All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells was so very fun and I wanted it to be so much longer. She’s an autobuy author for me, because her characterization is so very, very good and emotionally involving. There were also some great explorations of what makes a person and the potential evils of corporations, which are less moral than the supposedly moral-less beings they own.
The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch was engrossing and satisfying. I hope this trend of More! Guleed! continues. I am loving Tyburn as a character and hope to see more of her.
The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch was, alas, much shorter than I had hoped. Abigail was so great! I want all the Abigail stories!!!
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard was more depressing than I was in the mood for, but did have the virtue of making me homesick for Vietnam, a place I’ve never been. There’s a lot going on about privilege and colonialism and autonomy and change.
See, there were positive sides to a House. But of course there were. Of course there would be good people like her, like Laure—within Silverspires, within Hawthorn—even within House Draken, where Theophraste the tailor had been kind, and sorry to see the Annamite troops drafted in the war, and made his best effort to cut them uniforms with flowing patterns like those on Annamite silk, and handed them scraps of cloth they could use as blankets against the killing cold. It hadn’t changed a thing. Such people’s lives were richer, easier because of the House system. And in turn, the House system existed only because such kind, gentle people kept pledging themselves to it and strengthening it from within. They were all complicit, without exception. And so was Isabelle. “What threatens the House?”
I think if you like Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court books, you’ll like this (and vice versa); they had a similar tone to me, great powers losing their power and trying to deal with that.
Coincidentally, the themes of the de Bodard had some echoes in the Fowler book I read next.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler has been on my TBR since before it came out. I think I’d call this literary fiction rather than specific. TW for primates in labs. It’s about families, and how we think about families, and also about animals and how humans relate to them, how we treat each other, and what that says about us both. I was especially struck by the themes intersecting with my thoughts about the current American healthcare debate between those who think it’s about money and those who think it’s about people.
“We need a sort of reverse mirror test. Some way to identify those species smart enough to see themselves when they look at someone else. Bonus points for how far out the chain you can go. Double bonus for those who get all the way to insects.”
Once, she’d given me a raisin for every raisin she’d eaten, and now she had two poker chips and was giving me one. Two interesting behaviors–that was as far as Dad could go. Here is what I’d thought it meant. I’d thought Fern was apologizing. When you feel bad, I feel bad, is what I got from that red chip. We’re the same, you and I. My sister, Fern. In the whole wide world, my only red poker chip.
The NotSame was this: Like a chair or a car or a television, Fern could be bought and sold. The whole time she was living in the farmhouse with us as part of our family, the whole time she was keeping herself busy being our sister and daughter, she was, in fact, the property of Indiana University.
Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee is more straightforwardly comprehensible than Ninefox Gambit, but still had lots of wonderfully weird worldbuilding and characters with complex motivations. Plus, there were a couple of moments where I said, “Whoa. Wow,” which I will not spoil here. Two books in, I still think this is one of the most creative science fiction worlds I’ve read in a long while.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss is about monsters and about women, and how they can be the same thing. I think if you like Karen Joy Fowler’s work, you might like this, and also if you love meta and revisionist tales and/or things set in Victorian England and relating to the stories of the nineteenth century. Goss works with female creations of fictional scientists (or hypothetical female creations/daughters) from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (which I have not read). Also, Holmes and Watson are in it, because of course they are. But overall, this is a meta novel, periodically festooned with commentary from the female characters about themselves, their stories, how their stories are told, and the idea of what a novel should be and how it should be written. And besides all that, it was fun.
Court of Fives by Kate Elliott was too nerve-wracking and painful for me to read right now; I finished it, but the sequels will definitely have to wait. The race and class issues were very well-depicted, I thought, and the suspense was excellent. I am just too stressed about the world to handle this sort of thing in fiction right now.
I was happily surprised that Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb, 43rd in the series, was much better than several of the previous volumes. There were a lot of twists and barriers to solving the mystery, capturing the perpetrators, and bringing them to justice, and remarkably little checking in with the huge recurring cast, which can become tedious. I read this partly because mysteries are comforting (justice wins!) and partly for purposes of analysis.
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3: I just can’t fully express how good this series has been. I mean, I know Ta-Nehisi Coates has other things to write than comics, but I wish he could do maybe just five more graphic novels. This whole Black Panther series has been a festival of nuance and moral complexity, and I just want to hug it, when it’s not making me cry for its contrast to our current American political climate. Also, Shuri Shuri Shuri.
Mockingbird Vol. 2: My Feminist Agenda by Chelsea Cain is really one last delightful issue of this run of the Mockingbird solo series with some extra Avengers issues to plump it up. That said, that one final issue, featuring a Geek Cruise and corgis and costumes, was terrific fun.
A friend recommended Break Down In the Shape of Things to Come by shaenie which is a White Collar/reboot!Star Trek crossover set at Starfleet Academy after Vulcan is destroyed. I really liked it because Peter Burke was so immaculately perfect as a starship captain. Neal Caffrey is a half-Vulcan cadet raised among humans, and there is accidental telepathic bonding and eventual slash, but even if you’re not into that, it was a lot of fun just as a Trek story about what to do when a huge chunk of your spaceforce has been killed all at once. Recommended.
There May Be Some Collateral Damage by metisket is a Bleach/Harry Potter crossover, which I think would work if you have zero knowledge of Bleach, but a little knowledge of the anime is probably better. The casual, humorous narrative voice carried me through at high speed, enjoying every minute of this What You Need is a Shinigami story.