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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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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More Than the Men That Made Them – A Review of The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

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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.

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Has Moments of Fun, But Can Be Annoying – A Review of An Ancient Evil by Paul Doherty

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It has been a long while since I read Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in full. The first time I encountered the work was in high school, when we read an excerpt from the Wife of Bath’s Tale, but it was only when I got to university that I was able to read the work in its entirety. It’s not an easy read at all – Chaucer’s Middle English (a style even older than Shakespeare’s) is hard to get accustomed to, even without having to take the idiosyncrasies of the time period into consideration as well. I was fortunate to have access to a heavily-annotated and copiously-footnoted edition while at university, and that helped significantly in understanding the context of the tales, as did having access to the other books in the library and online journals.

Despite that, though, I have never really found much appeal in Chaucer’s work. I understand why some people enjoy it, but reading it requires more drudge work than I strictly like. I suppose if I could get ahold of Peter Ackroyd’s modern English adaptation I could attempt to read it again, but since I do not have any particular inclination to do so it might be a while yet before I reread Chaucer’s greatest work.

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