November 6th, 2005

last unicorn

(no subject)

37) Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (ed. Sheree Thomas)
This was an interesting anthology to read, because of the combination of turn-of-the-century works from some of the "big names" in African-American writing with very modern fiction. Some interesting themes emerged, whether an effect of the selection of stories or something inherent in African(-American) fiction: music, for example, especially jazz. This book is also making me wonder about the distinction between "black" and "brown" ("brown" being what is generally associated with postcolonialism -- intended to encompass pretty much all non-whites, but in practice most closely linked to India and the Middle East.). I'm not quite sure where to take that thought, but it's percolating around in my brain... ****

38) Star Songs of an Old Primate (James Tiptree, Jr.)
This is an anthology of some of Tiptree's "best" (according to the publisher, anyway) stories. As with all anthologies, there were some stories that appealed to me more than others, but I think it's safe for me to decide at this point that I really rather love Tiptree. He/she (for those who don't know, Tiptree is famous for having written as a man for many many year, completely fooling the sf community until eventually was revealed to be the pen name of one Alice Sheldon.) is particularly good at writing page-turning pulpy stories that nonetheless manage to have interesting and challenging Ideas behind them. My particular favorites are the agonizing "Her Smoke Rose Up Forever" and the novella "A Momentary Taste of Being", as well as the less-agonizing but still fascinating "Your Haploid Heart". ****

39) Brown Girl in the Ring (Nalo Hopkinson)
This book is even better than the last one I read by Hopkinson; it's much more coherent, in that there's nothing extraneous, nothing that's not important to the story. Set in a future Toronto that's been effectively abandonned by the rich and powerful after an economic collapse, it also manages to incorporate spiritual beings and Carribean magic. And it's a great read. No wonder this one made Hopkinson quietly famous. *****

40) Kindred (Octavia E. Butler)
This is time-travel story, and it's absolutely horrifying. Beautifully told, of course (Butler is a very skilled writer), and profoundly disturbing. A modern woman is repeatedly pulled back in time to rescue one of her ancestors -- a white boy, and later slaveowner -- and to ensure that he fathers, on one of his slaves, the child who will be her own great-grandmother. It's absorbing, and ultimately kind of depressing. Brrr. *****

41) The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)
It's been a while since I've read any Maragret Atwood, and that means it's time to get back to her. I find, with her books, that I can't read too many of them too close together, because they're so similar in so many not-quite-tangible ways, and I find myself getting frustrated. But every once in a while, her books are very enjoyable indeed . This one actually seems to be moving away from some of the typical Atwood-isms -- there's no Grand Symbolic Moment at the end of the book, for example, and it actually resolves itself almost naturally. The stories within stories within stories are well-handled for the most part, although the book-within-a-book still felt like an Atwood book -- it didn't quite take on its own separate voice (in all fairness, an extremely difficult thing to do). This is quite possibly one of her most accessible novels, too -- it's symbol-laden, but manages to maintain a lovely, sad plot all the same. ****

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