Month: June 2018

Q1 Book Reviews – Jeff Noon, Lavie Tidhar, Richard Morgan, Annalee Newitz

★ ★ ★ ★ Jeff Noon – A Man of Shadows Jeff Noon is one of my favorite writers. The mind-bending prose-poetry hallucinogenic math-punk media beat of his story-telling has destroyed and rebuilt my view of what fiction can look like more than once. So at first I was almost confused to get what felt like fairly conventional noir-detective fare, albeit in a quirky setting. Noir-detective also being one of my favorite things, this was fine, so I kept reading. And then it got weird. And weirder. And the mind-bending hallucinogenic storytelling emerged from the setting and characters like a monster from the Dusk. Noon challenged my sense of what fiction can look like an entirely different way, in how assumptions around conventional story-telling formats like the detective template can be turned against the reader weapon-like. Plus, it’s a damn good detective story!

★ ★ ★ Lavie Tidhar – Central Station It didn’t help that I started this book directly after reading Charles Stross’ essay on “Why I barely read sf these days”, which rants about lack of solid world-building in much of today’s mainstream SF. It also didn’t help that the book is largely about Judeo-Christian religious traditions which I’m apathetic toward on a good day, but didn’t realize until after I had committed to the book. It had high promises of AI and liminal spaces, a fascinating setting of a spaceport city, literary prose, and multi-POV character-driven story–all things I like. But mostly I spent a lot of time irritated because the world was just props, and rolling my eyes over why robots would resonate with an ancient human abusive-daddy-god. I admit, I finished it mostly because I had paid for it and the prose was high quality. It wasn’t awful, just not the right thing for me. I wish I’d known it was so religion-focused at the start. Now you know and can maybe avoid my mistake (or I dunno, maybe that makes it appealing).

★ ★ ★ ★ Richard Morgan – Thirteen Thirteen pokes in painful places of institutionalized oppression, especially for those who are simultaneously perceived as both sub-human/inferior AND powerful/advantaged, and the complex awfulness society does in its fear of us (a theme I trace over in my own writing, again and again). I’m not sure how Morgan gets what that feels like so well, but it makes me love and identify with his characters–in this book especially antihero Carl, who is, in a way, neurodivergent like me, and the conversation between Carl and Svegi on the boat about the black lab refugees made me weep curse you, curse you, curse you fiction gah! BUT ALSO!–action-packed adventure-mystery in a fascinating near-future where the US splits three ways along current ideological lines, gritty gangsters and evil suits, hard-boiled cops and solid prose, excellent world-building, and plenty of just plain fun story.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Annalee Newitz – Autonomous I don’t give five-star reviews lightly. Will this book be unforgettable in five years? Will it be re-read? Yes, someone made a list of all the elements that go straight to my heart: freedom and activism, AI and sentience, gender- and sexual-fluidity, the cost of trauma on damaged characters who disrespect good-guy-bad-guy boundaries like we are/do in real life. But also, the world is believably grounded in science, and meticulously realized in that way of the best SF; it asks the hard questions about WTF we are doing right now and where it might lead. The prose is tight and gorgeous. The story is as brave as its characters.

Sorry about the celebrity deaths

Sorry about the celebrity deaths

Oh no! A famous person has hanged themselves!
They will be so terribly missed
the world is so much poorer without them
how tragic
SEE!!! depression happens to people who have everything!

Well, David had nothing. He was shit-poor and in retrospect, I suspect, abused. He had a moustache and a leather jacket and was a Satanist–the LeVey kind–with a side-ways grin and hands full of kindness. He kept me company long nights in the cold convenience store, and I’d steal smokes for him that we’d split when I got off shift. Fuck the man; the least those shits who run the store can do is keep us in nicotine and laughter. We played poker with the rest of the rag-tag chosen family, redividing the cash when we were done to leave with the same amount we came in with. I wrote poems when he died because I couldn’t stop missing him. Poems don’t fill where he fit.

Julia had nothing too. She was a queer disabled person like me. She was mathematician way outta my league, and I’m none-too-shabby at the maths myself. We sat next to each other and typed our talk because speaking exhausted me and listening exhausted her and I don’t know ASL. We fought injustice at the university, shut out further the harder we fought, fighting harder the more they shut us out. Neither of us were new to fighting. I will never forgive disability services for turning her away. I will never forget what moment’s kindness from the people who were paid to care might have done. I kept fighting when she died because I couldn’t stop missing her. Fighting doesn’t fill where she fit.

H.R. also had nothing, except a whole life ahead of her with a stigmatized diagnosis, the wrong color skin, and the excruciating cost of her masks. The generation gap yawned between us, and also some desperate sense of professionalism that kept me from saying, I hear you, I relate to you, what you do is not sustainable. We weren’t friends, but had I been thirty years younger, she’d’ve been sitting around that poker table with me and David. I will never forgive myself for maintaining professional boundaries. I kept working when she died because I couldn’t stop missing her. Working doesn’t fill where she fit.

So hear this: I don’t give a fucking shit that the world is sad for celebrities who killed themselves even though they had everything.

My friends had nothing.

They mattered.

They were poor, queer, brown, trans, disabled, shit on, turned away, ignored, abused, and invisible.

They mattered.

They fucking mattered too.

Theme: Overlay by Kaira 2020 Dora M Raymaker
Portland, Oregon