Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Month: July 2023

Murderbot is back

System Collapse by Martha Wells, expected publication 14 November 2023.

The seventh book in the Murderbot Diaries. This is a spoiler free review.

Murderbot doesn’t like planets. It especially doesn’t like planets when some of its squishy humans are on a planet. Especially especially when there’s an alien contagion infecting people and bots. And, especially especially especially because of [redacted] Murderbot is not 100% itself, but it has to protect it’s squishy humans and the local colonists. And Barish-Estranza just sent in an armed shuttle.

Sigh! All Murderbot wants to do is watch media with ART.

5/5 Harpy Eagles

Bible Camp Horror

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle, published 18 July 2023.

Rose lives in a small town in Montana. The town is famous for its Christian gay conversion camp, called Camp Damascus, where teenagers undergo certain procedures to learn to “love right.” Rose realises that strange things are happening in her town, then they are happening to her. Since the ‘adults’ pretend that everything is in order, Rose takes it on herself to find out what’s going on at Camp Damascus.

The neurodiverse gay main character might explain why some of the descriptions seem unemotional and why there is a lot of repetition in the writing. Unfortunately, the whole novel reads like a rather mild YA horror. The tension of a horror novel is missing. There are images of body horror, but they are just that images and never really convey a sense of dread or disgust. Furthermore the plot twists are signposted and hence very predictable.

2/5 Harpy Eagles

Thought Provoking Commentary

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang, published 16 May 2023.

An Asian American author writes a story about an American author stealing the first draft of an Asian American author, edits said draft and publishes it as her own historical fiction work about Chinese labourers during WW I.

Once I had wrapped my brain around this I could at least enjoy the parts where Kuang’s heavy handed commentary about the publishing world and its social media circus takes a backseat and the relationship between June and Athena drives the narrative.

I had hoped for more character depth and less ham-fisted commentary, since the latter was also something I disliked about Kuang’s Babel. Alas, it didn’t happen.

I initially gave the book 4/5 Harpy Eagles, but after a lot of thought – yes, the book is thought provoking – I am going to give it

3/5 Harpy Eagles

Fantasy Library and Alternate Worlds

The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman, published from 2015 on.

Having read Scarlet by Genevieve Cogman, I remembered that years ago I started The Invisible Library series and decided to pick it up again.

Irene is a spy for a library that retrieves literary works from different/alternate worlds. Having been tasked with the retrieval of a dangerous book, Irene and her assistant Kai are posted in an alternate London. A London that looks Victorian, but has different features from “our” Victorian London. As if book retrieval alone wasn’t tricky enough, the alternate London is chaos-infested and poses a threat to all reality. Irene and Kai have to work with and against some of the supernatural forces and strange magic systems in this alternate London to find the book and save the worlds from falling into chaos.

So far I have re-read The Invisible Library (2015) and read The Masked City (2015) which leads Irene and Kai to a city that is similar to Venice during Carnival, where Irene needs to rescue Kai.

Yes, some of you, who have read this series, might say Irene behaves like a YA Strong Heroine (the books are not YA). I agree, Irene runs into danger without thinking about what and how she’s going to rescue Kai. There is also a slow burn love triangle brewing in the background. Yet, I still like the story. Probably because it’s rather fast-paced compared to most YA fantasy stories. So despite some shortcomings, I like the characters and the plot so far. And the ending of book two made me want to grab the next book in the series right away. I am trying to pace myself though.

4/5 Harpy Eagles for each of the books

How To Avoid the Guillotine

From the cover it might be clear that this book is set at the time of the French Revolution. Cogman retells the story of Orcyz’s “The Scarlet Pimpernel” by adding vampires and magic. The French nobles are vampires which is why they need to be killed with the guillotine. The Scarlet Pimpernel, a British nobleman who uses disguises and, together with a group of equally daring people, rescues people from the Reign of Terror in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

The main character of the story is Eleanor a young English maid who works for one of the acknowledged noble vampires. This lady notices the resemblance between Eleanor and Queen Marie Antoinette and basically volunteers Eleanor to the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Eleanor must now learn how to behave like a noble and a spy in order to help free the Queen and her children from the Bastille. A daring undertaking in and off itself, especially once Eleanor has to go undercover in enemy territory.

A fast paced fantasy story that has a new twist on vampires and offers an interesting reason for why the French Revolution happened.

Truly enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

4/5 Harpy Eagles

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