Completed 11/26/2016 Reviewed 11/28/2016
I was really surprised by this book. It’s space opera and I enjoyed it. As my followers know, I generally don’t like
space opera, but I seem to be warming up to it.
I think it depends on the book.
This one has a pretty good in-your-face kick-ass female main character
and a good beginning. Oh yeah, and I
need to mention it’s the first book of a trilogy. It’s a pick from my book club. I usually don’t like reading books from
series for book club because then I often feel the compulsion to read all of
it. But this one was so fun, I just
The book follows the adventures of Devi Morris, a mercenary
who has risen high in her career. Her
goal is to get into the King’s elite corps, the Devastators. You can’t join the Devastators, you have to
be chosen. A great way to get noticed is
to get a security job on the Glorious Fool, a trade ship that gets into trouble
so often that a one year stint on it is equivalent to five years anywhere
else. She takes the job and of course
Devi is a great character.
Her narrative is told well in first person. I really got into her character with the
narration. I could understand her drive
for perfection in her job, as well as her distraction by the handsome Rupert. The same way she goes after her career, she
goes after her men. It was hilarious and
heartbreaking. I’m not positive, but I
think this book passes the Bechdel test:
Devi converses with another female character and it’s not about men,
which is so interesting to me because so much of the book is about her chasing
The plot is fun, it’s basic space opera, although being the
first third of a trilogy, it doesn’t get too far into all the subplots. The book is basically about Devi getting used
to the motley crew of the Glorious Fool, her obsession with Rupert, and the
introduction of the aliens of the universe.
Three of the four races are on the ship.
One is not, but we meet them farther in.
There’s an invisible monster that Devi has to fight and a mysterious
monster that seems to be helpful and powerful.
They’re all pretty cool.
This book gets an
easy four stars. It’s fun, it’s an easy
read, and it was the sort of fluff I needed after a couple of good but heavier
books. As I started out this review, I
may just follow up and read the rest of the trilogy. The conspiracy plot was just beginning at the
end of this book and I didn’t find it tedious the way I often find conspiracy
and politics in space opera to be tedious.
Instead it set me up to want to finish the trilogy. So surprise…I enjoyed a space opera and
highly recommend it.
Completed 11/20/2016 Reviewed 11/21/2016
This is a difficult book to categorize. I suppose it qualifies as magical realism,
although I’m not an expert on that genre.
At the very least, it’s a fantasy about a woman with some magical
abilities. It won the Tiptree award which
honors SF/F books which deal with gender issues. It’s highly deserving. This is perhaps one of the most creative ways
of exploring gender issues that I’ve read in a long time.
The story is about Larque, a 40-something year old woman with
a husband and three sons who has the ability to make doppelgangers of herself
and others. She has made one of her 10-year
old self that is causing trouble. On top
of that, she’s come across a hidden part of town where she gets a makeover into
a sexy young gay man. To make things
even more complicated, Larque’s mother can blink away things she doesn’t like
or blink them into forms she finds more pleasing. By the middle of the book, there are three
versions of Larque running around, the 10 year old, the gay man, and a plastic,
soulless, virtuous woman. Larque’s existential
question is to either remain a gay man, or integrate all her selves back into
one middle aged woman and reconcile the life she wanted for herself with the
life she has.
It’s a complicated premise, and Springer did a terrific job
of creating an understandable plot despite the complexity of the doppelgangers
and the blinking mother. The mother
reminded me of Dolores Umbrage from the Harry Potter series, evil wrapped in a
compact package, ignoring pleas for love and understanding so that she can see
the world how she wants to see it. It’s
all both funny and frightening.
There is a much referenced quote that I’d like to quote as
well: “Dimly, with her burning heart more than her mind, she began
to understand why she had always liked gay men. They suffered, were persecuted,
they were outsiders in a world where studbuck male heteros held all the power,
they did not count, they were Other – the way women were.” This quote speaks so perfectly to both women
and gay men, on how we experience the world, as the Other. And the timing of reading this quote in this
book, when current events demonstrate how much the white male heteros are
trying to hold onto all the power, was just perfect for me.
complaint with the book was that the 10-year old Sky was often too whiney. I think she was supposed to be. After all, she was supposed to be 10 and
un-nurtured. But it got to me after a
while, and I felt distracted by Sky rather than feeling like she was integral
to the story. It all makes sense and
comes together in the end, but her journey was just a little too annoying.
I give this
book four out of five stars. I found it
to be a refreshing piece of fantasy, or magical realism, or perhaps we could
call it suburban fantasy. It came real
close to being five stars, but the annoying Sky character broke my love affair
with the book. I highly recommend it
though for anyone who feels powerless, has unreconciled aspects of themselves,
or feels unsatisfied with where they ended up in their lives.
Jessica Amanda Salmonson, ed.
Completed 11/13/2016 Reviewed 11/14/2016
This is an anthology of feminist supernatural short stories
written between 1850 and 1989. Almost
all the stories have a ghost, but none are truly horror stories. At least not like how we consider horror
today. They are just mostly ghost
stories with the most common theme of women trying to be authentic. None of the stories are man-hating, although
one of the stories has a man who is rather a cad. They are almost all simply about fulfillment
in a woman’s life, or the lack thereof, and that issue brought forth by the
appearance of a ghost.
Many of the older stories are classical gothic
story-telling. A few are magical
realism. Several deal with lesbian
relationships, or at the very least have homoerotic overtones. Some of these in the older stories feature
what was known as Boston marriages, relationships between two women who lived together
without the support of a man. The
relationships were not always sexual, but in these stories, the implication
that they were is pretty evident.
I really enjoyed most of the stories. I found them quite emotionally engaging
without being maudlin or soapy. There
were only a few I didn’t care for. One,
“The Teacher” was about a man who goes back to visit an old school teacher who
barely remembers him. Another, “Pandora
Pandemonia” was a short piece mostly filled with classical imagery. I didn’t get either of these stories.
Two pieces really stood out for me. One was “The Little, Dirty Girl” by Joanna
Russ. I was surprised by this piece
because I’ve only read novels of Russ, and they are Science Fiction and very
avant-garde. I found her novels
difficult to understand, but this story was not only understandable, but very
touching. It’s about a woman who sees a
little girl wearing a dirty out-of-date dress.
The girl follows the woman around and the woman eventually begins to
take care of the girl. It soon becomes
evident that the little girl is a ghost although she manifests quite
physically. It also becomes clear that
the girl represents the woman’s inner child and helps her reconcile her own
The second piece I really liked was “The Doll”. It’s about a woman who becomes obsessed with
a life-sized representation of the former mistress of a castle. This is one of those stories with homoerotic
overtones. The editor does a great job
of providing introductions to each story.
These intros are really helpful in inspiring thoughts and questions
about the stories. Particularly, it made
me wonder if this is really about suppression of homoerotic feelings, or about
closure in obsessive relationships.
A third story I wanted to mention is “A Friend In
Need”. It’s a relatively newer story
about two women who discover they were each other’s imaginary friends growing
up. It explores what we sometimes will
do to get through abusive childhoods.
This story was imaginative and emotionally gripping.
I give this book five out of five stars. It’s the first book in a long time to which I
had an emotional response. I started out
appreciating it academically, but then with each story, it drew me farther and
farther in, so that by the last story, I was simply captivated. I don’t expect everyone to have the same
response to this book. The stories are a
lot more subtle than what we’re used to.
But if you’re up for a subtle set of stories written by women about
women, then I highly recommend this anthology.
Completed 11/6/2016 Reviewed 11/9/2016
“Trouble” is the username of India Carliss, a former hacker
who gave up her underground life traversing the net to be a network admin for
an artist’s colony when hacking became criminalized. She left everything behind, including her
friends and girlfriend. Three years
later, someone is causing trouble in the net using her username, implicating
her in illegal activity. Trouble and her
ex go on a quest to find the culprit uncovering a much more sinister plot.
I’m not a fan of cyberpunk, but this book won a Lambda
Literary Award, and Melissa Scott has won more Lammies than any other
author. So I thought I’d give it a
try. Unfortunately, it just reinforced
my dislike of cyberpunk.
The story takes place in both the virtual world, written in
italics, and the real world, written in normal font. At first I thought I’d like this. The imagery of the virtual world is
reminiscent of movies like Tron, with lots of bizarre colors and shapes
representing networks, data, and bulletin boards. Yes, this book is over twenty years old, so
the cyber bulletin board phenomenon is still at its peak. After a while, though, it felt pretty
simplistic and hackneyed. Worst of all,
reading italics for too long put a strain on my eyes.
The one thing I have to give this book props on is the
prose. In general, it’s quite good. It was easy reading from that
perspective. Where the book lacks is in
the plot. There isn’t too much of one. The book can be divided into two halves, the
first half being Trouble and her ex, Cerise, individually fretting about
Trouble getting into trouble, and the second half, Trouble and Cerise fretting
together about Trouble getting into trouble.
Okay, there’s a little more than that.
They take a journey to a town that’s both virtual and real to find the non-Trouble. They meet some mildly interesting characters
along the way. But it mostly felt like
nothing really happened, and most of the dialogue is rehashing the plot to that
I think the book was missing tension, particularly tension
between Cerise and Trouble. You would
think that the relationship between the two women would be fraught with tension
since Trouble just walked out on Cerise three years earlier with nary a
word. But Cerise was too forgiving for
me and their working together was much too easy. There’s some mild sexual tension, but even
that seems unrealistic by normal standards of human emotions. Life’s messy, but little in the interaction
between these two was messy.
I give this book two out of five stars. It just didn’t do anything for me. Finishing the book became a mechanical
process. I really didn’t care about
Trouble or her friends, or her enemies.