Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Brown Girl in the Ring

Brown Girl in the RingBrown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 instead of 4. Ti-Jeanne has a baby she doesn’t always want, visions that she can’t control, & a life in a destroyed city that didn’t welcome her. Her grandmother Gros-Jeanne tries to lead her into accepting her reality & making it better. But it isn’t until Ti-Jeanne’s spurned lover knocks at her door with a plea to escape Toronto that she has to decide whether or not to face her hard circumstances & rise above them or escape with him.

This book was on a recent NPR list that focused on Afro-Futurism & mentioned this book so I thought I’d pick it up. I was drawn in by the tension between the traditions that define Ti-Jeanne’s life & how the city of Toronto doesn’t seem to nurture them. (I feel like some of this push-and-pull is what was missing from The Galaxy Game.) The book is also written with just enough dialect to keep me captivated, instead of blocked out. Fans of Sacred Games, you’ll appreciate the language work here. There were times that the everyday moments of Ti-Jeanne’s life dragged, but it is possible that this was a result of reading the book in an electronic format. I’ve found that it can be a lot easier to skim/skip parts that don’t interest me when I’m not holding a physical book. Ultimately, the beautiful parts of this book are in the atmosphere & the paranormal insights that Ti-Jeanne has when her faith & her adopted land come together in her mind. Everything else in the plot seems to dull in comparison.

Also, content warning: there is a graphic clinical description of a heart transplant. If you are squeamish, like me, you’d do best to skip that section. There are other body horror elements, but not as terrible as the described surgery.

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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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Bookmark Monday (II): DragonCon Freebies

With nearly a year gone by since my last Bookmark Monday post (way to stick new habits, self), I thought I would share the freebies I brought back from DragonCon.  Bookmarks are a great way to spread the word about yourself at a con, especially one for sci-fi & fantasy readers!

Bookmarks & Con Badge
Pretty Souvenirs!

Continue reading “Bookmark Monday (II): DragonCon Freebies”

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 Wind in the Door

A Wind in the Door (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #2)A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Meg Murry is trying not to be anxious. She’s home, her parents are working together again & her brother Charles Wallace has started school. But there is a grim air over everything. Charles Wallace isn’t in the best of health & he’s insisting that dragons are nearby. Mrs. Murry is working herself hard over an experiment in molecular biology & can’t spare much extra attention to her children. Everything seems to be a struggle to find the bright & the good. But “the dragon” is soon revealed to be a cherubim that has arrived to aid Meg, Charles Wallace, & their friend Calvin in another fight against agents of the Dark Thing. The three find themselves pitched against despair itself in a place just as foreign & awe-inspiring as their last quest.

While A Wind in the Door continues many of the same themes as Wrinkle, I found myself more captivated by the sequel. The main force the children tackle is once again apathy but its embodiment the Ecthroi are still recognizably frightening to this adult reader, especially in this modern time where feelings of isolation & powerlessness are common. Meg’s maturing here is interesting–she’s clearly learned from her trials in Wrinkle but still struggles with the demands her compassionate quest requires of her. Her struggle to connect & clearly empathize with the dry, unhappy Mr. Jenkins is compelling & a step in the right direction to keep her character from becoming overly sentimental & saintly. (This does mean though that her relationship with Calvin is simply reduced to immediate reciprocal love & comfort with little obstacle.) I’m curious to see if the practical twins become more clued in to the supernatural goings-on swirling around them.

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