Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why I Write About Brown Elves

A few weeks ago, an author I respect (who is a shade of brown, not pure bleached white like my almost-aryan ass) said something like this: "I don't like brown elves." That was explained by a belief that tradition is important, and her European ancestry was just as important as her native american culture -- but mixing the two waters them both down. Elves are a European myth. Therefore they are white, and should remain so. Extrapolating, we should not change or use other culture's mythologies in ways they have not been used before, approved by dead people.

Obviously, I disagree. The author in question is of two ancestries. She had to have grown up in a household that celebrated both. And were they watered down? Have both cultures been lost, their importance and history ruined by impure mixing and changing? Since she professes to value them both, I doubt it.

The title of this piece references a wonderful essay by Terry Brooks: Why I Write About Elves. If you've never read it, you should before you go any further. (although the amazon shlick sheen on the essay is new. And unlikeable)

TL;DR. Terry Brooks writes fantasy because fantasy, like Science Fiction (albeit SF is more direct) speaks about the real world, and real issues. But spirituality and culture are real. Racism is real. And yet these are stories that SF rarely engages in, because they are less tech-focused. And nobody cares what colour you are when you can just change it at any time.

But fantasy has all of that. Fantasy, with its medieval trappings, is full of our modern cultural values, our beliefs and superstitions, and our racism. Arab authors complain of overuse of "those people in the east who wear turbans and live in the desert and abuse their women" in the fantasy genre. The entire Forgotten Realms universe is a shining example: to the East, lies "the Orient."

Keeping elves white only adds to this problem. Segregating fantasy to protect real-world cultural identity isn't the solution to cultural misappropriation. If you've never heard the term "cultural appropriation" it basically means this: The West, esp white americans, are stealing from cultures (most offensively Native American and Asian groups) by wearing headdresses or calling themselves redskins, or forcing anyone who uses a katana to speak with a fake japanese accent (transformers). The argument against this is that anyone who isn't from that culture shouldn't be using these clothing items or saying things a certain way or whatever.

The argument for is mostly "we're all post-racist and so we should all be able to share! this is America, melting pot of the world where we all come together equally!"

I'd really like the argument for to be true, but it's not. The world is not post-racist. America is not post-racist. One look at how Arabs in the West are treated and you see that cultural emnity and the racism borne of that are alive and well. Our cultures are clashing, and we have no idea how to reconcile them.

Except we do. Every child with parents from two different cultures should know that. Every child from parents of ONE culture should know that. Culture is ephemeral, and is different from home to home. You may share one thing or another, and the distances may grow wider the farther you go from your home, but this is the digital age now. We are all connected, we are all flying around in airplanes to every part of the world, and everyone lives everywhere. Even our animals are "invading" where they weren't before.

Because we brought them.

All this makes it all the more important to write about brown elves.

I treat my cultural appropriations in fantasy novels like I treat tattoo ideas. With rules.

1. Does this fit who I am (what this novel is about)
2. Can I explain why I have this tattoo (is the reason for this use compelling)
3. Does this do harm (does this use reinforce negative stereotypes, either actively or passively)
4. Would I do this exact same thing with a cultural relic of a culture I am closer to? Eg: Would you dress up in a headdress but not a pope-hat? If so: you suck, go die. Or realize you're wrong. Either one.
5. IS IT AWESOME: Y/N (this is really the most important one)

The world I created in Leylined is one of many cultural leftovers. They are clustered in strange ways, and have mixed and moved throughout. Just like me. I have lived many places, and will live in many more. I have learned many languages, and eaten foods from many countries. I am white, I am male, and I am more than that.

We must recognize when we are stealing from a culture, and when we are celebrating hand in hand. When I make fun of christianity, I must be ready to do the same to Islam, or even Buddhism (tho it's pretty hard to poke fun at buddhism. OHM) When I celebrate the rich culture of native american mythology, I must be ready to admit that christianity had some cool myths too.

Educate yourself on the context of your use. Don't just put angry turban wearing brown people in your deserts wielding scimitars. Learn why those clothes are worn instead of others. Learn why those people look the way they do -- there are many brown people across the earth, and they all look different, just like us poor ass paleskins. We're all human, and in fifty years I hope our kids are all as hot as this foretelling says they will be.

Will it be wrong to write about brown elves then? And white genies? Will anyone care?

Know what you're doing. Realize why you're doing it. And if it's for awesome, if it does awesome, if you know why it's awesome, then keep on truckin'. If it's because of stereotypes, if it reinforces cultural emnity (and not for plot reasons), if it leads to lesser understanding for the reader if not more, then drop it. Change it. You choose every word with care. Now choose your settings.

I don't put every character in a headdress. In fact, I haven't so far. But when I do, it's gonna be great, and they're gonna wear it right.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Camp Nanowrimo! Newbie's Guide/Motivation for all!

Camp! Camp starts tomorrow! No, not the kind you end up getting lots of rashes from (I hope). It's the kind where you get together with some people, prance about like you have laser eyes, and make a lot of beautiful stories! Or ugly ones, you know, it's all your choice in the end.

If you've never heard of NaNoWriMo, or the more relaxed CampNaNoWriMo well, click on the links for maximum information. As a quick synopsis, you're challenged to write 50,000 words in a month, which averages out to 1,337 per day. LEET per day. That's the number you need. Remember that. Because to succeed makes you ELITE. (shut up if this is wrong I don't want to hear it)

I would wager that about 99% of people who have read a book have thought "I'd like to write a book!" and then about 90% of them go "meh, too hard" and never try, and another 9% go "okay i'll give it a shot" try and give up, and then you have the 1% left over that is like EFF YEAH IMMA WRITE BOOKS GET OUTTA MY WAY NEXT MAYA ANGELOU COMIN THROUGH.

YOU are that 1% if you choose to undertake Nano. Camp begins tomorrow. 30 days, you set your own goal, you're put into a nice happy cabin with some nice happy people who will talk at you (hopefully) about your book and be cheerleaders when you need them. You can be a part of a population like those billionaires who screw over our every waking moment god i hate those capitalist schwine why don't we live in utopia space blahWERIHAORHEAWNT SORRY!

Okay back to the writing. The point is, so many people say they're going to start a novel, write a story, do any creative endeavour, and they never do.

Right now, if you're one of those people, because we all were at one point, today is the day you can change that. You know the story you want to write -- it's been sitting in there for a long time. Camp is a place of freedom. Whatever you want to write, be it a 500 word long love poem to rocks or a 500,000-word methamphetamine fueled mega epic, you can do it. Starting tomorrow, starting tonight, just open up a word processor, and write. If you need help, well, if you're reading this you're probably on twitter, so just find @fridaynightwrites, me, @thesprintshack, @nanowordsprints (these guys will be running nearly 24/7) for wordsprints and motivation, or pop on the nanowrimo forums (though don't spend TOO long there. You are supposed to be writing :D)

For example, I'm writing 20,000 words of short stories, which I think is a low target but I missed my 50k goal in March (for that project :P) so I want to make sure I get a success this time, and feel prosperous. Don't feel bad about setting reasonable goals. You don't need to aim for the heavens just to crash and burn. You can take a little hop first. Camp is a good time to hop. November. Well, that's for the heavens. NOVEMBER IS NO JOKE.

For those of you who have done it before, which I think will be most of the people reading this (SO WHY DID I EVEN BOTHER *sobs*) here is my new suggestion that I have been trying to cultivate myself. Writing everywhere. Now I don't really do that, but it's something I want. So I move around when I am writing. Usually I work at my makeshift standing desk (you may have seen the "Writer Pose" photo) but I gravitate from the backyard to the park to the library; changes of scenery can be helpful. They can also be troublesome, but that's what I'm trying to work on. So if you've won nano before, but you want to add some spice to your writing life, try standing, try walking and narrating to your phone, try writing from a different posture or a pose. Routine can be amazing, and make you incredibly productive, but you don't want your brain to be completely on rails. (No offense, Madi) It's good to be flexible.

Okay, I love you all. I'm very excited to be writing something other than #Leylined for what feels like millenia, and I'm really excited to see what you all come up with. Make me proud, and see you on the interwebs!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Godzilla, my Godzilla

I wrote a first draft of this Godzilla movie review, and you know, it didn't do it for me. The review, that is. The movie as well -- I'll spoil that one for you. But there's more going on than the simple "Godzilla movies are generally pretty bad, so this one was pretty good."

If you don't normally read the blog, or follow me on twitter, let me tell you: I literally swear by Godzilla. It's my way of being agnostic. My dad and I bonded over Godzilla, over Halloween TNT day-long "monster" marathons that ended up just being all Godzilla movies. She's the biggest, baddest monster there is, a monumental fusion of natural and man-made power. But to really explain how I feel about this movie, I'm going to give you a short history lesson on Godzilla.

Godzilla's monster friends are often shown to be aliens, or dinosaurs, or other horrible creations like Godzilla herself. But there's one difference between Godzilla and the rest. She's a product of an accident. There are other monsters with this theme that came out before and around 1954, but none of them match up to the seminal film. The Original Godzilla pulls together the heart of the matter; that there are powerful natural forces in this world, and human mistakes amplify them. And we will pay the prices for those, doubly so. Unsettling nature will not result in good things.

Over time, Godzilla became less of a natural force made wild by man and more of a natural beast, the king of a race of monsters. If we're carrying the supposed metaphor of natural disaster/bomb made living, then Godzilla is the biggest and the meanest hurricane ever mixed with a meteor that's also a hydrogen bomb. Then, as the sixties transition to the seventies, Godzilla becomes something else. King of the Monsters, surely, but also a dancing, clapping, thumbs-upping friend of Japan. She's there to protect humanity from "bad monsters."

This is essentially the Godzilla we were given in the 2014. A misunderstood but fairly cute creature that happens to be a gigantic reptile that breaths blue fire. She looks cool, she roars in awesome ways and has a predilection for sneaking up on the miniature human naval vessels. Don't get me wrong -- the Godzilla in this movie is big. But there's no character to her. She appears to fight our new mistakes -- some other monsters -- and only causes damage unintentionally or if she's attacked. She makes eye contact with our incredibly bland hero as she nearly dies, and we are supposed to feel an emotion for this creature, this "force of nature." But somehow, despite my endless love for Godzilla, they kinda failed. A few moments were very visually cool, and the final finishing move put on by Godzilla is excellent, but we're kept distant from the fights for so long. It's a different answer to the question of how to make giant monsters scary. In Cloverfield, the monster's always disappearing in and around buildings. In this movie, we see them on TV or maybe vanishing into a giant cloud of debris. The other major issue I had with this movie, besides bad acting by everyone but Cranson, bad writing for everyone but Cranson (especially bad for Watanabe) was the sound. The music was either reused or awful, and they didn't even bother to reuse good Godzilla music, and the sounds of combat were distant and dull, keeping us separated from the action even further.

There's another elephant in this room, one of American centrism and whitewashing of the cast, but that's so expected from Hollywood I'm not even going to bother. The reduction of Godzilla to an even tamer version than the one I saw in cartoon form in the early 90's burned me well enough. I felt no fear of this Godzilla. I did not feel like a god, or a tornado, or a hurricane or volcano or bomb or whatever was coming my way. It didn't feel like a metaphor for global warming. If this movie's Godzilla was a tornado, it would have politely carved through a town hitting only rapists and corrupt hedge fund managers. Tornadoes aren't our friends. Hurricanes aren't saviours come to rescue us from a nuclear plant meltdown. The point of Godzilla isn't to remind us that there are monsters, some friendly some not, it's to remind us that when we fuck with nature, nature fucks us back, and harder than we ever could.

That said, I'm glad there's gonna be a sequel. Maybe it'll be better. And to be fair to the people that liked it -- most Godzilla movies are awful, so by that mark, this one is maybe the third or fourth best one made. But this Godzilla -- this individual monster -- I'm putting down near the bottom. My advice? If you've never seen a Godzilla movie, skip this one. Go on Netflix and watch the original 1954 japanese version. If you've seen Godzilla before, just go watch the 1954 anyways and nod to yourself knowing that you know what's best. The lessons in there are just as necessary today.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

I saw the new X-men movie last night. And I will give you my two cents up front: It was awesome. The futures were dayed in the past and the days were past in the futures. I think some pasts even futured the days. There was a lot of future past days. If any of those sentences were confusing to you yet you're still reading, you will probably enjoy this movie. Because this movie is confusing. If you are a super comic meganerd and have read all the X-mans, then you will get this movie absolutely fine. If you've seen all the X-mans movies up till this one, most of it will make sense, but you won't get the finer details -- of which there are A LOT.

This movie is made for comics lovers. I found it totally enjoyable without knowing everything (I have actually not read the comic this is based off of -- I'm just surrounded by people who have) but I was getting a lot of the references second-hand from my friends after the movie ended. Particularly, that Magneto has children, Quicksilver being one of them. His perfect scene happens, and it's perfect. The entire theatre was laughing. Quicksilver, his mission accomplished and his powers too vast for the rest of the plot to deal with, goes home and watches some tv while the movie continues. This scene is pretty much emblematic of the movie itself: It's awesome, you will laugh, but we're here to move the plot forwards. Anything that isn't useful, or is too useful will be tossed aside. Singer's here to bring us some action scenes, to retcon X3, and to make all the references and jokes that you were really looking for.

This movie is about our core heroes -- Wolverine, Magneto, Professor X and Mystique. If you don't think Mystique belongs there then you are wrong. Everyone else makes an appearance, from a small and large. I haven't read the comic, and I know some people are really nostalgic, so if its not like the comic you could easily be disappointed by how it went and who showed up. Everyone I personally know loved the new Sentinels. They're pretty scary looking. Mostly because they're not as goofy as the originals. (Don't worry tho, you'll get your purple robots)

Let me be clear: This is not the best X-Men movie. That is still X2, followed by X1. This is third, by my book. A little better than First Class, but very much in that vein. Besides an awkward intro scene and some very limited lines for Patrick Stewart, I think the writing of the movie is fairly clean, if punny at times. In the end, if you have super high expectations, you may be disappointed. If you go in fairly neutral, I think you'll be very well pleased. (And the end teaser is very exciting)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Review: Engines of a Broken World

Hello again! I'm sad to report that this Friday Review may be a little more angry than some of the others -- well, not 2312's, but godzilla only knows how boring that tome was. Oh, wait, I know. It was boring as hell. Anyways, enough about that travesty, let's have a review that upset me for different reasons! Who knows, maybe these reasons will inspire you to read the book.

DISCLAIMER (necessary for reasons you will see): I am an atheist. I am perfectly willing to accept that there may be a god in the traditional Abrahamic sense. I do not want, or like, the idea of that god's existence. However, everyone should be able to believe as they like, and I'm not going to bash you for your beliefs.

Moving on.


Merciful Truth and her brother, Gospel, have just lost their mother. And it's snowing too hard outside for them to bury her. So, under the reproachful eyes of the mechano-cat Minister, they put her under the table, with a sheet over her head. The Minister, full of Christian proverbs, is not happy, and says they need to bury her outside. But, save for two other women in their little remnants of a village, there is no one to help them, and they'll die of frostbite if they do. The next day, they try to bury her, but the ground is too hard and they can only put her in the basement, which the Minister also doesn't like. The Minister is God's representative in this world, a source of good and right, who nobody pays much attention to anymore.

This is when things get, in the words of a goodreads reviewer "Weird." What they mean is, it gets Sci-Fi. Spoilers ahead -- if you don't want to read them, skip to where it says >>>>, but let me be straight with you that like the 6th HP book, this whole story could've been about, well, let's just say it would've worked better as a short. Merciful's dead mother starts talking. Singing, at first, with foretelling lyrics instead of the usual for "Hush little baby" and then talking, through (if you're used to SF) the spirit and voice of her mother, but from a parallel universe, where she was a doctor and a scientist, things that are long gone from Merciful's world. Their worlds are dying, the spirit tells her.

Merciful doesn't talk to her long, and upstairs Gospel reveals that their world is shrinking; a fog is closing in that makes everything into nothing. They have only hours to live. The parallel ghost haunting their mother's body tells them that they must destroy "a machine" to save both their worlds. This is about 30% into the book, and it is already immediately obvious, probably even to you, what the machine is. It takes until about 80% for them to finally "realize" that it's the Minister. Though apparently the Minister is keeping them from realizing it, but in really non-subtle ways.

At about that same 80% mark, their last neighbor dies, and is possessed by a murder from the same parallel universe as the first ghost. Both ghosts tell the kids that the Minister must die, or be tortured, because God is shutting down both their worlds. He's pissed at how shitty humans are, and is winding back the clock. He sent down his Ministers to save humanity, so that they could live with him in heaven, and all the meanwhile shuts down the worlds. Just the two, apparently.

In the end, it comes down to a choice -- Does Merciful believe the semi-evil ghosts and kill the Minister, or does she believe the Minister's stories about God and his love and his anger towards the world?

She does both. She kills the Minister, which changes nothing. The fog approaches. She is the last living human being anywhere, potentially forever until God restarts everything with less free will. So what she does is pray. The last word, "potentially ever said, ever" is "Amen." So be it. Giving in, giving up, letting go. And that's it. It's over. The decision as to what happens, what god does, whether her prayer changes anything, is left to us. But we're so depressed after reading this damn thing that there's only one option I can possibly see. And that is death.

>>>>I know I just gave you a recap of the entire book. In fact, I just told you the whole book. There's not much else besides what I just said. Now, let me tell you why it upset me, and also amused me. This is the most nihilistic proselytization I have ever read. In this book, God is definitely real. God is upset with humanity, which He created, and God is shutting the whole thing down, without sending any sort of notices or anything. In one world, he sends the Ministers, to save everyone, and in the other, which seems a lot like ours, everyone just rots away and dies. And yet, very little in the book paints God as bad. Some of the characters do, but they're dismissed. The final scene is a suggestion that when everything else is shredded away, when we've lost everything, including God, all we have left is prayer. Not even hope.

In terms of prose, this book is fine. The excerpt, which I suggest reading on Amazon, makes you want to read the book so hard. It's good, it's compelling, the world is suggestive and depressing and strange. But no one goes anywhere. The secrets revealed are not found, but told, by the only characters left to tell them. This book is a race against Deus ex Machina, and no one can do anything about it. The world that seemed so large and mysterious in the first chapters is drawn inwards, closer and closer, until there's nothing left but Merciful. The ending is unpredictable only because we are so rarely used to seeing books where the characters have absolutely zero power to change anything. And that's for a reason. Because that is depressing as hell. We already live in a world where we as individuals have little power to sway the world at large. Why would I want to read fiction of that? Especially fiction that proscribes that that is in fact, good. Whatever lesson about being better people, respecting others and helping is lost in a nihilistic grey fog.

I guess maybe I should like this book. It doesn't paint Christianity in a particularly good light. It doesn't really put the idea of God in a good light, though from my interpretation it suggests that we have to trust him. Frankly, everything and everyone looks like shit in these books, except the two kids, whom God is also intent on killing. Merciful's final prayer, desperate in its hope that she, as the last living human being, might be able to save anyone, anything, to change God's mind in any way, is a statement that if God is real, and God wants us all dead, there's jack-ass crap we can do about it, except beg and plead at his feet to make it merciful, like the abusive father with a gun in one hand, pointed at our head, the whiskey bottle in the other, our last words pleading, no, no, please don't do this. But he can't hear you, he doesn't care, he's too lost in himself. And we all know what's about to happen. All we can do is say "Amen." So be it.

ONE WORD REVIEW:                                                                                         B/W/D
OPPRESSIVE                                                                                                        Don't.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Alas, alack! Has it really been two weeks? Two weeks since we shuffled up the hat and handed out all those ridiculous prompts? For those not in the know, two weeks ago everyone submitted a character, a setting and an object, and I shuffled them all up and handed them back out. We all wrote 1-5k stories on those premises, and the results are due today! (though some sent them to me early. Damn do gooders)

I've seen a few, but the rest I've yet to read, but already I can tell this was a great exercise. It's awesome to see all your different writing styles and how you all dealt with being handed random prompts. I enjoyed trying to sound like a 13 y/o, and trying out a new style of writing a story (for me). Please find below links to all the stories on folk's blogs, or in the comments if they didn't have a blog. I hope you enjoy this little adventure and join in when we run this next time :D

Without further ado:

Mine! (muahaha most important): Texts from Last Dimension
Marie! The Attic
SE! That Time with the Drone and the Fence
Cel! Flugelhorn of the Void
Melanie! The Cave of Wonders
Tia! The Knife

More to come as they get sent to me :D

From Lisa (@lkajue) a story since the comments are being buttheads and her blog is dead.

It was midnight. Rain crashed against the windows of the house on the hill. It looked new, but it had been standing on that hill for at least a hundred years. At the bottom of the hill were three teenagers - fourteen year old Amy, fourteen year old Lizzy and fifteen year old Robin. They should have been at Lizzy's house, curled up and watching movies, but instead they had sneaked out of her window and travelled to the hill.
Amy smiled to herself. It had been her idea to visit the haunted house on the hill and she definitely wasn't going to regret it.
They climbed up the hill. It was steep, and Amy started to wonder if they were ever going to get to the top.
Finally, they got to the top, and they opened the doors to adventure.
Inside, the house was cold, empty and sent an unpleasent chill racing all over Amy's body. She bit her lip and swallowed.
"Are we going to go in or not?" Robin said. "Or are you too scared to now?" The teasing tone of her voice made Amy want to slap her right around her face, even though she was one of her best friends, and had been for a very long time.
"Yeah, we are." Amy said. Her heart was drumming against her rib cage, but she was determined to go in and prove that she wasn't a scaredy cat.
"Well, come on, then!"
Amy led the way into the house. When all three of them were inside, the door slammed shut behind them, making them jump. Amy's heart continued to thump against her ribs and looked down the long corridor that sent more unpleasent shivers down her spine. There was a door just in front of them, so she went to open it. It was jammed shut. She turned back around and realised that Lizzy and Robin were at the bottom of the stairs.
"We're going to go upstairs." Lizzy said. "Do you want to come with us?"
"No. I'm going to stay down here and explore."
Lizzy and Robin went upstairs and Annie walked to the end of the corridor. She started to wish that she had gone upstairs with Lizzy and Robin because not only was the place absolutely freezing cold, but it was also really, really creepy. All she could hear was her heartbeat and her feet as they seemed to crash against the floor with every step she took. She couldn't breathe properly. Finally she got to the end of the corridor and managed to pull open the heavy door that was in front of her.
It was an empty room. The only things in there was a bright red sofa, which looked so old and so decript that Amy was incredibly surprised that someone hadn't come to take it away, and a figurine of the frilled dinosaur from Jurassic Park. She went over and picked it up, thinking that it might belong to someone when there was a terrible scream.
Annie ran upstairs. In a small, dirty room was Robin, who was pale and shaking tied to a chair and Lizzy, who was being held by a strange looking man and had a knife pressed to her throat.
Amy stormed into the middle of the room and shrieked, "Who are you? What are you doing? What do you want?"
"Never mind that!" the man spat. "What are you doing here?! Have you told anyone about me?!"
"No - no, I don't even know who you are! Why would I tell anyone about you?!"
"Good! Now come over here!"
Amy stared at him, wondering what on earth he wanted, and then she slowly made her way over to him. She shivered like she had never shivered before and wished that she hadn't suggested this stupid adventure.
She thought the man might just be wanting to talk to her, maybe he would tell her who he was and then let the three of them go, but it turned out that that was definitely not what he wanted. He launched himself at her, but he didn't get very far. His form began to change and in a moment, he was a ghost.
"Oh my God, he's a ghost!" Amy exclaimed.
"Why the hell is there a ghost here!" Robin exclaimed, trying to get out of her bonds - and failing.
"Never mind that!" the ghost yelled. He launched at them again, but Amy managed to get out of his way. She fell onto the floor and felt a shooting pain in her leg. She clenched the figurine in her hand and them she threw it at the ghost. It flew through him and he laughed.
"Did you really think that was going to work?" he laughed.
He moved forwards and Amy tried to move back, but she seemed to be stuck to the same spot on the floor.
Just then, the sun rose and poured into the window. A moment later, the ghost disappeared.
"What - what just happened?" Lizzie asked.
"I don't know." Amy said. "We - we need to get out of here."
Lizzie and Amy managed to untie Robin and they went back to the house. All the way there, all Amy could think about was that the ghost hadn't killed her or her friends.
The next day, Amy did some research on the ghost that had almost killed her and her friends. She found out that the ghost was a man called Roy Bell, who had first raped his victims and then killed them by hitting them over the head with a very large mallet. Then he would go and hide them in the woods near his house, marking their graves with a cross made out of teeth that he had pulled from his victims, though he never used teeth from the person that he was burying because he knew that that would make it easier for the police to identify who was hidden away.
He had died before he could be arrested after he had been poisoned by a relative of one of his victims. It turned out that the house that he had been haunting was the house where he stayed after he had killed someone. When she read that, it occurred to Amy that if they had walked past the house, they might have stumbled on a grave.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Review: Ancillary Justice

Hey folks! I finished another book that didn't make my soul weep, so here's a friday review! For your reading pleasure, I give you a hopefully well-reasoned review of a book that's been seeing a lot of reviews recently:


Now, I'm not usually that much of a fan of first person novels. Personal preference. They all sound about the same to me unless the character has a really distinct voice. I picked this book up and (having just read a 1st person novel) couldn't bear it again, especially since the introduction starts you off with pretty much no information whatsoever. However, I came back to it, and I'm glad I did. The MC is both a starship, Justice of Toren and not a ship, as the book takes place across two different time periods which eventually converge. The book's title is made obvious when you learn that starships contain "Ancillaries" -- corpse soldiers slaved to a ship's AI and given superhuman implants. The two timelines contain the ship as is, full of ancillaries, and the future where all that is left is one, and no ship to be found.

This is a book about identity, and the entirety of the book is centred around that premise. What it means to be an individual, what it means to have identity, the little bits and pieces that make us unique, discrete units, distinguishable from other humans or even animals. The Radchaai, the semi-Roman empire whom the Justice of Toren (human name "Breq") serves, is ruled by the Lord of the Radch, a multiple individual with thousands of instances across the empire. The Radch have only one gender (she) and Radchaai often have difficulty determining the proper gender pronouns for non-Radch humans. I found this interesting and fairly novel, mostly in the fact that since this was a 1st person novel, I had no real way to imagine which gender people she was talking to were. There are hints, with non-Radch humans telling the MC she got it wrong, but at times this was a bit anachronistic, since the MC had been a human in non-Radch space for a long time, I would have figured that she'd learn, but I liked the idea from both a moral and literary standpoint. It was interesting to see my brain do flips when certain characters were revealed to be "male." 

There's a lot of fine worldbuilding in Ancillary Justice, all much deeper than what we've gleaned from the end of the book. The characters are vivid, full of life, and the author's depiction of life within an aggressive expansionist empire nearing the end of its expansion is extremely interesting. I always appreciate when the "bad guys" are given a closer look. This book was kind of like reading from an immortal Stormtrooper's perspective. 

If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned any plot, that's because there wasn't really much of one up until about halfway through the novel, when we discover why the future, singular version of the MC (Breq) is on a desolate icy planet. The pace picks up significantly, although at one point an entire novel's worth of action linking the two timelines is given about four sentences, but I understand that books can't all be a million pages long. 

Given Breq/Justice of Toren's pretty much impossible goals, the ending of the book was about what I expected. Half-success, setup for a sequel. I had actually been hoping that this book was a standalone novel, but I'm okay with it being part of a series, although I actually mostly enjoyed the ships multi perspective 1st person, possible because it can look through all its ancillaries' eyes, and that's something that will be lost in following books. 

If you're looking for a super action packed thrillride this book is not that. If you are looking for an interesting dialogue on individuality, morality and free will that happens to include pretty awesome spaceships and a very interesting universe, then this book is for you. Ancillary Justice knows what it's trying to say, how it's saying it, and it doesn't deal with all the extra fluff. Everything in this book is for a point, an idea, and one that I think is fully expressed at its end. And that, combined with an interesting look at character development from the inside and out, makes this book worth a read.

ONE WORD REVIEW:                                                                             B/W/D?
NEW                                                                                                          BUY