Posts Tagged With: Worlds Without End

Not Really Weekly Linkroll

So, last Sunday, I mentioned that the weekly link post wasn’t doing it for me anymore. However, I still find links that I must.share.with.everyone because that’s just how I am.

I decided that a more random approach might be worth a try. Random, in that there won’t be a set day during the week these posts will go up. And perhaps random in that I’ll post them whenever I have a certain number. I’m thinking right now that 5 is a good number. I like 5. (of course, that could change; hence random)

But what do you know? Today the number’s 5 and I already have that many.

Do I Look Like a Baby Killer?
Kat Richter talks about Planned Parenthood and what inspired her to become a clinic escort.

Being good can be a shortcut. There is no shortcut to being good.
Scott Lynch on the magical secret shortcut to becoming a successful writer.

69 reasons not to send a message to space
Rico Simpkins at Worlds Without End brings up some reasons the METI project might be a tad premature. As I said on Twitter the other day, it’s always good to lurk for a while before commenting.

Gender Policing of Girls in Children’s Sports
Tracy I at Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty on gender policing. When I was a kid, I was a “tomboy” with short hair, so yeah, I know where she’s coming from.

Sometimes. Writing. Sometimes.
Yes, writing is like this. Amanda Ching knows the score.

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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin – A Review

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jemisin cover

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky, seat of the ruling Arameri family. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.

With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate — and gods and mortals — are bound inseparably.


I’ve now read two books in the women of genre fiction challenge. The first was from 1816. This new one is from 2010. I must admit that when it comes to fiction, I am a modern girl. Where Frankenstein left me somewhat disappointed, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms did just the opposite. I adore this book.

N.K. Jemisin‘s debut novel (the first of a trilogy) was a lot of fun to read. The story caught me right away, and my only real problem with it was the last part where the narrator’s tone changes. It does that for a reason (Although the more I think about it, I don’t think that shift was necessary. But whatever, it didn’t ruin the story.), but it was still somewhat startling. I just didn’t like that tone as well as I did the previous one.

Because Yeine Darr is a cool character to follow and listen to as she tells her tale. Given what the odds are against her, she’s rather amazing. Brave, clever, sarcastic: she’s all that. The world Jemisin creates is fascinating, too. So many countries (um, about 100,000, I’m guessing), so much intrigue: it all fits together quite well. I’m curious how things will play out in the rest of the series.

And then there are the gods. Apparently, there was a big war between the many gods of this world, and only one of them won. The rest were then enslaved to the Arameri, the extended family that rules over the rest of the 100,000 kingdoms. Yeine meets four of these gods when the family patriarch calls her to the capital city to fight for her right to inherit his position. They both help and hinder her in her quest to survive and discover who killed her mother. I found myself particularly fond of the trickster god Sieh and the warrior goddess Zhakkarn. The Nightlord, I’m torn about, as is everyone in the story. He’s like a mix of Morpheus from Sandman, Dante from Adrian Phoenix’s Maker’s Song series, and, well, Angel.

The Nightlord is a bit of a brooder. Which is understandable. He could destroy the universe if he wanted to, but he’s enslaved to be one of Yeine’s rival’s boytoys. I know I’d brood if I were in his position.

I’m rambling, but The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a fun story to ramble on about. One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much, besides the story itself and the characters, is Jemisin’s prose. She has a way with a phrase, and she came up with what may be the best metaphor for a woman’s orgasm ever. (Not telling. You just have to read and find out.)

And similes like this:

p. 71 And the sound was carried along as the earth rolled over like a sleepy child…

p. 91 In my land the forests were thick and wet and dark as mysteries…

I want to dive into that last sentence, and there are many like it.

I definitely recommend The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to anyone who’s in the mood for a good fantasy read. 4.4/5

 

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – A Review

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English: Cropped portrait of Mary Shelley

I saw — with shut eyes, but acute mental vision — I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world. – Mary Shelley


This is my first review as part of the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge. For some reason, now seemed the time in my life to finally read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. I don’t know why I haven’t read it before now. The original Frankenstein is one of my favorite movies from childhood and Young Frankenstein is my favorite comedy. You’d think I would have wanted to investigate the source material.

The question puzzles me. Although I have at least one suspicion that I’ll talk about below.

You all know how Frankenstein came to be, right? Mary Shelley wrote the novel because she and her travel companions were stuck inside during a spate of rainy weather near Geneva, Switzerland in 1816. The group, including Shelley’s lover and future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley; Lord Byron; John Polidori; and Shelley’s stepsister (and Byron’s lover) Claire Claremont, challenged each other to see who could write the best horror story. Polidori came up with the first vampire novel, The Vampyre, and Shelley created what many consider to be the first science fiction novel. The other three? They got distracted, I guess.

I found Frankenstein to be a fascinating, albeit stumbling, read, telling the tale of Victor Frankenstein, a young man obsessed with creating life. When he succeeds, he immediately regrets what he’s done and is revolted by the results. The resulting creature doesn’t take its creator’s disgust well and mayhem ensues.

That basic story, I just love. Mad scientists and monsters are one of my favorite sf tropes, and this is the beginning of that. I also love the monster. The tale of his orphanhood after Frankenstein rejects him is heartbreaking and made me wish that the Karloff character in the Universal film had been allowed to speak. Can you imagine Karloff telling that story? *swoon*

toast and tea and tales of betrayal--wouldn't that have been great?

Toast and tea and tales of betrayal–wouldn’t that have been great?

Several points of the novel give me trouble, though.

The framing story, for example, is kind of iffy. It involves letters from an unrelated character to his sister telling her about the journey to the North Pole that he’s undertaken and the strange man he rescues from icy seas along the way. That fellow is Victor Frankenstein, who is chasing after his creation to exact revenge for all the murderous havoc he’s inflicted on Frankenstein’s family. According to the edition of Frankenstein I own (Limited Editions Club © 1934), Percy Shelley encouraged Mary to expand the original story, and the frame sections are the result. I wonder if the story would have been just fine without them; we spend a lot of time with Captain Walton before discovering that he’s not our protagonist. Kind of irritating.

The next problem I had with Frankenstein may be the reason it took me so long to read it in the first place: the language. Nineteenth century fiction and I have always had a troubled relationship. Too many words! Can I blame reading Hemingway as a kid for this? I don’t know, I just find a lot of Victorian-era works of fiction to be incredibly verbose. One of the reasons Herman Melville is one of my favorite authors of that time period is because his style moved away from that, heading toward the twentieth century before everyone else did. Mark Twain, too: I like his way of writing quite a bit.

Shelley, on the other hand, breaks no new ground with her prose style. While Sir Walter Scott credited the author’s “happy power of expression,” I found stretches of the book to be clunky and annoying.

Perhaps, though, that’s because I found Victor Frankenstein to be even more annoying, and that rubbed off on everything else. I’m going to make a bold statement here.

Victor Frankenstein is a putz!

Gah! What an aggravating little man!

Just a note: there are spoilers below. If you haven’t read the book, you might want to skip to the last couple paragraphs.

 
Now, I get that his unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions is an important part of his character and an important part of the story and his self-loathing comes from that. But why does he have to be such a drama queen about it?

Hm, it just occurred to me that one of my big problems with the story might be another groundbreaking device on Shelley’s part. Let’s think this through. Frankenstein creates a man who is hideous in appearance, and yet extremely strong, hardy, as well as being a bit of a genius who defeats him at every turn. How did our hero, who doesn’t come across as very brilliant at all, do this? That was driving me nuts while I was reading, but I think now of all the robot and computer stories written that show how technology will defeat its creators (us) in the long run. Was Frankenstein the first place this trope shows up, as well? I wonder now.

But that doesn’t forgive Victor for the stupidity that gets his wife killed. When the creature tells Frankenstein that he’ll be with him on his wedding night, Victor assumes he’s going to try to kill him, even though the daemon (as Victor calls him) has already killed several of his loved ones with the admitted purpose to make Frankenstein miserable. It never occurs to our hero that his creation is coming for his wife, until she’s already dead.

Argh!

 
**End of spoilers**

 
I also wonder why, if Frankenstein had the skill to make this brilliant, hardy man he had to make him ugly? Was this strictly to feed the trope that ugly people are inherently evil? It reminds me of Sanjuro, where, before Mifune’s character sets them straight, the young samurai are fooled into thinking that Mutsuta is corrupt just because he’s homely. It’s a dumb stereotype, even 200 years ago.

Okay, enough grumbling. Time to sum up.

I’m glad I finally read Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. While I wish it were better-written (from my twenty-first century perspective), I think the monster Shelley created is fabulous, and I’m grateful for the influence the book gave to so much fiction that I do enjoy. It’s worth the read just to see that influence and to meet the original mad scientist who “tampered in God’s domain.” 2.6/5

Categories: Books/Authors, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge

wogf_250I don’t normally do reading challenges. Not that I’m all superior to them or anything. I just hate taking on obligations I may not be able to meet. That, and, well yeah, I’ll read what I want when I want, thanks very much, is usually how I feel.

That said, this year’s challenge from Worlds Without End caught my eye on Sunday, and I decided to sign on. That challenge is to read 12 books by 12 women genre authors in 12 months. Looking over the list of possibilities, it reminded me that there is still so much to read, and I hadn’t read as many authors on the list as I wish I had.

Time to amend that.

Although for me, it’s going to be 12 books in 6 months, because of the whole just discovering this two days ago thing. Fortunately, I read fairly quickly.

The other aspect of this challenge is that I have to review all 12 of those books. Blog post material!

Here’s what I’m going to read (Note that I’ve not read any of these books before and I made it a point to choose authors I haven’t read before either, for the most part.):

I’m actually excited to read all of these, not just the ones I commented on. And the first one’s already done; just need to write the review. Oh, Victor.

What do you think of reading challenges in general and this one in particular? Are there books by the authors above you think are better? (I can change what I’m reading any time.)

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