And now on the Discworld re-read, Monstrous Regiment, which needs a spoiler cut; my prior booklog entry is spoiler-free.
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Next up in the Discworld re-read, some short comments about books that already have their own entries.
The Truth: I really like the Ankh-Morpork books about industrialization. I find William and Sacharissa entirely pro forma as a romance but I like them and their changes a lot as individuals. And I find the New Firm kind of boring but I like the point made about them in Becca's booklog post (spoilers).
Thief of Time: Pretty much exactly what Becca says (spoilers), with a side of Mrs War/War being another example of the tedious, loathsome "henpecked husband" pattern.
The Last Hero: I can't believe I didn't realize earlier that it's about fake London having to rescue fake China from its own emperor. Ugh. Anyway: I find myself sympathizing with Vetinari when he says that civilization has no room for "heroes" like Cohen and that's a good thing, and when I find myself sympathizing with Vetinari I start to wonder if that's not a sign of something horribly wrong all by itself. (The way that the books have shifted their portrayal of Vetinari is really remarkable, not in a good way, when you think about it.) Anyway, for all the good things about this book, the lovely little details and character interactions, I am always suspicious of nostalgia, so it doesn't read as well to me now.
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents: I find Maurice's harping on not eating talking creatures rather tiresome this time around since it's blazing obvious from the first mention what happened. And Malicia is notably awful. Otherwise my reaction to this is about the same as last time.
Night Watch: I hadn't registered before the extent to which this book takes as axiomatic that productive change can come neither from the masses nor the elites, which is really weird and unpleasant. Apparently the joke in early books about Vetinari's one-man one-vote system (he was the man, he had the vote) really is optimal for Ankh-Morpork. Hoping that you end up with a benevolent and competent dictator because that's the only way that progress will happen . . . well, I disagree, and let's leave it at that.
Also, Ned gets seriously short-changed, and it's nice to meet Vetinari's aunt.
The Wee Free Men: I still like this a lot for the Tiffany-Granny Aching relationship, which grounds what is surreal even for a Discworld book.
The next installment of the Discworld re-read is The Fifth Elephant, about which I have only spoiler comments, which I will take behind the cut. A non-spoiler booklog entry is over here.
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I am seeing how many airport-drafted Discworld re-read entries I can put up before my panel on Discworld and gender in twenty-five minutes!
I picked up the Discworld re-read with Carpe Jugulum, which is actually skipping two books. I feel a little bad about skipping Jingo, but I did re-read it relatively recently and I just couldn't face it being anvilicious about nationalism. Also it seemed to be less relevant to the gender panel.
(I also skipped The Last Continent, but I feel no guilt about that.)
So, Carpe Jugulum. This time around I think I might actually like it better than Lords and Ladies, which feels like heresy, but the subject matter is of more interest to me than the Shakespeare subplot in L&L, and I really love the way the witches refuse to be shoehorned into roles and Oats and all the Crowning Moments of Awesome. I've tended to think of this as the weaker shadow of L&L, and maybe objectively that is the case, but I just enjoyed it more.
(However, unless you have seen it done, I would not recommend following Magrat's example and carrying a 14-day-old baby on your back. I am sure there are cultures where this is commonplace and that have devised ways to do it safely, but me, I'd want that young a baby on my front where I can see what their floppy little neck and great big head are doing.)
Blowing through writing up a few more Discworld re-reads before turning to other tasks. Speaking of skippable books, as I just was with regard to Soul Music, I allowed myself to skip Interesting Times on the re-read because, seriously, a whole book of "what this empire needs is a honky"? No thank you.
So next up is Maskerade, which despite being another parody story, this time of Phantom of the Opera, feels much more accessible to me than Soul Music. It could just be that I like the witches better, of course. From a gender perspective (I'm speeding up the re-read now because I'm tentatively slated to moderate a WisCon panel on Discworld & gender), this book is interesting because it is much more scathing about society's conventions when it comes to attractiveness than at least one later book (Unseen Academicals, which is oddly noncritical about the nascent fashion industry, as I recall). Though I'm not sure the series overall doesn't somewhat fall prey to what it criticizes; see Becca's spoilery post for what I mean.
Then there's Feet of Clay, which I do like for its riffs on the mystery genre (though I don't understand how the political stuff doesn't founder on, or even care about, the fact that out-of-wedlock children do not normally inherit titles . . . ). For future-panel purposes, this is the start of the book's examination of gender and Tolkien-esque dwarves (whose sexes are visually indistinguishable), which gets problematic later but which works well here.
Last for this entry is Hogfather, which is very hard to read when it's spring. Otherwise the only additional thing I have to say about it is something that never occurred to me to wonder: who is ruling Sto Helit? Susan was 16 when we first met her, so obviously she's not old enough; possibly that might be true even here, where she's a governess, but still she's acknowledged to be Duchess of Sto Helit, something that will drop out completely by the time she's teaching in Thief of Time, when surely she must be of age. (In the book before that, someone refers to a Duke of Sto Helit, but that might just be an error.)
Back to the Discworld re-read with a book that didn't have its own entry yet: Soul Music. I'd remembered this one as not working very well for me because it's a very specific parody of something I don't have strong feelings about, early rock & roll.
This may be why it seems to have no momentum whatsoever to me. It also seems to be lacking a protagonist: Buddy is a blank, there's not enough Susan, and Death buggers off for most of it. But, basically, I can't make myself care except anything except trying to figure out when Susan was orphaned (the way the book describes it is very nonspecific; people on the Internet seem to have concluded that it was right before the plot starts, but it doesn't feel like that to me, though it might be I was reading inattentively because of my overall failure to give a damn).
I think the most telling thing I can say is that I read this in the last three months and in that short time I've already forgotten how the plot resolves. It has minimal impact on later Discworld continuity, so unless early rock & roll is your thing, I'd say it's very skippable.
We are now roughly at the point in the Discworld re-read where I paused for the most recent Discworld book, Snuff. I'd wanted to save this for the end, but I was on a panel at Arisia this January on Discworld at 30 (years) and so thought I should really skip ahead. I listened to about half of this as an audiobook (read by the ever-excellent Stephen Briggs) because I didn't have time to read it, and then skimmed the last half.
This is a bad book. I switched to skimming when I hit my last straw of things making me furious, to keep myself from actually grabbing my iPod and flinging it at the car's windshield. And I had a very long list of things that were bad: internally inconsistent, out of character, offensive, cheap. But then I realized that under any other circumstances I would characterize the book's fundamental sin as laziness of thought, and then I remembered what the actual circumstances were, and then I was just sad.
Don't read this book. I wish I hadn't.
Lumping together some more Discworld re-reads that already have their own entries.
Small Gods: I still love it. It's true that Brutha is inconsistently stupid and that the tone wobbles, but man, I love it. (But it is very weird that Brutha is not brown. He is explicitly pink on at least one occasion.)
Lords and Ladies: it took me a weirdly long time to get into this re-read, perhaps because I last read it relatively recently? But I just kept inching my up way to the invasion a few page-equivalents at a time. The Midsummer Night's Dream stuff has never done much for me, and I found the Margart scenes just excruciating this time through, because I kept wanting to yell at her WHY ARE YOU BEING STUPID. But once the invasion comes, they each get such great scenes.
Men at Arms: many good things, but there is the fundamental problem that Becca identifies in a post full of spoilers, and it still overdoes the gun thing (so much so that I almost wonder if it doesn't undercut its own satire).
Catching up on the Discworld re-read, starting with Witches Abroad as a solo entry because it doesn't have its own yet.
This is the one where the Lancre witches go traveling through the Discworld and through fairy tales. The Witches subseries is now firmly established and, though Granny and Nanny are indeed pretty awful travelers, I like this one a lot. Oddly, it is the first time I really had that "fuck, yeah!" fantasy of political agency reaction to the ending of one of the Discworld books, which I would have thought would have happened sooner.
Finally, I did not see anything egregiously awful in the handling of the black faux-New Orleans characters, but I cannot guarantee that problems did not escape my attention due to overfamiliarity with this text and underfamiliarity with the applicable stereotypes.
I had a serious case of "don't wanna" for the book I "should" have been reading, so I took a short excursion into historical romance with two novellas and a novel in Courtney Milan's Brothers Sinister series.
I'd previously read the prequel novella, "The Governess Affair," because I'd heard friends talking about this author, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Serena wants a Duke to compensate her for getting her fired, and is prepared to make quite a fuss to get what she ways; Hugo is the Duke's problem-solver who needs her to go away, not out of loyalty to the Duke, but because it's part of his path to financial independence. Sparks, naturally, fly--I particularly liked their note-passing. I liked them, I liked their dilemmas, and I liked the way the story was focused on issues of sexual consent.
The first novel, The Duchess War, is set a generation later. This is kind of a mixed bag. I read it quickly in a haze of sleep deprivation, and the banter and the angst was fine for that. But while I can see that it attempts to do something substantive with its class issues--it's set in 1863 England and union organizing is nominally the springboard for its plot--even in my fuzzy state I could tell that it wasn't engaging with those issues in a very sensible way. (There is more, with spoilers, over at Dear Author; I'm in agreement with the general sense if not all the details.) I liked what it did with some of the character relationships, I liked that the main sex scene was awkward and then got better after actual, you know, communication, but a good deal of it feels like it doesn't bear much thinking about.
The side novella "A Kiss for Midwinter" is kind of a mess, unfortunately, even when read in the same haze of sleep deprivation. It's about Minnie's best friend Lydia and a local doctor, who she dislikes because he knows she'd been pregnant out of wedlock (she miscarried). But the characters don't particularly click individually or together, and the not-very-subtext ends up undercutting the explicitly feminist message. More detail, again with spoilers, from coffeeandink.
At any rate, I do really like "The Governess Affair," and I appreciate what the other stories set out to do even if I don't think they always fully succeed. I look forward to seeing how Milan continues to attempt to integrate broader social issues now that she's self-published, as well as going back to her prior books.