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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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review 2015-12-22 16:38
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar


Recommended to me by an old friend, who I hadn’t seen in a long time.

Synopsis: Jevick’s father decides to hire an Olondrian tutor for him. Olondria is a faraway land, much different from Jevick’s birthplace, and seems like a fairy tale to him. When his father dies, Jevick gets an opportunity to visit this land, where he becomes haunted by the spirit of a girl and entangles himself in a political revolution.

Overall enjoyment: It’s a hard decision, to be honest. It was very poetic, and had interesting bits, but, for the most part, I didn’t really enjoy reading it. Maybe if, instead of telling me this is a novel, somebody had described this book as a short story and poem collection with a very thin thread to tie them up, I would probably have enjoyed it a lot more; however, as beautifully written as it was, I just can’t ignore the fact that it was haphazard and hurried in everything but its language, and I was very disappointed. Plus, it was incredibly forgettable; I literally just finished reading it, and I already can’t remember the names of most characters… Or, to be quite honest, what happens in most of the book.

Plot: If the story I described on the synopsis seems a bit strange, then it reflects this book’s plot well. It is more like a travelogue, there is no logic to whatever happens. Of course, logic isn’t always needed in fiction, but I’m talking about internal logic, and you would be very hard pressed to find an interesting plot that doesn’t follow it. The main story, Jevick’s, feels like a simple gimmick to connect the little short stories and poems together, and as such, whatever happens to Jevick is whatever is needed for him to meet a particular person who will tell him the tale (and the book will promptly abandon Jevick while this tale goes), or sing him a song, or recite a poem, or whatever. Those snippets are much more interesting and well rounded than the main story.

Characters: They’re not badly written at all, but they range from boring to dislikable. Jevick is a walking yawn (his only reason for existing is so people can tell him their life stories); the ghost girl (can’t remember her name, can’t be bothered to look it up) is insufferable, I wanted to slap her most of the time.

World/setting: You can tell she put a lot of work in this. The world she created was very beautiful, amazingly described, very cohesive. I’d even go as far as to say that it was too much: there was too much world-building and not enough story and content to occupy it. I have the impression that, while she was imagining this world, she came up with folklore and myths and some nice stories for the background; and she liked them so much she decided to force those stories into the book, whether they fit or not.

Writing style: It was very beautiful, quite poetic. That can be a valuable asset, but, to me, flowery language, no matter how beautiful, never makes up for lack of content and structure. 

Representation: The people from Jevick’s homeland (can’t remember what it’s called) are all dark skinned.

Political correctness: The short stories inside were very interesting, but the main story is so empty and disconnected it’s hardly worth talking about.

Up next: My New American Life, by Francine Prose

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