Kristine N. (krizzaro) is a climate scientist and mom to two children. She’s been reading SF and fantasy as long as she can remember and hopes to instill the same love for fine literature in her impressionable offspring. While omnivorous in her reading, she has a particular fondness for dystopia, epic fantasy, and anything written by Connie Willis, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Neal Stephenson. Kristine blogs about reading at writing on her site Library Creature.
WARNING: There is a SPOILER after the fold. If you have not read this book and don’t want a plot point revealed, do not read beyond the second paragraph.
I am not into literary novels. For that reason alone, I probably should have avoided this book. White is for Witching is a very literary read, which translates into beautifully written but meandering, lacking in plot, and full of characters who aren’t necessarily interesting or sympathetic. In fact, the most sympathetic characters are the minor characters.
The story (such as it is) follows Miri and her twin brother, Elliot, who are mourning after the death of their mother, Lily. Miri, who had pica to begin with, totally loses it after her mother’s death and basically starves herself stupid. Very stupid. Not stupid enough to keep her out of Cambridge (?!?!), but stupid nonetheless. I suppose the book could be seen as the chronicle of a mentally unbalanced woman killing herself through starvation and dragging loved ones down with her. It’s not a very pleasant arc, and the inciting incident isn’t quite satisfactory, but again, it’s literary fiction. Things don’t apparently have to make sense here. They often don’t.
When British writer David Mitchell published Cloud Atlas, the novel struck the reading public as a daring, multilayered work. It was a critical and commercial success, yet seemed impossible to adapt to the big screen. Yet as the story goes, Nathalie Portman shared her love for the novel with the Wachowskis during the filming of V for Vendetta, and the two siblings determined to do the impossible, and bring the book to the big screen.
Alex Hammel (ahmmel) is an MSc. student in botany at the University of British Columbia. He started reading Tolkien and Lewis as a young nerd, and became an avid reader of all kinds of speculative fiction as an undergraduate when he discovered that it was more fun than studying. He joined WWEnd to participate in the WoGF challenge, and can often be found in the vicinity of a good beer.
I’m not sure how I managed to overlook the fact that Silver has four arms on the cover, but I did. Falling Free, my WoGF read for May, manages to be an excellent SF adventure without taking any of the usual recourse to space battles, aliens, and colonization.
Having disposed of these devices, Bujold does an excellent job of giving us an engineering-based adventure. Seriously. Almost all of the excitement and suspense in the book comes from the planning, last-minute revision, and execution of engineering projects. This works much better than I’m probably making it sound: I was deeply emotionally invested in Graf’s bid to make a large mirror under difficult conditions.
The engineering focus of the story lends a lot of realism to the setting. In this universe spaceships are made of real parts that can break through wear or misuse and be refitted to do new stuff. Granted, stuff breaks in most space operas, but Bujold accomplishes a certain amount of verismo by making her protagonist an engineer (when was the last time you saw an engineer in an SF story who had tasks aside from pressing buttons and spouting technobabble?) and letting us go through the process of thinking up plausible solutions to technical problems the way real engineers (I suppose) have to. It makes for a very believable universe, even with the presence of soft-SF devices like faster-than-light travel, a brain/computer interface, and ad libidum genetic engineering.
Glenn Hough (gallyangel) is a nonpracticing futurist, an anime and manga otaku, and is almost obsessive about finishing several of the lists tracked on WWEnd. In this series on SF Manga Glenn will provide an overview of the medium and the place of science fiction within it.
Over the last several years, there have been a few articles published on space junk. This is an issue which generally simmers in the background of space travel, with the occasional additional emphasis period. Some of those articles focus on the need for treaty work to help limit the amounts of new junk added to the ever expanding cloud, while others talk about ways in which junk could be cleaned up with robot satellites specifically designed for that purpose. There are approximately 22,000 pieces of space trash being actively tracked. The experts think that there are in the neighborhood of 500,000 objects in the 1 to 10 cm size range which aren’t being tracked. A 1 cm size object, like a hexagon nut for instance, doesn’t sound very dangerous, but this nut is traveling at orbital speed. Do the words “Explosive Decompression” mean anything to you?
Jack Dowden (JDowds) doesn’t review Sci-Fi/Fantasy books on his blog 100 Stories 100 Weeks. Instead, he’s set himself the unbelievably naive task of writing 100 short stories in 100 weeks. The results are often disastrous. He came to WWEnd to talk to people about Sci-Fi/Fantasy books though, and is having a wonderful time doing it!
There’s a certain humor that comes with SF, no matter how much we’d like to deny it. Murder… IN SPACE. Religion… IN SPACE. Nazis… IN SPACE. Like heavy metal music, the genre of SF/F can be inspiring and can ask a lot of questions about what it means to be a human, but there’s also a sense of hilarity to it.
Not so in Kindred. This book is called Science Fiction, but it isn’t filed under SF and even Butler said she thought it more of a “grim fantasy.” The only thing that makes this SF is the time traveling, and the time traveling isn’t ever explained.
Kindred is a simple story, at least in concept. A black woman, MC, living in modern day Los Angeles (by modern, I mean 1976) with her white husband, is sent back in time – against her own will – to the antebellum south, to a plantation where some of her ancestors are located.
In terms of plot and story structure, this novel obeys all the rules. There’s a gradual increase of tension, character arcs, and some clear plot points.
Tanya F. (metalorchid), has been a fan of sci-fi since childhood, a love that kicked off with Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. She enjoys plots that involve time travel and alternate histories, but also can’t resist a lengthy, world weaving fantasy epic, or a well crafted short horror story.
Considering that this is my first book read and reviewed for the 2013 Women of Genre Fiction challenge, I feel a twinge of regret that I’m starting off on a low note, especially since so many people have raved about the Parasol Protectorate series and I’ve been intrigued by the cover image of the woman in purple taffeta, wearing a determined expression as she makes her way through foggy London. (Kudos, cover designer!)
The chief problem I found with Soulless is that it doesn’t quite know what it is. The story of the titular “soulless” protagonist, the quick witted and fiercely independent “spinster” Alexia Tarabotti, weaves elements of Gothic mystery, steampunk, classic (and supernatural) romance, and humor. But, unlike the theory of equilibrium discussed in certain detail by some scientists in the novel, Soulless doesn’t actually strike a balance among all its influences.
For starters, there are numerous repetitive, intended as comedic, allusions to Alexia’s Italian physique and temperament that really start to wear thin. There are also more than a few instances where characters react to their situations with clever little quips that aren’t actually spoken out loud. A lot of these details, which maybe I picked up on because I tend to dislike repetitive humor, seem to present a constant effort on Carriger‘s part to make us remember that these characters are clever, oh so clever! And interesting! And complex! It’s a little too much telling and not enough showing.
If you don’t live on the West Coast, you may not have seen Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, the musical put on by the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. Even if you do live there, you may have missed your opportunity, because it only ran for ten days in December. Well, now you have a second chance, as the production I’ve fantasized about for years is finally going to Broadway! Wayne Coyne, lead singer/songwriter of The Flaming Lips, seems to confirm it in last week’s interview with Paper Magazine, though I’d heard rumors to that effect for quite a while now.
If I can magically obtain tickets to the Daily Show, I might just have TWO good reasons to visit the Empire City.
Guest blogger and WWEnd Uber User, Charles Dee Mitchell, has contributed a great many book reviews to WWEnd including his blog series Philip K. Dickathon and The Horror! The Horror! He can also be found on his own blog www.potatoweather.blogspot.com.
When I finished Helen Oyeyemi‘s novel, Mr. Fox, I immediately turned back to the opening chapter. It wasn’t that I had so enjoyed it that I planned to read the whole thing over. I was just trying, although it had been only a matter of a couple of days, to remember how on earth this thing had begun.
In the first chapter, Mr. St. John Fox, who despite his high-flown name appears to be the successful author of violent potboilers, receives a visit from Mary Foxe. When he hears her come in, he assumes at first it must be his wife Daphne, a woman we will learn later spends much of her time in her room, depressed and suicidal. Mr. Fox has not seen Mary for six or seven years. He tells her he loves her. They have a brief, odd conversation which ends when Mary says, “You don’t love me. You love that.” She bares her breasts, lifts her dress up over her crotch, pulls her hair, and slaps herself on the face.
How could I have forgotten such an opening? In my defense I can only say that a lot happens in Oyeyemi’s brief novel. In the next pages, Mary appears as an importunate fan and fledgling writer vying for Mr. Fox’s attention in an exchange of letters dated 1936. There is another narrative thread involving Mr. Fox and Daphne. There are interpolated stories, apparently the work of Mr. Fox, although a couple may be Mary’s and some may appear just for effect. And Mary, by the way, is not a real human being. She is Mr. Fox’s muse, a constant cause of Daphne’s jealousy, at least until they get to know one another toward the end of the novel.
Nadine Gemeinböck (Linguana) has been reading fantasy for as long as she can remember. She started blogging about books on SFF Book Review in 2012, hoping to keep track of what she read and how she liked it. The book blogging community has since helped her open her literary horizons and thanks to WWEnd, she is currently working her way through NPR’s Top 100. Her blogging resolution is to review more foreign language books and finally take the plunge into a big, swooping space opera.
It is entirely thanks to the book blogging community that I have discovered Nalo Hopkinson. I have spent the last few months actively looking for female SFF writers that I didn’t know yet (thanks again to the WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Challenge) as well as writers of color, stories about people of color and LBTQ characters. Because, as much as I read, there are very few non-American or non-European writers to be found on my reading lists and I wanted to remedy that. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech also served as an eye-opener and I found it extremely inspiring. There is so much diversity out there and I want to experience it. Nalo Hopkinson and Octavia E. Butler‘s names kept coming up and all of their books sounded so good that there was no reason for me to wait any longer discovering them. Thank You, Internet!
by Nalo Hopkinson
Published by: Warner Aspect, 2000
Paperback: 336 pages
My rating: 8,5/10
First sentence: Oho. Like it starting, oui? Don’t be frightened, sweetness; is for the best.
The 2013 Hugo Voters Packet is now available for members of LoneStarCon 3, the 71st annual Worldcon convention. The packet is “an electronic package of nominated works graciously made available to voters by nominees and their publishers.”
From the LoneStarCon website:
The 2013 Hugo Voter Packet is available to Supporting, Attending, Military and Young Adult members of LoneStarCon 3 to help inform them about the works under consideration before voting. The packet will remain available until voting closes on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 11:59pm CDT.
Members can login here. You will need your name (as recorded in the LoneStarCon 3 membership database) and your unique Hugo PIN to access the Hugo Voter Packet content. PIN reminders will be sent out at regular intervals during the final ballot period. Instructions on how to recover lost or forgotten PINs can be found on the download page.
Not going to attend Worldcon? No problem, you can still get in on the action. You can sign up as a Supporting Member for $60 and get the packet – valued way more than $60 by the way – and you’ll be eligible to vote. That’s a pretty damn good deal and less than you would have to pay for just the novels alone.
Get to reading and get to voting!