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Four books - Qualified Perceptions
Four books
Spares (by Michael Marshall Smith)
In many ways this is the same book as Only Forward, but it's also a whole lot darker. (It also has one of the most inane back cover squibs ever: "Who are the Spares? And what is their purpose? That is the most shocking revelation of all." It's not a shocking revelation. In fact, that it's a dystopian sf novel titled Spares should be all you need to figure out what they're for, and if you needed more of a hint, the phrase "Spares Farm" is higher up on the back cover. Not to mention, the book isn't really about the Spares much at all, they're just a symptom.) Only Forward had the cover world, which had the goofy horizontally-segmented[*] society: this is the neighborhood for the people obsessing about colors, that neighborhood is for the type-A bureaucrats, this one only has cats in it. Spares has vertical segmentation: the ultra-rich oppressors on the top floors, the ultra-poor dregs at the bottom, and the middle class busily clawing their way up the levels. Only Forward has the other world, the cutesy-named Jeamland, sort of an extra-symbolic Faerieland. Spares has the other world, the Gap, which is more like the Vietnam War as re-imagined by Stephen King. Only Forward had significant bits of horror; Spares does have significant bits of humor (I like the recurring mention of the cinnamon apple coffee...).

desireearmfeldt traditionally thinks that the above doesn't say enough about what the book is about, which I think translates to what happens in the book, so: A guy with a Horrible Hidden Backstory kidnaps/frees a bunch of Spares from a Spares Farm, but then when they stop to rest in dystopian-city New Richmond, they get grabbed by unknown forces, and he has to embark on a shooty action adventure to deal with it. But I don't think she'd like the book anyway. rifmeister might. It's a well-written version of a too-dark-for-me story, so I'll compromise at two and three-quarters stars.

The Autumn Castle (by Kim Wilkins)
A charming little urban fantasy, with most of the meat of the plot being in the real world instead of the fairyland. (It's a remarkably small fairyland; the explanation is that different countries each have their own, and they don't connect. So this is just Ewigkreis, Germany's fairyland, population ~200 or so. :) ) The characters seem a little young and self-centered for what is supposed to be their early thirties; they make more sense if I think of them as college-age. The Evil Witch is creepily funny; the Psycho doesn't do so much for me. The romances are angsty and interesting to follow. In general, it's not very epic - it's more the story of people who get caught up in a bit of a Fairyland plot, and what happens next, and love (both unrequited and requited-but-forbidden) and forgetting; the bad guys are almost more so they have something to run around for while they're doing their personal plots. The story might have been improved by a little bit of cutting; there's some repetion and going back and forth that's plausible but slows things down. I did like this one better than Giants of the Frost, the other book by Wilkins that I read. Four stars.

Shinju and Bundori (by Laura Joh Rowland)
The first two in a (sort of) police procedural series set in 17th-century Japan. "Sort of" because most of the procedure involves everyone but the main character not wanting things investigated, so solving mysteries is clearly not what the police are for. In a movie, it's the sort of genre that would end up with the supervisor being the actual killer, thus explaining why the entire apparatus is trying to stomp out the investigation, but as it turns out, it's more about the society demanding obedience and duty instead of independent thought. It's an interesting historical dystopia instead of a SF-future dystopia; bits like the samurai getting to chop peasants, and being confused why anyone would kill to protect a child-prostitution secret are thrown in often enough to remind the reader that This Isn't Your Culture. (On the other hand, if you're going to keep saying that pedophilia isn't out of the ordinary, it's sending mixed messages to only give that trait to the bad guys, and the second book goes kind of overboard with that.) My biggest complaint is a reliance on crazy (and pedophile) bad guys; I expect that from the serial-killer-thriller genre, but I was expecting more of a standard police/mystery novel here. Three stars for the first, down to two for the second.

*: I'm still bothered about horizontal segmentation and vertical segmentation. It seems equally plausible to me that a vertically segmented thing is composed of segments stacked vertically, and that it's composed of vertical thingies separated by vertical divisions... I think a stack of pancakes is vertically segmented and a centipede is horizontally segmented, but I couldn't argue it very hard. (white-magic supports me on this, though not in anything resembling a landslide).


4 comments or Leave a comment
From: tirinian Date: October 31st, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huh. I unhelpfully think both a stack of pancakes and a centipede are horizontally segmented. With the pancakes, it's the *segmentation* that I notice, which is horizontal, and with centipede, it's the *segments* that I notice, which are aligned horizontally. A skyscraper is vertically segmented, a row of corn stalks is vertically segmented...

Apparently, it changes depending on whether it's a single thing with subdivisions, or a bunch of things stuck together.

Now you broke my head.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: November 1st, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sounds like it was already broken; she just alerted you.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: October 31st, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do boring, unimaginative countries have extra-small fairylands? So Brazil gets a big fairyland with millions of inhabitants, but Germany gets a small one, and Switzerland gets a closet with one gnome asleep in the corner?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: November 1st, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
If I were allotting fairylands, I would have given Germany a bigger one, what with all those Brothers Grimm stories lurking in the background. But I don't think there was anything more to it than "there are lots of small fairylands, not just one big one" as an excuse for why the fairyland side of the plot was so minimally populated.
4 comments or Leave a comment