Indexing: Reflections

Monday, January 15, 2018

Indexing: Reflections
Seanan McGuire, 2016

Premise: Sequel to Indexing. Picking up where we left off, with a wanna-be controller of stories in custody and a Snow White barely hanging on to reality.

I enjoyed this follow-up just as much as the first one, maybe more.

It has some of the same flaws - some plot threads left unraveled, some concepts reintroduced too often (a product of being released as a serial). The characters are more complicated and interesting, though, because it can build on what’s already there.

After only one point-of-view section in the first book, Sloane takes more of a starring role in this one, and we also get to learn more about her past. She’s awesome in so many ways, and both she and Henry go through some deep internal questioning of their relationships with their stories and their choices in how they deal with it.

I liked the new minor characters who were introduced in this one, and some other examples of ways stories are held in stasis or how the aftermath affects people’s lives.

There’s not a lot to say here - If you liked the first one, you’ll like this. If you missed the first one but Once Upon a Time crossed with Men in Black sounds better than either of those things by itself, then you have two books to add to your reading list.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy book 1)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy book 1)
Kim Stanley Robinson, 1993

Premise: Humanity’s first colony on Mars imports many of Earth’s problems, despite the colonists’ efforts.

This book was not a Hugo winner, but both its sequels were. It tells the story of the first Martian colony, following members of the “first hundred” from the journey through years of growth and into a major crisis.

I had some trouble getting into this book at the beginning. I actually started it three times before I got past the first section. It starts in the middle of the story, and even though that section was exciting in terms of what happened, I didn’t know any of the characters yet, and I didn’t connect with what was going on.

After that, it jumped back to the beginning of the mission and introduced all the characters. Each section was from a different perspective. I especially liked Nadia the practical mechanic-minded person, and I really liked Anne the ecologist’s section near the end. By the end I liked everyone to some degree. I’m even glad to have the slightly twisted perspective of the guy who seemed like a villain at the beginning.

The plot didn’t completely hang together; it’s more a series of vignettes around a theme than a story. It slowly built the picture of the changes and opportunities, as well as the problems, on Mars.

It sounds as though I didn’t like it. I did like it quite a bit, but it was a very unusual book in structure and tone.

One thing that was particularly interesting upon reflection: there would be a way to tell a more direct story of the founding and change in the colony over time, one that would have focused on action and decision. That would be the story with heroes and villains - the version of the story that might be in a history book. But that wouldn’t be the true story. The true story is many little decisions. Personal antipathy that grows for no real reason over time. Alliances and unspoken positions. Economic forces you can’t predict. And humans, trying their best, putting one foot in front of the other.

That’s the story, and it’s why this was a rewarding read.

4 Stars - A Good Book

The Santa Claus Man (crosspost)

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York
Alex Palmer, 2015

Premise: In the early 1900s, more children began to write letters to Santa, and the Post Office asked for help. Enter John Duval Gluck Jr. and his creation: The Santa Claus Association.

This was an interesting book overall, although the payoff is smaller than I would have preferred.

The book paints a complex and intriguing picture of New York in the first few decades of the twentieth century, particularly around Christmas. The specific story of Gluck and his various "charities" is only the largest thread; the book also explores early influences on the image of Santa, how various staples of Christmas (public tree-lightings, parades, etc.) started or became notable in New York City.

Read the full review on Mainlining Christmas