In which I talk about comics and a bit of their history and context.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t pleased with Brian Herbert’s new release.
Short list of highlights:
-Poor character development
-Not enough background
Leviathan Wakes was a fun book, but Corey lost me at times. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5.
Happy Fourth of July to those of you in the US. Here’s a Friday Reads for the week.
This week’s reads:
The Martian by Andy Weir
Habibi by Craig Thompson
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Publication Date: 2013
The Split World Series follows Cathy, a member of the fae-touched society who has escaped into Mundanus (the regular world). Cathy wants to leave the backwards misogynistic Nether behind her and to start her life as a regular human who will age and die like the rest of us. When her family captures her, she is forced back into the fae-touched world and married off to avoid scandal.
Cathy is resolved to leave again, but things are more complicated this time. Her marriage is bad enough, but she’s also caught the eye of Lord Poppy, the fae lord her family serves. With his increased scrutiny, she knows she’s headed no-where. She also has to deal with Max, an arbiter (the monitors who keep the fae-touched out of the mundane world), whose chapter has been destroyed after he uncovers corruption in the London chapter that has allowed the fae-touched to roam unchecked. Max is depending on Cathy to act as a spy and figure out exactly what is going on.
I’ve been waiting to start reading this for a while. I finally got my hands on a copy (That in itself was quite the debacle) and I’m not disappointed. This series has a great sense of fun. It’s fast-paced and witty.
I enjoyed that the characters in these novels grew. In particular, Cathy was grating and flat for the first book. She threw temper tantrums and was more preoccupied with what she had lost than with the situation at hand and dealing with the changes in her life. Frankly, she was kind of a whiny baby. By the end though, Cathy takes ownership of her situation and becomes an active player in changing her world.
Unfortunately, the character development wasn’t always up to par. For example, Newman initially builds up Cathy’s father as an abusive misogynist who puts social standing and expectations over the desires of his children. In the second book, Cathy’s father gets a bit more depth. We find out that he also went against his family wishes by fighting in World War II (did I mention the fae touched live for hundreds of years?). Cathy’s father says that the reason he doesn’t sympathize with her actions is because she was doing something selfish. This is fair enough; Cathy’s being pretty self-absorbed. But then, Newman turns around and continues to present Cathy’s father as the same abuser he was seen as previously without integrating the presented complexity into his later actions.
Another thing I was confused about was Max, the arbiter. Arbiters’ souls are separated from their bodies. They no longer feel emotion when processing crime. When Max’s chapter is destroyed, Max’s soul is bound to a gargoyle. The two proceed to try to solve the crime together. This was fine. I’ll bite.
However, Max consistently gets angry, sad, or otherwise emotional. The gargoyle often shows a great deal of logic and prioritizes his emotions last. Both of these seemed to go counter to the situation Newman initially describes. I liked them both, but it was far easier for me to just think of them as separate characters than as parts of a whole and singular one.
I did enjoy Cathy and Will’s relationship. It really grew as the two began to depend on one another. The trust and love wasn’t instant, a really gratifying thing when the situation is complex. I enjoyed that they had to learn to trust and respect one another and that it wasn’t easy.
Will was a good guy. We see this repeatedly. That’s why it’s really confusing when he does some sketchy stuff to keep Lord Iris, his family’s fae lord, happy. Will isn’t above using magic to manipulate those around him. I still really liked him, but some of this just really chafed. That Cathy remains fairly ignorant of what Will does is troubling, but I think it will be addressed in a fourth book (hopefully).
Overall, The Split Worlds Series is a fun, fast-paced read. I gave it a 4 rating.
You can watch me babble about it here:
Wow. For such a short book, there is a lot going on in this. I’ve been wanting to read Ancillary Justice for a while now, and, when I saw it a few weeks ago, I couldn’t really resist. I know I’m weak. But I’m not disappointed.
Ancillary Justice follows an AI system called the Justice of Toren. The Justice of Toren has been assigned to an annexation, and, while on planet, Justice of Toren and its human lieutenant, Lt. Awn, uncover a conspiracy that could only have occurred with the sanction of a high official–the Lord of Radch, ruler of the Empire. They do their best to divert the oncoming disaster, but are sent back to their ship. Shortly after they arrive, the ship explodes. Everyone is dead except a single ancillary unit of the Justice of Toren who goes into hiding under the name Breq. Breq then seeks the destruction of the AI that destroyed her units and the humans who lived aboard the ship.
The highlight of this book is not the writing style. Though Leckie’s writing is good, there’s nothing terribly outstanding about it. The real high points in the book are the ways that Leckie portrays heavy issues like identity and moral ambiguity.
The first thing that struck me was Leckie’s use of gender. The Radch, the conquering ethnic group, don’t use gender in their language. The Radch are a more androgynous culture. Leckie shows this by using she as the pronoun for all characters during narration. This was very confusing. The only time that we find out characters’ genders was when Breq spoke to people whose languages use gender. In the same paragraph, a character may be referred to as both he and she.
Leckie uses AI as an opportunity to talk about both identity and morality. Both discussions are interesting.
Ancillaries are humans who have been hooked up to an AI unit, often forcibly and for reasons that are often self-serving on behalf of the Rachaai. They become part of the AI and lose their independent identity. Leckie is constantly questioning what this means for the identity of the AI and for the identity of the ancillary. Can an AI be more than the sum of its parts, and, if isolated from the composite AI unit, what is the identity of an ancillary.
She also sticks her world in a very interesting predicament. The Radch use ancillaries as a way to avoid the corruption and cruelties that often accompany humans in war. However, the very existence of ancillaries–humans forced into acting as human tools of AI units–is atrocious. The efficiency likely doesn’t outweigh the cruelty of their creation, but does the avoidance of corruption and abuse justify the end?
Overall, there was a lot to think about. I suspect I’ll be thinking about Ancillary Justice for quite some time.