recent reading

Sep 13, 2015 14:24

I have been reading BOOKS, you guys! I have been finishing them, even! I can't remember the last time I read a bunch of books in a row. The motivating factor has been reading for the Hugos next year, but honestly that's largely just an excuse to get myself reading more.

Foreigner (1994), CJ Cherryh. At long last I have read a Cherryh novel, and I was... not very impressed? Or maybe I just wanted an entirely different book. Despite the fact that humans and the atevi are different species and the humans arrived on a spaceship, this was so densely political, specifically regarding intercultural technology transfer, and did so little with actual speculative elements that it felt more like, IDK, alt history than SFF. Also, Bren is so aggressively paranoid and spends so much time in his own head thinking out all the possible implications of everything, and yet he gets so little to DO and so few choices to make until the final big climactic action. I found him exhausting, as a narrator.

Obviously the one speculative element that gets a lot of play is how the atevi do not feel affection or attachment, but that didn't seem to, like, come to a conclusion. I guess that was the point, that there really isn't any resolution to be had between human and atevi understanding of relationships with other people, but it felt pretty dry and unsatisfying to me.

Karen Memory (2015), Elizabeth Bear. STEAMPUNK LESBIANS. This is set in a not-quite-Seattle in a vaguely post-Civil War era, and is about Karen Memery (yes, different spelling than the title), who works at an upscale brothel sleeping with men for a living but is interested in women for herself. This has lots of adventure in it, a super adorable romance, quite diverse cast, a submarine with grappling tentacles, and other delights.

It also has quite a bit of violence against women, though, so be warned. It's very much about Karen and her brothel family triumphing over all, but in the meantime, lots of violence. It was great fun, though.

Dark Eden (2012), Chris Beckett. This was a rec from
seekingferret that IDK if I'd ever have found otherwise, but I really, really enjoyed it. It's the story of the descendants of a pair of castaways on a planet far from home. They've lost most technology and cultural knowledge in the 163 years since the landing, so the perspective is one of those where the reader understand better than the characters a lot of what's going on, which is a perspective I often get really frustrated with - it often feels like it's selling both the reader and the characters short. However, in this case as you go on you realize that this planet is really weird and completely alien, so the characters' knowledge of it helped balance out what of Earth science and technology they lacked. They've also developed some of their own linguistic tics, and many aspects of their planet have been named after somewhat analogous aspects of Earth, which means it takes a while to get oriented, but in a rewarding way.

The book follows some teenagers who see problems with the long-term sustainability of the settlement and brave a mountain pass to find a new place to settle. In the process they accidentally blow apart 160 years of peace and bring in a new era of strife, although we just see the beginnings of that. The book makes some interesting choices in how it complicates its characters, especially the lead teenager John Redlantern, whose heroic individualism and independent thinking doubles as a need to keep people at a distance and stay in control at all times. It's also got some gender stuff going on that I'm not quite sure what to make of; Abigail Nussbaum sees it as a clear dichotomy between a static but peaceful female-lead society and a dynamic but violent male-lead society, but I don't think it's quite that straightforward or that simplistic.

Anyway, I quite liked it and am tentatively enthused about the sequel published this year, Mother of Eden, although I see that's set several hundred years after this book, so I will have to get invested in a whole new set of characters and situation.

Fair warning, this one has an attempted rape scene in it.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth. Comment here or there. (
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entry: hugo reading project, topic: books

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