And It All Comes Full Circle – A Review of Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

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This review is based on an ARC given to me for free by the publisher via Netgalley. This does not in any way affect my review. This book is slated for release on November 20, 2018.

This is a review of the seventh book in a series. It contains no spoilers for the book being reviewed, but may contain spoilers for the books that precede it. Please do not read this review before reading the other books in the series.

When reading a long, ongoing series, it can be difficult to keep track of plot events and story elements as they are laid down along the way – especially when reading a series that is more than four books long. In many cases, I have to go back and reread the previous books in a series before engaging with the latest one, just to refresh my memory on what has happened before. This is especially important when the author has a tendency to leave certain story elements – characters, seeming offhanded remarks, even little tidbits of lore – scattered in various books, only for those elements to lead up to something even bigger later in the series.

Personally, I find that sort of thing a lot of fun. Though it can be difficult keeping up sometimes, it’s still immensely pleasurable to pick out elements in previous books and figure out how they fit in the grander scheme of the series’ story arc. I don’t always guess right, of course, but when I do, I have the pleasure of experiencing the kind of “aha!” moment that comes with figuring out the solution to a puzzle.

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Checking Privilege With Lovecraft and Demons – A Review of Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

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This review is based on an ARC given to me for free by the publisher via Edelweiss+. This does not in any way affect my review. This book is slated for release on November 13, 2018.

“Check your privilege” has become quite the popular online catchphrase, often thrown down when someone is perceived to be making a statement that shows the privilege of their position in the world, and how that privilege is making them unable to understand another person’s point of view. It can also be used as a reminder, a note to oneself to remember that what one thinks is normal or right might not always apply to someone else. When used correctly, it is a great deflator of ego, a reminder to the self and to others to see something through someone else’s eyes. Whether it is economic gaps, racism, misogyny, homophobia, or even smaller issues like personal relationships, checking one’s privilege is a useful tool that forces people to open up to other ways of seeing and understanding the world.

Checking one’s privilege is a key theme of Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer. Set in Long Island in the 1920s, it follows the story of Ellie West, who is doing all she can to scrounge together enough money to send her brother, Lester, to college so he can become a doctor. In oder to do that, she augments the money she makes fishing the bay with money she makes by bootlegging liquor – a profitable, if not entirely safe, source of income, walking as she does between the Mob and the feds. So when a group of wealthy holidaymakers offer Ellie a large sum of money to procure booze for a party, Ellie does just that – even if some of the liquor she sold them has a rather sketchy provenance. But she doesn’t want to think about that. What matters is that she now has enough money to send her brother off to college, and never mind what rich folk do when they want to get drunk.

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Pushing the Limits of Absurdity – A Review of The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross

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This review is based on an ARC given to me for free by the publisher, Tor.com Publishing, via Netgalley. This does not in any way affect my review. This book is slated for release on October 30, 2018.

This is a review of the ninth book in a series. While it contains no spoilers for the book under discussion, it may contain spoilers for the previous books in the series. Please do not read this review unless you have already read the previous books.

Some acquaintances of mine have commented on my ability to sustain interest in long-running series before they are completed. Trilogies, they say, are easy enough to maintain interest in, especially if the author is good enough about delivering a book once a year or so. Romance novel series are also fairly easy to maintain interest in even if some of them can run into several books long, because each book deals with one specific couple and can therefore be read on its own.

But in genres like sci-fi, fantasy, and urban fantasy, maintaining interest in a series that runs beyond four or five books is, so my acquaintances say, an almost herculean feat of focus – especially if the series has yet to be concluded. For my part, I do not see how that sort of focus is herculean – not least because I often reread books in a series if it has been some time since I engaged with it and need a refresher before diving into the latest volume. It can be a bit tedious to have to do so, especially if the previous novels are doorstoppers in their own right, but doing so does not require any great expenditure of effort, nor is it in any way onerous. There is something pleasant, after all, about revisiting a story one has already engaged with – especially if one enjoyed it.

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The Water Will Never Be Safe – A Review of The Devil and The Deep, ed. by Ellen Datlow

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Almost since the beginning, humanity has simultaneously loved and feared the ocean. This ambivalent relationship is most clearly illustrated by the many gods and goddesses associated with the ocean: at times benevolent, at other times vengeful and full of wroth, ocean deities were a constant reminder to their worshipers that the ocean was never to be underestimated, that it was to be treated at all times with respect.

That is a trend that continues into the present day, with or without the gods. For every story that presents the ocean as a tropical idyll or a means to adventure, there are others that present its dangers. The movie Jaws is a powerful, visceral reminder of the threats that inhabit the ocean, and though Titanic is more known for its love story, it is also an excellent reminder of how thoroughly human hubris collapses in the face of the threats the ocean presents. Even being near shore does not guarantee safety, since people can and often do die of things like riptides and jellyfish stings. And this does not even take into consideration the things that lurk deep in the ocean’s depths, in the places where humans have yet to explore.

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What For the Price of War? – A Review of Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas

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This review is based on an ARC given to me for free by the publisher Ace via Netgalley. The book is slated for release on September 18, 2018.

Some of the very first anime I ever remember watching were the ones involving giant robots – mecha – battling it out against aliens trying to invade Earth for one reason or another. I remember watching Voltes V (Chōdenji Machine Voltes V), Daimos (Tōshō Daimos), Combattler V (Chōdenji Robo Combattler V), and the first Voltron (Beast King GoLion). For some odd reason I missed out entirely on Robotech while growing up – or it could be that I did catch some of it, but didn’t get to see enough of it for it to make an impression.

However, of the aforementioned anime, the one that sticks out the most, not only in my personal memory, but in the memory of an entire generation of people, is Voltes V. It might seem silly to think of an anime being historically significant, but in the case of the Philippines, Voltes V is precisely that. Voltes V launched in Japan in 1977, and then a Philippine broadcast network started airing an English dub in 1978, becoming immensely popular while it was on the air. But, when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law the following year, Voltes V (which was just a few episodes shy of the finale) and other shows with similar themes were soon pulled off the air. The official government explanation for the pullout cited “excessive violence” as the reason, but many suspected that the ban was due to the themes of uprising and revolution that underpinned many such anime. Marcos clearly did not want his constituency getting any bright ideas while he was in office.

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