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Today I finished reading 'On Her Majesty's Wizardly Service', also known as 'To Visit The Queen', by Diane Duane.

It is about cats who are wizards, in the same universe as her Young Wizards books.

It's also a little difficult to summarise, because once you've got the hang of 'regular cats who live in New York, some of them with owners' and 'they do magic' then in the first book you get 'they turn into big cats when they visit an alternate universe full of dinosaur descendent intelligences' and bring that bit along to book two, and *then* it goes all steampunk, with nukes. And alternate timelines. And cats cradle is a game cats play with hyperstrings that make Gates happen? To other places and times and universes, sometimes on accident. And those instant transit gateways are located in regular transit centres, partly because the nature of gates and magic just likes it that way, so the main cats work in Grand Central as gate technicians and they get called to London to work on the gates there. Also there are prophecy ravens. And the Lone Power, Eldest, Fairest and Fallen.

Plus the fate of the cat mummies of egypt is a big plot point.

And they have to stop Queen Victoria from being assassinated.

And retrieve a book. Not a magic book, those are considerably safer.

And there's a whole lot of interpersonal stuff, but with nine life cats, so its simplest to think of them as aliens we live with but cant communicate with yet, so they're familiar and shaped by their interactions with humans and yet here presented as just a non human civilisation that runs intertwined with ours.

So, cat wizards, but... a bit complicated.

I suspect that the difficulty of summarising is why only the two books happened in paperback. I mean I'm sure there's people who'd like reading about cat society, and magic, and worldgates, and dinosaurs, and steampunk Victorian politics, its just difficult to sum up the story in a way that would get the book to its readers.

Also, possibly, difficult to get readers who want all those things at once.

But I do like them, so I'm very much looking forwards to book three, now in convenient ebook form available to buy through the authors website
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Today I listened to the 10 and Donna big finish audio adventure Death and the Queen, which was funnier than seems quite right when there's all that horrible death and skeleton armies and such. Read more... ) And then Death turns up for the wedding.

It's a lot of running around and a very Donna approach to suddenly ruling a kingdom and I thought it was :-D

Also lately I read The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers, which was excellent and I'm definitely buying the sequel, but also thinky and I'm still chewing on it. Diverse cast, relationships that made me think Doctor Who quotes ('I'm a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife', only not exactly), actual alien aliens, in different varieties, and a lot of complex arguments about how people and species get along, expressed through a long haul journey with a small crew, and some new diplomatic relations between races. It has layers and complications, and the characters don't agree with each other so what the argument of the book is takes some digging, and I want to have conversations about most all of the parts. Also everyone is vivid and interesting and I'll happily spend more time with them. Oh, and there was a whole thread about AI rights and parallels or comparisons drawn with cloning and cybernetics and just all sorts of layered stuff going on, about how people shape each other, and when people see each other as people. Thoughts!

... I feel like I'd need much more awake and some run up to have as many thoughts as it deserves.

But I've already started re reading the cat wizards books, ready for The Big Meow, so thoughts shall have to brew a while.

Good stories.
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Today I read The Ogre Downstairs, a Jones book I didn't have in my collection, and now I remember why.

It is about how five children deal when their parents get married. The new stepfather scares them, so they call him the Ogre. Some magic stuff happens which is all a bit adventure, but every incident annoys the Ogre and then there's hitting. Until there is a big argument and his wife leaves in the middle of the night, without telling the kids, who she leaves behind. Even though the argument was about him hitting them. Read more... )
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So many books are now books not for me
So many books now are waiting to be
Given to someone who'll think they're the thing
And meanwhile I shall get back my shelving

... or, for one pile, that bit of floor in the corner where books fell down in a reasonably tiny fashion and I didn't fetch them up again, but that doesn't fit the metre. not that it metres real good as is...

In my head I am humming that to the mad madam mim song.

It just feels excessive to get rid of books by the foot, even if I did just find a section of handwriting and typing books. Read more... )

I'm a bit annoyed about the Aldiss Helliconia books. On the one hand they look interesting, but on the other these particlar copies seem to have been second hand in the first place and then stored on the floor in the corner under the window for... years, at barest minimum. The gripping hand may be they make me want to wash just by looking at them, and I'm contemplating throwing away the paper tablecloth they're currently resting on. Which would be annoying because the shops never have cream and gold again until xmas, but so it goes.

Maybe I can find some nicer copies and swap them out before I find out if I like reading them.

On the big plus side, I found where I'd stashed my blueprints for the Starship Enterprise, Kirk edition. They're all clean and dusted and put back with the other blueprints now :-)

... I have a small collection of science fiction blueprints to imaginary ships. I suspect there's many who would consider that unnecessary. They would be wrong.

My table is still full of books to sort, but now they're books where I'll have to read a bit to see if I want them, so that's much more interesting.

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"Earth Magic" by Francis Hitching is also getting weeded out of my library.
Don't think I've ever read it. Tried to today but got bored real quick. It reckons it will be half about archaeology and half about the people who think visions and dowsing and ley lines are an interesting guide to prehistory. It also seems dead impressed with the fact you can draw straight lines on a map and make triangles.

I figure the archaeology will be out of date, and the ley line stuff will stay as subjective and belief driven as ever.
Earlier me collected stuff in the expectation bits of it would be proven, or be disproved, eventually.
But a lot of it turns out to not be that kind of stuff.

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Today's weeding without reading:
The Communist Manifesto, Huxley's Doors of Perception, and Laing's Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise.

I think I found Dad's college era...

there's a couple politics books about actual politics, but they'd be so massively out of date now, I'm not going to bother, even if one does say it's a classic. if it's that classic it'll be in penguin paperback still, and probably on a lot.

The handwriting book can also go. If I want to write fancy I'll install a fancy font.

I did find two (2) books that were definitely Dad's side Grandma's, with her name in from when she was younger. They're about a hundred years old and just about holding together, definitely well read. I won't get rid of them, but they're not reading copies if I want to keep them as objects. Still, hundred year old books I've vaguely heard of will be around somewhere.

Book weeding is weirdly weighty. Like, if it's just stuff I bought, it might remind me of the 90s or the last time I read it or something, but if it's from the inherited set, it's like meeting ancestors again unexpectedly. And then judging their libraries.

I can't keep all the books I inherited, I own two thousand books even after giving up on entire authors, I'll never read all these fact pile sort even if I keep them.

... that is so much easier to decide than to do.

but, slow and steady...
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Today I found I have owned a book printed in 1872
Macaulay's Critical and Historical Essays
which is all online now
it was Dad's, but I don't think I've ever opened it.
Now I have, I think the online editions will do for me, and my hardback with the tiny print can go to someone else who wants it. Mum reckons she knows just the shop. Mum has the knowing of charity shops.

Technically I have sorted through an entire box of books to see if I want it, but that's because the Macaulay had a box to itself.

It currently smells a bit funny. Which, by now, not a surprise. But someone else will like it anyway.
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Today I read Blood Trail, the second Blood book by Huff.
Is good and I shall have thinky thoughts about it later
but first be very squicked about the whole
werewolf mating urges when in heat don't care if related.
I mean, the horror and murder and attempted skinning is one thing
but the actively avoided incest is just yuck.

... *sigh*

A lot of the book is about mating urges, dominance hierarchies, and where those get tangled, as well as the general urge to show off to establish better standing and deal with your feelings
some threads of that I would rather were left out.

Other thing book keeps circling is difference between law and justice.
Hypothesises that certain groups, gender, ethnic, class, religion, disability, and here supernatural species, will not be treated equally by the law, so seeking justice requires stepping outside the law and taking it into your own hands.
Which is pretty central to the PI thing.
And the cop boyfriend vampire boyfriend bit.

Problem is it depends on being all 'you know what people are like'
while being, you know, people
who are acting justly and fairly and as if rule of law should apply here.

It's like all the arguments anout false consciousness where of course we see through to objective truths but they need protecting from wrong thinking.

Seems like the thing where humans are advancing the argument about other humans kind of proves it's a wrong argument.

And the people that do treat x group wrongly are, in this case, people who were dicks anyway before they even knew.

And the solution, in this book individual extra judicial execution, is extra shit because (a) same number of murderers, just doing exactly what the other guys feared and (b) only so much as preserves fearful status quo for that one family of minority group.

Basically I'm just real tired of anything, ever, that says preserving the masquerade and staying in the closet is the solution. Sod that. Civil rights and systemic change is the only way to protect the next guy, and the next, and the next.

Supernatural pride parade or bust.

... but the book runs through its argument in a coherent fashion and I can get this counter argument to what the characters concluded straight from the textual behaviour of other characters, so, it's not like the book thinks it's simple. The protagonist's conclusions are not the whole story. Complex is good.

Just with bits where I'd rather it didn't go there.

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I have been weeding books.

I have half a box chosen to go. I do not need X Files books any more, even if they are basically fortean with a specific spin. They've been unopened for a decade or two, I can think of better uses for those inches. Also the two books on hat making certainly seem nice but have not in fact been used for making hats in the twenty years I've owned them. And the book of 'native american wolf tales' is just plain bad. It has references in the back and all the stories are bad summarised retellings of stuff collected by white guys long enough ago i suspect it's out of copyright. no good points to that book.

There's also an art book I think I have no further use for. It's fantasy art ie mostly naked ladies but alien. I looked through it and realised some people will do absolutely anything to avoid drawing feet. Fog, smoke, plant cover, lights, and in some cases just having their legs taper off after the thighs, which is freaky. I mean it's fantasy art so each to their own, but, no. So that book can go.

It's difficult getting rid of things you've owned for twenty to thirty years, even if you haven't really looked at them in long and long.

Next I shall either decide if I want the two textbooks on wolf behaviour or just read a werewolf book. I mean, actual wolf behaviour may or may not have to do with werewolf books anyway. And do I really need the real data to read the furry fantasy? But it would be new and interesting data.

... it would be new and I've owned these books at least a decade. I strongly suspect they'll go away unread... but hey, you never know...
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Huff is one of my favourite authors, and while she has got better since 1991 when the copyright page says this was written, this is still a good book, and a good intro to a great couple of series.

And I get into quite a bit of detail under the cut, so, plenty spoilers.

Read more... )

I was asked a couple days ago "Is it a book about vampires, a book about detectives, or a book About Heterosexuals?"

I think it's a book about recognising monsters, how not to be one, and the dangerous waters of trying not to date one.

The reader knows more than the characters, and the detective work chugs along until Vicki knows enough to recognise the answer when it's handed to her. Not Sherlock Holmes style, but not just surviving until you know who is hunting you either. Her friends and contacts shape the story, mostly by letting her at data only the police have, without stopping her doing things the police wouldn't do. But also just by knowing the community and being known. The ways she does and does not have backup and support are key.

Henry is not heterosexual, he's bi, so, there's a lot more variety of goings on in the fade to black than might otherwise be. Vicki is on some levels doing the choose between two guys, police and vampire, and we've seen that one before, or possibly since, given the 1991 copyright. But they're both actually interesting, and they both have significant flaws as partners, in the same specific areas of conflict and using people. As does Vicki.

It's kind of about vampires, in that it's about not being the monster, and needing people, and the ways choices can start from any side of the supernatural spectrum and still end up good or evil.

Everybody's hungry, for a lot of different things, and pursuing those needs can hurt others, or build connections that save them.

The supernatural stuff just enhances that basic truth, it doesn't predetermine anything. Good guy vampires just have to work harder at it, as do evil humans.

And the supernatural scale amplifier does one of my favourite things, it makes a metaphor of the scale of challenge faced by disabled people. Vicki Nelson is a disabled woman facing challenges bigger than anyone can handle alone, but by the end of the book she does handle them, her specific visual impairment and her supernatural situation both. And without miracle cures. She just finds a way to play to her strengths.

This review got very long and rambly and I could spend a lot more attention on a lot of different bits of it. I feel like calling this a first draft and doing actual essay with quotes and stuff.

But I also feel like reading the next book, so. Here's the rough version.
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Today's favourite story.
Science fiction, plausible, near through very very very far future.
Biiiiiiiiig future, the kind that stretches the edges of your imagination and lets you think bigger.
Showed me a bunch of stuff in a row that was obvious once seen but I hadn't thought through.
Reminded me of Accelerando, but kind. And short, in word count.
The world is going to get weirder and wider than we can think, but here in very human and relatable ways.
Accelerando made me kind of give up on the idea of writing proper SF, because the future is going to be more everything than we can imagine, but this story makes me think, there will still be people.
It even makes me think I could be one of them, which is a wonder and terror right there.
I mean Highlander Immortals think 5K is an impressive age, but this one goes through to times significant on the scale of the movement of galaxies.
As a single lifetime.
Reminds me of that Torchwood fic where Jack lives so long he realises he's the only thing that can last that long, and his memory is the only way to preserve data.
(which fic was that? there was a song)(In Perpetuity, by Concertigrossi. Which took a while to re-find because LJ is just deletions far as eye can see, but Ao3 had it once I found the name. We build on digital sand, but we build.)
But in this story there's so many more minds all immortal together, which is a grander and more hopeful vision.
And what is lost can be found again.
Rather liking that idea, rather fearing the alternatives.
But more than that, here's a future where anything is possible, in some senses all the pasts as well as all the futures.

I like stories that open up possibility and make you dream again, and dream a place for yourself.
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How Sere Picked Up Her Laundry by Alexander Jablokov

The Girl Who Stole Herself by R. Garcia y Robertson

I posted about the first of these as soon as read it, considering it worth the cover price on its own, , but the other novella was also strong.

Central female character, mostly talking to girls and women, interesting career progression very swiftly, and a worldbuild that goes out in stages that make sense but sometimes managed to surprise me. Trigger warning for attempted rape, interrupted, and several different situations where sexual contact is implied or mentioned in situations cannot be freely consented to, like women in prison or slaves or attempted underage. It's all about how messed up all that all is. Protagonist is a 'closet princess' who spends all her time on the net, whose adventures in virtual reality have practical applications and real world political consequences. Interesting, but, see triggers.

Asimov's keeps being darker like that than is my preference.

Read more... )

So that's a couple I can't see why they're SF, a lot that are darker than I'd like, and a couple of very readable ones.

So, basically, I can see Asimov's is doing a thing. It seems like a competently written thing. But it is only sometimes an overlap with things I want to read.

Still, good when it is.
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This story is a novella in the latest issue of Asimov's Science Fiction
and it is good.
Like, I am happy to have bought the issue, because it has this in it, good.

Lots of female characters, protag included, in a complex new world-city, populated by multiple species, with interlocking and clashing needs and logics that all make plausible sense. It's a mystery, solved by going places and asking, with only minimal staggering around because the answer went boom, and maximum solving problems with brains and compassion.

A+ story, would read more like this, which is good necause the intro says more are going to happen. The 'verse certainly has the scope to support it.
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Finished reading. That was not worth the time.
Read more... )

I don't know what I'm looking for in a story, but it do make me grumpy to not find it.


Jun. 23rd, 2017 11:29 pm
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
Is there anything more satisfying than spending the day doing inventory?

... or more frustrating? Read more... )

New shelves!
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I have read Down Among the Sticks and Bones
I am still thinking on what I thought of it. It ended sooner than I wanted, and was about different things, and I might have to read it again for the book it was instead of the one I wanted it to be.
But it is in large part about a character who ends up obsessed with being clean, which is a feel I know, and it made my fingers have black speckles. This is not optimal. I have washed twice already and will wash again when I post this.

Books don't usually do that.

Maybe I shouldn't have taken the picture cover off.
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This one says DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH across the top, and also Volume One, which apparently means it just sort of stops when things are getting ominous.

But the magic words on the cover were Ted Kord.

Read more... )

I won't say I'm hooked, but this is an angle that could work, and what with everyone being more alive than when I quit reading there's all sorts of possibility in it.

But comics are so sloooooow. I don't know if volume two even exists yet, and if it did it would be more likely to put characters further up a tree than to resolve bits yet.

Also, still won't be primarily about Ted.

And never has been about his obvious partnership.


I may read the next bit but may also be tempermentally unsuited to reading an art form that's pretty much the world's longest and most complex WIP.
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A princess wants to be more practical than her parents allow, so she runs away to be a dragon's princess. Which involves swords, magic, latin, and cooking, just like she'd wanted to study, and also quite a lot of politics. But not marrying a prince, especially one she's only just met, so that works out well for her.

The only thing I didn't like about this book was it starts with the kind of fairytale where princesses are basically ornamental. Etiquette, protocol, dancing. Not so much about diplomacy or logistics or castle defence. But there were plenty of times later that the traditional princessing turned out to be useful, so I think on balance it didn't do the Not Like Other Girls or make anyone out to be useless.

I'll happily buy more like this.

Today is a theoretical holiday but Monday jobs are laundry and dishwashering because by Monday it needs doing. So I did one load dishwasher and two loads laundry same as usual. But that was a perfectly pleasant day.

I also put away the duvet and switched to blankets for the summer. More layers can cope with more variable weather, hopefully.

I feel like I need more things to do with my days. But basic maintenance functions would still need done, so.
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Antimony Price, youngest sister, has to deal with the consequences of her elders actions, by going undercover, while already having an identity crisis. Layers of secrets unravel and the stakes are life and death on a large scale.

Read more... )

I stayed up until midnight trying to read this all in one go, despite my sleep cycle currently thinking 0500 is a luxurious lie in. And then I read it all morning. It's a good involving read.

If you liked the others in the series then Antimony's anger towards their point of view characters might be a bit of a speed bump to liking her, but she seems plenty logical to me.

I liked this.
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I have a vague impression of vaguely liking F&SF, or at worst being uninterested in a particular story.
But when I add up my opinions story by story I turn out to have not quite liked a lot.

Witch's Hour, by Shannon Connor Winward.
Trigger warnings, rape and abuse and not even getting away from it by killing the dude because ghosts.
That one was unpleasant.
Read more... )
Just... wrong.

Dirty Old Town, Richard Bowes
Didn't really connect with the narrator, not my kind of thing.

The Prognosticant, Matthew Hughes
Things happen to this guy and he makes clever choices that achieve goals.
And if any emotions happen I missed them.
Story with no feels, didn't connect, not my sort of thing.

My English Name, R. S. Benedict
Story about someone pretending to be an ill, gay, human, Read more... )

A Thousand Deaths Through Flesh And Stone, Brian Trent
Uploads and backup copies, with as many new bodies as they please.
Because that action hero dude doing One Last Job becomes a renewable resource if you've got a backup copy.
Read more... )

The History of the Invasion Told In Five Dogs, Kelly Jennings
Sad post apocalyptic thing with very little hope, told through bad things happening to dogs.
Effective angle.
Don't like the whole post apoc despair thing.

What The Hands Know, Gregor Hartmann
Fight club story, therefore boring and instantly forgotten.
Tries to do worldbuilding and politics and hint at wider conflict through one man's experience
but that one man isn't someone whose head I find interesting.

The Woman With The Long Black Hair, Zach Shephard
Skillfully written, plausibly characterised, achieved its goal, just did a bunch of bad things to characters to do so. So I didn't like it.

The First Day Of Someone Else's Life, John Schoffstall
Frenetic mix of almost intelligible strangeness of near future weird social evolution
through a guy whose deal I guessed pretty much from the get go Read more... )

Neko Brushes, Leah Cypess
Boy can paint so good it comes to life. Simples story with magic cats, and also samurai and politics and twists.
I liked.

Rings, Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Okay, but, why do we need a story about women taking men as slaves to breed from?
I mean, worldbuilding, characters, feelings, certainly a lot of women but why?
If it's to illustrate the stupidity of writing off half the human race I can think of a bazillion better ways.

... I feel bad saying didn't like so often, I mean stuff like I'd rather read things that left me in a better mood than I started, but all these certainly packed plenty of characters and ideas into decently written stories.

I don't know.

If I'm not looking for these, what am I looking for?

... more women that are less evil, and a sense that problems can in fact be solved, preferably by teamwork and application of intelligence.

... and yet the one that is all guy solves problems by application of intelligence doesn't work for me at all. So, also, feels. Emotional arcs. Becoming.

I don't know. Like this but not this.

Shall see if next month.
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Bought this because it looked fun and like it would be about women.
Which, yeah, ish.
But it was mostly Being Funny, and it seemed to not like women very much unless they were hitting things. Read more... )

So that's 5/18 stories that were better than okay.

Buuuut an overall impression of :-/
and no particular desire to buy the other books in the series.

Think it's just not to my tastes.
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Hrm. So. I think if this magazine were a conversation I'd find different people to talk to. Some of the stories are clever and have good qualities, but there's... stuff going on with them. The kind of stuff that says Our Kind Of People have all the smarts and the good thinking, and Those Other Sorts need to shape up and assimilate, or they're some kind of dangerous.

This is not what I look for in science fiction.

But there's other threads about listening to different views and learning better. I don't know. The big story at the start of this issue was foul so it stank up the rest.

The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes, Howard V Hendrix
I have said what I think of this nastiness.
I don't think I mentioned there but there was also a never plot relevant bit where the ten year olds looked 16 with "womanly curves". That creeped me out in its own distinct way.

To See The Elephant, Julie Novakova
Animal Psychologist here means mind melding with animals. Lady figures out why elephant is in distress. Turns out to Read more... )
It had neat stuff about elephant language and social groups, and the idea of animal mind melds is appealing, like all them soulbonded animal stories but with more leaving.

The Final Nail, Stanley Schmidt
On one level this is an interesting science problem. People start being allergic to red meat, and the protagonist is the guy who has enough pieces to figure out why. But it thinks it is more clever than the people it is lecturing. Read more... ) it just looks like it hasn't thought its own science through.

Kepler's Law, Jay Werkheiser
Fair play science problem, in a space colony that is 100% women.
So it has a lot going for it and I quite liked it.
It is not exactly ideal that they're all women because the colony needs wombs to grow transplanted embryos in. Read more... )
... I liked it more before I started thinking about it.

Those were the longer stories, then a ton of shorts.
Read more... )

Nothing that really stood out as making my reading time worth it.
Few things that were okay reads.

Also the cover ink continues to not last long enough for a fairly careful reader.
not best.
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Reading Analog is making me feel kind of ugh.
Like, even if the story seems okay, I now feel like I have to shake it and look at it sideways for creepies.

I ordered it because Dad read it, but, thwt may be exactly the problem.
I mean, I can't stand the newspaper he used to read, and we didn't agree on anything much, so if it is still the kind of thing he would like?

even ignoring the creeps though
it makes me feel like I'm reading back issues.
like this isn't the literature of ideas, this is the reassurance you did all your thinking right the first time.

don't know, two issues, might be too soon to judge.

... don't like it today though.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
Started reading "The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes" by Howard V Hendrix

you know I hate to stop in the middle, but, it is foul, and I don't know if I can wade through to its conclusions. ETA: I did, because I wanted to complain about it in very strong terms, so I checked. It really is that nasty all the way through. /ETA

It's your basic midwich cuckoos gig, the mysterious blackout babies that can outsmart and manipulate everyone, only there's stuff about the NSA making an AI with the purpose of understanding humans, and something something social media kids these days profit.

Read more... )

So the whole story is about laying out reasons to murder a bunch of neurodivergent gender fluid ten year olds.

Which is foul.

And it manifests as a giant Kids These Days rant which seems to blame communication for a lack of basic empathy.

Someone in this story lacks sufficient empathy, and it ain't who the story thinks it is.

The machine tasked with understanding people would be in the best position to actually explain them to each other. The one with the task of assessing threat could best understand where no threat truly exists.

The difference between raman and varelse is not in the creature judged, but in the creature judging.

I am currently regretting buying this magazine, even on a 'to see if I like it' basis.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
If I think of this as buying a 'short novel' with a bunch of filler stories then it's okay.

I quite liked the cover story, The Runabout by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
There's a crew of people going for salvage, a mystery they find and more or less resolve, weird tech, and actual emotional character arcs. Also, women.

Everything else... I just sighed really big, so, that.

Story by story reviews under the cut.
Read more... )

So that's one didn't suck, one interesting ideas, one where it's kind of interesting sf but my main reaction is vague embarrassment for the protagonist, and then a whole lot of forgettable and grubby nastiness.

I'm not liking the scoreboard there.

But hey, Runabout was a space adventure.


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