Summer Reading: Melissa Scott, Steven King, Mercedes Lackey, me!

I went epic this summer–three “books” that were more like seven. Here are teeny reviews.

★ ★ ★ ★ Melissa Scott – Trouble and Her Friends A friend pointed me to this book because it’s feminist cyberpunk with queer characters, which is pretty much my Thing. As a gen-Xer who grew up in the counter-cultures and technologies Scott riffs off of in her book, I had enormous fun reading this–and had I picked it up back in 1994 (HOW DID I MISS IT?), it would have been an instant favorite. As a 21st century reader, however, old and literarily-jaded, it didn’t age well with how technology, LGBTQ+ rights, or writing styles have developed into what is now close to the timeline of the story. I’m not sure how a younger reader would feel. It may seem naive, or even silly. For anyone keen on the early promise of the BBS, the mystique of the first internet adopters, or interested in the particular flavor of criminalization of sexuality that permeated the late 80’s / early 90’s it will probably deliver. As a writer, it reminded me why I don’t do near-future stories.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Steven King – Different Seasons Novella, novella, novella, novella! This collection of four novellas spawned three movies–one of which, Shawshank Redemption, is on my favorite movie list–and contains what is now one of my favorite stories of all time, The Body. This collection is: 1) Not a mixed bag; every story is excellent; 2) Not for the faint of heart; absent King’s supernatural elements, these stories explore a realistic horror I found far more terrifying; 3) Not trivial; these stories are enormously complex explorations of big questions like…what is freedom? what drives monstrous acts? what lurks on the terrifying, wondrous ledge of adulthood, and what is the price of passage? what are stories, really, living as they do on the ambiguous edge between hope and nightmare? Sooooo good.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Mercedes Lackey – The Last Herald Mage trilogy This is one of the most formative pieces of fiction from my young adulthood, and every now and then I wander back to it, literary comfort food that simultaneously makes me cry and feel uncomfortable because I relate so much to Vanyel. Still. Even now. Yes, parts of the world seem over-simplified or brow-raising to the modern reader (like, what’s with the institutionalized sexism that’s never mentioned?). But I don’t care because what’s not oversimplified is how much these books did–and still do–to keep so many of us, without hyperbole, alive in our most hopeless hours. ♥

Dora M Raymaker – Hoshi and the Red City Circuit Yes, I re-read my own book because it takes so long between the writing and the publishing that I felt a need to remember what I’d even written before I got down to the business of readings and the like. I won’t review myself, but here’s an excellent, astute review from Kelly Israel.

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Portland, Oregon