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review 2020-05-01 22:53
Hives, colonization, and what makes one rebel
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

This was a ride and a half and I did not expect it to be this good or turn out this serious.

 

You know everything HAD to have gone to pot for the ship to end in one body, sure. I was ready for an action/adventure sci-fi romp, and in a way, it is that. What surprised me was how hard it goes into the social issues inherent in colonization, how it explores the notion of identity and how it can be more than one thing, going double for entities that work more like a hive. "I'm at war with myself" is a very psychological statement that seems to be a theme for many characters, and ultimately gets very literal in this sci-fi set up.

 

There is also the constant coming back to the duality system of belief, the idea that fate is as it's tossed, and so you might as well choose your step, one after the other (sounds a lot like Taoist beliefs to me, plus the idea of hitzusen). What I found interesting is how it delves into thoughts and intentions vs actions, and obliquely (or at least, what I took from the whole sample of characters) how in the moment of truth you don't know who will be that will make the selfless choice (because when it comes right down to it, sometimes people don't even realize it was the moment of truth till it passed), but also, that past choices define next ones, but not in the way one would suspect (because sometimes, the feel that you chose wrong might make you very, very set and vigilant to choose differently afterwards)...

 

Aaaand, yeah, I got right down philosophical. I think it was all that loooong interrupted chat between Toren and Anaander Mianaai. It made me go "oh, shit" in so may directions. Very interesting.

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review 2020-04-10 21:31
Charming and warm
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer,Annie Barrows

It is odd, but for all this book made me cry, I laughed too, and it left me happy. It very much IS a feel good book.

For all the bleak things that the anecdotes in these letters tell you about, there is warmth and humanity underpinning them. Through bombings, gun enforced curfews, children sent away for years, captives and capturers starving alongside, and concentration camps, there are books, and there is friendship, and dignity, and courage.

 

I don't know that it is a perfect book, or even that the plot is that tight (what plot), but there is a bunch of lovely and strange, and even ridiculous, characters being good friends and sharing the good and the bad, all because of books and one absent woman. And that's good. It feels cathartic, and lovely. It's... restorative.

 

I quite enjoyed the experience and I'm glad I took the recommendation.

 

And hey, I got a new favorite poem, because of this first stanza quoted (and I don't usually even enjoy poetry much, but this one resonates)

 

IS it so small a thing
To have enjoy'd the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanced true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

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review 2020-03-26 04:56
Time travelling tales
The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate - Ted Chiang

Very 1001 Nights style with a matrioshka element. Revisits a bit the determinism theme of "Story of your life", but the final message is somewhat kinder.

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review 2020-02-01 16:35
Clover (manga, vols. 1-4) by CLAMP, translation by Ray Yoshimoto
Clover Omnibus - CLAMP

Kazuhiko, a former government agent, is roped into doing one last job for General Ko, one of the heads of the government. She tells him he must deliver a package, which he soon learns is actually a young girl named Sue. In the first two volumes of Clover, Kazuhiko does his best to take Sue to her destination despite opposition from multiple sources. He gradually learns who Sue is, why people don't want her going free, and how she's connected to him. The third volume of Clover is a flashback to the time when Sue and a beautiful singer named Ora first met, the beginnings of Sue's desire to leave her cage. The fourth volume of Clover is yet another flashback, even further back in time, to the days when Ran escaped his own cage and met Gingetsu, a friend of Kazuhiko's.

Clover's biggest strength was that it was very beautiful. It came across like an art experiment on CLAMP's part - lots of negative space, interesting things done with panel placement and usage, etc. And since this is one of those tragic CLAMP series, there are lots of beautiful people looking sad. A few of them get to be happy for a little bit, but it fades into bittersweetness at best.

Unfortunately, this series is style over clarity. Scenes felt disjointed and didn't always transition in ways I could easily follow. The first couple volumes technically had quite a bit of action in them, but it didn't always feel like action because of the way CLAMP drew things. It was weird, and I struggled to follow everything that was going on. The end of the amusement park portion was especially confusing, and instead of giving me more of that story, volumes 3 and 4 turned out to be flashbacks. The story never returned to its present.

One thing I didn't know until after I started reading was that this series was originally intended to be longer. I don't know why it was halted, but it was, which explains why, after two volumes of flashbacks, the story just...stopped. It was immensely frustrating.

The story had song lyrics repeated frequently throughout, at least two or three different songs. I did my best to pay attention to any lyrics the first time they showed up, but I generally found them difficult to read (in a fancy font, often white text on black backgrounds). Also, song lyrics are just disjointed text to me - I can't even vaguely imagine them put to music unless I've actually heard that music before. After a while, I just skimmed any lyrics that came up, which was probably not what CLAMP was aiming for.

I was left with so many questions. On the one hand, the government acted like Clover power was a simple matter of math (a two-leaf plus a three-leaf would equal five and therefore be too powerful to oppose). On the other hand, it was clear that some Clovers' powers wouldn't be a problem not matter how many of them got together, so it really wasn't just a matter of adding up the total number of leaves. And did people like General Ko technically count as Clovers? The world-building didn't make much sense to me.

All in all, this is one of those series that I'd probably only recommend to CLAMP completists or comics creators. As much as I liked the visuals, the story itself was more difficult to follow than it needed to be and didn't have a proper ending.

Additional Comments:

Supposedly each of the different levels of Clovers got a different tattoo, but the one character who was a one-leaf Clover had a four-leaf tattoo. Was that a mistake on CLAMP's part? It confused me.

Extras:

A few pages of full-color images at the beginning of each volume in the omnibus, as well as a full-color bonus gallery.

 

Rating Note:

 

I struggled with rating this. The story is probably more 1.5 stars - it's unfinished, will likely never be finished, and is structured oddly for something that stops at the point it does. The artwork, however, is lovely, more in the 4-star range (the clarity issues make me reluctant to rate it higher).

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2020-01-25 16:27
That's one hell of a ghost
Beloved - Toni Morrison

I don't really know what to say about this book, literature-wise. What I know is that it touched me. I left a comment over halfway through, about crying to the beat of the lifting bits, and negative spaces, and I don't know if I'm capable of doing it more justice.

 

There was a lot that kept crashing over and over, in the echoes of lines and themes through the ages, and stays with me: Freedom as owning yourself. Freedom being necessary to be able to love. What can't be borne, what breaks you, the sequels, the need sometimes to leave the past buried. This idea:

 

“You your best thing, Sethe. You are.”

 

And this idea:

 

For years Paul D believed schoolteacher broke into children what Garner had raised into men. And it was that that made them run off. Now, plagued by the contents of his tobacco tin, he wondered how much difference there really was between before schoolteacher and after. Garner called and announced them men—but only on Sweet Home, and by his leave. Was he naming what he saw or creating what he did not? That was the wonder of Sixo, and even Halle; it was always clear to Paul D that those two were men whether Garner said so or not.

 

But over all, this:

 

“Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver—love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”

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