Wednesday, May 01, 2019

What I'm Reading

Kameron Hurley, The Light Brigade

The Light Brigade by [Hurley, Kameron]The Light Brigade is Kameron Hurley's newest book, and my favorite of her so far. It's partly an answer to Heinlein's Starship Troopers and partly an answer to Haldeman's The Forever War and very much a deeply interesting take on both time travel and the ethics of late-stage/failed capitalism.

The main character, Dietz, signs up for the military after the city she comes from, Sao Paulo, is destroyed in what appears to be a terrorist attack. Dietz is a kid from the favela, the slums, living in a world owned by corporations, where only those who have "earned" it can be citizens. If you're a poor kid like Dietz, the military is one of your only options.

Between that and her determination to gain revenge for the destruction of her city, she joins up. In this future, military are transported by something very like the transporters in Star Trek, or in Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs novels. They are "beamed" in beams of light from one location to the next, and mostly this works.

But for Dietz, it doesn't -- or rather, it does, but with a glitch. She becomes unstuck in time. Each time she beams, she ends up in a different event in her time-line. Thus she experiences the culmination of the war, and many brutal stops along the way, before jumping back into her squad at the war's very start. During these jumps, she learns more and more about the corporate civilization and what is driving the war; and she sees the disaster that lies ahead.

The driving force of this book lies partly in us learning what is up as Dietz learns it, and in putting together the puzzle as she does. We also want to know -- as she does -- whether the future can be changed.

This is a grim but vital book. Very much worth reading.

Meg Elison, The Book of Flora

As all y'all know, I love Meg Elison's books to pieces. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife and The Book of Etta are among my favorites. This is the sequel to those, taking up the story some years after The Book of Etta ends.

This one lacks the cohesion and narrative drive that made the other two such page turners, but it gives a fitting and thoughtful conclusion to the trilogy, while also giving us a wider look at the post-apocalyptic world of the series.

It also continues the examination of gender questions, which were only touched on in the first book and became more central in the second.

I'd read the first two first, if you haven't already.

Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God

I keep trying to like Erdrich. She's everything I should like, I know -- a writer who deals with social issues and issues of race and class while also writing compelling stories.

And certainly this book should have been a winner for me, given that it's about an apocalyptic future in which women become an oppressed class, due to the panic of their civilizations. To wit, pregnant women begin bearing "de-evolved" babies, or babies that are more like Australopithecines than Homo sapiens. Only a few women -- apparently non-Caucasian women -- are still breeding 'true,' and only some of them.

Thus these women are made wards of the state, and forced to continue having baby after baby.

Most of the novel is taken up with the pregnancy of the main character, Cedar, and her attempt to escape and stay free from this custody.

It's a readable book, and people who don't read science fiction might enjoy it more than I did. I kept snorting at the parts about 'de-evolution'  (That's not how evolution works, or genes work, and there is no such thing as 'de-evolution.' Evolution can't stop, and it certainly can't 'go backwards.' Argh).

But obviously Erdrich is writing a social fable, not science fiction. As a fable, it's not a bad book. Not my sort of book, though.

Deanna Raybourn, A Perilous Beginning

A Curious Beginning (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery Book 1) by [Raybourn, Deanna]I'd never read Raybourn before, and I forget which blog recommended her (Nicole and Maggie, maybe?). This was a lot of fun.

It's a mystery novel set in Victorian England, concerning a young woman who is newly set adrift after the death of her aunt, who has been acting as her guardian (and who as it turns out isn't actually her aunt).

Veronica, the young woman, is a Victorian-era scientist, studying butterflies, and traveling about the world in her quest to do so. So being set adrift is not a big concern to her. However, she soon runs into trouble, in the form of large men who want to kill her.

Why? What possible interest could anyone have in young Veronica? That's the mystery, but the fun lies in Veronica's voice and her interactions with Stover, the impetuous young man she teams up with. (He's also a Victorian-era scientist.)

Swift writing and snappy dialogue. Recommended.

Liane Moriarty, What Alice Forgot

This one I found on the shelf at my library. Broke as I am, that's how I'm getting most of my books these days.

It was pretty good. It starts with Alice waking up in the gym, having knocked herself out during spin class. She's also lost the last ten years of her memory. She thinks she's 29, deeply in love with her husband Nick, and pregnant with her first child, instead of almost 40, with three kids and a divorce in progress.

This is a clever set up, and Moriarty does wonderful things with it. Almost right away, she gets us to like Nick so much, and the marriage between Alice and Nick so much, that when we learn about the divorce we are truly upset. That's within the first 20 or 30 pages. And it just gets better from there.

Alice's kids, at 10, 8, and 6, are wonderful -- from the mean oldest child to the angelic six year old. Alice's sister is wonderful. Alice's dead best friend is wonderful. The characters are what make this book work, though the plot also drives it -- we really want to know what will happen to Alice, and to her sister, and to the relationships in the book.

Happy endings all around, so don't worry. Very much a charming read. And my library has more books by this author. What wealth!

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