Daily Archives: July 9th, 2011

Shattered by The Shattered City

I read this about 10 weeks ago, and I’m not sure why I’ve left it til now to actually review it. I think it’s because I read it too fast, and was then a bit shell-shocked. I couldn’t face reviewing it immediately, and then I kept putting it off… so now the review isn’t as good as it might have been, but I can at least tick it off my to-do list and move it to the bookshelf, rather than having it staring at me accusingly from the shelf above my computer…

Tansy is very very mean to her characters. If you’ve read the first book, Power and Majesty, this will not be a surprise to you.

Velody is coming to terms with being the Creature Court’s Power and Majesty. Delphine and Rhian are not coping with the changes quite so well, and neither are swathes of the Court itself – never exactly predisposed towards being welcoming or accepting of another’s power in the first place. Ashiol is still having to do great soul-searching and agonising over what to do about his power, and Velody and Garnet… something bad might be happening to the Duchessa… and something really bad might be going down in the sky.

Shattered City is a magnificent second book in that it develops the characters in unexpected ways, furthers the plot in totally twisty, snarky, and unexpected ways, and ups the ante in occasionally devastating ways. The writing continues to be elegant and precise and enticing. The world of Aufleur grows more and more well realised, as details are added about the different festivals, the food, the clothes, and the architecture… nice details that add depth.

I am desperate for the third book. I really hope it comes out this year. And I will try my best to give it a better review than this one…

On suppressing women’s writing

Just the front cover is enough to make me cranky. It’s a list of the ways in which women’s writing (and art) has been suppressed; the book is a brief and eclectic examination of how those different modes have operated, and some suggestion of why, too.

I finally got my hands on this book after I heard of Russ’ death. I’d heard of it in vague terms over many years, and more specifically in the last couple – particularly thanks to Galactic Suburbia, and a growing realisation that I really wanted to understand feminist SF, and that Russ is one entry into that. Plus, she seems like one of those writers everyone talks about… but few (especially of my generation, we post-70s women) have really read.

Russ progresses logically through various modes of suppression, dismissal, and marginalisation. As her evidence, she uses reviews of women’s work over the last century and a half or so; their presence (and absence) in anthologies and university curricula; and in biographies, as well as other sources.

The comparison of the different ways Charlotte Bronte’s work was received when it was believed to be by a man compared with when it was known to be by a woman were distressingly similar in some ways – given the difference in time – to the reception of James Tiptree Jr’s work as male/female. Russ herself notes that while some things have changed – critics are less likely in the late twentieth century to openly denigrate women’s writing simply because of the author’s gender – others have not: said critics have found alternative ways to marginalise the writing.

I’ve been sitting on this review for nearly two months, thinking there must be more to say. There is. I’m going to post this as-is, though, because I’m not sure that I can write down all of my different reactions and thoughts coherently… and we’re going to be doing our Joanna Russ Spoilerific Book Club for Galactic Suburbia soon, and hopefully that will help me clarify some ideas. (It did!)