Ancillary Justice

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch Book 1)
Ann Leckie, 2013

Hugo Winner - 2014

Premise: A narrator on a mysterious mission finds a body in the snow, makes a spur-of-the-moment decision. Flashbacks to another life eventually illuminate all. Questions of perception, consciousness, humanity and morality on an interstellar scale. Gender-as-performance.

I loved this book, and I especially loved what it did to my mind as I read. The narrator, who goes by Breq, comes from a society that doesn’t use gender the same way other human cultures do. So she refers to every person she interacts with, as ‘she’. By the middle of the book, almost all the characters were occupying this androgynous place in my mind, where their relationships to the plot and to each other were almost uncolored by their physical gender.

It’s amazingly cool, and deserved the Hugo win for that alone.

Happily, there’s more! The plotting is clever and tense, all the characters are interesting even when we’re only seeing the narrator’s point-of-view. The tech and history is explained just enough for you to follow, not dwelt on, but I got the feeling that everything is thought out in the background.

I loved the world, the moral grey all the societies and characters dealt in. Breq is a compelling protagonist, all the more for her unconventional perceptions and emotions. She (small, chapter-two spoiler) had been part of the vast linked consciousness of a starship, and still isn’t human in a lot of meaningful ways. (end small spoiler)

I fully endorse this book for all science fiction fans and gender studies students.

5 stars - An Awesome Book

Dreaming Spies (Mary Russell, Book 13)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dreaming Spies (Mary Russell, Book 13)
Laurie R. King, 2015

New Release! I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: Follows Garment of Shadows. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes meet acrobats, aristocrats and blackmailers while on route to Japan, and more mysteries await on that island.

I had seriously mixed feelings about this book. I’ve had sadly mixed feelings about the series since The God of the Hive, but I enjoyed the two books after it quite a bit. This one… I liked aspects of.

I had to read it twice, actually, because it really rubbed me wrong the first time. It’s not badly written, the story is fine, but the connection, the spark… for me it was just missing.

There are a bunch of new characters, friends and foes, although the main character is Haruki. When I say that, I’m not being poetic. This is her story, her plot, her character arc, even though it’s told completely from the perspective of Mary Russell. I think this is the disconnect I felt. I liked Haruki’s story, but felt distant from it, as Mary herself did, and Mary’s story isn’t particularly intense or meaningful.

There are quite a few good scenes for Holmes and Russell, primarily around maintaining various cover identities while travelling. I was seriously thrown at one point by how little time has passed over the entire series, though. I’ve gotten older, and Russell hasn’t.

It’s still an enjoyable read, and it’s still pleasant, funny, charming in places, but it wasn’t compelling the way Garment of Shadows and some of the earlier books were.

3 Stars - A Good Book.

Hawkeye: Little Hits (Volume 2), Hawkeye: L.A. Woman (Volume 3)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hawkeye: Little Hits (Volume 2), Hawkeye: L.A. Woman (Volume 3)
Matt Fraction, David Aja, Annie Wu, Javier Pulido, et. al.

Premise: Follows My Life as a Weapon. Clint and Kate continue to kick ass separately and together in between getting their asses kicked. Collects Hawkeye #6-11 and Hawkeye #14, 16, 18, 20 and Annual #1.

I know I’m bundling these reviews, but I need to talk about them both separately and together. Little Hits is a collection of single concept issues that are connected to what came before and what came after. Meanwhile L.A. Woman is one story, a story that is happening concurrently with a story that will be collected in the next volume (The missing Issues 12, 13, 15, etc.)

I like both, although I liked them quite differently.

The first two issues in Little Hits were both issues I bought when they came out. Issue 7 was rushed to print for a very good reason: it was written in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, about the hurricane, and all author’s royalties went to relief efforts. It follows two small, heartfelt stories about Clint and Kate during the storm itself, and it works great. Issue 6 (chronologically second in-world) is a Christmas issue. It jumps back and forth in time to paint a picture of what it’s like when Clint tries to take some time ‘off’ and actually have Christmas. The gang that Clint kept bumping into last volume are back with a new agenda.

Then Issues 8, 9 and 10 all interlock and overlap in interesting ways. The plot advances, retreats to provide a different angle, jumps to a new perspective. I really dig the style. Also, Issue 9 features awesome moments for all the ladies, but I particularly loved Black Widow. She was just perfect. Issue 11 is entirely from the dog’s perspective.

The story of the whole volume is fractured in this interesting way, but the style could turn some readers off, because you do have to pay attention, and it ends with a few cliffhangers.

At the end of Little Hits, it’s clear that Clint and Kate are going their separate ways for a while. L.A. Woman is Kate’s story. And it’s fantastic. The humor is snarky and wonderful, the plot ties back to previous events without being bogged down; I’m not sure it all made sense but it was a hell of a ride. Kate drives out to LA to make it on her own and promptly all the worst things that could happen, happen. But she pulls herself together and moves forward, and I just like her attempt at the hero-for-hire biz so darn much! The balancing act between her take-charge sass and attitude and how hard she’s actually trying to keep herself together becomes much clearer. In the last issue the plot circles around, finally coming to a head in a satisfying climax that leads straight into…. the volume that isn’t out yet. Nuts!

This whole series is highly recommended for anyone interested in stories that straddle the line between superheroics, indie-small-story-angst, and intriguing construction that asks to be read over and over.

Both 4 Stars - Very Good Books.