shinyjenni: Alicia from The Good Wife, seen from behind, wearing a red coat, in front of a wall of bookshelves (alicia books)
[personal profile] shinyjenni
Avengers Assemble
Wilful Impropriety edited by Ekaterina Sedia*
Soul Music - Terry Pratchett
Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted?
Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois*
The Unreal and the Real: Outer Space and Inner Lands (Selected Stories vol 2) - Ursula K. Le Guin
The Agency: A Spy in the House - Y.S. Lee*
All New X-Factor: Axis
Manhunter: Street Justice*
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth - Chris Hadfield

Didn't finish: The Road Home - Rose Tremain. I was quite enjoying this, about a Polish immigrant recently arrived in England, but then the already intermittently violent protagonist raped his ex-girlfriend and I just noped right out.

Rogues
I picked up this anthology for the Scott Lynch story and was, I will admit, somewhat sceptical about it - rogues can be written in a way that I like (cf Solo, Han), but often "rogue" is used to mean "character who does bad things, but it's ok because they weren't THAT bad/he (it's usually he) only did them to bad people/other people did worse things to him first/he's kind of vaguely sorry about it?/he's just so CHARMING", and I am not down with any of that. So a lot of these stories were always going to be a hard sell for me. And yet for some reason I decided to comment on all of them.

Joe Abercrombie's "Tough Times All Over" was a strong start with a cool conceit (we hop from character to character following the MacGuffin they're passing around); I was sad to leave behind the original point of view character (a queer woman! :D), but I was pleased with how it ultimately worked out. Next up was Gillian Flynn's "What Would You Do?", which wasn't bad but also really wasn't my cup of tea; then Matt Hughes's "The Inn of the Seven Blessings", in which the protagonist considers raping a woman but decides he can't be bothered, leaves a man to be eaten by cannibals, and yet still ends up with the blessings of multiple gods and also the aforementioned woman. D:

Joe R. Lansdale's "Bent Twig" lost me when the hero described his girlfriend as "my redhead" in the first paragraph and never won me back. "Tawny Petticoats" by Michael Stanwick had a similar issue, though at least some of the sexism in there was a deliberate choice, and the world was fairly interesting. I was pretty uncomfortable with all the parallels between the temporary zombies and slavery, though, since the story didn't actually do anything with them. :( "Provenance" by David W. Ball was another "this wasn't bad but wasn't the sort of story I am interested in" one. Carrie Ryan's "Roaring Twenties" was a distinct improvement: a really solid Prohibition-plus-magic story.

And then I hit the story I picked up the anthology for - Scott Lynch's "A Year and A Day In Old Theradane" - and it was a JOY. Amarelle, a very definitely retired (on pain of being turned into a streetlamp) thief, is coerced by a wizard into pulling One Last Job: she wants her (and her friends) to steal a street. Shenanigans, naturally, ensue, and the whole thing is an inventive delight. It also had an excellent sense of a writer taking the opportunity to run wild, free of the constraints of overarching plot and character developments. I loved it.

After that, the next story, "Bad Brass" by Bradley Denton, was inevitably going to be a let down, and lo, it was. Just a boring dude protagonist doing dude things, like petty crime, being vaguely gross about women, and substitute teaching. Also the joke about his camo facepaint looking like blackface really didn't work for me because I was in the CCF and I know that's not how you camouflage. /o\ Cherie Priest's "Heavy Metal" was better, but didn't really grab me. (I am beginning to regret arbitrarily deciding to say something about every story in this volume.) "The Meaning of Love" by Daniel Abraham was good, but it didn't go the way I wanted it to go, and also touched on a few tropes that I am v. bored of, so I didn't enjoy it as much as it may have deserved. Paul Cornell's "A Better Way To Die" was another of his Hamilton stories, which I always enjoy, but which also always leave me feeling like I have almost but not quite enough information to get my head round what's actually going on. They're set in a really interesting alternative world which I have never quite managed to entirely grasp. /o\

Steven Saylor's "Ill Seen in Tyre" crossed over his Roman mystery series (of which I have read one, about a decade ago; I don't remember disliking it but I clearly didn't like it enough to keep going) with another series I haven't read, and also featured the protagonist sneaking naked into a woman's room in the hope that she was sleeping naked and he'd be able to perv over her. BLECH. Garth Nix's "A Cargo of Ivories" I didn't quite click with, but was still much better: fun and inventive.

Next up was "Diamonds from Tequila", by Walter John Williams, which... knowing the protagonist is supposed to be insufferably self-absorbed doesn't actually make spending time in his head any more fun for me. D: Phyllis Eisenstein's "The Caravan to Nowhere" appeared to be set in a universe where women can no longer have names, and are only allowed to be barmaids, sex workers or dead wives, and while there are plenty of great stories to be told about barmaids, sex workers and wives, it chose to talk about the men instead, and thus I found it hard to get interested in it. After those two, "The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives" by Lisa Tuttle was something of a relief: not earth shattering, but a solid Victorian detective story with supernatural elements, a female lead, and a decent appreciation of the position of women in late Victorian England.

I hadn't realised that Neil Gaiman's "How The Marquis Got His Coat Back" was in this anthology, so it was a delightful surprise to find it here. Neverwhere is one of those books that I read at just the right age and that broke my mind open to new imaginative possibilities, so the prospect of more in that world was excellent. And this story didn't disappoint: it was an great addition to the Neverwhere universe. The next story, Connie Willis's "Now Showing", was also very strong - fascinating, deeply plausible premise; fast paced plot - though the evocation of the heroine's frustration at being constantly prevented from seeing the film she wanted was a little too good for it to be an entirely relaxing reading experience. /o\

Nearly there! Patrick Rothfuss's "The Lightning Tree" was fine apart from the odd bit of grossness about women. I feel like I'd've got more out of it if I'd read anything else in the universe it's part of, though. And finally there was George R.R. Martin's "The Rogue Prince, or a King's Brother", which was written as if it were an entry in a history book and was therefore pretty dry. Again, I feel like I would have got more out of it if I were a fan of ASOIAF, but as it was it was just a lot of names and not enough women.

So! Overall, I gave this three stars: there weren't that many highs, but some of them were SPLENDIDLY high, and all of the lows were at least decently written, plus some of them had some interesting stuff going on.


Wilful Impropriety
This was mostly a decent anthology. It had rather too many het romance stories that, while they weren't actively bad, didn't really do enough to make them stand out for my taste, but there were quite a few highlights, including Stephanie Burgis's delightful f/f romance 'The Unladylike Education of Agatha Tremain'. On the negative side, it also included a crossdressing-girl story which managed to hit almost everything I hate about that trope so hard that it left me fuming for a good hour afterwards. D:

The Agency: A Spy in the House - Y.S. Lee
This could've been a fun, if not particularly amazing, story about an all-female spy agency in Victorian England, except that it had a particularly bad case of Obligatory Het Romance. D: The love interest was basically THE WORST: patronising, irritating, high handed, ugh. And unfortunately the rest of the book wasn't good enough to make up for it - it was fine, but it needed to have been so much better to make putting up with the love interest worth it.

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth
I liked this a lot. I was a bit worried about the self-help elements, but unusually they really resonated with me, I think because they were kind of similar to the way I think anyway: being methodical, thinking through possible responses to likely changes/difficulties, making a conscious choice to be happy about small things and victories (or the Arthur Shappey Getting Into The Bath theory of happiness) etc. It was also fascinating to find out what astronauts actually do every day, both in space and not, and helped explain why so many astronauts, in their public personas at least, seem to come off as basically level headed and good humoured.
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shinyjenni: Wonder Woman deflects bullets with her bracelets (Default)
incorrigibly frivolous

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