My March Reading Log

Mira’s Last Dance: Penric & Desdemona Book 5 by Lois McMaster Bujold was delightful to read, but it felt like it ended too soon, not just because it leaves the door open for the next story, but because it felt like less had happened overall. It’s a transitional story, all of it escaping from one place to another.

Leverage in Death (In Death, Book 47) by J.D. Robb was a bit more interesting than some of the recent entries, alas due to an overly-complex murder method that seemed a bit strained to me; it could have benefited from, maybe, some more complex technology which ought to be available, given the futuristic setting. Maybe it’s a sign of more weird twists in the series’ future. There is a subplot relating to the Oscars and the movie about a previous book being up for several awards, and Eve Dallas’ discomfort with same. Apparently, in the future, it is still #oscarssowhite if you were wondering. It seems I am going to keep reading this series no matter what.

The Ironmaster’s Tale (Clorinda Cathcart’s Circle Book 1) by L.A. Hall ties in to the first several volumes of The Comfortable Courtesan, and I think is best read as a supplement to those, so you understand everything that is going on, because Josiah Ferraby, the titular ironmaster, takes a while to catch on to certain things. Anyway, I liked it a lot, particularly the scenes of Josiah and Eliza together, discussing events and going about their domestic business.

I devoured The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farah Mendlesohn on my vacation. Though I never read his last three novels, I have read the rest, some of them many, many times. The first science fiction book I ever read was Have Space Suit – Will Travel, and it’s one of my keepers. Mendlesohn’s book looks at themes that carry through all of Heinlein’s work, and explores how they fit in with biographical details and are refined or focused over time, taking into account how his politics align or don’t align with the politics of the time in which he was writing. I felt I understood his work far, far more after reading this book than I had before I began, and for that reason I strongly recommend it, provided you are interested in Heinlein, the history of science fiction from the 1940s through the 1980s, or genre criticism in general.

Four Letter Word For Intercourse by bendingsignpost is an erotic Supernatural AU in which Dean Winchester is going to college, somewhat against his will in order to please his brother and uncle, and ends up calling a phone sex line to relieve stress and explore the notion that he’s not straight, but bisexual. It’s extremely well-crafted male/male erotica, with quite a lot of self-discovery and eventual romance. The characters are established within the story, so no knowledge of canon is required. Highly recommended.

Neighborly by Spooks and thesuninside was an unexpected but interesting crossover between The Punisher and Supernatural, in which Dean Winchester is a teenager and Sam Winchester is twelve, and they happen to live next door to Frank Castle while their father is away. It was surprisingly moving. There’s a sequel, which I plan to read.

The Great War by Fabrisse puts the characters from Kingsman: The Secret Service into World War One as ordinary officers. It was nicely researched, which pleased me.

Also, Nightingale by The_Cimmerians explores MCU Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers’ life in Wakanda after tne end of Civil War, which only gets more complicated once Bucky Barnes emerges from cryo. Plus there is some excellent Shuri. There are a lot of delicious-sounding Wakandan meals in this story, and hot sex as well, eventually.

I skim-reread the first two volumes of From the Log of the Hellhound, a classic late 1980s Blake’s 7 series continuation that went on for a while but was never completed. I had expected it to be dated, as the characters were portrayed with very very New Wave clothes and haircuts; what I hadn’t expected was how dated the gender relations felt, despite complex characterization. This dystopic future is extremely heteronormative, and I think the writers meant to criticize that to some extent, but it is in fact difficult to tell. Phrases like “flaming faggot” are used, and a man being overdosed with an aphrodisiac as torture is considered funny until the characters realize it was painful and not pleasurable; lack of consent is apparently not considered torture. Several characters consider it disturbing that someone is bisexual. The bisexual man has developed rampant misogyny as a result of torture by a woman, which is unpleasant to read, even when he appears to tamp it down. Also, I remain extremely confused as to why an Original Female Character, a professional psychologist, ends up having sex with a man she’s been treating (or attempting to treat), and whose many many psychological issues she knows about in detail; in fact, he had previously tried to strangle her in a fit of rage at a perceived betrayal. (However, he is considered Hot Stuff by fandom and clearly by the authors as well.)

I was reminded of how much things have changed since then, and how (relatively) quickly. We are not even close to perfect today, but Consent is much more in the common discourse, as is identification and recognition of problematic relationship dynamics. It’s a terrific historical document.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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