I am … honestly not sure what the point of this novel was.
Overall I liked it. Mostly. I thought it was an interesting way of thinking about reactions of first (or is it?) contact with aliens and the repercussions of that. But once I got to the end, I realised that it felt a bit more like a prologue to a novel, because narrative-wise really very little actually happened, except in the past, as told through flashbacks. And it didn’t feel like that – the past – was the point, which means… I’m not entirely sure what the point was.
Rosewater is in the name of a township that has grown up around an alien dome that plonked itself down in Nigeria in the mid-21st century. Kaaro lives there and works using his psychic skills to stop other psychics from pilfering knowledge from other people (I think?). The flashbacks are mostly about Kaaro’s life, weaving around his experiences and how his life has intersected with the coming of the alien dome. He’s not always been an upstanding member of the community, to put it mildly, but / and he’s also worked for a shady part of the government, using his ‘sensitivity’ in interrogations and the like. Kaaro is not a particularly nice person; in fact, especially early on he is actively unpleasant. And while he does grow up a bit, he never gets to be the sort of person I’d like to spend time with – and even his unpleasantness isn’t particularly interesting. In fact I didn’t really care for or about him at all.
The other characters around Kaaro are minimally developed. His boss from the government is pretty 2D – hard-nosed, no humour, doesn’t respond to his suggestive comments; the love interest is at least a bit mysterious and has some active agency of her own; most of the others are flash-in-the-pan, barely fleshed out ciphers. Even the renegade that pops in and out of Kaaro’s past (almost literally) has basically no back-story.
I got to the end of the book a bit confused that this could be the start of a series (a trilogy, I believe). On the one hand, as I said this all feels like it should be the build-up for something epic. On the other hand, the conclusion left me feeling like there was no epic to come. Clearly in an alien contact story there’s always something that can happen, good or bad, but I wasn’t left grasping for the rest of the story.
Maybe it was just me, and this book just wasn’t for me. I can cope with that.
This book was sent to me by the publisher (Hachette, in Australia) at no cost. It’s available today ($19.99, hard back).
Olympe de Gouges is something of a hero for me, and I’ve longed for a biography on her – there’s a French bio from the mid-90s, but as far as I can tell it’s not been translated. This isn’t the bio I’ve been wanting but it does present her manifesto, along with illustrations and the UN’s Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and excerpts about women’s right from decades of writing.
This delightful little book calls her “the most important figure for women’s rights you’ve never heard of,” which is a crime. In 1789 the National Assembly in France wrote the Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, drawing on the American Declaration of Independence and having a massive impact 150 years later on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. De Gouges wrote the Declaration of Rights of Woman and the Citizeness in response. It was ignored by the men in charge and she died as part of the Terror, in 1793.
Each of the articles is presented on a page with a facing illustration. The next page has quotes from various luminaries, mostly French – these quotes sometimes relate directly to the article they follow, although not always, which I found a little frustrating. The thing is, though, that the articles de Gouges was putting forward are not actually all about ‘women’s rights’ as such – that is, access to divorce and contraception, for example, aren’t at the top of the list. Instead what she’s doing, and what is quite radical, is she’s reframing the articles from DORMAC… with feminine pronouns. So Article 7 says: “No woman is exempt; she is accused, arrested, and detained in cases determined by law. Women, like men, obey this rigourous law.” Her point is that women are, and should be treated as, equally capable of being citizens. WHAT an idea. (This from a time when only one of the political clubs allowed women to be members – and that was part of what made it radical; women-only political clubs were shut down as part of a conservative reaction.) Oh she also wants women to have access to public office and to voting… yeh, first-wave feminism was not the 19th/20th century suffrage activists: it was de Gouges and Wollstonecraft.
Here’s my main complaint, though: each of the articles is illustrated, which I think is lovely; there’s also an image for the prelude and postlude, so 19 images in all. One of those is credited to two artists, a man and a woman. Of the remaining 18, ten of the images are by men. So in this book celebrating women’s right, they couldn’t find enough French women to get more than half of the illustrations done by them? I’m quite disappointed.
Overall this is a long overdue tribute to a clearly brilliant woman. Now someone write a biography and I’ll be happy.
Galactic Suburbia 181: Star Trek Disco Spoilerific
Sit down, strap yourselves in and get ready to be wall to wall spoiled for the entire new series of Star Trek!
Get us at iTunes or Galactic Suburbia.
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And we’re back to Great Scott!
Gladiator (Ridley, 2000)
James has never seen it before; Alex hasn’t seen it in a very long time.
A: Opens by telling us how mighty the Roman Empire is at its height – ¼ of the world’s population!!! Marcus Auerlius is about to fight the last of the ‘barbarians’… and then we cut to a hand in the wheat, and then Rusty in furs on a battlefield. OOH FOREBODING.
J: Standards, horses and the Crimson Tide music.
A: I like the movement from focused on one man to then showing the entire army. It’s a lovely effect. And the Roman army does look appropriately awesome.
Oooh Germans being evil. “People should know when they’re conquered” indeed.
The different accents from the actors is going to be hilarious across this film.
J: Shot on Super 35 Kodak film, interested how muted real film can look these days, especially for overcast / natural light scenes.
A: I like how dirty this film is, in battle especially.
J: Ruuusty, sounds like he’s just had a couple of cans down the local pub… ‘At my signal, Unleeash Hell’ … Is he auditioning for Croc Dundee ? He couldn’t sound more Aussie. Continue reading →
I have loved everything I’ve read by Mark Kurlansky. So when I was in a small bookshop in a small town and saw a new book from him, I was pretty stoked. I half considered buying it as an e-version, partly because OH THE IRONY, but then my darling fawned her how pretty it is (and it really is very pretty, with rough-edged paper and all), so I bought the bard-back. Supporting small book shops for the win.
Tragically, I am disappointed.
I was trying to pin down exactly why the book didn’t work, and halfway through I realised: each paragraph felt like an extended dot point. Like he had all of these great ideas and fascinating points, mostly connected to paper, but… couldn’t quite nail the flow and structure. There are weird disjointed bits that entirely lack in connection, there are some fascinating bits about language and so on that aren’t clearly tied to paper, and… well. Disappointed.
I appreciated his discussion of the technological fallacy: that tech happens and then society follows. Rather, he argues, society creates a demand and THEN technology follows, playing catch up: why else is so much money spent on market research? So I liked that bit. However, as someone has pointed out to me, Kurlansky is entirely too linear in his perspective on the relationship between change and society. Civilisation just isn’t like that.
More serious than the lack of sequencing, though, were a few points where he was just… kinda wrong. For instance: he suggests that some people credit Ada Lovelace with inventing computers, and then reveals that actually she was inspired by Charles Babbage. And, uh, no. She invented the first computer language, and it’s no secret she worked with Babbage! … so this makes me a little concerned when he’s discussing those bits of history that I don’t actually have knowledge of. Because… can I trust him?
I gave it a four over on Goodreads because the ideas and the history really are fascinating, but the book itself as a piece of text ought to get a three.
This novella was sent to me by the publisher at no expense. It will be on sale at Tor.com on May 23.
HIPPOS. Hippos, folks. There need to be more hippos in my literature.
The foreword states that the American Congress debated importing hippos at the start of the 20th century, to resolve a meat shortage. I have no idea whether this is true. I presume it is; the foreword says it is. I could google it… but I choose not to, and live in the world where I believe that America actually considered ranching hippos. Because that’s way more fun than not.
And what’s even more fun than living in that world is this, Sarah Gailey’s debut. (Seriously? debut? kick. ass.) It’s an alternative history (which means it’s definitely not true, despite some recent definitions of ‘alternative’), pushing the date of hippo-introduction back half a century and imagining the consequences of actually hippo-ranching. Like cowboys riding hippos, and hippos going feral, and breeding hippos for stealth to help deal with the ones being raised for meat.
I’m just going to stop here for a moment and consider eating hippo-meat. Because… I dunno, the Anglo-Celt of my heritage just wants to gag.
Anyway, this is a crazy romp filled with wonderful characters and, as the name suggests, a whole lot of hippo-teeth-gnashing. Winslow Remington Houndstooth, putative lead and leader, is filled with desires for revenge and does his own share of teeth-gnashing. He rides Ruby: black, sleek, fast and deadly. Wonderful as he is, I adore Regina Archambault more: “Nobody ever suspects the fat lady”… who pickpockets and breaks hearts and helps save the day. She rides Rosa: three thousand pounds of albino hippo. Hero is also wonderful, and all about blowing stuff up (always the way to my heart), and the rest of the team fills out nicely. There’s a good villain (or two, or three…), so that’s the character side all sorted. There’s explosions, and card games, and feral hippos that are happy to eat people; romance, confusion, and a lot of crankiness and snark. OH THE SNARK.
You’ll want to get your mitts on this one, folks. It’s just way too much fun to miss out on.
Happy New Year edition! One last episode before we squeak into 2017. In which we sum up a year of culture consumed and other interests, and mourn the recently departed. You can find us on iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.
WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET?
(note: we recorded this ep before the death of Debbie Reynolds was reported)
CULTURE CONSUMED IN 2016:
Tansy: Rogue One
Alisa: Operation Apocalypse Plan (books mentioned: Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse as a guide to the probable future, Defying Doomsday)
Alex: The Arrival
Tansy: Hurricane Heels by Isabel Yap (& Buffy rewatch with daughter, because this is what 11 yr olds are for)
Alisa: PhD & Jamberry
Alex: The Expanse
Tansy: Check Please fandom & Yuri on Ice
Alisa: Paleo Cinema Podcast
Alex: Octavia Butler
Link to call for Letters to Butler
Please send feedback to us at email@example.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!
Enemy of the State
J: Straight into the action – with the same credits sound effect as Top Gun.
A: I haven’t seen this in ages… is it pre-2001? Yes, 1998. Because whoa, the whole thing about spying on American citizens… feeling very apropos.
J: Oh the poor Goldie.
A: Given that I’m also currently obsessed with Person of Interest, this is feeling a bit surreal. Urgh surveillance state.
Watching the credits and wait what? Jack Black is in this?? I had forgotten that!
Lisa Bonet, you are awesome. Will Smith, you look sharp as a lawyer, but I’m a bit worried about the dealings you two appear to be having.
Video player! And a mafioso… uh, mob… in a kitchen. Seems a bit old-fashioned frankly. Oh and now we have a mini video cassette player in the woods. Naw, 90s.
J: Love a good ops center… ‘Call it a training Op’ …. Duh …. Continue reading →
This book was sent to me by the editor, at no cost.
I have loved the Infinity series so far. I like that the focus is on science fiction, that it’s often a focus on the engineering side of the future but that that doesn’t preclude fascinating characters and intriguing worlds. I am consistently impressed by the variety of worlds presented and the writing talent included.
The anthology opens with a series of stories focused on the solar system. Alastair Reynolds gives us a problem with the sun where the narrative jumps tantalisingly between now and later, while Pat Cadigan provides what might be a prequel story for her “The Girl-Thing who went out for Sushi” in a story set on Earth but focused on colonising near Jupiter. Stephen Baxter goes to Venus with a sweeping story about human hubris and the problem of families. Charlie Jane Anders totally mocks the whole idea of going to space in a hilarious story of being, like, an adolescent in space? Tobias S Buckell and Karen Lord also take the long view, temporally speaking, about what it might mean to undertake engineering projects within the asteroid belt and elsewhere, given the distances (and therefore time) involved. Plus Calypso.
Naturally, there are some stories in the anthology that confront climate change – it’s understandably becoming a go-to theme. Cadigan’s story references the issues in passing; stories by Pamela Sargent, and Pat Murphy & Paul Doherty, suggest possible ways of dealing with the problem – the latter is one of my favourites, being both optimistic and pessimistic, and largely set in the Arctic. Ken Liu writes over an extremely long period of time in posing the idea that the coming of the singularity might solve climate change in a rather radical manner. And Thoraiya Dyer posits a rather intriguing solution to the loss of island real estate while also dealing with the problems of family.
There are also several stories with extra-solar settings. Kristine Kathryn Rusch combines desert urban planning on alien planets with a devastating mystery to great effect; Robert Reed writes a Great Ship story about how the materials you use (and the tools) can impact on the thing you’re making. Allen M Steele’s story sounds like it might be from a pre-existing set of stories, like the Great Ship suite, in that it’s focused on a group of wanderers in what is effectively a Dyson sphere called Hex. It’s less focused on the engineering and more focused on human exploration of alien tech.
A few stories didn’t especially work for me. Karin Lowachee’s story of a contractor alone on a supply depot installation didn’t have enough character development for me to get my teeth into, while Gregory Benford and Larry Niven made my teeth ache with their extra-heavy serves of techno speak and missing out on character or plot. An Owomoyela’s narrative didn’t quite seem to go anywhere… which given the narrative itself is kind of funny, but it still didn’t work for me.
Highly recommending this anthology for lovers of science fiction.
I have a new blog! and a new podcast! Acts of Kitchen is kinda just that. The blog is about whatever I’m cooking or reading about food or watching about food. The podcast (same name) is mostly about me interviewing people to get their food and cooking stories. It’s fortnightly, and I aim for it to be about 15-20 minutes in length – pretty easy-listening length, right? You can subscribe at iTunes or listen to it at the blog!