God's War

Dec. 5th, 2012 09:36 am
thiefofvoices: Profile of a person with long black hair in a ponytail wearing a high-collared leather jacket, hair obscuring their eyes (stories)
So while I was spending the night in the airport night before last, and also a bit on the plane yesterday, I read God's War by Kameron Hurley. And I really, really enjoyed it.

I'm pretty terrible at doing actual reviews for things, so I'm not going to try. But there were a few things about it that I really liked.

1) The religion in it -- most of them -- weren't based on Christianity. I don't know enough about Islam and other middle eastern religions to really know whether or not the religions were based on them more than anything, but it appeared that way to me. (Rather, I believe they were based on middle eastern religions, or at least had roots in them, but I couldn't tell you which novel-religion corresponded to any non-Christian religion, if they corresponded at all exactly.

2) The worldbuilding! It reminded me a lot of the stuff that we're trying to do with Apocaverse, in that it's a completely different culture that has little tells in it. The part I particularly liked was the fact that whenever the narration was in the main character, Nyx's, point of view, or she was talking about some theoretical person whose gender was either not necessary to know or just unknown, she used 'she' as the default instead of 'he'. Because her culture is intensely matriarchal. Which is also something that we did in Apocaverse, or at least tried to. ...there really wasn't much related to Apoca, it was just the way little stuff was blended in there that I feel I need to take note of and keep in mind when writing Apoca, basically.

3) I just realized this one might be kind of spoilery I guess )

YEP. Vague rantramble is vaguely rantrambly. Now I should actually get dressed and pack up stuff to go poke at comic things.
thiefofvoices: a factory with smokestacks silhouetted against a red sky (the industrial park)
Disclaimer: I'm...not actually trying to write a good review of this collection. This is just a (long-winded) writeup of my thoughts, and may or may not be very coherent, as I've been at it all day. /disclaimer

So the other day I was at Borderlands (a specfic-only bookstore), and picked up I-O, a collection of stories by Simon Logan. What caught my eye about it was that it was being billed as "industrial fiction", and this part of the description on the back: "...exploring a world of dead tv's [sic], hallucinogenic chemicals, sad machines and concrete wastelands of scrap metal. the settings are as carcinogenic as a lethal poison, the characters constructed like semi-automatic pistols." In short: it sounds a lot like a few of my own fiction projects, and it sounds like the landscape that makes up my head most days. And honestly, I haven't yet encountered stories like that. This pretty much instantly got added to the pile, and won out over a Haikasoru title I'd picked up, eventually.

And today I sat down and read the whole thing.

Overall, I'm not sure what to make of it as a whole, cohesive unit. It's not really one piece, though all the stories have similar themes running through them. Most of the stories seemed close enough together, within one world (or a few worlds running very closely parallel in dimensions), that the few that didn't fit as close to these were a little jarring. Possibly I would have found it less jarring if the order of the stories had been switched around -- actually, I'm pretty sure I would have. I don't think these stories are really meant to be viewed as a cohesive unit, though, and I took each one of them individually for what they were as well. I'll talk about them individually in a minute.

The worldbuilding is great, especially the fact that he boldly doesn't try to rationalize why any of these things exist. The logic in these worlds is not our world's logic, and I appreciate that he doesn't try to apply it, or try to justify why it's not there. There's no reason the creatures that exist can with these machines soldered and welded and stapled to their flesh. There's no reason characters can or can't die, and no reason why death works the way it does. And Logan doesn't apologize for that; you either have to accept it or you don't, and the way the stories work, I was ready to accept it. Most of the descriptions in this painted a very clear, beautiful picture in my head of the ruined factory yards, the half-alive industrial parks, the workers in them that were barely separate from their surroundings, the nights blanketing everything. The stories, in a way, reminded me a bit of snapshots (specifically, of paintings, either by Jacek Yerka or...that other guy whose name I can't remember) of these worlds, giving me very clear, very short little glimpses into the lives of the things in them.

There were two things that tripped me up the most when reading: first, the prose itself, and second, the treatment of women. Sigh.

The prose itself was clunky in places, and there was a serious its/it's problem through all of them. Many times when I was reading, I found myself muttering the sentences and rearranging the words so they were more concise and got their point across better, or simply flowed better within the paragraph. A few of the dramatic single-line paragraphs elicited a bit of an eyeroll from me*, and there were a couple overwrought descriptions that could have benefited from less thesaurus abuse. The writing did get tighter in some of the later pieces -- either that or I learned to ignore the clunkiness.

The treatment of women, however, bothered me. For the most part, they had no agency, or they were violent and overly sexual. Even in the one story that had a woman who wasn't sexual (I honestly don't care about the violence all that much), who had her own agency and her own ideas, all of that was eventually put aside and discarded -- even within herself. A good chunk of the stories in this, though, consistently had me thinking "Simon Logan does not have problems with women!"** in the back of my head. Without deconstructing the individual stories, though, that's about what I have to say on the matter.

So let's deconstruct the individual stories! )

* (though I'm fully aware that I'm as prone to doing this as Logan >.> -- food for thought, self: all your dramatic pauses and revelations mayyybe don't work as well as you want them to, edit some of that shit out)

** It's an injoke, originating from Silent Hill 2 (in which, in case you weren't aware, all of the protagonist's internalized fear and hatred of women come to life in the form of demons and try to kill him -- no, that's not the plot of it, don't worry). I found a fan icon that someone (don't know who, anymore, someone on LJ) had drawn depicting protag James standing next to a twisted mannequin-monster yelling "I DO NOT HAVE PROBLEMS WITH WOMEN!". Oh, James, honey. Yes you do.


thiefofvoices: Profile of a person with long black hair in a ponytail wearing a high-collared leather jacket, hair obscuring their eyes (Default)
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