Thursday, July 11, 2019

What I'm Reading Now

Toby Barlow, Sharp Teeth

This is a book about werewolves. After I opened it to look at the first paragraph, I almost put it right back on the shelf. It's written in poetry. I suppose I should call that "poetry," since it's really a narrative written in "free verse," except it's not really verse at all. Just a very nice line now and then.

But it's a pretty good book, about relationships and trauma and refugees (among werewolves). I read it all the way through in about four hours, and it kept my attention the entire way. It's extremely heteronormative, and if you want accurate wolf behavior among your werewolves, yeah, no.

Recommended for those who like ripping yarns and nice writing.

K.J.Parker, The Folding Knife

Yes, I am still reading K.J. Parker. This is what my old writing teacher would call a "little tailor" story. That's a story in which the main character starts out as nothing special (a little tailor, though in this case a middle-class kid) and rises up to great heights. The book is the story of how that happens.

K.J. Parker writes a dense but extremely readable prose, and his characters, major and minor alike, are wonderful. They're all about war and politics, as well as the nuts and bolts of how things work. If that's the sort of thing you like (it's the sort of thing I love), you'll like Parker. This is a good one to start with, by the way -- a stand-alone, rather than the trilogies he usually writes. (Trilogies of three 900 page books.)

Kate Atkinson, Big Sky

This is the latest of Atkinson's "mystery" series about Jackson Brodie. "Mystery" in scare quotes, because while there are in fact several mysteries in each book that work as a plot, the books are really about Jackson and the lives of the other people caught up in the plot/s.

Atkinson is one of my favorite writers, and this was the series that started me reading her. It's very much worth reading. I don't think I'd start with this novel, though, which probably the weakest of the lot. Start with either Case Histories or Started Early, Took My Dog.

On the other hand, this is a pretty good book. I like very much (among other things) how Atkinson handles adolescents. And I'd read about Jackson Brodie if he was just buying groceries and doing laundry.

C.J. Cherryh, Cyteen, Regenesis

I'd read these before, but like K.J. Parker, Cherryh writes these wonderful dense books filled with great characters and the nuts and bolts of how politics and empires work. These are also about cloning and genetics, two of my sweet spots. We follow Ariane Emory, the chief officer of Reseune, a company that manufactures Azi (slaves, but happy slaves, psychologically engineered to like being slaves) to provide the workforce for expanding humanity, as we spread out through the stars. In Reseune, people live for about 150 years -- they have something called rejuv, discovered on Cyteen -- but Ariane is murdered at 120. Her family and her company rebuild her. They don't just clone her; they use "psychogenesis" to recreate the actual Ariane.

This is a duology that weaves together many strains -- the ethics of engineering a society to this degree; the murder mystery of who killed Ariane; the social, sexual, and psychological abuse of Justin Warrick; and the coming to power of the young Ari, as she learns who she is and why she exists, and the corruption that is at the heart of the corporation she owns (if she can take it).

Not as heteronormative as Parker -- several of the main characters are gay men or bisexual men. No trans or Lesbian people though.

Michelle Sacks, You Were Made for This

I did finish this one, but I skimmed the last half.  Extremely heteronormative, and filled with uniformly awful people. It's very well written, but I can't recommend it, unless you like books about terrible people doing terrible things. Content Warning: abuse and murder of an infant.

Joanna Ramos, The Farm

This is what we call in the trade a "high-concept" book. That means the log-line, the plot in a sentence or less, sells the book on its own. The log-line here is something like "Rich woman creates a 'farm' where poor women act as surrogates for the hyper-wealthy, with all the attendant abuses you might expect."

It's about that, and it's about how late-stage capitalism is destroying society along with the planet; but it's also about how the wealthy (the obscenely wealthy) treat the working class, including working class immigrants, as objects, as not quite human. The main point of view character, Jane, is a young woman from the Philippines, with a newborn daughter of her own. She ends up acting as a surrogate (a "host") even though this means she is separated from her infant for the months of her pregnancy.

One abuse perpetuated on the "hosts" is the curtailing of their relationships with family and friends. In Jane's case, the owner of the Farm uses a promised visit with Jane's infant daughter as a way to manipulate Jane into "behaving."

This is disturbing book, despite it's more-or-less happy ending. Worth reading, though I don't think I'd read it again.

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