matociquala: (whiskey devil)
Only a classic of the genre, and one, of course, to which I owe a tremendous debt of personal gratitude--because I doubt very much if Whiskey would exist without the Phouka (and without the Each-Uisge who shows up in a short story linked to Matt Wagner's graphic novel Mage, as well. Also, Brian Froud and Alan Lee's Faeries, which of course has an absolutely chilling pencil sketch of a Kelpie in it.).

Whiskey grew up not very much like his antecedents; he's neither so sympathetic as the Phouka, in the end, nor so elemental an evil as Wagner's version. He is what he is, and he's mine, and he's not the sort to apologize.

But he started encysting in my brain when I met the Phouka and the Each-Uisge, when I had been browsing the Froud-and-Lee book for years, and thought, I would love to write a shapeshifter character like that.

And eventually, I did. I still remember the first words he said to me. She drank me down like a glass of rain.

I never did wind up using that title. Maybe for a short story, someday. I have one about Whiskey that I'm working on called "Black is the Color."

You never know.

A funny thing. I haven't read War for the Oaks since I was in college; I would place it at 1990, 1991 or so. And I had only read it once; I'm not a big re-reader of books. And once I was working seriously on Blood & Iron, I was no longer allowed to re-read that, or Tam Lin, or Thomas the Rhymer, because I knew how much of an influence each of those books had been on the way I viewed fantasy, and on shaping what I wanted from a book about Faerie.

And I needed to write my own book, not just remix Emma and Ellen and Pamela. (And how weird is it that now, fifteen years later, I consider all three of these fantastic writers friends, or at the very least fond acquaintances? The world is a very strange place, and the internets are very small.) So I wasn't allowed to touch their work for a while, and I had read it all long enough ago that I had largely forgotten it.

And I was a much less critical reader then, and a much less meticulous reader, and I am sure I missed a great deal given the speed with which I tore through things. In fact, I was half-worried (when Blood & Iron was finally published and I was allowed to read these books again) that I would find they weren't as good as I remembered.

Well, I've re-read Thomas the Rhymer and War for the Oaks so far this year, and they are, aye, both still quite wonderful. And a shiny new copy of Tam Lin is sitting in my to-read pile, waiting to be picked up and petted.

Here's a funny thing. I'm trying to talk about War for the Oaks here, and all I can do is talk around its edges. It eludes me; it's too much a part of me for me to separate from myself. And of course it's not my book, it's Emma's book, but it's crept into me and contaminated me, in that way that great stories do, and I can't get far enough back from it to get a look at it and talk about it sensibly. I'm all grown into its rootlets and tendrils, as it were.

Here's some things I can say about War for the Oaks. It's a love story, and if it were being published for the first time now, dollars to doughnuts they would market it as a paranormal romance. But it's not just a love story between two people, or three people, or any of the things it could be.

It's something much bigger. It's a love poem, in fact, to a place and a time and a scene that's vanished, poof, like a Faerie glamour, gone in the morning, are you sure it ever happened? Not that Minneapolis is gone, not that its music scene is gone, but there was a time in the mid-eighties where it seemed like Minneapolis (even to those of us on the East Coast) was the center of the rock-and-roll world. Anything could come lurching out of the twin cities at a moment's notice. You never knew.

I used to own a pair of paisley jeans. They were black and lemon yellow. They had zippered ankles. I'm just saying. That is all.

War for the Oaks ia also a love poem to a city. It's a beautiful evocation of place and shape and texture. It immerses, it submerges, it might just keep you under long enough to draw that fatal breath.

It's a hell of a book.

The climax might be a bit rushed. The thing with Willy and Hedge is obvious enough that the half-astute reader will see it coming from the top of the hill with its headlights on. And maybe the Seelie court are a little too human, or quick to pick up on human behavior. And there's a couple of slow spots in the middle, maybe, but I doubt if you would ever get two readers to agree on what they were.

But man, it's one hell of a book. And I owe Emma a pony.

matociquala: (can't sleep books will eat me)
Boy howdy, do I have mixed emotions about this book. And because they are spoileriffical, I am going to put them behind a cut tag: )

Okay. And now that I've gotten all of that out of my system, I want to say that this is a good and interesting and worthy book, a thoughtful study of the mechanisms by which ordinary, decent people become party to totalitarianism and racism, and the ending isn't nearly as horrible as I expected, from the reviews. (I mean horrible-gutwrenching, not horrible-incompetent.)

I know, from my narrative frustration with the thing, you would expect me to hate it, wouldn't you? And yet, I do not. For one thing, Jo's got a tremendously readable style; the book zips along and pulls the reader with it. For another, while I don't believe in the people at all (this is probably in part due to the lack of physical grounding), the society is beautifully characterized and extremely convincing.

And scary as hell.
matociquala: (softcore nerdporn _ heres_luck)
Hey, I guess it's official now.

I will be the Author GoH at Penguicon next year, April 20-22 in Troy, Michigan. [ profile] truepenny will be coming with me, for those of you who enjoy the Mole And Bear Show. (not to be confused with the Bear Lake Show. Which is different, and involves more cross-dressing and hoisting of rather large unaerodynamic people into the air.)

Speaking of crossdressing, I finished

Book # 58, John Lindow, Norse Myth: The Long Subtitle last night.

I liked it. Lindow has a snarky sense of humor that emerges more and more as the book wears on (he appears to have suffered some sort of an emotional break around the esses and gone "whatever. I'm just going to be funny"), and he's good on obscure bits of things and people, shored up with judicious use of primary sources. This is not a narrative folklore book, but a dictionary of gods and goddesses.

Also speaking of crossdressing, I accidentally stumbled across this cover version this morning after being earwormed on "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" by NPR, of all the places you don't expect to be afflicted by an evil song. And I am endlessly entertained by a yes, hard-rock power-ballad version of a song I've always had a guilty fondness for. As performed by three guys from Chicago.

Yanno, that's a totally different song when a man sings it.

And no, they didn't change the lyrics.

I think I like these boys.

I am.

Aug. 29th, 2006 01:22 am
matociquala: (doctor dance)

Home safe.

V. bloody tired.

Several books heavier.

I did get a lot of reading done on the plane, however.

Book #55: Vellum: The Book of All Hours, Hal Duncan

I *really* liked this. I found it reminiscent of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and Roadmarks and Creatures of Light and Darkness, not in a derivative fashion, but in an evolutionary fashion. (Upcoming opinion piece in ASIM on just this topic, actually). I loved the fragmentary nonlinear narrative, and the repetitions, and the alterations, and the inconsistencies, and the complexities, and the wonderful headbendiness of it all. I thought it was a courageous and sharp book; I wonder if it will retain its power in ten or fifteen years, when it's no longer quite so topical, however.

I did find the last hundred pages or so sort of anticlimactic. I was hoping for a bit more oomph in The Big Reveal, as it were, but it may just be that (a) I've been writing along similar thematic (although very different structural) lines and (b) I'm a trained professional.

All that aside, however, this book is An Achievement.

Book #56: Shakespeare and Co., Stanley Wells

Stanley Wells, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

This is a wonderful book. Not only does Wells know everything, he can get it on the page concisely, amusingly, and with rather good prose.This is a wonderful book. Not only does Wells apparently know everything about the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage, he can get it on the page concisely, amusingly, and with rather good prose.

This book is full of fascinating tidbits--the usual anecdotes, of course--but lesser-known stories as well. I had to read some bits from this at my reading at Worldcon, it was so good.

Book #57: On Stranger Tides, Tim Powers

An old favorite, which I just picked up a new copy of, as there is a small-press trade printing with a great cover (and a couple of dropped quotation marks.).

Still love it. "Saints be praised! The cook survived!" I had forgotten the bit with the compass needle. I came up with a similiar schtick for The Journeyman Devil. Ooops. Bloody, funny, apt, and full of juicy goodness. review B&I.

The Little Professor reviews Year's Best Fantasy & Horror 2006, and liked the Lovecraftian category romance.

To-do list:

finish "Limerent" (Sept 5)
Whiskey & Water CEM (Sept 22)
Undertow rewrite (?)
The Stratford Man rewrite (?)
write "Chatoyant" (Dec. 31)
write "Lumiere" (Dec. 31)
write "1796" (asap)
revise By the Mountain Bound (Dec. 31)
Dust proposal (?)
rewrite All the Windwracked Stars (January 1)
write space opera novella (April 1)

matociquala: (can't sleep books will eat me)
Book #54: Barbara Hambly, Days of the Dead

One of the better of the later Benjamin January mysteries, I think. More Hannibal Sefton is never a bad thing, and there is plenty of Hannibal in this one. Also, this one seems to have been written with a good deal more focus and care than the previous two--the transitions are smoother, the prose is strong, the dialogue sparks, the emotion rings true, and there are very few places where I felt my attention drifting or started wondering if I'd skipped a page reading. I got bucked off a lot by Die Upon a Kiss, but not this time. (this is damning with faint praise; I really did enjoy this book.)

Also, I love Hambly forever for this line: "My dearest Athene, we are past fine distinctions about hawks and handsaws here and deep within the realm of Lucia di Lammermoor, in case it had escaped your notice."


Book #55: Andy Harnsworth, A journey to Medieval Canterbury

Really intended for kids, but nevertheless full of nifty drawings and factoids.

In other news, I like my book collection. And LibraryThing is, indeed, addictive.
matociquala: (stratford man)

...and [ profile] cheshyre, you owe me some sort of read-that-one-so-you-didn't-have-to consolation prize.

Book #53: Chris Hunt, Mignon

[ profile] ellen_kushner presented me with this book at Readercon, as a sort of joke. For those of you joining us in progress, I've been reviewing (and occasionally sporking) Marlowe and Shakespeare and Jonson fiction and biography in my blog for the past three years or so. I think she wanted to test me.

Well, I showed her.

I read it.

Oh, dear. This is a sort of category romance with a good deal of sodomy in it, as queer not-terribly-erotica goes an honest enough example of its type, I suppose. But the protagonist is a thoroughly unlikable chap who spends paragraphs musing on the plumpness of his thighs, the other characters are more or less faceless, and while the plot might reveal itself upon inspection with more sophisticated tools than I had at hand, I was unable to discern it.

Although, in its defense, the sex scenes are less winceable--though much vaguer--than the ones in either Tamburlaine Must Die or Young Will. So at least that's something.

I am not, in short, the target audience for this one.

matociquala: (can't sleep books will eat me)
Book # 51: Geoff Ryman, Air

This is in fact just as good as everybody says it is. It's the story of a woman in a central Asian village on the eve of the singularity, and it's sensitively and incisively written, and very readable. The tension in this novel comes not from explosions, but from social and emotional and cultural threats, and it's very effective.

I did feel that one section of the middle went a bit woo woo, and felt slightly unconnected--the realism is part of the book's charm, and there's an escape sequence that I kept expecting to find out was virtual reality or something else weird (actually, I'm not in any wise convinced that the entire latter half of the book is not a virtual reality hallucination, because things Get Weird at that point, and a kind of dream logic kicks in at several points.)

I admired the way the book refuses to bow to the three-act structure and the pulp narrative conventions, and yet stays interesting and powerful throughout. The characterizations both of people and cultures are marvellous and detailed and humane, and the world this book evokes is both mundane (in a wonderful sort of "this is the world I live in" manner) and vastly alien.

This is a narrative in the sense of being a pivotal section of a life. It's a story of the transformation of that life, and of the world.

Good book.

Book #52: Naomi Novik, Throne of Jade

Also a good book, though not the award-winner calbre of Geoff's novel. Naomi (disclaimer: she's a friend of mine) manages to create a good deal of tension in the first five pages, and her narrative style is breezy and readable, though occasionally the text bogs down in its own manneredness. Also, the voice and personality of the dragon Temeraire is a great strength of these novels. They are light, engaging, and fun.

Unfortunately, I did feel that the plot was very misbalanced. There are about two hundred and fifty pages in the middle of Throne of Jade that could have been dispensed with in closer to just fifty, which pacing issue meant that when we did rejoin the "A" plot, there were only about a hundred pages left in the book, and a good deal of intrigue and complexity and backstabbing were dismissed with what seemed to this reader undue haste.

I diagnose auctorial cowardice, because this particular plotline (intrigue in a Chinese court) strikes me as dauntingly difficult to write and worldbuild. As it is, most of this action takes place offstage, and I cannot help but feel the book would have been stronger if the viewpoint character were introduced to and immersed in the plots and intrigues that he is meant to be used as a pawn in.

On the other hand, complaints aside, I did enjoy this book and I mean to continue to read the series; according to Ms. Novik, she intends to write at least two more, and I suspect it may continue.
matociquala: (kit faustus commodorified)

I find I have some seriously mixed emotions about this book. There's a lot of value going on here--it's beautifully written, with a reserved, understated, and occasionally penetrating style. It's an ambitious book--a book that manages to tackle racism, the insanities and hypocrisies of the military-industrial complex, the ethical issues surrounding the Manhattan Project (boy, there's one for the understatement-of-the-year award), exploitation, and the trademark Martin Cruz Smith wallow through male existential angst. And despite all this, it somehow managed to leave me cold for two hundred pages.

Staff Sergeant Joe Pena is a Pueblo Indian, a former heavyweight boxer, amateur jazz musician, and combat veteran, assigned as the driver for Dr. Robert Oppenheimer in November 1943, in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He's got a sideline selling accidentally acquired goods on the black market, and he's no better than he should be.

Add one paranoid spy hunter who's convinced Oppy is working for the Russians (and that Joe is balling his wife) and who's determined to frame them both if he can't get the honest goods, an Indian plot to sabotage the Army guys who are shooting their sheep, a Jewish refugee mathematician with serious ethical reservations about her work, a bushel basket of more-or-less mad physicists, some radioactive cattle, and a boxing promoter who wants Joe to fight one last time, a chance at a better life, and you would think you'd have the elements of a fairly hard-driving plot.

Instead, the first two thirds of the book are kind of a meandering mess. There's a lot of stuff here, and a lot of gorgeous writing, and a fine ear for dialogue and character, some obviously meticulous research, setting and worldbuilding that would do an SF writer proud--but it's not got a through-line. It lacks, I think, transitions. Things aren't tied together; the pattern is just falling sand.

Two thirds of the way through the book, though, things click together. Admittedly, it's hard to write a dull ending on a book when your final destination is the Trinity test. But somewhere around page two hundred that sticking transmission kicks in, and the book starts rolling downhill like an avalanche.

Martin Cruz Smith has a lot of trust in his reader; you can't skim his books. He salts a fact in once; you need it to understand the ending fifty pages later.

And it's a lady and the tiger ending. I admire his guts.

...and on that note, off to Comicon. See you in a week, unless I see you at the Con.

matociquala: (wicked fairy bernadette)
I've been saving this book to read after Blood & Iron was out, because people have mentioned some similarities between Holly's work and mine to me. And I can see a bit of that--both books, for example, revolve around the tiend (at the end of every seven years / we pay a tiend to hell) and the lengths the Fae go to for means by which to pay it. Both of them are kidnapped-by-Faeries stories, after a fashion, and if I'd written B&I from Hope's point of view, there are ways in which it would have been very much like Tithe.

But this is a book I never could have written. I'm glad she did, though: it was an awful lot of fun. And her Kelpie is Just Right.

I often have a problem with YA in that a lot of what I read seems emotionally muted to me, as if adult authors or editors can have a hard time committing to really brutalizing young characters. (Which is not to say there's not adult work where we have a hard time committing to brutalizing our characters, either.)

Concisely, *I* remember childhood and adolescence as being pretty much dripping with pain and portent; I hadn't much in the way of emotional management skills or perspective. And [ profile] blackholly captures that nicely, and doesn't tie up the main character's problems too neatly in a bundle at the end of the book. Her faeries are sharp pointy wicked tricksy things with teeth and inhuman morality, which is as it should be, and she's got the guts to talk about the seductions of having a heart of stone.

Which is something else faeries are traditionally about. Life is far easier when you only think of your own pleasure.

But you stop being human in there somewhere, don't you?

I read a bunch of urban fantasy when I was in college, and a lot of it, as I recall, privileged Faerie as this sort of otherworld where maybe everybody wasn't really nice, but... things got made a bit safe. The betrayals came from where and when you expected them, and the good folk were mostly just human, with pointed ears, perhaps prone to temper tantrums. And of course our heroes and heroines, being pure of heart and artistically gifted (why are they always artistically gifted?) were more or less privileged as well. And there was this undercut through some of it (and god, don't ask me titles: this was intensive reading fifteen, seventeen years ago) that dichotomized magic and technology, romanticized and exoticized the one and demonized the other. Black Satanic Mills, etc. (I was also left with this sort of racial memory of many of these books having a Kidnapped Princess fallacy thing going on--"You're not my real parents! I am special!")

There were never really the prices to be paid that traditionally there are, when you go into Faerie: a broken heart, a broken soul, a broken life, a broken back, a broken life. A hundred years gone by in a night.

Holly's book points out that being Special isn't always Good, and sometimes being Annointed is not a destiny you really should prefer.

(I'm not talking about Tam Lin and War For The Oaks and Thomas the Rhymer here, I should be plain, but certain more commercially oriented books that dealt with Faerie. I read highly commercial fantasy by the shovel-load in college, because it was what my brain could handle a lot of the time. Also, that's the source of my Lilian Jackson Braun thing. They're so light! And fluffy!)

Holly, on the other hand, does a pretty damned fine job of nailing the arbitrary and willful nature of faerie, the morality of a bored five year old, the air of pulling wings off flies because they were bored. Her primary elf-knight is maybe a little too virtupus (his first and second appearances are marvellously scary and just right, but he tames down a bit) but then, I can't whinge too much about that--I have a somewhat over-virtupus elf-knight myself. (I was attempting to split the difference between his legendary half-brothers (and wouldn't it be a spoiler to say who those people were?) and it became obvious about halfway through The Stratford Man that the temperament--along with the looks--came from the sire line in this case. *g*

It's okay, though. His descendents seem to have gotten all the mean.

Anyway, good book; I will be passing it along to an 11-year-old of my acquaintance, with her Mom's permission, I think. *g*
matociquala: (iSpy I Spy)
19 hours, 3000 miles, and a good deal of Delta's liquor later, I am home and only somewhat damp.

Book # 48: Dennis Lehane, Mystic River

Purchased along with a copy of Pride & Prejudice in the Salt Lake airport Simply Books (please note, my only association with Utah today was meant to be flying over it) because I figure I will give Jane Austen one more chance not to send me to sleep every three pages before I give up on her entirely. They also had three copies of Worldwired and neither of the other two books. There are going to be some confused passengers out there. I had been through all the manuscripts I brought with me by then, you see.

This was such a surprisingly good book that I kept glancing at the cover to make sure it actually did say #1 New York Times Bestseller on it. (It does.) The characterizations are deft and nuanced, the murder plot is nice and twisty, and people do not (mostly) get What They Deserve, though there's enough sympathy for the unfairness of the universe not to seem entirely arbitrary. Also, the writing is quirky and vivacious and Lehane has a kind of uncompromising sympathy for all of his characters, the innocent and the corrupt, and the innocents who are in the process of becoming corrupted.

The ending might be a bit facile--I think Lehane's meditative take on character suffers when confronted with narrative exigencies such as closure. But that was basically my only complaint.


Also, I got all the way through my read and revise of the first 3/4th of Undertow, which means that tomorrow, we start writing the climax. Of which I currently have about six mutually exclusive versions in my head.

I guess we write it and see what happens.

(One of them I can discard because it echoes the ending of Carnival a little too closely.)

and so to bed
matociquala: (Player King)

There is no empire any more, save leagues of empty broken lands along the River Saltus and its vassal streams, and the farmlands of the Rose Downs stretching east.  Those remnants the Assemblage governs in its own right, as executor for the powers of the vacant throne.  But even after Arnulf, the Imperator was executive of the City Imperishable only by proxy for the vacant office of Lord Mayor.  The Assemblage governs the city merely as a courtesy of custom, not by statute.

Jay herds words naturally better than most people will learn to with years of working their asses off to get it right. This is a really intriguing book, a fantastic city, a wacked out an interesting culture. It's beautifully written, and the characters are defined and interesting. Also, he makes me reach for my dictionary on a regular basis, which doesn't happen that much.

...and I couldn't finish the damned thing. For the same reason I can't read China MiĆ©ville's stuff, or almost any horror. Because Delany is exactly as far as I can get into the grotesque and have any interest in reading on. It's not thrilling or enlightening for me; it's just triggery.

That said, I don't want to sell Jay short; I think what I read of it was more strongly plotted than what I read of The Scar or Iron Council, and it has a similar weight and texture to it.

In short, if you like this sort of thing, this is exactly the sort of thing you'll like. I'll be under the couch with a stiff drink.
matociquala: (kit & tilda lucifer/gabriel)
Book # 47: Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan

Not so much about Satan/Samael/Beelzebub/Old Scratch/Lucifer/[ profile] nihilistic_kid*/what have you himself, as about the first- and second- century CE internal Jewish politics that lead to the writing and selection of the books currently included in the New Testament, and how that process has influences Christian theology through the present day.

No more bloody Gnostics, backbrain.

Just saying.

In fact, I may declare a moratorium on Christian characters altogether.

It's Kit and his bloody divinity degree that makes me read these damned things, you realize? I think it's somehow deeply unfair that my protagonists define my reading list.

*Technically speaking, I believe Mr. Mamatas is only a namesake. But that's not as funny.
matociquala: (need bears fozzie & kermit)
Wiscon so far, as it is wont to be, is a long blur of cries of glee and hugging punctuated by panels and staying up wayyyyyy too late. Also, karaoke.

So far:

Wednesday night: Got soaked through my underpants and boots (not an exaggeration) running a block from the parking garage to the hysterical society for the Feminist Utopia panel. Did not melt. Not burst into smoking sizzling. Score! Have now spoken to an audience of thirty or so while sitting between [ profile] naloblogger and [ profile] justinelavaworm, all of us dripping. The lights dry you out quick.

Thursday: Writer's Respite, which is no longer called that, where I got to put on a completely spurious act as a Knowledgeable Pro for four very wonderful writers. Level of submission was much higher than I had expected going in. We had said what needed to be said by three, and by unanimous agreement adjourned to the hotel bar where we discussed whether decimal numbers were a tool of the patriarchy, and also the male gaze of trees.

Went out to dinner with the usual gang ([ profile] truepenny, [ profile] mirrorthaw, [ profile] coffeeandink, [ profile] heresluck, [ profile] renenet, and Rachael whose lj name I do not know but who was v. funny.)

Friday: Slept at [ profile] truepenny and [ profile] mirrorthaw's domicile. Got up, came into Madison, luggage in tow. Checked into hotel, went to ten AM reading with [ profile] jenwrites and two others who I am not sure are on lj. Ran into [ profile] benrosenbaum in the hall and was nearly late, because he does that to people.

Grabbed a noodly lunch with friends (some of the above plus [ profile] aitchellsee and [ profile] stillnotbored somebody else who I am already forgetting in the blut of conbrain. Eee. Conbrain.), then hiked down to the chocolate shop for ice cream, which we ate sitting in a park, picking tree sperm off the ice cream. (see above, also talking again about the male gaze of trees.) Ran into [ profile] hal_duncan, [ profile] scalzi, [ profile] 2muchexposition on the street.

Did I mention I love WisCon?

We then went to [ profile] truepenny's 1 pm Dark Fantasy panel, where [ profile] sosostris2012 found us. It looked like [ profile] coffeeandink was warblogging it, but no post yet. Then there was some meandering, drinks and conversation with one of my editors ([ profile] jlassen) and a bunch of other folks in the bar, then food (Jamerica, Yay! which also involved [ profile] yhlee) and then a short hiding in the room to regenerate.

After that, up to the part floor, where various connections were made and fun people seen. Cheesecake! Weird Spanish cheeses! Prosciutto! Tor party! (We claimed the sole sofa. Yay!) And then meandered down to the Ratbastards karaoke dance party.


I'm not sure if the highlight of the party was [ profile] secretmegreader's David-Byrne-does-Devo, or Hal Duncan singing Tom Waits while the entire party circled him, pretending to be staggering drunk and crooning along off-key and out of time, or possible John Scalzi and Ben Rosenbaum performing a strip tease, or... well, let's just say, there was never a dull moment (and several chorus lines) but that was a lot of fun. [ profile] megmccarron and I picked up Geoff Ryman. By which I mean, with picked up Geoff Ryman. *g*

He's heavier than he looks.


Totally pwned "The Piano Has Been Drinking."


For the record, I had a beer, a cider, and a cape codder (and about a gallon of water and two diet cokes) all night. So I can't even blame the liquor. (I had to be up to moderate an 8:30 panel. Tonight after the haiku earring party is the annual pilgrimage to Madison's mediocre Goth club, though, and all bets are off.)

52 Book Challenge: #46: William F. and Elizabeth S. Friedman, The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined.

Two cryptographers take apart the Baconian argument, and incidentally a few others. They are very polite, very dry, and very, very, very underwhelmed.

And now, I have to go moderate a panel.
matociquala: (softcore nerdporn _ heres_luck)
Book # 45: Ellen Kushner, The Privilege of the Sword. (ARC)

SPOILERS IN COMMENT THREAD: danger, Will Robinson! danger! danger!

I am a happy, happy Bear. And boy does my butt hurt: I just read the entire ARC in one sitting, on a hardwood floor, with only a break for lunch.

This is a sequel to Swordspoint, which takes place a bit after it and a bit before The Fall of the Kings. It is story of Alec Campion's niece Katherine, who comes into her uncle's guardianship in a most irregular fashion... and, as with most people influenced by Alec, winds up the wiser and more worldly for the experience.

It's also beautifully written, breezy, quick, hysterically funny, poignant and bloody and world-weary and heartrendingly naive by turns. This is a fantastic book, a coming-of-age story, and I love it with a quite deep and unreasonable love.

Poor [ profile] truepenny has had to listen to me sitting here giggling and cursing and wincing and--starting about page 300--flinching and groaning in anticipation of the patented [ profile] ellen_kushner trainwreck bloodbath heartbreak ending, which you can always kind of see hurtling down on you like an oncoming steamroller....

This book has everything. It has thematic subtlety and an absolutely engrossing style and it's don't-read-it-on-the-train funny. If you're coming in as a Swordspoint fan, the subtext and intertext in the relationships will be all the more poignant, because you will see what Katherine only half-understands. Alec about broke my heart every time the bloody idiot wandered across stage. (He does make me feel better about Kit, though. Because man, it's sometimes nice to know that there are characters in the world who make worse balls-ups of their life than mine.)

Katherine is a wonderful protagonist. She's sweet and believable and heroically idiotically Romantic, as a teenaged girl should be. And she's a force to be reckoned with, as befits who she will eventually become.

And. It is deeply, deeply, deeply satisfying. For any reasons, including psychological insight, and tenderness, and narrative compassion, and greatness of spirit.

And there's one other thing that made it my favorite book of the next six months (It comes out July 27th), but it's a spoiler. one-sentence spoiler: )

I am glad to live in a world where I can read this book. I suspect all of my friends know what they are getting for Christmas now.
matociquala: (Default)
SF Signal liked Scardown a lot. Not too spoilery.

Book # 44: Wendy Moore, The Knife Man: Blood, Body-Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery;

This is the UK edition. The US edition has a different subtitle. And yes, I have more or less been reading it since I got back from the UK, though intermittently.

It's a biography of Georgian (the time period, not the state or the nation) anatomist John Hunter--both somewhat over-apologetic of his foibles, and intermittently fascinating. The author sometimes has a really sharp ear for a turn of phrase, but often the good sentences are buried under a lot of thrashing, and the narrative in general tends to be repetitive and boggy. It could have done with a good editing.

And some of the speculation-toward-explaining-mistakes is a little wearying. We all kind of fall in love with out historical subjects while we're writing about them, but I'm not sure it's necessary to invent excuses for a three hundred year old misdiagnosis.

On the other hand, the actual subject matter is fantastic. John Hunter himself is the kind of character you could hang all sorts of storytelling on, both fiction and nonfiction, and have it work the better for it. Irascible, adamantine, self-educated, meticulous, obsessed.... a fascinating creature. And the details of his research and treatment processes are both incredibly gross, and incredibly useful. (I now can tell you what the mucous lining the ureter tastes like, if you care.)

So, overall, a thumbs up. But a 535-page book (sans endnotes) that had enough material for a crisp four hundred pages, about.
matociquala: (can't sleep books will eat me)
Book # 43: Sarah Monette, The Mirador. Yes, it doesn't come out until 2007, and this was just a draft, but I'm claiming it anyway.

It was good, and I hear rumors she's making it better.

I love my job.
matociquala: (phil ochs troubador)
[ profile] mrissa is very very very very smart. And generous. And good.

One of America's "20 worst agents" is not happy to be identified as such.

Happy Birthday, [ profile] katallen. Happy Birthday (observed), William Shakespeare.

Progress notes for 22 April 2006 (which is now yesterday):


New Words: 1467
Total Words:  10308
Pages: 52
Deadline: August 1
Reason for stopping: late, quota, end of scene

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
10,308 / 100,000

Tenth of a book! Tenth of a book!

I am enjoying making up pulpy science fiction words. Latin roots and a fine disregard for linguistic principles will carry one far. elutrior! omelite! connex! Slide! exoparent!

Also, Cricket grew a character voice today. So she has a voice, Gourami has a voice, Andre sort of has a voice, and Jean Gris has a voice when I can get him to use it.

Good. I like it when the characters start to sound like themselves. (Some books they don't, so much: the Carnival characters have different thought-patterns, but the narrative stream is pretty much bereft of funny voices. I think it's in part because I was aware, as I was writing, that they weren't narrating in English, but I was translating for them.)

Stimulants: Twining's Earl Grey
Exercise: still recuperating, no exercise
Mail: nomail
Today's words Word don't know:  elutriator, neuroelectrochemical, synthesists
Words I'm surprised Word do know:
Mean Things: Cricket Earl Murphy is about to have a dearly held belief challenged. Also, Jean Gris about gave her a heart attack, all innocent-like. Keeping secrets, naughty girl.
Tyop du jour: She resigned under a crowd.
Darling du jour: If one must keep secrets, it's best if they happen to be incredible.
Books in progress: Wendy Moore, The Knife Man;
Books read: #42.5: K.M. Briggs, The Anatomy of Puck -- which was actually more of a skim, as I've either read this before or read so many books that use it as a source that there wasn't too much new information in it. I am going to have to use the blue hag in something, though. And she reminded me of "Tattercoats."

Interesting tidbit of the day: 
this made me think of both [ profile] misia and [ profile] ladegard today, albeit for very different reasons:

Virginity, albeit some highly prize it,
Compared with marriage, had you tried them both,
Differs as much as wine and water doth.
Base bullion for the stamp's sake we allow;
Even so for men's impression do we you,
By which alone, our reverend fathers say,
Women receive perfection every way.
This idol which you term virginity
Is neither essence subject to the eye
No, nor to any one exterior sense,
Nor hath it any place of residence,
Nor is't of earth or mould celestial,
Or capable of any form at all.
Of that which hath no being do not boast;
Things that are not at all are never lost.
Men foolishly do call it virtuous;
What virtue is it that is born with us?

--Christopher Marlowe, Hero & Leander

By the way, Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris are on A Prairie Home Companion this weekend. Proof that God loves me and wants me to be happy.

Other writing-related work: one crit
matociquala: (can't sleep books will eat me)
I had a lovely, if truncated, Eastercon. Rather wish I were still there, in fact, but I have to leave in a couple of hours for Heathrow, and I had to make it back to England yesterday so I could make it to my flight home on time. Le sigh. My life for the last three weeks has been a George Carlin routine. The one about the stuff. *g*

My hosts here have been incredibly charming, and any number of people (most recently [ profile] pigeonhed, who delivered me from Glasgow to the Prestwick airport in nearly-legal time) have been incredibly gracious about helping out with travels and research. It's all good.

About all of Scotland I got to see was hills in the distance, and about all of Glasgow I got to see was the River Clyde, which I am rather half in love with. (I'm a fan of a good river.) It's a changeable river, the Clyde. With many moods.

At the con, I embarrassed myself horrible participating in the quiz show (would you believe that the rules I know for charades are sort of nothing like the real rules?) but had a grand time nonetheless. I was one one panel on the margins of genre, or possibly the margins of respectability, which mostly turned into a very knowledgeable discussion of foreign-language writers writing SFF in their native tongues, or in English; and on another one regarding the tension between accessibility and literary merit in SFF. I also met a bunch of wonderful people, fans and writers and artists and combinations of the above.

All in all, a very good 36 hours. Filet of con, as it were. And I was brain-eaten by [ profile] fluffcthulhu, as well. Now I have an excuse.

I do still have a cold. Alas. Which I will be beating into submissions with Beacham's Powders Capsules so I can fly without rupturing something.

Back in the states tonight! I sort of miss My Own Bed. Like you do.

Yesterday, I read Book #42, Patricia Cornwell's Predator. Because the airport had it, okay, and I wasn't going to read Dan Brown.

You would think this series would have hit bottom by now, but they actually keep getting worse. There's not even a pretense at a mystery narrative any more; rather, there's a soap opera (written in sort of very erratic third person present tense (bad present tense, the kind with extra helping verbs) that occasionally comes unmoored--or unglued--and drifts off into objective or omniscient) with occasional Thomas-Harris style serial killer POV segments, except, you know, not as convincing as the similar bits in Red Dragon. It's all written in short sentences of mostly short words, which is helpful when one is drugged up on cold meds for flying, and curiously, the most convincing POV is that of an elderly, confused woman with Alzheimers.

Cornwell's books have always suffered from what [ profile] truepenny calls a lack of generosity of spirit. The narrative is more interested in judging than illuminating, and all of the characters grow more and more unlikable and caricaturish as time goes by. (They were never, you know, deep. But when you start actively rooting for the sociopaths, you know something's gone off the deep end.) Also, I have never personally known a group of women who are as all-consumingly concerned with their appearances as the female characters in these novels. An occasional woman? Yes. As a class... not so much. 

Also, the plot structure on this one is so transparent I had more or less figured out what was going on by the end of the first hundred pages.

Now, I've skipped the last several of these, so I missed how the usual cast of characters all somehow wound up in Florida running their own autocratic little agency that apparently has no legal authority, but walks all over the local police department anyway. Conveniently, of course, all of the good guys are competent and all of the (incidental) inconveniences are incompetent, manipulative, or both. The actual villains, on the other hand, are both entirely lucky, and hypercompetent.

I remember, back in the day, reading Cruel and Unusual, and mostly liking it. But this has become a universe where the narrative view of the world is so jaundiced and rotten and judgmental that it makes me feel a bit grubby to visit it.
matociquala: (can't sleep books will eat me)
# 41: E.M.W. Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture.
matociquala: (lion in winter dead)
Book 40; John Crowley, Little, Big

Someday, I'm going to have to get somebody to explain certain things about the end of this book to me. I love reading it, but I have yet to figure out what actually happens, or the mechanics behind some things that do happen. I think I get caught up in the prose and miss the clues, or something.

It reminds me, in some ways, of my experience with Cyteen.

March 2017



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