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review 2017-04-25 14:02
Beautiful, hopeful, with a good dose of heartbreak
The Prey of Gods - Nicky Drayden

First of all: thank you to the publisher for the ARC.   This hasn't changed how I feel about this book.   

 

I don't even know where to start reviewing this.   The bizarre sex?   The mythological pantheon that seems to have a basis in real mythology, but is cobbled together into something new and fascinating?   The theme of tradition versus modernity?   The LGBT themes running throughout this?   I mean, this thing is jam-packed.   What's truly impressive is that you add a plot and fleshed out characters on top of all this, and it doesn't feel too busy.   No, it's just busy enough, just as busy as the characters and world call for it to be and no more. 

 

Drayden doesn't limit herself to a page count, either.   At a sprawling 400 pages - although keep in mind this covers the afterward, she gives herself plenty of space to add in all these elements.   This is also her debut novel, although she has collections of short stories out.   I've seen first time authors pack close this much into shorter novels, but it's tricky to pull off.   I've seen a lot of first time authors go at a more leisurely pace, too.   Could Drayden have pulled this off without spending as much time she does on this novel?   Perhaps, but I think she'd have to lose the multiple point of view chapters.

 

And disclaimer, I hate this technique most times.   It doesn't give you enough time to get to really settle with the characters most times, and I found myself questioning if I remembered Sydney correctly in her second chapter.   (I'd had to put the book down and came back and scratched my head.   It was only once, however, but shows at least one potential flaw of this device.)   This book tells you who the chapter will be sticking with, and does do third person but sticks with that character for the chapter.   The writing, characters and world building were strong enough for me to stop caring at all and just enjoy this book, too, which is why I didn't knock stars off at all.   

 

This is a look at a possible future for South Africa.   Drayden acknowledges it can't be the story of South Africa in her afterward, but rather is the story of her relationship with South Africa.   (I'm not sure how to pare that, as I didn't get that personal feel from this book: it seems to me that Drayden had a story to tell, did a lot of research into South Africa, and decided to set it there.   While some of the aspects - the dik-dik, the mythology, and the traditions versus modernity - are specific to the country, or even continent, a good deal feels like it could have taken place anywhere.   Then again, this author is compared to Lauren Beukes and Nnedi Okorafor on the back of the book, which sets up unrealistic expectations.   Those two authors steep their books - or the ones I've read - in African culture, and in Beukes case South African Culture.   Beukes is a white woman who is South African, though, so she's lived in that culture.)

 

So to me it was a look at the possibilities of the world in the future.   Or at least some of it is; the mythological aspects are there, and seem more unlikely than the cloning, the robots, or the hybridization of species that are rooted in scientific advances that we're making today.    And no, the mythological is never truly explained; it simply lives beside the science.   And I was okay with that.   It was far better than an explanation that didn't make sense, or was too complex to be coherent, which I've also seen done.   Drayden also writes with a sharp confidence, not needing to explain and simply writing as if we'll accept these two elements side by side.   She assumes we do, and I found it worked for me: I didn't question why there were gods among labs that were built upon genetic modifications. 

 

It's a bit of a slow start as Drayden sets up her characters, but not a page is wasted: she does immediately start setting up plot points, particularly with Sydney, and Muzi.  I feel like Nomvula's setup was a little slower than the rest, but it all makes sense at the end: Nomvula's insecurities, her abilities, all had to be revealed slowly for the best effect.   Even the ways that some stories seem to take an odd, or even unnecessary turn, end up feeling necessary at the end.   They're there to show why the characters could act in no other way than how they do. 

 

And, yes, I loved the robots.   Loved them so much!   

 

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text 2017-04-24 19:37
Reading progress update: I've read 400 out of 400 pages.
The Prey of Gods - Nicky Drayden

Finished, loved, and am heading out soon.  I also have to review two Aquaman graphic novels that I read on Saturday, but I wanted to focus on finishing this next. 

 

Rolled dice for BLoopoly under the new rule. 

 

 

So I got four.   I'm at 29.   Something by air travel now.   

 

 

I got doubles for the first time!   So I rolled again: 

 

 

Six lands me on 35. 

 

 

And a police procedural.   We'll see what fits there, I guess.   Haven't decided on either for now.  I'm going to spend some time outside.   I'm going to B&N again, browsing a little, then walking to the mall and getting an iced coffee somewhere, I think.  Maybe.   Then I'll just wander around, or go back to B&N and read until dinner.   

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text 2017-04-24 18:14
Reading progress update: I've read 330 out of 400 pages.
The Prey of Gods - Nicky Drayden

This started with tree-wives and is apparently going to end with tree boyfriends.  Okay, then, book.  I feel like I shouldn't be surprised, and yet I continually am...

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text 2017-04-24 17:36
Reading progress update: I've read 308 out of 400 pages.
The Prey of Gods - Nicky Drayden

So the eagle-woman - who feels super sexy because DOWN, DOWN EVERTWHERE!!!! And that SEXY BEAK! - has decided that the animal hybrid who is hung like a rhino - because he's part rhino - is going to stay and fuck her because it's been a while.   There are some options: it's been a while since she's had sex, since she's had sex with someone with a rhino-sized dick, or since she's had sex with a rhino.   There's really no elaboration, but she is SUPER excited about having sex with a rhino-dick, so I'm left to wonder if she's fucked a rhino before. 

 

And this book sounds really fucking weird, and not at all worth it from the way I'm describing things.   Crab-dolphin sex, literal trouser snakes, and eagle-woman/animal hybrid sex so far, right?   But the truth is this says a lot about AI, has a gay couple, and a transgender character, pokes its head into politics and does quite a bit with mythology as well.  (I can find some references to the mythology that is mentioned like Tau, although he seems to be different than the original mythological character.  Not only that, while his children are animals, and while he did kidnap, and rape a woman in the original myths, much like he did in this book, he doesn't actually seem to have the same motivations as in the original myths.   I believe this was well researched, but that the author was creating another mythology, so I can see some people viewing this as appopriation, something the author herself addresses in the afterward.   Yes, I look at the back of books to see how many pages I have left sometimes, just trying to gage how long the book will take to finish.  The author says this isn't a book about South Africa, so much as a narrative about her relationship with South Africa.   Nicky Drayden is black, but unlike Nnedi Okorafor - who is of Nigerian descent, and says so - I can't tell if Drayden's family history traces back to South Africa.   It might explain the feel that, for the most part, this book could have taken place anywhere, whereas Okorafor's books - the two that I've read as of yet - have a definite feel that they take place in Africa.  Then again, Okorafor talks about not only her family history, as in her parents were from Nigeria and immigrated to America, but also about the extensive research she's done.   She is clearly super-invested in portraying African culture.   That isn't to say that Drayden isn't, nor that she should be.   This novel just feels less steeped in African  tradition and the research I've done so far seems to back up that Drayden is using this as a jumping off point for her narrative.   Not that I mind; I loved Quills, based on the Marquis De Sade, and that basically twisted his life into things that didn't happen to make a point about censorship.)

 

That long parenthetical that I didn't realize would be that long when I started it?   It may seem harsh, but this is a damned good story, regardless of the comparisons to Okorafor.   They went about their narratives in different ways, but given the small hints of the original Tau in Drayden's Mr. Tau, I again suspect she researched just as much, and just as lovingly, as Okorafor.   And here's the thing: as a Jew, who's seen the Jewish folklores appropriated - like in that Supernatural episode with the golem - I care more about a good story than getting the details 100% correct.  I don't expect to get a completely factual story in fiction.   Furthermore, the back of this book compares this writer to Okorafor and Lauren Beukes - the latter who is South African.   (And I'm going to be upfront and honest about it: white.   Still, her books - again, the ones I've read - have a strong racial tension in them that probably comes from South Africa's long history of racial tension and feel more South African than this book.)  It's just weird to me that this book, the back at least, set up those expectations that it would feel so much like the others - to my mind, naming two authors who absolutely steep their worlds in an African culture sets up an expectation that this one will be as well - and then have it, well, not.

 

And look, this is still going to be a four to five star book.   Depending on the ending, I'm thinking four and a half to five right now.  I love this book.   All the feels.   Even with all the weirdness and the expectations.    I will pick up Drayden in the future, definitely.   I'm just saying, there's some weird, weird shit going on here.

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text 2017-04-24 16:42
Reading progress update: I've read 286 out of 400 pages.
The Prey of Gods - Nicky Drayden

Well, a penis became a snake.   No way that could possible get more literal...

 

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