starlady: (bibliophile)
What I've Read
Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam (2012) - It's closing in on the end of the Sirens Reading Challenge, and this is one of a few books I've read in the last few weeks that are on that list. This book won the 2012 Tiptree Award, and while I agree with everything the jury said about the book, these stories also, by and large, just weren't my thing. I don't particularly care for myths, and I think the mythic aspect of Salaam's writing is part of why most of the stories in the collection didn't quite click for me.

Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce (2007) - This book, on the other hand, I loved so instantaneously from the first page that I found myself rationing the chapters to prolong the reading experience. Many people have read these books already, but the stories are set in an alternate 19thC version of San Francisco, the Republic of Califa, which is under the suzerainty of the Huitzil Empire after a losing war nearly a generation ago. Flora Fyrdraaca is the youngest daughter of the Republic's leading general, and her mother's stubbornness (matched by her own) gives Flora a lot of problems, particularly since she doesn't want to follow family tradition and enter the Army but rather become a Ranger. The fact that the Corps was disbanded at the end of said war doesn't phase her, which says something about Flora. There are many things to love in this book--gender equality! impressive 19thC worldbuilding (and yes, the 19thC was pretty great in some ways, and Wilce taps into many of them)--but what I really loved, missing my California home as I do at the moment, was how freaking Bay Area it was. The Bay Area drives me up the wall, but I love it at the same time, and Wilce's not!San Francisco is a real pleasure to spend time in for anyone who's ever thought that Emperor Norton was pretty great. At least there are sequels!

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (2014) - I adore Kelly Link's short stories, and the fact that these were all bundled together in a neat package was almost enough to make me ignore the fact that most of them are quite old--the newest story in the collection, the one most obviously drawn from Link's own life experience, is also the only one that's never been published elsewhere. Compared to Pretty Monsters or Magic for Beginners, this collection is more somber and less optimistic, but I loved every word.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985) - I'd never read this book before, it's true; somehow I avoided it on summer reading lists, and for the past few years I've also felt that I didn't need to read the book; I could just read Twitter to find out the latest crap that GOP politicians have said they want to do. Having now read the actual novel, well, it's deservedly a classic, and I appreciated some of the stuff that never makes it into discussions of the book, particularly the skewering of academia at the end, though I also raise my eyebrows at the idea that anyone could take Atwood's claims to not be a feminist seriously. I don't think the book is too propagandistic to be effective, but I do think the background details of "ALL the apocalypses at once" were a bit much. And despite the frequent citations of the book on Twitter in reference to current Republican politicians--which are absolutely germane, to be clear, in a way that's hugely depressing to compare with 30 years ago--I also sort of don't think that this is the failure mode of the United States anymore. The breakup of the United States into little theocracies was an article of faith among science fiction writers in the 1980s (it's in the background of all of Gibson's novels from the period, for example), but I think the situation has changed sufficiently that there's no carbon copy of the Republic of Gilead in our future.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (2013) - This is a very well deserved winner of the World Fantasy Award, in my opinion, though it was also clearly written in a very specific historical moment that even two years later feels very distant. The story concerns one mixed-race Saudi hacker, Alif, and his trials and tribulations trying to stay two steps ahead of the Kingdom's security forces, led by the sinister Hand, and to patch up his romance with an upper-class girl--all of which is made more complicated when jinni get involved. To be honest, I didn't really feel very emotionally involved in Alif's journey to maturity, but I was very interested in his friend and neighbor Dinah, the American convert they meet (whose story seems to be quite similar to Wilson's own background), and the ways in which fantastical elements were densely interwoven with politics, history, programming, and some very pointed comments about the United States' recent exploits in the region. Definitely recommended.

What I'll Read Next
The only thing left on my Sirens list is Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock! After that, I have Court of Fives, The House of Shattered Wings, and The Fifth Season winging their way to my tablet!

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June 2017

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