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Joined 1 year, 2 months ago

I read largely sff, some romance and mystery, very little non-fiction.

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A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Hardcover, 2021, Tordotcom) 5 stars

It's been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; …

A Psalm for the Wild-Built

5 stars

Content warning minor spoilers

Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon is a fantasy novella by Nigerian speculative fiction writer Oghenechovwe …

Ife-Iyoku, Tale of Imadeyunuagbon

3 stars

This is a post-apocalyptic novella where survivors of a nuclear war have developed magical-esque powers that help them survive in a radiation-torn Africa.

I wanted to like this more than I did. Thematically, it felt like it was about the tensions of patriarchy and forced gender roles, and also about community itself (internally and externally). I think ultimately for a story about resistance to patriarchy, I wanted more focus on Imade herself, rather than have most of the space taken up by the men in the book and her reactions to their feelings and actions. That said, I enjoyed the ending of the book and felt like it wrapped up both personal and larger events in a way that felt very true to Imade's character.

Content warnings: suicide, rape (off-page)

This won the 2020 Otherwise Award:

The Witness for the Dead (Hardcover, 2021, Tor Books) 4 stars

A standalone novel in the fantastic world of Katherine Addison's award-winning The Goblin Emperor.

When …

The Witness for the Dad

4 stars

I'm not sure what I was expecting from another book set in The Goblin Emperor universe, but I really enjoyed this fantasy slice of life cozy mystery. This is not a sequel per se and I don't strictly think you need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one, but I do think coming to this one knowing the naming conventions and a little bit of backstory make this book easier and more enjoyable to read.

It was also fun to have read this after reading Paladin's Hope (by T. Kingfisher), which similarly features a main character who is able to see a body's last moments before death. Plot-wise, it's definitely a useful mystery hook to have an amateur investigator (and also thankfully not a cop) have some insight into tracking down nefarious deeds. The similarities end there, as Paladin's Hope has a more ...action and romance bent …

The Goblin Emperor (Paperback, 2019, REBCA) 5 stars

Maia, the youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, …

The Goblin Emperor

5 stars

Before reading Witness for the Dead, I took the excuse to reread Goblin Emperor for the nth time, and oh wow is it still such a comfort read for me.

I think it's really that Maia is an endearing (and easy to connect to for me) character. An anxious, apologetic, people-pleasing half-goblin forced into being an emperor that he doesn't know anything about. Wanting to be kind and make friends but struggling with being awkward and trying to do that through an extreme power dynamic differential.

It takes a little to get into the swing of the various courtiers and naming conventions, but it feels a little like a reflection how lost Maia is himself.

Overall, it's just a nice gentle character arc of growing into competency and friendship that always seems to be exactly what I need.

reviewed The Seep by Chana Porter

The Seep (Hardcover, 2020, Soho Press) 4 stars

A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut is …

The Seep

4 stars

Content warning minor spoilers

The Moon Room

4 stars

This short story can be read here:

This is a short story narrated by a photographer and taking place mostly at a drag bar. Thematically, I love how it uses the drag bar setting as a metaphorical context for the narrator's own exploration of vulnerability and costume. The creepy horror/science fiction elements are subtly woven through the whole piece, and the ending of this story brings everything together so well. What a great last line.

(content warnings: alcohol, and alcohol misuse as coping mechanism)

I read this because it's on the Otherwise Award's 2020 Honor List:

City of a Thousand Feelings (Aqueduct Press) 4 stars

City of a Thousand Feelings

4 stars

Content warning minor spoilers

Custom Options Available

5 stars

Content warning mention of sexual content (not lewd), minor spoilers

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water (Hardcover, 2020, Tor) 4 stars

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, …

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

4 stars

I read this as a part of the #SFFBookClub for March. I voted for this book largely because I had enjoyed Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown and wanted to read more from her.

To sum up the book, it's a wuxia novella that follows a bandit group along with ex-nun Guet Imm. Guet Imm in the first scene loses her job at a coffee shop because of said bandits and insists on joining said gang.  Very queer; some gender stuff going on; the gang itself is sort of a found family that sticks up for each other even when they don't get along.  It's hard to talk about too much more without getting into spoilers. It's far more about characterization and shifting identities due to wartime loss than about magical fight scenes.

I was not expecting to find this book so funny and to have such great banter.  Guet …

Into the Broken Lands (2022, DAW) 1 star

Into the Broken Lands

1 star

Overall this book wasn't for me. I found it heavy-handed and repetitive. Would not recommend.

Plot-wise, this is an extremely long fantasy quest novel about insecure heir Ryan, knowledge-seeking-at-all-costs scholar cousin Lyelee, and nearly indestructible magical "weapon"/actually a person Nonee going to find some fuel in a dangerous mage-torn land to keep a magical fire burning for ostensibly motivational reasons.

The book sets up a tale of Ryan following in the footsteps of the previous heir Garrett's journey to find fuel and intersperses the two journeys. Unfortunately, I don't feel like these scenes served the book very well. They didn't reveal much hidden backstory, didn't really develop Arianna and Nonee's relationship (which felt fixed from the moment they met), didn't reveal much about Garrett himself, and only served to draw out the journey by doubling its length.

The characters felt very flat to me. Sure, Ryan and Lyelee have a …

Bonsai Starships

3 stars

This short story can be read here:

A story about a monk cultivating her bonsai starships who is forced to look beyond her gardens into a larger world of space politics. In typical Yoon Ha Lee fashion, there are delightfully no details about how these bonsai are starships, they just are. It's hard to blame a short story for being too short, but the ending felt abrupt in a way that didn't quite resonate with the rest of the story for me.

reviewed The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz

The Terraformers (Hardcover, 2023, Tor Books) 4 stars

From science fiction visionary Annalee Newitz comes The Terraformers, a sweeping, uplifting, and illuminating exploration …

The Terraformers

4 stars

This is a novel about a corporate-run terraformed world and the struggle of the people building that world to push back on their awful corporate owners and ultimately become self-governing.

Chapter one of this book really gripped me: a park ranger on a terraforming planet (who can connect to sensors in nearby trees and grasses) and her texting/flying moose buddy stop a rich camping tourist hurting the local ecosystem. Here's a small handful of other delightful worldbuilding details that I enjoyed, just for flavor: new people are built/decanted rather than born; sentient worms solve NP completeness; there's an endearing cat/train relationship. I think there's something fun about a novel that sets itself extremely far in the future and stuffs itself with neat ideas.

It's hard not to feel the echoes of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy in this whole book. Aside from the obvious bit that it's about the terraforming …

Lord of Emperors (Sarantine Mosaic, Book 2) (Paperback, 2001, Eos) 5 stars

The Thrilling Sequel To Sailing To SarantiumBeckoned by the Emperor Valerius, Crispin, a renowned mosaicist, …

Lord of Emperors

5 stars

Even on rereading, this book is a really satisfying conclusion to the duology. I feel like the strongest theme of these books is really the question of "what is a legacy" (art? children? conquest? etc).

Even though the larger historical picture of this duology is the arc of one particular emperor and empress, it manages to give plenty of side characters enough time on page to each have their own arc, intersect with each other, and get their own development and resolution in a satisfying way.

One thing that I liked in this series (that I also think Tigana is a great example of as well) is that this book's plot is a small number of very dense events. For example, there's a wedding at some point, but there's multiple points of views leading up to it for why people are there, how they ended up there at all, how …