Yoon Ha Lee’s essay (from Book Smugglers)

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Hi everyone!

In my last post about sci fi I mentioned Yoon Ha Lee’s excellent book Ninefox Gambit. I thought you might be interested to read this article he produced for the Book Smuggler’s website about writing and being a trans person.

http://thebooksmugglers.com/2016/06/sff-in-conversation-yoon-ha-lee-on-being-trans.html

(I’m making my way through the next in the series, Raven Stratagem, which is also excellent!)

I Have a Thing for Science Fiction

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Hey folks! Sorry I’ve been MIA – the flu in Australia has been horrible this year, and I’m finally getting back on my feet after being unwell for an unreasonably long time. Note to my US friends – make sure you get your flu shot this year! Apparently it’s heading your way!

I though I’d tell you about some of the amazing science fiction I’ve read over the last couple of months. I’ve always been a sci-fi fan – I remember loving the genre even when I was a kid. Spaceships and robots were way more interesting to me than girls mooching around in gardens and so forth. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was the first adult book I read that really shaped my thinking. Let’s begin:

I know I mentioned this one in passing but want to come back to it. Kameron Hurley’s mind is amazing, and this book is a gigantic mind fuck. There are no male characters in this book. Societies live on big fleshy planetoids which are also ships and their worlds are devolving, so there is constanc battles between the groups. This story follows the main character’s journey as she tries to infiltrate a different ship/planet in order to kill the leader, and the different people and cultures she meets along the way. It is not an easy read, but is completely worth it.

This is another mind fuck of a book. The Kels are being sent into a battle which isn’t looking good for them. So Kel command revives General Jedao. He is known for slaughtering millions of people and for being completely mad, but Kel command revives him every now and then to assist with strategy. The bad news for Captain Kel Cheris is that she has to share her body with him while all this is going on. The world building in this book is amazing, and it throws you into combat with the Kel troops. Another difficult read, but worth it in the end.

This book is so freaking good. I am also completely in love with the cover. The book is set in South Africa in the distant future when everyone has their own robot helper. Our characters are Muzi, who starts the book totally stressed as he’s about to endure a centuries old tradition to become a man (including circumcision). He’s also got a thing for his best friend, who convinces him to try some of the lastest drug which has some interesting effects. Then there’s Nomvula, who has been looking after her traumatised mother for years. Then a new guy turns up in the village and offers to teach her amazing things – he doesn’t disappoint. There is also is Sydney – she’s working a dead end job in a nail salon and she’s a bit bummed because it seems that one of her co-workers has figured out she’s a Demi-goddess, which means she needs to move along. But she can have some fun before she goes, right? What are humans if not play things? Lastly we have Clever 4-1. He’s a service droid who has become sentient. He may also have accidentally set off an android uprising.

This book gave me a cracker of a book hangover so buyer beware.

This is a great piece of Chinese sci fi translated by Kevin Liu, who can do no wrong at the moment. The thing I love about reading sci-fi from different cultures is that you cannot have any expectations of the narrative. The Three Body Problem starts off in the People’s Revolution in 1962, and jumps back and forward between then and nowish.There’s a bit of police noir thrown in for good measure (I think that guy was my favourite character) plus a mind blowing computer game, which seems like more than a computer game. The story takes a little bit to get going and it’s going to demand some concentration, but definitely put this on your TBR.

Murderbot (to humans it’s a SecBot, but it refers to itself as Murderbot) has hacked its governor module, which means its basically free to do what it wants. It’s on contract with some humans, most of whom it quite likes. But it likes watching TV more. It is mostly worried that the humans will figure out that it doesn’t have a governor module and report it. It knows it has slipped up – one of the crew has tried to talk to it about it’s FEELINGS. This story of an introverted robot who just wants to be left alone to watch bad TV (which it definitely has feelings about!) is so endearing. I’m looking forward to the next in the series which is due out in 2018. Also, more amazing cover art amirite?

I’m very new to Scalzi and I’m just loving his stuff.

The Collapsing Empire is the first part of a new series. In this book the action moves back and forth between a planet imaginatively called “the End” – because it’s at the arse end of the Empire – and the middle of the change of Emperor. Cardenia is having a bad time. Her father has just died and she has to take the mantle to be the new Emperor. It should have been her half brother, but he inconveniently got himself killed. Even more inconveniently, someone keeps trying to kill her. Kiva is also having a bad time – she has arrived at End with a load of cargo to find that the planet is having a civil action and she not only has no market, but the government has banned her goods due to the last batch being ‘contaminated’. Kiva knows she has been set up, and sets about figuring out how she can turn a profit on the situation.

Collapsing Empire is fast moving and laugh out loud funny.Plus it is full of kick ass female characters.

Do you do sci fi? What’s your favourite recent read?

Who Fears Death – Nnedi Okorafor

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My reading of Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death has happily co-incided with the news that HBO is turning it into a series, and George R. R. Martin will be one of the executive producers. I look forward to seeing how HBO handles the adaption, and I'm sure having Martin as one of the people on deck will be great for the series.

Who Fears Death was written in 2010 and has won a truckload of awards, including the Nebula, and the World Fantasy award.

What I love most about Okorafor's writing is her superb blend of African culture and fantasy. I didn't love Who Fears Death, mainly, I think, because it's a freaking tough read. If you have any triggers, I would strongly suggest you stop here.

Onyesonwu is a child of rape – an horrific event revisited multiple times – and her name means 'who fears death?' We find Onyesonwu sitting in a prison cell, and she relates her life story – from her conception, through her 11th year rite (genital mutilation), her discovery of her mystical powers and her training in magic. Onyesonwu discover that some of her powers come from her biological father, who is keeping a magical eye on her – not for any good reason. There's plenty of confronting content. Onyesonwu's activation and exploration of her powers is done so well, and explores some deep questions.

The other thing that made me feel a bit funny about the book was that I listened to the audio – which was performed by Anne Flosnik. Don't get me wrong – Flosnik did a great job. But is a white British person the most appropriate pick to voice an African character? (John Lee voicing The White Tiger also made me feel squiffy).

Who Fears Death was 100% worth the journey, and deserves all the accolades it has received.

Have you read Who Fears Death? What did you think?

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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I've set myself a number of challenges this year, and it has really shown me that as far as reading is concerned, I am a contrary beast. I've smashed my Goodreads goal of 150 books, and only a few of those have been for the other challenges.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is part of my Reading Around the World challenge. I picked this one up thanks to the Book Riot team – as an Aussie who doesn't really watch TV, I have no idea who he is in the US. Here in Australia, we have a significant number of (white) South African immigrants, who, for the most part, left the country around the time that Apartheid was overturned.

Noah's book is a fascinating look at what black and coloured people who lived under the regime had to deal with, as well as the changes that happened when Apartheid was overturned. Born a Crime is a series of stories of Noah's childhood and youth, growing up in South Africa. The title of the book is due to Noah's parentage – as the child of a white father and a black mother, his existence was illegal. This also meant that he couldn't be seen with either of his parents in public or they would go to jail.

I really enjoyed Born a Crime. Noah's stories reflect the grinding poverty, the stupidity of racism, and the difficulties he and his family encountered (including the terrible abuse by his stepfather) in a way that is absolutely relatable. I learned so much about South Africa and the many cultures therein. Plus the stories are, for the most part, incredibly funny.

I listened to this one on audio – it's read by the author, and is great in that format.

5 out of 5 hilarious poo stories.

24 in 48 opening survey

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It’s Saturday afternoon here in the land of Aus, but the US is just getting started.

The 24 in 48 is off and running. I’m at the 7 hour mark, although I haven’t finished a book yet. I spent the morning listening to The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. while I did housework. This afternoon I’ve been reading Eligible  by Curtis Sittenfeld.

Here are my responses to the opening survey  from the 24in48 site:

1. I’m reading from Brisbane, Australia. It’s perfect readathon weather being chilly midwinter here.

2. This is my third 24 in 48.

3. Where did I originally hear about the readathon? I think I heard about it on Litsy the first time.

4. What am I most excited about reading this weekend? To be honest I have some tomes that I’m hoping to get through, so The Three Body Problem if I get to it.

5. Something about myself? I hit my Goodreads target of 150 books for the year last week. Of those 150, about 4 of them are for the other challenges I decided to do this year. I have discovered I am absolutely a mood reader.

6. I’ll be mostly posting on Litsy this weekend (you can find me there as @sue
Are you participating in the readathon?

A Couple of Shameless plugs

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Hi folks!

This is just a quick post about a couple of awesome things that I hope you have on your radar. If they aren’t, I hope you will check them out.

If you live in the West and haven’t heard about the Hulu adaption of The Handmaid’s Tale, you must have been living under a rock for months. It has only been available here in Australia for a couple of weeks (it’s on SBS’s on demand service). I’m only three episodes in and it’s just amazing.

One of my favourite podcasts has done an hour long episode and some mini character based episodes which are worth tuning in to if this is your kind of thing. Check out the Deviant Women podcast – Lauren and Alicia are totally great (all their other episodes are great as well). You’ll love their cute Aussie accents and tendency to curse – I know I do.

There’s also a whole US podcast based on the series. It’s called Mayday and you can find it here

Lastly, the 24 in 48 readathon is happening THIS WEEKEND! Despite the name, there is no stress and you can just do as many hours as you can fit in. How ever, if you can go the distance there are some awesome prizes up for grabs! Make sure you sign up here and get your stacks and snacks ready for Saturday!

Cheers!

Top 5s for January – June 2017

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As promised, here are my top 5s for the year so far. Please note, these are top 5 books that I have read in each category, rather than a selection of books published this year. The list of books within the 5s are in no particular order.

Let’s go!

Fiction:

  1. Invible Man – Ralph Ellison
  2. If We Were Villains –  M. L Rio
  3. Mullumbimby – Melissa Lucashenko 
  4. Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo
  5. Swing Time – Zadie Smith

Non Fiction:

  1. Awkward: The Science of Why we are Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome – Ty Tashiro
  2. I Contain Multitudes – Ed Yong 
  3. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue – John McWhorter
  4. Kierkegaard: A Single Life – Stephen Backhouse
  5. The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu – Joshua Hammer

Science Fiction and Fantasy:

  1. The Broken Earth series – N. K. Jemisin
  2. Lotus Blue – Cat Sparks
  3. Angelmaker – Nick Harkaway
  4. Binti and Binti: Home – Nnedi Okorafor 
  5. Fledgling – Octavia Butler

Memoirs:

  1. The Hate Race – Maxine Beneba Clarke
  2. Reckoning – Magda Szubanski
  3. Revolution for Dummies – Bassem Youssef
  4. In the Darkroom – Susan Faludi
  5. Brain on Fire – Susannah Cahalan

YA:

  1. Queens of Geek – Jen Wilde
  2. Dreadnought – April Daniels
  3. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  4. Star Touched Queen/Crown of Wishes – Roshani Chokshi
  5. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

It turns out I’ve read a heap more memoirs and fiction than usual and a lot less YA and Sci fi/Fantasy. I’m definitely a mood reader.

Have you read any of these? Is there anything totally awesome that should be on my lists?