I’ve decided to continue my tradition of doing mini-reviews for books, but this time, chronologically as I go! Also, I’m going to start giving letter grades, since the star system has never worked for me, but I would like to give a more concise rating.
Santa Olivia | Jacqueline Carey
In my endless search for modern fantasy, I finally returned to Jacqueline Carey, given how high quality the first Kushiel’s Legacy trilogy is. And while this is nowhere as rich a world, I can safely say few authors can make me care about a dystopian lesbian “werewolf” superhero origin story. Fewer still could make me care about boxing. While the story occasionally drags before we get to the climactic fight, it does set up a conflict that will definitely make me come back for the sequel. As expected given the author, the main romance is totally adorable, and as usual Carey brings a realism to all the relationships that elevates the writing above its genre. B+
The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl #7) | Eoin Colfer
Since I picked up the books again, this is the first installment of Artemis Fowl that hit me emotionally. If I had been in writing the books myself, I would probably have done something similar at this stage. Namely, having the emotional consequences of being a criminal mastermind who grows a moral conscience actually hit Artemis hard enough to incapacitate him. Most people don’t change for the better in one perfect step, and often the pendulum swings pretty far before it settles down to a reasonable place (if ever). The price of this fantastic concept is that we get “split personality” Artemis, Orion, an incredibly cringey character who has to exist for laughs in the middle-grade world, but who I could have done without. The return of Juliet to the story, and her and Butler’s subplot was a fun addition as well, even if the execution did not quite live up to the concept. B
Between the World and Me | Ta-Nahesi Coates
I picked this up because, like a lot of people, I felt more than a little skeptical of the optimism of the post-civil-rights-movement-America, that told me progress toward equality was a one way march, that every day things were getting better. (What I observed about groups of people led me to believe that in all struggles for equality, those who had to make space or share power react very badly to having to do this and will cling to power.) Coates conveys the pain of living on the short end of this stick poetically and I learned a lot. That said, some people suggest it be required reading for anyone who thinks racism is over, but I disagree. It’s definitely written for a mind that is already open and empathetic to the premise that being black in America is profound disadvantage. A
Black Sun Rising | C.S. Friedman
Oh man, what a JOURNEY. A friend is reading this trilogy aloud to me as a weekend drink-wine-and-cackle-at-overwrought-fantasy-nonsense activity, and let me tell you, no writer has approached the sheer stringy-haired dungeon master tone of Brad Neely’s ‘Wizard People’ voice as this series does. My friend pitched me this as the series that convinced her that if being gay was wrong, she didn’t want to be right, because of Idiot Itinerant Warrior Priest Damien Kilcannon Vryce’s (really) reluctant/hopeless crush on Science Fiction Vampire Gerald Tarrant. Friedman sets up a (DEEPLY) unnecessarily complicated premise in which Geraldo is the prophet of Damien’s church but also like fallen angel-type because they’re on an alien planet that responds to human will and is Totally Not Magic and Geraldo set up the church to use the collective will to synthesize a god to allow them to leave the planet because they crash-landed. Then the church decided magic was evil and because Gerald did magic he was going to be condemned to hell so he made a deal with hell to become a vampire so he could live forever and see if the world’s worst thought experiment would work. So now he’s a Neocount (YUP) and magically genetically engineers (only black) horses presumably because of his commitment to the goth fantasy aesthetic. This all occurs, I shit you not, 900 years before the book begins. Long story long, A+ for giving me hours of bleary late-night laughs, F for literally everything else.
The Next Big One | Derek Des Agnes
A couple of Thanksgivings ago I was in London visiting my adopted fake son, Andrew, with Andrew’s nemesis, Kathleen. Andrew’s friend, Derek (and his girlfriend and boyfriend) were kind enough to host/tolerate our weird American turkey ritual, and then Derek became an internet friendquaintance. Cut to a couple years later, I read his book, and it is one of the better mystery/thrillers I’ve read in a while. It’s about a journalism student, Ben, covering a viral outbreak who stumbles into a greater conspiracy. Apart from the fact that I spent most of the book preoccupied with wanting someone to just intervene and save Ben from his neurotic self, it was an enjoyable read. The world felt authentic, the story moves quick, and the writing is entertaining. Bonus: genuinely diverse cast of characters. A-