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McHugh, Maureen F.: China Mountain Zhang

books x 4
China Mountain Zhang (1992)
Author: Maureen F. McHugh
Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 324 (trade paperback)
Series: Stand Alone

Summary (from Chapters.ca)Collapse )

Read For: The Women of Science Fiction book club

This month's book club selection didn't intrigue me all that much. I had never heard about it before then (not very surprising -- there are few book club picks that I've previously heard about) and the summary didn't grab my interest. However, I had resolved to read as many book club picks this year as I could, and it's really not all that long *anyway*, so I picked it up and hoped for the best.

It's not my favorite read of the year, but it's by no means a bad novel. I think a large part of the problem is that I'm so under-read in science fiction that I can't appreciate a lot of what's been done here. This review won't be too long, but I'll try to talk about every character's perspective and talk about what I liked, what I didn't like, and what I felt completely indifferent about. Indifferent is a good way to describe how I felt about this novel as a whole actually; I didn't dislike, but it was mostly forgettable for me and there wasn't a whole lot that I *loved*. I don't promise that this review will be spoiler-free, but to be honest, it's kind of a hard book to spoil. Either way, if you're paranoid, just skip to "Final Verdict" at the end of the review.

REVIEW: possible spoilersCollapse )

Final Verdict: Overall, this is a good book. As I mentioned at the beginning of my review, I think the fact that I'm under-read in science fiction disallowed me to fully appreciate this book for what it is. It's got great world-building, but unfortunately I couldn't bring myself to really get behind Zhang's character. He's not a BAD character, but I just found him kind of boring, and was never really invested in his personal growth or his quest to find purpose and his place in the world. I did really love the two chapters that involved the characters from Mars, and the last character perspective in the novel was a pretty heart-breaking. Even though I'm not in *love* with this book, I still appreciate it for what it is (very similarly to how I felt about Ammonite to be honest, though I liked that one a little more) and whole-heartedly recommend it to fans of science fiction and speculative fiction.

Cover Commentary: Errr, the dude's face is kinda creepy looking, but the red is very appropriate and I like the font placement.

Griffith, Nicola: Ammonite

books x 4
Ammonite (1993) 
Author: Nicola Griffith
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 416 (trade paperback)
Series: Stand Alone 

Summary (from Chapters.ca)Collapse )

Read For:
calico_reaction's Alphabet Soup book club (August)

Like many of the other book club titles I have read this year, I had never heard of Nicola Griffith, or any of her previous work. So, I went into this novel without any idea what to expect, except that from the blurb, I knew we were going to be dealing with some gender issues in a sci-fi setting (which I found quite intriguing.) 

There will be spoilers for this book, but spoilers don't really *ruin* the novel -- I don't thinks so really -- because the book is about the transformation of the main character, so it's the journey that's important, not the destination. Still, if you'd like to remain spoiler-free, just read the My Verdict at the end of the review.

REVIEW: very minor spoilersCollapse )

Final Verdict: This is some really awesome speculative fiction and a great look at a matriarchal society in a sci-fi setting. Griffith has done some really interesting things with this novel that I absolutely loved, but it's not a book that I love as whole, just because it is rather more slow-moving. However, this is not a story that's meant to be fast-paced, so that's solely my personal preferences shining through and not a fault of the author's. This is a book I would love to keep, though maybe it's not one I would want to re-read any time soon. However, if you're interested in fiction that deals with gender (more specifically, the female gender) this is definitely a book to check out, hands down. The women that populate the novel are also very well realized, as they're women who are *definitely* feminine, without falling into feminine stereotypes, but they also never fall into the "man with boobs" stereotype, despite being strong female characters. It's also great how this novels also focuses on Marghe's road to self-discovery as WELL as being a study of an all-female society. I would definitely check out more works by this author. :) 

Cover Commentary: I like the pink hues for some reason, but other than that, this cover does nothing for me. Why is the lady on the cover so blurry? I don't get it. 

Butler, Octavia E.: Lilith's Brood

books x 4
Lilith's Brood (2000) 
Originally Published as: Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988), Imago (1989)
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 752 (trade paperback)
Series: Book #1-3 Xenogenesis Trilogy 



I read this book for the June selection of Dream and Speculation's Women of Science Fiction. Sadly, D&S has been closed down, so it's now going to be held over at calico_reaction's wordpress blog, along with her Alphabet Soup challenge.

Anywho, if any of you follow this blog, you might remember that I read Butler back in February for calico_reaction's February pick for the Alphabet Soup challenge. I was unfortunately left a little wanting, but still determined to read more Butler because I've heard such great things about her. So how did this trilogy hold up? To be completely honest, I'm still not sure. They definitely present a lot of neat ideas, and for being written in the late 80s, these must've been REALLY different compared to everything else that was out in the SF market, but there's something missing that kept it from going from "like" to "love" (and believe me, I did LIKE these titles quite a bit.) 

This book is actually a bind-up of three novels, so this review is going to be separated into three parts: one for each of the novels in this bound volume. Spoilers ahead. 

DawnCollapse )

Adulthood RitesCollapse )

ImagoCollapse )

Final Verdict: I can see why Butler's novels are so famous. This trilogy explores all kinds of issues regarding gender and sex within a sci-fi setting, which creates all kinds of food for thoughts. I really liked the ideas at play here, but my biggest issue were the plots for each novel. Dawn was pretty solid, but the other two were just sort of meh, so while I loved the ideas they presented, I couldn't seem to get invested in the stories, which is a bummer. I also had a bit of a hard time with the dialogue, which I find all kind of mixed together: all the humans (with the exception of Lilith, who's only a point-of-view character for Dawn) sounded the same. All the Oankali sounded the same too, but I was okay with that, and I did like that *their* voice quite distinctive from the humans'. With that said, my overall sentiment for this trilogy was "like, not love", but I can see why her work is so largely loved. It is really neat stuff, it just doesn't completely click with me. Will I read more of Butler? I don't think I will any time soon, but I am still interested in checking out her other works, because again, I really love the ideas she presents. 

Cover Commentary: I really like this bound-up edition that I have, but like The Gold Veil, my boyfriend AND his roommate thought I was reading a Harlequin Romance. UGH. I guess there's not a whole lot that screams sci-fi on this cover, but I really happy that they featured a person of color on it. I have to admit though, I do like the old-school editions too (the ones published in the 90s though, not the original covers.) My favorite one is Dawn, then Adulthood Rites, and Imago. They definitely look kind of old-school, but they're puuurrtttyy and they look a lot more sci-fi than the cover featured above, while still having people of cover on them.  

Robson, Justina: Mappa Mundi

books x 4
Mappa Mundi (2001)
Author: Justina Robson 
Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 523 (trade paperback)
Series: Stand-Alone



Summary (from Justina Robson's Amazon UK store)Collapse )

Read For:
The Women of Science Fiction book club at Dreams and Speculations (click the icon above for more details!)

I have never heard of this book before. I've heard of Justina Robson before, but I've never read her or really had any inclination to (not that I think she's a bad author, but the one book I heard about by her, Natural History, looked a little too heavy of a sci-fi for me at the time, so I didn't pay it much mind.) I was more than happy to read it for this month's pick though, and while this is a fairly heavy book (both literally at 500+ pages and figuratively), it was still fun. And that's usually what matters, right?

REVIEW: minor spoilersCollapse )

Final Verdict: Unfortunately I had a hard time concentrating on this title, and I'm not too sure why, but I don't fault the author. However, because of said unable-to-concentradness, I didn't pick up on important details which led me to be a little confused. So with that, I give a word of caution: this isn't a light read and you have to be ready to pay attention when you read. However, despite being a little confused at times, I still really enjoyed this novel. The characters were fantastic, and while I didn't necessarily LIKE everyone (re: Mary; stupid stupid Mary) I still FELT something for each character, and I did really root for the ones I like. There's also all kinds of discussion to be had with this book as it does delve into all kinds of questions of moral ethics. I do want to point out that if you're looking for sci-fi with spaceships and stuff, you won't find it here; this book falls mostly in the speculative fiction umbrella because it mostly takes place in our world as we know it, but with a touch of the futuristic (with gadgets like the Pads, and the whole 'mapping the brain' science going on.) Robson has obviously done her research for this novel as well and it shows. I do think I'll be checking out more Robson in the future; I hope to read Natural History by her, and maybe check out her sci-fi series too (the name eludes me at the moment.) A definite recommend.

Cover Commentary: Eh, my edition doesn't catch my eye too much to be honest. I do like the shade of blue though, and the font. :) 

Bear, Elizabeth: Dust

books x 4
Title: Dust (2007)
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Page Count: e-book
Series: Book One of Three (Jacob's Ladder Trilogy)

Summary -- (from Chapters.ca)Collapse )

I love that I've decided to do these book clubs this year, because I'm already reading stuff that I never would've picked up on my own otherwise. I've seen Elizabeth Bear's name floating around (I work in a book store) but I've never actually heard a lot about her or her books. Well, she was the January selection for the Women of Science Fiction book club being hosted at Dreams and Speculations. While I have some conflicting feelings regarding this book, I'd say my overall feeling towards it is, in the end, more favorable.

REVIEW: minor spoilersCollapse )

Final Verdict: This is definitely not a book for beginners in science-fiction, unless you're really looking for a challenge. This book was most definitely challenging for me (to the point where I actually almost gave up at the beginning, but I pushed forward because it was a book club pick) but I'm glad I read the book the whole way through, because in the end, it was really gratifying. While I think the story suffered from slightly underdeveloped characters, it definitely makes up for it in the lush world that Bear has created, even if it takes awhile to get settled in said world because of the confusing narrative. The gender and sexuality themes brought up were a breath of fresh for me. though they might bother others who really don't like that kind of thing. With all this being said, I would recommend it this title, though not without hesitation. This isn't a book for everyone, though a book I think everyone who is a fan of sci-fi should try. If you're not a fan of the genre, you have been warned. Try it out if you're looking for something a little more challenging.

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