Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi

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I like the one on the left more.

I’m a sucker for a good cyclical story, for plot elements interwoven early and revisited at the climax. That’s part of my love for Die Hard and Hot Fuzz. This book is neither of those movies, but it does many of the same structural things.

My feelings for Ship Breaker are slow and warm, less the quick shine of delight than the steady glow of admiration. I enjoyed it a great deal, but I was particularly impressed by the way in which Paolo Bacigalupi built up the feel of coming full circle, and filled it with excellent foreshadowing as he established the struggles to be faced. I also appreciated the book’s explorations of family, loyalty, and love, how they felt etched deep in the text, part of the world that seeped out through every pore. Despite their omnipresence, I never felt as though the book was beating me over the head with its themes; I even ignored them for a while simply because of how completely they merged with the characters and text. Like a shot from a skilled pediatrician—medicine delivered amidst pleasant distraction—they were slipped into the rest of a seamless whole, the needle unnoticed until it was gone. Not perfectly slick, but very well done.

This book is easy to read as a hero’s journey, but Bacigalupi avoids the wish-fulfillment capability-fantasy that periodically crops up in genre stories. People struggle and strive through difficulty and danger, people learn and grow, but they never feel superhuman; the main character’s most fantastical accomplishment is quickly learning to read. This preserves a rough and prosaic taste that grounds everything, making the moments of higher tension even more piquant in contrast. It’s something I like a great deal.

I haven’t even addressed the setting or characters, the way Bacigalupi enmeshes the reader in the world without explaining anything, without needing to explain anything. It’s another thing I admire and aim for in my own stories, and I want you to discover it for yourself if you haven’t already. I wasn’t surprised to see Tobias Buckell thanked in the afterword, and if you like Ship Breaker or its ilk I’d strongly recommend Buckell’s Arctic Rising and Hurricane Fever.

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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.

Everything is Awesome: The LEGO Movie

The entirely appropriate theme song.

The LEGO Movie is exceptional.

Watching it feels like watching a virtuoso performance; the people who made the movie clearly know their craft, and you can see them having fun playing around inside the boundaries set out for them, playing with the audience’s expectations even as they satisfy them.  And they do it so skillfully that they are able to take a story that we’ve heard millions of times before and turn it into something wonderfully fresh and enjoyable.

You certainly have heard the story before, because The LEGO Movie is built around the monomyth.  It also, by virtue of its medium and a few helpful hints, manages to tell a story outside of the story with which the film opens.  I’ll talk more about that later, but that topic is full of spoilers.

I strongly recommend that you go and watch The LEGO Movie.  As my friend Ben put it, “this could be the Toy Story of this generation.”  If you want more of my thoughts on the movie’s virtuosity, read on…

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Servant of the Dragon, by David Drake

Servant of the Dragon is the third book in the epic fantasy series Lord of the Isles, written by David Drake.  Published in 1999, it is a excellent sequel and addresses the few issues that I previously had with the series while continuing the better traditions of the first two books.  I recommended the series before, I recommend it even more strongly now.  If you want to dive into a fantasy setting built on the sunken ruins of an Atlantean past, constructed from the stones of Sumerian mythology and mortared with Greek and Roman poetry, this is the series for you.

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