Saturday, April 11, 2020

What I'm Reading Now

I'm reading so much, y'all. Also we have recently starting putting our books in order (after the move, we just loaded them on shelves, haphazardly), so I'm finding books I haven't read in awhile, which leads to re-reading.

Here's the new ones:

The Glass HotelEmily St. John Mandel, The Glass Hotel

St. John Mandel wrote the justly famous Station Eleven. This one isn't much like that one, except that it too is a mosaic novel, and also wonderful. Several times the writing made me stop and go whoa. (Also, Station Eleven gets a few sly nods in this novel.)

The Glass Hotel concerns a group of people, all of whom have worked in or visited a hotel on a remote island in Canada (I think it's the same island wossname in Station Eleven was from, but I haven't checked that). Two of them are siblings; one is a Wall Street mogul running a Ponzi scheme; other characters have brief chapters. The novel moves back and forth through time, just as Station Eleven did; and it makes us care about the characters, just as Station Eleven did.

There are a number of plot threads, but the plot isn't the issue here. It seldom is, in mosaic novels. One of the characters in novel creates art by filming five minute segments of nothing in particular, and that's more or less what this novel does: gives us a world, in fragments.

Very much worth reading.

Lily King, Lovers and Writers

I twice put this one back on the shelf at the library (this was when we could still go into the library and browse) and then once I checked it out I kept putting off reading it. The title put me off. Lovers and writers, bleh, who wants to read about that?

But I read it anyway, and I am glad I did. Though it has the plot I like least in the world (will this person marry/sleep with this person or that person?), the execution is excellent. Also, that's only the B Plot. The A plot has to do with our main character, who is struggling, among other writers, to be a writer and to make a living. Lots of it is about being a waitress. Lots of the rest is about the struggle peculiar to straight women writers -- male writers are mostly who we meet and want to hang out with, but many (many, many) male writers are only interested or happy with women who are less successful than they are.

Good writing and fully realized characters. I liked this one a lot.

Mike Conner, Archangel

This is another pandemic book. You know how I love pandemic books.

Set in the 1930, this is an AU pandemic -- what if, right after the 1918 flu, another pandemic took place, one which was engineered by eugenicists and aimed at killing off every black person on earth? And what if the eugenicists made a mistake, so that instead of killing black people, it kills only white people?

What would happen to America then?

There's also a murder mystery here, which I kind of resented. I wanted more time with the pandemic world-building and less with the mad/racist scientist.  But the characters are good and it's both a pretty good pandemic story and a nice look at 1930 Minnesota.

Kaori Mori, Bride's Story (Vol. 11)

These are manga, and their title is a little misleading -- though not entirely so. They're the story of an extended family living near the Caspian Sea in the 19th century. The first few volumes do focus heavily on the bride in question, who has been married off at the advanced age of 20, to a 12 year old groom. (I know, I know, but the two of them do not consummate the wedding. They become very fond of each other, and I assume when he grows up this is going to be a sexual relationship, but right now they're just excellent friends.)

Even in the first two volumes, though, Amir and Karluk (the bride and groom) are only one plot-line. If this manga can really be said to have plots. It's mostly just daily life with this family and all its branches. Also there's an English anthropologist visiting.  They're nice to him, though they think he's weird, but he's totally marginalized (sometimes literally).

Manga Review: A Bride's Story (Otoyomegatari) by Kaoru Mori ...

The art is wonderful, and the daily life is delightful.

manga gorgeous art historical kaoru mori Seinen otoyomegatari amir ...

A huge cast, and no real plot, but I love these books.

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction Fantasy
Maggie Shen King, An Excess Male

I'm reading this one for my SF novel class. It was hot a few years ago, as I recall, but I never got around to it at the time.

Set in the near future, this is a dystopian novel set in China, which examines what a repressive culture in which more male infants are born than female infants -- what happens to the "excess" males?

It also deals, however, with how a culture with rigid gender roles / gender essentialism deals with men who don't fit into those roles, or who don't have the traits "all" men have. (Not well, is the answer.)

It's a good novel for my class, since those are some of the main topics we're dealing. Also, I liked the characters. The three men at the heart of the story are quite well developed, and I really like what Shen King did with the possibly autistic character, XX.

I'm a little bemused by the absence of women characters (really just one woman character in the entire book, though another gets a walk-on). Maybe that's part of the point? Here's what the world would look like without women? Except that's half the SF novels ever written. Probably more. Women as minor / off-the-page characters is nothing new.

On the whole, a good book to read if you're into dystopian science fiction.

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