Recent reading

Okay! I read Walton’s AMONG OTHERS, and that’s the one that’s going on the top slot of my Hugo ballot, at least for now.

You know what’s interesting about this book? Nothing happens in it. The actual conflict with the scary-witch mother? Very (and I’m quite sure deliberately) anticlimactic.

In fact, it’s like the whole big plot occurred earlier, in the backstory, and the book itself is set after the real story took place. Which is fascinating. Linda, if you read this, what do you think?

I thought for some time after finishing it: why is this not YA? Because we have a fifteen-year-old protagonist, a boarding school, the need to sneak around outside of adult supervision, a problem to face (though like I said, that winds up being anticlimactic), the first boyfriend, the protagonist figuring out who she is as a person . . . all the elements of YA. Yet it’s not being marketed as YA and, in fact, doesn’t feel like YA. And why not? Because (I conclude) nothing really happens in the book. (And it’s paced slow.)

I’m not the least bit surprised it won the Nebula. Writers vote for that, and I bet virtually every single writer can identify with the not-fitting-in-at-school thing. I expect it will win the Hugo, because lots of fans vote for that, and ditto for fans.

If I had a fifteen-year-old daughter? Particularly one who liked SF and F and was really bright? I would so hand her this book. It’s not fun and quick like THE BLUE SWORD (say), but in its own way it’s just as good.

Oh — and the epistolary thing doesn’t work for everyone, I know, but I always like that form and I just never worry about whether a person could actually remember that much detail to put down in her diary or letters or whatever. But this one IS epistolary, so if that’s sometimes an issue for you, well, fair warning.

In complete contrast, the other book I read this weekend (and, yes, I was working on my WIP, too) was LOVER AVENGED by JR Ward. Yep, still working my way through the vampire romances! A tidbit of dialogue that is illustrative of what I like about these books:

“Okay, here’s the deal, George. You see these fuckers? They’re trouble, straight-up trouble. I know we’ve done this a couple of times, but let’s not get cocky.”

And what is the situation? That’s right, Wrath is talking to his new guide dog about going up the stairs! Yes, I laughed.

What I love about Ward’s vampire books: the snappy dialogue.

What I don’t love: you know, EVERY ASPECT of ordinary vampire society is EVIL. And I don’t mean morally a bit on the iffy side, I mean actually no kidding evil. The Bloodletter’s Summer Camp For Killers? Evil. (And also very questionable from a practical standpoint; I can’t believe anybody ever thought for one second this was a great way to train soldiers. I mean, seriously? Are you kidding me?)

The idea of seclusion for females? Evil. The thing with the Chosen being staked out for their lover? That’s right — totally evil. And the unspoken customs, like the way the aristocrats treat each other and the commoners? Also evil. The exploitation of the happy slave race of doggen? I mean, I’m speechless.

What I like: various protagonists waking up to the notion that it’s about bloody time for a major overhaul of all their dearest traditions. Thank you, yes, good thinking! Faster, please!

What I would really appreciate: the human women? Or the women who used to be human? They should really come down on vampire institutions like a ton of bricks. They weren’t raised like that; they should know better.

All that aside . . . Zsadist is my favorite Brother. That scene of his at the end of his book (LOVER AWAKENED) — if you’ve read it you know which scene I have in mind — it’s really, genuinely, moving.

And Rehvenge is my second favorite. I guess I’m a sucker for Bad Boys With A Heart Of Gold.

But it ticks me off that Xhex got kidnapped at the end. I guess EVERY FEMALE CHARACTER has got to be a victim and get saved by Her Man, no matter how tough she is? If she’s a stone-cold killer, we just give her an extra special bad guy to get kidnapped by? Honestly! I hope when I read the next book, she turns out to save herself.

UPDATE: Just read LOVER MINE, and yes indeed Xhex DOES save herself. So, cool! I am now happy.

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4 thoughts on “Recent reading”

  1. I think it was Jo Walton who wrote a short about a group of teens who’d been through portal to fantasy land and returned. What I remember of it was that it dealt with the Now What? Now that we’ve saved another world, what do we do with ourselves? Seems to fit with AMONG OTHERS being about the aftermath.

    I started AO, but it was a bad time in my life for paying attention to new books and I kept sliding off. I should try again.

    However right now I’m going to start HOUSE OF SHADOWS which just arrived.

  2. I’ve been looking for AMONG OTHERS at my library–my book-buying budget is small, and I just spent it all on N.K. Jemisin’s DREAMBLOOD series and, uh, HOUSE OF SHADOWS. But now I will redouble my efforts!

    After I read HOUSE OF SHADOWS, of course. It was waiting for me when I got home today. I won’t have time to read until this weekend, but I’m setting aside Saturday afternoon and no one is allowed to interrupt. :)

  3. Excellent sense of priorities! I’m dying to get Jemisin’s latest, but my TBR pile is already teetering.

  4. Sorry for the late response! I liked AMONG OTHERS a lot, though I didn’t have the deep emotional response to it that a lot of people did. I suspect I would have loved it when I was closer to the protagonist’s age, but as a middle-aged person, I found her a little annoying. (Though a very believable geeky teenager, I hasten to add!) I also thought the author did a great job keeping the reader guessing about what was really going on. How reliable was the narrator? Was magic real or not? Of course, Walton has made it very clear in interviews that she wants the story to be interpreted in a certain way, but I actually liked the ambiguity.

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