October 31, 2013

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, October 2013

Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.

Lauren Willig, The Passion of the Purple Plumeria
Mind candy. I am unashamed to be a fan of this series of historical romance novels, not least because Willig will do things like take Miss Gwen, who's been a running joke since the first book, and make her into one of her best characters.
John Hornor Jacobs, Southern Gods
Mind candy; I didn't care for it, in the end. It's an attempt at blending Lovecraftian horror with historical fiction, set in the alien past of Kansas and Arkansas circa 1950. I do not think Jacobs has thought through the implications of writing a novel where the racists were right, and listening to the wrong sort blues or rock really does destroy the souls of innocent white children. I also really rather disliked the gore, finding it ugly rather than scary. (*) In fairness, the depiction of being sickened by words and images which won't leave the mind was well-done.
* (set in small type because it's nerdy even for me): The justification within the story for all the atrocities is that violating the innocent with intent is how you call up and bargain with the Great Old Ones. This offends my sense of properly Lovecraftian horror. Alien abominations from beyond are supposed to be alien; what is human innocence or its abuse to them? (Thus HPL: "Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. ... To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all.") In short, I have standards for my Cthulhiana, and the merely Satanic does not cut it.
Marie Brennan, A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent
Mind candy: not-quite historical fantasy, in which a dragon-obsessed bluestocking makes her way from not-Victorian-England to the not-Balkans, where the natives, human and draconic, are restless.
Bruce Sterling, The Caryatids
In which Chairman Bruce goes beyond prophesying the climate crisis to imagining what recovery afterwards might be like, through the eyes of a group of profoundly damaged experiments in cloning and ubiquitous computation, and those who love them. It manages to depict a world which is at once horribly broken (maybe even more messed up than ours) and one where "brilliancy, speed, lightness, and glory" is a plausible slogan. If you like classic Sterling (and I am a big fan), this is exactly the kind of thing you like.
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice
Mind candy: space opera on themes of distributed personality, political morality and revenge, with a side-order of non-gendered personal identity. It's astonishingly good for a first novel. Leckie's self-presentation.
ETA: This novel went on to make a really remarkable (maybe unprecedented) sweep of SF awards; this seems fully deserved.
Deborah Coates, Wide Open
Mind candy contemporary fantasy: ghosts and loss on the prairie.

Update: Annoying typos fixed, 8 October 2014.

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Fantastica; Tales of Our Ancestors; Cthulhiana

Posted at October 31, 2013 23:59 | permanent link

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