starlady: (akidzuki)
Electra ([personal profile] starlady) wrote2009-07-16 11:32 pm

Clockwork Phoenix the first: some thoughts

First off, I'm going to Otakon this weekend! You'll catch me at my friend Alex Leavitt's panels, among other places. It's been four years since I've been to Otakon, and it's the first time I've gone as someone whose primary contextual definition is no longer "anime fan," so it will be interesting.

As promised, I picked up the first Clockwork Phoenix just as soon as I finished the second, and all in all I was not disappointed with this collection either, though I do think that 2 is stronger.

Though the collection leads off with another lovely story by Cat Valente ([ profile] yuki_onna), I don't think "The City of Blind Delight" is actually one of the anthology's standouts. Similarly, while I'm not sure I could sum up any common theme among the stories in Clockwork Phoenix 2, I do think that a majority of the stories in this first book are concerned in some way with the ties that bind, to indulge a hackneyed phrase--not that these bonds are primarily familial; hatred and enmity bind just as well as blood, or better, as many of these stories prove. Maybe if CP2 has a theme, it's just the rich variety of the stories within it, of the diversity of strangeness itself, which maybe in CP2 is emblematized by Ian McHugh's "Angel Dust."

"Old Foss Is the Name of His Cat" by David Sandner nearly had me in tears, which is no mean feat for a short story. It tells of an Old Man who lives by the sea, and of his cat Old Foss, and their complicated friendship for one another, and of the wounds they inflict on each other because of it. Hearbreaking.

"Bell, Book and Candle" by Leah Bobet ([ profile] cristalia) may be my single favorite story in the book; it gives a new twist to a ritual, somewhat antique phrase, and is rich with sumptuous detail. I feel like saying more would give the game away, but it's a great story, and reminded me of New Orleans, or perhaps of somewhere in the Caribbean?

"The Woman" by Tanith Lee is another Lee story that I've liked, and I suppose I owe editor Mike Allen ([ profile] time_shark) thanks for bringing these pieces to my attention. "The Woman" describes a scenario in some ways very similar to the movie "Children of Men," and in others vastly different (not least in that there is no hope), and also makes a few good points about gender and difference along the way, and the inadequacies of a monopolar world.

Marie Brennan ([ profile] swan_tower)'s "A Mask of Flesh" might be my other favorite story in the collection--it's set in a fascinating version of ancient Mesoamerica and follows one young outcaste as she sets out for revenge. It was brilliant, and like always, brilliantly characterized.

There's always one story in an anthology that just makes me want to put the book down, at best, and the WTF award for this book goes to "Choosers of the Slain" by John C. Wright, boring old-style sff's great white hope: blah blah blah manly warriors blushing Valkyrie time traveling maiden I don't care. I'm honestly not sure what about this story is supposed to fit under either parts of the 'beauty and strangeness' rubric, since nothing in it is beautiful except the obligatory girl who beseeches the manly warrior out of his destined heroic role, and it's not strange at all, just another boring valorization of patriarchy. It's no surprise that Wright's been chosen to carry on A.E. van Vogt's work (leaving aside the question of why anyone would want more of that work, but I think I know the answer), but let me just say, if there were a Museum at the End of Time, I should hope that instead of Homer they'd save Sappho, or instead of stupid misogynistic slave-happy Aristotle the Museum staff would save Hypatia in the instant before her stoning. I'd rather read one line of her lost philosophy, or of Sappho's vanished poems than the second book of Aristotle's Poetics or more epics by Homer, but of course my point would be lost on Wright, who's very much into Great (White) Men. Blech.

[identity profile] 2009-07-23 04:30 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for this (I just now found it). I guess just as with Gemma and Steve's story, John's story has gotten praise elsewhere, and I'm happy to have him on board. Just can't please everyone each time out...

[identity profile] 2009-07-23 02:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, totally--Wright seems pretty popular. His work just isn't my personal cup of tea.