Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Road to Roswell by Connie Willis

I have said it before and I will say it again-  love Connie Willis. She used to be my favorite living author, and she was eclipsed mainly due to my discovery of Seanan McGuire - I still love her books to pieces.  But it can be hard to love your old favorites with the same intensity when their productivity slows. I have had the pleasure of meeting her twice at conventions and I treasure those moments. I last saw her when her last novel, Crosstalk came out in 2016. That was a long time ago. 

 Il still remember the first book of hers that I read - I got a copy of Doomsday Book from the science fiction book club when it came out on the 90s. It took my breath away. I love her novels and her short stories and her novellas. Her books make me laugh and make me cry and I wish I hadn’t read them all already because reading one off her books for the first time is a singular treat. 

So I was thrilled when her publisher and NetGalley approved me for an eARC of The Road to Roswell, her new novel coming out this summer. Connie Willis has been mentioning that this book was in the works for many, many years and I was so happy to finally read it!

I didn’t just read it - I devoured it! It was so much fun! Like many a great Connie Willis story, it had a protagonist just trying to do the right thing while surrounded by realistic yet ridiculous people who are more than they appear, who also have encyclopedic knowledge of esoterica, and a slowly simmering romance. 

The plot is simple but compelling - a woman going to stop her best friend from marrying a UFO nut gets abducted by an extraterrestrial and wackiness ensues! I don’t want to spoil any more but the resolution was quite satisfying and the alien encounters felt real and not too slapstick. 

This may be the last time I read a new Connie Willis novel. If so, this is a good one to go out on. I cannot recommend this enough. 

Friday, March 10, 2023

The Red Scholar’s Wake by Aliette de Bodard

I was not a fan of Aliette de Bodard before  reading this book. I had previously read The Tea Master and the Detective when it was nominated for the Hugo Award and found it did not make an impression on me. But then I heard a lot of buzz about this book, and so I figured those people might know something I don’t, so I requested an eARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I later saw the book on some best of lists and I was like, I really have to get to this one. So I read it. 

I don’t know exactly why, but this book did NOT work for me. It was a slog from start to finish. I disliked all of the characters, except the Censor, who I believe I was supposed to dislike. This book was billed as a pirate romance novel between a woman and a mindship. I guess it was that? But in the worst possible way. The protagonist is effectively captured and forced into marriage with the mindship, in a way that if the mindship was a corporeal man would feel very rapey. The mindship is a pirate who doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with rape, theft, and murder, and is completely unsympathetic, although I don’t think she’s supposed to come off that way. The protagonist is supposed to be sympathetic- her partner is dead, her child is left alone on a planet with friends! But there is no emotional core to her abandonment of her child, and she goes out drinking and partying pretty quickly once they get to a pirate space station. She does nothing to try to reconnect to her daughter and gives up very quickly. Then, when she find out her daughter is going to be sold into slavery she decides to go get her, and the author breezes past the child sex trafficking going on so quickly that I had whiplash. 

None of the characters feel real or lifelike, the sex scenes felt needlessly graphic and also out of character, and the spouses calling each other things like “little sis” came off as creepy instead of affectionate. I regret the time I spent reading this book.