Working Title
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I should have been born a cat
Welcome to Working Title. This is a public journal, but old posts (and the rare new post) are friends-only.

Information about me can be found on my user page. New LiveJournal friends are welcome: feel free to friend me, but please do leave a note (here or otherwise) and introduce yourself if you would like to be friended in return.
As I post more of these boys, it's getting harder for new readers to catch up on what's come before. So for everyone's ease, I finally offer:

Ghost and Aaron: A Sims 3 Story
Introduction and Master List

Aaron (with freckles and dyed black hair) is brash and rude, but behind his bravado is certain vulnerability. Ghost (with white hair and pale eyes) is inward-turned, expressing himself through the arts—but his passivity hides depth. They are cousins who, for most of their lives, were only casual acquaintances. Two years ago, Aaron moved in with Ghost and his mother, and the boys quickly became close friends. But one day, after they had moved into a filthy suburban home in Sunset Valley, Aaron kissed Ghost—changing their relationship forever, and beginning their chronicled story.

From their first spontaneous kiss onward, Ghost and Aaron's story has been almost entirely autonomous. I set up premises, and they provide plot—and the boys have a strange magic that makes it all possible. I post lightly annotated, image-heavy chronicles of their daily lives, supplemented with text-only, non-chronological storybits that fill in gaps in their daily developments and backstory. Storybits in particular may contain explicit sexual content, so consider yourself warned.

The list below contains every post where Aaron and Ghost appear, from cameos to major developments. The numbering system is completely meaningless (but keeps things in order); storybits are often non-chronological and tangentially related, but add significant depth. I have no posting schedule—updates come when they come. Comments and discussion are always welcome. Enjoy!

Master List — The time when...
001 They first appear.
002 Aaron kisses Ghost.
003 Aaron sets fire to the TV.
004 Their romantic relationship gets going.
005 Ghost quits his job.
006 They finally have sex.
          Bonus House tour.
007 They cameo during their honeymoon period.
008 The repoman comes.
          Bonus Family photos and Storybit 01: Aaron on the doorstep.
009 Ghost says "I love you."
           Bonus Storybit 02: Ghost dreams of death.
010 Ghost's dreams get worse.
          Bonus Storybit 03: Aaron says "I love you."
011 Storybit 04: The second round, while Ghost should be sleeping.
012 They have a surprising amount of sex.
          Bonus Storybit 05: Aaron picks Ghost up from work.
013 Ghost started to come to terms with Aaron's thievery.
          Bonus Storybit 06: Aaron questions Ghost's sexual history.
014 They cameo at the Silverman-Moore wedding.
015 Storybit 07: Aaron bottoms for the first time.
016 They visit Mouse.
          Bonus Storybit 08: The night with Nathan.
017 Everything's going well, so Aaron's parents show up.
          Bonus Storybit 09: The rings.
018 Things do not happen in France.
019 Aaron's parents visit.
          Bonus Storybit 10: What does not happen after Aaron's parents leave.
020 Previous update outtakes.
021 They spend a couple irresponsible days.

You can also browse my tags for Sims 3 and Sims 3: Ghost and Aaron for some supplemental discussion and photo logs of my other Sims. All my Sims photos are gathered in galleries on my Flickr.
I should have been born a cat
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Website.

bpal_feedback avaliable here.

BPAL I have up for swap (locked).

My BPAL wishlist

I'm always willing to try new BPAL scents or to stock up on my favorites, but there are some scents that I desire more than others. I generally collect imps/decants because I go through oils slowly. You can fund my BPAL obsession through Paypal (swiftskyes AT hotmail DOT com) or ship them to me directly (can't see my contact info? want to? just ask).

I've included information about my favorite scents and notes (to give you an idea of what I like) and my wishlist for both limited edition and general catalog imps. Asterisks denote my highest priorities.

My favorite scents, notes, and tastesCollapse )

Limited Edition/Retired/Unimpable/etc WishlistCollapse )

General Catalog WishlistCollapse )

Non-BPAL & Miscellaneous WishlistCollapse )
28th-Jun-2015 06:42 pm - New kitty! Meet Daredevil.
I should have been born a cat
Hello, internet! We have a new cat.

It's been long enough since Mama's passing that it finally feels like the right time. Dee's been watching the humane society's website for cats with special needs but affordable upkeep, and when Daredevil showed up see seemed like a good fit. She's blind due to a congenital defect, but well-adjusted, outgoing, and highly affectionate. She's also so teeny-tiny.

Medical details and her history.Collapse )

She came to us at two years old-ish and 6.5 pounds which, if you were counting, is super teeny omg. She's nearly half August's size. She makes tiny-man Gilly look big. She's a short-haired tortoiseshell.

Dare takes a little bit of time to adjust to new spaces and stimuli, but is proactively engaged with her environment; she's bright and observant, and has already conquered the bathroom and is eager to get out to the rest of the house. Disability isn't inspiration porn, even in cats, but the degree to which this cat is engaged with her environment is amazing. She tracks sound so well it seems like she's making eye contact with what she's "looking" at; she's a great example of how much cats use their whiskers to explore and navigate their environment. Being blind from birth probably helps, since she's unaware of what she's missing; it probably also helps that she's bold and friendly. She's refined the tools she has to engage with her environment, and damn but does she use them. She makes my cats look like lazy slackers.

She has a teeny little meow, and is moderately vocal (a good bit of meowing for attention, but so far no yowling for the pure pleasure of making atrocious noises), purrs persistently, and kneeds a lot—that last is winding down a touch as she gets a little less frantic for human interaction, but I'll still be maintaining the hell out of her claw trimmings. She's quite playful, and absolutely able to bat and chase cat toys. It will be interesting to see how her behaviors change as she adapts to living her and to plenty of human interaction—Gillian, for example, was very needy when he first came here and now is happy to take his humans for granted.

And she is so wildly different from Mama that there's no hidden regret or sense of betrayal. Dare is her own unique cat, not a replacement.

Juu, who cares, show us pictures.

(From the humane society's adoption page.)

(Taken by me, on her first day home.)

(Taken by Dee.)

(Taken by Dee.)

I do dumb liveblogging/picspamming on my tumblr (cat tag) these days, just fyi.

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Books Once More
Title: The House of the Stag (Lord Ermenwyr Book 2)
Author: Kage Baker
Published: New York: Tor, 2008 (2008)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 350
Total Page Count: 164,062
Text Number: 479
Read Because: recommended by phoenixfalls, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The story of the Yendri liberation from slavery, and their goddess's marriage to a demon lord. The House of the Stag has a slow start, one too epic, archetypal, and, frankly, predictable: it reads as parable more than a human story. But as the characters develop, the book improves. Baker has a knack for combining heavy-handed with surprisingly subtle. While less exuberant than Anvil, it benefits from that book's humor and varied worldbuilding; the politics are too clear-cut, but the interpersonal narratives have welcome nuance. The central cast has personality and charm, and (while I take issue with how Baker handles everything related to sexuality) the love story develops a quiet conviction. I preferred The Anvil of the World, but The House of the Stag lives up to expectations as a prequel—it's (anti)heroic enough to make history, but human enough to be a story worth telling.

It can also be read as a stand-alone.

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Books Once More
Title: The Anvil of the World (Lord Ermenwyr Book 1)
Author: Kage Baker
Published: New York: Tor, 2010 (2003)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 352
Total Page Count: 163,712
Text Number: 478
Read Because: recommended by phoenixfalls, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A trio of interconnected novellas. The first is a fraught caravan journey, and a particularly vivid, humorous example of worldbuilding via travelogue. The second is domestic, more successful for its colorful characters (many reoccurring) than for what it eventually reveals about their backstories. The third has a larger scale and stronger plot, and reads differently: it's not as fun as its predecessors, but has more weight and thus makes for a fitting conclusion. I tend to have no sense of humor as a reader, so I'm surprised by how much I liked this volume. Baker's voice, cast, and world are lively to excess, but there's intense variety in the worldbuilding, the cultures and their politics, the ethics, which introduces welcome subtlety and can't but be engaging. I doubt these books will leave a lasting impression, but this one was thoroughly enjoyable and I will continue the series.

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Books Once More
Title: Nine Tailors (Lord Peter Wimsey Book 11)
Author: Dorothy L. Sayers
Published: New York: Open Road, 2012 (1934)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 278
Total Page Count: 163,360
Text Number: 477
Read Because: personal enjoyment, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Investigator Peter Wimsey stumbles into the sleepy village of Fenchurch St. Paul three months before an unidentified body is discovered in someone else's grave. Nine Tailors is charming and engaging. It's not the sort of mystery which, Holmes-style, the reader can solve, but twists are smart and easy to follow. The characters are proactively engaged with the mystery, yet given comical voices—it's unexpectedly wry, consistently humorous, and dialog is a delight. Over this, Sayers lays deft metaphors (the intricate bell-ringing, the rising river waters) and a strong sense of place. Nine Tailors is the epitome of a cozy mystery, self-aware and smartly written. I just wish I liked this genre! I dislike humor and I prefer my mysteries in short form or visual media, so while I admire this book it failed to click for me. Nonetheless, it's a great way to try out the series.

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Title: The Birthgrave (Birthgrave Book 1)
Author: Tanith Lee
Published: New York: Daw, 2015 (1975)
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 408
Total Page Count: 163,082
Text Number: 476
Read Because: personal enjoyment, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Awakening from apparent death with no memory of her past, one women sets out on a fraught journey of self-discovery. What she discovers is a bit trite and has tinges of a deus ex machina, but it exhibits a level of intent which recasts her journey in a far more interesting light—so, despite its weaknesses, the end is satisfying. Unfortunately, the rest of the book is not. In the first three quarters, the protagonist meanders through a joyless* and repetitive world; in journey-centric plot it mimics a travelogue, but without the necessary sense of wonder. I dislike the sword and sorcery genre, so consider my opinion tainted—but to say I found The Birthgrave unsuccessful would be a vast understatement. I admire Tanith Lee, but her powerful gothic voice and good intentions can't save a book as tiresome as this one.

* There's numerous examples of institutionalized sexism—depressing, but perhaps necessary. But the protagonist's response to other female characters smacks of "not like other girls": she judges them by their social constraints, despite frequently being victim to same; in large part, it's only men that she sees as equals or allows to influence her. I found this to be the tipping point from unpleasant to distasteful.

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Alien Planet, television, Discovery Channel, 2005
This has all the caveats you'd expect: episodic pacing, dramatic bookends before trailers, interview clips clashing with CG imaginings, too strong an attempt at narrative, some weird personifications (and why are both robots male?). But who cares! If you enjoy speculative evolution, then this is fantastic. And if you've never explored speculative evolution, this is a fantastic starting place. Barlow's alien world is creative without trespassing into the ridiculous, and this version of it stands the test of time despite all the CG. (I should read the original book.)

The Future is Wild, television, 2002
In 13 episodes, this can grow repetitive—the episode formatting, but also the way each ecosystem is divided. Otherwise, this is lovely. It has a good balance of creative projection and current evolutionary examples, and the three future settings offer plenty of variety. While this lacks the intense thrill of some speculative evolutions—it's certainly less grand than Alien Planet—it's fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable.

Caprica, season 1, 2010
Although packed full of good intentions, this is so desperate for drama that it's frequently incoherent and sometimes lets action overshadow content. See: my thoughts on Caprica as soap opera. On the whole, this works as a Battlestar Galactica prequel, purely because it engages character backstory and similar themes: if you're invested in BSG, there's thoughtful content here. But as a standalone work, this is promising but fatally flawed.

Daredevil, season 1, 2015
The last three episodes nearly make this worth it: they have more momentum and weight; for as gritty as Daredevil intends to be, not much of significance happens to anyone whose name we remember until these final episodes, when the stakes finally raise. Otherwise, I found this tiresome. It has that trademark Marvel-film feel: hypersaturated because comic, gritty because live action. But it runs long, and the themes (vigilante angst in particular) get played out.

Manhunter, film, dir. Michael Mann, 1986
I disagree with general consensus: William Petersen is lovely, but he falls flat here. Nearly all the times he's meant to spill forth with repressed fervor are stilted, and throw the film's careful emotional balance askew. But I appreciate Dolarhyde (toned down and more convincing than his book appearance), and I liked this deceptively unassuming Hannibal. The film feels dated in a delightful way, synth soundtrack especially; it has some great small moments that work beautifully. But I regret that Will Graham failed to impress me.

Dead Ringers, film, dir. David Cronenberg, 1988
If you're me—and, luckily for me, I am—this is a delight. This film could be made just for me: unnaturally close twins have their relationship brought into question by an outsider, who ironically highlights but also endangers their codependency. Its metaphors grow strung out and exaggerated, but in a way that remains successful: it's at once heavy-handed and dreamlike, the literal surgical separation of non-conjoined twins. (Of course Cronenberg also directed Crash, which shares thematic, fevered intimacy metaphors.) The slightly dated aesthetic and slowish pace didn't even bother me, so perfectly suited was this to my id.

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I should have been born a cat
Title: Slow River
Author: Nicola Griffith
Published: New York: Ballantine Books, 1995
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 352
Total Page Count: 162,674
Text Number: 475
Read Because: fan of the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: After her abduction, once-wealthy Lore is left with nothing but the questionable aid of a backstreet hacker named Spanner. Slow River is subtle at its best, overwritten at its worst. The relationship between Lore and Spanner is a nuanced dialog about class, abuse, and trauma recovery; Lore is granted strong conflicting emotions about Spanner without erasing the problematic aspects of their relationship. But the book has a flow-sundering tripart narrative—each with a different tense/PoV—and hamfisted, repetitive themes. It's also set in a near future which is sometime secondary backdrop to the more interesting interpersonal aspects and sometimes involved ridiculously intricate explorations of theoretical sewage treatment. (I was reminded of Hugh Howey's Wool: the minute practical details are researched, convincing, strangely compelling, and yet inane upon reflection.) The sum is a strange little book, well-intended, sometimes heartbreaking in its subtlety, sometimes off-putting in its heavy-handedness. I don't particularly recommend it, but what I liked about it I truly loved.

(I was also struck by the similarity to Kelly Eskridge's Solitaire, and then discovered that the two are partners; I'm also not the first reviewer to make the connection. Of the two, I find Solitaire the more successful.)

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Title: The Engine's Child
Author: Holly Phillips
Published: New York: Del Ray, 2008
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 286
Total Page Count: 162,322
Text Number: 474
Read Because: fan of the author, from my personal collection
Review: On the island of the rasnan, select groups begin to harness the forbidden power of the mundab, the endless inhospitable sea that surrounds the vulnerable island. Steampunk tends to be 80% aesthetic and 20% -punk, all the romanticization with little of the technology- and change-kindled anxieties. The Engine's Child isn't steampunk, but it's a fascinating counterpoint. It has similar themes, its own strong aesthetic—not Victorian, but seaside: ivory towers towering over endless waters, suffused with monsoon rains and flickering candles, a caste- and religion-bound society—but it makes anxiety its central focus. The mundab is simultaneously the outside world, the magical and technological powers that the society's ancestors fled, and the possibility of change. Phillips awakens it like a golem. She's the perfect author to meld theme and woldbuilding into a living, half-corporeal, monstrous machine.

But this is a prickly book. Both protagonists are unreliable and unkind, and Phillips has an intentionally stilted voice. She plays precise sensory description against conflicted and secretive emotions (set within a number of invented terms and honorifics), and the plot can get buried under that: it's not complex, just difficult to tease out, and as such somewhat underwhelming. This is an easy book to admire and a difficult book to love. As such I can't particularly recommend it, but I wish more writers would do what Phillips does here.

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5th-Jun-2015 12:48 am - Back pain episode, addendum
(Previously discussed here.)

Went to Devon's for a week, spent four days on Tramadol (three doses in three days, two days off, one day on; timing was largely happenstance, but it worked out well). It was a lovely trip for obvious reasons—Tramadol is by far my favorite drug—but also did what it needed to do and essentially hit a reset button on my pain cycle. My back is still bad, and I'm unsure what degree of bad or what this sort of bad indicates in the long-term, but it's a sort of bad I can treat, now; before, nothing was touching it.

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Books Once More
Title: Otherbound
Author: Corinne Duyvis
Published: New York: Amulet Books, 2014
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 387
Total Page Count: 162,036
Text Number: 473
Read Because: reviewed by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks, among others; ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Every time Nolan closes his eyes, he slips into another world, living the life of a girl named Amara who may be real. Otherbound is a first novel and reads as one: surfeit with intent but rough around the edges. Nolan's narrative is unconvincing, with stiff dialog and a family that fails to come to life, but Amara's world and experiences are fascinating in their diversity. The plot gains momentum, but it does so without grace: the magic system develops rules inorganically and the machinations grows contrived. But for its weaknesses, Otherbound is always readable and I admire what it does well. It's a ruthless book without growing gratuitous, and the interpersonal relationships (especially Amara's) are in equal parts compelling and imbalanced—they become conversations about power dynamics and communication without overwhelming their emotional underpinnings, and they're nuanced and heartbreaking (as is the conclusion). And both worlds are full of people of color, both protagonists are disabled, and Amara has nonheteronormative relationships. I can't entirely overlook this novel's roughness, so I don't particularly recommend it—but I look forward to seeing future work from Duyvis.

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28th-May-2015 08:58 pm - Books mentioned in Fire and Hemlock
Books Once More
Since my favorite thing, of all possible things, is when a book turns out to be about books, and this particular book was about the way that we use narratives to understand, interpret, and create ourselves (and, also, was phenomenal), I present:

Book mentioned in Fire and Hemlock
(including plays, but excluding music, sorry; in approximate order of appearance; nearly but probably not exhaustive)

Times Out of Mind, ed. L. Perry (fictional)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (referred to as The Wizard of Oz), L. Frank Baum
The Treasure Seekers, E. Nesbit
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
The Box of Delights, John Masefield
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
The Sword in the Stone, T.H. White
The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Dodie Smith
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
Black Beauty, Anne Sewell
Sherlock Holmes (collected stories), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
Popular Beliefs (Nina reads this one--it's a non-fiction book but probably fictional)
Author: Michael Moorcock (Seb reads this)
Author: Isaac Asimov
"East of the Sun and West of the Moon," traditional
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Kim, Rudyard Kipling
The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton
Perelandra, C.S. Lewis
The Napoleon of Notting Hill, G.K. Chesterton
The Thirty-nine Steps, John Buchan
Tom's Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce
The Oxford Book of Ballads, ed. Arthur Quiller-Couch
The Castle of Adventure, Enid Blyton
Pierrot, traditional (Polly performs this)
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde (another forum performs this)
The Golden Bough, James George Frazer
Twelfth Night, Shakespeare (Polly performs this)
Shakespeare, in general (who borrows plots from everywhere!)
Tales from Nowhere (fictional)
"Ode To a Nightingale," John Keats
and, of course:
"Tam Lin," traditional
"Thomas the Rhymer," traditional

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Title: Fire and Hemlock
Author: Dianna Wynne Jones
Published: New York: Firebird, 2012 (1985)
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 438
Total Page Count: 161,649
Text Number: 472
Read Because: discussed by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks, among others; ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: When Polly meets Thomas Lynn at a funeral, she sparks an odd relationship which will change her life. I adore books about books, and this turns out to be one—pointedly, about using books not to rewrite or escape reality, but to create and understand it, with the reader's identity remaining paramount within their own life. Polly's story is sad and charming in equal turns, and makes full use of Jones's ability to live in liminal space, with the fantastic creeping and crashing in to normal life. It also has an undercurrent of the strange—Lynn as an adult, courting Polly's attentions as a ten year old girl—which is easy to dismiss for the sake of the narrative but which the book's ending brings to the forefront, forcing the reader to reinterpret all that has come before. The ending—not the climax but the very brief coda—is brave and bold and slightly flawed, because while it allows Jones to do much it does it inscrutably and swiftly. Most of Fire and Hemlock is made literal and explained; the ending is left to the reader to decipher, and that shouldn't be necessary in a book with an otherwise flawless balance of readability and thematic depth.

Otherwise: phenomenal. I've never clicked with Diana Wynne Jones—she has a vast and whimsical creativity which creates great setpieces and themes but leaves the plot piecemeal. Fire and Hemlock exhibits a level of intent I haven't found in her work before. It's still whimsical, liminal, a loving story about stories. It's also a nuanced and sympathetic examination of broken homes and self-made homes. And it's about the potential and perils of creating yourself around someone; about the need to acknowledge and function within reality. It's about being liberated by the very thing that breaks your heart. It is, simply, one of the better books I've ever encountered.

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Books Once More
Title: Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy
Editors: Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Published: New York: Tor, 2013
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 352
Total Page Count: 161,211
Text Number: 471
Read Because: fan of the editors, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: 18 Gaslamp stories, about the supernatural, otherworldly, and fantastic in or concerning Victorian England. Collections like these are worth reading for Windling's introductions alone—they're lovingly crafted, insightful overviews from someone who's spent a lifetime studying fantasy fiction. Unfortunately, Queen Victoria's Book of Spells doesn't quite live up to that introduction: the intent is there, but the stories frequently fail to reflect contemporary fantasy elements (there's a remarkable lack of fairies!) and, while many touch on the industrial revolution, few use the fantastic both to express anxiety and seek escapism on account. Still, the overall quality is high and the collection is flawlessly edited. There's a good balance of grim historical accuracy (Schanoes's "Phosphorus," with its memorable descriptions of phossy jaw, was my collection favorite) lightened by fantasy of manners-touched frivolity (Kushner and Stevermer's epistolary "The Vital Importance of the Superficial" has a lovely voice); there's a few failures, but they're largely redeemed by their placement—like the irony of Blaylock's curmudgeonly "Smithfield" counterpointed by Hieber's much more complex "Charged." Datlow and Windling are practiced editors, and this is another successful collection—thematically strong, varied, above average in quality. Still, it only met and failed to exceed my expectations.

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Books Once More
Title: Imago (Xenogenesis/Lilith's Brood Book 3)
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2012 (1989)
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 224
Total Page Count: 160,859
Text Number: 470
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Human/Oankali unification is proceeding apace until the unexpected occurs: a construct child matures into an ooloi. An ooloi point of view has been a long time coming: they are the crux of the Human/Oankali relationship, a view into the need that justifies inexcusable exploitation. Butler excels as creating a character in equal parts sympathetic and discomforting, and the unique Human/Oankali relationships are at their most compelling in this book. The human element remains simplistic (to the point of mechanistic), but Lilith is a welcome exception: her lingering anger is nuanced and—even with the deceptively optimistic conclusion—never allows the reader to forget how unreliable the ooloi point of view is. Imago is my favorite of this series, disconcertingly seductive and keenly thoughtful; it's bittersweet to have, but also end on, such a strong book.

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Title: Adulthood Rites (Xenogenesis/Lilith's Brood Book 2)
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2012 (1988)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 277
Total Page Count: 160,635
Text Number: 469
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: With Human/Oankali settlements established on Earth, one construct child—born of a mix of both species—obtains a clear view of the resisters, humans who refuse to be a part of the cross-species assimilation. Adulthood Rites feels like the least successful of the Xenogenesis series, which hardly means it's bad. Much is an issue of pacing: the first half is slow and meandering, the second half crowded with action. But it's also that the initial novelty of the premise has passed, and I've grown critical of the book's rules. Humans are defined by their hierarchical tendencies and their ability to develop cancer, and they're all heteronormative and gender essentialist, and the sum effect feels both simplistic and insufficient—if for no other reason than the fact that this could as easily and more accurately describe non-human animals: it fails to capture what makes humans unique, or explain the Oankali obsession with them.

Yet Adulthood Rites serves a valuable function. Lilith's story was about a human taking the alien's side, with caveats; Akin's story is about an alien taking the human's side, with caveats. It's an extended devil's advocate, yet capable of surprising sympathy. Butler excels at this—at interactions which are as rational and justified as they are insidious and harmful, which are all the more unsettling because they wield such conviction. This series is impressive—so even if Adulthood Rites is the weakest installment, it's still worth reading.

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I should have been born a cat
Title: The Companions
Author: Sheri S. Tepper
Published: New York: HarperCollins, 2009 (2003)
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 464
Total Page Count: 160,358
Text Number: 468
Read Because: mentioned in this discussion of the companion animal trope, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Bioengineered dogs are brought to the newly-discovered planet Moss, whose inhabited status is still under debate. Tepper is a conservationist author, but in an embarrassing way: lofty, extremist, frankly unresearched; reaching for an untenable and romanticized ideal while painting the opposition in such exaggerated and villainous strokes as to obscure the real problem. The tone here is satirical but flat, like humor that's missed the mark. And to call the ending a deus ex machina would be a vast understatement—it's a miracle fix for humanity's problems as diagnosed in a grandiose climax, heavy-handed and without real-world analog. There are some human/dog interactions which—despite the comical dog-speech—work; the rest of the book is a disappointment, crowded with ideas but largely deprived of depth.

This isn't the first time I've had this reaction to Tepper. I love Grass (largely for its concept), but Beauty, The Family Tree, and now The Companions all feel overlarge and unrefined. I sympathize with much of the underlying intent, but in both concept and tone Tepper has lost me, and it's time that I put down her work.

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