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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.
Anime/Game
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:

PREVIEWb
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 )
Writing
Teja (he formerly known as Express) currently has a twice-weekly work commute and so has gone from being a very rare reader to a somewhat more frequent reader; our tastes have only partial overlap, but when he asked my opinion on Neuromancer I'd just never read it. Because it is what it is as a seminal cyberpunk novel, I bought it otherwise blind—about a million years ago, while visiting Dee in the Seattle area, from the marvelous Duvall Books. It's the used bookstore that daydreams are made of, with gently creaking hardwood floors, packed shelves, and nostalgic actually-used-bookstore prices—I bought Neuromancer for $1.50.

So Teja started reading it on his own, and was unsure what he thought of the first few chapters; so I started reading it along with him, with only the most casual of overlaps and conversations. He's read other books on my recommendation and we've discussed them, but co-reading was much more engaging. There's room in it for spoilers (instead of the perpetually frustrating "I have thoughts, but they take into context/reveal later events") and minutiae as well as larger reflections on narrative and genre. A+ experience; we reading his next book together as well.

The book itself, as expressed, left little impression. There is one particular exception:

"The Villa Straylight," said a jeweled thing on the pedestal, in a voice like music, "is a body grown in upon itself, a Gothic folly. Each space in Straylight is in some way secret, this endless series of chambers linked by passages, by stairwells vaulted like intestines, where the eye is trapped in narrow curves, carried past ornate screens, empty alcoves…"

[…] "In Straylight, the hull’s inner surface is overgrown with a desperate proliferation of structures, forms flowing, interlocking, rising toward a solid core of microcircuitry, our clan’s corporate heart, a cylinder of silicon wormholed with narrow maintenance tunnels, some no wider than a man’s hand. The bright crabs burrow there, the drones, alert for micromechanical decay or sabotage."


Predictably, I'm more invested in -punk as subgenre than as work. The subgenres have the potential to explore the push/pull of their central concept, but in practice rarely do. Steampunk has too much pull, too much idealization and aesthetic, forgetting the necessary anxiety about technology and society. Cyberpunk has too much push, and Neuromancer pushes especially hard: Gibson's novel is all grim and grit and awful characters and pervasive fatigue, even when he's inventing a new technological marvel—it's an awful world to be in.

Villa Straylight was for me the one exception, this interlocking manufactured techno-historical dreamscape populated by wasteful and corrupted residents trapped within their own recursive, futureless pseudo-incest—it's an excessive image but an effective one, and the decadence of the setting was such welcome counterpoint to the pervasive grim tone.

Harder for me to remember is that the novel has pull aspects that I just can't access. I think Case is an awful protagonist, but his male power fantasy isn't for me. Teja pointed out that Rivera even functions as a foil: the overtly misogynistic evil counterpart that turns the author and reader surrogate protagonist into a Nice Guy pseudo-antihero. And unlike modern steampunk, cyberpunk was a direct reflection of the era that birthed it. The pull, the optimism and burgeoning potential of cyber technology, doesn't need to be illustrated: it's innate to the technology of the time.

If cyberpunk is dead, then may it rest in peace; I care less for its contemporary examples than for its post-80s influences, which have a more seductive aesthetic to set against the anxiety of technology(/development/society/change), which I find more enjoyable and effective. And I care more about that push/pull interplay than the subgenres themselves—except mythpunk, which actually gets it right, and asylumpunk, which doesn't even properly exist but in which I am personally invested.

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Writing
Title: Neuromancer (Sprawl Book 1)
Author: William Gibson
Published: New York: Ace Books, 1984
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 270
Total Page Count: 185,720
Text Number: 547
Read Because: buddy-read with Teja, purchased used (years ago!) from Duvall Books
Review: A burned-out hacker is given a risky second chance when he's hired by a rogue AI. This is a grim, bazaar-style cyberpunk, wandering past a dozen technological inventions and locations; it revels in and cements cyberpunk's aesthetic, but these bits of worldbuilding rarely reappear and only occasionally influence plot. A few do, and those are interesting—namely, the nature of the AI and the Villa Straylight—but the overall effect is tiresome. As is the uninspired protagonist, and the plot which begins with a disconnected travelogue and ends with an straightforward climax. I can appreciate Neuromancer as a historical artifact, but this doesn't offer what I love about -punk genres (I like some idealization to balance the anxiety) and the rest of the narrative fails to impress.

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Writing
When I was last down visiting Devon, we made two trips to the local used bookstore because I have a ridiculous amount of credit there that I never manage to spend. On the first trip, I picked up two books: Elizabeth A. Lynn's The Sardonyx Net, because I love everything Lynn and won't turn down a random mass market copy of her books especially since most or all of them are out of print, and Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle which I read last year and fell in love with and thus needed to own. The second trip was made on a whim two days later, when I wouldn't have expected stock to change dramatically, and yet! four books: Elizabeth A. Lynn's The Dancers of Arun; two by CJ Cherryh, including telepathic bond horses Rider at the Gate, which the library doesn't have even in physical form; a new-to-me novel by Elizabeth Bear. The Dancers of Arun was a small miracle to find, because, as mentioned, it's out of print—and it's one of those quintessentially-me novels, far and above my favorite of her work, and I've wanted to own it since before I finished reading it the first time.

Meanwhile, I've been having an ongoing issues with Overdrive and Adobe Digital Editions which means that approximately 1 in 5 licenses doesn't fulfill. I've found reports of this issues online, with no Adobe-side resolution; users recommend either reverting to an older version of ADE (which for me also leads to failed fulfillment, although without the program crash that makes this troubleshooting process so time-consuming) or unverifying and then reverifying the user license (or verifying a new license) for ADE—the later of which doesn't work because 1) it requires a password, and my Adobe account is so old that, whatever password I used 15 years ago, I can't remember it now; 2) I can't do a password recovery process because the account is tied to a 15 year old, defunct email; 3) adding a secondary account to just try from scratch first requires unverifying the current account/license. This problem reoccurs frequently and there is no resolution except to get a different book, even after much troubleshooting; in the Adobe forum threads I saw another user write something along the lines of "I've spent four hours troubleshooting this, and it's so frustrating. I'm computer literate. How do casual users manage at all?" which expresses approximately my level of really, DRM, really?

The golden rule of DRM should be—but isn't—that it must be easier for the average user to legally obtain a product than to pirate it. The library's Overdrive service is in general phenomenal, especially in my area, where there are plenty of licenses and it's easy to request new titles. I read almost everything as ebooks now, because I can obtain digital copies from the comfort of my agoraphobia home, and because the backlight on my ereader allows me to read without the eyestrain caused by even the dimmest of lamps. But this a golden rule violation if I have ever seen one, and seeing the two set against each other recently, these magical perfect purchases against the frustration of yet another DRM snafu, has made me sad.

(The almost-worst of it is that it's not Overdrive's fault, and their tech support is also superb and timely and considerate; and the comments which I've seen by Adobe tech support, while in now ways productive, are also kind and patient. The problems is almost surely ADE side, but the real culprit the truly awful state of electronic publishing. There's no one to blame but that, and they don't have a tech support whom I can send a message that reads "really??????". Nor is there any true recourse.)

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Writing
Title: Native Tongue (Native Tongue Book 1)
Author: Suzette Haden Elgin
Published: New York: Feminist Press, 2000 (1984)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 325
Total Page Count: 185,450
Text Number: 546
Read Because: interest in feminist SFF, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: In a future society where they've been entirely disenfranchised, linguist women construct a language of their own. The extremity of this sexist dystopia and Elgin's sarcastic, farcical tone is reminiscent of Sheri S. Tepper's feminist novels and distinctly offputting. But her themes and use of speculative fiction as a linguistic and feminist thought experiment are cogent, if flawed. As such, the afterward by Susan M. Squier and Julie Vedder in the Feminist Press edition is arguably more successful and certainly more pleasant to read, condensing the content, providing historical perspective, and discarding the tone entirely. I wouldn't recommend Native Tongue on its own merit, but I recognize it as an feminist artifact and sincerely enjoyed the afterward; I can't bring myself to read the sequels.

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Writing
Title: Siege and Storm (The Grisha Book 2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Published: New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2013
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 435
Total Page Count: 185,125
Text Number: 545
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Alina discovers ways to expand her power, both magical and political, while Ravka faces attack by the Darkling's monstrous creations. The two things I hate most in stories are miscommunication narratives and relationships fueled primarily by jealousy, and both of these are present here and compose the emotional thrust of the book. Even when characters are well-drawn, their interactions are often laborious. The politics fare better: they're not particularly subtle, but then neither are they bogged down by detail, and set against the developing magic system they make for an engaging world with high stakes. So, as with the first book in the series, Siege and Storm is quite readable when it gains momentum—but the surrounding trappings, YA tropes, and underwhelming narrative voice make it merely mediocre.

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Writing
Title: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Published: New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 270
Total Page Count: 184,690
Text Number: 544
Read Because: fan of the author's YouTube channel, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A memoir of one woman's experience as a crematory operator, and her evolving opinions on how death is regarded in Western culture. I came to this familiar with Doughty's YouTube videos; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is more of the same: a heartfelt, morbidly funny, honest study of Western death culture, and a critique of how it distances us from death. This memoir offers a more cogent, engaging, but not particularly provoking personal story; as a result, there's less space to engage a large-scale argument of death culture—in particular, I'd've liked to have seen less about Doughty's progression and more about how the reader, too, can engage and change. But my quibbles are minor: this is a swift and engaging read, possessing of a fluid voice and inarguably heartfelt. I adore Doughty's work and presence, and if you haven't yet contemplated death culture then anything she's produced is an accessible beginning.

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I should have been born a cat
Title: Rider at the Gate (Finisterre: The Nighthorses Book 1)
Author: C.J. Cherryh
Published: New York: Warner Books, 1995
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 470
Total Page Count: 184,420
Text Number: 543
Read Because: fan of the author and trope, paperback purchased used from The Book Bin
Review: Telepathic Nighthorses are the most powerful creatures on the planet, and partnering with them enable humans to maintain settlements and trade. But a rogue Nighthorse is a fearsome threat, with the power to drive entire settlements mad. There's a lot going on here: four convergent groups of characters, a modicum of worldbuilding based around telepathic bond animals and early winter alien frontierism, and a mystery plot—all written in Cherryh's terse, minute style. Those aspects don't always coalesce—I disliked the aesthetic, rarely cared about the characters's interconnections, and, while the final tableau is effective, the plot's resolution is too simple. But I came to this book for telepathic horses companions, and there it delivers without qualification. The focus is communication: the intimacy of Rider/Nighthorse interactions played to effect against grim winter; the fallout of telepathy, how it forces some intimacies and denies others. The unforgiving and rewarding focus on the (inter)personal is precisely what I wanted from this trope by this author. Rider at the Gate is difficult to recommend, as it's hardly an essential read even for fans of Cherryh—but if you love this trope, it won't disappoint.

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I should have been born a cat
I get some of my book (& other media) recommendations from friends and other individuals, but I take great pleasure in a good recommendations list, especially when they're thematic or otherwise curated. So, in a moment of meta:


A recommended list of recommendation lists
for speculative novels, with an emphasis on minority authors and/or characters, in precisely no order & non-exhaustive

Tor.com's Five Books About series (the official lists can be repetitive and white male heavy; I have better luck with post comments)

Jo Walton's OK, where do I start with that? series (this is nearly exhaustive, but where there’s gaps: again, check at comments)

Nisi Shawl's A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction

K Tempest Bradford's Mindblowing SF by Women and People of Color

[personal profile] oursin's The massive mega consolidated SF mistressworks list

perplexingly's LGBTQ+ Fantasy Book Rec List (see also)

The list of Wizard Schools (pre-Harry Potter)

[personal profile] kate_nepveu's Fantasy of Manners reading list (includes & differentiates between Mannerpunk; see comments)


Further reading (about reading)

[personal profile] rachelmanija's Sirens Panel: Women who Run with Wolves and Dance with Dragons (companion animal stories, uncollated, but with commentary)

Tor.com's Queering SFF series (more discussion than simple lists but, again: check comments)

Terri Windling's essays, both on her website and in introduction to her many short fiction anthologies, have phenomenal references and further reading lists

If you can narrow down your interest to a specific (sub)genre or trope, Wikipedia and TV Tropes have exhaustive (sometimes to their detriment) lists; Goodreads lists are equally exhaustive, but less curated

Awards and award nominees are fruitful sources for lists, especially if you ignore big names (Hugos, etc.) and look towards smaller awards (e.g. Gaylactic Spectrum Awards)

Authors that write books about books are fruitful sources of reading material, see: Jo Walton (Among Others), Caitlin R. Kiernan (The Red Tree, The Drowning Girl), Diana Wynne Jones (Fire and Hemlock), Pamela Dean (Tam Lin), Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), my lists of books mentioned in books

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I should have been born a cat
Title: The Sardonyx Net
Author: Elizabeth A. Lynn
Published: New York: Ace, 2001 (1981)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 440
Total Page Count: 183,950
Text Number: 542
Read Because: fan of the author, paperback purchased used from The Book Bin
Review: When a drug deal goes bad, smuggler and Starcaptian Dana finds himself in custody of a slaver and embroiled in the politics of the ruling families of the planet of Chabad. Of all Lynn books, this is reminiscent most of The Northern Girl: a political and personal drama about complicity and power, trauma and sympathy, how social systems effect and are changed by the individuals within them. Plot developments are logical rather than dramatic and three PoV characters makes for a lot of reiterated information, but this doesn't feel like an oversight because the emphasis is always on personal responses and motivations within a larger context. This isn't my favorite Lynn novel, but I am consistently in love with her work, with her interpersonal focus and diverse characters and dynamics, and The Sardonyx Net is no exception.

The Sardonyx Net takes place in the same universe as A Different Light, but can be read alone.

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Books Once More
Title: Patternmaster (Patternmaster Book 4)
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: New York: Open Road, 2012 (1976)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 200
Total Page Count: 183,510
Text Number: 541
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The territory of telepathic Patternists is under constant attack by animalic, virulent Clayarks—which makes the succession of a new Pattermaster urgent. Patternmaster is surprisingly small, not just short but localized in scope despite the speculative concepts of the larger world. It's a compelling starting point for a series that backtracks to explore those speculative elements, but if they're already familiar then it's an underwhelming finale. Butler's prose is particularly workmanlike, but as always she excels in conveying the claustrophobic pressure of a flawed social system. Most surprising is the appearance of bisexual female character, who defies Butler's frustrating tendency towards heteronormativity and, outspoken and feminist, also provides this flawless exchange:

"I don't think you've done anything to her. Joachim has, and certainly Coransee has. But you're only about to."

"By leaving her—or by taking her?"

"By deciding for her."

"I don't want to get her killed."

Amber shrugged. "If it were me, I'd want to make up my own mind."


My opinion of this series entire remains unchanged: it is best read in publication order, and to read it in internal chronological order makes for an uneven, frustrating experience. I wish I could go back and correct my mistake; having made it, I'm still glad to have read the series, but this novel in particular left little impression.

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11th-Apr-2016 03:14 pm - Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Anime/Game
Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Published: New York: Del Rey, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 430
Total Page Count: 183,310
Text Number: 540
Read Because: enjoyed the author's story "Araminta, Or, The Wreck Of The Amphidrake", ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Every ten years, the Dragon, a local wizard who guards the land against the encroach of the magical Wood, takes one girl to live with him. This time, the girl has magic of her own. Uprooted is ridiculously engaging, a book to lose time to. It has a vivid protagonist and almost universally well-drawn cast, and convincing interactions (although I didn't care about the romance). Action sequences are endless, exhausting, and have undeniable momentum, and engage a flexible and dynamic magic system. But I'm not sold on the ending: the Wood is an intelligent, intimidating adversary, but discovering more about it decreases it in scope rather than providing a climax that pays out the plentiful buildup. I loved the first two thirds, and liked the last; that's enough to warrant a recommendation but it leaves me with some lingering regret.

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Writing
Title: Archivist Wasp
Author: Nicole Kornher-Stace
Published: Easthampton: Big Mouth Press, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 260
Total Page Count: 182,880
Text Number: 539
Read Because: personal enjoyment, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Wasp is an Archivist, capturing and studying ghosts to determine how the world ended—until, defying all known information, one ghost asks her for help. It's almost a spoiler to say that this is at once near-future SF and a dystopic fantasy. The world is diverse and engaging puzzle, but distinctly crapsack; that, combined with difficult characters prone to frustrating, albeit realistic, communication issues, means the book is frequently unpleasant to read. It finds better balance by the climax, when some comfort arises to balance out all the hurt, and the resolution is simply superb. I wouldn't call this a must-read, but I'm glad to've read it: it's unique and lovingly rendered, right down to the unlovable, redeemable cast.

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Writing
Title: Saga Volumes 4 (Issues #19-24)
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Published: Berkeley: Image Comics, 2014
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 150
Total Page Count: 182,470
Text Number: 537
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: This was unexpectedly disappointing. Perhaps I simply lost momentum when I took a break between reading issues #1-18 and 19-24, but I think the tropes are also to blame: fridging female characters to create male character arcs, rape threats, and adding internal conflict to an established relationship in order to revive it range from unlikable to outright distasteful. The unpleasant tone also made the series's consistent and ineffective gratuity more obvious. I will continue this, in the hope this volume was a fluke—but it truly didn't work for me.

Title: Saga Volume 5 (Issues #25-30)
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Published: Berkeley: Image Comics, 2015
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 150
Total Page Count: 182,620
Text Number: 538
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: An exploration of the gray areas of domestic violence from a sympathetic male PoV with the conclusion that maybe it's not that bad; the dismissal of a slur by another sympathetic character—I can no longer be sustained by a rational depiction of breastfeeding and some well-realized female characters: the tone is driving me away. Also lost is the balance between difficulty and emotional payoff; in earlier issues, glimpses of domestic tranquility offered reprieve and catharsis, but by now the series has become a litany of loss and suffering. I'm certain I'd better tolerate all these flaws had I not come up for air between issues and in doing so lost some of my reading momentum. But, that momentum lost, I may drop Saga entirely.

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Anime/Game
Title: Saga Deluxe Edition, Volume 1 (Issues #1-18)
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Published: Berkeley: Image Comics, 2014
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 500
Total Page Count: 182,320
Text Number: 536
Read Because: dozens of BookTube recommendations, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The war between one planet and its moon has turned interstellar—and in the middle of it is a pair of star-crossed renegades and their halfbreed newborn. Saga has an engaging narrative flow, thanks in part to the occasional appearance of a literal narrator. It's a carefree science fantasy, more than willing to approximate in order to prioritize storytelling over worldbuilding while still offering the appearance of scope and variety. Staples's crisp, vivid art is a perfect fit. But the tone is absurdly crass, with awkward profanity and obtrusive sex scenes; it often feels "adult" for its own sake, rather than the benefit of the narrative. (And given the controversial censorship of the comic for depictions of gay sex, it sure would have been neat if said sex occurred between named characters—like the multiple depictions of straight sex between cast members.) Character death is narratively gratuitous, if not visually gratuitous—shocking, rather than cogent. Caveats aside, this remains engaging and eminently readable; I look forward to continuing.

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Writing
Title: Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch Book 2)
Author: Ann Leckie
Published: New York: Orbit, 2014
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 350
Total Page Count: 181,820
Text Number: 535
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Breq is sent to Athoek Station, home to Lieutenant Awn's sister, to stabilize the region while public war breaks across Radchaai space. The plot here is a strange beast: the politics of Athoek's annexation are simultaneously heavyhanded and morally gray—like Radchaai's agender society, the issue of cultural discrimination isn't superbly handled but it is well intended, and I would rather it be there than not. The sense of place, politicking, and personal motivations knit well; foreshadowing to plot twists, however, is emphasized in a way that makes resolutions talky and transparent.

But while the plot's quality is uneven, the true focus is interpersonal. Leckie's antagonists/political conservatives—often the same thing—can be caricatured, but her sympathetic characters are superb, prickly and complex and beautifully drawn. And Breq, as a multi-instanced AI made singular, continues to be singularly phenomenal, a unique concept explored with conviction and insight. The emotional punch of this book should not to be underestimated. Ancillary Sword has its flaws and I just don't care—it's so rewarding to read.

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