Oof. Rough couple of weeks. My brain is full of snot and I am experiencing severe guilt over not updating here, even though I have been reading (I have! I swear!). But I am feeling deeply ineloquent, especially because the book I want to review is an elegant, delightful, rip-roaring adventure involving multiple universes and daring acts of bibliophilic theft.
So in lieu of a coherent essay review, here are five reasons why you should immediately obtain a copy of Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library.
So this year’s Hugo award nominations are out, and apparently they’re a wee bit controversial. (Long story short: there was a concerted effort to nominate works on a particular list. The list was compiled by folks who think last year’s Hugos
nominated too many women and people of color ignored “real” sci-fi and fantasy in favor of weird literary stuff that no one really likes.)
I’m bummed that the Hugos are so immersed in drama this year, largely because it makes me sad when certain groups interpret the celebration of diverse, challenging, and imaginative works of SFF as a direct attack on them personally. But I’m also sad because the Best Novel nominations happen to include one of the best books I’ve read in the past several years: Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor.
Maia is the fourth son of the Emperor of the Elflands, arguably the most powerful man in his world. However, Maia has never been a pampered royal child. Maia’s mother Chenelo was a goblin princess whom the Emperor was forced to marry for political reasons, and Maia and Chenelo were exiled from the Utheileneise Court long ago. After Chenelo’s death Maia’s care was signed over to a disgraced courtier named Setheris, who despised his half-goblin charge and made sure Maia knew it.
Then one night news comes from the Emperor’s court. Maia’s father and three elder brothers have died in an airship crash, and Maia is now the Emperor.
Like most devoted readers of fantasy, I was stunned and saddened to learn that Terry Pratchett passed away last week at the age of 66. Pratchett always seemed to be one of those authors who would be just as delightful in person as he was through the pages of his books. To quote many other Pratchett fans, how could you not admire someone who wore this t-shirt to conventions? (See right.)
Others have already written much more eloquently than I could about Pratchett’s extraordinary literary output, the incisive wit of his writing, and the way he used the mad Discworld to make our own world seem equally ridiculous and magical in turn. But I spent much of last week re-reading Discworld favorites and looking up favorite Pratchett quotes, and I couldn’t resist sharing some of them here in celebration of an author whose voice I already miss.
Few action-adventure protagonists are harder to pull off than the Everygal heroine — the average, relatable, usually-slightly-klutzy woman who somehow finds herself in the middle of scary or world-shattering events. You know the type. She’s just a normal girl who happens to stumble into an apocalypse every once in a while — and fortunately the hot supernatural guys who are lusting after her are there to bail her out. Everygal klutziness/incompetence usually has me grinding my teeth in exasperation and wishing Everygal would turn the book over to the much-more-interesting supporting cast. I don’t need all of my books to feature ass-kicking main characters, but if it’s an action-adventure novel I have to believe that the protagonist is someone who could and should be in dangerous situations.*
Which is why I love Mackenna Fraser, the main character in Lisa Shearin’s The Grendel Affair. Mac works for an organization called Supernatural Protection and Investigations, or SPI for short. SPI’s mission is keeping the existence of supernatural forces and monsters off the radar of the average citizen (think a less authoritarian version of the Men in Black). Most of Mac’s colleagues have backgrounds in law enforcement and can discharge a staggering variety of weapons.
Five months have passed since my last review — yikes! The semester can really wreak havoc with those of us on academic schedules. But, on the bright side, I now have a fairly significant backlog of books that I can review for this blog. First up is an unreserved rave for John Scalzi’s Lock In.
The short version of my review is that if you like smart, imaginative science fiction, you should buy this book immediately. I knew almost nothing about the book’s plot when I began reading but I was drawn into Lock In’s world from the very first page. Scalzi handles his exposition masterfully; information about this alt-universe version of the United States is revealed at just the right pace,* and without making the reader feel as if she’s drowning in unfamiliar terms. So if you’re game for a great sci-fi novel and you don’t mind going in blind, just take my word for it: this book is awesome and you should read it.
If you’d like to read a few minor spoilers before deciding if Lock In is for you, follow me past the jump.
I think the hardest books to review may be books in an ongoing series. Fans of Kate Daniels have probably already picked up Magic Breaks; newcomers to Kate’s world definitely aren’t going to start with Book 7.* So consider this partly a review of Magic Breaks, and partly a review of where the series stands as a whole at this point. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers for books 1-6, but anyone planning to start the series might want to skip this review.
Minor series spoilers henceforth
It’s a noir tale as old as the genre itself. A sharp young teen or twenty-something is toiling away in a two-bit operation — maybe legal, maybe not — when one day, in walks The Boss. The Boss notices something special about our protagonist and soon, that former nobody is The Boss’s protégé, slowly and surely seduced by the perks that come with keeping The Boss happy.
Megan Abbott’s Queenpin tells that tale with a simple yet transformative twist: The Boss and the protégé are both women.
We never learn the name of the novel’s narrator, whom we first meet cooking the books at a crummy club called the Tee Hee. That’s just as well, because the main character of the novel is really the Queenpin, Gloria Denton, who plucks The Girl (as we’ll call her for this review) out of the Tee Hee and brings her into a much bigger and more ambitious organization.