book reviews, part three of ∞


I feel like these sorts of posts might not be as exciting for other people as they are for me (lifelong tragedy), so I'll try to think of something else to post here. Naked pictures, maybe. (Not of me.)

Only four books, this time! Same rules:

Bryony And Roses, T. Kingfisher - A horrible knock-off of Robin McKinley’s Rose Daughter, but much less good. The author admits that McKinley’s book inspired her own in the introduction, but that isn’t any kind of an excuse. The only differences between the two treatments were the comparative awkwardness of Kingfisher’s fanfiction-y version, a bunch of hyper-boring gardening details, the worst and unsexiest Beast ever, and legitimacy. I’ve read several of this author’s other fairy tale novellas and found them brilliant and charming in ways that no other author (including McKinley) could touch, so I don’t quite know what happened here. I mean, the story was poisoned by a lack of originality, is what happened here, but I don’t know why. I feel like Kingfisher could have actually achieved something of historical interest if she had written her own, un-influenced version of Beauty & the Beast, and if that ever happens I will definitely give it a chance — but this one should be skipped by everyone. No, seriously: It tapdanced upon the knife-edge of actionable plagiarism, I am not even being a dick about it.

Child Of The River: The First Book of Confluence, Paul J. McAuley - Starring some evil pig people who live in a land of eternal electric night and who settle issues of inheritance by killing their fathers. Nope. (ETA: Fixed the title! Whoops, sorry. Apparently this is the first in a long series of fantasy novels grounded in Hindu mythology, or something. Still don't like it!)

Creatures Of Light And Darkness, Roger Zelazny - Another Riddled-sourced book selection! This one was much better than Astra & Flondrix, but to be honest that’s not much of a compliment. This book, however, is fantastic. It suffers from some unfortunate oldman-isms re: sex and gender, but they’re really not that bad considering the novel’s publication date. Unique employment of mythology and the narrative structures of science fiction, but transcendent of both traditions. I recommend this book very highly, especially if you’d like to see what 75% of the writers of modern scifi epics are trying and failing to achieve. Also, Creatures of Light & Darkness is clearly one of the references Douglas Adams incorporated into The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (along with elements from Norstrilia, about which something will be said later), if you are the sort of person who cares about that sort of thing. I’m going to read more Zelazny soon, starting with Roadmarks or Jack of Shadows (I don’t know if I can handle the talking dog one yet).

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, Laini Taylor - Just the worst piece of shit ever. Really badly written, characters that the author clearly believes are transgressively unique but who actually resemble a week’s worth of Daily Deviations from 2009, disgustingly barfy adolescent love story, everyone is so beautiful you can’t hardly stand to look at them, etc. The kind of book that gives small-minded realism fetishists reason to sneer at genre fiction. Someone put this novel in a "if you loved Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, you’ll love this book" Tumblr post awhile ago, and that should tell you everything you ever need to know about Tumblr’s Clarke fandom.

This one was pretty mean! The next batch will have some better books in it, I promise.

I'm going to be — "busy" is a strong word — occupied with all manner of shit until after the new year. I probably won't even have access to my exuberance of review notes until next weekend, so I will regale you then(ish) with more of my Important Opinions. Have a lovely New Year, friends and passersby, and try not to get too drunk/ill/weird/belligerent. Well, you know — getting too weird is usually a good idea. But not the other stuff. You could end up in the hospital, or in jail, or elected President of the United States of America.


  1. You could end up in the hospital, or in jail, or elected President of the United States of America.
    Hah! Yes. A very real risk. Be careful out there.

    I only read "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" last year for the first time, and I'm intrigued to find out which books it referenced. I wonder if my parents have "Creatures Of Light And Darkness" on their bookshelf; it sounds like something they might have.

    1. A very real risk. Be careful out there.
      I worry about this every day. Like, if I'm out at the store or something, and I accidentally make a thoughtlessly racist comment, or say something rude to a disabled person, or lose my temper with some little kids — what if it gets me elected President, accidentally? What would happen to me?

      I only read "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" last year for the first time
      I read it to pieces as a little kid, literally, but didn't really understand it. This is probably the way to go.

      I wonder if my parents have "Creatures Of Light And Darkness" on their bookshelf; it sounds like something they might have.
      Go for it! It's very worth it, and still hasn't been turned into an ebook.

  2. Replies
    1. Little did you know, my mom is a former Playboy bunny!!!

      (No she isn't. But I had you there for a minute, didn't I?)

      That song is terrifying.

    2. The whole band is a bit terrifying, they are a bunch of smart guys playing a bunch of dumb, trashy frat boys, but they are hilariously transgressive at their best.

  3. I don't recall that Riddled ever *recommended* "Astra & Flondrix". I only remember using the cover art as an example of Peter Goodfellow's art from his Hieronymus-Bosch period.

    I cannot recommend 'Roadmarks' sufficiently. It is allusive and elliptical. And lapidary, that is the word, lapidary, which I will now say several more times to myself because I like the sound of it. 'Roadmarks' subverts all the conventions, and now you are thinking "Oh dear, subverted conventions, how conventional", but the glory of subverting conventions is that it allowed Zelazny to write a *short book*... he didn't have to pad things out, because you the reader know all that stuff already.

    1. Well, to be fair, I didn't think you'd recommended it specifically — I just looked it up and thought it sounded interesting. Mistake! (It happens.)

      I have recently acquired Roadmarks! It will be read, and decide what I will engrave it upon.

      (The cover is not inspiring, however.)

    2. I was just thinking yesterday that I need to re-read "Dream Master" a.k.a. "He Who Shapes". On account of the driverless cars as well as the talking dog. Also the dream elements taken from 'Tristan & Isolde' (filtered through Joseph Campbell's "Creative Mythology", which I am mathematically certain that Zelazny had recently read).