I haven’t really been posting much. A few technical issues with my blog started the slowdown, but they weren’t the main issue. Whilst I like writing the reviews, it makes reading feel like a job. Not only that, but writing reviews cut into the time I had to write stories. Being consistent with my writing is hard enough without a blog.
In other words, I’m not very good at blogging.
Not sure what I’ll do with this blog going forward: might just follow my Book Bingo challenge and a few big reviews, while mostly focusing on my writing.
Since I’ve stopped reviewing, I’ve completed a novella about a telepathic parasitic tree fungus with shitty neighbours. Hopefully that’ll be edited and out in the world soon. And this time I mean it. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I will not rewrite the whole thing again.
For now, I’m going to quickly go through my 2019 Book Bingo Card. At the end of the year, this is what my card looks like:
I got four bingos: two verticals, one along the diagonal, and one along the top using the Magic Swords tile I nominated as a free square. Not bad, but I bet I can do better this year. I have my card for this year, and it looks like a fun one, but for now, let’s look at the books that fill this card.
Has Monsters: The Dunwich Horror – H.P. Lovecraft
A big scary invisible monster is summoned by a half-human sorcerer with hidden tentacles. Lovecraft at his best and only somewhat problematic. Wilbur Whateley and his grandfather are creepy, and even though I know how Lovecraft stories all end, I was still interested as the story built up all this mystery about what was going on behind the barred-up windows in their house. And having a horde of villages chase a giant invisible monster was exciting, even though it showcased just how bad Lovecraft was at writing dialog.
Non-Fiction: The Art of War – Sun Tzu
I’ve had this book on my kindle for years, and military tactics have always interested me, so I’m surprised it took me this long to read The Art of War. I’m going to assume that everyone has at least heard of this book. For those who haven’t, it’s a 5th century compilation of Chinese military advice. Sun Tzu’s tenets are broken up into small points in short chapters, so it’s a quick look into military tactics that doesn’t get bogged down or boring.
I see so many battles in books and movies with stupid tactics, and I wish more writers would read Sun Tzu.
Title Starts With H: The Haunting of Tram Car 015 – P. Djѐlí Clark
Not quite exactly what it says on the cover, but there is something weird going on in Tram Car 015. And I mean weird even for an alternate timeline where the barrier between our world and the magic world has been broken and Djinn and other magical creatures have become helped build Cairo into the most developed city in the world. A magical police procedural set in this alternate 1902 as a vote for women’s suffrage is taking place.
I read another short story in this universe called A Dead Djinn in Cairo which was also amazing and showed more of the creatures in this world. I Read Tram Car 015 first, but you really should start with Dead Djinn.
I read this entire novella on my kindle while taking train trips in Japan, so despite the Egyptian setting, it will always remind me very much of Osaka.
Set on Mercury or Venus: Clash by Night – Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore
This novella was the first thing I read by Husband and Wife duo Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, and I found it quite entertaining. A tale of mercenary armies with their own rules of law on a tropical Venus. It’s just so fun reading a pre-Mariner 2 Venus story. Back in the days where scientists speculated that Venus could be Ocean, Swamp, or Desert, rather than hellscape.
Clash by Night is an Ocean Venus. Or at the least, a Venus where Humans are most comfortable in the Ocean. It’s a story with an action-packed ocean battle, along with a main character who wonders just what the point to all the fighting is.
Space Opera: A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martin
I’ve heard some people call this one more of a planetary romance than a space opera, since it takes place all on one planet. But I think that any story that has an interstellar empire with a massive sun throne can make the case for space opera. A Memory Called Empire features really unique memory/consciousness transfer technology and all the ramifications of that, an intricately imagined political system and culture, and a story that shows how someone can fall in love with an imperial culture that threatens their own. Really fun story, but the fact that it all takes place over such a short time with nearly every moment accounted for was a bit odd.
A.I/Artificial Human/Robot Protagonist: The Detective and the Tea Master – Aliette de Bodard
A murder mystery set in de Bodard’s Xuya Universe (a series featuring a space civilization with heavy Vietnamese influences). The private investigator is a woman with a dark secret past and her unsuspecting assistant is a spaceship that brews medicinal tea. Xuya stories tend to be hit or miss for me, but this one was a hit.
Title Starts With M: Magic for Liars – Sarah Gailey
This felt like reading a really good Harry Potter fanfic at times. It’s a murder mystery set in a magical high school, in a world where the magical world is hidden from the non-magical world. However, the teens in the story aren’t as cut off from the non-magical world as in Harry Potter, as they use mobile phones and even make Hogwarts jokes. So, it has that Harry Potter feel, but the world is unique enough to make for a compelling stand-alone story.
Ivy gamble is a private eye called to investigate a suspected murder at the magical school where her twin sister works. Ivy has no magic, and has always been jealous of her sister’s powers. Coming to the magic school she’d always wanted to go to is hard for Ivy, and while doing her investigation she also works on her relationship with her sister and reinvents herself while romancing one of the other teachers.
Been Adapted as a TV Series: Runaways Vol.4: True Believers – Brian K. Vaughn
So, why did I start a series at Vol. 4? Well, I’d heard a lot of good things about the series, I love Brian K. Vaughn’s work on Saga, and when I went to Supanova Sydney they had Issues of Runaways for pretty cheap. Unfortunately, Vol. 4 was the earliest issue I could get, but I figured it’d be worth grabbing it and seeing what I thought. This series is about a group of teens who discover their parents are supervillains and aren’t happy with the revelation. Vol. 4 seems to be the start of a new story arc, and whilst I’m obviously missing a lot of background, I still enjoyed the setting and the characters. I’ll have to seek out the other issues. Or watch the TV show.
Also, pet velociraptor is an awesome superpower.
Australian Author: Boy Swallows Universe – Trent Dalton
For the Australian Author tile I was planning on reading something by George Turner, but one of my co-workers kept nagging at me to read this book, so I used Boy Swallows Universe as my Australian Author book. I know that shouldn’t have stopped me from reading more George Turner, but I guess without the motivation I just read a lot of newer books instead.
Boy Swallows Universe is a quirky story about two boys growing up in Brisbane with a drug dealer step-dad an ex-prisoner babysitter. There is a super-natural element… maybe. Would not classify this as a science fiction or fantasy book though; very literary/contemporary. Very interesting and hard to put down.
Title Starts with V: Vigilance – Robert Jackson Bennett
This book made me really angry; a reaction I assume is completely intentional. In the world of Vigilance, mass shootings are staged, broadcast, and monetarised with the justification that the American population needs to remain vigilant. This slaughter isn’t just tolerated but celebrated. People walk around armed, imagining that if they were in a Vigilance shooting they’d be the hero that takes out the active shooter and saves the day. People fantasise about the heroic stuff they’d do in such a situation, and when they watch other people caught in these situations try to run, they see them as cowards.
I’m Australian, so the American gun culture is not something I have had to personally experience. What got to me more than the gun obsession (which did still get to me) was the depiction of a media that is so concerned with appealing to a certain money-making demographic that they’ll manipulate a mall shooting to appeal to their target’s narrative. People who get shot are blamed for being unprepared, neo-nazis are just having ‘a discussion about the race’, an Asian woman who fights back against a shooter is replaced by a white woman in the editing phase.
There is so much to talk about in this novella. It’s an amazing dystopia with a lot of action and a very heavy-handed message. My big complaint was the ending. Hopefully this isn’t too spoilery, but there was a character who I was hoping would have a better outcome.
Has Ghosts: Dragon Pearl – Yoon Ha Lee
A children/middle grade book by Yoon Ha Lee. Contains magical shapeshifting foxes, goblins, dragons, tigers, and ghosts all on a space warship looking for a magical terraforming pearl. Good fun all around, and being for a younger audience it is a lot more accessible than other works by Lee.
Has Superheroes: Avengers; Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – Joe Casey, Scott Colins, and Will Rosado
An Avenger’s comic series with a real old school feel. Cool seeing a very different take from the MCU Avengers, and there’s some great artwork. Still, it was mostly just an okay story. The Wasp is an Avenger but she rarely does anything. The Hulk storyline doesn’t go anywhere, and I’d have liked to see more of Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch as Avengers. Hank Pym’s storyline in the second arc was my favourite part.
Has Dinosaurs: Uncanny Issue 23
The Dinosaur Issue. Has some hits and some misses, but the hits were really good. The highlight is Brooke Bolander’s The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who was Made of Meat, a silly, fun twisted fairy tale that was nominated for a Hugo Award.
Steampunk or Silkpunk: Senlin Ascends – Josiah Bancroft
Set in a vaguely steampunk world with a massive Tower of Babel. Senlin and his wife visit the tower on their honeymoon and get separated. We follow Senlin as he climbs the impossibly tall, multi-levelled tower in search of his wife, dealing with all the dangers that were definitely not mentioned in his travel guide. Coincidently, I read this while watching an anime called Made in Abyss, which follows a young girl going down an impossibly deep multi-levelled pit in search of her mother. Good combo.
For a bonus, I’m also going to mention that I finished JY Yang’s Silkpunk Tensorate series this year. The previous novella, The Descent of Monsters was a bit meh to me, but I loved Ascent to Godhood
Has Mechs: United States of Japan – Peter Tieryas
Man in the High Castle with Mechs. I didn’t like the original Man in the High Castle, but I did like it’s worldbuilding. Thought combining the ideas and premise of the original story with cool mech fights would be cool, but still didn’t have enough mech battles or Man in the High Castle for me.
Military Science Fiction: Honor Harrington: The Short Victorious War – David Weber
The third book in the Honor Harrington series. The Honor Harrington series is a staple of military science fiction and follows captain Honor Harrington and her telepathic alien cat through a war between Honor’s Star Kingdom of Manticore and the People’s Republic of Haven. Short Victorious War is book 3 of the series and starts with war still not declared. The previous two books in the series both chronicled incidents between the two superpowers that Honor was involved in, but it’s only now that open hostilities are becoming inevitable. I do enjoy the series, but not enough to binge it. One Honorverse book a year is probably enough for me.
Written in the 70s: We Who Are About To… – Joanna Russ
I really wanted to love this book. For the first 45% or so I was, until the first climactic confrontation happened, Making most of the book a woman talking to herself. We Who Are About To… is about what really happens when a spaceship with eight passengers is ejected from hyperspace and lands on an unknown planet in an unknown galaxy with no hope of rescue. Seven of the castaways start dreaming about the clichéd planetary colonisation and rebuilding of human civilisation they are going to do. Despite them being eight people with no survival skills. The unnamed narrator realises how dumb that is and wants no part of this whole restarting the human race thing. Her fellow castaways hate her for her pessimism and make it clear that they need every functional womb they have and will not let her opt out. The narrator isn’t going to stop their efforts, but she won’t have children in a re-emerging doomed patriarchy. Her fellow passengers can’t stand her dissent. They can’t stand a woman having that agency. They want to force her into their control, and this part of the story was amazing. It was everything I wanted. I just wish the second half wasn’t such a slog.
Title Starts with E: Eifelheim – Michael F. Flynn
Aliens crash land in a small German village in the 14th Century. Father Dietrich realises they are people rather than demons and sets out to help them/convert them to Christianity. This was so well written that I actually enjoyed reading about aliens converting to Christianity. A unique first contact story which will tell you a lot about life in the Middle Ages. In some parts way too much.
I’d also like to point out that I finished this book in my hotel room the night I went to see the band Ninja Sex Party live in Sydney, so I’m always going to associate this book with Ninja Sex Party.
I’ll be back in a few days with this year’s card. For my Book Bingo Challenge, I have a reading challenge generator which randomly fills my card from a list of nearly 200 challenges. If anyone else would be interested in having their own card for 2020, let me know and I’ll happily make one.