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review 2018-05-10 15:43
Stations of the Tide / Michael Swanwick
Stations of the Tide - Michael Swanwick

The Jubilee Tides will drown the continents of the planet Miranda beneath the weight of her own oceans. But as the once-in-two-centuries cataclysm approaches, an even greater catastrophe threatens this dark and dangerous planet of tale-spinners, conjurers, and shapechangers.

A man from the Bureau of Proscribed Technologies has been sent to investigate. For Gregorian has come, a genius renegade scientist and charismatic bush wizard. With magic and forbidden technology, he plans to remake the rotting, dying world in his own evil image--and to force whom or whatever remains on its diminishing surface toward a terrifying and astonishing confrontation with death and transcendence.


What an odd little novel! Not my usual fare at all, and I wouldn’t have picked it up or persevered if it wasn’t on my project reading list (and if it wasn’t so short). I can see where many people would find it interesting and intriguing. I merely found it all confusing, so it’s not my cuppa tea.

The main character never even gets a name—he is merely “the bureaucrat.” When I first started the book, I thought, “Oh good, this is a sci-fi mystery!” And it kind of was, but it also wasn’t. There’s a lot of odd technology and strange biology. It reminded me a lot of Philip K. Dick’s writing, actually, which I quite like. It had that same trippy quality, so I’m not sure why it rubbed me the wrong way, but it did. It also made me think about Gibson’s Neuromancer, with its hallucinatory qualities.

This is the only Swanwick book on my reading list, but I may at some point try some of his other writing just as an experiment, to see what else he has to offer.

Book number 284 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2018-05-07 21:42
The Magic of Recluce / L.E. Modesitt
The Magic of Recluce - L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Young Lerris is dissatisfied with his life and trade, and yearns to find a place in the world better suited to his skills and temperament. But in Recluce a change in circumstances means taking one of two options: permanent exile from Recluce or the dangergeld, a complex, rule-laden wanderjahr in the lands beyond Recluce, with the aim of learning how the world works and what his place in it might be. Many do not survive. Lerris chooses dangergeld. When Lerris is sent into intensive training for his quest, it soon becomes clear that he has a natural talent for magic. And he will need magic in the lands beyond, where the power of the Chaos Wizards reigns unchecked. Though it goes against all of his instincts, Lerris must learn to use his powers in an orderly way before his wanderjahr, or fall prey to Chaos.


I liked this book well enough, but it really didn’t distinguish itself. Young Lerris gets sent off to do what is called dangergeld because he is bored with his perfect, utopian life. As per usual in this kind of story, he discovers that he has talents he never suspected, that his parents aren’t who he thought they were, and that non-utopian life can be rather difficult. You know, the usual in these fantasy epics. (See The Belgariad by David Eddings, The Riftwar Saga by Raymond Feist, or Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams or even the King Arthur legend).

There is some attempt made to produce meaningful female characters, but unfortunately they are only there as foils and props for Lerris. When he needs someone to bring him down a peg or two, there’s Tamra. When he needs a romantic interest, there’s Krystal. But they retreat into obscurity when they are not needed for some plot point. It’s nice that they’re intelligent and talented, but they don’t get to shine, at least in this first book. They don’t even really talk to one another, except to discuss Lerris a little bit.

I’ve cheated a bit and peeked at the Wikipedia entry for this series—if that’s accurate, I have some hope for the series. Two technologically advanced cultures are marooned on this world and have very different world views. That reminds me of Julian May’s Saga of Pliocene Exile enough to pique my curiosity and send me looking for at least the second book in the series.

Book number 282 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2018-04-20 15:07
The Good Women of China / Xinran
The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices - Xinran

When Deng Xiaoping’s efforts to “open up” China took root in the late 1980s, Xinran recognized an invaluable opportunity. As an employee for the state radio system, she had long wanted to help improve the lives of Chinese women. But when she was given clearance to host a radio call-in show, she barely anticipated the enthusiasm it would quickly generate. Operating within the constraints imposed by government censors, “Words on the Night Breeze” sparked a tremendous outpouring, and the hours of tape on her answering machines were soon filled every night. Whether angry or muted, posing questions or simply relating experiences, these anonymous women bore witness to decades of civil strife, and of halting attempts at self-understanding in a painfully restrictive society. In this collection, by turns heartrending and inspiring, Xinran brings us the stories that affected her most, and offers a graphically detailed, altogether unprecedented work of oral history.


This is a heartbreaking book which I would never have picked up except I was looking for an X author for my Women Authors A-Z reading challenge this year. I never know how to rate books like these because it’s important to know about the situations in countries other than our own, but I always feel helpless and angry when I know that women are having such frightful difficulties.

I have to bear in mind that this book was published in 2002 originally, the author having moving from China to England in order to be free to do such a thing. A lot can and probably has changed in 16 years, plus many of the stories related in this book are from earlier years yet.

The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) seems to have disrupted relations between men and women and the nature of family relationships to an extreme. Survival was top of mind for everyone and each did what they had to. Xinran reveals the painful stories told to her by Chinese women—of having children horribly injured, daughters gang raped, husbands treating them like servants (or livestock), work denied, promotions skipped over, you name it.

As China seems to be heading into another iteration of their authoritarian regime, there will undoubtedly be more issues for women. I hope there is still someone like Xinran to listen to women’s voices and to articulate what they are able to (Xinran herself had to walk a fine line so as not to offend the Communist Party).

In the era of the Me Too and Time’s Up campaigns here in North America, we have to hope that our sisters on other continents are able to achieve some gains as well.

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text 2018-04-06 16:35
More interlibrary loan books
The Graveyard Apartment: A Novel - Mariko Koike,Deborah Boliver Boehm
Due or Die - Jenn McKinlay

They came in just in time for the weekend. Nice!


Due or Die - Jenn McKinlay - This is the next book in the library-themed cozy mystery series a coworker recommended to me. I still need to review the first one and should probably do that before starting this one so I don't mix the two up.


The Graveyard Apartment: A Novel - Mariko Koike,Deborah Boliver Boehm - I requested this after seeing it on a list of recommended horror books by female authors.

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text 2018-03-29 23:40
Just in via ILL
Books Can Be Deceiving - Jenn McKinlay

One of my coworkers absolutely loves this series, which I gather stars a librarian, so I'm going to try it out. It's written by a librarian, so I'm hopeful that the library aspects will feel genuine.

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