If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed my rants about the movie Gravity (which my head insists on calling Graffiti for some reason) a while back. I didn’t like the film, but that’s not unusual with me and current Hollywood films. However, it then won the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and I wondered if I had watched a completely different film than everyone else. Because really? A film whose only merit is its visual effects is considered an outstanding dramatic presentation? Weak story, no-dimensional characters, and a Perils of Pauline ending that is just a joke are apparently amazing cinema nowadays. You even have someone like James Cameron saying “I think it’s the best space film ever done…” Continue reading
Posts Tagged With: reviews
Daniel José Older
Crossed Genres (July 2012)
I found J.M. McDermott’s Maze to be an interesting read. It’s the latest LibraryThing Early Reviewer book on my TBR list and is quite different from a lot of what I’ve read recently.
Maze is divided into sections: the mazes of four different characters, Maia Station, Joseph, Wang Xin, and Julie Station. They all find themselves trapped in the same place, it would seem. A lot of overlapping characters and places. But these characters each have their own issues to deal with. Having thought about it since I finished the book, I feel like there are four separate mazes (at least) that all lie on top of one another. They interact and yet are somewhat separate. That probably doesn’t make any sense, unless you’ve read the book.
And even then…
I found McDermott’s prose to be solid and, occasionally quite lovely. The stories themselves are dark, violent, and in some cases, downright gross. The book is a mix of genres. Science fiction when we’re in Maia’s maze; she comes from a space station and looks at the maze from a scientific point of view. She’s the only one who does. Julie, Maia’s daughter, is born into the maze and doesn’t really understand the science her mother tries to teach her.
The two men’s stories, as well as Julie’s, are told more from a fantasy/horror point of view. The men both came to the maze from a more prosaic planet Earth, stumbling into it. Well, Wang Xin trips over his bicycle, literally stumbling; Joseph is dragged into the sewer system by a ghost he brings to life.
I found Wang Xin to be the most interesting character of the bunch. Jenny Ghost, who has her own interlude in the book, drags Joseph into the plumbing, but gets to Wang Zin through his eye, and he (as a young boy) believes he can see the future because of this. A lot of things happen that convince him he’s right, and even when things don’t match up to his vision, he’s still convinced.
Wang Xin’s section of the book, his maze, is also the most disturbing. Part of his vision includes two women he is sure are in love with him. They aren’t and he ends up treating them badly–raping one, in fact. Xin pays for his bad behavior, and the author’s tearing down of his visions bit by bit was an enjoyable–from this reader’s perspective–part of the payment.
Unlike most fiction I read, Maze has no resolution. Our protagonists never find their way out of their mazes, unless death is the way out. As Joseph says at the end of his story:
We made the best life we could in this terrible place.
This may be frustrating for readers who like a definitive ending to their stories. I didn’t mind it so much. My main problems concerned certain sections that weren’t as well written as others. Joseph’s section, in particular, felt stiffer and more confusing than the rest. And the scene with Parks on the bed reminded me of the first Evil Dead movie, and not in a good way. The grotesqueness of what was done to her felt gratuitous, moreso than other nasty scenes in the book. What was the point?
In general, though, I would recommend Maze. If you’re up for a dark and troubling read with no easy answers, give it a try.
|The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine
Lynne M. Thomas, Editor
Apex Book Company (October 3013)
I received an electronic copy of The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review. Gotta say I was pleased. Continue reading →
|Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas
324 pages, Candlemark & Gleam (February 2012)
As you can see by the publication date, I’m a little late to the party with Matchbox Girls. But, then again, books don’t really go bad (for the most part), and I reviewed one from the nineteenth century last year, so, you know? I’m not going to worry about it. Just wanted to point out that this book has been out for a little while.
And I’m sorry I didn’t get around to reading it sooner. Continue reading →
LibraryThing gave me free e-copies of Mister October Volumes I and II: An Anthology in Memory of Rick Hautala as part of their Early Reviewer program. I had never heard of Rick Hautala (even though he’s published dozens of novels and short stories), but I had heard of several of the authors included in this anthology. So I was looking forward to checking out this collection. Continue reading →
So, I’ve been pondering the Bechdel Test lately. You know the Bechdel Test, correct? Like it says in that link there, it’s a set of rules created by Alison Bechdel (and Liz Wallace) to determine gender bias in a film. Those rules?
1. The film has to have at least two [named] women in it,
2. who talk to each other,
3. about something other than a man. (Not limited to romantic relationships, for example two sisters talking about their father doesn’t pass)
Passing this test doesn’t make your film good, necessarily. And some really great films have failed the test. It’s there to point out whether a film (good or bad) has interesting women in it who interact with each other. Continue reading →
So, it’s January and 2013 is over. (I know. You probably already figured out both of those facts.) I have one more book to review for the WOGF Challenge, but that just arrived in the mail on Tuesday and I haven’t finished it yet.
Instead, I’m going to review the first book I’ve finished for 2014. That would be Justin Robinson’s City of Devils, published last year by Candlemark & Gleam.
I came to Up the Walls of the World knowing very little of James Tiptree, Jr. I knew that the author’s real name was Alice Bradley Sheldon and that her publisher kept her identity secret until 1977 (the year before Up the Walls of the World was released). The science fiction community argued over who Tiptree was (some sort of government spy perhaps) and what gender (both Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison assumed male).
But that’s all I knew. I’d never read her stuff, even though several of her books have been on our bookshelves for ages. So, it was with a lot of curiosity and excitement that I started reading what was Tiptree’s first novel for my next WOGF challenge book. It held up to that approach, I’m happy to say.
Up the Walls of the World is a complicated tale, starting in the brain of the Destroyer, an entity larger than a solar system moving through space in existential pain. It considers itself evil and a betrayer of its kind.
Tiptree introduces us next to an entity that can pick up on that evil. She is a Tyrenni, part of a race of creatures resembling manta rays who ride the winds of a large gas planet’s atmosphere and communicate telepathically and through the changing colors of their bodies. Something is destroying the Tyrenni’s planet.
Next we meet a group of plain old humans. Well, not exactly. They’re a group of supposedly telepathic folk conducting experiments at a US Navy laboratory.
The book moves amongst all three of these. I was most interested in the Tyrenni because I had never read anything like them before. Tiptree did a great job of creating a wholly other sentient species that is utterly unhuman, and she still found space to play with gender and society. In Tyrenni culture, males are the childbearers and hold a higher place in society because of it. The females are the explorers and have all the fun.
The humans took time to grow on me. I initially found the group’s medical doctor (and our introduction to this aspect of the book) to be annoying in his attitudes and near fetishization of the team’s only Black member and IT chief, Margaret Omali. But there’s an aspect to Daniel Dann’s character that reveals itself slowly through the book and helped diffuse some of that.
The Destroyer itself is simply brilliant and the reveal of its true mission made me smile, as did the way Tiptree wove all three elements of the book together into a satisfying conclusion.
Up the Walls of the World is one of the most original books of any genre I’ve read in a long time and a fun read. I ended up loving most of her characters, especially Tivonel, the first Tyrenni we meet. And the book kept me guessing most of the way. Highly recommended. 4.6/5
I also wonder if this is where Whedon got Faith’s catchphrase, because there it is on page 133.
“Five by five!” Costakis calls out again, and then Winona exclaims in a strained voice, “Doctor Catledge, this is wild. I know we’re getting them.”