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November 16th, 2016

2016 Stuff Read, #s 16(a), 31-33

Well, I am now behind the pace I needed to maintain from the start of October if I'm going to reach 40 books for the year. The goal is not unreachable, but I will need to set aside more time for reading. This, however, should not detract from the fact that it's mid-November and I have already consumed more books this year than I have in any other year since I started keeping track back in 2011.

16(a). "Lullaby for a Lost World", by Aliette de Bodard (short story, ebook)

When I listed The House of Shattered Wings in a Stuff Read post earlier this year, I didn't write about it because that particular post was just a giant infodump of what I recently read. I didn't even provide a cursory "like" or "dislike" for any of the items. Well, I loved The House of Shattered Wings, which was a worthy recipient of the BSFA Award for Best Novel of 2015, but its unnamed sequel still doesn't even have a release date. Thankfully, de Bodard has revisited the universe with a few short stories, and I will happily take those while I wait.

31. Lovecraft Country, by Matt Ruff (dead tree)

This was a companion purchase to Victor LaValle's Black Tom, which was also listed in the same Stuff Read post as The House of Shattered Wings. My original intent was to read them one after the other since they shared a theme: addressing the racism embedded throughout Lovecraft's work. Lovecraft Country isn't a novel in the common sense; it's constructed like a fix-up novel in that is a series of short stories and novelettes tied together with a unifying plot. I have no problem with such a construction. Some of my favorite books are fix-ups, and my reading patterns dovetail quite nicely with such constructs. I enjoyed both of the works, but I think I liked LaValle's novella a little better, if only because it felt more like a story properly set within the Lovecraft universe than Ruff's. However, that might be because Black Tom was actually set during the same time period as Lovecraft's work whereas Ruff chose to place his novel in the context of the 1950s.

There's one final tidbit I would feel remiss in not mentioning. One of the characters is the editor and publisher of a fictional version of The Negro Motorist Green-Book. I had no idea such a thing existed -- at least, I don't recall it ever being discussed in any of my history classes that discussed segregation and racism in 20th century America -- but once you give it a single moment of thought, it's brutally and painfully obvious why such a guide was a necessity before and during the civil rights movement. Score one for learning about the past through fantastical fiction.

32. Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie (audiobook)

A thoroughly satisfying and fitting conclusion to a trilogy that deserved all the priase and awards it gathered. One aspect I loved about this part of the story is that it presented something I have rarely seen in science fiction, either in print or (especially) on screen: truly artificial intelligent machines that want to coexist with and assist humankind because that's what feels right to them. I think that far too often we are presented with AIs that upon reaching a certain level of sentience either want to completely disassociate with us (Spike Jonze's Her) or destroy us (Skynet/Terminators.) We rarely see them wanting of their own free will to be our partners. Even Asimovian robots, who were posited as a rebuttal to the science fiction trope of our creations turning against us, were constrained by The Three Laws of Robotics.

I have no doubt that at some point in the future I will want to reread this entire trilogy.

33. Fragile Things, by Neil Gaiman (dead tree/ebook)

One of the things I love most about fantastical fiction is that many of its best authors write both novels and shorter pieces of fiction. Neil Gaiman is one of the current examples of this. Whether its a short story collection or novel, I know that I am going to enjoy any Gaiman book I decide to read. Because I didn't properly start appreciating Gaiman until a few years ago, I've been blessed with being able to read plenty of his work in a relatively short period of time. The count is currently at seven novels and short story collections since I started making these posts. Not counting his children's and graphic novel output, I have three more books of his (Coraline, Anansi Boys, and Good Omens) that I still haven't read. I'm sure that will be more than sufficient to get me through the release of his next book.

As with Lovecraft Country and Ancillary Mercy, there's thing from Fragile Things I want to highlight before I close out this post, a quote from "Monarch of the Glen":

“I am something of a monster myself. Like calls to like. We are all monsters, are we not? Glorious monsters, shambling through the swamps of unreason…”
I love Gaiman.

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