Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen (The Snow Queen Cycle, #1)The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Snow Queen Arianrhod is determined to hold onto her reign of Tiamat & creates a clone of herself in order to ensure her power. Unfortunately, fate & politics that span galaxies intervene to create a foe just as formidable as Arianrhod herself.

I hate reduce a novel down for descriptive purposes, but this is eco-feminist Dune, even down to the preservation of religion for political purposes & genetic control. Despite those similarities, I was interested in seeing how Vinge recast Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale into a sci-fi political thriller. I was pleased at how she kept the structure of the story & balanced the characters. She also ends the book with plenty of ambiguity as to what happens in the rest of the series. I do regret that some of the dialog is flat on the page & part of me does really wish Satoshi Kon could have made this into an anime, because the sprawling world that Vinge sometimes has to put on the back burner for her plot is equally intriguing. Still, a solid read & I’m keeping my eye out for the rest of the series.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Fog (Losing Christina #1)

Fog (Losing Christina, #1)Fog by Caroline B. Cooney

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Christina is leaving her island home off the coast of Maine for mainland school. But she has hard lessons to learn when she discovers her headmasters have a singular focus on isolating & emotionally breaking down her friend Anya.

I loved this series as a kid & I picked it back up from my library after recently having a couple of sick days where I didn’t leave my bed. Cooney is fantastic with atmosphere & dramatic details that kept younger me reading. But the thing that was enjoyable to rediscover this time around was how horrifying certain parts of the story really were. I don’t mean the weird pain vampires & the spookies that accompany them; the process that Christina goes through having her world change as she grows up is heartbreaking. This protected kid who thinks her life has been full of wonder & adventure learns very quickly about poverty, group-think, conformity, & adult manipulation. It is easy to substitute the Shevvingtons’ supernatural motives into some other kind of exploitation or sociopathy & get thoroughly creeped-out as a result. Some of the usual rules of teenage love triangles & simplified prose style still apply, but there are some fascinating parts here.

Recommended for readers who like classic YA horror & those who’ve read the story before & are curious if it still holds up.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Native Tongue

Native TongueNative Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A dystopia where women are legally inferior to men & the formally educated are useful scapegoats that advance Earth’s territory as interpretors & bargainers. Native Tongue follows the various women of “The Lines” as they attempt to navigate a society that devalues them but still relies heavily on their fertility & their usefulness as housekeepers.

Originally published in the 80s, this book is definitely a sci-fi classic worth revisiting. Not only is the world-building captivating, many of the class & gender fears Haden Elgin outlines are still worryingly real. While the story is not as severe as something like The Handmaid’s Tale, there are plenty of unexpected dark & sad moments. For example, something as innocuous as a crush becomes a lesson in verbal humiliation & degradation. Definitely worth picking up if you come across it.

P.S.: This is totally associative, but the last scene of the book reminds me of the chorus to Matthew Good’s “Fated.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever MadeThe Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A coauthored memoir/tell-all about The Room & Sestero’s friendship w. Tommy Wiseau.

Look, Sunset Blvd is one of my favorite movies & I’ve absorbed other media like Party Down & You Must Remember This so I know that Hollywood is full of weird, ambitious people. But Disaster Artist seems to unwittingly showcase just how self-absorbed someone can become after working in “the business.” The story alternates between Sestero’s acting pursuits & his changing relationship with Wiseau as well as the actual filming of The Room.

The authors seem to want to have it both ways: readers get all the bizzaro anecdotes about shooting one of cinema’s worst movies & hears how oddly sympathetic Wiseau’s personal story is. This approach creates a tension where the radar cannot put the book down but will feel like a creepy voyeur. It is not a fun read. I feel like I’ve been privy to a public confession from someone who just wanted some company any way they could get it.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Angel Catbird, vol. 1

Angel Catbird, Volume 1Angel Catbird, Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Is it a man? Is is a cat? Is it a bird? It’s Angel Catbird!

Ok, it’s a little retro; it’s kind of cheesy; there are so. many. puns! But I kind of enjoyed just seeing Atwood play with the format & the comic ties into the Canadian conservation efforts so … I’ll give this one a pass. Do whatever you want, MA.

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