30 December 2016

Trove: A Review of The GraceKeepers, Kirsty Logan

Christmas has passed and while still lit, the tree is less the glamour lady she was, having a slightly bowed expressions to her overall evergreen demeanor. Boxing Day's slothfully delightful hours have slipped into the sweet spot of the holidays. It is the holiday stretch, days have lost their significance, New Year's given little thought. Thankfully, NYE has been a home affair for years, having had enough of trying to find the right party, the right food, the right sparkle. Who needs sparkle when you can be safely secure in your PJs drinking champagne, while reading a fabulous book?

This Christmas book haul was an extravagant affair. The tower under the tree has pushed its way into the first bough of decorations self-proclaiming itself as the pretties thing on and under the canopy. Dragon-esque with smugness for my new trove, I quickly immersed myself into the bound fantastical worlds.

As a convoy of little boats, the circus circumnavigates a flooded world. Historically, sea levels rose, submerging nations, obscuring cities, dividing humanity into damplings (those of the sea) and landlockers. Sustaining a paltry existence through illusion, glitter, and shock the crew of the thirteen member crew strive to find emotional and physical security. 

Kirsty Logan's debut novel, The GraceKeepers  draws breath from the subversive clown culture of the buffoon. But this is not a clown story - it is the story of loss and of resurrection. While North, the bear girl dances with danger each night relying upon love to keep her beast bridled, Callanish, a Gracekeeper longs for forgiveness. 

A keeper of the dead, Callanish tends to her birds, acting as medium between the living and the dead. Gracekeepers and clowns provide a service to their fractured world. Seeped in fearful superstition, damplings and landlockers are reliant upon these two types of intermediaries to release them from the bindings of their own nightmares. As humanity begins a new journey, evolving with the sea, the two young women hope to survive.

The Gracekeepers is a delight. I could not have asked for a more poetically beautiful novel to read as my last for 2016. 

21 December 2016

Vintage Nightcap: A Review of My Name is Legion, Roger Zelazny

A Christmas hum vibrates through the house. Our tree glows with expansive warmth as it absorbs the heart-tugging memories of past holidays. In my house, the holiday is not a holiday without the notorious cheeseball to sanctify the blessed day. Cheeseball, a disturbingly delicious concoction of old cheddar, onions, cream cheese, spices processed into a gelatinous ball has altered the course of many a January's fitness regime. My husband's first Christmas with my side of the family found him ill-prepared to the lure of the cheeseball, falling deep into a spellbinding love that, to this day bedazzles him. 

As I gather the ingredients for the making of the ball, I marvel at my December reading propensities. A very vintage month, Ursula K. Le Guin's masterwork, The Left Hand of Darkness soothed my reluctance to read old SF.  Asimov aside, I place full blame on Heinlein. I just do not like that guy, hence the complete ignorance of decades of worthwhile books, and acknowledgements for amazing writers. I bow my head not only in shame but in attempt to unclog the food processor that is bravely attempting to whirl cream cheese together with cheddar. A Christmas miracle is happening folks.

My Name is Legion may have the best cover of any science fiction book in the history of science fiction. Behold the 1970s conception of robotic, SF horror! Unashamed to admit that this book came home because of this robot (for goodness sakes, look at it!), I happily discovered the three novellas within highly entertaining. 

Eerily, the stories foreshadow the creation of a computer network designed to unify the global economy by tracking every aspect of a person's life. Questioning the loss of privacy, our protagonist has the opportunity to destroy his data card, placing him off-grid. Nameless, and untraceable our hero trains himself as an agent-for-hire, willing to commit unspeakable acts, all in the guise of rectitude. As the stories wind in upon themselves, the reader begins to question the protagonist's role. Who is working for the betterment of society? The perception of Big Brother, is murky and surprisingly modern in the way Zelazny approaches this quandary. 

Ending my reading year off with a vintage nightcap, I look to the unexplored possibilities of 2017. May our near future be a creation of our own making, bursting with joy and kindness.

15 December 2016

This Girl's Wish List - 2016

The self-inflicted multi-layered assemble I donned on the school outdoor field trip yesterday had little effect on combatting an encroaching sinus infection. Every Canadian knows if the sun shines brilliantly on a December day, it be cold outside. 

Winter's harsh beauty has materialized in southern Ontario, leaving many scrambling for adequate toques, parkas and excuses to stay home. My entire life has been snow-themed, be it Nova Scotian towering heaps of shovelled snow, -40 Yukon nights lit up by the northern lights, to prairie blizzards that tried to steal not only your breath but your soul. There is little I find not thrilling about this time of year especially with December representing winter's golden moment. The month is a little ball of cold happiness amongst the long stretch of frozen roads, future potholes and a deep longing for the green of regrowth.

Nestled within my little snow globe of happiness are my books. Past years have hallmarked some incredible novels, all arriving under the tree, thanks to Santa. And as I look out onto a city buzzing with Thursday activity, immune to the frigid snap in the breeze, I wonder what little gems will be wrapped up this year. 2016 will not be recorded in the annals of this girl's reading history as wondrous. The passing of my dear Dad left me quite beyond the ability to concentrate. Thankfully the whodunnits saw me through, bringing glimpse of joy during great moments of sadness. Laughing as my husband and I try to unsuccessfully straighten our Christmas tree, I take heart knowing I am doing exactly what Dad hoped, being me.

Of course, to be me, a list is in order. 

Unwilling to scourge the internet for 'best of' recommendations that inevitability reflect commercial sales I went to the Mothership, Megan at From Couch to MoonMy source for all things SF worthy, I take note, when this lady likes a book, going as far as sourcing most of my 2015's This Girl's Reading Wish List from her blog. 

Megan is the SF boss lady we all need in our lives, thus I humbly link you to her post, The Best SF I Read This Year. This is the sweet nectar of heaven, a gift of gifts, which frankly has left me gleeful with reading anticipation. What with this list, and Babylon's Ashes, James S. A. Corey's new installment to The Expanse series, reading life is looking snowstorm rosy.

10 December 2016

The Novel to Gift: A Review of The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

The after-school playground hour is one of mindless observations intermixed with moments of delightful correspondence. While many a conversation trips over the trappings of parenthood some wind down the science fiction path to life. Although the majority of my friends have little proclivity to explore the genre, there are a few like-minded space odyssey aficionados at my kid's school. Okay, there are two.

Recent months, an updated version of the chain mail has been circulating through social media: send a book to a stranger, in return receive a plethora of new titles in the mail. Smitten, my SF friend (one of the two) was discussing the merits of joining, questioning what book to gift. Intrigued, speculations rose: a novel could not be too popular, nor too polarizing, somewhat enlightening, and most definitely captivating. Making my way home, my wee one in tow, my head swam with book gifting possibilities.

A book snob who rarely branches beyond my personal havens of science fiction, and mysteries, the probability of me participating in a book exchange is zero. Further hindering the issue is my two year library-only policy that has curbed all notions of ownership. While I would love to read 50 new titles, the thrill of them arriving by mail is slightly daunting. Simply unable to release reading control to a group of strangers, I began to formulate a list of books that any SF geek would be jubilant in receiving, whittling down the list to one.

Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness is acclaimed as one of the best science fiction novels written, and while it may seem slightly antiquated under the microscope of 2016 with its androgynous, feminist perspective, in 1970 it was a landmark release. 

Genly Ai, an envoy of Ekumen, a loose confederacy of planets has been sent to Gethem (Winter) to negotiate a peaceful allegiance. Accustomed to the utopian 'Gene Roddenbary' vision of planet federations, Winter's fractioned nations with varying degrees of governmental representations, surprisingly feels modern in its accurateness. Seeped in ethnocentricity's, the social consciences is brutally unaware of their small role in the universe. Genly Ai struggles to lobby his way to a seemingly random King's ear to discover after a year of hardship that not only is his mission but his life is in jeopardy. A fugitive, lost on a planet whose entire cultural identity opposes his very sense of self, Genly Ai must negotiate his way through a myriad of physical and social adversities, relying upon someone he most certainly should not trust.   

The Left Hand of Darkness is an extraneous reading experience. Woven from two opposing perspectives, the reader's complete emersion is necessary. Thankfully, Ursula K. Le Guin is one of a few writers whose creative control concurrently questions social norms while offering an engaging page turner. This is a dense book, deep with layered world-building, taking on a legendary status within the science fiction literary world. The Left Hand of Darkness  is science fiction at it's very best.