The Black Tides of Heaven, by Neon Yang

The author’s name has changed since initial publication, hence the different name on some hard copies and publicity images

The Black Tides of Heaven, by Neon Yang, left me feeling a little narratively unmoored.

I suspect that the biggest cause for that was my own fault: I put the book down about halfway through, and then took over a month to return to it and finish it. But that means that I’m writing this from an odd place. I’m not sure how much my perspective has been shaped by that prolonged delay, and I can only recommend that you take my review with a grain of salt or three. The book certainly seems to have worked better for other people than it did for me.

Part of my sense of being narratively adrift grew from the way in which the book is divided into sections, with each section separated from the last by a big temporal gap. Each section felt like an extended short story about that time period in our POV character’s life. But chaining those extended short stories together into one novel didn’t feel like it created the narrative cohesion I wanted.

In some ways, this is the opposite of the cool technique that Martha Wells used for her first four Murderbot novellas. Where Wells wrote a series of four stories that each gave a snapshot of emotional development and then kept them in separate novellas to let them stand on their own and build on each other, Yang has written those separate stories and put them all in one book. It didn’t work as well for me.

Writing is all about adding just enough to let your audience fill in the rest, without adding so much that they get tired of it. I think Yang went just a little too light for me. I could sketch out the narrative arc and tell you what the points of growth and resolution were, but it didn’t feel like there was quite as much connective tissue between the narrative dots as I would have liked.

Maybe, if I’d expected the book to consist of those discrete mini-stories beforehand, I’d have a different opinion of it now. Maybe, if I hadn’t put the book down halfway through, I’d feel like Yang cut out just the right amount of material. Instead, none of the smaller segments individually brought me the kind of narrative movement or growth that I wanted. And the individual segments didn’t quite gel together to make the larger whole feel quite right either.

But…

Maybe I’m still looking at this the wrong way. There are several other books out by Yang, all in the same series, at least one of which looks like it’s supposed to be semi-contemporaneous with or closely following this book. Perhaps those, in connection with this one, would give me the more complete perspective and narrative arc that I’m looking for. I’ll probably pick those up and read them just to find out. Maybe not right away.

Having said all that, I should add that The Black Tides of Heaven has solid child-parent struggles, a setting that feels refreshingly distinct from standard Western fantasy, and lots of good queer content. And it’s well-written! I feel bad complaining so much above when the fault may be my own. Whoops.

So, if any of those things sound interesting to you I suggest checking the book out. And I recommend reading it all in one go, or at least not stopping for over a month right in the middle. That was definitely a mistake on my part.

Whoops: Ongoing Delays

Hey folks, sorry for the silence. Between my other obligations and stressing out about politics and the news, I’ve been pretty thoroughly distracted from Fistful. I expect that this will continue for another week or so, but I plan to change it.

Some of the things keeping me busy might also be things that excite you: I’ve submitted the first chapter of Barium Deep for consideration for PEN New England’s Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award, and I’m about to give a (totally rewritten) outline of Miska to my mentor as the beginning of this semester’s mentorship project. There are more cool things I’m doing too, but I’ll tell you about them later.

Wish me luck. I’ll be back here soon.

 

News, and presenting on That Cat Series

You know the one I’m talking about, Warriors: The Prophecies Begin. Yesterday was the class presentation, which means that I’m now done with it. Finally. Things were sadly rushed, so we didn’t get as much time to talk about the series in finer detail as I would have liked, but I think we got our point across. The series is mediocre, but effective at getting large quantities of unchallenging words in front of children.

This did mean that I was distracted and didn’t post here yesterday. That pattern of not posting is likely to continue this upcoming week (and maybe the week after) as I focus on my final paper and visiting with family. I’ll be back soon, and will likely post more things at random rather than according to a prescribed schedule. I have some sweet role-playing setting tidbits to share with you too, so stay tuned!

Whoops: November Update

Sorry, I’ve been a little busy. I just submitted another three chapters of Barium Deep to my mentor for review (she’s awesome, by the way) and getting that material out the door has kept me occupied.

Another thing stealing my time, creeping in around the edges of my schedule? Tales of Maj’Eyal (ToME). It’s a roguelike (but actually like the game Rogue, not just part of the modern fad of calling your game roguelike because it’s cool), and I’ve been enjoying it a great deal. I grew up playing the significantly less noob-friendly ADOM, aka Ancient Domains of Mystery, so ToME feels a good deal more forgiving. At least, it’s forgiving when you can hide behind your magical golem while hurling explosive gems at your foes.

Oddly enough, like ToME, ADOM now sports optional fancy tiled graphics that look nothing like my memories. It may sound like I’m grumping, but I’m actually quite happy to see ADOM continue development. I should admit, I’m okay with the new tiles mostly because they’re optional. I just wish we could see more progress on JADE (which I guess is now called ADOM II), another roguelike by the creator of ADOM. I liked the open world with randomly generated stories more than ADOM’s (by now) familiar quests.

Oh, I guess this is the new site for ADOM? Whatever. It’s a cool game, worth checking out.

Whoops: The Campening

Sorry folks, I’m away at camp! I will have posts for you next week, but definitely not this one.

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.

PAX Takes Time & Birds Are Amazing

I seem to be making a habit of missing my Friday post of late. This week it was because I was at PAX East with friends (wooo, those Friday night concerts were good). I had the pleasure of seeing Joshua AC Newman and Hannah Shaffer, the latter of whom introduced me to Birds Are Amazing. You can see some of Hannah’s other projects here, and some of Joshua’s here.

I’m now in love with Birds Are Amazing and have been playing it with my friends all weekend. If you aren’t yet aware of the marvelous world of birds, you can find the tip of the iceberg right here.

Did you know that puffins grow larger by combining with one another? It’s true. When trying to mate they sometimes accidentally collapse into one larger puffin. This growth process is why there are fewer and fewer chicks in a puffin nest as the babies grow larger. Puffin eggs are actually filled with millions of tiny puffins, slowly combining until only one larger chick remains. This also means that puffins are perpetually beset by relationship anxieties surrounding loss of identity and merging.

Last Days of Loneliness: 4/7/2016

Whoops. I missed Friday’s post. Fortunately I have some new material for Last Days of Loneliness, something I put together in response to questions from my workshop group at Simmons.

Enjoy!

Continue reading

Twitter flash fic

Sorry, I’ve spent all day reading for school and writing a paper.  But I have my Chuck Wendig-inspired #talesfromblackfriday tweet for you to enjoy:

You walk down an aisle of smiling boys labeled “Jimmy”
The sign above reads:
CLASSIC AMERICAN NUCLEAR FAMILY, 80% OFF

Whoops!

Sorry folks.  Today I combined taking a break from schoolwork with doing schoolwork… by which I mean I read Code Name Verity for several hours.  It’s really quite good so far, but I don’t have anything else to share with you today.  And now it is very definitely bed time.  I’ll try to have that horror piece for you next Friday.