Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Did Not Finish

So, if you're coming here looking for in-depth reviews and blurb-worthy pull quotes, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. I've given up all my noble intentions of finding something nice to say about every book I read and trying to be thorough and coherent in my thoughts. Instead, I'm just going to write about books the way I talk about books, which is all emotion and little thought.

Okay. So, there was this book that I was looking forward to reading because it was a fantasy/sci-fi hybrid about a girl who falls in love with a (male) harpy, which sounded like something that would entertain the hell out of me. But, what this book really and truly was was something completely different. Have you ever read one of those awful Native American romance novels from back in the day? You know the ones where the innocent white girl ends up living with a Native tribe and falling in love with the Alpha Warrior (usually after a bout of "lovemaking" that is really rape), but she can't love him because her mother was kidnapped and.or killed by members of this same tribe and her father (and the entire town) believes the Natives to be brutal inhuman killers but her love for the Alpha Warrior is enough to build a bridge and make the villainous villagers realize their mistake? THIS IS THAT NOVEL. Only the Native Americans are replaced by "harpies", which aren't even really harpies, but a species indigenous to the planet that has been colonized by earthlings sometime in the future. Oh, and the harpies are brown, except for the Alpha Harpies, which are golden. This is a seriously racist, imperialist, sexist piece of garbage and I could only get through about a third of it before I gave up in disgust. (Had I not been reading it digitally, I would have thrown it across the room, then ripped it into pieces and tossed it in the recycling. Pushing the <Delete> button just isn't nearly as satisfying when a book is this offensive.) Maybe the plot got better. Maybe the heroine stopped being so very Mary Sue. Maybe all of the racist bullshit (that isn't really racist bullshit because these are fantasy creatures, duh) got justified or rectified or something later on. Maybe something happened in the 200 or so pages that I didn't read that made this story brilliant. But, I wasn't going to finish, even if none of the (very, very, very serious) problems I've already mentioned hadn't existed because the prose was gods awful. It was all short declarative sentences and not a contraction in sight. Remember those stories you wrote in first and second grade? Remember the prose "style" you employed because you were seven and didn't know any better? This whole book was pretty much written in exactly that style.

I'm not sure if I should name the book or not. A couple minutes of Googling would probably lead you right to it. I mean, I'm sure the author spent a shit-ton of time writing it and it's her baby and she's probably really proud of it and although it's a really, really small possibility, there's still a possibility that if I name the book the author, or someone from her publisher, will come across this and read it and it'll make her feel bad, which would make me feel bad. On the other hand, that's a miniscule possibility and naming the book may keep someone from wasting their money on it. Grrr. Okay. A compromise. I'll name it, but I won't link to it. The book is 'The Flight of the Golden Harpy' by Susan Klaus. It;s got an average of four stars over on GoodReads, but the reviews seem to be fairly evenly divided into the five-star and no-star or one-star camps, so I'm not the only one who had issues. Apparently, though there are some serious fangirls out there and gods bless them. It just goes to show that the right reader is out there for every book.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ahhhh...That's Better

So, Queen of the Tearling didn't really work for me. But, shortly after completing it, I read The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, and everything that didn't work for me in the Johansen was "fixed" in the Pearson. The plots of the two novels aren't really similar at all and, if they weren't both fantasies that I read close together, I'd likely not be comparing them at all. But, I did read them close together and, while I didn't hate the Johansen, it was a deeply flawed novel, in my opinion. The Pearson isn't perfect (I don't think there is such a thing as a perfect novel), but the elements I found troublesome in the Johansen--world-building and character-development chief among them--were so well done here as to create, for me, a startling contrast.

While very, very different in their approaches to creating such, both novels take place on a post-technical Earth, in a society vaguely medieval in nature. However, where the world-building in QotT was vague, with only sporadic clues as to how the old world ended and the new one began TKoD without spending excessive page count on back story, still manages to convey exactly why technology no longer works in her world and how society first began to rebuild itself. The characters in Kiss are fully-realized; her women are strong and capable without sliding into Mary Sue territory; both male leads have their attractions,but also some big, big secrets and flaws; her "villains" seem less like over-the-top mustache-twirlers than deeply committed, possibly misguided people whose agenda doesn't necessarily align neatly with that of our heroine. If you're looking for a sweeping fantasy of a post-tech human society, I can't recommend The Kiss of Deception highly enough. It is a YA novel, in contrast to the Johansen, which is being marketed to an adult audience, but it is, in my opinion, far more mature than QotT and worth the read.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Adieu, Jay Lake

I had started a post on a book that was an antidote to 'The Queen of the Tearling' and had planned to finish it up and post it today. But, as soon as I got to work this morning, I heard that Jay Lake had died and my plans changed.

I didn't know Jay well--we met a handful of times and attended the same haggis party once--but the few interactions I had with him made me realize he was genuinely good people. I am deeply grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know him, however slightly. I feel as if my life was made just a little bit better for having crossed his path. I know that my reading life was made a whole lot better for having read his words.

My heart goes out to his family and friends. If I, who hardly knew him, am feeling this grief, I can't imagine how much worse it must be for those who were close to him.

Good bye, Jay Lake. You are missed.