melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2017-03-07 03:31 pm
Entry tags:

FMK #2 F U: Grimspace

Okay, a day late on this week. In my defense, I had a busy weekend and the book you all made me read was not the grippingest.

So: K was Asher's The Engineer Reconditioned with five K votes. The first speaking female character in it is not a prostitute, she's a top xenologist, but she's also a sexy catgirl. Guess which of those we learned about (in detail) first!

It turned out that most of the others with a high K to F ratio were already missing from the collection - I must have weeded at some point and not marked it in the catalog. But Anthony, Barnwell, Bass, Bishop, Brush, Buckner go back on the shelf. Or in the boxes under the bed, if you're feeling literal. (The fiction inventory is now actually done, except the "search for the ones you didn't find" part, so all polls from now on will only include books I know the exact location of.)

F was actually a tie, but the Aguirre voters were the only ones who spoke up in the comments, so Grimspace won the tiebreaker. I'm pretty sure, having read it, that I had kept it in the previous weed because a) it is by a lady, b) there is a lady on the cover who is c) wearing comfy clothes and not in a sexy pose and d) could even maybe be a WOC if you squint. Having a rule to keep all unread books that fit those requirements still does not add that much to the size of the pile, and it has served me well with comics.

Also it is about telepathically bonded pairs of hyperspace navigators, which between Bran/Tru, "The Game of Rat and Dragon", Pac Rim, and so on, ought to be my thing. Unfortunately it is not a... good book. It's not an actively bad book - it passes the "if you found it in a shelter on the Appalachian Trail, would you read it and carry it on, or happily burn it for cooking fuel?" test with no problem. But I started to list the things that were just not very well done (character, plot, pacing, voice, worldbuilding, motivation, stakes...) and realized I would be listing All The Things. And it is a first published novel, so hopefully she got better.

So I'm just going to point to two specifics that bothered me: First, I will never, ever understand straight people romance, augh

Second, it's in first person present tense. I have been known to volubly defend first person present, I know, so it may be odd that it's what I would pick out, but if this is the kind of stuff in that POV that y'all have been reading, I understand the aversion. A book in first person present should be a story that *needs* to be in first person present, not one that would work perfectly well in 3rd past if you changed nothing but pronouns and tenses. 1st person needs to be really deeply in the headspace of someone with a distinctive personality and voice, and Jax is neither. Present tense needs to be someone who is vividly living in the present moment, which is also not this book.

I dogeared the sex scene for the line "Sometimes he moans. Sometimes I do," which arguably should never be in a sex scene at all, but especially should never be in a first person present tense one. It's like that through the whole book, though - all of these little distancing, vagueifying choices in the language, that wouldn't have bothered me if it was third past. Sometimes it would go multiple paragraphs at a time managing to be vividly enough in her head that I wouldn't notice the POV, and then it would inevitably drop back to something clunky and distancing that would have worked fine if it was a) third person or b) first person with the narrator reflecting on the past, but just didn't at all in her chosen POV.

Things I did really like: I liked a lot of the worldbuilding. I had worldbuilding on my list of problems because it was mostly revealed via a) people carrying the idiot ball or b) expository bits that didn't work with the POV or c) focusing on the parts that are irrelevant to the plot and characters while leaving the parts we actually want to know about irritatingly vague.

But the worlds themselves - the galaxy-spanning civilization and the places they visit - were all well put together and full of intriguing little side notes. I was really interested in the implication that the hegemonic religion is a version of Roman Catholicism where Mary has become the primary deity and her kid was just fridged to motivate her. And if I found out there was a sequel that was all about Keri and Lex on Lachion figuring out their arranged marriage and also explaining why the hell they thought bankrolling that collection of uselessness was a good idea, I would be all over it.

I almost stopped reading about a third of the way through because I could have been folding laundry instead, but then she finally revealed what was theoretically the main plot motivator, and I realized I had to stick around long enough to find out if anyone got kidnapped for their semen. (They didn't but there were women getting kidnapped to be broodmares [by bad guys] and a baby alien getting kidnapped to be raised until it was old enough to take genetic samples from [good guys] and an overall obsession with speshul genes and selective breeding of people [everyone]. Also two different variations on semi-involuntary creepy soulbonds.)

But if a) it had been in 3rd past and b) I hadn't had to hold my nose to try to accept that I was suppose to buy into the main het pairing, it probably would have rated "workmanlike debut novel" instead of "not good".

Regardless, it joins the others on the K pile after its last hurrah. Ann Aguirre seems like a lovely person though and I hope she rocks on and never ever reads this review.

And that got really long, so poll in next entry. I might keep splitting these up, we'll see. instead, here is a picture of a cat in a hat:

a blind kitten being dashing and heroic in an aviator cap

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