February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, RIP :`(

There are so many things to be said about Leonard Nimoy. I've sure you've seen some of them--the Internet fairly exploded today with the sad news of his death. This commercial, featuring Leonard and Zachary Quinto (old Spock and new Spock) combined a passing of the torch, the "Bilbo Baggins" song, and a man who had lived so long and so well, and still had so much to give.

Many people, especially on Twitter, are appending news of Leonard's death with the hashtag #LLAP, for "Live Long and Prosper." I prefer IDIC--Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Leonard's life was a lovely example of this philosophy, and I'm very glad he shared it with his fans.

February 20, 2015

Review: Bad Feminist: Essays

Bad Feminist: Essays
Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually subscribed to Roxane Gay's blog before I realized she had a book out. I enjoyed what I read on her blog so much I searched for her book, and I'm glad I did.

This is one of the strongest essay collections I have read in some time. Gay is a sharp, incisive writer, full of insightful nuggets and entertaining tidbits. The best essays here (and there are many) will make you look at the world in different ways, which is all any writer can hope for.

My favorite pieces include the hilarious "To Scratch, Claw, or Grope Clumsily or Frantically," which is a detailed look at competitive Scrabble tournaments (!). Make sure you read the footnotes, as they made me laugh out loud. Just one example: "Qoph is a Hebrew letter. My opponent not only shared the word's meaning, he also explained the origins (something about a sewing needle; frankly, I had tuned him out at that point) and pronunciation. After the exciting word lesson, he started telling me all the possible Q words one can spell without a U. I wondered, Is there a Q in 'motherfucker'?"

There are many different and surprising topics here, ranging from the Sweet Valley High books, which the author professes an unapologetic love for, to writing about rape to movie reviews (including a thorough deconstructing of the problematic The Help) to reproductive freedom. All of them are worth your time. This is not a book to be rushed through; it needs to be read slowly, thought about, and savored.

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February 16, 2015

Wanker of the Day

Pulled this gem from Right Wing Watch.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel stopped by VCY America’s “Crosstalk” yesterday to discuss his group’s attempt to stop judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Alabama. Staver praised Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for flouting the ruling of a federal court on the matter and lashed out at the Supreme Court for rejecting Alabama’s appeal of the marriage case, saying that Alabama “does not have to obey” any future Supreme Court ruling “that there’s some invented right to same-sex marriage and therefore you can’t have marriage as a union of a man and a woman.”

“That is so far off the beaten path, so far removed from the Constitution that it is no rule of law,” Staver said. “There is a limit to what the court can do, there is a limit to what the people can stomach. If that court were to say, the laws of gravity were fine for the founders but we have progressed, we’re a progressive society and we think they have changed, you would say, ‘That’s nuts, have they lost their mind?’ The question is: Have they lost their mind by saying there’s a constitutional right for same-sex marriage?”

Because everybody knows the laws of physics and a civil contract between two people are the exact same thing!


February 15, 2015

Review: Outpost

Outpost by Ann Aguirre

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I finished this book, I breathed a sigh of relief. It's a much better book than Enclave, and for the most part it deals with the problems I had with the first book in the trilogy. (Review here.)

This is a slower, more thoughtful, contemplative book, which is exactly what it needs to be. Deuce's world has been left behind, she's been thrown into an utterly alien environment, and she must figure out how to cope. The town of Salvation has rigid gender roles and views, and considers anyone under sixteen to be a child rather than an adult. Needles to say, Deuce, the fifteen-year-old Huntress who has been trained to think for/take care of herself, fits in about as well as you might expect. One of the themes of this story is being true to yourself and not apologizing for who you are, and I greatly admire Deuce's sense of loyalty and responsibility. She has been brought up to protect others, and that is what she is going to do, no matter who disapproves.

That's not to say there isn't a lot of action in this book. There is. It just occurs in short, measured bursts, instead of the slam-bang rocket ride that was Enclave's entire narrative. Deuce does a lot of hand-to-hand fighting, and is not afraid to go up against any man; she knows that even if she is not quite as strong, her mind and skills are greater. But in this book she learns the value of her emotions, as she comes to care for the family she never had. She also settles things with her estranged love interest, Fade, by the simple expedient of having an adult conversation (and reminding him that he must talk to her, as well). (Although that character revelation falls a bit by the wayside in the latter third of the book, after Deuce rescues Fade from the huge Freak encampment. Freaks are the villains of this post-apocalyptic world, where nearly all of humanity has been killed by a virus, and the majority of the survivors turned into mutants. Deuce brings Fade out of the camp, but he is obviously traumatized. She tries to give him space to heal, but unfortunately he falls prey to the I'm-no-good-for-you-now cliche and pushes her away. Hopefully the third book will resolve this.) Deuce also builds relationships with many people in Salvation, and learns how to live in a slightly more civilized society than the one she was born in. Although Salvation has its flaws, as we come to find out.

Now. The character of Stalker was my big Red Flag in the first book, as I felt the author was turning him into the Rehabilitated Rapist. In this book, to my surprise, Ann Aguirre addresses those concerns, for the most part. Stalker is still too pushy for my taste, and seems not to understand the meaning of the word "no" (although he does say that he wants Deuce to choose him for himself, not because Fade isn't there anymore). However, he does come to realize that the way he acted, as much as he may have thought it a necessity at the time, was not the right thing to do, and he goes to Tegan (Deuce's friend and the former sex slave of Stalker's gang, the Wolves) and apologizes to her.

Whether or not the reader can believe in, and accept, this apology is an entirely personal thing. I think, given the storyline, it worked. (As Deuce says, she has also done things she's not proud of, including killing a man at the age of twelve as he begged for his life.) Of course, this is in the context of a brutal post-apocalyptic world, where civilization has entirely broken down. The characters are trying to navigate this world and find their place in it (and not incidentally trying to survive) and they're going to screw up.

The action picks up in the last third of the book, ending with Salvation surrounded by mutants. The tension generated by Deuce's refusal to conform to Salvation's expected gender roles boils over, resulting in some of the people in the town coming after her, in an eerie future reenactment of the Salem witch hunts. The town's leader breaks the stalemate by sending Deuce (and Stalker, Fade and Tegan, who join her) on a desperate mission to nearby towns for reinforcements. ("Nearby" meaning, in this future, several days' journey on foot--at least the author didn't resort to the horrid cliche of motorized vehicles still working in a post-apocalyptic society.) The book ends on a far more effective cliffhanger than Enclave, as Deuce and her companions leave Salvation by way of a secret tunnel, evade the horde of Freaks, and set out to find help.

This book definitely benefited from its slower pace and concentrating on the characters. Now, from what it sounds like, the action is going to pick up again. The third book in the series, Horde, awaits me.

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February 5, 2015

Review: Enclave

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've actually read this book before. But the reason I keep the vast majority of my books, and the reason bookcases are gradually taking over my house, is that I very much enjoy rereading books. Once I know what happens and the visceral excitement of page-turning ebbs, I can better appreciate exactly what the author is doing with her story. (This is also why I don't mind spoilers.) Plot, characterization, worldbuilding, pacing, dialogue--all things I notice on the initial read-through, to be sure, but things I can also follow more closely the second or third time around.

There are many elements of this book I grew fonder of during this reading, but there was also one horrid, problematic plot element I cannot believe the author let slip by. I'll get to that. First, the good: the worldbuilding and characterization. This is another of those post-apocalyptic science fiction dystopias I enjoy so much: society is destroyed by a virus that killed most people and turned others into cannibalistic mutants (not zombies, despite what some Goodreads reviewers assert--the Freaks/Eaters/Muties are alive, not dead), and a hundred years or more from now, small isolated pockets of non-infected humanity are all that's left. Including "enclaves" of people in the tunnels underneath New York City--tiny ragged bands on the edge, living short brutish lives (twenty-five is old in the protagonist Deuce's world), eating rats and mushrooms (one does wonder how they avoid scurvy and countless other diseases brought on by poor nutrition) and fighting roaming bands of Freaks in the abandoned subway tunnels.

Our hero Deuce is well done; at fifteen, she's lived long enough to earn a name (instead of "Girl" and a number) and a promotion to Huntress, which is what she has always wanted to be. (There are only three castes in the enclave--Builder, Breeder and Hunter.) The author impressively shows her growth from obedient, unquestioning rule-follower to exiled rebel, after she protects her friend accused of "hoarding" (keeping information from the group) and is turned out as a result. She and her partner/love interest, Fade, a Hunter who actually lived aboveground--"Topside"--with his father, leave the tunnels behind and ascend into the ruins of New York, both to find other living, non-Freakified people and to solve the mystery of why their world is the way it is.

Some reviews have suggested that the worldbuilding is vague. I don't think that's true at all; the reader must remember that throughout this book we are firmly in Deuce's head, and in the beginning she neither knows nor cares why things are as they are. All she wants is to be a Huntress, fight the Freaks, and survive. It's only later, as she learns to think on her own and realizes her enclave's Elders are misleading people at best and murdering people at worst, that she wants to find out what happened. We're following along with Deuce as she learns, and Aguirre is doing a masterful job of this, revealing the secrets of her world without infodumps.


There's one terrible plot element I cannot imagine the author leaving in. I'm sure for many people, it would be enough to stop reading the book altogether. It wasn't a deal-breaker for me, because I love Ann Aguirre; I have her entire Sirantha Jax/Corine Solomon series, and at this point in time, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. But to warn those who are sensitive to such things: after Fade and Deuce come out of the tunnels, they emerge in a world which is even more savage than their enclave existence. The New York ruins are inhabited by lawless, anarchic gangs, and one, the Wolves, captures our heroes. Deuce meets a girl about her age, Tegan, who has been kept as the Wolves' sex slave; she has been repeatedly gang-raped and bore two children who died. Deuce and Fade manage to get away, taking Tegan with them, and the gang's leader, Stalker, follows. There is a fight at the New York Public Library, where our Gang of Three has gone to find any information they can, between Our Gang and Stalker's, which is interrupted by a band of Freaks. After this free-for-all, since most of the Wolves have been killed, Stalker insists on accompanying Our Gang. Deuce and Fade permit this, over Tegan's objections. It's not stated outright, but it's a strong possibility Stalker was one of her rapists. And worse than this, Aguirre seems to set out to rehabilitate Stalker, turning him into another love interest for Deuce (although he clearly has his old rapist mentality, since he insists on pursuing and kissing her even after she clearly tells him no).

This is Not Cool. As I said, the rest of the story is strong enough that I'm willing to overlook it, for the moment. Other people may not be. I don't know why this particular plot thread even exists, as it's gratuitous and unnecessary. It just mars what would be a very good book, and for no reason as far as I can see. Nevertheless, our Gang of Three, now Gang of Four, continues on their journey north, and Deuce learns about sunshine and snow, and they eventually discover an entire city of survivors (old survivors at that! Forty-two! It's a shocking indication how far humanity has fallen, that forty-two is ancient), a city named Salvation.

The ending is rather abrupt, with a cliffhanger that could charitably be called "weak," and we understand Deuce's entire world has changed. The next book, Outpost, which I've already started, will presumably explore those changes.

Argh. I wish the Rehabilitated Rapist thing had been completely removed. This book would be so much better without it.

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January 29, 2015

Review: Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights
Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'll start out by saying that I am unabashedly in favor of reproductive rights and against forced-birtherism, so naturally this book is right up my alley. Women's bodily autonomy and human rights should not even be up for discussion. Unfortunately, due to the 2010/2014 elections, and the spate of laws passed in the states chipping away at the basic constitutional rights established in Roe v. Wade, (usually offered under the disingenuous guise of "protecting women") they are, forty years after this should have been settled.

Most of what Katha Pollitt says here is familiar to me; I use it all the time to argue with people (on the Internet and in real life) who think I should be demoted to a second-class citizen because of a stray sperm. What I think is interesting is how she follows the line of anti-abortion thought to its end, and exposes the mental pretzel-twisting that plagues most people who oppose abortion. To name just a few (the chapters go into far greater detail than this, nailing down every twist of forced-birther illogic): Why should you have rape and incest exceptions at all? No matter how the baby got there, it's still a life, isn't it? Why do you support only prosecuting the people who perform abortions, and not the women who asked for them? For those who believe an abortion is murder, if an elective abortion isn't pre-meditated murder, then what is? How many years in prison should a woman get for an abortion? Also, if you really want to reduce the abortion rate, why don't you support contraception and comprehensive sex education, instead of bleating the usual refrain (and I have seen this so many times I've lost count) of "The slut should have kept her legs closed"? You do realize that makes you sound like an embittered puritan who wants to punish women for participating in a natural everyday human activity instead of protecting "life," don't you?

Throughout the chapters, the author pursues this "logic" to its inevitable end, which would mean reducing women to the status of reproductive chattel. If forced birthers would just show some intellectual honesty and admit it, they would say that they want a law just like Ireland's or El Salvador's. No abortion allowed from conception on, not even in the case of a fatally deformed fetus, and most reluctantly (see: Savita Halappanavar...except that, ooops, she died) to save the woman's life. Along with investigations into every miscarriage, and prison terms for women who have abortions, and lifestyle restrictions on every woman of reproductive age, since after all they might become pregnant at any moment. And also, very likely, restrictions on birth control (no "abortifacients," no matter that there isn't any such thing) and in-vitro fertilization (as every one of those embryos has to find a home somewhere), which would have the desired effect of driving women out of the workforce and back into the kitchen, since you can hardly be a doctor or a lawyer or a Senator or maybe even President if you're having a baby every one or two years.

Hmm. What happened to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"? That's for men only, I guess.

Sorry, I'm being facetious. A little. I know many of these people are sincere in their belief that abortion is murder, even if they're quite sincerely wrong. But since it is my Constitutional right, it really doesn't matter what opponents think. (This is why we'll have to keep relying on the courts to strike down these ridiculous laws, TRAP and ultrasound laws and heartbeat bills and so forth.) I appreciate the author's suggestion to reframe abortion as part of women's health care, no more and no less, and not "safe, legal and rare" but right and good if the woman wants it. There isn't, and shouldn't be, anything shameful about having an abortion. It's my right and my life, and we need more books like these to remind people of that fact.

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January 26, 2015

Rights for Me, But Not for Thee

(Sorry for the length, folks. But when you see something as stupid as this, you just gotta fisk it.)

Today’s rant tackles a theme I’m sure many of you are talking about: the Supreme Court finally taking up gay marriage. According to what I’ve read, the court will decide two questions. 1) Do bans on same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment? and 2) Must states recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states?

Of course, the prospect of gay marriage being decided in this country once and for all brought out the unhinged, including the person I’m ranting about, Steve Deace. His little “con” article in my USA Today insert was a masterpiece of frothing incoherence.

Just to comment on a few things:

The American view of law and government is summarized in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, by these three things: 

  • There is a God. 
  • Our rights come from God, not government. 
  • Government’s only role is to preserve and protect those God-given rights. 

This first sentence aptly illustrates the inanity of his argument. For one thing, the Declaration of Independence is not our founding document. That would be the Constitution. You know, the thing that specifies how this country is to be run? The document that can be amended, and has been, twenty-seven times?

In this case, the Supreme Court will decide the applicability of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution re: same-sex marriage. No more, no less. The Declaration of Independence isn’t even in this picture.

Furthermore, Mr. Deace’s little “American view of law and government” house of cards falls apart with its first assertion, that being: There is a God. Since he cannot empirically prove such a being exists, much less that said being is sitting in the White House or the Chief Justice’s chair, all his subsequent assertions are falsified as well. I would also add: Whatever rights we have come from the society and time in which we live, not any Supreme Being. As such, those rights have changed throughout human history (otherwise, the Magna Carta would never have been signed, African-Americans might still be in slavery, and women would not have the right to vote), and will continue to change as societies evolve. As this case will hopefully illustrate.

Next, he bleats about the Supremes “redefining the institution of marriage” as if that doesn’t happen all the time, without courts having anything to do with it. I believe child brides were once a thing, and still are in many parts of the world. In this country, however, the idea of forcibly marrying a girl off at twelve or thirteen is beyond the pale. Polygamy was also very common in generations past (remember Solomon’s seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines?), and still happens in many countries. Yet in this country (so far) we’ve restricted marriage to two people. (As the Latter-Day Saints found out, to their sorrow.) Yeah, that redefinition thing just keeps trotting right along, doesn’t it?

(As for the “slippery slope” of gay marriage leading to polygamy—I’m not aware of any polygamists, LDS or otherwise, petitioning the courts at the moment. When and if they do, the conversation, as long as it involves consenting adults, would certainly be worth having. The main obstacles to a group marriage, it seems to me, would have more to do with mundane things like taxes, property rights, and inheritance.)

Then he tosses off this hooey:

This argument has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not two people of the same gender who care about each other can live together like heterosexuals can. There is no one in prison today, or faced with it, because they violated their state’s amendment defining marriage as a man and a woman. 

Since we’re talking about things that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, which part of this paragraph qualifies? Why, the first and second sentences! Are “living together” and “marriage” the same thing in the eyes of the law? I believe that was the whole point of the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, that the legal benefits of marriage are slightly different that simply sharing a house and a bed!

Also, you damn betcha there’s no one in prison because they violated their state’s amendment defining marriage. No, gay people aren’t in prison; they just can’t get a marriage license like everyone else! Which is, I believe, why they’re citing the Fourteenth Amendment in their petitions to the Supreme Court. You know, that whole “equal protection under the law” thing?

Mr. Deace then cites instances of people losing their jobs for simply being Christians. In the case of the Atlanta fire chief, I find it interesting that the article cited didn’t reveal what Kelvin Cochran said in his book (that he admitted distributing to employees) that got him fired. Another article on the firing, however, does:

Among other things, he called homosexuality a “perversion,” compared it to bestiality and pedophilia, and said homosexual acts are “vile, vulgar and inappropriate.” 

In other words, Mr. Deace repeats the typical anti-gay-marriage whine: he wants proponents to have their free speech without consequences. If I substituted “miscegenation” for “homosexuality,” wrote that interracial sex is “vile, vulgar and inappropriate,” compared it to bestiality and pedophilia, and distributed a book stating such things to my employees, would Mr. Deace expect me to escape with my job intact?

By the way, promoting shit like this used to get gay people killed. I notice Mr. Deace says nothing about that.

He ends his column with this over-the-top paragraph:

Make no mistake, that is the end game here. To make religious people and institutions choose between following God, which the constitution protects, or following political correctness. 

"Oh noes! If the Supreme Court strikes down laws disallowing same-sex marriage, I’ll have to divorce my wife and marry a man!"

Sorry, Steve. That won’t happen, and would be as much of an outrage as those anti-gay-marriage laws have always been. Nor would any church be required to marry a gay couple, and rightfully so. (He forgets to mention that many Christian congregations and pastors welcome the gay people in their midst, and would be delighted to marry them.)

He also does a little factual twisting, to put it mildly, in regards to the oaths Supreme Court justices swear:

Does freedom come from God, as every Supreme Court justice acknowledges when they swear their oaths of office to Him? 

This is hogwash. Here are the oaths Supreme Court justices take

"I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God." 

"I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God." 

Is the word “freedom” in either one of those oaths (other than “taking this obligation freely,” which is not at all the same thing), much less linked to the closing “so help me God” words? In fact, both oaths speak of supporting, defending, discharging and performing the duties of the Constitution and the laws of the United States, not a Supreme Being or any religious text.

You know, that whole Fourteenth Amendment thing? And administering justice “without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and the rich”? That’s the heart of this case. As it should be. 

Sometimes I almost feel sorry for those ignorant boors who are so desperately fighting the same-sex-marriage tsunami. They know they're on the wrong side of history and they're going to lose, and they're just like dinosaurs being sucked down in the tar pit.

January 25, 2015

Books Read in 2014--Wrapup

I read 39 books last year. (I actually read more than that, but I didn't get the reviews written in time.) Here are the highlights.

Best Nonfiction: Dinosaurs Without Bones: Dinosaur Lives Revealed By Their Trace Fossils, by Anthony J. Martin. Whodathunkit? A science book with a sense of humor? Martin takes this obscure and complex subject (I'd never heard of "trace fossils"--footprints, claw marks, eggs, nests, and burrows, to name a few--before I picked this book up) and makes it clear, understandable, and fun. This book had me laughing out loud throughout.

Worst Nonfiction: Out of the Vinyl Deeps, by Ellen Willis. This book is the polar opposite of Martin's, as its droning seriousness absolutely weighs it down. Sorry, Bob Dylan is already pretentious enough without Willis' painstaking (and painful) analysis adding to it.

Best Fantasy: Libriomancer, by Jim C. Hines. I'm not particularly into high or epic fantasy, not when gems like this are available. This is a booknerd's dream come true--the magicial ability to reach into your favorite books and pull stuff out (mostly weapons, but occasionally people). Also a nice contrast to the usual heteronormality, with the polyamorous relationship the hero embarks on at the end.

Worst Fantasy: Splintered, A.G. Howard. This is one of three books I could not finish last year; at least I got all of them from the library, so I didn't lose any money. A lot of people on Goodreads seemed to like this, but I couldn't get into it at all. When you hit the halfway point of a book and realize you don't give a crap how these characters will solve their problems, it's best to move on to something else.

Best Urban Fantasy: Skin Game, Jim Butcher. Fifteen books in and Harry Dresden is rolling right along, better than ever. This entire series is a master class in plotting.

Best Young Adult: These Broken Stars, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. The tightest category by far, as I read a number of good (and not so good) YA novels last year. While trying to decide on a winner, I finally asked myself: "Which young-adult book have you thought about the most since you read it?" This one. This book is just wonderful: it's a science-fiction thriller, planetary mystery, sweet and realistic romance, young-adult coming of age, and an alien contact story all rolled into one.

Worst Young Adult (tie): Restoring Harmony, by Joelle Anthony; and Stung, by Bethany Wiggins. These are both absolute stinkers; the first I didn't finish, and the second, unfortunately, I did. The first suffers from cutesy, too-wholesome-to-be-real characters (seriously, we're deep in "Little House" territory, which did not mesh with the rest of the book at all) and a completely unrealistic plot; and the second suffers from an even stupider plot and a dumb, unlikable heroine. Avoid these two books at all costs.

Best Science Fiction: Blindsight, Peter Watts. This is the best SF book I have read in years. It's a stunning gut-punch of ideas, extrapolation, and characterization, all wrapped in a unique first-contact story that reads like a combination of the Alien Queen/Cthulhu Mythos, with a chewy side meditation on the nature of consciousness and self-awareness. Also: Non-sparkly, hard-science vampires! Needless to say, this is not light reading, but it's absolutely worth it.

Best Horror: Maplecroft, Cherie Priest. This is the only book I read last year which would qualify as "horror," but it's a doozy. Another take on Lovecraftian monsters, blended with the legend of Lizzie Borden. This sounds like an unlikely combination, to say the least, but it's creepy and spooky and wonderfully done.

Most Disappointing Book: The Trap, Andrew Fukuka. The first two books in this trilogy are highly recommended, and the good points of those books are still here: the breathless pacing, the slam-bang action scenes, and some interesting character work. Unfortunately, it's all undone by one SHOCKING PLOT TWIST too many, unraveling what I felt was a perfectly satisfying explanation in the second book. And the ending is just...awful.

Book of the Year: Blindsight. Seriously, do not miss it.

Worst Book(s) of the Year: See Worst Young Adult. Bah.

I've challenged myself to read 40 books again this year. If I'm a little more prompt with my reviews, I should make it.

January 22, 2015

Wanker of the Day

Two nights ago, during the Constitutionally mandated applause-fest that is the State of the Union speech, (though veteran Scribe Charlie Pierce has pointed out that in past years, Presidents would send a simple report to Capitol Hill, and we wouldn’t have to go through all this televised meet-and-greet nonsense), this tweet drifted across my timeline. It must have been one of Twitter’s horrid Promoted Tweets, as I do not even follow the jackass known as Steve King.

(And yes, you need to praise me, because I have now learned how to use the Snipping Tool! I did this just in case Mr. King or a member of his staff came down with a sudden attack of decency and deleted this abomination. Although, come to think of it, Congresscritter King would never succumb to such a thing.)

"Inviting a deportable." What a charming man, hey? Why, you’d think he was talking about a piece of furniture instead of a human being. One marvels that he didn’t go up to this person and ask about the size of her calves. Ugh.

(X-posted from Tumblr.)

January 19, 2015

Review: The Infinite Sea

The Infinite Sea
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Fifth Wave trilogy. I reviewed the first book here, and you'll notice that in that review I pointed out what I felt was a GIGANTIC plot hole that nearly ruined the book for me. In fact, the entire review is something of a rant; I ended by saying, "I may read the sequel, in the hopes this plot hole is fixed (but I sure won't buy it)."

Well. Now I have read the sequel, and all I can say is: The author is aware of his gigantic plot hole and addresses it, but I'm not sure his kinda-sorta "answer" is any good. In fact, he seems to be falling victim to a syndrome I absolutely hate--stupid plot twists just for the sake of plot twists, when said twists ruin the overall narrative. A recent trilogy by Andrew Fukuda, books I would have otherwise loved, is a prime example of just this sort of plotting idiocy. Complicating Rick Yancey's situation is the fact that the first book is currently being turned into a movie (starring Chloe Grace Moretz, I believe). As a result, The Infinite Sea reflects a sort of straight-to-film mindset that results in a tightly written, breathtakingly paced book (the action sequences were great in the first book, and continue to be here) and some smart characterizations that nevertheless handwave over the previously mentioned plot holes, if not actually deepening them.

To put it bluntly: I hope the author comes to a logical conclusion in the third book to the mess he's creating, because if he doesn't, the entire series won't be worth the powder and lead it would take to blow it to hell. The only reason I rated this book higher than the first is the characters. Cassie Sullivan, hero of The Infinite Sea, takes something of a back seat here, to a cool killer named Ringer who shows some quite unexpected depth. (I also wonder if Ringer will be whitewashed in the movie, as she's specifically depicted here as being a woman of color--Asian and Apache.) Ringer's emotional growth is very well done, with the exception of a weird sex scene. (I realize this is a young-adult book so you can't be that explicit, but let's just say sex scenes are not Rick Yancey's strong suit.) The book ends on a dual cliffhanger, with many unanswered questions left for the third book to resolve.

I guess it's a testament to Rick Yancey's characters and world that I still want to keep on reading, despite my growing reservations. However, how much better would this series have been if he hadn't created such ridiculous plot holes in the first place?

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