Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town: My first Doctorow novel. And I loved it. Except for the part where Doctorow wrote it. Let me splain.
Someone Comes to Town is about Alan, whose mother was a washing machine and whose father was a mountain. All kinds of bitchin' magical realism and crazy ass literary rules-breaking and a girl with wings who is better than all girls with wings evar. A book to induce giant literary erections. But because Cory is Cory, he can't just write that book. He has to shoehorn in something about the internet and free information and pages of technical showoffery. We all have our kinks, but in this case I think it really hurt the book that no editor said: "And why is this here?"
In this case, Alan's friends want to blanket Toronto with illicit free internet. It doesn't connect to the rest of the plot, or matter to it at all, and Alan's peculiar nature has no bearing on the wifi plot. It's as though the whole story was interrupted so that the author could say:
"Hi I'm Cory Doctorow. You may have heard of me from the internet. Just as soon as you've donated enough time and consideration my pet Cause, I'll return you to your regularly scheduled awesome novel."
So I will now choose to forget the chapters of preachy, overly technical crap about free internet and focus on all the gorgeous weirdness going on...and, done. The book is so, so worth trudging through a lecture or five about how wifi works.
Tooth and Claw (by papersky !) I got this on my NYC visit and devoured it in one night. It's AWESOME--but since it won the World Fantasy Award, I'm sure everyone else knew that before me. Jane Austen, but with dragons instead of people. It takes some book for me to be all YOU SON OF A BITCH I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS NOVEL TO END S
I could complain that some of the worldbuilding didn't quite hold up, and that I felt the denouement was too abrupt (in fact, no one seems to write denouements anymore, which frustrates me. Every book I've read lately has skated over this vital thing) but I just can't, really. It was too much fun and too absorbing and the thing with the dragon-females turning pink when they become aroused for the first time was fascinating, because it makes explicit the implicit Victorian idea that you can tell a ruined maid by looking at her, that the internal is always external. That's fucking brilliant.
I also wonder if, with the rash of Austen/Bronte pastiches in fantasy literature lately, if it is enough anymore to write such a pastiche without interrogating the gender/class/sexuality/economic culture that goes with it. I exempt Tooth and Claw from this, as it's not a new book, but a book written in 2008, post Tooth and Claw and Jonathan Strange...does it have to bring more to the table?
Hogfather: Oh. Em. Gee.
All right, let me explain my relationship to Pratchett. I don't read them, I listen to the audiobooks. Because the reader, Nigel Planer, is so terrifyingly fantastic that I immediately lost all interest in experiencing Discworld without him. He does beautiful regional accents for every character, and I regularly quote TP while mangling one of Nigel's accents because that's how those characters sound. For realz.
So I listened to Hogfather on the drive when I moved from Ohio to Maine. I was suspicious, as my least favorite Discworld novels are the Issue ones like Moving Pictures where it's all one joke. And this was about Santa Claus. Eep.
Reader, I cried.
At Santa Claus! This has vaulted into my favorite novels, and if I ever have a child I will read it to them every Christmas. It takes some book to make me think about folklore differently at this point, since thinking about folklore differently is more or less my job. But the stuff about the sun coming up and blood on the snow and the difference engine and how he was talking about writing fantasy books, too, with the big lies and the little lies stuff, and SUSAN AND THE POKER OMG. I loved it so passionately.
And some few of you may realize how astonishing it was that when I walked into my dark, scary, windblown new house, sitting on my hearth like a gift from the Hogfather, was a long iron poker, all of my own.
PS I love you Nigel <3 <3. Plz to be my secret British boyfriend?
Girl in Landscape: Second Lethem novel. I liked As She Climbed Across the Table better, but this was...hm. B-? Much of it was fascinating. I try, sometimes, to channel one of justbeast 's superpowers, and consider the good things I can take from a book (movie/event/etc--his superpower is that he can simultaneously ignore the bad). So what I took from this book was the household deer, the potatoes, the names of the Archbuilders and how they talked. I wish I could have had more of all of those.
The bad...well, I feel he relied too much on Western tropes (it's essentially a frontier town novel, with the frontier being on another planet) without really backing them up. For example, in this particular frontier town there is a lesbian couple, and everyone's fine with it, so the mores are a little more relaxed than in John Wayne era, right? But they practically lynch someone for suspected sexual deviance later on, and it's entirely possible that no sex actually occured. Also, there is one scientist studying newly discovered sentient aliens instead of every scientist ever. I thought Lethem pulled his punches with regard to sex through the entire book--Pella and Efram behave as though they've had sex, but they haven't. Alien/human sex is danced around but never confronted head-on. I wonder if these scenes, especially between Pella and Efram, were originally there and subsquently cut. so ultimately it seemed light, inconsequential, and not entirely thought through. Almost nothing was really resolved. Again with the denouement. But I did take good things from it.
The Kappa Child (Hiromi Goto) This was an odd one. It won the Tiptree several years back, and since it involves Kappa I had to read it. It's about a Japanese-Canadian family farming on the plains of Canada, mostly unsuccessfully, and one of the daughters' (I don't think you ever find out her name) encounter with kappa, which leaves her pregnant after a lesbian sumo wrestling sort of sex match thing. It's incredibly evocative and graphic, not sexually, but physically. Kappas are all about the butt (well, they are) so I have to say, I've never read gastronomic disorders so tenderly and painstakingly described. The narrator was broken and lovely and on the whole it was a beautiful book--I really felt for the daddy issues invovled.
But again, the end sort of killed it. There's no real resolution except sisters hanging out together more often, and no real answers. Climax --->end. Do not pass denouement. It's like half the books I read these days are nights of old married folks sex. Good and solid and sexy, and then they immediately roll over and fall asleep while I'm still waiting for the emotional pay-off. Grrr.
But it's been nice to read a few books I really liked lately, as I had some stinkers earlier in the year. I seek moar.
Not stinkers. Good books.