Books I read in December 2020

My to-be-read and in-progress pile! That’s the French version of Le Grand Meaulnes; I already read the English translation.

The Marrow Thieves, Cherie Dimaline

Highly recommended. The starting premise — that the Indigenous people of Canada are being hunted and captured, and their bone marrow stolen — is horrific, but an excellent metaphor for the genocidal policies inflicted on them in past centuries. In spite of this horror, the kindness and solidarity of the small band of Indigenous people running towards the north is what I think really shines about this book. The characters are unforgettable, the stories of each character will etch themselves on your memory. The writing is absolutely outstanding and the book should have taken ALL the prizes it was nominated for. The question I am left with is, how far is too far, how much is too much, before people will stand up and fight for Indigenous Peoples and their rights? Their land is still being despoiled and polluted, and their children are still being stolen; Indigenous people are still being murdered. They still only hold 0.2% of Canada (that’s a government statistic).

Flight of the Siren, Brendan Myers

Some interesting ideas in this book. I am not totally convinced by the main philosophical idea in it, that humanity needs to build a starship in order to come together and overcome its self-destructive tendencies. The last third of the book, where the political machinations really start to undermine the starship project, was the most convincing. The book could’ve benefited from more backstory about how the large states of Éostray, Arethusa, and Gayatri came about, and how new religions have suddenly appeared and become major political players. I also found some of the plot developments in the first half confusing; and Glaive’s character arc needed more explanation. I liked the characters of the crew of Navcom Seven: Lorelei, Jiandong, and Sitara.

Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman

Outstanding, awesome retelling of the Norse myths by Neil Gaiman. Beautifully written, and I think his style is very well suited to these stories. He’s selected all the classic tales — Thor and the Midgard serpent, the mead of poetry, the creation story, the death of Balder, the binding of the Fenris wolf, the binding of Loki, the eating contest at the giants’ hall where Thor drinks the ocean, Loki competes with wildfire, and Thialfi competes with old age. He also includes details that I’ve not seen before, such as how bad poetry happens (this explains a lot). Whether you are a Norse mythology expert or a newbie or somewhere in between, I think you’ll enjoy this retelling, which is both faithful and fresh.

The Sandman volume 1, Neil Gaiman

I bought this ages ago in the “Absolute” edition and it is so big and heavy that it needs a lectern to read it. My beloved has now made me a lectern as a Yule gift.

Me with The Sandman on the lectern

The lectern will also be very useful for other things like large cookery books and esoteric books.

I’m enjoying Sandman: the art is amazing, the writing is amazing. Some of the violent bits are very distressing but the overall message is that all shall be well, which I appreciate. I am about halfway through it.

I’ve also realized that there are another three volumes which will all set me back around the same amount as the first one (ouch). But they are very good value when you realize how much artwork is in them and they’re full colour throughout. There are eighteen episodes in volume 1 and it cost me £60 (about $100 CAD). Volume two is $130 CAD. That’s about $7 (£4) an episode, which is about what you’d pay for an individual instalment, maybe less.

The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures volume 2, edited by Sean Wallace

Not finished this yet, only read three or four stories, but so far I’m not enjoying it as much as I did volume 1. I really appreciate the editor’s commitment to diversity of authors and themes in these collections though. That’s very important.

The Once and Future Witches, Alix E Harrow

I got this for Yule from a dear friend and started reading it soon after I had opened the gift. It is set in an alternate reality and so far is very good indeed. It has suffragettes, witching, folk tales, racialized characters, and magic.

Update: finished it. Outstanding book. I loved the witchy characters. I loved the witching. I loved the way that the author dealt with the concept of maiden, mother, and crone in a non-biologically-essentialist way. The racial politics was very well done, too. I like the way that the author used things from labour history in her plot, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and the struggle for the eight hour day. I love the idea that women’s clothing doesn’t have pockets in case they’re used for witchcraft.

The Once and Future Witches
by Alix E. Harrow

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