Witch World (1963) by Andre Norton

WitchWorld1First of all, Clarke AwardAncillary Justice wins another one!

Second of all, a book about an alternate world called Witch World? How puntastic!

…but he could not accept the atmosphere of this place as anything but alien. And not only alien, for that which is strange need not necessarily be a menace, but in some manner this place was utterly opposed to him and his kind. No, not alien… but unhuman, whereas the witches of Estcarp were human, no matter whatever else they might also be (p. 182).

How could two so widely differing levels of civilization exist side by side? …Alien, alien—once more he was on the very verge of understanding—of guessing— (p. 171).

He never figures it out. At least, not in the first book of this expansive series.

And it’s odd to the see the term “alien” pop up so repetitively in a magic fantasy novel about witches, but it was a term to which I clung out of the hope that something really cool or meaningful would happen. That’s not to say I expected little green men to tromp around this world of witches (okay, maybe a little), but I hoped to extrapolate some deeper significance when considering the immigrant status of our good protagonist Simon Tregarth. It never happened. Continue reading

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Month in Review: September Reads

thewindupgirl strangerinastrangeland amongothers blackoutwillis allclear

I made considerable headway through the Hugo list this month. Here are my mini-reviews:

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Hugo winner, 2010)- Thailand goes all steampunky after the consequences of climate change cause a Contraction of resources and international trade. From all this, we get a genetically-engineered, wind-up stripper girl, and a series of other characters, all of whom are self-centered, greedy, and just plain horrible. If you like dystopian fiction and graphic rape scenes, this is the book for you. If not, go for the other 2010 Hugo award winner, The City & The City by China Mieville  (which is also kind of dystopian, but without all the rape and horrible people).

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (Hugo winner, 1962)- What happens when an Earthling is born and raised among Martians, then returns to Earth as a young adult? He starts out endearingly naive, (even when he permanently disappears people), exhibits phenomenal telekinetic powers, and then starts a sex cult. Such a weird book, but you have to read it because it’s Heinlein.

Among Others by Jo Walton (Hugo winner, 2012)- First-person, diary-style novel about a magical teen struggling in a mundane private school. Billed as the “reverse Harry Potter,” it feels like a YA book, but it’s tolerable enough to be read by grown ups. The best part– the main character is a major sci-fi bookworm and makes all kinds of references to seventies SF. This book introduced me to Le Guin and Zelazny.

Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Hugo winner, 2011)- Time-traveling Oxford historians from the year 2060 get stuck during the London Blitz and might be wrecking history as a consequence. These two books were my favorites of the month, despite my criticism that they should have been whittled down to one longer book with some considerable editing. It was still an exciting read that was difficult to put down.

My recommendations: Choose Willis’ Blackout/All Clear for the suspense and history. Walton’s Among Others is also great if you want fairies, and don’t mind the young, first-person perspective.