Archive for Books

Mini-Review: “Brown Girl in the Ring”

I’ve been using my desire to write longer, more detailed reviews/impressions as an excuse to not update my blog. Which of course means that posts languish in Draft status. I figured presenting a short list with some brief thoughts is better than nothing. Here’s the first post in this series:

Brown Girl in the Ring coverNalo Hopkinson came highly recommended from an all too brief acquaintance. What made it all the more unexpected is that I studied Caribbean women authors in college, along with a healthy dose of post-colonial literary criticism. But to learn of this kind of author writing in the sci-fi genre? And later to discover that she, too, was gay? (Right?!) That’s like hitting all of my buttons.

I wonder, even without all these affinities, if I would’ve enjoyed “Brown Girl in the Ring” as much. I think so. The writing is solid, the story is compelling and the voice didn’t come off as gimmicky. (For some reason I just flashed on Merle Hodge’s “Crick Crack Monkey” as another example of authentic-sounding Trinidadian patois.)

Here’s the thing, though: if you asked me why this is science fiction, I couldn’t tell you. But for the post-apocalyptic future setting, it came off to me like a straight up Caribbean diaspora narrative (OK, maybe not so typical, but still).

I’ve actually thought about the various definitions of science fiction lately, because a dear friend has never understood the appeal of it. But she’s interested in finding out. Immediately in my head I started queuing up movies and books to recommend, but quickly discarded them because nuanced gender politics are high on her list. I had to admit that to a newbie with such discerning tastes, most of what came to mind would be dismissed as unimaginatively gendered claptrap.

So I’ve been bookmarking and sending over articles to her on what sci-fi is, broadly. Maybe I should re-read them . Though, in truth, I’m not desperate to pigeon-hole Hopkinson’s first effort.

So much for brief. And I didn’t even write anything about the plot or characters. Oh well. Go read it! I’m gonna look for her second book at the library now.

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Rule of Rose – Beastly Creature

**POTENTIAL SPOILERS**

This one almost slipped past me. Though I’m trying to figure out if I should let it go.

It’s my latest rental, and the opening movie elicited a wicked cackle from me, promising ghoulish delights bearing no small resemblance to Edward Gorey at his Gashlycrumb Tiniest. Though set in a different time period, the dirt fetish in the game reminds me of Imperial Leather by Anne McClintock.

Dieter from SNL's SprocketsBut can we just get rid of the shambling gait we have to assume in these survival horror games? It certainly adds something to not be able to move around these creepy environments like, say, Dante or Kratos. But the amount of frustration it creates when traversing the game world, exploring or on a fetch quest, quickly outweighs any immersive benefit.

Maybe I’m just impatient to get to Okami.

Reaching certain plot points that move the story forward keeps the promise of the opening cinema, but the pacing is heinously slow. The play mechanic of having Brown (the dog) sniff out items is clunky since it forces you to go into your inventory to try item after item. Drag ass over here to find a scone, then drag ass over there to find a minced pie. Oh, and the key item that advances the story is on the other side of the airship.

This forces a very linear approach to the game and artificially accelerates the story when I want to take the time to enjoy sticking dessert forks into punkass babies.

I’ve met the second “boss” and died a stupid death because my player character’s limp grip on a steel pipe was no match for a “mermaid’s” green vomitus.

But there is definitely something twisted in Rule of Rose that’s crooking its finger at me. Something like Drusilla in Buffy, who speaks about one of her dolls thusly:

Miss Edith speaks out of turn. She’s a bad example [turning her to face the wall], and will have no cakes today. Shhh.

When those sick moments occur in the game, I’m all atwitter with evil glee. “Leveling up” takes on new meaning in The Aristocrats Club, and I hope for some black transformation in Jennifer once she attains the rank of Duchess.

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“The Lives of Animals” – I have no more real excuses

Lives of AnimalsK borrowed this slim book from the library, and since I live so close, I offered to return it. With some time to spare before it was due, I decided to read it.

Ideally, I’d be able to just give up meat all together. I’ve taken baby steps towards it: no beef for years now, I don’t cook meat at home (except for some occasional bacon, or even less so, fish), a surprisingly speedy switch to soy milk six years ago. I learned that in order to be realistic, and to make any real progress, I should do what I can, where I can. And that field has grown incrementally over time. I don’t beat myself up that it hasn’t extended as far as I’d like.

But there’s no real excuse now. Everything around me facilitates vegetarianism: really good restaurants, ample meat substitute products that simulate the real thing, a partner who’s been one for over 20 years, good friends who cook really well with no trace of flesh.

And now, The Lives of Animals. Such well-argued cases on both sides, why we should not eat them, why it is our right to do so. The despair and sadness and lack of resolution that close the main part of the book: what is the answer? And finally, with the book returned to the library, what am I waiting for? I have no more real excuses.

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Borrowing Bliss

I love the library. Especially because I live so close to it. It’s the perfect distance: near enough to walk to, far enough that you feel you went somewhere.

Even in the cold, dragging myself away from the couch and the blanket, walking there always makes me happy. At this time of year it’s bracing, and I come back with a book in my hands so I can curl up even longer with the kitty. Until I have to venture out again for the next book that arrives.

Hibernating. Having a stack of books I’ve put on hold, and game rentals that get mailed to me, winter’s actually not so bad.

When I found out that I could borrow music too, current as well as out of print stuff, I just about flipped out. Those two songs by Adorable, K and I heard at the Shoegazers’ Ball? They had that CD. The first album from defunct local band, Carissa’s Wierd? That one too. Damn. Can’t even find that one at the local hipster record shops.

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“American Gods” – Wandering around on eight legs

American GodsRecently finished this book by Neil Gaiman. After seeing “MirrorMask” this autumn and feeling like the only goth in college who didn’t read Sandman, I thought it was time to check him out.

Though a bit overlong, it’s wonderful. The idea of a war between what Americans worship, old world deities vs. mercurial abstracts like media and information is fascinating.

I loved the fact that Anansi was in there. I grew up with stories about the lazy, trickster spider. Wonder if my rembrance of and affection for him means he’s still wandering out there somewhere in this land, eight-legged flim-flam.

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