starlady: Peter, Susan, Edmund & Lucy foment a revolution in Narnia (once & always a king or queen in narnia)
[personal profile] starlady
What I'm Reading
Water Logic by Laurie J. Marks - The Small Beer Press editions of these books cleverly contain large samples of of the next book in the series, and I was two chapters into this book after finishing Earth Logic before I realized that it was one thirty in the morning. I'd had vague ideas of keeping this book back to read later this year--there are rumors afoot that Air Logic may be published soon, finally--but no dice. I'm not sure what to say beyond the fact that I adore these books and the way they quite calmly turn every fantasy trope on its ear. Also, this may be the platonic ideal of found family stories.

Silver Spoon vol. 8 - Yes, I'm slow, but things are getting intense, and manga is visual enough that it flips my "I don't want to watch bad/awkward things happen to these characters!" switch--which is probably part of the reason I'm bad at TV, come to think of it. And also part of the reason I like going to movie theaters, where you have no choice but to watch the whole thing straight through. Anyway, it's great, with the exception of the fact that the one black teacher is still drawn using the "white circle around the mouth for black people's lips" visual trope.

What I've Read
Hostage by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith - I thought this was another excellent book in the series (in some ways I tend to like middle books better, because they build on already established relationships), with some very fine writing and interesting expansions of the worlds and the characters' stories. Given what did and didn't happen in this book, I'm very much looking forward to the next one, Rebel.

Annihilation and Authority by Jeff VanderMeer - Two of the three volumes of The Southern Reach Trilogy, which I'm very glad I nominated for the Hugo, because it's excellent. If you like(d) The X-Files or Welcome to Night Vale, I wager that you will greatly enjoy these books--they are very much down with "the unseen and imagined is way creepier than the seen," but there's plenty of creepy stuff going on in Area X and in the Southern Reach, the vaguely menacing government agency tasked with supervising it. I read these books in about 48 hours straight with the result that every creak in my apartment made me jumpy, but the characters are just as great as the atmosphere; Control and the biologist are of course wildly different, but also strikingly similar in some ways, and I can't wait for the last book, once I acquire it.

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, ed. Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar, and Anita Roy - A really great anthology of feminist speculative YA that is distinguished by the breadth of its contributions and the ways in which those contributions came into being. I didn't like every story, but many of the stories are excellent, and it's very strong overall.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge - Now I only have Verdigris Deep left to read, not counting The Lie Tree, forthcoming this year, and while this wasn't my favorite of Hardinge's books (that's still split somewhere between Gullstruck Island and Fly By Night + Twilight Robbery), I thought it was in some ways a technical level-up, and I think its Carnegie nomination is very well-deserved. I think Hardinge's use of historical material in this book adds (and, to be fair, also subtracts) a dimension, and I'm really interested to see where she goes from here. And of course, the story in general was excellent. I particularly liked Violet; I thought her presence really added some complexity to the story.

Earth Logic by Laurie J. Marks - I adored this book for the reasons I outlined above re: Water Logic, and I also think the ending is one of the better candidates for an eucatastrophe that I've recently observed (NB I don't think an eucatastrophe is actually a deus ex machina; I think an eucastrophe makes much deeper thematic and structural sense than a deus ex machina). The image of Karis and the wall is one I won't easily forget.

That said, I was poking around the interwebz last night a bit, and found quite a few posts saying that they thought the Zanja plotline made no sense. I too initially struggled to understand it, but I went back and looked through my bookmarks and I think I can take a stab at it--I don't read for structure in the same way that [personal profile] rushthatspeaks does, but it's been my observation that well-constructed books will usually have at least a few lines which are synecdochic for the whole, and I can frequently spot them if I remember to keep an eye out.

The key thing to realize about the Zanja plotline is that it's actually a blending of logics, not all of which make that much intuitive sense to me, I admit, since I am exactly half air and half fire. But here are the key points: for fire, metaphor and reality are the same; for air, action and symbol are completely separate; for earth, action and understanding are unified. And what happens to Zanja partakes of all three of them: she dies (fire logic) but of course does not literally die (air logic), but she had to die because fire is action, but she could not take the action she needed to take as Zanja na'Tarwein--she would not leave Karis for anything less than death, as the plague chapters make clear, even as the lack of action was killing her--yet action and understanding are one (earth logic), and she could not have come to the understanding that was necessary (i.e. the whole conversation with Clement about the genocide of the Ashawala'i; if there is anyone most wronged by the Sainnites, it is the Ashawala'i, and Zanja is their Speaker; without her reconciliation, Clem's decision to make the Sainnites Shaftali is not possible) in any other guise but the storyteller. Moreover, her actions (= understanding) are what move the plot, and what literally move Karis: Karis leaves their house with Leeba to allow Zanja to die, which is a choice a G'deon would make, and which choice both allows Emil to forgive himself and to agree to continue serving her--and that physical relocation also brings Garland into their household. And though it's impossible to say pithily what each man does, they are both wholly essential in a way that reading the book makes clear, and which Emil in particular acknowledges of Garland. Remember, "making action possible is fire blood's business" (chapter 9). And though it seems that she doesn't do much as the storyteller, she does quite a lot with respect to Clement, and Clement's son, and by being in the garrison she allows Clem and Gilly to come to the understanding of who Karis is and what is happening, and again by being Zanja-but-not-Zanja, she enables Clem to take the action (returning Zanja's knife to Karis via the raven) which is absolutely key, as Karis says at the end: "That one gesture made everything possible" (chap 39). It's a complicated, densely woven tapestry in which it's hard to point to any one dramatic event but in which everything is essential. As J'han reminds Leeba's rabbit, "great things happen through the accumulation of small acts" (chap 16).

What I'll Read Next
I think it might be time to start Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman books. Or something from my Sirens list.
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