Friday, May 12, 2017

A Book Review

"I prefer the old betrayals, the ones based on trust."

The revelation least tied to the plot of Jeff Vandermeer's Borne rises gently like a wave. It's relatively inconsequential, not like the giant, stinking biotech bear that glides over the ruined city where the scavenger Rachel lives. The characters never discuss it, but by that time the book has revealed its long argument about the value of unspoken truths.

As a fan of the Southern Reach Trilogy, I was looking forward to more of the same - New Weird from one of its masters, biological horror and descriptions of monsters I could pore over. There are passages I mentally marked down as lessons in wording.

More than that, though, it's clear that this is a book about family. It's about empty-nest syndrome, about a parent's fear of raising their child badly, or their fear of the choices that child could make of their own volition. It is about holding a romantic partnership together for a long time under great stresses, and it is about how to express trust through conversations and through silence and through telling one another stories.

I feel the need to find flaws. None of them, though, change the fact that this is a book that left me word-drunk and looking for ways to use what I had learned. (As I write this I'm in a 737, in turbulence. I am not a nervous flier. Nevertheless, with everything going on I think this: as long as it is not too rough for me to write, I am okay.)

In Borne, Rachel and Wick are both consistently and rigorously realized. Rachel especially imbues the book with her own themes of trap-making, of memory, and of her relationships with her strange city and the creatures within it. When all hope is gone, she keeps walking, keeps fixing her eyes on the beautiful things she wants to save. It's a carefully-woven novel that got at my marrow.

(Here is a list of less organized impressions: Wick is so great, as a child of divorced parents some of this novel was difficult, and I'm going to watch the heck out of that movie version.)

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 in Star Wars

In January, The Force Awakens hype was still in full swing. By December, Rogue One emerged as both a very different and very similar phenomenon. In the world of Star Wars books, there were fewer novels targeted to adults this year than last year: Wookieepedia says there were four this year, compared to last year's seven. Going over them numerically doesn't mean much except that I was bound to fit all of them on the list.

A lot of my Star Wars books discussion happens on podcasts these days. After the collapse of the ForceCast I joined Blaster Canon and Western Reaches, the latter of which also has a Goodreads group.

I talked about some more of my Star Wars work on my other year-end post. Here's a look at my top 5 for 2016. Thanks to Del Rey for providing me review copies and working with me on the HoloNet.

2016 in Books

2016 has been a hard year. This post isn't about that: there's little I could add to the grim, uncertain political commentary of the day. For me personally, it's a year that would have been excellent if it weren't so bad: I gained new opportunities this year and finished my 100-book challenge, setting up for what will hopefully be a year of writing in 2017. There's certainly enough to write about.

Last year I set several goals: to do official Star Wars work, to read more, and to read more books by women. I met that first goal in April, talking about one of my favorite characters from the Star Wars novels. As of Dec. 27 when this post was written I have 105 books on the list of what I've read (including one repeat read that I added to the challenge by mistake), 63 of which were by women. That includes collections edited by women and this manga studio, but not Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Like 2015, 2016 was a year of finding new favorites.While my reading habits had stagnated a bit before, I'm much more versed in contemporary science fiction and fantasy now. With that comes more series. It's harder to recommend series than stand-alone books, but with that comes the thrill of waiting for the next one: I think any one of these would make a compelling TV series.

There was no new Ann Leckie novel this year. We wait in hope.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Sometimes I write fiction, I suppose? Prompt based on Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge.


    There was something growing.
    She knew her mistake as soon as she took two steps. Shouldn’t have done that, Green. Shouldn’t have trusted the filter to still work out here. Should have checked for corrosion. What would Harris say? Thomas would snort and roll her eyes, her whole helmet tipped back in one single laugh that rocked her armor. Then Thomas would forgive her before Green died.

    Green’s throat was tingling.
    She tugged her helmet off, hating the click of the back against the now-dead neural port. With what had once been a functioning network array now turned into five grams of metal at the back of her skull, the port just felt like an invasion, a scab she needed to peel off.

    (Not yet, Green. You’re not that far gone yet.)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 in Star Wars

We can't help but look back. For me, Star Wars-flavored nostalgia is Borders and suburbs, the New Jedi Order, the Prequels and the never-canon, always-important Tales and Infinities. In 2015 we're fully surrounded by the new canon, which was all set up to take us to The Force Awakens. Disney has started their own line of young adult and young reader books, and I've devoured those too. (The Original Trilogy Journey to the Force Awakens novels and Lost Stars were sent to me; Before the Awakening was not.)

Part of me was afraid that The Force Awakens would kill my interest in Star Wars. In the worst of all possible worlds, there wouldn't even be a reason for the death - I would like the movie, but wouldn't be able to put a finger on my own reasons for not being interested in the books, not being interested in the characters. That didn't turn out to be a problem. The weekend after seeing The Force Awakens I went out to pick up Before the Awakening in the same kind of loud, excitable rush as ever before. (And New Republic: Bloodline? Tell me more.) The Force Awakens had flaws, but I'm not particularly interested in writing a critical review - I enjoyed the new characters too much, enjoyed the feeling of seeing an impossibly new Star Wars story on screen again too much.

I became involved with Star Wars this year like never before - in March I started writing the HoloNet Digest for Del Rey Books, which now lives on tumblr. This has been a wonderful first step into a larger world, and I'll keep working with them and hope to start some new projects in the new year. I'm incredibly thankful to be able to be a little part of the Star Wars family.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 in Books

This year was a starting lap. I determined to use my Goodreads account more consistently, and to tally the number of books I read and the number of books by women. Then, I could use these as benchmarks to set goals for next year. I set a goal of 50, and passed it about halfway through the year.

Overall, it was an incredible year for books, and the first in a long time in which I truly added several to my ever-shifting mental top 10 list. Now, there are some books on that list which aren't either Ancillary Justice or books I read while in school. I also finished my New Jedi Order re-read in August. It feels like a long time ago now; there will be more about that in my Star Wars end-of-year post to come.

As far as goal-setting, I now know that 100 books next year should be easily doable, since I checked off 91 this year without changing my behavior significantly. (Several more are in progress, but I don't have high hopes for finishing either Mason & Dixon or The Fellowship of the Ring in the next 24 hours.) The range included Star Wars books, re-reads, young reader books, novels, nonfiction, lengthy series, and, well,  Mason & Dixon, mostly. I did count books that I re-read, as they took up time, but tried not to include a lot of them. Surprising myself, four of my reads this year were non-fiction, three of which (H is for Hawk, Clipping Through by Leigh Alexander, and Leaving Orbit) were excellent.

Before deciding whether I wanted to add a goal of reading more books by women, I wanted to see whether there was even a lack to begin with. C. J. Cherryh, whose books I discovered, adored, lapsed on, and then again devoured, probably skewed the list a bit all by herself. The end tally comes to 39 to 52 in favor of men, so I'll be making more of an effort to read books by women next year, with a goal of half and half.