Monday, September 12, 2016

Short Fiction: July

Time for the July collection of my favorite short fiction.  July was the month of intense travel, so I might not have read as much short fiction as usual.  In fact, all three of my favorites for July are from Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine.

Last One Out by K.B. Rylander (Short Story, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine): This was a quiet post-pandemic story, in a world where a machine-enforced quarantine left the last remnants of human slowly dying alone. The story is from the point of view of an AI companion that desperately wants to help his person to be happy.  It’s a story about human and personal legacy, and how one can never truly know in advance what they will leave behind.  

Trustworthy Loyal Helpful by Gregor Hartmann (Short Story, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine): On to a lighter apocalypse, this was a humorous look at how corner-cutting, short-sightedness and pressures for economic success can lead to some very bad science.  The tendencies it highlights are a serious problem in reality, but it made for a really funny story.

The Vanishing Kind by Lavie Tidhar (Novella, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine): This one is an alternate history post-WWII novella, where Germany was triumphant*. The story itself was a mystery, and the only speculative element is the alt history setting.  A German man goes to occupied London to answer a call for help from a former girlfriend. When he arrives, she is missing and he feels compelled to search for her.  I thought the plot was pleasantly twisty, though the world was extremely grim.

* That seems to be a popular alt history, and it occurred to me while reading that I don’t think I’ve ever read a WWII alt history that goes the other way.  I mean, what about an alternate history where the Allied forces found some way to put an end to the war quickly, and millions of innocent lives were saved?  This would also have interesting implications for the future.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Long Road to the Airport

Things have been pretty hectic since that peaceful break in Monaco, but we’re now finally settled in Michigan!  Now that we and all our stuff has made it here more or less intact, I can tell the second half of the moving story.

After Monaco, the next destination was to attend the wedding of two friends in the countryside near Arles.  We had a Twingo and the wide open roads of Provence ahead of us.  We left Monaco the morning after Bastille Day, and it was during the drive--actually while we were driving through Nice--that we heard the terrible news.  None of our friends or family were harmed, but we still grieve with the people of Nice.  I can only hope that someday we will live in a world without such evil in it.

Moving on to lighter subjects, I had never seen much of southern France, since a certain spouse of mine never seemed to think it was a good time to explore it.  Therefore, we decided to see as much as we could along the way.  

View from the hotel, Marseilles.

We walked by the sea on the Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes. We spent the night on the coast in Marseilles.  We wandered through the Pope’s Palace and sang at the Pont d’Avignon.  

Then, we got lost, arrived at the hotel less than an hour before the ceremony, and somehow managed to make it to the castle both on-time and presentable.  It was a beautiful wedding, and I hope they have a future full of happiness together!

Afterward, it only remained to return to Nice for the flight out.  On the way…

Romans put these things everywhere!

We explored the Roman tunnels beneath Arles, circled the Roman amphitheatre, and checked out an intact Roman barge at the history museum. We also tried really hard to find some lavender fields, and failed completely.  Where are they hidden?  I thought they covered all of Provence? Maybe someday, we’ll try again…

The transcontinental flight took us to New York City, and my next update will cover the United States portion of the journey!

I'll pause here with yet another city skyline (NYC).

Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey
Published: Tor, 2007
Series: Book 5 of Kushiel’s Legacy

Warning, this book is the 5th in a series, so beware of spoilers for earlier books.

The Book:

“After the events of Kushiel’s Scion, Imriel de la Courcel has decided to accept his familial duty and marry a near stranger, Dorelei of Alba. For all her charms and virtues, Imriel soon finds that he does not feel the same spark with her that has recently ignited between him and Sidonie, heir to the throne of Terre d’Ange. The most sacred precept of blessed Elua is to love as thou wilt, but would anyone accept a traitor’s son romancing the d’Angeline heir?

Imriel follows his new bride to a foreign land, though his heart remains tied to Terre d’Ange.  Ancient forces in Alba, frightened for the future of their land and their people, see Imriel’s predicament and choose to use it as a weapon.  In addition to navigating politics and love, Imriel must now cope with interference from this new and dangerous source.” ~Allie

This is the fifth book I’ve read by Jacqueline Carey, and I also read this one as a part of a read-along. You can read our spoiler-filled discussions here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.  We’re going to finish off Imriel’s trilogy with another read-along soon, planned for October.

My Thoughts:

I have described the books of Kushiel’s Legacy up to this point as epic fantasy with some romance.  This would be the first in the series that I would describe as a romance in an epic fantasy setting.  Rather than revolving around major events in Terre d’Ange and elsewhere, Kushiel’s Justice revolves around Imriel’s romantic relationships and how they affect the people and societies around him. I’m not a particularly big fan of romance, and there were a few things in this romance that grated a little. Imriel’s idea of romantic love is very heavily focused on physical appearance and sexual attraction, though I hope that will mellow out a little as he grows older in the final book of the trilogy.  The story also contains several love triangles, and I disliked how the main one was resolved by external forces. However, I am still very engaged with Imriel’s life story and seeing how things progress in his world.

While the story is focused on Imriel’s romantic entanglements, it also involves a lot more than the state of Imriel’s heart.  His marriage to the Alban princess is symbolic of the opening of a previously isolated island nation to influence from other cultures.  While some in Alba are open to new ideas, others feel like outside influences will destroy them and their culture.  The conflict that Imriel’s marriage (and other lover) causes with this second group of people is a major driving force of the plot, and brings with it considerations of prejudice, vengeance, and a very just idea of redemption. I think that the conclusion of the story is going to have a major impact on the politics of Alba and Terre d’Ange, as we move into the final novel.

Kushiel’s Justice also serves up many of the treats I have come to expect from the series.  It was a pleasure to see how the many characters I’ve come to know in previous books have been faring.  I was especially happy that the older cast--Phedre, Joscelin, and the people of their generation--still play a role.  The novel also introduced the reader to new lands and cultures.  Alba (fantasy UK) has been on the periphery of the story for a while, but this is the first novel to really delve into their society.  Unexpectedly, we also get to journey to Vralia (fantasy Russia), and catch up with the continuing story of the Yeshuite people. I’m pretty sad that there’s only one novel left that is set in Phedre’s lifetime, but I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen in the final book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Kushiel’s Justice is the second book in Imriel’s trilogy in the wider series of the epic fantasy series Kushiel’s Legacy. While this novel serves up many of the things I enjoy in these novels, such as explorations of new lands and catching up with favorite characters, it also has a much stronger focus on romance than previous books in the series.  The events that take place in this period of Imriel’s life have wide-reaching political and cultural effects, but they are primarily instigated by Imriel’s love triangles.  This was not my favorite of the series (that would probably still be Kushiel’s Dart), but I’m looking forward to reading the final third of Imriel’s story!