Books in brief: Tierney, Blood Oranges; Manieri, Blood’s Pride; Soem & Moraine, Line & Orbit; and Koyanagi, Ascension

Kathleen Tierney (Caitlín R. Kiernan), Blood Oranges. Roc, 2013.

This is a gallows-black humorously subversive take on the urban fantasy genre. Nineteen year-old junkie werepire serial killer? Unreliable narrator? Let’s do this thing.

Evie Manieri, Blood’s Pride. Tor, 2013. (Original, Jo Fletcher Books, 2012.) Copy courtesy of Tor Books.

This book deserves more consideration from me than it’s going to get in this space. Blood’s Pride is a book that feels like it belongs with the Australian school of Big Fantasy. It shares a certain mood with the work of Jennifer Fallon and Trudi Canavan: light on detailed worldbuilding, long on character. It partakes of the epic sense without the bloat of Jordan, the grimness of Martin, Michelle West’s touch of horror, or the baroque invention and detail of Sarah Monette, Steven Erikson, or Elizabeth Bear. It is, on the whole, easier to define Blood’s Pride in terms of what it fails to do than in what it succeeds in doing. Character choices and development are not wholly predictable, but feel safe rather than radical. Without being wholly mediocre, it’s structurally slack – and it takes itself a touch too seriously.

That makes it sound like I disliked the book. Not so: but I’m not blown away. I read it in two settings: there is promise here, and glimmers of invention. But Blood’s Pride falls prey to the over-eager “AND THE KITCHEN SINK TOO” approach to narrative incidents typical of debuts, while not giving its cast of characters – I count six with POV: by contrast, I believe there are four POVs in Jordan’s first WOT novel, of which one predominates – the time and space to develop as characters, to develop their arcs and to permit the reader to development emotional investment in their trials. Too many incidents arise too abruptly: closer attention to structure and theme, and fewer POV characters, would have made a tighter, more compelling read.

That said, it’s not a bad book. It goes on the keeper shelf, and I look forward to seeing if Manieri improves her game in books to come.

Lisa Soem and Sunny Moiraine, Line and Orbit. Samhain Publishing, 2013. Ebook.

Belonging to that peculiar subset of science fiction better referred to as science fantasy, Line and Orbit is both a space adventure and a queer romance (between men). I did not fall in love with it, but nonetheless it is entertaining. With weird science. And magic.

Jacqueline Koyanagi, Ascension. Prime/Masque Books, 2013, forthcoming. (August, I believe). Galley courtesy of the publisher.

Official disclaimer: I read slush for Masque, in the hopes of crushing authorial dreams. Didn’t see this until I received the galley review copy, though.

LESBIANS. POLYAMOUROUS LESBIANS. IN SPAAAAAAAAAACE. The main character has an invisible disability. But it’s not an issue book. Or a romance – the thematic freight is about family and belonging. In mood it reminds me of Firefly, or the dingy Mos Eisley scenes of Star Wars: A New Hope. Writing possesses solid turns of phrase, occasional vivid description. Mark your calendars, people. This is good shit, and I look forward to talking about it the next time I bring up lesbian skiffy in the column.

I watched Argo recently. It is a very good spy film, apart from the ludicrous airport runway chase scene at the very end. (Oh, Hollywood.) Sharp dialogue. Immensely good performances. Very low-key, very claustrophobic, very tense. Passes the Bechdel test, if barely: can’t call it feminist on its face but doesn’t other women, either.