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> look bookpost backlog

The bookpost backlog is tremendous.

Kate Elliott – Cold Magic

Feb 25, 2013

Started slow and frustrating but revved up hard. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

This is kind of “European Ethnic and Political Tensions in the Early 19th Century: Afro-Celtic Dance Remix.” Several of the forces are still recognizable, but all the pieces have been slid around and there are some new players in town. There’s also a more conventional fantasy novel crammed in here somewhere, but the gravitational effect of the alternate history exercise distorts it in pleasing ways.

I bounced off Kate Elliott’s Spirit Gate several years back, after getting about 2/5 through. Like that one, it looks like the characters in this series will be somewhat subordinate to the worldbuilding and systematic conflicts. Unlike Spirit Gate, Cold Magic seems to do much better at keeping the individual characters active and unpredictable, maintaining a solid counterpoint to the systematic events. I’ll totally read the rest of this trilogy. (Which is finished, btw.)

[redacted] – [redacted]

Comics script. May 19, 2013

Some buds of mine started a thing for a larger publisher-driven project, and said project got spiked in toto before their thing could come to fruition. I dunno if said buds are planning anything else for their contribution. But it was promising! I enjoyed it.

Raina Telgemeier – Drama

Comics. July …2?, 2013

This was super charming!

Mitsuru Adachi – Cross Game vols. 1-8 (US version)

Comics. July 12-13 and 16-17, 2013

This high school baseball melodrama was like five or ten times better than it should have been. I’m not bothering with a story summary, because it will sound terminally corny. But PEOPLE. It is SO GOOD. I’ve read some Adachi before, and it all left me hoping he’d eventually write this series. It even made me care about baseball.

Above all else, I credit Adachi’s skill as a cartoonist. This is a very comics-like comic, which wouldn’t transfer to another medium with any moiety of its charms intact. The timing and moment-to-moment transitions are brilliant, as are the volume-to-volume rhythms and visual callbacks. The cartooning makes this book.

It does have some problems, mostly gender-related. I’ve mentioned before that Adachi’s art tends to be very male-gazey, and there’s some of that around — nowhere near the weird amount of staring you get in some of his other work, but, like, it’s there and you will notice it. Also, and more fundamentally, it’s just such a boy story. And there’s nothing wrong with boy stories, but… I liked the female characters in this book so much, and they got systematically short-changed.

That said, though, you should read it. If you live in my neck of the woods, the Multnomah County Library has several copies of the whole thing with basically no waiting list.

Ryan North – To Be or Not To Be

Sept. ?, 2013

Remember that record-breaking Kickstarter where everyone was like “He’s selling what?” This was that. IT’S ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD, or at least I had a great time. The idea of an inch-and-a-half-thick choose your own adventure book based on Shakespeare is too stupid and bizarre to possibly work, but work it does.

It’s worth reading in physical form, too, because a big chunk of the fun in a printed CYOA format is paging past the more fucked-up paths on your way to something sensible and being like “Damn, how’d they end up over there?” Spoiler alert: there are two separate paths that end up with Ophelia murdering literally every character. (One’s on the cover of the hardback.)

There’s also a chess game, immense scorn from the narrator every time the reader chooses the decisions from the actual play, and the mandatory “Ultima” easter egg. And the whole thing is funny as hell. A++, would choose my own adventure again.

Nick Mamatas – Starve Better

Nov. 28, 2013

More a business-of-writing advice book than a writing advice book.

I enjoyed this, found it informative, and thought was entertaining enough in its own right to perhaps be worth a read even if you’re not interested in the biz of selling short fiction and feature articles. Depends on how much you enjoy Mamatas going in on somebody.

Tom Gauld – Goliath

Comics. Nov. 12, 2013

At first I was like “Christ, what an unmitigated downer,” but as I think more about it, I’m slowly recognizing it as a very clever Beckett riff. Which is to say, an unmitigated downer.

Gauld’s art is amazing as usual, though.

Various – The Sleep of Reason

Comics anthology. Jan. ?, 2014

Sure, there were a handful of stories I didn’t dig, but wow, this anthology had a pretty unheard-of feelin-it/not-feelin-it ratio. Highly recommended. Bonus points for putting the perfect closer story (Brittney Sabo’s “It Comes Back”) in the last slot.

Various – Hana Doki Kira

Comics anthology. Feb. 19, 2014

Well, I wanted to like this more than I ended up liking it. The limits on story sizes meant the default format was “Now I shall explain our premise! Whoops, outta time, peace.” There was some good art and page design on display, though, especially in Leslie Hung’s and R. Mock’s pieces.

Daniel Pinkwater – Young Adult Novel

Mar 21, 2014

This is a complex lattice of sharp meta-jokes about art and culture, and then it explosively dismantles itself. It is GREAT.

Greg Means, MK Reed, Joe Flood – The Cute Girl Network

Comics. May 17, 2014

A super-cute and competent rom-com with delicious art. Recommended!

The focus on confronting your significant other’s past invites a few parallels with Scott Pilgrim, but it’s certainly its own beast.

It’s tough to talk about POV in comics, so instead I’ll say that the… I dunno, gaze, or filter over perception, is largely Jane’s in this book, and in a lot of ways we see Jack the way she sees him. (This is fuzzy theory at best, but stay with me.) Which means he grows way beyond the common trope of the rom-com schlub-hero, because the book spends a lot of time depicting his actual good points and showing why a catch like Jane would be interested in him in the first place. Like: He’s very affirming, which is actually kind of hard to find; whatever he likes about you, he’ll tell you he likes it. He says yes to things; if you’re doing something, he’ll help out or go along and cheerlead. (Put another way, he doesn’t have a lot of preferences about what he does with his time and can find something interesting in anything, so he doesn’t feel a need to protect his time or say no to things.) And he’s got this slow and steady approach to everything that’s very soothing.

Anyway, this careful character work lets the authors take advantage of a lot of rom-com tools that are proven to work well, while snipping out a lot of what’s loathsome about the genre. Thumbs up to that.

Nalo Hopkinson – Midnight Robber

June 2, 2014

This was fascinating and excellent, but it was also a challenging read, for a number of reasons.

For starters, the story itself is all about surviving repeated rape at the hands of a parent and assembling a resilient adult sense of self in the aftermath. So, like, make sure you’re along for that ride. It appears to be a completely different story until about a quarter of the way in and the cover copy gave no clue, so I was like “OKAY, guess we’re reading THIS book all of a sudden!” It’s an excellent and humane treatment of that material, but like I said, challenging.

Also, I had to scramble a bit to keep up with the writing. The story of the book is a personal one, but the project of the book is big and multifaceted, and one of the biggest parts of that project is to depict Caribbean people surviving and thriving, in multiple ways, in a future they’ve taken ownership of. And as a critical part of that subproject, the whole book — dialogue and narration alike — is written in varying registers of Caribbean English, which is fairly foreign to me. (And I don’t know enough about that family of dialects to be more specific than “Caribbean,” alas.) Anyway, after a while I got into the rhythm of it and figured out which new grammar patterns to expect and which words worked differently. It was fun! But it definitely demanded a lot of attention.

The dialect was part of why I sought the book out in the first place, by the way: I was reading an essay about issues of representation in fiction, and the author (can’t remember who, but I’ll try to dig it out of the Instapaper archive later; might have been Daniel José Older) used Midnight Robber as a counterexample in their critique of the conventional dictate against writing in dialect. I was curious.

After reading it, I’m pretty sure I see what they meant. The dialect writing I’ve groaned at, and which I think most people mean when they say don’t do it, is usually aimed at othering some character or group. The overtly cruel versions of this are easy to spot, but even well-observed and well-meaning instances can go bad. (You’re faithfully documenting the rhythms of this character’s speech? Ok. Are you giving the same care to everyone else’s speech? No? What’s the difference between them and everyone else? Ah.) But in Midnight Robber, I think the dialect was meant for the people it depicted, aimed at normalizing / DE-othering the experiences of Caribbean or Caribbean-descended readers approaching the book (and, as a side-effect, de-normalizing the experiences of non-Caribbean readers like yrs truly). The full effect on text and readers is far-reaching and impossible to fully reckon. But for example: this is a science fiction book. Consider the subtle mutations of language that gently situate an attentive reader into a future time and place; shifts of grammar, new or repurposed terms. I’m good at reading SF, and am very sensitive to those shifts when they act on white North American English. I know there were tons of those in this book; I could smell ’em. And I caught several, but a whole lot floated by because I didn’t have the prior context to always tell what was new because it was Caribbean and what was new because it was the future on a colony world.

I did have a few problems with the book, but I guess they’re mostly quibbles. Like, isn’t eight months a little fast to become a folk hero in a non-networked foot-speed society? And how the hell did Antonio get to be mayor back on Toussant, anyway, given how violent and stupid and incompetent he was? (I think the real answer on those two is that certain elements of the story operate like a fairy or folk tale, so it just makes geometric sense for Antonio to be a man of power and for Tan-Tan’s legend to spread at net-speed.) I’m also still chewing on the bit at the end about the baby having some kind of special destiny via the nanobots and the Toussant AIs — I can’t quite tell what she was doing with that, and I’m not sure I’m into it. It’s weird and uncomfortable.

But anyway! This was a good book. Recommended.

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