The Moon is a Harsh Maestro- Luna: New Moon (2015) by Ian McDonald

Luna1It’s no secret that Ian McDonald’s latest novel, Luna (2015), is an interrogation of a certain specimen of canon clogger, the kind I complain about all the time, and I suspect, though I have neither read nor heard this, that it’s also a kind of submission to criticism that his work too often represents White literary appropriation of non-White cultures. Fine, fine, I’ll go elsewhere, McDonald seems to be saying, backing away from the third world, placating the critics with a book about the moon. In space, no one can hear your appetite for third world exoticism. Continue reading

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Back to the Hugos: 2005!

The Hugo Awards are this weekend! But time-travel Hugos are much more fun! So let’s go Back to the Hugos: 2005!

The member vote for Best Novel:

JonathanStrange1RiverofGods2TheAlgebraistIronSunrise2ironcouncil2

Susanna Clarke wins! Booyah!

And look. At that. List. It’s so British. It’s so Leftist. I bet when these books get together, all they do is argue about Jeremy Corbyn.

(This WorldCon was held in Glasgow, btw.)

My pretend, retro ballot for Best Novel:

JonathanStrange1RiverofGods2ironcouncil2TheAlgebraistIronSunrise2

Hugo voters, we almost agree again! That’s twice! In six decades!

Susanna Clarke won my heart long before I had even heard of the Hugo Awards, and, upon reread, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell—  despite having a title I can never remember– maintains its status as one of the best novels I have ever read. River of Gods is another of McDonald’s gorgeous feats of culture, technology, and depth, and would have been my top pick, if not for Clarke’s presence on the list. Love him or hate him (or sometimes both), genre readers may have suffered Miéville fatigue by 2005 thanks to overexposure and the endearingly annoying style of SF’s little brother, but I enjoyed the chug-chug meditative nature of Iron Council, and I wish it had been my first Miéville. It kept me soothed during a grim trip to Atlanta and the bumpiest return flight I’ve ever had in my life. As for The AlgebraistI think I need to read a better Banks.

I had an odd, parallel experience with Iron Sunrisewhich accompanied me on a long bus ride during which I was assaulted by Hollywood blockbusters in the form of mall security personnel and a J-Lo sex-thriller. (Don’t cheat on your husbands, ladies. You’ll be stalked and assaulted and you’ll find your best friend’s body stuffed in a fridge. Men are scary, so you should behave.) Iron Sunrise (and its predecessor, Singularity Sky) seems to mimic these lame Hollywood cliches with its bumbling male protagonist and its femme fatale heroine who uses sex as a weapon. I wasn’t impressed.

*****

It’s a good thing the Schmuckies keep changing their argument, otherwise they’d have me pretty well defeated right now. But even so, as we have learned, this uber-progressive list is a throwback to the old days of Hugo shortlists. This liberal preference is nothing new. And complaints about a literati invasion aren’t valid when I can’t think of two books that better represent a fun, meaningless space romp than Iron Sunrise and The Algebraist. And finally, the 2005 shortlist, like over 90% of the 66 previous shortlists is completely and utterly white.

As for this year’s shortlist, where a space opera, an alien invasion story*, and a throne inheritance drama will battle one another for the top spot. The only real difference is that a few other bought, but irrelevant titles have crowded the discussion. It should be a bland night for THE BEST SF NOVEL IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.

Okay, snarkasm done. This week has earned me a few titles:

And:

And:

Well, I’d rather be Ranty and Snarky than Rabid and Sad. Or Pathetic, more like.

But back to 2005, how about a hollah for this non-American, progressive-leaning list! Maybe do that again some day, Hugo voters! Maybe with fewer white people next time!

*A previous version left off the alien invasion story. Let us not forget that it was not on the original list, making the 2015 shortlist even more unbalanced.

The Dervish House (2010) by Ian McDonald

Check out my Dervish House bloggersation with blogbuddy Matt from Books, Brains, and Beer.

TheDervishHouseWe choose our friends, not our family… but what of our neighbors? Those non-blood non-friends with whom we share geography and often nothing more, who force awkward small talk at the mailbox, whose kids’ bike tires streak the driveway, who happen to be there when the ambulance arrives. We hold them in an arms-length intimacy– ‘I hate cleaning after your messy pine tree, but I might need you if I sprain my ankle on my jog.’ (But how many ugly pickups do you really need?)

The Dervish House is a story about neighbors: a small, diverse Istanbul community, which populates an aging, neglected plaza that once housed an order of dervishes. Its inhabitants are as varied and complex as the city itself, where a cataclysm of worlds, cultures, and ideas collide and spill over the Bosphorus strait. At Adem Dede, the dervish house, rival tea houses stare each other down, old Greek immigrants gossip and argue, an art dealer prowls for religious artifacts, a pothead hides from his family, and a precocious nine-year-old with a heart condition explores the world through his bitbots (the coolest toy ever!). Continue reading