Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Brother's Price by Wen Spencer

So the thing you need to know about this book is that in its world, men are only about 5% of the population, so men's and women's roles are basically reversed. Men are protected and basically treated as property, and the women fight and run businesses and so on.

Other than that, it's a fairly straightforward historical romance, where the beautiful but poor son of farmers falls in love with a woman far above his station, etc. etc.

I wasn't too into it at first, and I really wished it had taken the role reversal thing to another level somehow. Other than the different family structure [which was cool--basically one man will marry a whole family of sisters, and they have like 30 kids in order to have at least one or two boys] you could have just switched all the pronouns and had a pretty normal romance novel.

Gradually, though, it grew on me and I found myself shirking my very important chores and so on to find out what happened.
There was a lot of interesting stuff about their society that was only touched on in passing, and it made me hope for a sequel that would really go into the issues that only got a surface treatment here.

Notes From the Labyrinth says it much better than I did, although I don't mind the "clair" thing like she does. (A useful term!)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lobster by Guillaume Lecasble

I don't want to give the impression that I have some kind of lobster fetish--it just happened that I read two lobster-related books this month.

But if you have a lobster fetish, have I got the book for you!

Okay, so there's this lobster, right? And it gets caught, along with its family members, and they are taken on the Titanic (yes, that Titanic) and served to the guests.
Except that the hero lobster has just been plunged into the boiling water when the ship hits the iceberg, so he escapes and ends up under the skirt of a lady passenger. And this lady, who has never been sexually satisfied, has her first orgasm by means of the lobster. (I forget the mechanics exactly.)
Then she rescues him, but they are tragically separated in a lifeboat, and she later suffers a terrible mutilation while trying to . . . recapture the magic, shall we say, with a different lobster.

I can't say I exactly liked this book, but I'm glad I read it because it's certainly something I would never have thought of. Sometimes you just get so tired of yet another legal thriller or space opera or tenderly written literary novel that you just need some lobster porn to wake you up a little.
Besides, it's very short.

Also, check out the review in the Guardian--most excellent.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

The universe is a cruel, cruel place.
The first writer since Anne Rice (I know, I know, Rice has been a total hack since she fired her editor, but Interview and Lestat were awesome, come on) to do something new and interesting with the vampire myth (okay, pace Joss Whedon, but he didn't write novels), and she goes and dies without writing the CLEARLY NECESSARY sequel(s).

Still, don't let that keep you from reading this, because it is excellent. The basic idea of the story is that the protagonist is a vampire who can go out in daylight partly because she is black...but for a world-building freak like me the really cool part is all the details of the vampire society--they have a legal system and everything!

A new twist here is that the vampires don't just go out and feed on anybody--they have particular human symbiotes that they get their sustenance from. The relationship is more or less consensual, with some benefits for the humans, but there are also some unpleasant overtones of slavery, something that I think Butler was planning to address in later books. (WHICH WE WILL NEVER GET TO READ NOW! IT'S SO FREAKING SAD.)

I seriously haven't been this upset about an author's death since Douglas Adams died.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Okay, I have made a decision. I am not reading any more Russian novels in translation.
I'm sure this book is AMAZING if you are actually Russian, and get all the references.

But even with the annotations, it felt like when you go meet your new boyfriend's best friends, and he's all "oh, right, we always say that when someone drops a fork" or "that's the name of Jeff's old band" or something, and you kind of laugh but it just doesn't have the resonance.

It is worth it for Chapter 21, "Flight", though. Just read that bit.

The Best People in the World by Justin Tussing

So while I was reading this I kept having a strong sense of déjà-vu, even though I was sure I hadn't read any books before about a kid in high school who runs away with his teacher and a random homeless guy to live as squatters in Vermont in the early 70s.

But then I realized that basically it's a combination of three Basic Plots:
a) Let's Move to the Middle of Nowhere and Live Off the Land
b) We Don't Get Along With (or Have) Our Own Families So Let's Make Our Own
c) It All Ended Badly But First Let Me Tell You How Beautiful It Was While It Lasted

Sigh. I really kind of hated this book, but the first chapter, where he describes the power plant where the kid has a summer job? So good. Really.

So okay, Justin Tussing. You're a good writer, and you've gotten your "first novel" off your chest. Now go write something more interesting, less sentimental, and preferably including killer robots. Thanks.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Doctors & Nurses by Lucy Ellmann

This was a weird little story. It was kind of DISGUSTING and filled with words in ALL CAPS, but ultimately turned out to be PRETTY DAMN ENTERTAINING.

It's about this nurse who is REALLY FAT, and a doctor who is a TERRIBLE HORRIBLE PERSON, but also about how our SELF-HATRED and EMBARRASSMENT/LOATHING of our BODIES is totally RUINING OUR LIVES.

Which is kind of true.