Tag Archives: shakespeare

Miranda in Milan

image.pngThis novel (novella?) was sent to me to review by the publisher, Tor.com, at no cost. It will be out on 26 March, 2019.

Aside from King Lear, which I loathe, I probably dislike The Tempest more than any other Shakespeare play. I don’t know why; there’s nothing particular I can pinpoint. But I really, really dislike it.

It turns out, though, that stories of Miranda after the play are stories I can really get behind. So maybe this is part of the problem: in the play, I think Miranda is just a bit nothing. But For Meadows’ Coral Bones made me swoon for joy, and now Katharine Duckett’s Miranda in Milan similarly plays with the aftermath of Miranda’s return from the island – in a very different way from Meadows, but equally dealing with some of the issues that a young woman with such an upbringing might need to confront.

Here, Miranda is returned to Milan, and basically confined to the room – she’s only allowed out when wearing a veil, which she loathes. Her father is off reestablishing himself as duke, Ferdinand is in Naples, and she has no friends. Until suddenly she does develop a friendship, and she begins to discover some of what’s gone on in Milan that led to Prospero’s banishment – and, by extension, her own.

Nicola Griffith’s blurb is (unsurprisingly) apt: “Love and lust, mothers and monsters, magicians and masked balls…”. That’s about it. What is love and how do you know it, what makes a monster, and can magicians be trusted… Duckett writes about these things, and does it quite beautifully.

Sorry you have to wait til March to read it.

Galactic Suburbia!

In which Letters To Tiptree is still turning heads, and it’s winter in Australia. Much winter. So coldness. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.


World Fantasy Award finalists

Locus Awards winners


Alisa: Undisclosed – Vacated; 4 hideous romcoms (Remember Sunday, Thanks for Sharing, Life Happens and Something Borrowed)

Alex: Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones; Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress; Fifth Season, NK Jemisin; The Hollow Crown

Tansy: Person of Interest Season 5, Book Smugglers Quarterly Almanac (especially John Chu’s “How to Piss off a Failed Super-Soldier”), Batman v Superman; Hamilton, Rocket Talk podcast – Amal El-Mohtar on Does Hamilton Count as Genre.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.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!

Galactic Suburbia 143

In which we talk reviews and gender balance thanks to the Strange Horizons SF count, and Alisa makes books while Tansy & Alex visit the theatre! you can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

coriolanus-covWhat’s New on the Internet?

Locus Awards finalists
Shirley Jackson nominees: http://www.locusmag.com/News/2016/05/2015-shirley-jackson-awards-nominees/

Peter MacNamara Achievement Award

Strange Horizons – the 2015 SF Count


Tansy: A Sci-Fi Vision of Love from a 318 year old hologram, by Monica Byrne , Wuthering Heights by shake & stir co; Whip it, Kingston City Rollers

Alisa: Working on the release of the Tara Sharp mysteries by Marianne Delacourt (now available for pre-order) and Grant Watson’s upcoming book of film essays.

Alex: Coriolanus (all female production directed by Grant Watson for Heartstring, Melbourne’s new independent theatre); The Dark Labyrinth, Lawrence Durrell; Nemesis Games, James SA Corey; Saga vol 5; Fringe rewatch, The Katering Show

Skype number: 03 90164171 (within Australia) +613 90164171 (from overseas)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.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!

All Men of Genius


Rosen takes a large dose of Shakespeare (As You Like it, specifically); adds a liberal dose of mad science and a pinch of Ada Lovelace; shakes gently, and decants the resulting mixture in fairly smooth prose to produce a generally enjoyable book, with a somewhat abrupt and disappointing finish.

The first thing to know about me and this book is that with one exception (Much Ado About Nothing, thank you Kenneth and Emma), I basically loathe Shakespeare’s comedies. I do not like twins. I do not like mistaken identity. I do not care. I will not go and watch a comedy if I have a choice do not even try.

Rosen, however, made me care, because finally there is a good reason for identity swapping rather than just the amusement of seeing a man in a skirt pretending to be a man (oh HA HA geroffthastage). But taking your brother’s identity in order to get into the most prestigious science academy in London in order to make crazy beautiful science with the full intention of revealing yourself as a lady at the end of your first year? VIOLET I LOVE YOU.

The fact that your brother is gay and you don’t have a problem with that is just extra cute and an additional bit of sticking it to the establishment.

I liked it. If you like slightly artificial prose (not as jaunty as Gail Carriger but that sort of thing) and some seriously mad science, this is a fun book. There are lots of gears. And talking rabbits. No really, it’s funny, if lacking in ethics. Also invisible cats, difficult decisions, and cranky professors.

Thoughts for people who’ve read the book: SPOILERS AHOY!
I really enjoyed Violet’s interactions with the other students, overall; it’s a slightly grown-up version of boarding school romps, basically (like, the drinking is legal). I was really pleased that Rosen allowed Jack and Violet to be and remain good friends – I guess it helped that Jack had his sights firmly fixed on Cecily – and that it turns out Drew knew she was female for a while and it just didn’t matter. Hooray for cross-gender friendships!

I generally liked Cecily. I liked that she was good at science, and wanted to be good at science. I was bemused by her attachment to the rabbit, since it made this intelligent young woman seem like she was about six. I also generally liked Miriam, and I was fascinated by her status as a dark-skinned, widowed, Jew… but it did feel a bit tokenistic. That is, I am perfectly fine with her being all of those things, but Rosen begins to explore the ramifications of those aspects of her identity aaaaaand doesn’t fulfil the promise.

Other things that didn’t work so well:

The relationship between Violet and the duke is a bit ugh. The age difference is icky. The ‘but I don’t think I’m an invert!’ (Rosen’s word, presumably – I hope! – historically appropriate) attitude from the duke after kissing Violet-as-Ashton skirted, and may have fallen into, problematic (I’m cis, I’m no judge).

The switching of voices. What for, Rosen? The fact that it doesn’t properly start until well into the book makes it particularly weird. I liked Fiona well enough but I really didn’t need her perspective, nor that of the duke, nor Cecily or Miriam’s, unless they were all going to be as thoroughly explored as Violet’s. Which they’re not. And Ashton is distinctly left out, really, which makes no sense.

The ending. The marriage happens waaay too fast – or it could have happened in as few pages but there needed to be a bit more about how it all got resolved, and wait a minute isn’t she a bit young??

Perchance to Dream of theatres and adventure

A delightful read, although not as good as the first in the series, Eyes Like Stars. (This discussion contains some spoilers for that book.)

Having discovered who her mother is and wanting to rescue Nate, who might be the love of her life and has been kidnapped by the Sea Goddess Sedna, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith – Bertie – sets out into the world with four miscreant fairies and one devious air-elemental. And this is where one really big difference between the first and second books occurs: the setting. Where the casual magic of the Theatre Illuminata kind of made sense because it’s a theatre, and it seems to occupy a space not really connected to a particular time or space, the ‘real’ world is meant to be just that. So the magic of Bertie’s words, and of some of the other characters met along the way, seemed slightly more out of place. Perhaps this is because I was expecting the story to be more grounded in particularity – perhaps Bertie’s ‘real’ (non-theatre) world isn’t meant to be any more ‘my’ real world at all.

That’s maybe a quibble, but it did still sit at the back of my mind gnawing a bit. There were a couple of other things that gnawed, including Bertie’s relationship with and attitude towards both Nate and Ariel. I’m not a fan of the love triangle at the best of times, and this one made me uncomfortable because I couldn’t tell which one I thought she would, or should, end up with! Perhaps silly, but there you go. I also occasionally had difficulty telling whether something was actually happening to Bertie in the real world, or whether it was a dream, or if it was happening for real but in an other place. It may well be that Mantchev was blurring boundaries deliberately, but I found that this confusion threw me out of the story occasionally.

Nonetheless, I did enjoy this novel. Mantchev has a delightful turn of phrase and it’s fast-moving enough that I basically read it in a sitting (helps that I am on holidays). Bertie continues to be an enjoyable and engaging heroine, who develops by necessity as she encounters difficulties and as she considers the holds that people have on her, and how to be her own person. The fairies are still winsome and incorrigible, and have renewed my own interest in pie. Ariel… continues to be problematic. I don’t especially like The Tempest, but should I ever bother to see it again I will certainly have difficulty viewing him without Mantchev-glasses (I will also suffer from Dan-Simmons-glasses when watching Caliban, so maybe I really ought not to see it again. Oh so sad). The plot, as I said, was fast-moving and had some fun bits, but I think suffers with comparison to the first book. That was so tight, and focussed around one really core issue, that it felt utterly of a piece. Here, although rescuing Nate is central, the action feels more episodic and bound together much more loosely.

I’m intrigued that there is a third (and, I think, final) book in the series; it will be very interesting to see where Mantchev takes Bertie et al next.

Julius Caesar on stage

I went to see Bell Shakespeare’s version of Julius Caesar last night as part of my 2010 Christmas present from my mother (Much Ado About Nothing was the first half, in which I laughed harder than I ever have before in a theatre). Often Bell makes a point of shifting a play into an obviously different era – Much Ado had a 1950s Italian-American vibe going on. But Julius just had the players in suits, and other than that was quite timeless.

It was a marvellous production and I am sure there are any number of brilliant reviews already out there. There a couple of things I wanted to note. One is that Cassius was played as a woman, which worked surprisingly well in that very few of the lines actually took on any other significance – unlike when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are women, which I’ve seen, and gives their interaction with Hamlet maaaany more layers indeed. The woman who took the role was very good, although she did make her quite sharp and shrewd – interesting to consider whether I would have got this impression about a man (I haven’t seen this performed in years). Should also mention that Brutus was exceptionally good – and older than I have seen him played before, as was Caesar himself, which I really appreciated. Also Portia, Brutus’ wife, was agonisingly wonderful.

Mark Antony was appropriately young, and had a very clever transition in terms of costume: the first time he is on stage, his trousers are rolled up and he was shirtless. A bit later he was in a hoody… a while later he was in ‘office-casual’, shirt with cotton sweater; then by the end in quite a sharp suit, with his hair tied back (it had been out for the rest of the play; it wasn’t until this bit that it was obvious he had an UNDERCUT. Hello 1995!) So that was cleverly done.

The actress who played Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, also played Octavian. Make of that what you will.

The thing that left me breathless with appreciation happened right at the end. The stage was enclosed on three side with office chairs, and the only prop on stage was a single pillar, a la the Forum, with some scaffolding around it. More of the scaffolding gets built throughout the play, by the actors themselves, in some beautifully choreographed movements. Right at the end the scaffold is built up quite high and rods attached to the top… and the final action, basically, is to hide the single pillar with drapes showing three pillars instead. O, the symbolism! I swoon in delight.

Shakespeare, sex, and drugs

I read this because it was the book picked by Mondy for March’s Writer and the Critic podcast, on which I was the guest (which is full of spoilers for the book). It’s kinda my sort of book… and kinda really not.

I am a Shakespeare Fan. I love me some Bard. Not the comedies, though; I love the tragedies and the histories. Oh, and Much Ado, but that’s a whole ‘nother story (one involving Kenneth and Emma and Ben Elton and Michael Keaton and Keanu…). So, a book that alternates chapters about Will Shakespeare Greenberg, aspiring Masters student at UCal, with the late-teen years of William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon, is in theory a very appealing one to me. And Winfield clearly knows (or got to know) his Shakespeare: there are allusions, and direct quotes, in I think every single chapter – and they all seemed effortless, too. I enjoyed the development of sixteenth-century Stratford. I’m not entirely convinced by man-whore Shakespeare, but I see the point from a narrative point of view, and it’s not a completely ridiculous suggestion. Overall it was a reasonably interesting portrayal of his early adulthood.

On the other hand, there was Will Greenberg. A book published in 2008 choosing the mid-1980s as its setting is kinda weird, although I understand why: Winfield was drawing (perhaps tenuous) connections between the persecution of Catholics by Elizabeth with the crackdown on drugs by the Reagan administration. The portrayal of a Masters student of literature was hugely stereotypical, sadly – although again I see the point from a narrative point of view, especially in terms of the drug use. It doesn’t help the view of Arts students in general though, and the idea that marvellous ideas come in a flash of lightning or drug overdose is just annoying and unhelpful. It may be that I am a prude, but I got bored by the descriptions of drug use and the explicit sexual content; it got in the way of telling the story.

So… not really my thing, actually. Certainly well written, in the early modern bits in particular; as a former history/lit student myself I found the brief discussion of literary theory, especially the bagging of New Historicism, pretty funny (I am a big fan of Stephen Greenblatt, one of the original proponents). But the characters weren’t that engaging and the story wasn’t that compelling.

Day 26

Day 26 – OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending

If Roman Holiday were a book, that would be my answer.

Other than that… well, Tess would once again get a look-in. Keeping in mind I haven’t read it since I was forced to for Year 12, it still sticks in my mind as nearly making me scream with disgust and annoyance.

There are few others that come to mind. This is one of those occasions where having a bad memory is a blessing. But oh yes: those Shakespeare plays where the man has fallen in love with the girl-twin-disguised-as-a-boy, and the woman falls in love with that same twin, and THEN the BOY-twin turns up and it’s all ok? Yes, Twelfth Night, I’m lookin’ at YOU. I hate that.


We went to see Bell Shakespeare do it last night. I’ve been looking forward to seeing it for months, so I was glad that it was good. And I had worded J up beforehand, so that he at least knew the story line. Speaking of whom, at half time he said: “I don’t see why it’s called Othello; it’s all about Iago.” Which was a good call, I thought – Wayne Blair was good, as the Moor, but Marcus Graham absolutely kicked ass as Iago. He was so… evil. And manipulative. And just plain brilliant.

Couple of things I noted:
1. I have studied this play maybe three times, in different subjects, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it performed. Iago is so sexual! Half his big speeches seem to have to do with sex. Which is not a bad thing, but I had never realised it before, so it goes to prove that seeing a performance is infinitely better than simply reading words on a page (well, duh). And no, I don’t think it was just the twist Graham gave the words… although his body language certainly reinforced it!
2. It’s really quite racist. Well, duh, say all the historians – but you know, you’d think that if Shakespeare was putting a black man as nominally the lead it would be a bit sympathetic to him, but… not really. Othello isn’t rational – he “loves not wisely, but too well” – while many of the white (male) characters are; he is made to say some bad things about his own colour, and most of the other speakers get in a comment about his colour too. It made me think – and I’m not sure I ever considered this before, which is to my shame – whether a black man would actually have played Othello in Elizabethan times. I bet that if one did, you wouldn’t have been able to hear the words of the play, for all the excitement it would cause in the audience. Or maybe I’m overestimating the ability of an Elizabethan crowd to be impressed by anything.
3. The female characters are dreadful. Desdemona is weak (although there was one point in this version where it did look like she and Cassio were getting… close…); Emilia is devious, and would be a slut if given the opportunity; Bianca is a whore. Delightful!
4. The Cassio last night was disappointing. He’s meant to be this great lady killer, and Tom Wren just isn’t… pretty enough. He was a bit weak, I thought.

And of course it made me think of Wise Children, since Othello is one of the plays whose plot the family follows in some respects. If you like Shakespearean drama at all and haven’t read it, you really really have to. I would go so far as to say that it was the best book my Arts degree introduced me to.

And then, after, we had a lovely walk to the tram, looking at all the buildings in the mist. Our city is best by night.

Hamlet at the printer

On this show, some pop-science thing, there was a throw-away comment about how 400 years ago, Shakespeare would have been sending the final draft of Hamlet to the printers.