19 Nov

The Promise of the Child by Tom Toner

I will admit, it took me a couple of false starts before I got far enough into this book for the momentum to keep me going. I’m used to reading fast and this was just not something I could read quickly, not because of density or complexity but because of its strangeness, because I had to pause and absorb so much. Beyond the prologue, you are dropped into a world that you need to make sense of, that is far future but feels past, that is post-human in a way that I don’t remember ever seeing before. It may have taken me a while to get started, but once I did I was hooked, in large part because I simply wanted to understand.

The writing really hit on something I love, the addition of small details that add so much to the world you’re experiencing. Like the parasite on the eyeball of the fish early in the story. They’re not beautifully wrought descriptions, nor should they be; they’re simple but visceral elements of the world that help draw you into the experience.

There were things that gave me doubts. It’s a bit sexist and homophobic in ways that I really don’t expect from science fiction anymore, especially stories that capture me the way this did. But to be fair that added to the sense that this is not a modern, technological society; it’s not our past, but it’s something else entirely, like a different branch on the tree. (Which is not to say that it is not technologically advanced, but in ways that we wouldn’t expect nor could we possibly understand, which strikes me as something very right for a novel set at such a distant time.)

When I finished the book I went back and reread the prologue, because upon first read the story seemed to jump somewhere else entirely after that, but upon rereading it all came together in the end.

24 Sep

Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher

sevenwondersAt its foundation, this is a story with a lot of really interesting ideas—particularly those to do with the symbiotic roles of superhero and supervillain, and the sometimes fine line between them—but in execution it’s kind of a big ol’ mess. The novel that’s described in the summary only lasts for maybe the first quarter of the book then it veers off into several other directions, often without much sense or transition, and most of the characters are simultaneously unlikeable and lacking any depth; the members of the Seven Wonders themselves could almost be interchangeable but for their powers.

There are also some delightful bits, like the enumeration of the remaining superheroes on the planet, but they also don’t fit (especially considering what happens following their introduction). It wants to be fun, thoughtful and dark, and doesn’t entirely succeed at any of them.

18 Jul

Super Extra Grande by Yoss

seg-yoss I have never read anything quite like this, and found myself wishing it were twice as long (or more!) because just imagine the adventures of the space veterinarian! The possibilities are endless! Funny and fast-paced and deeply creative. [And also deeply sexist. Now, a lot of that is on the narrator, who explicitly acknowledges his misogyny and of course its his POV that flavours the whole book, but its also woven into the narrative and worldview in general.] I am very glad I know a bit of basic Spanish, because all the dialogue in the book is in Spanglish—the lingua franca of the galaxy’s ftl-spacefaring races—but with high school French and a smattering of Portuguese and Spanish, and an ability to take clues from context, I understood about ninety percent of it barely needing to pause, and the rest with a little thought and some judicious google translate.

02 Jul

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

lnm-mcdonaldIn short, this is pretty awesome. Stylistically it’s a bit jumpy for my taste in places, but overall it’s notably different and very satisfying. When I want to pick up the next book immediately, I know that it’s done something very right.

This deserves some more examination, particularly of the make-up of and relationships between the main families, and of the commercial nature of the colonisation of the moon which differs from many colonisation stories, so I hope that I will find time to come back to it and write something more thorough.