Ender’s Mindfuck

On Sunday night (actually, very early Monday morning), I watched two films: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Ender’s Game.

I have never read either novel, so this was something of an interesting experiment for me. For your potential entertainment, I reproduce below my comments as I watched Ender’s Game. (City of Bones is here.)


First conclusion of this film: British voices saying ridiculous things are much easier to listen to than American ones. Except for Harrison Ford.

Vicious bullying as a testing tool. And then big brother’s a sociopath.

What a cold-blooded set of monsters these are, although Harrison Ford has aged very well.

Simulated zero-G! Possibly worth ignoring the cold-blooded monsters to watch zero-G.

Those look like exceedingly uncomfortable beds. And exceedingly terrible food. And very few female people who aren’t authority figures. That’s not disturbing at all.

HI LET’S SUBJECT OUR SO-CALLED HERO TO YET ANOTHER VICIOUS BULLY. Because this is how you make good tactical geniuses, right? Or any kind of useful military officer? Teach them they can rely on other people only as a source of pain, suffering, and impossible demands.

Film, you are not training officers. Or geniuses. Because if this is officer training, you have the world’s most fucking dysfunctional military. Officially. You’re making sociopaths. Sociopaths do not make good fighting leaders. Nor do they follow orders well. And all your failed sociopaths are going to have to go somewhere afterwards: you’re going to break them, teach them these habits, and send them back to civvy-street?

Oh, hello. There’s an Only Girl. And she has long hair. If this is even fake military training (especially with zero-G), why doesn’t everyone have buzzcuts?

Oh, look. People are fucking with our so-called hero’s head.

And now he’s been put in charge of people. Hi, twelve-year-old! Film, can’t you fake pretending to be a military training school better than this? I don’t care how much of a genius the twelve-year-old is, there’s a reason twelve-year-old monarchs tended to have regents. People do not take twelve-year-olds seriously.

Hi, shower fight scene. And dead boy. Or very badly damaged boy.

All right, film. You realise this does not make sense? If Earth can maintain a forward command post close to the alien home world for twenty-seven years, Earth is not losing any war. So Earth is not actually looking for a magic bullet to save the human race. So why is Ender SO important? BECAUSE REASONS.

No logic here.

No, really. Why do you need Ender and hundreds of trained-from-childhood sociopaths if you’re not losing? It seems as though traditional ways of making officers and soldiers should work just as well. Wouldn’t you want your “geniuses” directed into xenopsychology and xenobiology so you had a better chance of doing intelligence analysis and threat assessment on your alien enemy? Empathy, rather than sociopathy?

If you can maintain a forward operating base for twenty-seven years without it being attacked and retaken, you’re winning. You might not be winning fast enough that your economy back home hasn’t buckled under the strain, but with an impossible-to-understand enemy who killed millions, you could probably manage a centrally controlled economy with strong rationing with few of the usual political costs. And you wouldn’t need a single military genius. You’d need lots and lots of just good enough junior officers gaining the right kind of experience in the right places. And you’d put your geniuses into xenobiology and xenopsychology, and try to understand the aliens from their behaviour.

MAJOR LOGIC FAIL HERE.

You’d assign the geniuses alongside the military officers, but you wouldn’t risk losing them to training accidents. Victory in war doesn’t necessarily require genius, after all. Just material superiority and the intelligence sufficient to use it to advantage.

Maybe it’s more obviously illogical in the film because in a film you’re not in anyone’s head. But fucking hell, if this parallels the book, Orson Scott Card really rigged ALL the cards to get the game he wanted – and it’s not even a subtle rigging.

Oh, for crying out loud, people. It’s space. You can stand off from a planet and bombard it from space at leisure. With Big Fucking Rocks. Asteroid impacts lead to extinction-level events.

So why are Earth’s leaders worried if they’re close enough to the alien planet to a) be able to attack it and b) be able to monitor it? And why haven’t they been bombarding it with Big Fucking Rocks for the last twenty years?

No. Instead they have a DEATH STAR.

STUPID BURNS.

Seriously PEOPLE STAND OFF IN SPACE AND BOMBARD WITH ROCKS

Right, so, this training, simulations alleged, is actually for real. STUPID. Command decisions put in the hands of children who think it’s all a sim. Good lord, Earth really must have overwhelming material superiority. If the kids don’t know it’s for real, they’re not going to be as careful about their resources as they otherwise might. I don’t care how much of a tactical genius anyone is, logistics and supply are equally vital. Tactics is the smallest part of war.

And the adult command team is there to watch. Not to command, oh, a SECOND FLEET? Stupid.

And no one’s bothering to break it to the kid gently that it’s all been real. HAVE PSYCHOLOGISTS ON HAND PEOPLE. At best you could have a bad case of shock. I mean, however these kinds feel about the genocide of inexplicable aliens, they still ought to be seriously bothered by the fact their commanders lied to and manipulated them.

Ah, now they come WITH SEDATIVES. Seriously, genius kid is the only one who needs them?

Oh, someone is communicating telepathically with special genius. I MUST GO. And the other kid runs after him without putting her oxygen on first. What do they teach these people in military training this future? Stupid future is clearly full of intellectual degenerates. Brainless sociopaths.

So, why is Ender the special telepath as well as being special sociopath genius? He’s just all around special. BECAUSE REASONS.

Tactically skilled but fundamentally stupid.

And why did his commanders let him go, in the end? Would you let a genius who you’ve broken loose on an unsuspecting universe? Someone could turn him against you, like you turned him against your enemy. It wouldn’t even be hard. He doesn’t seem to like you very much.

The people who made this film appear to have run out of give-a-shit for any sort of logic in this denouement.

OKAY THIS IS BULLSHIT WE’LL MAKE IT PRETTY BUT WE GIVE UP

*everybody involved with the film gives up*

*Harrison Ford gives up*

*Ender steals a shuttle and heads off into the big empty with no one asking him how come he’s carrying an alien egg in his duffel*

*roll credits*


Verdict: Pretty, but remarkably full of stupid, illogical, ethical bankruptcy, and unsubtle narrative rigging.

City of White People

On Sunday night (actually, very early Monday morning), I watched two films: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Ender’s Game.

I have never read either novel, so this was something of an interesting experiment for me. For your potential entertainment, I reproduce below my comments as I watched The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.


Hey, it’s New York. Why is it always New York?

Ooo, fancy title symbol. Not overblown enough, guys. You should’ve done a SMASH CUT.

Well, there’s one good actor here. Pity it’s not the stars. Hi, Lena Headey! You look like an interesting parent! I bet you’re SIR NOT APPEARING IN THIS FILM, because you’re too interesting and awesome for it.

Teenagers being teenage and possibly having mental breakdowns. Where is tension? Tension is not here.

Oo, unexplained fight scene! Ominous warning phone call! Lena Headey yay!

Damn. I was right. Sir Not Appearing In This Film from this point on.

Possibly-having-mental-breakdown teenage daughter really is TSTL, isn’t she? Why, why, are you running home when your mother told you to stay away? TSTL.

But you’re the star, so obviously you don’t get killed.

Oh, icky transforming demon dog. Fine, blow up your goddamn kitchen. Like that won’t leave burn scars …Icky, gooey, re-coalescing exploded demon dog.

Very blond weird-looking black-clad boy plays saviour. With a British accent. Blond guy is at least polite, maybe he’ll grow into those cheekbones. Other guy – glasses-boy – looks like Xander with a better face.

So blond guy is Buffy. Buffy/Hermione. That sort of makes sense: he looks like a cross between the pair, if they were boys. I bet you have ANGSTY BACKSTORY, blond boy. You look like the type.

Oh, what a great load of nonsense this is so far. GIANT SECRET MANSION INNA GRAVEYARD. Yes, film, we get the point, it’s like Hogwarts crossed with the X-Men. Except with more skull decoration. Is there an Alan Rickman here? That’s all we need to make this complete.

*peers about hopefully *

No Alan Rickman. No Patrick Stewart either. So sad.

…Are all the people in New York white? I’ve passed through New York. It did not seem quite so full of white people.

Special brain-talking creepy people, too? Ooookay, film.

Hmm. At least blond boy has a sense of humour behind the angst. Girl seems to have very little personality beyond ARGH RUN OOPS WHAT OO PRETTY BOY. But blond boy has something.

In fact, we may have two good actors here! Lena Headey and blond boy. Blond boy is doing a hell of a job with some truly terrible material. Terrible material and the worst case of gel-hair I’ve seen in any film ever. At least when it’s not supposed to be gel-hair.

Hello, people dressing up for a goth party. I guess all the wizards of New York are into the goth scene.

And we have two New Yorkers with dialogue who aren’t Caucasian! Wheee! (Both of them are magicians. Whee?) Also, what is it with eyes? Magic people and magic eyes.

Fight scene! Fight scene with vampires! …Well, that’s interesting choreography, I guess.

Falling-down clinch between blond boy and plucky-but-personality-free girl! We have achieved UST BINGO! (I claim my prize.)

Oh, looky, it’s vampire bitesies. Will this go anywhere other than making glasses-boy look interestingly pale and ill?

And blondie’s a pianist. He is really working very well with absolutely crap material.

Hey, it’s a Stargate! I wonder if that’s a Chekov’s gun.

Oh, look, glasses-boy (not glasses anymore!) is sad and jealous. I know she has no personality, but don’t you think the kid has enough to deal with without you dumping your unrequited feelings on her, sad boy?

Fight scene? Fight scene! Dead black person.

Girl does nothing but run around and get into trouble. And then fall into people’s arms.

Stupid kid takes no precautions. Hand over your bargaining chip, my little friend! Of course you’re going to be betrayed. HI VADER-DADDY.

“I am your father, Luke.” This wasn’t kind of already obvious?

STARGATE! Oh, well. Girl’s still alive, then. And Mum’s beardy friend is a werewolf.

DEMONS!

It’s a missing brother. Hi, blondie. You guys are related. Vader-daddy says so. “I am your father, Luke. Come to the Dark Side and we can rule the galaxy.” DEMONS.

And Lena Headey has been lying in Hogwarts all this while.

Bored now. Oh, wait. A werewolf motorbike gang.

…This is a really disjointed film. I mean, I don’t know what I was expecting, but this is really a bunch of set-pieces stuck together with used duct-tape.

DEMONS! WEREWOLVES BEING KILLED BY DEMONS.

That was a good set piece. Girl DID SOMETHING. But why didn’t sword-girl smash the demons while they were all frozen? This seems like poor tactical thinking.

Logic plays no part in this.

Luke vs. Vader. Fight, fight, fight. You know, Vader-dad does not look old enough to be the father of teens. Not unless he started illegally young.

Well, that’s interesting choreography, I suppose. But how come nobody’s lost any of their perfect teeth yet?

That’s one way to deal with having a shitty-ass father, I suppose. Explode the library. And now it’s snowing inside.


Verdict: mildly entertaining, if you skip most of the parts that aren’t fight scenes and don’t expect any of it to make sense.

Strange Horizons has a poetry issue

I can’t agree that the Odyssey is speculative, because what reads to us as an exercise in the fantastic was religion and tradition to its original audience, but I can’t agree either that the strategic reworking of those source myths automatically makes for modernism, because the Alexandrian poets were remix artists par excellence and none of them were, thank God, Ezra Pound. If speculative poetry is to be a real genre and not just a tautology (a poem is speculative when published in a market that publishes speculative poetry), I need it to mean something in its own right, not just as reaction or perpetuation. Otherwise we’re all still at the Danish Pastry House in Medford, 2012, wondering if we edit a thing that actually exists.

-Sonya Taaffe, in Defining Speculative Poetry: A Conversation and Three Manifestos.

In this week’s Strange Horizons, I’m reviewing Mythic Delirium #30. I only liked four poems.

Katherine Addison’s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR…

…reviewed over at Tor.com:

This is a book about survival, and betrayal, and friendship, and power, and strength. And it’s a marvellously welcoming, readable one. A book you pick up and read when you’re tired and sad, and all unexpected it’s like being wrapped up in a comforting warm fuzzy blanket of glorious worldbuilding and shiny prose and decent people doing the best they know how.

I really love this book. Give me more. More like this.

Janny Wurts has some interesting things to say…

…on “The Unrecognised Trajectory of Slow Burn Success.”

The press scandal put Tolkien’s face on Time magazine, and public furor over the professor’s predicament changed in the law, closing the loophole forever. Betty Ballantine acknowledged this as the impetus that shot Tolkien’s works from obscurity to widespread awareness. The original Ballantine paperbacks have a green box on the back cover, asking readers to favour the edition that paid the author a legitimate royalty.

No question, Tolkien’s works are an undisputed classic, time tested in defining the modern fantasy genre. Yet without the exposure on national news, could his influence have broken out to seed an explosive phenomenon?

On influence and bookshops and use

Tansy Rayner Roberts, “On Influence”:

The meme that the female author in SFF is somehow a rare, precious, unlikely object, persists to this day. But you know what? There were women writing SFF in the 70′s, and not just a token handful. There were women writing in the 80′s and the 90′s and the 00′s and oh look they’re writing RIGHT NOW.

And yet when booksellers (and it’s not just booksellers) put out lists or displays of what to read after George RR Martin, how often are those lists all male?

In my experience? Quite often. It’s one reason I’ve stopped shopping for fiction at Hodges Figgis – well, that and the review copies. When it comes to backlists, which is where many of my major reading gaps are these days, it’s predominantly men; when it comes to new books, the books that get display space, with the notable exception of Trudi Canavan and Karen Miller, are predominantly written by lads. All the category science fiction to get table space is normally by men, with the exception of, this winter, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

It’s so much easier for me to find the books I want to read online. If I order them online, it will only take a week or two for them to arrive, rather than two weeks to a month if I order with Dublin’s oldest bookshop. I like bookshops. But I like browsing to find something that’s new (or old but I’ve not seen it before) and different and interesting, rather than the stuff I’m already familiar with, and Hodges Figgis doesn’t curate a corner-shelf of New or Different or Interesting in SFF.

Also they shelve Nick Harkaway and Angela Carter in plain literature.

If I were going by their shelves, I would never have found Beth Bernobich or Martha Wells or Marie Brennan or most of anything Elizabeth Bear or Sarah Monette wrote, or Michelle Sagara or Sherwood Smith or Deborah Coates, or Barbara Hambly. I did find Kate Elliott, but not very prominently. Tanya Huff. Amanda Downum. Cherie Priest. Juliet McKenna, but not much of her backlist anymore. The Antipodean blockbuster fantasy school keep a fair presence on shelves – Canavan, Fallon, Miller, Larke, whoever it is who’s writing the series begun with The King’s Bastard (Rowena Daniels?) – but they’re not generally to my tastes. N.K. Jemisin stays on the shelves, but rarely on the display tables. Elizabeth Moon likewise. Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death was prominently displayed for a month or two, likewise Karen Lord. But Lackey has begun to disappear from the shelves in backlist, and so has McCaffrey, and I don’t think I ever saw more than one copy of an Octavia Butler novel there at all.

To judge by their shelves, there are very few women who write in the science fiction end of SFF at all.

I read a hundred-odd books in a slow year: I’m not an average reader. And I like bookshops and want them to remain an institution of daily life. But if the bookshop is not useful to me, quite aside from questions of representation on the shelves, I’m not going to patronise them as often as, perhaps, I otherwise would.

Even if buying from The Book Depository instead does mean I’m contributing to the Amazonian monopoly.

Kameron Hurley on context and pin-up calendars

Kameron Hurley, “Die Hard, Hetaera, and Problematic Pin-Ups: A Rant:”

Context is important when we choose to make a piece of art. Knowing and understanding how our piece of art will be read or viewed within the historical context of other pieces of art is vital to both understanding how others will read it and formulating the defense of our choice despite that context. As someone who wrote a very violent series of novels featuring a cast of characters who use Arabic words on occasion, I’m pretty familiar with the importance of this process.

Context, or lack, thereof, was one of the reasons I found the notion of the literary pin-up calendars the last few years really noxious and depressing. Because despite the many posts I would see from folks defending them (folks hopping in and feeling there was a need to defend them, before they’d even been made, spoke volumes right off the bat), and the fact that the latest one was, in fact, in support of Clarion, the project wasn’t going to escape being seen within the history of the pin-up. No matter how much everyone wished it.

And that’s what I saw. How those images have been used, by whom, and for what purpose.

More review books

When I scheduled today’s post, the postperson (actually, the UPS person) had not yet arrived.

So there is presently an addendum.

Tor and Orbit are really quite generous to me. Still not at all used to that.

Tor and Orbit are really quite generous to me. Still not at all used to that.

In no particular order: Jane Lindskold, ARTEMIS AWAKENING; Jamie Lee Moyer, A BARRICADE IN HELL; A.M. Dellamonica, CHILD OF A HIDDEN SEA; Greg van Eekhout, CALIFORNIA BONES; Brian McClellan, PROMISE OF BLOOD; Max Gladstone, FULL FATHOM FIVE; and Karl Schroeder, LOCKSTEP.

The first three are relevant to the SWM column for Tor.com, and I hope to read fast enough to cover them there in good time. Then there’s the fact that a friend has challenged me to read and blog about McClellan and Cameron over the summer – desiring, I suppose, to distract me from work by encouraging me to do MORE work – and I suppose I’ll see, eventually, if anyone wants to pay me for reviews of van Eekhout, Gladstone, or Schroeder.

Or if I can manage to read them. I’m having awful trouble with Rjurik Davidson’s Unwrapped Sky, I don’t mind telling you: the world-building seems as though it ought to be shiny, but the characters wander around being sad and morally compromised and acting more like symbols than real people, as though for all its talk of workers and oppression there’s no real fire in its belly. As of page 120 (of 400-odd) it’s far from the most compelling thing I’ve started reading lately, and I keep wanting to cheat on it with history books.

Review copies demand attention

The review copies accumulate... and I'm only partway through reading the most urgent ones.

The review copies accumulate… and I’m only partway through reading the most urgent ones.

In no particular order: Marie Rutkowski, THE WINNER’S CURSE; Heather Rose Jones, DAUGHTER OF MYSTERY; Brian Stavely, THE EMPEROR’S BLADES; Ramona Wheeler, THREE PRINCES; Rjurik Davidson, UNWRAPPED SKY; Carrie Vaughn, DREAMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE; Tom Doyle, AMERICAN CRAFTSMEN; Carrie Vaughn, AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE; Jo Walton, MY REAL CHILDREN; Will McIntosh, DEFENDERS; Kristen Painter, HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN; Deborah Coates, STRANGE COUNTRY; Miles Cameron (though we’d probably better call him “AKA Christian Cameron” from now on), FELL SWORD; Elizabeth Bear, STELES OF THE SKY; Katherine Addison (AKA Sarah Monette), THE GOBLIN EMPEROR; Seanan McGuire, HALF-OFF RAGNAROK; Sharon Lynn Fisher, THE OPHELIA PROPHECY; Seanan McGuire, SPARROW HILL ROAD; and last, most recently arrived but by no means least, Nnedi Okorafor, LAGOON.

I really need to read faster, because I have shelves full of other books I’d hoped to have a chance to get to by now.

μῦθος δ᾽ ἄνδρεσσι μελήσει πᾶσι

μῦθος δ᾽ ἄνδρεσσι μελήσει πᾶσι, μάλιστα δ᾽ ἐμοί: τοῦ γὰρ κράτος ἔστ᾽ ἐνὶ οἴκῳ.
Homer, Odyssey, 1.358-9.

I’m resolutely ignoring the misogynistic and racist bullshit seeping up from the bottom sediment of some of the SFF genre conversation’s nastier pools in the wake of a certain Dave Truesdale’s ridiculous petition to SFWA. I have a thesis to write: there is only so much mental energy for stupidity left over.

But I thought Mary Beard’s piece in the LRB on “The Public Voice of Women” might prove interesting at this juncture:

Ancient women were obviously not likely to raise their voices in a political sphere in which they had no formal stake. But we’re dealing with a much more active and loaded exclusion of women from public speech than that – and, importantly, it’s one with a much greater impact than we usually acknowledge on our own traditions, conventions and assumptions about the voice of women. What I mean is that public speaking and oratory were not merely things that ancient women didn’t do: they were exclusive practices and skills that defined masculinity as a gender. As we saw with Telemachus, to become a man – and we’re talking elite man – was to claim the right to speak. Public speech was a – if not the – defining attribute of male-ness. A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman. We find repeated stress throughout ancient literature on the authority of the deep male voice. As one ancient scientific treatise explicitly put it, a low-pitched voice indicated manly courage, a high-pitched voice female cowardice. Or as other classical writers insisted, the tone and timbre of women’s speech always threatened to subvert not just the voice of the male orator, but also the social and political stability, the health, of the whole state. So another second-century lecturer and guru, Dio Chrysostom, whose name, significantly, means Dio ‘the Golden Mouth’, asked his audience to imagine a situation where ‘an entire community was struck by the following strange affliction: all the men suddenly got female voices, and no male – child or adult – could say anything in a manly way. Would not that seem terrible and harder to bear than any plague? I’m sure they would send off to a sanctuary to consult the gods and try to propitiate the divine power with many gifts.’ He wasn’t joking.

Books: Rucka, Wells, Addison

Greg Rucka, Whiteout. Oni Press, 2007. Illustrated by Steve Lieber.

Very different to the film of the same name. Rather better.

Martha Wells, Emilie and the Sky World. Strange Chemistry, 2014.

Reviewed for Tor.com. Fun book! Go read it!

Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor. Tor, 2014.

Review copy from Tor. I am to review it for Tor.com. This is an amazing book. I mean seriously bloody wonderful: excellent politics, nice quiet interpersonal stuff, such a wonderful compelling protagonist. GO PREORDER IT NOW.

Katherine Addison is the new pen-name for Sarah Monette. For those of us familiar with Monette’s other writing, I feel I should add that The Goblin Emperor‘s protagonist is much more likeable than many of the characters in The Doctrine of Labyrinths, and while the world-building is just as marvellously baroque the overall tone is much less noirish, much more optimistic.

ALSO IT IS BRILLIANT GO PREORDER IT SERIOUSLY CAPSLOCK EXCLAMATIONS OF JOY.

Darnton, The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France

Robert Darnton, The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France. WW Norton, London & New York, 1996.

This is a book with a very tight focus: the illegal book trade in France in the couple of decades before the Revolution. A little under two-thirds of it is history, well-written, well-sourced, and not infrequently entertaining (although I should recommend having read at least a summary of the period in question before diving it); the remainder is devoted to significant extracts in translation from three of the most popular illegal books with which Darnton is concerned.

Pornography and philosophy were close kindred in 18th century France, it seems, and both were equally dangerous for the people who traded in them. Indeed, one of the most popular novels of the period is a philosophical tract with pornographic interludes, or a pornographic tract with philosophical interludes – they were, at any rate, close bedfellows, and booksellers asked their suppliers to provide them with works in the “philosophical” line when they meant illegal books of any flavour.

It is a very interesting read, although now I want to read more about illegal literature and censorship in Europe as a whole in the 18th century.

Heather Rose Jones, Daughter of Mystery

Heather Rose Jones, Daughter of Mystery. Bella Books, 2014.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher. Dear publisher: this is My Sort Of Thing. Where do I sign up for MORE OF THIS SORT OF THING?

The setting is an alternate historical Europe, with a fantasy twist to do with religious miracles. There is a Ruritanian conceit about the country of Alpennia, but as the fantasy element is brought forward, it did not annoy me the way Ruritanian conceits usually do, and like its geography, the chronology of this version of Europe is not pinned down – it feels in many ways late-1600s, early 1700s, but references to “the Corsican” and “the French wars” and lack of mention of religious conflict may mean the author intends it to be read as later.

This is a love story. It is also a coming-of-age. Politics enters in as well. Jones has a smooth turn of phrase and an excellent way with characterisation, although the pacing at times feels quite leisurely, and the fact that the main characters have academic, intellectual concerns rather delighted me.

A wealthy baron unexpected leaves the bulk of his fortune to his bookish god-daughter, Margerit Sovitre, in order to spite his nephew. Among that fortune is his bodyguard, the swordswoman Barbara, counted among his possessions. Barbara was of good birth, but the terms of the baron’s will bind her to Margerit’s service until Margerit has reached her age of majority. The growing affection that develops between the two women is complicated by their respective stations, and by the fact that Margerit remains under the official guardianship of her maternal uncle and paternal aunt – and by the new baron’s enmity.

An enmity that will ultimately lead to Margerit being framed for treason.

I really enjoyed this book. (Although I think the coda at the very end is entirely unnecessary.) It reminds me of Courtney Milan’s work, except queerer and with more fantasy elements. If that sounds at all like your thing, I encourage you to go forth and read: as for me, I am immensely interested in seeing more from this author in years to come.

Books: Coates, Higgins, Kashina, McGuire, Vaughn

Anna Kashina, Blades of the Old Empire. Angry Robot Books, 2014.

WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN. Review forthcoming (I hope) at Tor.com.

Yeah. So that happened.

Deborah Coates, Strange Country. Tor, 2014.

Review copy from Tor. I hope I’ll get to talk about this in my column. It’s an interesting entry in Coates’ rural-contemporary fantasy-with-ghosts. I don’t like it as much as the excellent Wide Open or its immediate predecessor Deep Down, but it’s still a very solid book.

Seanan McGuire, Half-Off Ragnarok. DAW, 2014.

Review copy from DAW. I also want to talk about this in the column. It’s a great deal of fun, although not quite as entertaining, for me, as the Verity Price installments: it’s also interesting to see McGuire’s narrative pattern at work.

Peter Higgins, Truth and Fear. Orbit, 2014.

Review copy from Orbit. Review forthcoming from Ideomancer.com. Higgins has an excellent turn of with prose, and Truth and Fear pulls off its climax with rather more verve and, well, climax than its immediate predecessor, but it is more the second part of a novel-in-three-parts than a book that stands well on its own, and we have yet to see proof that Higgins can bring a narrative to an ultimately satisfactory conclusion.

Carrie Vaughn, After the Golden Age. Tor, 2011.

Copy courtesy of Tor.com. I want to talk about this, and its sequel, in the column too. It is a very interesting take on superhero stories, and one of the few superhero stories I’ve read that’s appealed to me on any bar the most superficial levels. It is doing interesting things with family and privilege, I think, although I’d like to think about it more.

Carrie Vaughn, Dreams of the Golden Age. Tor, 2014.

Copy courtesy of Tor.com. Sequel of sorts (the next generation) to the aforementioned After the Golden Age, and a little bit more straightforwardly a superhero story – and thus less appealing to me. Feels somewhat as though it might appeal to a YA agegroup, but on the other hand maybe not. Interesting and entertaining, on the whole.

Candidate for the Bad Sex Writing Awards

From the book I was reading last night for review. It is too perfect not to share.

The kiss echoed through his body like thunder, overpowering his weakening mind. He stroked her and she responded, shivering and clinging to him as if her life depended on it. A light moan escaped her lips as his hands found the right spots, evoking a response that surged through, forcing out the last bits of reason. All that remained was raw senses, taking over all possible control.Kyth didn’t remember when he suddenly felt that, instead of the shirt, he was touching her bare skin, smooth and firm under his hands, and so hot it burned his fingers. He wasn’t sure how the cloth that separated them disappeared, their contact so sensational that for a blissfully long moment it seemed too overwhelming to bear. He could no longer tell up from down, but it seemed that instead of standing they were lying on a heap of clothes, the rough boards of the deck underneath soft and smooth like the finest bed. His entire being focused on their contact, deeper than one could experience in a lifetime.

He was so strong he could lift mountains. If he let his strength loose, he would crush her with his passion. He tried to hold back, but her arms grasped him with the force that left no way for gentleness anymore. His body moved of its own accord, driven by a force more primitive, more powerful than the conscious mind.

She opened up and yielded to him so completely that he could no longer tell them apart. Each of his senses echoed in her, as they moved against each other, infinitely close, and yet urging for even more closeness. He gave her all his incredible strength, filling her like a vessel so that she could in turn give him the strength of her own. Their bodies, their senses became one, raising them both to heights of passion too big for one person to hold. There couldn’t possibly be anything more in the world Kyth could want, and if he were to die right now, he would die the happiest man that ever lived. He was never going to be afraid of anything anymore. He was invincible. He was immortal.

He was complete.

– from Blades of the Old Empire by Anna Kashina, Angry Robot Books, February 2014.