Lately I’ve noticed something in the book blurbs I come across on websites like Goodreads and Amazon: the “X Meets X” comparison, with “X” representing a popular book, TV show, movie, or video game. On one hand, I understand the prevalence; it is a very useful shorthand, after all, for describing the concept behind a particular book by using widely familiar media to give the reader some idea of what to expect. On the other hand, the comparisons can be (often are, rather) deceptive – I’ve seen these “X Meets X” comparisons, read the book in question, and wondered how in the world the blurb’ writer even thought the comparison was apt in any way except in the vaguest of terms.
Because of this, I’ve developed a rather healthy scepticism where it concerns such comparisons. I find it a lazy way of describing a book’s concept – useful when pitching a book for publication, perhaps, but far less useful once the book has already been published and is out in the wild. I have been burned far too many times by such comparisons to really want to believe them at face value.
Lately I’ve noticed something interesting in the media I’ve been consuming – specifically: in the video games I have been playing. I’m currently on my first playthrough of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, in which Geralt of Rivia goes on a quest to find and protect his adopted daughter, Ciri. Though I’m not quite finished yet with the game (as I’m easily distracted by side-quests), Geralt and Ciri’s relationship is the primary lynchpin around which the rest of the game revolves. There are plenty of things the player can choose, or not choose, to do – the Witcher games are (in?)famous for giving the player difficult moral choices – but no matter where the plot takes Geralt, it always comes back to Ciri. Various reviews make mention of how Geralt’s decisions concerning Ciri will have a big impact on the game’s ending. I’m not sure yet just what sort of impact and which specific choices those are, since I am only on my first playthrough, but I find it interesting that Geralt’s parenting choices have an impact on Ciri’s fate.
Something similar occurs in the game Horizon: Zero Dawn, though in that game, the relationship between father and daughter is not as central to the story so much as it is a vital component of the protagonist’s characterisation. The protagonist, named Aloy, is adopted by a man named Rost, who raises her to become an excellent hunter and survivalist, teaching her how to live in a wilderness populated by dangerous robots. Throughout the game’s prologue (which also functions as a tutorial for the gameplay mechanics) and for the first portion of the game, the player comes to a fairly good understanding of the kind of relationship Aloy has with Rost, as well as see Rost’s influence on Aloy’s outlook on life and, therefore, what happens later in the game.
Trigger warnings for this book can be found at the very bottom of this review. Additionally, some of the excerpts included in this review might be triggering for some readers. Such excerpts are labeled before and after, so that the reader may skip them if he or she desires while still being able to read the review.
Recently there has been an interesting accusation hurled against young adult fiction: that it is being used as a tool to marginalise women writers and to denigrate their work as “just” YA. I know I have already complained about the quality of YA in several of my previous reviews, but I would like to again clarify that my stand on YA is not against the genre as a whole: just on the fact that the selections dominating the shelves of my local bookstore seem to be nothing more than clones of each other, more “Special-But-Not-Special White Girl Saves the World While Juggling a Love Triangle at the End of the World” stories that are clearly attempts to cash in on the popularity of The Hunger Games movies.
But that really doesn’t have as much to do with the authors as it does with the publishers. After all, they are the ones who decide which books get published, as well as determine how those books are subsequently marketed – including which category or categories they are marketed under. This article certainly seem to bear out that accusation, as do the many authors who find their books marketed as YA even if they firmly believe their books absolutely do not belong in that category – not because they think it denigrates their work (though many are aware that the category can and has been used in that manner) but because they did not write their book with YA in mind at all.
I don’t quite remember when I first read Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I think it might have been somewhere in the first two years of my time at university, when I was reading in wide, near-indiscriminate swathes because there was still so much that I had not yet read and would need to read if I wanted to be ready for the degree I’d chosen to specialise in. Access to a proper university library was certainly helpful in that regard, because I don’t remember seeing Dorian Gray in the library of my rather conservative Catholic high school.
It was also a case of “right place, right time”: I doubt I would have enjoyed Wilde’s writing style while I was in high school, and I rather doubt I would have liked the titular character enough to want to keep on reading. But by the time I was at university I was ready for it, and though I can’t say I enjoyed it (I think I’d need to read it again, now, to see if I actually do), I appreciated it for its merits, and for the influence it and its author exert in various corners of the arts.
This review is based on an ARC given to me for free by the publisher, Angry Robot Books. This does not in any way affect my review.
This novel is slated for release on July 3, 2018.
Lately, something very wonderful has been happening in genre fiction: the rise of authors from marginalised backgrounds. Whether they are women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQIA community, or all of those at once (and so many are), it is becoming easier to find such authors on both bookstore shelves and awards lists. To be sure, both those things are still heavily dominated by white cis male heterosexual authors, but increasingly the genre fiction community (especially the science fiction, fantasy, and romance communities) are doing what they can and diversifying their respective fields as much as possible (in spite of pushback in the opposite direction from insufficiently housebroken Puppies of various persuasions). As a brown Southeast Asian woman who is both an avid reader and an aspiring writer, this can only be a good thing.
Still, it does take some work to actually find such authors, given the sheer volume of books that are released every year, but fortunately my friends are quite good at filtering stuff they think I might like, and of course there is the Internet. In fact, it was the latter that led me to Lost Gods by Micah Yongo.