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Komodo, Jeff VanderMeer: One of VanderMeer's first longer pieces after the end of the Ambergris trilogy, originally published in a sci-fi journal in the UK that had Mieville visiting some squid and octopi and Atwood published in an earlier issue, and was rereleased on Amazon. Pitched as ghost frogs, psychotic angels, transdimensuonal Komodo dragons, and undead bears, but as with VanderMeer, it's so much more than that. You can see the roots of Southern Reach's environmental concerns, and further seeds of what would later become Borne. Quick (29 pages), weird as fuck, and a hell of a ride once it comes together.

The City and the City, China Mieville: Mieville does a detective novel with a touch of metaphysics and conspiracy. So, with how hard and quick this drops you into the world and terminology, I somehow missed that this is supposed to actually be set on Earth, so some of the random pop culture references that get thrown in really pulled me out of the story at first. But as the story drills more into the detective story and the two overlapping cities, that falls away, and Mieville write a hell of a story. Again, took a while for it to click, but when it did, daaaamn. The comparisons on the cover to Chandler and Dick are accurate - I would also add Borges in there. 

The one pattern I've noticed and find irritating with Mieville is that if there is a woman character she is likely to end up a stereotype, dead, or gone by the second half of the novel (here, we get two dead women, one who starts the novel that way, and the other female officer is effectively out of the picture by the second half). This is only for the five fiction books of his that I've read, but it is noticeable.

The Strange Bird, Jeff VanderMeer: Ahem: Fuck you Jeff VanderMeer for making me feel things about a goddamn fictional bird. Under 100 pages, so it's a quick read, but it's brutal. A side story in the Borne universe (and there's another one of these coming out next year) that focuses on a new character but also fleshes out characters we already knew even more. VanderMeer also doesn't pull punches about the treatment of the bird; a good two thirds of this is an extremely accurate depiction of emotional and physical abuse, and has some amazing lines besides. It's $3 on Kindle, and for that, it's absolutely worth it.

Books read: 77

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The Black Tides of Heaven, JY Yang: Chronologically first of the twin novellas that JY Yang released this week, and the one I will recommend coming at first. It's a good introduction to the twins, and to the world/core conflict, and follows them as they grow up. The world building is exquisite (and is silkpunk in a way that doesn't make me want to put a brick through a wall), but never feels like an infodump, and comes to us naturally as the twins grow older and experience the world. The most chronologically jumpy of the novellas, but allows for stories to be filled in if the series sells well enough. Focuses on the male twin's perspective the most, and on establishing the world of the Tensorate, and how he comes into himself in his twin's shadow. This is apparently the novella that came second in terms of them (JY Yang) writing it, and it does show in some places. Oh, also, Yuko Shimizu art, which is always a good draw for a series.

The Red Threads of Fate, JY Yang: Follows up with the other twin in the aftermath of a major traumatic event, and is the more traditionally action-y of the novellas, but can still stand well on its own. The potentially interesting threads are the strongest here (especially wrt the soul grafting that's mentioned), but their not really being followed up on is alright, I feel, because if these sell well enough they feel like a thread that can be explored. Just real fun, too - dinosaurs, stubborn queer women trying to save a city from a mythical creature, and how one of the twin deals with trauma and the powers she had potentially being gone (but maybe not, and again, potentially an interesting thread). I technically led with this book, but was planning on splitting the read between this on my commute into work, and Black Tides going home from work. I ended up finishing this in one day for both and just switching off every few chapters between the physical book for this, and the digital book for Black Tides. Whoops but not whoops because this series is amazing, and I'm in for the rest of this series.

Binti: The Night Masquerade, Nnedi Okorafor: WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK DID I JUST READ?!  Not going into spoilers, because ARC, but man, I will be fucking interested to see how people react to this when it comes out in January.

Books read: 80

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Wild Hundreds, Nate Marshall: A short poetry collection mainly centering on the neighborhood he few up in in South Chicago. Some really good poems, but for me, the standout is Chicago High School Love Letters, which are scattered throughout the book and recontextualized by a single footnote at the end of the last of them.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, Jeff Hobbs: On the one hand, this is a thorough examination of a young man's life, a solid deep dive into what he went through and how everything went down, and doesn't try to attribute any grander lessons to it. On the other hand, I feel like the author makes it way too much about himself at times, goes out of the way to emphasize how bad he wants to be a famous author, how much his family was in debt, oh, and did you know he has another book along with two he didn't sell, and leaves you with the feeling that he's trying to profit off of tragedy porn of his friend's life (he's doing a speaking tour based on this book, guys!!). Some of the profits of this go to a scholarship in his memory (but we don't know how much). It's a very weird feeling as you're reading it.

Books read: 82

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The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura: In Japan, a man finds a dead body and a .357 magnum lying next to it. It takes the gun and is head over heels in love with owning it. It has such a powerful hold that it slowly withdraws him away from his schoolwork and social life. Eventually he decides that he has to fire it at some point, and that's where things start to go bad. I was really excited when I read the summary for the book, but it was a pretty slow read. Nothing happens in the first half until the main character decides to fire the gun. Most of the book sees him smoking, going to class, sleeping with a woman whose name he never learns, talking with another girl who's fairly inconsequential, and obsessing over polishing his gun. The last act is where things start happening, but by then it doesn't feel that it goes far enough. The final few chapters are pretty gripping, and Nakamura really gets into this guy's head, but I feel there was a stronger story here. Nakamura says that although this is his most recent story published in America, it was the first one he wrote. I've checked out a couple of other books of his from the library, so I hope they'll turn out to be more eventful.

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The Oracle Year, Charles Soule: Meh?? This feels like a failed comics pitch. It's a solid thriller, and reads quick, but it drops threads, straight up makes me roll my eyes in places, and doesn't bother with character development for any of its multiple main characters.

Books read: 83

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Empty Set, Verònica Gerber Bicecci: Another ARC, but one I was super intrigued by. This is basically a novel about the author making sense of various breakups, her mother's disappearance, her father's absence, and various parts of her life, all while using various diagrams and charts and drawings to visualize what she's feeling. It's a quick read (I finished this in three train rides), and has some amazing, beautiful passages. Comes out in February from Coffee House Press, you should get it.

Books read: 84

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The Kingdom by Fuminori Nakamura: I don't really know what I just read. The plots about a woman who poses as a prostitute but secretly photographs johns in uncompromising situations for money. Eventually she's caught between rival figureheads of power. Straightforward enough, but the details of the greater scheme by the writer are both poetic and bizarrely abstract. I wasn't confused but it never seemed like much happened, to the point when things did start happening I wasn't sure how to feel.

Nakamura is an interesting writer. He can drum up straight prose with the best of them, but his plots are so low-key he lulls you into a false sense of importance, only for that to get pretty random. This was more interesting than the Gun, more eventful, but that was more personally engaging by the end. They're similar, and I enjoyed reading them, but only just. It's a very weird reading experience all over.

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The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman: Rereading these because the first book in the prequels just came out, and I want these fresh in my mind when I go into it. Exquisite world building, and just a wonderfully unfurling plot. Still one of my favorite series.

Books read: 85

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Crush, Richard Siken: This is tied with Look for the most affecting poetry I've read this year. My words are insufficient for this. Go pick this up, now.

Winter Tide, Ruthanna Emrys: I got this for free from Tor. I would pay money for this. This includes the short story that starts the universe at the end, and the novel itself is a continuation of that universe. (Imagine if the government had found out about Innsmouth shortly after WW1, and had moved the residents into a concentration camp in the AZ desert. Imagine if the last remnants had been there around the time of the Japanese internment. Imagine the Cold War, but with the potential of Aeonist magic added in.) This is a well plotted story set at Miskatonic, with a main character Im very interested in reading more of, and goes in a direction I wasn't originally expecting from it. Good first novel, directly fucks with the sexist/racist legacy of Lovecraft. I'm in for the sequel. 

books read: 87

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We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates: This is a collection of Coates' best essays from the last eight years of writing he's done for the Atlantic. What I really like about this is that he reframes these essays in the context of the shift towards Jim Crow/the post Reconstruction era in the South in the national pivot away from Obama and to Trump, through the prologue, the intro to each essay, and the final epilogue essay ("The First White President"). I've read most of these already, but the reframing makes you come at them in a new light. A good deal of these essays are especially relevant, especially in light of last week (LAST FUCKING WEEK)'s denial that the Civil War was about slavery, for example. Depressing as fuck, but still a great read.

books read: 88

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4 hours ago, Venneh said:

We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates: This is a collection of Coates' best essays from the last eight years of writing he's done for the Atlantic. What I really like about this is that he reframes these essays in the context of the shift towards Jim Crow/the post Reconstruction era in the South in the national pivot away from Obama and to Trump, through the prologue, the intro to each essay, and the final epilogue essay ("The First White President"). I've read most of these already, but the reframing makes you come at them in a new light. A good deal of these essays are especially relevant, especially in light of last week (LAST FUCKING WEEK)'s denial that the Civil War was about slavery, for example. Depressing as fuck, but still a great read.

books read: 88

I'm about to pick that up at the Barnes and Noble that I've just recently been hired. Coates has been addicting to read in the last several months

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He's an amazing writer, just don't expect this collection to be uplifting.

Fisher of Bones, Sarah Gailey: This is a hell of a serialized story. Set up in the vein of Moses wandering in the desert, but with a daughter leading her people, vaguely weird magical things, and just a greater sense of despair and loss building through the story, and the final two lines just seals the twist of the story. I do wonder what would come after this, but am content with just this. Good palette cleanser. Short, builds beautifully, and quick.

books read: 89

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The Subtle Knife, Phillip Pullman: Still my least favorite book of the trilogy, but still wonderfully plotted. There's a lot of expansion (focus on minor characters/people barely mentioned from last book, expansion of new worlds, and new elements bought in) that feels borderline like bloat, but it's all a part of the bigger picture here. This is definitely the wind up for the final act book. Starting in our world is still super disorienting after last book, and even though there's a lot of movement on a bigger picture, Lyra is directly in maybe a third of this book tops, after being the primary focus of the last book. Fun fact: I read this last originally when I was reading this in high school, so I was super confused when I read Amber Spyglass originally.

Books read: 90

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Sisters of the Crescent Empress, Leena Likitalo: Man, I am really not sure how I feel about this. They gave Likitalo another hundred pages, which amounts to each sister getting one more chapter, but it just doesn't feel like she did much with it? There's a few false starts to build dread, but a lot of the twists come only in the final chapter, and are never really resolved. I mean, I can see the author trying to make a point about the legends around the Romanov family and whether or not anyone survived, and leaving that ambiguous and all, but after 500 pages between two books, unless she's gunning for a continuation, this is a cop out. She also cops out of describing what are built up to be major events and basic world building, and there's really no excuse for that. There's also a huge Communism is EEEEEEEVIL thing going on that after a certain point just makes me roll my eyes. I'm glad that I didn't pay more than $5 for this digitally, put it that way. These were her first two books, and she has a lot of room to improve, put it that way. Not sure if I would recommend both books at full price (maybe in a digital sale?), but it's a nice light pseudo historical fantasy read, and if you don't think about it too much, you'll be better off for it.

Books read: 91

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The Amber Spyglass, Phillip Pullman: I've had my copy of this book since middle school, and it's been with me for every move since. This is one of the books you have to read at some point in your life. It was tiny me's first introduction to gay romance, and my first realization that I didn't believe in god. Adult me is impressed at the way everything comes together, the way even tiny details from the first book come back, and the way that everything keeps building and resolves perfectly, even if not perfectly happily. I still cry for Will and Lyra. 

Cult X, Fuminori Nakamura (translated by Kalau Almony)ARC. On the one hand, the things that this book has to say about conspiracy, philosophy, religion, politics, and the structures of power in nations and multinational corporation are great. On the other, the amount of information delivered via monologue is insane, the author has very little regard for his female characters, and every time sadomasochism comes up in a scene you can tell the author is probably jerking off to what he's writing. There's a plot in there somewhere between all the twists and turns. I got this for free, and for free and read in a bath with beer, worth a page through.  PS: Marketers, calling this a romance is a real stretch.

Books read: 93

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Rolling In the Deep, Mira Grant: Why yes, this is a novella about deep sea mermaids that has a title taken from an Adele song. It's pretty freaking great. The setup is that Totally Not the SyFy channel is making a mockumentary about mermaids near the Marina Trench. They find them. It goes about as well as you'd expect. 

Orbit bought a full length sequel, Into the Drowning Deep, and it was just published this last week. I'll be reading it soon and looking forward to it. 

These two excerpts are why you should read it: 

"“Deep-sea fish frequently demonstrate extreme sexual dimorphism,” said Alexandra, not uncovering her face. “One female to dozens, even hundreds of males. They were taking the bodies over the rail. Why? They can’t eat them all. Can’t store food in the water. But they can feed them to something larger. Something they wanted to impress.”

"The female anglerfish is several hundred times the size of the male. They can be found in oceans and coastal regions around the world. The inquiry into what happened on the Atargatis is still ongoing.""

😀 😀 😀

Books read: 94

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The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer: they are not kidding when they call this "the Big Book". 1160 pages of stories, 105 stories, and all for $25, you're not going to find a better priced, more wide ranging collection. The standards are in here, but the editors have made a conscious attempt to have representation from every continent (with new and first time translations of work), and women as well, and it shows in the range of what they chose to put in here. There are going to be tons of authors you've never heard of, and stories you may not have read from authors you may know, and odds are this will point you in some new reading directions (hooks for me are Joanna Russ and Stepan Chapman). I've been working on this since about August, and I finally finished earlier today. (The earlier stuff is harder to get through, especially if you don't go for "classic" sci-fi, but stick with it.) Get this. It's worth your time and your money. 

War of the Foxes, Richard Siken: An early Christmas gift for Jim. This collection is still amazing, but between the two collections of his poetry so far, I like Crush better.

Books read: 96

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On 11/17/2017 at 8:23 PM, Venneh said:

The Amber Spyglass, Phillip Pullman: I've had my copy of this book since middle school, and it's been with me for every move since. This is one of the books you have to read at some point in your life. It was tiny me's first introduction to gay romance, and my first realization that I didn't believe in god. Adult me is impressed at the way everything comes together, the way even tiny details from the first book come back, and the way that everything keeps building and resolves perfectly, even if not perfectly happily. I still cry for Will and Lyra.

Have you listened to the audiobooks of HDS narrated by Pullman and with a full cast voicing the characters?

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They’re amazing. Not many really famous actors (other than Julian Glover, who plays Stanislaus Grumman in The Subtle Knife) but definitely worth your time. I promote them whenever HDM or Audible come up.

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The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, Phillip Pullman: I've been looking forward to this ever since it was announced, and so nervous about it, because the original trilogy is one of my favorite series, and of course it's nerve wracking to see how a prequel series might turn out. 

It's worth it and then some. Lyra's in it, but she's only a baby, and it's great to see some of the side characters in the original trilogy take the forefront. Pullman's obviously used the time between the original trilogy and now to do more thinking/world building, and it really shows. He also obviously has Some Shit To Say about things going on currently. 

The only thing I find a bit weird is adding faerie into the mix of everything, but given that it turns out that this book's framing poem is the Faerie Queen, I'm interested to see how this turns out.

If you loved the original trilogy, get this. You won't regret it.

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Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher: I didn't get to know this Carrie until the TFA promo tours and towards the end of her life. I wish I had known about her sooner. Reading this is like she's back with us, and god I love her stories and encouragement.

Books read: 98

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In a Lonely Place, Dorothy B. Hughes: This is one of the better and more haunting books I've read this year. It's a serial killer story, but not from the perspective you'd expect, and a good part of action central to the story actually happens in the gaps between chapters. The person who would've been framed as the hero with embattered masculinity in any other story turns out to be the villain of the piece, and it's the women he so hates that are the ones to stop him. The novel is an amazing critique of toxic masculinity, and given the time period it was written in, a lot more feminist than I was expecting. You can tell the twist that comes early on, but the road to it is amazingly written. Definitely check out this one, especially the NYRB edition I read.

Books read: 99

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Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View: 40 authors did basically unpaid fanfic (their royalties/fees were donated to First Books) from the POV of minor/background characters in Episode IV. Lots of names/people I know, and some really great pieces. Definitely worth your time.

Books read: 100

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Walk the Red Road, Misha Nogha: A collection of Mischa’s short stories and prose poems that makes me genuinely sad that we don’t have more of her work. The language is gorgeous and the imagery astounding.

Books read: 101

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