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the real kwon
23 July 2016 @ 08:51 am
Now I have finished Earth Logic, the sequel to Fire Logic, and I am still chewing over my thoughts about it, but one thing I can say is THAT WAS A VERY ODDLY STRUCTURED BOOK.

Earth Logic begins five years after Fire Logic, when all the surviving major cast members of the last book have formed an affectionate extended family unit featuring two gay couples and one token straight couple and their collective kid. And they are all sort of hanging around having curtainfic until the time seems appropriate to ... do something ....... about the ongoing war of resistance and attrition against the invading forces from the last book, who have now been constantly invading for thirty years, and the process of waiting is DRIVING ZANJA UP THE WALL.

About a third of the way in, Zanja has a prophetic vision that one of her other slightly prophetic friends needs to murder her in order for anything to happen. What will happen if they murder her? NOBODY KNOWS, but SOMETHING IMPORTANT.

So they all have a collective freakout and Zanja is like "NO SERIOUSLY YOU JUST NEED TO MURDER ME, I don't know why but it's VERY IMPORTANT," and then they angst for several more chapters and then dutifully get ready to murder Zanja, and the one person who has truth powers instead of prophecy powers is like "awww, isn't it cute how they can't tell the difference between symbolism and reality," and quietly arranges things so all the confused and angsty but dutiful prophets, including Zanja, will THINK Zanja has been murdered but in fact she will only have been SYMBOLICALLY murdered so that while she's busy being symbolically dead her body can generate a whole new personality that will wander off to shuffle some plot cards.

All this progression have been very stressful if I thought there was a snowflake's chance in a Boston July that Zanja was ever going to be dead for real, but never for a single second did I consider that as a possibility so I was free to laugh at three people constantly agonizing about their visions while the fourth is like 'UM IT'S JUST SYMBOLISM, GUYS, IT'S GONNA BE FINE.'

Eventually The Gang pick up a new member, a cook who is UNDERSTANDABLY BEMUSED by all of this personal drama (and thus is my new favorite) but helps keep everyone sane during the waiting period by making amazing biscuits. And they all sit around stressing about Zanja and building a printing press and discussing nonviolent ways of ending conflict until somewhere near the end of the book.

Meanwhile, in the B-plot, the long-suffering second-in-command of the enemy forces has a very long slow arc of reconsidering her life and the cycle of constant violence and the way one is supposed to think about children and the future, with occasional assists from the Wandering Plot Coupon that is Zanja's Symbolically Dead Personality, and it's an amazing arc, I love it.

Ending spoilers, some conflicted feelingsCollapse )

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the real kwon
20 July 2016 @ 07:09 pm
Steven Universe - Mr. GregCollapse )

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the real kwon
18 July 2016 @ 07:20 pm
Writing up Plain Kate reminded me that I never did a post about the other dark and non-romantic fairy tale that I read recently (...ish), T. Kingfisher's The Seventh Bride.

I'm familiar with Ursula Vernon aka T. Kingfisher mostly by proxy -- people talking about her and reblogging her stuff in my vicinity -- and I've been meaning to read her stuff for a while; I liked The Seventh Bride and thought it was well done, but I'm not sure it was the best place for me to start.

In The Seventh Bride, Rhea the teenage miller's daughter is deeply disconcerted one day to learn that a friend of the local lord has asked for her hand in marriage. Rhea has minimal interest in marrying a stranger at best, but she and all her family are aware that if she refuses, economic consequences could potentially be severe.

Before the wedding, Rhea's creepy new husband-to-be asks her to come to his creepy manor house in the middle of the woods and spend a couple of days there, which everyone agrees is WILDLY INAPPROPRIATE, but. (The author clearly wants you to feel sympathetic for the family and their predicament and their inability to help their daughter, and I do, but I kept wondering at this point why, even if they know they can't cancel the marriage, one of her family members doesn't at least go with her into the creepy forest! But that's another story.)

Anyway, although Rhea is aware that the situation is deeply sketch, she is nonetheless still surprised to find the creepy manor house populated by several other wives, each one weirder, angrier, and more magically cursed than the last.

What follows is an unnerving sharp-edged fairy tale full of the kind of surreal and vivid imagery that I associate with Peter Beagle, or even Angela Carter. Occasionally I felt that the prose style was a little bit at war with the actual story. Kingfisher/Vernon (both from this book and from the the other snippets I've seen of hers) has a light, warm authorial voice that gets a lot of its humor out of pragmatism -- it's the kind of thing I tend to like a lot, and often balancing that kind of voice with a darker story can work very well for me, but in this case I was thrown a little off-balance a few times as events got more and more Gothic and the cute pet hedgehog continued to look adorably sardonic about it. I liked the book overall, though, and will definitely be reading more Kingfisher.

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the real kwon
17 July 2016 @ 12:01 pm
I liked The Scorpion Rules enough that I went looking for other Erin Bow books and found Plain Kate, which is the kind of middle-grade fairy tale that's sharper and darker than a good many adult novels.

When a mysterious peddler tries to buy her shadow in exchange for her heart's desire, protagonist Kate is very clear on the fact that it's a VERY BAD idea to make a deal with him. However, Kate's a strange-looking orphan girl who's suspiciously good at wood-carving, and doesn't have enough money to apprentice to a Guild so she can actually sell the things she makes -- which would be difficult enough if it were not a bad harvest, and people were not on the lookout for witches to blame for it. Without any options left, Kate makes the deal and trades away her shadow in exchange for some good travel and camping supplies so she can leave town.

She doesn't actually ask for her heart's desire -- not to be alone anymore -- but the peddler gives her cat the ability to talk anyway, as kind of a freebie.

And, of course, he warns her that she might want to try very hard to find people that will take her in before anyone notices that her shadow is disappearing.

Over the course of the rest of the book, Kate discovers why the peddler wants her shadow, and what he plans to do with it, and what she's going to have to do to stop it. It's not good! People definitely die! The book itself is very good, though, and works through cycles of violence and revenge with compassion for the people caught up in them. Kate spends a big chunk of the book traveling with the Roamers -- Romani or equivalent -- and although I am no expert, I liked the way they were written, as people with different customs to the rest of the country around them but generally no more or less fallible than anyone else. (Though, on another note, the peddler and one other character are both Magical Albinos.) Her most important relationships in the book are all really interesting and complex: her friendship with Drina, a Roamer girl who wants to help Kate but may be overestimating her ability to do so; her non-romantic, almost Stockholm-ish tie to the peddler; and, of course, the cat, who is SUCH A GOOD AND CATLIKE CAT.

Spoilers for those who want to know in advance about risks to animalsCollapse )

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the real kwon
12 July 2016 @ 08:53 pm
I read Jo Walton's My Real Children for book club last month, which many people who know me in real life now know because I briefly acquired a bad habit of going around saying things like "well, I've made my decision and ideally it won't accidentally lead to nuclear war!"

My Real Children follows a woman named Patricia Cowan through two alternate timelines: one in which she marries a dude named Mark when he asks her, and one in which she doesn't.

Personally, marrying Mark is definitely a mistake, because Mark is an asshole -- which is not to say that Trish's life is miserable forever because she made a mistake, but, you know, there's a significant period of misery time in there. On the other hand, the world in which Trish marries Mark is, on a global scale, significantly better than the world in which Pat dumps Mark and finds True Love with a woman (Bee) and a city (Florence) and is generally very happy with her personal choices; Pat's world is even more deeply messed up than our current one, in a hundred small and large ways that do and don't affect Pat and her overall wonderful family life. How exactly these changes to world history have come about is not necessarily clear or obvious.

In both worlds she has children, and loves them, with some complications.

(In the Pat-and-Bee world, the father of their children is a secular Jewish guy who said a couple things that made me put the book down and side-eye it for a minute -- "I'm Jewish, of course I speak Hebrew;" dude, you are a secular Jew! in England! there is no 'of course' there! -- but this is a relatively minor caveat.)

Mostly it's a relatively straightforward narrative of two different lives lived differently, by someone who starts out as the same person, but is arguably not by the end. Sad things happen, because sad things eventually happen in every life. There are small tragedies and large tragedies, and people get old, and people die. Things are terrible for some people and don't affect others. A whole city gets wiped off the map, but if you're not in the country where it happens, then, I mean ... it's sad, but you get on with things .........? (Which is the sort of thing Jo Walton has always excelled at, how it's possible to live a perfectly normal life around fairly terrible things.)

Spoiler for the endCollapse )

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the real kwon
10 July 2016 @ 07:26 pm
[personal profile] nny recced me Mike Carey's Felix Castor books after we went to go see Crimson Peak last year.

BECCA: And so, based on this film, I have decided that what I really want is an ongoing television series about a plucky Victorian ghost-interviewing female duo!
[personal profile] nny: I cannot help you with the plucky Victorian female duo part, but the Felix Castor books involve an exorcist who eventually sort of starts siding with the ghosts?
BECCA: That does fulfill one of my criteria!
[personal profile] nny: Also there is a succubus who eventually settles down to attempt domesticity with her nice librarian girlfriend.
BECCA: ...you have my attention.

So now I have read all five of them that there are currently (and maybe forever? I'm not entirely clear), starting with The Devil You Know, in which exorcist Felix Castor is hired to get rid of a ghost at an archive, starts feeling guilty about casual exorcisms, and ends up solving her murder.

The books as a whole are set in a world that is basically just like ours, except ghosts and zombies and undead were-creatures and demons started popping up a few years ago and everyone knows about and is annoyed by them. The tone is very consciously noir. The streets are always mean, the skies are always grey, and Castor is 100% an eternally down-on-his-luck noir protagonist -- he's constantly getting beaten up, spending his last five dollars on a beer (where the subsequent last-five-dollars comes from is never entirely clear), accidentally uncovering the dark secrets and sleazy pasts of the people who are supposed to be paying him, pissing off one or another of his only three friends in the world, and reluctantly making moral decisions that mostly entail sulkily spitting in the face of someone a bit less moral than he is.

Aside from our hard-bitten down-on-his-luck protagonist, relevant recurring characters/forces include:

Nicky, a health-and-conspiracy-theory-nut zombie acquaintance of Castor's, who does research for him in exchange for old jazz records
Juliet, the aforementioned succubus, who turns up as a terrifying demon enemy to sexy-devour Castor in book one and eventually decides she'd like to stick around and become a.) an exorcist and b.) a lesbian
Rafi, Castor's buddy who got possessed by an extremely powerful demon a few years ago in an distressing event which was partly Castor's fault, and who now has to be kept in a silver-lined cell lest he go on a rampage
Pen, Castor's Wiccan landlady and Rafi's True Love, sort of
The Fanatical Catholic Exorcists, who keep wanting to recruit Castor
The Fanatical And Well-Funded Scientific Paranormal Researcher, who keeps wanting to recruit Castor and grab Rafi for experimentation

As in most noirs, there's a lot of every kind of violence (tw for pretty much every possible thing), a lot of people die, half the time Castor leaves things worse than he finds them, and there's a fair bit of male gaze throughout. (There's one hilariously egregious bit at the end of book two when Pen and Juliet and the little girl-ghost that Castor is trying to rescue that day are all tied up and unconscious, which, given that Juliet is inhumanly strong and has demonic superpowers, is notable.) Also, while Nicky and Juliet overall are by far the most interesting characters, I did not like at all the turn Juliet's storyline took in the fifth book.

All that said, they're entertaining reads, and have sort of filled the Rivers of London-shaped hole in my lineup while I wait to find out how a thing that happened a few books back gets resolved. (I like the Peter Grant books better than the Felix Castor books, but my expectations for them are also much higher, so there's a way in which they are much more stressful to read!)

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the real kwon
09 July 2016 @ 04:53 pm
You know that trope, that very common trope, where there's a character that's nonhuman, or not-quite-human -- dangerous, eerie, other, powerful, has no reason to care about the fate of human beings -- and then there's True Love With A Human Being and that changes them and makes them more human, for better or worse?

OK, it should surprise no one that one of my favorite tropes is that trope, except instead of True Romantic Love with a human being that grounds the powerful inhuman character, it's the true and unmistakable feeling of older sibling-hood. At heart, underneath your human veneer, you're an inhuman powerful whatever, except now circumstances have landed you with a water bottle (wherein water bottle means 'annoying younger sibling') and you gotta be responsible for this water bottle which means that at heart, underneath your human veneer, you are constantly feeling one of the most human emotions imaginable: SHEER EXASPERATION.

The two books that I can think of at the moment that do this are two of my very favorite books. (I reread one of them for our book club this month, which is why I'm thinking about this right now.) Three times makes it a real trope, so I'm inviting examples!

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the real kwon
05 July 2016 @ 08:29 am
I was on vacation this weekend, so, as is traditional, I kicked off with a Barbara Michaels Gothic, Vanish With the Rose.

The premise of this one is that our heroine Diana's baby brother vanished while working for an elderly woman at (of course) an enormous country house. The country house has since been sold to an enthusiastic pair of professors and history nerds who are very keen on remodeling and fixing up the gardens, so Diana -- for the record, an adult, high-powered lawyer -- turns up to investigate! in disguise! AS THEIR LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT!

Almost as soon as she begins the plan, Diana finds herself in MORAL AGONIES about it. Emily and Charles are so nice! They really BELIEVE she's going to turn in a solid diagram about where they can place the ha-ha!!

She would never be able to see a rose, much less one of the lovely old varieties, without being reminded of her perfidy toward people who had trusted her.

In between paroxysms of guilt about her landscaping perfidy, Diana rounds out her circle of acquaintances with some possible suspects/routes in the Gothic novel dating simulator, including

WALT - the sullen hot one, a contractor with a chip on his shoulder about being smart but under-educated, who is in on Diana's secret and Disapproves Of Her Taking In Those Nice People
ANTHONY - the funny weird one, Emily's wildly talkative son who can't hold down a job and collects useless old cars, giant dogs, and cacti
MARY JO - the ambitious nineteen-year-old cleaning lady with an even bigger chip on her shoulder than Walt, who is putting herself through college by holding down three jobs while resolutely ignoring her abusive ex-husband's occasional fits of murderous rage

Diana's judgmental asshole father, in town for a judgy visit, sums up the inevitable Romantic Choice: "On the whole, I think I'd prefer the strong silent sullen gentleman with the muscles to the loquacious youth with the garish taste in haberdashery."

That said, Diana actually spends much more time in the book making giant shiny eyes at Mary Jo than either of them, AS IS RIGHT AND JUST.

Mary Jo gave Diana's hand a brief squeeze before withdrawing hers; Diana felt as if she had won a prize.

After a few days of desperately trying to fake her way through landscape architecting, Emily and Charles take off on an antiques-buying trip and leave Diana house-sitting. Diana and Anthony start having visitations from what might be a ghost, while Mary Jo's asshole ex turns up with a gun and starts taking potshots at anyone who might be around, including all of Anthony's giant dogs. As a result, Walt, Anthony, and Mary Jo all move into the house with Diana!

The rest of the book goes pretty much as follows;

ANTHONY: I'm gonna tear this house apart trying to figure out what's going on with the ghost!
WALT: I really, really would like to solve the problem of the abusive ex with the gun!
DIANA: I still have to figure out what happened to my brother! Did the ghost get him? Did the abusive ex with the gun get him? DID ONE OF MY LOVE INTERESTS GET HIM?
MARY JO: You guys do what you need to do with the Gothic plot and all, I have an actual exam tomorrow and will be in the library with a math textbook.

In the end, I was genuinely surprised by the resolution!Collapse )

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the real kwon
29 June 2016 @ 08:30 am
I don't actually remember why [personal profile] genarti decided I should read Doctor's Orders, Diane Duane's Star Trek McCoy-centric TOS novel, but it ended up on my shelf and so I did.

BECCA: all of Duane's TOS characters are always so pleasant and philosophical and well-intentioned and consistently competent
I don't know if I believe it but it is soothing to read
GEN: heee, right?
I am very fond of that part
also they all stop and think fondly about astrophysics in ways that I do not think fits what's actually onscreen but DO think fits what ought to be true of people in this career path so I'm good with it
BECCA: 'snappy banter,' says McCoy, thinking earnestly about how the crankiness is a useful persona that he puts on when it's convenient for the well-being of the rest of the crew
GEN: hahahahahahahaha
and for his own entertainment, but yes
BECCA: they DO stop and think fondly about astrophysics with GREAT FREQUENCY
and biology
and the value of gathering scientific data for the sake of gathering scientific data
way more than any character on TOS ever has

I mean it feels -- and it is -- very much the kind of fanfic in which the author firmly writes all their own ethics backwards into canon.

GEN: To me it's always felt like she's writing the attitudes of 70s/80s TOS fandom into TOS
like, "I know all of these super geeky writers who are really into space and whom I really like as people, THIS IS THE STAR TREK OF THEIR HEARTS"
BECCA: hah that is probably also true
I mean it also very much does feel like fanfic
'Chekhov's catchphrase!' says Checkhov, in his first appearance, and then wanders off to be competent somewhere offscreen
'Nurse Chapel's off taking her doctoral exams!' says a throwaway line, a/n: 'ok it's always been my headcanon that Nurse Chapel eventually moves up to MD'

The actual plot involves the Enterprise going to investigate a planet where three different intelligent species have independently evolved and trying to convince them to join the Federation; everyone frantically runs around taking soil samples and trying to get enough linguistics data to calibrate the universal translators, Kirk leaves McCoy in charge as a joke and then beams down and gets lost while having a philosophical discussion with an alien, some cranky Klingons show up and everyone rolls their eyes at them, there's one or two space battles but mostly, you know, it's philosophical discussions and harassed linguists complaining about verbs. As I said, it's a pleasantly soothing read! And significantly more invested in the actual day-to-day labor of the scientific and exploratory process than any episode of Star Trek ever has been or will be.

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the real kwon
26 June 2016 @ 09:46 am
At a con last year, [personal profile] coffeeandink handed me the Joan Aiken book she'd been reading on the way down there, remarked that it had not been her favorite Aiken, and asked if I wanted to read it on the way back anyway.

I said all right, because mediocre Aiken is still usually bound to have its redeeming qualities, and then forgot about it until just recently when I was feeling in the mood for a.) Aiken and b.) Gothics.

Morningquest is not really quite a Gothic, as it turns out, though a girl definitely does meet a house in it. I don't really know what it is. It begins when Our Heroine Pandora Crumbe is introduced by her mother -- a very quiet and self-contained person with an unhappy marriage and a quiet, narrow life -- to the wealthy, talented and eccentric Morningquest family.

On their first visit, Pandora's mother keels over of a heart attack at the dinner table!

Thus, Pandora is sort of accidentally bequeathed to the Morningquests, who include:

GIDEON MORNINGQUEST, a tremendously successful conductor with a moderately limited interest in his children
MARIANA MORNINGQUEST, a beautiful and famous soprano who has a mysterious connection to Pandora's mother (subtext: they were probably in love), with whom Pandora falls promptly also in love

and the Morningquest children

DAN, possibly a musical genius, definitely a smug asshole with no morals
BARNEY, the good-looking brilliant one, who leaves behind him a trail of abandoned girlfriends and cats (all named Mog)
TOBY, the sweet scientifically brilliant one who only really talks to his sister Selene
DOLLY, the passive-aggressive and mildly toxic one who is, alas, not really brilliant at all
SELENE, the reclusive one who only really talks to her brother Tony
ELLY AND ALLY, chaotic neutral telepathic twin geniuses

plus assorted household extras

UNCLE GRISCH, an artist, former dancer, and gay Holocaust survivor who is busy rewriting great works of English literature
TANTE LULIE, a Jewish refugee relative of Gideon's first wife, who makes all Mariana's clothes and keeps the household fiscally solvent
DAVE, a useless American that nobody likes

The rest of the book sort of weaves through Pandora's interactions with various Morningquests, her development as an artist, and her search to find out more about her mother.

Along the way, there are various plot threads that spring up involving baby theft and attempted murder and incest and the aforementioned telepathy and drug smuggling and secret underground tunnels and surprise marriages, but, like. Most of these .... don't actually turn out to be all that significant to the shape of the book? Not in a dropped plot-thread way, exactly; more in a 'life just sort of goes on' way. The woman whose baby is stolen in chapter five or so is obviously really devastated, and eventually ends up leaving town, and by the end of the book she's remarried and has another baby, and eventually towards the end of the book a working theory emerges about what the hell was going on with the baby theft, but by that point it's too late to do anything about it, so ...

What actually is significant to the shape of the books? Families, I guess, and a sense of home, definitely, and what home means for refugees, immigrants, people whose past has been lost -- Tante Lulie and Uncle Grisch are the most constant and stable presences in Pandora's life, Pandora's non-Morningquest love interest is a Czech filmmaker-in-exile, Mariana's a possibly-Jewish refugee from Europe, and eventually Pandora finds out that her mother was Jewish too. Which is a surprise to her, but it wasn't a surprise to me.

Because the thing is, the whole Bohemian intellectual cobbled-together family of refugees full of complicated backstory revelations feels -- well, kind of seventies, sure, but one hundred percent real to me. My grandmother and grandfather were both Jewish refugees -- he German, she Czech -- who met and married in the UK in the 1940s. My grandmother was one of a handful of women in her Cambridge med school graduating class. I never met her, but by all accounts she was a wildly brilliant and charismatic person whom everybody fell in love with, who had a habit of picking up lost people and installing them in her house. On my shelf, I have a photocopied book of the letters that she wrote to her long-term lover, who lived in Israel, which his wife sent to my aunts after my grandmother died. My mom and her sisters had a very Morningquest childhood. I'm still finding out things that I never knew, and so, I think, are they.

And, I mean, I NEVER expect to walk out of a Joan Aiken book going 'wow, such realism! what a true portrait!' ESPECIALLY GIVEN the telepathy and the baby theft and all the rest, but there we are.

(And maybe I would have been less punched in the chest by refugee feelings had I read this a different week than this week that we are in right now. There's that too.)

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the real kwon
20 June 2016 @ 08:04 pm
I really really liked Laurie Marks' Fire Logic, and I'm going to complain about some stuff below but I want you guys to keep in mind that overall I thought the book was SUPER enjoyable.

...overall I did. First complaint: the first seventy or so pages of the book are EXTREMELY GRIM and features invasions and conquest and genocide and a great deal of overall unpleasantness, so it took me quite a while to get into it.

However, I perked right up when after those seventy pages of despair Our Heroine Zanja, a professional linguist/spy/diplomat/warrior/semi-clairvoyant, was rescued from a tragic fate in prison by Our Other Heroine Karis, a gentle giant heroic blacksmith with superpowers!

Zanja pretty much falls head over heels in love with Karis like twenty minutes after meeting her, and really, who can blame her, I suspect basically ANY OF US would do the same. Alas, Karis has a.) a secret destiny and b.) a really overprotective friend who's like THIS WILL ONLY END IN TEARS and c.) a Tragic Drug Addiction that means that after a day's work of heroic blacksmithing she spends every night in a helpless state of stoned obedience, hence the really overprotective friend who's like NO, SERIOUSLY, THIS WILL ONLY END IN TEARS.

(I love Karis, but I will note that she is basically the World's Most Sympathetic Drug Addict. Her drug addiction is not even 1% her fault; when she is in withdrawal she suffers nobly and heroically but is never even a little bit an asshole; similarly when she is drugged-out she is helpless and lacking in agency but never an asshole, not even the least little bit, because fantasy drugs are convenient like that.)

Anyway, as a result, instead of following Karis around forever like a puppy dog as is her dearest wish, Zanja reluctantly lets Karis' Overprotective Friend have her way and agrees to ride off instead to join the underground military resistance. There she befriends Emil, the middle-aged leader of this particular troupe of underground military resistance who would really rather just be back at grad school, and has a brief fling with Annis, an enthusiastic pyromaniac, and then encounters a moral dilemma in the form of an enemy prophet who maybe just wants to be friends, but eventually Karis and Zanja are reunited and go back to taking turns dramatically rescuing each other/getting into peril as soon as the other one's back is turned/dramatically rescuing each other again.

Some more facts about this book:
- there are basically no straight people in it (well, that's not quite true, there are two straight married people and everyone spends the whole book being like 'well, that relationship is doomed')
- pretty much everyone is generally well-intentioned and heroic and self-sacrificing and trying their overall best, except for the people who are Definitely Shady
- there is a lot of very good found-family-ing
- also so much hurt-comfort, so much, MY GOODNESS the number of times Zanja or Karis are near-death and tender physical contact is the only way to help
- speaking of injuries, I would like to note that most people in this book who have injuries are eventually magically healed of them and this includes long-term disabilities
- speaking of long-term disabilities, Karis has no ability to feel sexual desire as a long-term side effect of the drug addiction, which everyone in-universe agrees is VERY TRAGIC, and, I mean, there are specific in-character reasons for Karis and Zanja to find this a.) distressing and b.) a significant relationship obstacle, but like. Kids, it is possible to have a successful relationship that is not 100% dependent on whether or not Karis is ever able to enjoy sex, I promise this is not the Saddest of All the Long Tales Ever Told.
- there's an elemental magic system underlying the whole thing but I have not mentioned it because I don't reeeeeeeally understand how it works
- and speaking of worldbuilding, there is a flashback whose sole purpose appears to be to establish the existence of a whole city that seems to be just sad drug-addicted prostitutes. A whole city. A WHOLE CITY.
- ... I mean, I mock, but CITY OF PROSTITUTES aside, Marks seems to be very interested in exploring violence and causes of violence and the possibility for non-violent responses to violence, and cultural shifts and cultural exchange, and despite the high levels of violence I would characterize the book as generally optimistic

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the real kwon
16 June 2016 @ 11:09 pm
Tonight [personal profile] obopolsk and I went to go see Indecent, a play about a play -- to be specific, about Sholom Asch's Yiddish-language God of Vengeance, in which the nice young daughter of a pious hypocrite who makes his money from a brothel falls in love with one of the prostitutes.

So basically it is a show about a.) lesbians b.) Yiddish theater c.) metatheater, aka BASICALLY ALL MY INTERESTS, hi Paula Vogel and thank you for this. You will be unsurprised to hear that I almost entirely loved it.

The cast consists of seven actors, and three extremely brilliant musicians (including an accordionist with more swagger than I've ever seen from an accordionist before). All of the cast whirl from role to role. Sholem Asch is almost always the same, until he gets too old to be the young man, and then he's the old man. Manke and Rivkele, the two lovers in God of Vengeance, are always the same, even when they're different people -- the first cosmopolitan German Manke, who has no difficulty playing a lesbian but worries about how to portray a Jew; the two young Yiddish actresses who express their feelings for each other onstage every night, until one of them can't speak English well enough to make the leap to Broadway; the rookie all-American actress out to shock her parents by playing a lesbian Jew onstage (who gets the biggest laugh of the night when, after she surprises her Manke with an extremely passionate onstage kiss, she mentions that she went to Smith).

Lemml, the Polish villager who happens by luck to be there at the first reading of the play in I.L. Peretz's living room and falls in love with it, is always the same actor and the same person too -- God of Vengeance's guardian spirit, stage managing every production until the entire Broadway cast is arrested for public indecency, and a disillusioned Sholem Asch can't or won't do anything to stop it.

It's all very good, the cast is very good, the music is fantastic, the linguistic shifts are too. Here's the thing I really want to talk about, though. The play is an hour and forty minutes long. We were probably about an hour and twenty minutes in when Lemml went back to Poland, when the actors put stars on their shirts, when we were in the Warsaw Ghetto with the cast doing the show in pieces in order so as not to go up against curfew.

I'd been loving the play up until then, but at this point I started to get angry. I knew that we had to be near the end of the play at this point, and I was sitting there fuming and thinking to myself, 'oh, come on, Paula Vogel, you're going to end the story here? They ALWAYS end the story here, it's a huge black slash across our history but it's not the end of it by any means, ending it here takes a story that was about the power of love and language and literature and just makes it about this one thing that it's always about, PLEASE don't end it here --'

And just as I'm thinking this, as the cast is grimly lining up in front of an invisible concentration camp with ominous pronouncements about dust and ashes printed on the wall, the actor playing Lemml looks out at the audience and says, "Please don't let it end here," and the actresses playing Manke and Rivkele burst out from the line and run off into the wings for the next scene.

AND OK, SARAH VOGEL! Fine! FINE! You knew exactly what you were doing! I've never had my mind read in such an impressively infuriating fashion before.

(The play does not, in fact, end there. It doesn't go as much beyond it as I would like, but it doesn't end there.)

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the real kwon
16 June 2016 @ 02:29 pm
Coincidentally I've been reading a bunch of stuff lately that is somehow related to the Opium Wars. I was not expecting Courtney Milan's latest series to join the collection, but I am excited by the discovery!

Taken by itself, Once Upon A Marquess is cute but not the strongest of Milan's romances. Our Heroine Judith is the daughter of a disgraced former member of the nobility who was convicted of treason in China, along with her beloved brother, and has spent the last nine years desperately trying to support her younger siblings and achieve for them the opportunities they've lost; also she makes clockwork. Our Hero Christian is her former suitor, who also happens to have been her brother's best friend, who also happens to be the person whose testimony got her father and brother convicted of treason; also he has a history of opium addiction and what seems to be some form of OCD; also he's incapable of not making jokes.

(I spent the entire book hearing the voice of Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins doing all Christian's dialog. I don't know if there's any evidence that Courtney Milan has played Dragon Age but if she does I refuse to believe there wasn't an influence.)

Christian and Judith, as mentioned above, are reasonably cute, and I tend to find romances with significant emotional backstory more plausible than lust at first sight. But honestly the weight of the book is not really on their dynamic so much as it is on Judith's relationships with her siblings (as we all know sibling stuff is my favorite stuff!) and on setting up SIGNIFICANTLY MORE ONGOING PLOT, and specifically geopolitical/worldbuilding/history plot, than I think Milan has ever really done in her romance series before.

SpoilersCollapse )

Also I read Her Every Wish, the companion novella about Judith's friend Daisy, a flower-shop girl who's entered a competition for seed funds to open her own business, and Daisy's ex Crash, a mixed-race bisexual bicyclist and numbers man. I liked everything about the outlines of this plot, which is about how layers of toxic assumptions can work at cross-directions to hurt people who care about each other, and thought it needed about four times the page space to actually do the emotional arc justice -- like, there were enough real issues in Daisy and Crash's initial split that fixing all of their internalized prejudices and insecurities with one or two mildly anvilicious clue-bat conversations didn't quite feel believable or satisfying to me.

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the real kwon
15 June 2016 @ 10:51 pm
There is an amazing diner on the Connecticut-NY border called Traveler Restaurant with shelves full of books, and every time you eat a meal there you are allowed to leave with THREE (three!!!) of the most interesting-looking books that you can find.

[personal profile] genarti and I discovered this last time we were driving back from NY, at which point I acquired Jessamy Court, which promised to be the most 70's type of Gothic novel imaginable AND INDEED IT WAS.

Jessamy Court begins when Our Heroine Rachel gets a phone call from the hospital.

A KINDLY DOCTOR: Your friend Stephanie is comatose! ... from SHOCK!
RACHEL: What happened?
A KINDLY DOCTOR: Well, we assume something VERY SHOCKING! But we cannot cure her unless we know what. Anyway, since her famous estranged prima ballerina mother died last week and she has no other family or other friends, it is up to you to take responsibility for her --
RACHEL: You mean, by paying for her medical bills?
A KINDLY DOCTOR: No, of course not, we are not worried about bills here! I mean by taking her keys and breaking into her house to find out what might have shocked her into a coma.
RACHEL: ......

But Rachel obediently goes and rifles through all of Stephanie's stuff, and finds there a letter from Stephanie's famous estranged prima ballerina mother's ex asking Stephanie to come visit Stephanie's famous estranged prima ballerina mother's country mansion.

RACHEL: Hmmm, I wonder if this could have to do with whatever SHOCKING THING caused Stephanie's collapse!
RACHEL: ...well, I guess the only responsible choice left to me, as a concerned friend, is to impersonate Stephanie while she's in a coma and travel up there to find out what's what! This is definitely a normal friend thing to do and I'm sure I would disappoint that nice doctor if I didn't take advantage of this opportunity.

And off Rachel jets up to Jessamy Court, where of course she encounters two hot men:

FABIAN, Stephanie's famous estranged prima ballerina mother's ex, a well-known ARCHITECT/MOUNTAIN CLIMBER/THEATRICAL SET DESIGNER with a SINISTER CHARM who can now no longer climb mountains due to a tragic leg injury which MIGHT have been Stephanie's famous estranged prima ballerina mother's fault
DOMINICK, Stephanie's famous estranged prima ballerina mother's SAD PIANIST, a charming blonde musician with a face like SUNLIGHT

Spoilers are very seventies GothicCollapse )

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the real kwon
09 June 2016 @ 06:12 pm
There is no one for weirdness like Joan Aiken, NOBODY. I love her so much.

The Monkey's Wedding And Other Stories is a posthumous Joan Aiken collection that I picked up as part of a book bundle, and includes:

A Mermaid Too Many: in which a sailor brings home a mermaid, is COMPLETELY MYSTIFIED why his wife is not thrilled by this, and then has to figure out what to do with her
Reading in Bed: a weird dream about a meeting with the Devil, not too notable
Model Wife: which felt like one of those Katharine Hepburn rom-coms about a Feisty Woman who gets herself into a Scrape by being Too Proud (For A Man) -- you know, those movies you enjoy because they're charmingly presented AND YET
Second Thoughts: about the saintly vicar who reincarnates as the most asshole of asshole cats, scandalizing all the pious ladies of the village; unsurprisingly A DELIGHT
Girl in a Whirl: another Katharine Hepburn rom-com but about 10x weirder than the first & featuring several death-defying motorcycle stunts
Hair: a young man meets his dead wife's mother; very creepy and very sad
Red-Hot Favorite: SUPER ADORABLE rom-com in which a magazine illustrator accidentally gets his profile printed as an Eligible Bachelor in the magazine and has to run away to the country to avoid getting constantly hit upon, where he promptly breaks his glasses and spends the rest of the story mostly blind, confused by everything, and accidentally involved in a racing-horse heist
Spur of the Moment: another cute rom-com but not quite as cute as 'Red-Hot Favorite'
The Paper Queen: someone is trying to Modernize the Quaint Seaside Town, which Our Hero Will Not Stand For, but then there are a series of random events and a ghost and actually everything's fine
Octopi in the Sky: a sad young man who works in advertising is about to be forced into a dynastic marriage which he does not want, but is (probably rightfully) more concerned about the fact that he's constantly haunted by hallucinogenic stout-drinking octopi
The Magnesia Tree: a famous author dies, leaving behind a potentially-supernatural magic writing tree which HATED HIM
Honeymaroon: a typist is shipwrecked on an island of talking revolutionary mice who won't stop asking about nationalizing the means of production; POSSIBLY my favorite story in the collection
Harp Music: young man gets stuck as the babysitter in someone else's divorce-remarriage Katharine Hepburn rom-com
The Sale of Midsummer: reporters interview various townsfolk about the story behind why their town is said to only appear three days out of the year; weird and lovely
The Helper: quietly creepy story about a grieving father, the French family that he blames for the death of his daughter, and a robot
The Monkey's Wedding: psychological story about an artist who never actually appears onscreen, his elderly mother, his long-lost painting, his long-lost past, and a burglary
Wee Robin: castle ghost story/legend, cheerfully ruthless
The Fluttering Thing: very short dark piece about a prisoner, a forced march, and a thing that grants wishes
Water of Youth: man pops up in town selling water of immortality, wistful hijinks ensue

Some stories definitely have more heft to them than others, but, I mean. Would be worth it for the revolutionary socialist mice alone, and there is much more in here than just the revolutionary socialist mice.

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the real kwon
02 June 2016 @ 11:06 pm
I first heard about The Watchmaker of Filigree Street from [personal profile] happydork; it's a fantasy novel that, depending on how you look at it, is either a quiet, cozy queer romance or a deeply unsettling work about agency and free will, or lack thereof. Or perhaps both!

In London of 1883, Thaniel Steepleton -- a quiet young telegraph assistant at the Home Office who's given up his piano-playing in order to work a dull job, live a drab life, and send money back to his widowed sister -- almost gets blown up in a terrorist attack on Scotland Yard. The only reason he doesn't is because of a watch that someone left in his rooms a few months ago which starts yelling at him as soon the bomb's about to go off.

The watch, it turns out, is made by a Japanese artificer named Keito Mori with a spare room to let, whom Thaniel immediately assesses as gentle, kind, and lonely. (And 'fragile.' The book does contain an awful lot of descriptions of Japanese people as physically delicate.) The Home Office, on the other hand, immediately assesses Mori as a potential candidate for the maker of the bomb that's just blown up Scotland Yard, and suggests that Thaniel cultivate his acquaintance.

Thaniel, unfortunately, does not make a very good spy. But he is a great roommate! Increasingly willing to accommodate all Mori's strangeness -- and secrets, which Mori does have, OH BOY DOES HE EVER, though not quite the ones that the Home Office thinks -- in exchange for the ways in which Thaniel's life has expanded and brightened since moving into the house on Filigree Street. Very tolerant of the pet clockwork octopus that keeps stealing his socks.

The book's third major figure is Grace Carrow, who is attempting to prove the existence of luminiferous aether despite the difficulty of sciencing while female and Victorian. Eventually, though a complex chain of events, she becomes something like Mori's nemesis. A worthy nemesis, probably, in terms of intelligence and ruthlessness, but I am very conflicted on a.) Grace and b.) Natasha Pulley's writing on Grace -- for one thing, it's clear from very early on that Grace is the clearly sort of person who thinks of herself as Not Like Other Girls. I'm not entirely sure whether we're meant to sympathize with this, and I wish I did know. And I wish there were more women, so I didn't feel so conflicted about not particularly liking Grace.

I'm also a bit -- well, not exactly conflicted on Pulley's writing of the Japanese characters (aside from that 'fragile' thing I flagged above), it's very well-researched as far as I can tell, and there are a wide range of Japanese characters with different opinions and attitudes. And she has cleverly come up with very good in-universe reasons for the two most important Japanese characters to sound exactly like all the British characters! But I will note that in the scenes where Japanese POV characters are talking to each other in Japanese they still do sound exactly like they stepped out of a Sayers novel, which did jar me a bit.

But, all that said, the book is lovely and very clever and I enjoyed it very much. I like the quietness of it, and the fact that the stakes really are not world- or even city-shaking - it's really just a question of whether three specific people are going to be happy or not, and that is a story worth telling.

More thoughts are spoileryCollapse )

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the real kwon
30 May 2016 @ 09:19 pm
Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane was one of the first books I ever put on my Kindle but I only got round to reading it last week, I don't know why, it just felt like the stars had aligned.

Dragonsbane, definitely written in the eighties, is a fairly intentional deconstruction of Heroic Dragonslaying Tropes, ft. as protagonist Jenny Waynest, a middle-aged witch who is constantly having Relatable Struggles Between Her Career and Her Family, which is to say between having enough study time to complete her dissertation become truly excellent at magic and the distractions of her boyfriend and their two kids. Aforementioned boyfriend, John Aversin, happens to be the lord of a fairly impoverished region and also the only living person to have ever slain a dragon (with significant assist from Jenny.)

This becomes relevant when a naive baby knight named Gareth comes riding up demanding help to slay a dragon.

NAIVE BABY KNIGHT GARETH: I am here to request the aid of the GREATEST hero in ALL THE LAND --
JOHN: Yes sorry pardon all the mud etc. but we are a very small holding here and I am busy with the pigs?
JENNY: Hey babe, long time no see, how are the kids?
JOHN: Oh, fine, fine, hope your months alone studying witchcraft in the woods went well?
NAIVE BABY KNIGHT GARETH: Pigs? Witches? Illegitimate children?
JENNY: Kiddo do you maybe need a moment to go off and clutch your pearls --

Anyway, although John is reluctant to leave the pigs etc. to go kill somebody else's dragon, baby knight Gareth promises gratitude and significant financial aid from the king for the impoverished region if the quest is completed, so Jenny & John & naive baby knight Gareth ride off a-questing!

The first approximate third of the book after this is basically just The Road Trip That Shattered The Last Of Poor Baby Gareth's Illusions. However it soon turns out that what is ACTUALLY plaguing the land is the king's evil sorceress mistress who is evil, very evil, one hundred percent evil, you never can trust the pretty ones (my one complaint with the book) and the dragon is just sort of a byproduct to this, although still a byproduct that needs to be sorted out one way or another.

But, I mean, the whole political/magical plot is kind of all just a narrative excuse to force Jenny to resolve the central question of her life anyway -- whether to pursue various opportunities at power & magical knowledge & freedom (including dragon-y spoilersCollapse )) or whether she can continue with the life she's currently leading, constantly torn between her personal potential and the needs of the people who love her, whom she loves as well, but also can't help but resent.

Which: it sucks that this is a binary choice, but I can't say the dilemma isn't real. The choice is never easy and the answer is never obvious, and I spent most of the book unsure myself what I wanted Jenny to do, which really is the biggest mark of success for this book.

A sidenote: I am told this book has sequels that should NEVER, EVER BE READ. So I am not going to read them, but the people who have read them and explicitly told me not to read them (I'm looking at you, [personal profile] rachelmanija and [personal profile] coffeeandink) could maybe make it easier for me by satisfying my horrible curiosity in detailed ROT13 or something in comments. >.>

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the real kwon
29 May 2016 @ 11:26 am
The Rest Of Us Just Live Here has a really cool concept that is really hard to effectively pull off. The idea is that the book is about the other kids in the high school at Sunnydale/Forks/Beacon Hills/wherever the high school is where the Chosen Teens are fighting off some massive world-destroying supernatural force -- the kids who are aware of but not involved in the shenanigans, and mostly just want to make it through to graduation. The way Ness structures this is by having a paragraph header at the beginning of each chapter that describes what the heroes of that other book about the world-destroying supernatural force are doing, and then dives us back into the head of our narrator Mikey, whose concerns include a.) his massive crush on his friend Henna; b.) his rising OCD and anxiety disorder; c.) his older sister's eating disorder; and d.) the fact that he and his friends will soon all be leaving for college in different places, with e.) the rash of mysterious teen deaths and the weird flashes of blue light plaguing their town coming in down around fifth on the concern-o-meter. Mikey & co. are perfectly well aware that this kind of stuff happens occasionally, but it always happens to the 'indie kids' and everyone else is usually fine, at least until the epic conclusion.

The worst kind of failure mode for this book would be 'you're writing about the normal kids instead of the foreground stuff, and it turns out the normal kids are just boring.' This is a hurdle that in my opinion Ness easily clears! Mikey occasionally drives me up a wall with his teen jealousy issues, but he and his friends are not boring and I finished the book largely in a sitting.

The part where the book stumbles for me is in the genre commentary -- it just makes a number of choices that I wouldn't have made. I'm not entirely sure why Patrick Ness went with 'indie kids' to define 'people who are just kind of protagonist-y,' but trope-wise I don't really associate 'trendy kids with unusual names and a large friend-group who are just a little too cool for school' with 'standard teen protagonists'? Maybe I'm behind the times of recent fictional trends, but I feel like usually the protagonist-y kids in fiction are the shy insecure kids with intense backstory/family issues and perhaps a narratively convenient small tight friends-group, which ... honestly seems to describe Mikey & co. way more than it does Satchel, the alt!heroine of that other story where the protagonists are off protagonist-ing.

And OK, we don't know very much about Satchel & Co other than that Dramatic Things Are Happening to Them And Also There's A Love Triangle, but the thing is that Ness names like twenty different 'indie kids' who interact with Satchel at various points in the story. This means that the indie kids actually appear to have a social circle that way more resembles my high school reality, in which, for ex., I was best friends with A and B, A and B were also close with C and D and E who I got along fine with but only hung out with in a group, E was good friends with F who was also a good friend of mine although F didn't get along at all with A or B, G and H and J were all kind of part of the friends-group because they were collectively all in love with D, and then I also hung out separately with L and M who were neither of them part of this friends-group at all. And, like, I would in no way say that my high school experience was overwhelmingly typical, but I do think most kid's lives and social circles are much more complicated than you tend to see in high school fiction.

And of course I don't think any author is narratively obligated to try to describe this kind of 'more realistic' social structure -- there are good story-telling reasons for these 'tight group of three or four friends!' narrative conventions -- but in this particular case it did make me sort of uncertain about what Ness thinks are the distinctive markers of 'real' kids vs. 'protagonist' kids, and what exactly he means the book to say.

I guess basically I think it works as a story but not as meta-commentary, which is definitely less of a failure mode than the other way around, so.

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the real kwon
26 May 2016 @ 07:29 pm
The Fifth Season is by far the most depressing of N.K. Jemisin's books and I think I like it best of all the ones I've read? Perhaps in fact because it is the most depressing, like, everything is certainly terrible and I and N.K. Jemisin wholeheartedly agree on everything that is terrible, which is a change from past N.K. Jemisin books where some things are definitely terrible and some things are just the author's id angling a few degrees off from mine in small but significant ways.

...I really want to emphasize that everything in The Fifth Season CERTAINLY IS terrible though. Like, a small child dies on the third page, and things go downhill from there. The apocalypse is kind of the least of it.

The Fifth Season is actually set in a world (which I suspect is probably far-future our world, but that's not confirmed) where smallish geological apocalypses happen every few hundred years and people have sort of learned to cope with them. In one strand of the book, a woman named Essun lives through the start of what's looking like an extremely epic apocalypse, but is not so concerned about that as she is about the fact that her husband has just murdered her small son and run off with her small daughter into the apocalyptic night.

Essun is a secret orogene, a person with the power to manipulate geological forces. Orogenes are considered highly dangerous; they're hated and feared by the general population, and, if discovered, are liable to be murdered by mass mobs unless sent for training to an official centralized location called the Fulcrum where they learn to do important geological work on behalf of the proper human members of civilization. This system is definitely not coercive, abusive, or exploitative in any way!

In the two other threads of the book (not taking place during the apocalypse) a little girl named Damaya discovers she is an orogene and is brought to the Fulcrum on a road trip that is no fun at all, and a young orogene named Syenite is paired up with an extremely powerful but kind of batshit orogene named Alabaster for another road trip that is no fun at all. Essun's murderous-husband-hunting post-apocalyptic road trip is also kind of by its nature no fun at all for Essun, but she does get a creepy possibly-inhuman child and an eccentric scholarly genius hobo as travel buddies, who are both WAY more fun than Alabaster. (Tonkee the hobo genius is my favorite character in the book, possibly because she spends the least amount of time being miserable; this is especially nice because Tonkee is a transwoman and frequently trans characters are narratively assigned to be the most miserable. Though admittedly Alabaster, who is very beautiful and very tortured and very gay, is there on the other end taking up significantly more than his fair share of misery. Which, again, is kind of impressive in a book that starts with a woman mourning the death of a child.)

Anyway. It's a very good book, a very dark book, and a very unflinching book which is deeply concerned with the consequences of treating people as not-people. I super want to find out what happens next, though I don't expect it will be much happier than what came before.

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the real kwon
22 May 2016 @ 11:12 am
I loved Sea of Poppies, the first book in Amitav Ghosh's Ibis Trilogy, SO MUCH!! ...and then the second two books not anywhere near as much, but it was still a cool reading experience?

The Ibis Trilogy is an incredibly rich and well-researched historical epic set right before and heading into the period of the First Opium War, in which the Chinese government tried to put a stop to the sale of opium and the British government threw a brutal capitalist hissy fit.

This brief summary of course entirely leaves out the role of India, which -- given that the opium was grown and produced in India, numerous Indian businessmen were involved in the opium trade, and a significant chunk of the soldiers fighting for the British were Indian sepoys - is what Amitav Ghosh is primarily interested in.

Sea of Poppies is set right before the war and focuses on a number of characters who all end up on a ship carrying indentured migrant workers and convicts to Maritius, including

DEETI: A poppy farmer in Ghazipur to an opium addict who, after her husband's death, ends up fleeing his awful relatives, finding the love of her life, and becoming the de facto older-sister figure for all the women on board the Ibis
ZACHARY REID: A bright young American sailor who by a number of lucky coincidences manages to rise in the ranks and jump to officer status, in large part because no one's remembered to check the original manifest listing his race as black
NEEL RATTAN HALDER: A naive intellectual raja who, after a series of poor business decisions, ends up accused of forgery, stripped of his status and possessions and thrown into prison, which leads to great suffering but also great personal growth
PAULETTE LAMBERT: The daughter of a French botanist, who grew up in India and, after her father's death, is determined to escape somewhere that she can continue doing botany, MAYBE BY CROSS-DRESSING AND JOINING THE IBIS AS A SAILOR
JODU: The son of Paulette's Indian nursemaid, who hearkens for a life of ADVENTURE on the Ibis, while meanwhile doing his best to explain to Paulette that she is unlikely to get away with cross-dressing and joining the Ibis as a sailor
BABOO NOB KISSIN: The very pragmatic but secretly deeply religious Bengali agent of a wealthy British businessman who ends up ... embodying the spirit of his saintly aunt ....?

And these are just the POV characters, there are multitudinous others! Many of the plotlines are wildly tropey in incredibly enjoyable, 19th-century-novel kind of ways. Meanwhile, Amitav Ghosh is enjoying himself tremendously in the way he plays with language -- most of the characters communicate in wildly different dialects and flavors of English, from the sailor's pidgin to Zachary's code-switching to Paulette's franglais; there's no 'correct' version of English and everyone is constantly misunderstanding each other in small ways as they try to navigate a language that's very much in flux. It's super cool, honestly -- like, the trilogy would be worth it for the language games alone.

That said, one of the other things I most enjoyed about Sea of Poppies was the astoundingly refreshing feeling of liking, rooting for, and being invested in every POV character in an epic adventure series! I was really excited to see the continuation of all of their adventures!

Alas, the next two books do not ... exactly do that. More on the second two books of the seriesCollapse )

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