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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
22 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
21 February 2017 @ 05:33 pm
Lumberjanes, Vol. 4 by Shannon Watters

4 of 5 stars

This is the best Lumberjanes volume I have read to date. (I missed no. #3, which was apparently not up to snuff.) This collection benefited greatly from the tighter, more adult storyline, involving the camp director, Rosie, the camp counselor, Jen, and a blast from Rosie's past named Abigail. The past-storyline panels are done in muted sepia colors, in contrast to the bright regular colors of the main panels. This effect is pretty cool.

(Also, whoever wrote the little intros to each comic in the collection, the ostensible first page to different sections in the Lumberjane Field Manual, was quite clever. It's worth your while to read each of these, as they, along with the various badges they are talking about, tie in with the story.)

In this collection, we get some welcome backstory on Rosie and the Lumberjanes organization in general, and one of the characters is revealed to be trans. The last page ends on a cliffhanger: our Lumberjanes think weeks have passed, but Jo's dads tell her it's only been two or three days. This sets things up very nicely for the next collection. All in all, this is well worth your time.
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This entry was originally posted at http://redheadedfemme.dreamwidth.org/169705.html. Comment either here or there.
 
 
"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
21 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
20 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
19 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
18 February 2017 @ 07:57 pm
Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

5 of 5 stars

I think David D. Levine has invented an entire new subgenre with this book. I'm calling it "Pulp Steampunk Regency." Pulp because it harkens back to the sort of rip-roaring adventure that was first promulgated by Jules Verne; Steampunk because of airships and automatons; and Regency because the book is set in the England (and Mars) of 1813, with all the retrograde views of women, people of color (and, as it turns out, aliens) that the time period entails.

But whatever you want to call it, it's a helluva rocket (or rather airship) ride. To modern eyes, of course, the "science" is complete nonsense. There are no "swamps of Venus" or a breathable atmosphere on Mars, much less an atmosphere (and soil) that allows for the growth of forests. There is no "intraplanetary atmosphere," or an ocean of air between the planets themselves that replaces hard vacuum and permits airship travel to Mars, Venus and presumably other planets in the solar system. But this is no more ridiculous than the FTL drives that have been a mainstay of SF for nigh on to forever. I can forgive a lot of things if a world and its rules are well thought out and the characters are engaging. This book qualifies on both counts.

Our protagonist Arabella Ashby undergoes quite a bit of personal growth over the course of this story. She learns her own strength, both physical and mental, and though at the end she is forced to marry to assure the succession of her family's Martian estate (because the British Empire of 1813 encompasses all the settled planets, apparently), her husband-to-be turns the formula on its head by being a person of color. The author actually handles the racism/sexism/classism elements of the time period pretty well, all things considered. This is a book that sneaks up on you--the further along I read, the more I liked it. (And Levine's airships are much better than some, for instance Jim Butcher's.)

This particular storyline is wrapped up by the end, but a few lingering questions assure a sequel. I'm looking forward to it. 
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This entry was originally posted at http://redheadedfemme.dreamwidth.org/169272.html. Comment either here or there.
 
 
"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
18 February 2017 @ 07:48 pm
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

4 of 5 stars

This is yet another re-imagining of H.P. Lovecraft's oeuvre, in this case "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath." Not having read the original, I'm sure I didn't pick up on many of Kij Johnson's references, but this lack did not impede my thoroughly enjoying this story. Starting with the main character: 55-year-old Vellitt Boe, a professor at a women's college in the "dreamlands," a world where capricious gods slumber and destroy, nature is in a perpetual state of upheaval, and physics as we know it does not exist.

Can you imagine that? A middle-aged woman, not relegated to invisibility, in charge of her own story? Sign me up.

It soon becomes apparent that although Vellitt's quest is important (she's pursuing a young student who ran off with a man from the "waking world," in fear that said student's father will shut down the Ulthar Women's College, one of the few opportunities available for women of the dreamlands), the journey itself is the point. Vellitt walks endless miles through nasty underground caverns, meets with and fights all sorts of dangerous creatures, and eventually ascends to the "waking" (e.g., our) world. (For much of this journey she is accompanied by a small black cat--which does not die. TAKE NOTE, JOE HILL!!!) Along the way, we are given considerable insight into the far-traveling young woman she once was, and how she is determined to be, as she puts it, more than a "footnote to a man's story." The only complaint I have about this story, and it's a minor quibble, is the abruptness of the ending. This storyline is wrapped up, but I would very much like to know what Vellitt does next. 
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This entry was originally posted at http://redheadedfemme.dreamwidth.org/169205.html. Comment either here or there.
 
 
"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
17 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
15 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
14 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
13 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
12 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

3 of 5 stars

This is another of the recent crop of Lovecraftian Mythos updates, this one set in London and starring (if indirectly) Shub-Niggurath. It's a taut, fast-paced novella about a hard-boiled detective who is hired by a kid to kill his stepfather. Needless to say, the detective gets more than he bargained for.

Cassandra Khaw is a fine writer. Her pacing is good, she creates the atmosphere of this story very well, and she has a knack for unusual metaphors and similes. For instance:

Croyden's a funny place these days. I remember when it was harder, when it was chiselers and punks, knife-toting teenagers and families too poor to make it anywhere else in grand old London, when this body was just acres of hurt and heroin, waiting to stop breathing. Now Croyden's split down the middle, middle-class living digging its tentacles into the veins of the borough, spawning suits and skyscrapers and fast foot joints every which way. In a few years, it'll just be another haunt for the butter-and-egg men. No room for the damned.


Of course, this being the Lovecraftian Mythos, the aforementioned tentacles figure prominently, along with eyes, blood and gore. However, Khaw practices admirable restraint along those lines--I've read far worse. The only thing that rubs me the wrong way is the casual misogyny of John Persons, our human/not human detective. This fits in with the noir tropes, but I still didn't like it.

All in all, this is not the best novella I've read this year, but Cassandra Khaw is a writer to watch. 
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This entry was originally posted at http://redheadedfemme.dreamwidth.org/168872.html. Comment either here or there.
 
 
"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
11 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
  • Fri, 19:34: RT @maddogg2463: I thought I had a couple of years to finish the bunker but these guys are fucking up faster than I can dig. #FireFlynn
  • Fri, 19:44: So here it is. Non-violent immigrants deported, families torn apart. Sickening. #maddow #uniteblue
  • Fri, 19:49: RT @DavidYankovich: Meanwhile, millions of American immigrants cower in fear as ICE teams follow children's buses home & rip famlies apart.…
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
10 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
08 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
07 February 2017 @ 01:29 pm
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

2 of 5 stars

I almost feel guilty for giving this book only two stars, since it just won the National Book Award. But it goes to prove that no book is for everyone, and in this case, I have an apples-to-apples comparison to make: a book with a similar subject, storyline and treatment, Ben H. Winters' Underground Airlines. I reviewed it last year, and thought it was fantastic.

The main difference between the two is that Underground Airlines is a far more speculative story than The Underground Railroad. The former is an explicit alternate history; the latter has a whiff of fantasy elements, and not terribly believable ones at that. Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad is an actual series of tunnels and tracks deep under the earth, where real locomotive engines run? How and where, pray tell, did they hide the cubic tons of earth that would have to be excavated to accomplish this feat? How could they have disguised all the workers, equipment, and noise while the tunnels were being dug, and what about the inevitable collapses and construction accidents? I mean, I like my SFF as much as anyone, and a good deal more than some, but as far as I'm concerned your story has to make some internally consistent sense.

(And yes, I'm sure a historian and economist could tell me all the things wrong with the premise of Underground Airlines. That may be so, but Ben H. Winters' story makes sense on its own terms, and doesn't have such a huge logic disconnect jumping up and down and demanding the reader's attention.)

Secondly, for a book that just won such a prestigious award, the prose here is...pedestrian at best. The writing is terse and dull, and never sang, at least for me. The characters don't seem to be terribly deep, and Cora, the protagonist, was not relatable for me at all. I didn't particularly like her, but I can't think of another character I wanted to step up and take on the main role, which is a sure sign (or should be) that your characterizations aren't working.

The ending is the final problem...which is to say, there isn't one, certainly not in any sense of closure or satisfaction. The story just peters out, and one never knows if Cora finally reaches a place where she won't be betrayed and recaptured yet again, or if her slave catcher has finally gotten his comeuppance. After I turned the last page, I decided I didn't care that much, which is the kiss of death for any book. On the other hand, I cared about the characters in Underground Airlines.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but as far as I'm concerned Ben H. Winters' book is superior in every way to this one. It would definitely be the one I'd choose if they were placed side by side.
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This entry was originally posted at http://redheadedfemme.dreamwidth.org/168586.html. Comment either here or there.
 
 
"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
07 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
04 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
03 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
  • Thu, 17:48: Photo of the Day - On my walk today, saw this. There’s just a little bit of snow left, and the creek is... https://t.co/QYI5edXrdt
  • Thu, 18:45: "There's a catch as to how he's going to get it [the wall] done quickly and it involves magic." Also tyrannical eminent domain. #inners
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
02 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
01 February 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
31 January 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
30 January 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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"A Diarist...with a Megaphone"
29 January 2017 @ 12:00 pm
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