Sunday, August 11, 2013

Jay Lake Pre-Mortem Read-a-thon, Lucky Seventh Review

GREEN (Green Universe #1)
Tor Books
$15.99 trade paper, available now

Rating: 3.6* of five

The Publisher Says: Her exquisite beauty and brilliant mind were not enough to free her from captivity. That took her skills with a knife, plus the power of a goddess.

She was born in poverty, in a dusty village under the equatorial sun. She does not remember her mother, she does not remember her own name--her earliest clear memory is of the day her father sold her to the tall pale man. In the Court of the Pomegranate Tree, where she was taught the ways of a courtesan…and the skills of an assassin…she was named Emerald, the precious jewel of the Undying Duke’s collection of beauties. She calls herself Green.

The world she inhabits is one of political power and magic, where Gods meddle in the affairs of mortals. At the center of it is the immortal Duke’s city of Copper Downs, which controls all the trade on the Storm Sea. Green has made many enemies, and some secret friends, and she has become a very dangerous woman indeed.

Acclaimed author Jay Lake has created a remarkable character in Green, and evokes a remarkable world in this novel. Green and her struggle to survive and find her own past will live in the reader’s mind a long time after the book is closed.

My Review: And here we have the proof that no author can match one's tastes perfectly. Green is about an adolescent girl whose birth makes her Special.

My very least favorite trope featuring my very least favorite PoV character.

Emerald, aka Green, is an orphan whose father sold her into life as a thing. Females are always things in these stories. She's a well-made thing, in that she's trained in all the arts a woman needs training in...including murder...and she's got the attitude to prove she's as good as any boy.

She lacks ambition.

Her voyage around her world fetches her up in Kalimpura under Mother Jaivai, where her honing is completed. Her return to Selistan, to confront the pale wraith of her past, is a foregone conclusion. Her actions are inevitable. Their outcome is too much to pack in to the confines of one novel, so....

This sounds like something that would be ripe for a hatchet-job from the likes of me. But, as always, it's the way it's done that makes it or breaks it. The story as it's told here is made of small, lovely moments. Green telling us her story directly gives the discovery of the various parts of her world she inhabits a personal immediacy for the reader. The sensory world, while circumscribed, is that much more intense for being personal.

Where that works less well is in the overarching story of what happened to make this world Green inhabits the way it is. A bit like trying to infer the Constitutional Convention of 1787 from what a fourteen-year-old twenty-first century Canadian kid knows and sees.

In the end, with any book introducing a series, the important question is: Do you care about what comes next? Do you want to buy the next book?

To my surprise, yes, I do. Quite a job to make me want to, given my natural disinclination to read books about adolescents as well as fantasy novels.

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A Fortunate Read

A. Lee Martinez
Reviewed by Carol
Recommended for: people who almost liked John Dies at the End, people who like humorous fantasy
Read from July 17 to 19, 2013
★  ★  ★  1/2

Divine was the perfect little quickie, a fast irreverent read at a time when I couldn’t give a book quality attention. You know how it is–some books deserve contemplation (Claire DeWitt, I’m talking to you), some require intellectual engagement (China is notorious for this), some insist you immerse in their world (Sanderson, you’re so demanding), some want your emotional commitment (I usually avoid the needy ones). But Divine doesn’t require any more than availability.

Based in a current version of America populated by the gods, Divine doesn’t break any new ground, but does have fun playing with old myths. Phil, the main character, was recently denied a promotion and discovers his competitor’s edge is his supportive divinity. On the way home, he’s in a minor fender bender (“The other driver pulled out a special knife and ran it across his palm, drawing some blood to offer to his god as he incanted, “Blessed by Marduk, who keeps my insurance premiums down”) and pulls into his driveway only to discover his neighbor now has the only perfect lawn in the subdivision, courtesy of a lawn service that worships Demeter. Phil decides he needs a god of his own and convinces his reluctant wife to choose a deity from

What they select is an amenable raccoon-headed god of minor good fortune. What they get is a raccoon version of You, Me and Dupree, a Hawaiian shirt wearing food hound, throwing parties for the gods and inviting his Mayan god friend Quetzalcoatl to crash on the couch (“Y’know, he was only joking about the alter thing,’ said Quick. ‘I was never into human sacrifice, even when it was legal.’ ‘Oh, I know. Conquistador propaganda.’”). Adjusting to life with a couple of gods isn’t easy for the straight-and-narrow Phil and Teri, and it’s even harder when strange things start happening.

Truly, it’s just simple fun. The plot is decent and the countering evil actually seems evil. There is an interesting parallel storyline with a former goddess of love spreading gloom and despair ever since being dumped–her discovering a new line of work was amusing. There’s a multitude of small bits like that, little common twists on deification that entertained me with their absurdity. Something about Charion bringing a dead potted plant as a house-warming gift and a Fury enforcing subdivision covenants entertains me. It does get a little absurd by the end, but it never veers so far out of control that it verges on acid fantasy, ala John Dies at the End.

Leave an offering of a worn copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide and a homemade bookmark and the god of quick reads will oblige.

Strange Maps

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities
by Frank Jacobs

Three of five stars
Reviewed by Sesana

I love the look of maps, especially antique ones. They're so intricate and beautiful and exact. So naturally, this particular book really caught my interest. But what, exactly, is a strange map? Lots of things, really. Strange Maps started as a blog of the same name (<a href=>still going</a>, as it turns out) where Jacobs essentially posted any map that drew his attention and was out of the ordinary. This book is more than 100 of those maps, reproduced in full color and with a thorough explanation by Jacobs.

There's a huge variety here, everything from fictional lands to rejected border ideas to geographic oddities. I don't know if I'd call myself a map buff, but it was fascinating to me. Jacobs's commentaries were usually enlightening (he seems fairly knowledgeable, and he could point out some interesting details on the maps that I might have missed), though probably a pretty close match to what you could find on his blog. If you've been a regular reader of his blog, you probably won't get much extra out of the book version. But I'd never read his blog before, and don't think I'd even heard of it. I think I will be going through the archives now, though.

It isn't a perfect book, though. Not all of the maps are that interesting, and some of them are barely maps at all. And if I hadn't been taking my time and only reading one or two chapters at a sitting, I probably would have gotten bored of the maps eventually. That said, there were more than enough maps that were interesting enough for me to share, so I would say that this is worth a read, but only if you take it in chunks.

Also reviewed at Goodreads.