now underwater, assets and weapons seized by the government - itself run by the sinister Authority - and war raging in South America and China, life in Britain is unrecognisable. Most appallingly, in this world of scant resources and hard industrial labour, the Authority insist all women should be fitted with contraceptive devices.

In The Carhullan Army, Sister, as she is known, delivers her story from the confines of a prison cell. She tells of her attempts to escape this repressive world and her journey to join the commune of women at Carhullan, a group living as 'unofficials' in a fortified farm beyond the most remote Cumbrian fells. The journey is a challenge, but arrival is only the beginning of her struggle. (source)
Warning: all the spoilers.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
Two men and two women etched in gray-scale with a box containing a red X where their faces should be

Moxyland is a near-future science fiction story, set in South Africa. It follows the lives of four people: Kendra, a newly minted corporate sponsor; Toby, a narcissistic, privileged kid playing at independence who records his adventures on his BabyStrange coat; Tendaka, a small time, play-acting terrorist with big dreams and but small-time mentality; and Lerato, an AIDS baby who has climbed the corporate ladder with no qualms about stepping on people as she does but spends her free time hacking, undermining and sneaking around with Toby for thrills. Moxyland is the story of how their lives collide, intertwine, and eventually spin out of control. Read more... )
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[personal profile] nymeth
cover image for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
There were three gods once.

Only three, I mean. Now there are dozens, perhaps hundreds. They breed like rabbits. But once there were only three, most powerful and glorious of all: the god of day, the god of night, and the goddess of twilight and dawn. Or light and darkness and the shades between. Or order, chaos, and balance. None of that is important because one of them died, the other might as well have, and the last is the only one who matters anymore.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is narrated by Yeine Darr (or Yeine Arameri), who at the age of nineteen is summoned by her powerful grandfather to the imposing city of Sky, the centre of the political world. Yeine’s home, Darre, is seen by those in charge of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms as a land of hopeless barbarians, and possibly of secret heretics. Her mother, Kinneth, was one of the Arameri, the elite family in whose hands power is concentrated; when Kinneth turned her back on her family to marry Yeine’s father, the whole of Darre fell in disgrace, and the economic repercussion of the Arameri’s ill will are felt to the present day.

The summons from Sky comes shortly after Kinneth’s mysterious death,  and one of Yeine’s reasons for going is to try and find out who wanted her mother killed after all this time – and why. But when she arrives, her grandfather, Dekarta, informs her that he’s formally naming her one of his heirs – which means that, along with two unknown and possibly murderous cousins, she’s now in the line of succession for the throne.
MOAR words )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Cross posted from Bookgazing to dangle the shiny directly in front of Renay

In her review Nic from Eve’s Alexandria says that ‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’ narrative is ‘neither as fragmentary and unreliable, nor as conversational’ as the first lines of the novel had led her to hope. The novel opens by thrusting the reader into the distant, distressed perspective of an unnamed narrator:

‘I am not as I once was. They have done this to me, broken me open and torn out my heart. I don’t know who I am anymore. I must try to remember.’
and for the next two pages a sense of confusion continues to interject itself, no matter how solid a narrative the speaker tries to construct. The narrator identifies herself, elaborating on her precise lineage and the several different names she can be called, but this is preceded by the words ‘But I forget myself. Who was I again? Ah, yes.’, a phrase that signals the narrators struggles with a mind that is wandering for some reason. Although, after the first few pages the narrator turns to telling the story in a linear fashion, without many further interruptions, these early pages do set up certain expectations of further, messier disorder as the novel’s action and emotion becomes more intense.

These expectations are never fully met as this disordered and raw (although still artistically controlled) narrative strand is spread almost too regularly through the novel to stylistically reflect a significant amount of pain and confusion. The narrator, quickly introduces herself as Yeine ‘daughter of Kinneth’, she is from the tribe of Darre and she is the granddaughter of Dekarta Arameri, who we later find out is the leader of the family that rules N K Jemisin’s fantasy world. She then goes on to roll out her story, in a mostly linear past tense narrative that is interrupted at intervals by Yeine’s present tense voice (sort of, there’s a surprise concealed in this element of style that I won’t spoil, because it is really interesting to discover as the novel progresses). Yeine’s less controlled side only interrupts when events in the linear narrative have reached a natural break point in the past narrative, which makes the moments when the more chaotic narrative breaks through feel too ordered by the authorial hand.

It could be that this ordered insertion of a more mysterious, chaotic narrative is a structural indication that Yeine is a mentally strong character. Throughout the novel Yeine is shown to be a strong character and perhaps her strength extends to an exertion of control over the bubbling forces inside of her, which allows her to keep their narrative disruption to a minimum. Perhaps she proves her strength by reaching set points in her narrative before allowing a less ordered train of thought dominance. Still, considering that ‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’ contains central themes of madness and epic disorder I was expecting a bit more stylistic roughness, such as phrases butting in to the nice neat mapping of out memories, especially since Yeine’s present state has been established as ‘broken’ and disorientated.

However, like Nic, I found myself easily won over by Yeine and the reader barriers my expectations might have erected were knocked aside as I spent more time reading about her. Yeine is kind of amazing. Soon after arriving in Sky she discovers that it is her destiny to die in roughly a week and nothing can save her. At first she is devastated and spends a day crying for herself. She then goes on to make an alliance with the gods enslaved by the Arameri, searches for her mother’s killer, uncovers a lot of secrets, schemes to improve Darre’s poor economic situation and finds the time to form meaningful relationships with people and gods. The inclusion of her tears allows the reader to feel a level of emotional realism which makes Yeine’s later actions even more heroic, as she overcomes fear and sadness that could have understandably left her unable to act. When she arrives in Sky she’s the warrior girl who has come to avenge her mother’s death and that sounds like a kickass character description, but by the end of the book she has done so much more alongside that.

The catalyst for her story is the kind of geography spanning, detailed family politics than I adore (as long as I can keep everyone’s names straight). Yeine’s mother, Kinneth, became estranged from her biological family, the ruling Arameri, when she left their home in Sky (a crazy balancing act of a palace in the clouds that overlooks a city of the same name) to live with her lower class lover. Sky, rules the entire Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, including Darre, Yeine’s father’s homeland. Kinneth was recently murdered and Yeine assumes her grandfather Dekarta was behind the killing.

Even though the gap between Kinneth and Dekarta’s original rift and Kinneth’s death is rather large Yeine is aware that no one puts the Arameri family in the corner and stays alive. At the beginning of the novel her mother has been dead a month and Yeine has just been summoned to Sky to meet her grandfather for the first time. She goes, giving up her claim to the leadership of Darre’s matriarchal society, simply because ‘one does not refuse an invitation from the Arameri’, a comment which immediately shows the uncontested power of the ruling family and the fear they inspire. She also hopes to get close enough to confirm her beliefs about Kinneth’s murder. If she can make an opportunity, she plans to avenge her mother by killing her grandfather. That is just the tip of the crazy complicated familial relationships that Yeine has to deal with1.

Although Yeine is the narrator, the central character and such a different kind of female character (she describes herself as ‘short and flat and brown as forest wood’ and was brought up in a matriarchal society that casually derides masculinity) it is disturbingly easy for my thoughts to focus on the male second main character of Nahadoth, because he is explosive and alluring. Nahadoth, is a god who was defeated by his brother Itempas, imprisoned in human flesh and forced to serve the Arameri. He is spectacular, with all the flashiness and destruction that word implies, while Yeine’s greatness is simply human. As a god of immense power, who enjoys killing and desires seeks revenge he is a deliciously sinister character, who is bound to catch any reader’s attention, while Yeine spends the novel learning to achieve her aims through subtle political machinations. In an interesting reversal of traditional gender types Yeine is the one in control of her emotions. She is by no means schooled into hardness, but she handles herself in a compact, quiet, effective way most of the time. Nahadoth on the other hand, constantly vibrates with dangerous emotion. He is a pretty special piece of negative character creation and it’s hard not to get caught up in gazing at his brightly coloured sparks.

I don’t want to put all the emphasis on the flashy male lead and the romance, because Yeine’s individual journey is the heart of this novel. However, ‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’ is undeniably a fantasy novel with a romance at its centre. The relationship between Yeine and Nahadoth, which begins with Yeine plunging a knife into his chest after he has chased her through Sky, progresses as Yeine performs a delicate dance of intellect around a psychopathic character with a soul like a dark well. Eventually their relationship becomes romantic. I know this sounds like a bad idea out of the ‘every girl loves a psychopath’ worn out drawer of misogynistic paranormal romance plots. Luckily the novel contains space for Yeine to notes the crazy dangerousness of Nahadoth, even as she notices her attraction to him. Yeine has some control over Nahadoth, which makes her superficially equal to him and her personality is solid enough to counter him sometimes, but I was pleased to see that Yeine is never allowed to be certain that she can keep him from hurting her. Their relationship is written with a full awareness of the power imbalance that necessarily exists between even the strongest woman and a paranormal lover.

The narrative also has Yeine set up her own safety barriers, even as she slowly grows closer to him, because she’s aware he can never be trusted while she is human. At first Nahadoth is that guy you don’t want to let anywhere near your favourite lady character (even though he is undeniably fascinating) who supernaturally breaks into Yeine’s room, but as his relationship with her develops he becomes more careful to encourage her to find ways to protect herself from him. He does this without removing her agency to choose a relationship with him. Their romance becomes a co-operatively shaped partnership where each person tries to do as little damage as possible to the other, but it never compromises the discomfort the reader feels at such an unequal, dangerous relationship by slipping into idealistic simplification.

Even the sex scene, which is glorious and edgy and glorious again, is under cut by fear and uneasy amnesia when Yeine awakes, reminding the reader that nothing is pure, or easy about this relationship. The narrative always encourages the reader to fear Nahadoth’s touch on Yeine’s skin, until Yeine gains a state that will make her as equal to Nahadoth and as safe from him as she can ever be. The result is a slippery beast of a romance, which confronts the culturally dominant idea that romantic feeling should blot out any reasonable objections to a potentially disturbing relationship.

In her review Nic from Eve’s Alexandria, explains that the book loses her when the romance between Yeine and Nahadoth ‘overwhelms the rest of the plot and characters’ and ends asking rhetorically ‘where did all the court intrigue go?’ Despite being desperately engaged with the romance in this novel, I agree with Nic that something central to the political plot falls down a hole, as the romance is reaching its climax. Yeine’s initial motivation for forming an alliance with Nahadoth and the gods who live with him, isn’t an offer of protection from them. They can’t keep her from dying. What they can offer her is a chance to triumph as she dies, by winning a contest to be named Dekarta’s heir. To be honest I’m not entirely sure how they were meant to achieve that, as it’s my understanding that she knows they need her to lose the contest, so she’ll be given the chance to access a vital artefact that will set the gods free, but I might be misunderstanding. Anyway, the gods take no action to help her take Dekarta’s position. Towards the end of the book it’s like Jemisin remembers that plot strand needs to be tied up, but Yeine winning doesn’t fit with her plot resolution, so Yeine just says it doesn’t matter anymore. Um. Obviously it’s a pipe dream for Yeine to be named heir, but she is such a persistent, principled character I was surprised she didn’t at least push the gods as much as possible until they tried to act, or admitted there was nothing they could do. It’s a bit of an inconsistency and suggests that the romantic storyline became so dominant that Jemisin simply ran out of room to develop this part of the political plot.

Rich, emotional fantasy novels like ‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’ give someone like me the chance to splash around indulgently in the artistry of darkly beautiful pain with very little guilt, but it’s not just a personal art/emotion kink that led to my satisfaction with this novel (although, wowsa). There’s a complexity to the novel’s presentation of the world that shows just how many ways of viewing the world there really are and the impossibility of establishing definite, eternal, standards of moral judgement. Alternate ways of thinking and being are acknowledged as characters experience the fluidity of their sexuality, or love people they never thought they could. Yeine has multiple sexual partners and at no point does the romantic storyline turn into a binary love triangle with all the ramifications of anxiety and shame triangle set ups are usually accompanied by. She just sleeps with someone and cares about them, sleeps with someone else and cares about them too in a different way. Emotional paradoxes are set up. Yeine’s relationships with a couple of the other gods like Sieh are full of conflicting emotions that really push readers to think outside traditional paths. Mothers both love and hate their children. Forgiveness is offered to people who have done very little to deserve it because forgiveness can’t be earned, but then forgiveness is held out of reach because sometimes it has to be earned. Love is love, is broken, is mad.

I need awesome characters with insight, emotions and all sorts of moral compromise to make me feel synchronised with the beating heart of a book. ‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’ couldn’t have provided any better than Yeine, Nahadoth and the cast of sly, sympathetic, damaged family members who surround them. Is it any wonder I bought the second book in ‘The Inheritance Trilogy’ the day after I finished it?

1 It’s interesting to think how often epic fantasy takes the domestic familial relationship and politicises it, cross pollinating the two elements that lit-fic often uses to define what is good and what is great. Epic fantasy often manages to allow the ‘small scale’ family stuff to combine with the ‘big scale’ political stuff, without anyone even noticing. Interesting, right? Thanks so much for giving me a copy Meghan :)

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It's a riff off an extremely obscure meme only Tom Hardy and Myspace fans will appreciate.

hugo award winner
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