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Search tags: sf-speculative
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review 2017-12-09 04:49
The Daughter of Time (Alan Grant #5)
The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey

A Scotland Yard detective is recovering in hospital with a broken leg and needs his mind distracted, what eventually gets him moving is the quandary on why the portrait of the reprehensible Richard III looked so different from the constructed popular history.  In her 1950 Alan Grant mystery, The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey has her veteran detective investigate the mystery of the Princes of the Tower and if Richard instigated their deaths.

 

In a brief summary of the plot, a recovering and bedbound Alan Grant is battling boredom when his friend Marta Holland suggests he research a historical mystery.  Knowing his love of reading faces, she sends him portraits of various individuals and he becomes intrigued with one of Richard III.  Through the help of friends, acquaintances, and young American researcher Brent Carradine, Alan gathers information and tests out theories.  After weeks of work and logical thinking, Alan comes to the conclusion that Richard did not murder his nephews and his bad reputation the result of Tudor propaganda.

 

Coming in at a brisk 206 pages, Tey’s novel is a quick paced mystery that doesn’t get bogged down in details that many non-history geared readers might feel intimidated with.  However, for those seasoned history readers there are some problems with the book that come to the fore.  Tey’s arguments in support of Richard and her theory (though Alan) that Henry VII murdered the Princes are not rock solid especially as pointed out by other authors like Alison Weir though in other areas Tey bests Weir even with a 40+ year difference between their publications and new primary sources that Tey didn’t have.  There are other little mistakes, like calling the Buckingham conspiracy the Dorset-Morton plot, or completely ignoring the before mentioned Buckingham has a plausible suspect (though Paul Murray Kendall would do that a few years later).

 

Overall The Daughter of Time is a quick, enjoyable read that will either make you think about things more critically or simply think of it as a nice plot device.

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review 2017-12-08 15:29
An Excess Male / Maggie Shen King
Excess Male, An: A Novel - Maggie Shen King

Under the One Child Policy, everyone plotted to have a son.

Now 40 million of them can't find wives. China’s One Child Policy and its cultural preference for male heirs have created a society overrun by 40 million unmarriageable men. By the year 2030, more than twenty-five percent of men in their late thirties will not have a family of their own. An Excess Male is one such leftover man’s quest for love and family under a State that seeks to glorify its past mistakes and impose order through authoritatian measures, reinvigorated Communist ideals, and social engineering.Wei-guo holds fast to the belief that as long as he continues to improve himself, his small business, and in turn, his country, his chance at love will come. He finally saves up the dowry required to enter matchmaking talks at the lowest rung as a third husband—the maximum allowed by law. Only a single family—one harboring an illegal spouse—shows interest, yet with May-ling and her two husbands, Wei-guo feels seen, heard, and connected to like never before. But everyone and everything—walls, streetlights, garbage cans—are listening, and men, excess or not, are dispensable to the State. Wei-guo must reach a new understanding of patriotism and test the limits of his love and his resolve in order to save himself and this family he has come to hold dear.

 

I have to hand it to Maggie Shen King—she takes several assumptions and trends, plays them out to their logical conclusion, and makes a dramatic book out of it. Plus I always enjoy speculative fiction that isn’t set in North America!

First, take the Chinese one-child policy. Add to that the preference for having a male child to inherit your goods. Mix in a good dose of authoritarian Communist party, which like most authoritarian regimes is ultra-conservative. This is the world that King introduces us to—where women are so scarce that men compete to be second and third husbands in polyandrous households. We meet Wei-guo, an excess male, who is rather desperate to become someone’s husband and the household that he aspires to join: that of May-ling and her two brother husbands.

Unattached young men are always a dangerous potential source of upheaval in a society, so despite the extreme shortage of women, the Chinese government frowns on single men. Many of these men, like Wei-guo, spend their free time playing war games out in the countryside, something that the government keeps close tabs on, seeing it as a potential challenge to the state instead of a way of venting aggression. Illogically, the government also disapproves of homosexuality, which really they should welcome in their demographic predicament. When the government disapproves of both of these safety values for their society, things are bound to go wrong.

All of these tensions come together to produce a human drama that is well worth your reading time.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-08 00:53
NIGHTEYES NIGHTEYES NIGHTEYES NIGHTEYES
Royal Assassin - Robin Hobb

"Wolves have no kings."

Nighteyes is here, if you weren't certain of that based on the review title!!!! Yayyyyy Nighteyes my BOY.

Also known as the one where Fitz doesn't know how to have a conversation about birth control, Verity is established as a Cool Uncle, the Fool is the best (okay, that's every Fitz book tho) and then it gets really fucking depressing at the end. Like, Jeepers, Robin. Take it down a notch?

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review 2017-12-04 19:31
Artemis / Andy Weir
Artemis: A Novel - Andy Weir

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.  Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

 

Well, we all knew that this second novel by Andy Weir couldn’t be as good as The Martian, didn’t we? Not that it’s a bad novel, but very few books could live up to the level of that his first effort. I think the author is brave to issue it and keep on writing. I’ll be willing to read his third novel, too. The Martian was great because the mission was pretty simple: Get the hell off Mars! This story has more complexities, as there are many other people involved and not all of them want our protagonist Jazz to succeed.

I’d also be willing to bet that Weir has read Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress more than once. Jazz is certainly a competent & independent woman, albeit a little less voluntarily subservient than Heinlein’s supposedly strong, independent women. (Weir credits a number of female friends & acquaintances for proof-reading to make Jazz more realistic—there are still hits & misses, I think, but overall it’s not an awful portrayal). And like Heinlein, Weir is really, really interested in technical details (welding in a vacuum, anyone?).

In Weir’s world, the Moon city Artemis is sort of a colony of Kenya—a surprising little twist that I really liked. I did wonder a little bit about the correspondence between Jazz and a pen-pal in Kenya—it was a moderately useful tool, but I also found it a bit confusing, until I figured out that Jazz really was unwilling to be honest with anyone, sometimes even herself. But I adored Fidelis Ngugi, the “mayor” of Artemis, with all her plotting & planning!

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review 2017-11-28 23:25
“Provenance” by Ann Leckie
Provenance - Ann Leckie

"Provenance" is a delightfully deft piece of genre-twisting science fiction that pivots around the idea that our identity is the product of the story that we tell ourselves about who we are and where came from. It examines how the things that give that story a provenance, a history of ownership, become as important to us as the identity itself.

 

"Provenance" is a stand-alone novel, set in the same universe as the "Imperial Radch" triology, but focusing on humans living outside the Radch. The main character is a young woman, who has been adopted from a public creche by a noble family and given the opportunity to compete with her adopted brother to become the heir to the family name.

 

The story unfolds in an unhurried way, allowing time for building worlds and revealing characters. The actions starts off as a sort of heist/forgery idea, then morphs into a murder investigation and morphs again into a military thriller. The tone throughout is civilized, introspective and self-deprecating. If Jane Austen has written science fiction, this is the kind of humane comedy of manners she might have produced.

 

What I enjoyed most was that the main character kept making choices that, while fair, honourable and even quietly courageous, were unexpected in the circumstances she found herself in. The choices she makes create a chain of provenance that slowly shapes her definition of who she is and who she wants to become.

 

Ann Leckie has a gift for world building and for making us look with a fresh eye at things we might think we already understand. She creates aliens who really are alien to our way of thinking and our way of living but with whom we can be empathetic and from whom we can learn more about ourselves. It turns out that she also has a talent for humour that the Imperial Radch trilogy gave her almost no opportunity to demonstrate.

 

I listened to the audiobook version which is delivered flawlessly by the talented Adjoa Andoh, who also narrated the Imperial Radch trilogy. You can listen to a sample of her performance by clicking on the SoundCloud link below

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/344398823" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

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