anthimeria: Mask of feathers (Feather Face)
[personal profile] anthimeria
Phenomenal.  Go read it.

The Diviners is the story of Evie, who can read objects, but prefers to be a flapper, escaping to her uncle's place in New York, New York.  It's 1926, and Evie is thoroughly modern.  It's the story of Memphis, a numbers runner in Harlem who dreams of being a poet.  It's the story of Theta, whose name isn't Theta, who lives with her brother who isn't her brother, who is--now, at least--one of the Ziegfeld Girls.  It's the story of Naughty John, who does his work with his apron on . . .

The Diviners is built around Evie, but it is many stories.  Libba Bray does everything I tend not to like in fiction--there are many points of view, though Evie's is primary, she spends some time describing and anthropomorphizing landscapes and elements, she flips around in whoever's point of view is most useful, and she digresses into character back stories that don't all become relevant in this book.  I also don't like big books and this one is long, clocking in at nearly six hundred pages of decently-sized hardback.  With all of that in mind, I loved this book.  Everything, every word, has its purpose, and in a book this long, that's saying something.  Every point of view shift is worth it, every digression interesting, every nuance telling.

Even better is the historical setting.  The Diviners isn't just set in the 20s, it lives and breathes the 20s--down to the slang, the tech, the culture, the language, the scars of one world war and the setting-up of the next.  A lot of historical fiction--especially speculative historical fiction--tends to be merely flavored with its era.  The Diviners is brilliantly 20s, and could not have been set in another era and told such a story.

For all that The Diviners is being marketed as YA, it's a chilling, incredible urban fantasy that I would urge anyone who enjoys the genre to check out.  For all that the construction of the book hits all the things I tend not to like (and yet I loved it, note), the premise is everything I love: YA with a spunky girl protagonist!  Historical spec fic!  Urban fantasy!  Serial killer mystery!  Diverse characters!  Thoughtfulness about society!  All wrapped up in speakeasies and paranormal abilities.

The Diviners is also that rare first book in a series that stands on its own, but is clearly sowing the seeds for a series.  I hope that many of the digressions I spoke of above, which came to little more than character pieces in this book, will bear fruit in the next.  I loved this book and I want more, so if anything I've mentioned here strikes your fancy, hop on the trolly, old girl, and cough up some dough!  Or, y'know, hit the library, if dough is hard to come by.
anthimeria: Astro City superheroine Flying Fox (Flying Fox)
[personal profile] anthimeria

Through means cunning and clever, I have laid hands on an advance copy of Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire. The official release date is March 6th, also known as next Tuesday.


I had a lot of fun with this book. I love the variety of cryptids, I love that Verity reacts to everything surprising with violence, I love the many, many questions (and terrifying suspicions) the book leaves us with at the end, and like everyone else, I love the Aeslin Mice. HAIL THE NEW SERIES!

Cryptid, noun: Any creature whose existence has not yet been proven by science.  See also "monster."

Cryptozoologist, noun: Any person who thinks hunting for cryptids is a good idea.  See also "idiot."

pale_moonlite: (Default)
[personal profile] pale_moonlite
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Pan Books, 2000. 867 pages.


New Crobuzon is a giant metropolis that is inhabited by a variety of sentient species such as humans, khepri (insect women), cactacae (cactus people), garuda (bird people) and many more. It's a grim place, ruled by a corrupt government that enforces its power with the help of a brutal militia. Its technology is characterized by a mix of steampunk machinery and thaumaturgy (magic).

Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is a rogue scientist renowned for his unorthodox research methods. When he isn't staying at his workplace, he's living with Lin, a khepri artist. Not entirely comfortable with being in an inter-racial relationship, he keeps her (mostly) a secret. Yagharek, a garuda from the desert whose wings have been cut off as a punishment, comes to New Crobuzon to engage Isaac's services, hoping that Isaac can help him to regain the power of flight. Isaac starts his research and eventually, all hell breaks loose.

My thoughts:

I had difficulties to summarize the plot and I still don't think I did it justice. The universe of Perdido Street Station is as complex as it's unusual and bizarre. I was immediately gripped by Miéville's powerful descriptions. The first one-third of the novel is entirely dedicated to world building and character development, and that's the part I loved best.

My favorite character was Lin. The story of her upbringing by a religiously zealot mother and her struggles with the norms of khepri society make her a fascinating, multi-layered personality. It's a pity to see her disappear midway through the novel. Miéville has lost the chance to create a truly exciting female protagonist here. I would have liked to like Derkhan, political activist, lesbian and close friend of Lin and Isaac, but as soon as the action/adventure plot starts, she's reduced to a mere sidekick.

The weak point of the novel is indeed the action/adventure part. As soon as the problem is developed, everything becomes predictable and there's even some sort of deus ex machina involved. I was glad for the unexpected twist in the ending. It was a bit annoying at first, but it definitely kept me thinking.

Perdido Street Station may have its weaknesses, but overall it's a captivating read. I'm looking forward to the next novel in this universe.
foxfirefey: Feet placed sole to sole and colored like green moss. (moss feet)
[personal profile] foxfirefey
So, John Scalzi has a feature on his blog called "The Big Idea". It's a great way to get really tantalizing previews of books you might want to read--and is heavily skewed toward SF/F genre books, too, although it isn't exclusive. A whole site dedicated to the concept is in the works, too.

The latest Big Idea by Nicole Peter has a lot of interesting things to say about urban fantasy, to wit:
In a time of chaos and uncertainty, is it any wonder that urban fantasy, the genre of the contemporary fairy tale, is on the rise? After all, urban fantasy offers a vision of the world in which traditional evils...are often times merely misunderstood. Meanwhile, traditional heroes...are often revealed to be sanctimonious, narrow-minded, and murderous zealots. The binaries neatly dividing good and evil are blurred in this genre, and the underlying message in many urban fantasies seems to be that the individual must make his or her own choices: that we must rely on our own experiences and intellect in a world that wants to brand outsiders as evil, to force ideological dichotomies on reality, and to make soldiers of us all.

Are you an urban fantasy fan (disregarding urban fantasy that you don't like and mainly considering that which you do, if any)? If so, what draws you to the genre? If not, what repels you?


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