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text 2017-07-23 18:06
A work of no literary merit*
The Aggressors!! - Chris Hamlin,Shane Cuthbert,Marcus Harwood,Dan Lee,Chris Young,Brett Savory,Jeff Robinson

Full disclosure: I know Brett.   I talk to him each year at Readercon, I've made his wife cry with beautiful reviews of her poetry, and he talked to me about this book itself.  I was going to write a kinda mean review based on what I'd heard, and send it to him, but I'm not sure I'll bother sending it anymore. 

 

I also need to tell a story before I start talking about this work, just so you understand what I thought.   Back when I was reading a lot of Transformers fanfic, there was an author who wrote a couple stories.   (I found them again, although I vaguely recall them being in all caps and one about Jazz getting spanked that seems to be gone.   But here: read Happy Birthday, Megatron if you dare.)   This, guys, is one of the worst things I've read.   I mean, I know I've read some self-published bullshit and yet this...

 

And I'm awful because I laugh every time.   So when someone tells me a book they wrote is really bad, and I'm reading something superb by them, my mind kinda vaguely thinks, 'well, it't can't be that bad.   And I keep getting shocked that it is. 

 

So some backstory: this was a multi-author universe that the boys started when they were just that.   Boys.   Young men, if you will.  So I figured it might be some fun, even if it was offensive - which it seemed it might be.   I've also seen Brett bing his wife coffee, I've seen how kind and generous he is, and I've seen him interact with other customers.   I've seen him with the authors he works with, and he's always lovely.    I knew he'd written this a while ago and he wasn't the same person anymore.   As I mentioned, I also knew he'd grown into an amazing written, as evidenced by A Perfect Machine.   (Which I'm savoring, but also scared by because Brett was very vague about the ending and now I think it might be the machine story that makes me sad at the end.)

 

As far as the aggressors, I wasn't either amused enough to laugh or offended enough to really hate this work on that level.   (I did roll my eyes after the fourth or so time a 'cunt' - body part, not person - was described as smelly.   That was also the only time this book seemed really vicious.)  However, that fanfic I linked up there?    Those two stories might not have the punctuation and technical writing skill this book has, but they are at least more coherent.   Partly, I think, due to length: they didn't have time to get their plots quite as twisted up as this book did.   And at least those stories make me giggle like crazy.   

 

This book felt like it really, really wanted to make me laugh, but I was vaguely bored.   I kinda kept reading just to see if it got better, and it kinda never did.   If anything, it got more and more disconnected.  

 

So, yeah, I'm gonna write a brutally honest, full on mean review and not send the link to Brett at all. 

 

*Brett Savory himself gave me this title. 

**A Perfect Machine.   Brett signed this for me this year, too.

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review 2017-07-23 17:43
Bizarre, but enlightening book
The Mount - Carol Emshwiller

I'm knocking off one half star because there's something about the beginning, where it's really hard to get into.   I guessed it might be that both another reviewer out there, and I, had trouble telling who the narrator was.   (It's mostly from one point of view, but you get two more in there, too.)   There was also the whole really short sentences stacked up one against each other, and it's was bizarre and frustrating in the beginning.   Charley's Hoot name is Smiley - and that's the name he prefers to go by.   His the mount of the next in line to rule, His Excellent Excellency, Future-Ruler-of-Us-All.   As such, he's treated... not quite well, but better than most mounts.   (There's a hierarchy: Seattles, the strongest who can carry the most, Tennessees, who are the fastest, and everyone else, who are considered nothings.  In addition, male mounts are called Same and female mounts are called Sues.)  The Hoots, alien invaders who have short, weak legs use humans as mounts.   They spent a considerable time giving treats and pats, telling everyone who will listen how kind they are, and preening over how smart they are, and how they can hear and see and smell better than us.   

 

Meanwhile, Charley's father, Heron (Hoot name Beauty) has rebelled, leads a group of people who are considered 'wild.'   What they want is democracy, to choose who they are, though.   When Heron manages to save Charley, he doesn't realize just how indoctrinated his son is: how much his soon loves the Little Master.   (Or how much the Little Master loves Charley.)   

 

About this time, I started really getting into this book and reading much more quickly.   I got more invested in Charley as he started questioning everything everyone told him, both his father, and the Little Master.   Before, he'd been passive, and now he was actually thinking, becoming something other than what he'd been physically and emotionally and mentally trained to be.  

 

From there on in, I was reading as fast as I could to see what would happen to Charley and what would sway him to one side or the other: as a Hoot's mount, or his own person.  It's harder than I wanted it to be: Charley took so much pride in the fact that Smiley was considered perfect in the Hoot society, he was so brainwashed, he was so simpatico with The Little Master, that he couldn't simply be torn from that life and adapt to another.   He may have been in chains, but those chains gave him hot and cold running water, food he was used to, and a comfortable roof over his head.   With a nasty master, this could have still been hell.   As it was presented, His Excellent Excellency was presented as a loving master.  

 

Still, the ending galls, enough for me to knock off another half star.

 

Compromise with a slave master just feels wrong and I was left unconvinced.   Charley had matured enough to throw off his shackles, and the Little Master felt more like he found Smiley convenient rather than truly feeling for him.   Fondness, yes, but not the love and adoration that Charley had for the Little Master, so it still felt like a slave-master relationship rather than the loving friendship it was presented to be.   Charley was always the one more forgiving, more patient, more accommodating.   Even with the Little Master trained to be able to walk, it didn't feel like it was enough - how far he could walk, how little he gave up - to make up for what had come before.   

(spoiler show)

  

A worthwhile read even if a little unsatisfactory at the end.   I also read early on that the author seemed to be rewriting The Silk and the Song, an older short story that is available for free and in which humanity is enslaved by an alien race that uses them as the same sort of beasts of burden.   Perhaps, but when the author talks about her own inspiration for this book, she talks about a class she took that dealt with predators and prey and which you can read a bit about here.  So while there's the obvious slave/master connotations, there's a predator carrying around prey.   I wouldn't have really paid attention, or thought about why the Hoot's had such weak legs and bodies, if not for reading that interview halfway throughout.   I also felt like I never really felt that aspect, or that it didn't speak as much to me, as the whole using a people as slaves.   (Although in retrospect, the whole 'do good and get treats' makes a little more sense in how people train predator animals.)

 

So I really, really enjoyed this, and despite my slight complaints, I can easily see myself reading this.   I feel like maybe on a reread I'd pay more attention to the details that would make the prey/predator dynamic seem more obvious.   For now, though, onto new books!

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review 2017-07-13 01:48
Love it!
Crucible of Gold (Temeraire) - Naomi Novik,Naomi Novik

There's so much going on here, and I kinda love Iskierka, and Granby's standing up to her finally!

 

The Inca, the ways the balance of power shift, and the way Novik balances action, characters, and humor is pretty amazing.   

 

Love, love, love.   I don't really want to write a long review so I can finish up my mini review flood now that my computer is up and running again - as in I can recharge it again - so I can finish Blood of Tyrants, which is one of my favorite books in the series.

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review 2017-05-05 23:20
Yaaaaay!
Tongues of Serpents - Naomi Novik

It took me two months to read this, because comics, depression, anxiety, and the fact that for a huge chunk of this comic everyone gets really hot.   And I'm not talking sexy, here.   No robot dragons.   Just a whole lot of sweating and thirst.   And I mean, obviously hyperbole, but jeebus, I needed something to happen!   Much like in her other books, Novik brings on the action fast and furious when it comes time for all that, but jeebus the first half of this book. 

 

And all my whining is highly unfair: I still love Temeraire, and I love how views the world.   They were, in fairness, trying to find something very precious they had lost, and while I found it boring, I still wanted to spend more time with these characters. 

 

And as always, the ending saved this from a lower star rating.   Enough happens between the characters to make this a very, very. very long character study of them all and how they get along.  Enough happens to certain characters that I loved them for that I was willing to overlook some of the faults in this novel - like the long, boring journey's where, like, nothing happens.  

 

Enough happens in the ending to set up the next book.   But, jeebus.   I need a break.   Oh, look, the Transformers/GI Joe crossover.   The one that I've been sitting on because I'm not very fond of the series, but new Transformers stuff so you know I'm going to read it.  I need at least that before I start on this series again.

 

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review 2017-02-26 15:42
Love, love, love this series!
Binti: Home - Nnedi Okorafor

This book fills in some plot holes from book one.   And I'm not going to pressure anyone into reading this if they were unhappy with book one: the truth is that it shouldn't have really worked the way she set it up.   Binti is a little advanced, I think, for any of her people, so the accusation of Mary Sue may be presented here.   (It's not really the case.   She's a genius, yes, but she still struggles with fitting into her tribe, finding her place in the world, and not everyone in her family approves of what she does.   She's certainly not good at everything, and if just being a genius is all it takes to be a Mary Sue, well, then, something is wrong with that term.   That something is the targeting of smart, powerful women.)

 

This novella fits into the world: the first was all about the science fiction elements and far more action-heavy.   This novella not only goes back home, but stops to give Binti some times to breathe.   It's not that it slacks off, either.  If anything, it presses the question of tribe, tribal connection, and what it means to be HImba.   It puts familial tension at the forefront for much of the time, and includes fantastical and science-fiction elements as needed. 

 

That being said, this is one of those oddities.  Most series have a very, very familiar feel in my mind.   That is, they balance action and humor and warmth and tend to stick to that.   They don't veer so sharply in the second novel, at least, and even Black Powder War, the anomaly in Temeraire, felt far more like the first two books than this did to Binti.   And as much as I loved Binti, I loved this novel.   Binti set up the world for this series, set the characters, timing, place, and the world.   Home just dug into all those and allowed us to explore them more fully.  Much like Temeraire, I look back and am surprised at how much felt like every day life (meals, walking, talking) and yet was fully entrancing.   

 

More than that, I really love reading about other cultures from someone like Okorafor: she's of Nigerian descent, she's a professor of creative writing, and she travels, often to Nigeria according to her biography at the end of this book.  What I mean is that researches, even her own history, and this is probably why her portrayal of tribal life feels so... effortless.   It feels realistic, and unlike other books in which it feels that it breaks at some points, Binti's struggles with her tribe, her tribal way of life, feel present all the time.   Even when she's not home, even when she's focusing on other things, it all comes back to her life as a Himba.   Of course, I don't really know that much about this - which is why I find reading about it so fascinating - but it feels more real in the little details than most other books I've read.   In the same way that G. Willow Wilson, convert to the Muslim faith and writer of Muslim superhero, Ms. Marvel, has little details that I think would be glossed over by someone outside the faith, this has little details, ever present, that make this lifestyle feel more real, more solid, to me. 

 

I'm interested in seeing where Binti's story goes next.   I can't believe I have to wait until September, but I'm willing to wait.  I would rather have a polished story than something rushed, so while I do moan, I also appreciate that the author has a life outside of writing Binti, and that she lives her life while also writing these, and making sure they're gems.   

 

I'll be continuing with The Night Masquerade - the subtitle to the next book - and beyond should there be more in this series, no matter how long they take to come out in the future. 

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