is that she for the most part has got two modes, and while she's tried other stuff, she's not really greeeeeeat at doing anything other than these two things. Like I think most writers, her work can be plotted with decent accuracy using only two thematic axes; thus, she need grind no other. For her, there's basically Anhedonic Mode and Self-Destructive Mode.

So, both axes are depression, basically. Sorry.

The Anhedonic Mode is what it sounds like: it's just kind of trying to wrestle emotion out of experiences and sensory impressions that ought to mean something to you but just don't, and maybe the problem's only that you Think Too Much About This Crap? (It's not - that's a symptom, not a cause - but I don't know if she agrees.)

The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness are heavily Anhedonic. Which is why they don't actually appeal to me much! The latter makes its way over into Self-Destructive, in its way, and that does work, but in my opinion it's not the best use she makes of the progression.

The Self-Destructive Mode is also what it sounds like: a character entirely destroys themself or some part of themself because, somehow, nothing else can save them. In her stuff that appeals to me most, the character goes into, I guess, Ecstatic Self-Annihilation Mode, where they are really, really fucking into wrecking their own shit.

Read more... )
Because I was throwing a hissy fit about Anita Blake on Tumblr, I am reposting this comment I made about about that series a while back:

Well, the thing is that AB was the first urban fantasy/paranormal romance series of a particular modern breed: the competent female protagonist with a cynical worldview doing a dangerous job and protecting the weak. She's unappreciated for it - and realistically broke, which I think is an important element here - until some equally-competent supernatural guys in positions of power show up, admire her, vy for her affections, offer her wealth and security, etc.

The latter part is obviously not a new thing for romance, but the first part was. Urban fantasy heroines pre-Blake were like typical romance heroines in that they tended to be kind of passive figures, unable to defend themselves, much less anyone else. They might have some sort of special heritage or magical powers, but it was something that for whatever reason, they didn't actively use until forced.

And then here was this whole series about this sarcastic woman going out and fighting zombies every day. What makes these books important and attractive is that Blake, though she frequently seems outclassed early on, always ends up able to take care of herself and those around her. The first book was about her rescuing Jean-Claude, the vampire who's in love with her, from a female vampire.

...But then it all turned into weird softcore BDSM erotica! And now a lot of people know more about Laurell K. Hamilton's private kinks than we originally anticipated. Books 7 and 8 (Burnt Offerings and Blue Moon) were where the problem started to get obvious, as I recall, though I think it wasn't until the latter that scenes explaining werecreature pack mating/power dynamics and analyzing people's relative sexiness actually started outnumbering plot-related scenes.

Then there was book 9, Obsidian Butterfly, which was sort of a self-conscious backtrack to the early-series formula, and obliquely and maybe-accidentally self-analytical, with several scenes directly mirroring those from the first book. But having gotten that out of her system, she threw all shame out the window and wrote the demented Narcissus in Chains, and from then on it was apparently all werecreature orgies and metaphysically-induced orgasms. (I couldn't even finish NiC, so for this I rely on the reports of others.)

The early books haven't aged well, now that there are so many others following the same basic plotline and doing it better: they're simultaneously formulaic and badly-paced, and the prose lies someplace in between utilitarian and awkward. They're also very violent - I would say unusually so - but lacking the sense of humanity required to make it feel necessary and earned. And there's a lot of really unpleasant misogyny aimed at women who aren't Blake. With maybe one exception, they're always either victims she needs to protect or monsters she needs to destroy.

Basically, I would recommend Marjorie Liu, JD Robb, or Ilona Andrews instead.

(Persons who have been reading the askblog for my Homestuck fanfic wherein Kanaya has a blog may recognize some of these words. My characterization of the alien vampire is flawless and entirely uninformed by my own prejudices.)
Also, Lord of Light is an overrated clusterfuck. It feels exactly like a Shounen Jump series collapsing under the weight of said publication's meretricious editorial formula, except I'm pretty sure Zelazny did it all to himself.
My brain is broken. I've been working at home today, and am about to go in to the office and print and fax the thing I've been working on, but I'm having a slight anxiety attack about driving. The dog is going with me, so I need to calm down before I get in the car. Don't want to scare the dog.

Stuff I've read or reread recently:

Elvenbane Elf Opposite Day, by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey - I was not actually able to finish this. I got to the part where the girl is crushing on her brother, and he knows they're siblings but she doesn't, and rather than just telling her, he pressures her into getting engaged to his boyfriend. This is how you solve problems on Elf Opposite Day.

His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik - Reread. I always skim the battle scenes in this, as I'm unable to clearly picture what's going on. Maybe it would all make more sense if I read Patrick O'Brian?

The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman - Reread. Every time I get to the end I wish Pullman'd just like, waste some time writing a few unnecessary self-indulgent books about Lyra causing/solving smaller post-adventure problems.

Homestuck, by Andrew Hussie, over and over - My brain has been recolonized by carapacians following a catastrophe that extinguished all life. Perhaps someday their society will reach a level advanced enough that I can think about, like, anything else.
Yes. It's about evil elves who breed evil unicorns and then release them into the wild where they destroy the ecological balance oh noes. They have also enslaved all the humans for purposes of general elvish debauchery.

I'm pretty sure that this is the process by which this book was written:

Andre Norton: You know what, I think no one's done an Elf Opposite Day book yet! I'd might as well get going on that - I mean, I'll basically take any premise and just run with it, right? That's my whole thing.

Tor Books: We will buy this book.

Norton: Yeah, I know.

*time passes*

Norton: I don't know... I mean, I named this character Serina Daeth, and I just - I'm not feeling this anymore, I don't know how that's even pronounced. Maybe it's just that I'm fricking eighty. Mercedes Lackey, you're not doing anything important right now, right? Put on an Elf Opposite Day for me.


Norton: What - dude, no, you are totally fucking up Elf Opposite Day. You're just making the dragons be the elves, you are barely maintaining fidelity to our awesome cheapass trope reversal.


Norton: Even your name is in all caps.


Norton: I am going to go be eighty someplace else.


Tor Books: We are giving this book a particularly goofy Boris Vallejo cover as a sort of oblique warning as to its content. There will be no visible elves.

Norton: Worst. Elf Opposite Day. Ever.
Important Robin McKinley question:

Poll #11982 Beauty or Rose Daughter?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 15

Beauty or Rose Daughter?

View Answers

7 (46.7%)

Rose Daughter.
8 (53.3%)

I don't want to skew the poll or anything, but the correct answer is Rose Daughter.

Edit: clearly this issue can be resolved only by means of fisticuffs.
Dreamhunter, by Elizabeth Knox

Elizabeth Knox is basically Mizushiro Setona; she turns obvious genre plots into harsh, bittersweet meditations on human failings, and sometimes she fucks shit up. (In this case, she pulled a The Thirteenth Child on the Maori.)

The Face in the Frost, by John Bellairs

Very creepy, very funny, and slightly disjointed. Though it's enjoyable, it feels a bit like a fix-up of a number of set pieces written at different times.

Heir to Sevenwaters, by Juliet Marillier

At some point Marillier's going to have to write a book about a character who's aware that the Sevenwaters family is emotionally abusive and refuses to put up with it. It's not this one, though.
The Riddlemaster of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind, by Patricia McKillip

Roughly my zillionth reread. These really are her harshest books, both in terms of what she puts the heroes through and how much she makes you feel it.

Uchuu na Bokura!, chapters 1-13, by Hiwatari Saki

This is by the artist of Please Save My Earth!, and started its run about five years after the last volume of PSME came out. Hiwatari's art improved a lot over the course of PSME, and was even better in Global Garden a couple years after this. So, I don't know what happened here. Some kind of stylistic atavism? Everyone's head is shaped weird.

People with weird-shaped heads.The story is her favorite one: a timid, insecure girl is fought over by men and tormented by her own inability to assert herself. It's a little milder than PSME here, though. A girl named Haruko, whose mother has recently passed away, begins receiving harassing notes at school accusing her of being a witch. Which she is, though she has no obvious magical powers, aside from her ability to talk to her familiar, a cat named Silk, in her dreams each night.

Promptly, two boys come to her aid. One is short-tempered but clearly in love with her, and I'm just going to call him New Shion; the other is easygoing and clearly wrong for her, so I'll call him New Jinpachi. Three female classmates - her delicate best friend, a hyperactive ganguro girl, and a mysterious Chinese exchange student - also step up to help her find the bully.

There is initially some question as to whether Haruko is just imagining the whole witch thing, and thus an unreliable narrator, who may even be sending the notes to herself. Which is interesting! But then the Chinese girl turns out to be a witch, New Shion starts talking to the cat, and we get scenes where the True Culprit says ominous things. So, for conflict we're left with mean anonymous notes meeting Haruko's human wall of a support network and being brushed aside. And it's pretty obvious who's sending them.

I can't find scans past chapter 13, but I feel like I've got a pretty good idea what's going to happen. This is apparently what it looks like when Hiwatari phones it in: there's nothing really objectionable going on, but it's hard to care.
I've read it through at least three times without coming across any currency, and it's never been to the UK. It's not even set there. Where did the five pounds come from?

I'll never take the Black at this rate. I do not know where the five pounds came from.

(I mean, I didn't think Winter Rose was supposed to be set in upstate New York, either, so I could be wrong about the setting, but it just seems unlikely.)

Edit: Photographic evidence.
That is what you do.

Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way to Hades, The Sirens Sang of Murder, and The Sybil in Her Grave, by Sarah Caudwell

These are a series of mysteries which all begin with one of four young lawyers getting involved with a murder, typically by way of a client's novel tax avoidance arrangements. (Caudwell was herself a tax lawyer.) The narrator is a pompous law professor named Hilary Tamar, who usually ends up solving the mysteries for the young lawyers, and prefers to be referred to as a scholar rather than a detective.

The four young lawyers who get in trouble behave a lot like the four kids who get in trouble in the Young Readers novels of yore. You couldn't quite match them up one-to-one to the Boxcar Children, but it's that kind of dynamic, albeit with the addition of ill-advised sexual encounters, alcohol, and tax law. At least two-thirds of each novel is epistolary, consisting of letters from the lawyers and their friends and clients to each other.

I've noticed that when people review books by Sarah Caudwell, they tend to do it with heavy use of quotes; they have a very distinctive voice. Here:

She had impressed on Julia her duty to write daily, for the edification and amusement of those left in Lincoln's Inn.

"You have made it clear, I hope," said Ragwort, "that the letters should be suitable to be read in mixed company and the activities described of unquestionable decorum?"

"Not precisely," said Selena. "I said that what we hoped for was a picaresque series of attempted seductions. I told her we would not insist, however, on their uniform success. I said that on the contrary we might think it inartistic."

They pretty much sound like that all the time.

The first three are fairly light most of the time, with occasional descents into some unsettling psychological territory towards the end, which always feels unexpected. The fourth, written shortly before Caudwell's death and I think published posthumously, starts out dark and claustrophobic and stays that way. Hilary and the young lawyers, apparently not being well-equipped for this atmosphere, are only tangentially involved in most of it, and the book consists mostly of letters from the aunt of one of the lawyers.

Kushiel's Mercy, by Jacqueline Carey (Imriel trilogy, book 3)

Everyone got brainwashed in this book! It's not the conflict I was expecting for the end of this series? I guess it worked, but I honestly would've preferred the plot she made us think she was going for, where Imriel's got to outwit Melisande and turn her in and everyone's just very upset about the whole thing. This felt like kind of a cheat sometimes.

I think it would spice up Imriel and Sidonie's relationship if, every couple of years, they get brainwashed and have to find one another and fall in love again to save the world. It'd be sort of like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, except in fake-magical-bondage-France.

Point of Honour, by Madeleine Robins

In a slightly-alternate-universe Regency England, Sarah Tolerance, a young woman of noble birth disowned by her family for running away with her now-deceased fencing instructor, makes a living as a private detective. The powerful, handsome, and obviously-hiding-something Count Verseillon approaches her to ask that she find an Italian fan his father once gave away to his mistress. She realizes that there must be something more serious about her search when the people she involves in it begin to be murdered.

I feel like this book is basically Madeleine Robins repeating over and over, "Regency romances need to get their act together." She does not seem to approve of many of the tropes.
Tooth and Claw, by Jo Walton

It's a Regency romance novel with cannibalism! The characters are all dragons, who eat each other:

"You wouldn't dare," she said. "To be known as the Exalted Lord who ate his mother when she was strong and well?"

He's expected to eat her when she dies naturally, see. There'll be troubling social repercussions if he doesn't wait that long - he'll probably have to rusticate for a season or two.

Also, when female dragons lose their virginity, they turn pink, and if they turn pink before they're married they are Fallen Dragons and cast out of their homes, and other dragons can eat them with impunity. The children of the poor are also eaten pretty much whenever by the upper classes, as are elderly servants, and their wings are often bound to keep them from flying. The more other dragons you eat, the bigger you get, so that dragons of the upper classes are the only ones who regularly grow longer than seven feet, making it easier for them to dominate the lower class dragons, and by the way are these metaphors clear enough.

Yet it's not an obtrusively didactic book. The cannibalism and turning pink is gracefully established the rules in the first couple chapters, without any special emphasis, and Walton follows them precisely throughout the book - but none of this actually changes the character of the Regency era as-seen-in-romance-novels much. It just reads like a Georgette Heyer novel. It's appropriate to call it satire, but it's that sneaky kind of satire that can just as easily be enjoyed as an example of the medium it's poking holes in.

Superior v 1-9, by Ichtys

The hero Eksa has been sent to destroy the Demon Queen Shira, with whose forces the humans are at war. Shira sees him coming, and on her second-in-command's advice decides to spy on him a little to ascertain his weaknesses before trying to kill him. She does this pretending to be a weak demon-in-distress who needs his protection. This works pretty well on Eksa, who actually wants to make peace with the demons, and hates killing.

Though the Demon Queen finds this idea baffling and contemptible, she against her will falls in love with him in chapter one. Her thinking on this is basically, "Darn it, this is going to make it hard to kill the guy... Oh, well." Still hiding her identity from him, she goes off and has adventures with him, Shira struggling with alien human ideas like "you can't eat everyone you don't like" and Eksa anxiously trying to make peace between the demons and the humans.

Because all fantasy-manga adventurer parties should consist of four people, I guess, they shortly acquire a womanizing swordsman guy and a short-tempered magician girl. Because all fantasy-manga adventurer parties require a Boss Fight to look forward to at some point in the future, Shira makes a golem that looks like herself to take her place while she stays with Eksa, and the golem turns on her, declaring itself the true Demon Queen. Its name is apparently just Copy, though. It should change that.

It's honestly pretty stupid; though it starts as comedy, there are volume-long collapses into limpid angst. Most of it is a pattern of Stupid Pratfall, Stupid Angsty Fight Scene, People Express Inane Ideas About War While Weeping For Like The Whole Chapter. All kinds of sparkly shoujo tears; the whole cast does it.

But I finished it up because Shira does stuff like this:

Shira: It's not a problem if it is right or wrong, you just beat the ones who say otherwise. That's how I gained control of the entire world.

I find this refreshing in a shounen manga heroine. It ends at volume nine in the middle of a plotline, but there's a sequel series called Superior Cross, which I may go ahead and read.

I've decided to start grading translations, by the way; as you may have guessed from the panels above, none of the various scanlation groups that have worked on this get more than a C from me.

(Hoshin Engi is in same situation, and I include the regrettable official Viz translation in this judgment. I seem to recall that some scanlation project working about eight years ago did a decent job on the first few volumes, but I can't find those particular scans now.)
Norstrilia, by Cordwainer Smith

I think Yukito Kishiro and Cordwainer Smith might have been twins separated at birth. I'm not sure which is the evil one.

This is a positive review, if that's not clear! (I really like Yukito Kishiro, you know.) I'm just sort of at a loss to describe this book. It has the peculiar distinction of being a melancholy book made up of an almost unbroken sequence of manic comedic scenes.

Midnight Never Come, by Marie Brennan

You know when you watch a sci-fi movie where they've put a lot of money and work into this CGI monster, but they haven't really matched it very well to the scenery and actors, and the incongruity somehow renders it weightless and powerless? This book's like that.

It's set half in the court of Queen Elizabeth, and half in the court of her secret fairy counterpart, Queen Invidiana, and the main characters are minor courtiers - a human man and a fairy woman - attempting to navigate the social and financial perils of each. The author has clearly done a decent amount of research into how stuff worked in Elizabeth's court, and she's put some thought into the whole fairy court thing, too. So there should be a sense of risk surrounding the actions that the protagonists take - the guy's decision to take out loans to buy himself new clothes to please the Queen, the woman's to sneak out of the palace to pay a visit. I mean, Dorothy Dunnett can make this sort of stuff terrifying.

But there's no feeling of danger, because stuff somehow seems to happen at random, regardless of how carefully or recklessly they're behaving. The girl makes a lot of risky decisions - the sneaking out of the palace thing, and hoarding a kind of bread that confers special powers - which she often worries might get her in serious trouble. Spoilers - they don't! They never matter at all, in either direction. When she gets thrown in prison, it's because of some random decision made by somebody else offscreen. And then she gets released the same way. Here's another metaphor for the book - it's sort of a novelization of one of those lab tests where they arbitrarily punish and reward a rat until it goes catatonic.
I haven't read much recently. Busy working, panicking, dreaming about airplanes.

The Truth, by Terry Pratchett

I'd read this before, but I didn't remember much of it. William de Worde encounters some dwarves with a printing press and accidentally invents the newspaper, just in time for a secret conspiracy to frame the Patrician for a crime. William does not especially like the Patrician, and is not even on very good terms with truth all of the time, but nonetheless feels he'd better start investigating. It will fill some space, anyway.

I mostly enjoyed it - I mean, it's by Terry Pratchett - but this book has a lot of callbacks to earlier books. (I don't even recognize all of them! I'm a bad Discworld fan.) Also, Pratchett's usage of nonhumans-as-representatives-of-minorities is, um, pretty awkward, particularly in that it gets into What These People Need Is A Honky territory.

Petshop of Horrors: Tokyo, volumes 1-8, by Akino Matsuri

Sequel to Petshop of Horrors. Count D has moved the titular supernatural petshop to Shinjuku, where he proceeds to dispense pets and poetic justice to the people of Tokyo.

The original series was tightly episodic - with the exception of a short wrap-up arc at the end, each chapter was a self-contained story about Count D, a customer with a dark secret, a monstrous pet that the customer perceives as human, an exasperated police detective named Leon Orcot, and Orcot's grade-school-age brother Chris. Each time the pet restores some sort of karmic balance, generally violently, and each time Orcot is left confused as to exactly where that guy's torso went. There was an overarching story of sorts, but it was developed intermittently and without much special emphasis throughout the series; Orcot at one point goes through a major personal change in one line of dialog, without noticing that he's done it.

That hasn't changed in the new series, but the justice D dispenses has gotten a lot milder. In the first series, roughly half of the pets he sold destroyed their owners. That percentage is much lower in the new series - it's like he's turning into a hero-of-justice-slash-therapist-slash-confessor. There's also more comedy, and it's gotten a lot sillier. I did not much like the Santa Claus chapter.

The character dynamics are pretty much the same - Detective Orcot's role as D's frenemy is taken by an ambitious Chinese businessman named Wu Fei, who owns the building that houses D's new shop. Chris's role as peacemaker between the two is played by Wu Fei's meek assistant Chin. (Because Chin's in his fifties or sixties, a shapeshifting kitten is brought in to be the Cute Kid Who Gets In Trouble. I hate that kitten.)

Unfortunately, Wu Fei does not work as well as Orcot as a foil. He's sneaky, secretive, and cruel, which is, you know, a bit similar to D? And he's not very sympathetic, partly because he's a jerk, and partly because his motives are pretty opaque. Orcot begrudgingly liked D - possibly not entirely platonically - but understandably disapproved of the whole "serial killer" thing. Anyway, it was pretty clear why he was always hanging out at the evil pet shop.

Wu Fei doesn't like anyone, and doesn't actually mind too much about all the murders. It bugs him more that D closes early to go to bakeries. Lots of jokes about this.

So our secondary protagonist is kind of unpleasant, and it's a problem. There have been hints dropped that his grandfather had some sort of deal with D's grandfather, but it's hard to care about that? Which is also a problem, given that this storyline appears destined to become the series' main plot.

In short: I like it about half the time, and I hope that Wu Fei turns out to be a magical capybara that thinks it's human or some shit.

City of Diamond, by Jane Emerson/Doris Egan

Reread this again. Ending still unresolved cliffhanger.

Bless me, Count D, for I have sinned: Sometimes I wish Doris Egan's screenwriting career would implode so she'd write the sequel.
Book #1 - High-stakes book about Sieh, Shahar, and Dekarta dealing with huge problems that are largely Sieh's fault.

Book #2 - Lower-stakes book about Ahad and Glee dealing with more mundane problems (but only slightly more mundane since they still involve gods) with a variety of causes, only some of which are Sieh.

These storylines do not mesh well as presented. I would've liked either on its own, but shoved together like this, the book one narrative diminishes the book two one in a way that comes off as unfair. And I think it's unfair not just to that storyline, but to the series as a whole.

The thing is that the problems presented in the Ahad-and-Glee-intensive sections are, world-impact-wise, relatively minor compared to the ones Sieh brings with him into them. Given that the problems Sieh brings in include "the end of the all existence." This makes book 2 feel slight. Yet from the series-overall perspective, what's going on with them - Itempas's redemption, Oree and Naha/Hado's fates, and the changing relationship between the gods and humans - should really be treated as more important than is Sieh's archnemesis we'd never heard of before. In my ideal version of this series, I think Ahad and Glee would get their own book before Sieh got his.

Also, Jemisin's homicidal deities are more likable when observed by smitten mortals then when they speak for themselves; I assume that's deliberate. You want to whack Sieh a lot in this book.
that the only books I've found myself able to read are ones that I've already read.

My brain's so fried this week that the only books I've found myself able to read are ones that I've already read that are about vampires going to high school.

I am also aware that at some point they turned really bad. I've only read the first book, and that back in middle school, so I don't know exactly what was bad about them.

That is, I didn't until last night! Because last night, in a dream, I read the final book in the series. I offer you this synopsis. Warning: spoilers!

It turns out that this book is set on an evil repressive steampunk colony planet, and that the protagonist is a student at Ms. [Something]'s School of Construction of Chicken Automatons For Young Ladies. It's a finishing school where the girls learn how to make chicken automatons? I don't know if you caught that. Geez, Orson Scott Card, what the heck.

On this planet, upper-class ladies demonstrate their refinement by way of the construction of attractive bejeweled robot chickens, which do various tasks like walk around, cluck, and dispense beverages from their beaks. Married ladies may make more advanced birds - swans, pelicans, etc. - but though the girls at the school have the knowledge to do so, to publicly display such a robot bird would be the height of vulgarity. They make the same round little chicken robot over and over, varying its waddle-speed and beakjewels only slightly.

The heroine is bullied by the others for her surly demeanor and inability to make even one working chicken. Secretly, she is a brilliant roboticist, but none of her chickens please her, so she is constantly in the process of breaking them down and rebuilding them. She wants to make a better robot. She wants to make... a robot goose.

The evil repressive planet is evil, it turns out, because it's kind of the world from the "sex-teen" book, and these girls are actually being prepared to be put to work in a brothel on the top floor of the school. The heroine discovers this when she wanders into it while exploring a vent that turns out to be the throat of what's kind of a massive erotic robot swan, around which the brothel is built.

(Hey, don't ask me. This Orson Scott Card's book, people.)

There are two fat kids, who are evil because they're fat, and vice-versa. One, a girl, is the heroine's primary tormentor. The other, a boy, has a portal gun? Except it's a magic book, not a gun. I don't know. He intends to use it to take over their world and force them into an eternal war with another one, believing that this is the only way to keep their decadent, jaded people united.

He tricks the heroine into using her knowledge of robotic birds to help him, but when she discovers his true plans, she wrenches the book out his hands and accidentally sends them into space without a return portal. To their amazement, they discover that they can breathe, and that just outside of their world's atmosphere, they are drifting slowly towards a massive flat "ceiling" just above it, invisible from the ground below. It is a screen showing a starry sky, and they're close enough to see the pixels. The singularity has occurred, and they're inside a simulation!

(Please do not comment to tell me how the singularity would "really" work. Tell Orson Scott Card! It's his book!)

Neither the girl's robotics abilities nor the boy's book offer them any way to get back. So all of a sudden Ender shows up, pulls some kind of deus ex machina crap, and brings them home from space. He and the girl fall in love and run away together? "This... doesn't really resolve anything," I observed in the dream. There's a scene where the portal kid and the mean girl are holding hands. "What do they even have in common aside from being fat!?"

There are also some spies from a semi-evil government organization running around throughout the book, but they never actually do anything. One of them is an invisible vampire? The vampire sadly observes portal boy's machinations, sadly shakes his head, reports passively back to his evil government masters, and never shows up again or has any effect on the plot. My dream-self went, "So, wait. Is this guy from a previous book in the series that I didn't read? Or does he get, like, a spin-off series? There's got to be some reason I'm supposed to care that he's here..." Maybe I shouldn't have read these books out of order.

Anyway, there you have it. That's how the Ender series ended - robot chickens, portal gun, singularity, invisible vampire spy left over from an early draft. No wonder people are always complaining about it!
Ombria in Shadow is kind of like a Miyazaki movie in book form.

Since I came to this conclusion while in the middle of re-reading it earlier, I have been unable to picture Domina Pearl, Faey, and Mag as anything other than Ghibli-animated characters; I can't even remember how I used to visualize them. The condition's less severe with everyone else.
I have not been studying Japanese, working seriously on any of my writing or translation projects, or working at all on my coding project. I have not been reading books, reading manga, or blogging substantively about the things that I do read. I have not been cooking or exercising. I haven't done my laundry. I tried to make a white-haired Blood Elf Hunter named Sybel, catch a boar, lion, panther, couple of birds, and dragonhawk for her, and name them Cyrin, Gules, Moriah, Ter, Tirlith, and Gyld; "Sybel" was taken.

But I totally did convince Mom to read Boatmurdered.
It's nice that there's a Forgotten Beasts of Eld manga, and everything, but you know what McKillip story was made for this? The Riddlemaster series.

Seriously, here are some character descriptions from book one:

Various small spoilers below. )
A rare example of a quest fantasy with a lesbian protagonist, with regrettably wooden prose and uninteresting characters. Eliana, a talented but unworldly music student, gets a new roommate named Mira, whose wounded, secretive brilliance fascinates her. Though her conservatory is sheltered from the outside world, sporadic letters from home and the steadily declining quality of their food warn the students that things outside are falling apart. Their country is trapped in a poorly-understood and never-ending war, crops no longer grow, the cities are clotted with starving refugees, and religious fanaticism is on the rise.

When one of Eliana's friends is executed for apostasy, and Mira is taken away, she leaves to find out for herself what's happening to her country. She finds herself in the middle of a revolution, in a position of responsibility over thousands of people.

Eliana's society is logically put together enough, answering most of the questions you might still be asking at the end of a sloppier book. But that's it; it's sensible rather than tactile, and more a stage than a place. Eliana herself feels like a blank slate of a characte. This is forgivable at first - that's what most people in her position are. But later, events require that we believe that there's something of substance to her, something that other people might admire, and it's not clear what that's supposed to be. Nothing's changed. Strong supporting characters can salvage this sort of situation - I mean, that's basically all Neil Gaiman ever does - but we don't have them here. Mira, the intense girl who keeps secrets, became the most interesting character purely by virture of disappearing before explaining herself.

I can't really recommend the book on its own merits, but it might be interesting as a foil to similar books - whatever that genre is that's just bildungsromans in which the protagonist's coming-of-age is enmeshed in his or her ability to successfully bring about political change.* The dynamics of Eliana's relationships aren't quite what they usually are for this sort of protagonist. However, it so far (it's the first book in a duology) hasn't given any indication that it will diverge radically from the pattern in any other way. If Eliana and Mira don't join forces and save the day with the power of love in book two, it'll be because Eliana had to make do with the power of revenge-for-dead-girlfriend instead.


* And you know, I worry that the ubiquity of this genre this gives kids unrealistic ideas about political engagement. I promise, you guys, you'll still be genuine and worthy grown-ups if your candidate loses this time around. Puberty isn't arrested or anything.

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