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text 2018-05-25 23:57
Fantasy Flights May Meeting - Nebulas
Six Wakes - Mur Lafferty
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar
Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okorafor
China Mountain Zhang - Maureen F. McHugh
Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny
All Flesh is Grass - Clifford D. Simak

Every month, I go to a book club that meets at a local taproom. Rather than reading a specific book, each month has a theme. May's theme was the Nebula Awards because, well, they are awarded in May. The Nebulas are one of those awards I've always been vaguely aware of from stickers on books, though I do enjoy Ceridwen's Blogging the Nebulas posts. I was a bit surprised to see how many previous nominees I'd read. I had to cull down to just a handful of recommendations. 

 

Here's what I ended up bringing from this year's ballot:

 

Six Wakes - Mur Lafferty. I wanted to read something on topic for the month, so I compared this year's Nebula and Hugo nominees. The overlap included Six Wakes, which I hadn't read yet, and is published by Orbit. The Hugo voter packet includes whatever publishers provide, and Orbit has traditionally included excerpts of nominees, not full books. Strategery! Turns out, I liked it quite a bit. 

 

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss. I read this one last year, and abso-fucking-lutly loved it. Great characters in an interesting concept, and there's a sequel out really soon. I was so happy to see it on an awards ballot. I won an auction for a signed copy that arrived a day before our May meeting.

 

I also decided, like I had when our theme was the Hugos, to bring some of my favorite losers. The awards hadn't been announced when we met, so I didn't even know my first two picks had lost. I would have brought Stone Sky, but I've rec'd to this group before. But here are some real losers:

 

A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar.  I adored this beautifully written fantasy novel about a book nerd's misadventures. The not-sequel is also amazing. Samatar's prose is just wonderful. My copy of this was signed here in Alabama, at a lecture she was giving MFA students in Tuscaloosa. Because if a master of the genre is going to make an appearance in my state, I can be a little late to work the next morning. Oh, since I'm late posting this, I can link to her recent AMA. This book lost to Ancillary Justice in 2014. But it did win a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, and a Crawford Award. Samatar also won the Campbell Award for best new writer. Her blog has since become private, so I can't link to her post about the WFA, but more on that in the next book.

 

Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okorafor. My copy of this is technically a gift for my niece. I got it signed at Worldcon in Chicago. She's almost old enough to read  it. This is a different indictment/celebration of fantasy than Samatar's, but no less powerful or wonderfully written. It lost to Blackout/All Clear in 2011, and I can't even. It did win a Kindred, and a World Fantasy Award that year, sparking an essay that eventually resulted in a redesign of the award statue 5 years later.

 

China Mountain Zhang - Maureen F. McHugh. I read this so long ago I don't have a review for it. It combines a vast scope with a well done character study. McHugh has done a lot of outstanding work, and this is no exception. This lost to Doomsday Book in 1993, but won a Lambda, Locus, and Tiptree.

 

Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny. This is one of those books that starts off firmly a fantasy, but reveals itself as science fiction, and the author is a poet. One of my favorite books. My current not for load copy is the leather bound Eaton Press edition. In addition to being a piece of goddamned art, this book was the cheesy sci-fi novel used as cover for the Canadian Caper, aka, the CIA operation in Argo. It lost to The Einstein Intersection in 1968, but won a Hugo that year.

 

All Flesh is Grass - Clifford D. Simak. Simak wrote at least three versions of alien invasions that followed roughly the same plot. This is the best one. A small town finds itself cut off from the outside world and some purple flowers are revealed to be extraterrestrials. Creepy and weird, it's worth a read if you're visiting that era of scifi. It lost to Dune in 1966, making it one of the first losers.

 

Next month's theme is Urban Fantasy.

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text 2017-06-01 16:51
June TBR: Small Bear Press Month
Tyrannia: and Other Renditions - Alan DeNiro
North American Lake Monsters: Stories - Nathan Ballingrud
The Monkey's Wedding and Other Stories - Lizza Aiken,Joan Aiken
The Liminal People - Ayize Jama-Everett
The Fires Beneath the Sea - Lydia Millet
Fire Logic - Laurie J. Marks
Couch by Benjamin Parzybok (2008-11-01) - Benjamin Parzybok
After the Apocalypse - Maureen F. McHugh
The Child Garden: A Novel - Catriona McPherson
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar

Last year I got a Humble Bundle of Small Bear Press books that I archived and never got to, so I'm dedicating June to at least testing out some of them. I read one last year called Stranger Things Happen that a lot of people seem to like but I hated it. A lot of these look good though. They seem really creative so I'm holding out hope. Once I finish Dragondawn, I will tackle this pile and see where it leads.

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review 2017-01-22 20:37
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar

Beautiful, slow-paced, sad. Linear storytelling makes it a more accessible starting point than The Winged Histories.

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review 2016-11-06 00:00
A Stranger in Olondria
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar,Josh Hurley I enjoyed this much more on audiobook than I would have as a paper book, I think. I suspect I would have gotten bored and wandered off pretty early in, and spent far too much time looking things up in the dictionary. As it stands, I enjoyed (for the most part) listening to the overly-elaborate language flow over me, and enjoyed the story when it happened to occur.

It was not a fast-paced book, but I enjoyed the setting, and the religious conflict that the narrator inadvertently ended up in the middle of was interesting, if slightly depressing. I found the ghost character almost entirely unsympathetic, which was fine, she didn't have to be likeable, but the narrator mooning over her half the book was a bit much given how horrible she was to everyone, by her own admission. On the other hand, the narrator was at end-of-Gulliver's-Travels levels of detached from reality at that point.

The frequent tangents into local mythology/folk lore/poetry were better than such thing often are, although the whole story did sound very samey, instead of a plethora of voices as one would expect from that. King James translation of what was actually going on, maybe; the narrator never could resist a ten-cent word. Having different narrators, or even one for the story sections would have helped.

Not sure if I'll read the next one. It took me long enough to get through this.
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review 2016-01-20 22:22
A Stranger in Olondria
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar

This book has some of the most gorgeous language I've read in years. It is lush, rich, and evocative. In places it reads like long form poetry (which should come as no huge shock since Samatar writes poetry as well). It reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Percy Shelley. Here's the thing though: very little happens. The plot is frustrating slow. The main character is (intentionally I think) fairly neutral and acts as a reader insert into the well built world. I found myself reading at a snail's pace, and for the length of the book it took me twice as long to read as it should have. It was hard to bring myself to pick it up, and exceedingly easy to put it back down. I just couldn't engage with the story.

 

There were pieces of the book, stories within the story, that had my full attention. One section in particular, toward the end, was fully engaging. There were even snippets of prose that I copied down to reread later. It was beautifully crafted, and I'm actually looking forward to trying out some of Samatar's short stories. As far as novels go, however, I need a more solid story and characters in order to really connect to and enjoy a book. This one wasn't for me, but I would recommend it to readers that want to be transported to a well crafted world, and to linger there indefinitely amidst some truly lovely writing. Just steer clear if you need a decent dose of plot and characterization in your stories.

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