Killer of Enemies, by Joseph Bruchac

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I know that young adult action stories might not be everyone’s preferred genre, but how about a post-apocalyptic young adult action story that weaves Native American history, lore, and culture seamlessly into other general Americana such that it feels like a fitting piece of a larger tapestry without feeling lost or subjugated by other elements?

I can’t take full credit for that astute observation. It was mentioned by one of my excellent classmates.

Killer of Enemies is a good, punchy story that fits with mythic narrative traditions in a number of deeply appealing fashions. It’s very nearly pulp. And it’s written by a member of the Abenaki Nation, which gives me a wonderful home-feel due to my fond early childhood memories of listening to Wolfsong telling stories around Vermont. It doesn’t hurt that it’s all about the badass warrior woman Lozen, named in honor of the real Lozen of the Chiricahua Apaches. I’d say that this book is pretty good stuff.

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The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex

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This book is a quiet piece of genius. It’s hilarious, and far deeper than I had expected it to be. And somehow it delivers on its premise without beating you over the head, even as it makes its commentary abundantly obvious to anyone who’s willing to pay attention. I think I’d be hard pressed to find a middle grade adventure novel that I liked more.

I wouldn’t say it’s the best, because I don’t like committing myself to statements like that, but you’d damn well better do yourself the favor of reading this book.

The Shadow Speaker, by Nnedi Okorafor

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Yet another excellent book that I’ve found through this semester’s syllabus. Nnedi Okorafor’s combination of a post-apocalyptic setting with fantastical afrofuturism is absolutely magical. I would strongly recommend this book for so many reasons; the setting might honestly be the least of them, despite how much I like it.

I understand that there’s a sequel in the works, titled Stormbringer, and I can’t wait to get my hands on that too.

The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson

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I know, it’s not more Barium Deep. My apologies. But I’m busy and this is an easy recommendation to make. The Summer Prince is an excellent book. I won’t go in depth, because I have a submission due for my editor tomorrow and I want to give her more material, but it’s an excellent book and was one of the few items on my syllabus so far this semester that I’ve found myself reading for pleasure.

I guess I’m part of the target audience these days, but this gave me a great deal to think about in terms of art, and what art means and what it does. It also contains queer romance, and a sometimes hopeful sometimes not vision of a post-apocalyptic future. It’s very much worth reading.

Oh, and in case this is the sort of thing that you care about, this book is written by a woman of color and has (exclusively) non-white protagonists. I really liked it.

A Fever Sampler

Still feverish, though not as bad.

But while I’ve had this fever (and haven’t been writing my regular posts) I’ve watched and read several things that you might like to hear about.

First, Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is incredible. It’s coarse and dirty and poignant and magical and HOT DAMN. It tells the story of a group of caravan guards, and of those amongst them who are both human and more than human. Nate, I think you are basically required to read this. For the rest of you, to paraphrase Gabriel Squalia, “Hi, I’m Henry White and you should read Kai Ashante Wilson.”

I think I need to read that book again to figure out who the narrator really is. And figure out how Wilson works so well with disparate timeline inclusions.

Second, I saw Red Tails because I really wanted to see WWII planes, and because the story of the Tuskegee airmen seems like such a rich vein. While I certainly got to see WWII planes, Red Tails was about as disappointing as the many reviews had said it would be. It’s not that they were working with a lack of talent, because that cast was about as awesome as you could ask for. But somehow a story that could have been incredible came off feeling trite. You could see most of the character and plot beats coming from a distance, and they rarely felt very exciting. So I had fun watching planes zoom around in the sky, and wondered how it was that they had turned one of the most impressive feats of military aviation history AND of resistance to institutional racism into “just another feel-good war movie.” Oh well.

Still Busy: Have A Paper On Lloyd Alexander and Characters’ Emotional Growth

I don’t know if you want to read about how Lloyd Alexander constructed emotional transformation for his characters, but I wrote a paper fanboying about it last fall. I don’t want to fall out of the habit of posting something, even if I’m too busy to write a new post, so I’ll share that paper with you instead. I’m not sure how well the formatting has survived the transition. It looks legible from where I sit. Cross the vast gap of this break to enjoy it.

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End of Semester Delays

My posting won’t go back to normal for the next two weeks, I think. I’m too distracted by the things I have to finish for my last two sets of classes.

On the up side, I have had a chance to look at lots of books recently, and I have a few to recommend.

Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is a fun story in an awesome fantasy setting. My only reservations revolve around how it follows a bunch of romance genre conventions in a way that I find a little less appealing. This isn’t because I have something against good romance work — I love Bujold’s romance stories — but because I don’t like the dynamic between the two romance leads as much as I like the rest of the story. And to be clear, most of the story isn’t very heavy on the romance. But it is definitely there.

Hmm, that sounds less like the recommendation I thought I was writing and more like a warning. It’s a fun book, and I *do* recommend it. It has an Eastern European setting with witches and magic and Baba Yaga type stuff! What more could you want? I rather enjoyed it.

And, on the picturebook front, I strongly encourage you to look at Water Is Water, published last year. It is gorgeous. It has so much detail and setting layered into each image. As a Vermonter, it gave me little nostalgic quivers. It’s worth reading.

The March North, by Graydon Saunders

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I’ve been telling my housemate Books to read this ever since I started the series back in March. They haven’t listened to me, much to their detriment. You have a chance to do better by yourself and read this book. And if you have any appreciation for feminism, transhumanism, powerfully egalitarian worlds, entirely in-character narration, and a series that finally recognizes just how screwed up a world with horrifyingly powerful wizards would be, then you totally should read it.

To give you a little perspective, I’ve now read all three books in the series so far. I started in March. I’ve been overly busy with school for the past two weeks, to the point of feeling like tearing out my hair, and I read the third book in only a few days during that time anyway. This is good stuff. The delivery is dense, and you may have to work to keep up every so often, but it’s quite exceptionally good.

I’ll admit, the first book might not be for everyone. If you can’t enjoy military fantasy, it might not be your cup of tea. The next few have their idiosyncrasies too: I didn’t expect to have so much fun reading about people moving huge piles of dirt. But those idiosyncrasies are a mostly transparent patina on top of stories about self-discovery, formulation of identity, and choice. You may find other themes buried in here that speak to you as well (I know I did). Regardless of any lack of physical similarity, the characters in these stories are deeply human, people who are wonderful to discover.

The March North, A Succession of Bad Days, and Safely You Deliver are for sale through Google Books.

Why David Weber, Why?

Reading about flat characters in E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, I have just been reminded of one of the things that routinely frustrates me in David Weber’s work.  Weber likes trying to make characters who should essentially be flat, more or less caricatures intended to draw up conflict or drama or comedy (or maybe they should be comic but he refuses to use them in that way, making them painfully comic instead… more on that later).  But instead of accepting that these characters should be flat, he tries to flesh them out.  He tries to make them round, and make me care about them.  Nine times out of ten, he fails.

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Rat Queens kicks ass

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Have you got a hankering for classic badass swords & sorcery adventures?  How about a comic full of that, but with four women as the central characters instead of the usual sausagefest?

Rat Queens makes me want to tell epic and gritty fantasy stories like nothing else does.  This is a comic that left me scrawling “RAT QUEENS IS INSPIRATIONAL” on random notes late at night so that I wouldn’t be able to let it pass me by.  And of course somehow I forgot to tell YOU about it.

This is where you should go to order your fix online.  If you have a decent local comic store, you should go there instead!

Holy fuck I love this comic.