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#Diverseathon 2017 TBR

It’s Diverseathon time* again!

Diverseathon is a week-long readalong taking place from January 22nd to January 29th, and it’s organised by Christina Marie, Joce of SquibblesReads, Monica of She Might Be Monica, and Whitney of WhittyNovels. There are no real rules, the stated goal is to read more diverse books but that’s left fairly open to interpretation. I’m choosing to read Own Voices books, ie. books about people with marginalised identities that were written by people who share those marginalised identities.

I believe that second part is crucial because in addition to being severely under-represented in books, marginalised identities are severely under-represented in the publishing industry and book-reviewing community. As an ally with many factors of privilege, I want to support and signal boost the voices of marginalised people telling their own stories.

And now onto the books!

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

This is the group read that participants are encouraged to pick up, which is how I first heard about it. I originally assumed it would be a non-fiction work about the Underground Railroad, and I was alreay pretty excited about that concept, but it turns out it’s a novel that features an actual clandestine railroad! I must confess, I do really like stories set on trains or that have trains in them. I got the audiobook of this one, it seemed only fitting that I should listen to it on my commute, since that is made of trains.

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister? When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

The premise of an Earth that knows it is about to be devastated by an asteroid and the subsequent conflict about who and what to save and prioritise isn’t new in SFF; there’s a long tradition of using robots, aliens and artificial intelligences as metaphors to discuss those themes, it’s great to see works that explore those same ideas through actual marginalised people interacting with a science-fictional world. This novel came out in 2016 and it’s one of a giant pile that I want to get read before the nomination period for this year’s Hugo awards closes.

Dreadnought by Alice Daniels

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, she was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But then her second-hand superpowers transformed her body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but between her father’s dangerous obsession with curing her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and the classmate who is secretly a masked vigilante, Danny’s first weeks living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined.

I’ve just received an ARC of this upcoming YA novel via NetGalley and I couldn’t be more excited that it came in time for me to read it for Diverseathon! The premise of this novel is just fascinating, with a conflict that seems immediately real and poignant for all that entirely foreign to me, as cisgender woman. What a perfect illustration of why we need not only diverse books, but specifically diverse books written by marginalised people about their first-hand, lived experiences.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaSalle

People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn’t there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father’s head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?

I’m not sure I’ll have time to get to this novella during the readathon, but I still wanted to include it, as it was published in 2016 and is therefore eligible for Hugo award nomination. I’ve not read anything from this author before, but this novella is part of Tor.com Publishing’s widely acclaimed novella imprint, and by this point I trust the team of Tor.com to pick stupendous work. I’ll happily pick up anything they publish and give it a whirl these days.

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A new era begins for the Black Panther! MacArthur Genius and National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates takes the helm, confronting T’Challa with a dramatic upheaval in Wakanda that will make leading the African nation tougher than ever before.

When a superhuman terrorist group that calls itself The People sparks a violent uprising, the land famed for its incredible technology and proud warrior traditions will be thrown into turmoil. If Wakanda is to survive, it must adapt–but can its monarch, one in a long line of Black Panthers, survive the necessary change? Heavy lies the head that wears the cowl!

I’ve never read any Black Panther comics but I definitely enjoyed T’Challa in The Avengers: Civil War (it was NOT a Cap movie, fight me), so I’d like to check this one out. Most of it should be on Marvel Unlimited by now, so it should be easy to get a hold of, and it also doesn’t hurt that I’ve heard nothing but praise for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writing! This volume came out in 2016, so it is eligible for Hugo award nomination – another excellent reason to get to this one sooner rather than later.

*The challenge actually started yesterday and I’m posting this TBR late because I am a muppet and misremembered the start date. I’m a week-starts-on-Monday kind of girl and things starting on Sunday confuse me.

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#Diverseathon TBR

Next week, I’ll be participating in #Diverseathon, a week-long readathon focusing on reading diversely. There are no set challenges or rules, the point is just to read books by diverse authors or featuring diverse characters. The readathon starts on Monday 12 September and runs until Monday 19 September. If you want more details, check out Christina Marie’s announcement video.

I’ve selected a couple of novels and some non-fiction, as well as a lot of shorter works, with a mix of audiobooks and ebooks. All of these are also books I already owned, except from the one I got from NetGalley, so no extra book spending for this readathon, if I can make a good dent in this list, it should also help me out with my Goodreads challenge (I am so, SO BEHIND!!)


Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterley

The Untold Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race

Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program—and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now.
[Goodreads]

I love listening to non-fiction on audiobook, and I can’t wait to start this book specifically. The erasure of women’s contribution to history is nothing new, especially in the sciences, but there’s still so much work to be done highlighting the work of these badass mathematical genuises. If you haven’t seen the trailer for the upcoming feature film based on this book, watch it, WATCH IT NOW, it’s glorious. I am definitely going to go see that movie.


[one_third]Hidden Figures[/one_third][one_third]Everfair[/one_third][one_third_last]Ninefox Gambit[/one_third_last]


Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Fabian Socialists from Great Britain join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s colonial ruler, King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, a Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America.
[Goodreads]

I just got approved to read an ARC of this book from NetGalley a few days ago and I could not be more excited! This was on my Most Anticipated Reads of 2016 list and I’m still just as intrigued by the premise as I was then. I love steampunk that isn’t set in Victorian London (who am I kidding, I love all steampunk), if you add in radical politics and the very Victorian idea of building a utopia from the ground up, it just seems like it’s going out of its way to tick all of my boxes!


Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

To win an impossible war and redeem herself, Captain Kel Cheris’ best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle; the bad news is that he went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.
[Goodreads]

I keep hearing great things about this book! Elizabeth from Books & Pieces said it reminded her of Ancillary Justice which definitely piqued my interest. Evidently the main character ‘allies with’ the undead General by sharing her body with him and I’m very curious to see how that plays out (maybe she wears a turban & has his face poking out of the back of her head? No?).


The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

The Sorcerer and the Captain are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive. The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror.
[Goodreads]

I went on a bit of a Tor.com novella spending spree a while back, and got this one along with a number of others. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but adding a novella to my readathon plans makes sense, so it looks like now’s the time. I’ve also seen a few reviews that mention the writing style & how it plays with language and colloquialisms, and I am always there for that.


[one_third]The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps[/one_third][one_third]Queers Destroy Science Fiction![/one_third][one_third_last]People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction![/one_third_last]


Queers Destroy Science Fiction!
People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction!

LIGHTSPEED was founded on the core idea that all science fiction is real science fiction. The whole point of this magazine is that science fiction is vast. It is inclusive. Science fiction is about people and for people—all kinds of people, no matter where they’re from, what they look like, what their identity is or who they love. These two special editions of Lightspeed magazine (fully written & edited by queer people and people of colour respectively) exist to relieve a brokenness in the genre that’s been enabled time and time again by favouring certain voices & erasing others.
[Goodreads: Queers Destroy! PoC Destroy!]

I got the e-books for both of these anthologies as part of the Kickstarter campaigns that Lightpeed ran for them, and then promptly forgot to download them onto my Kindle for ages. I’ve now remedied this grave mistake and I will be reading stories from both of these during the readathon. At a glance, it looks like both anthologies are quite chunky so I probably won’t get to everything in there, but it’ll be good to make a start.


I’m so excited about the great week of reading I’ve got lined up for myself (even though, knowing me and my reading speed, it’ll probably take me most of the month to finish everything) and I can’t wait to get started. If you’re participating in #Diverseathon, let me know what you’re planning on reading and if you have a blog post or video about it, leave a link in the comments so I can check it out!

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Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Week 3

small-angry-planet-read-alongWelcome to Week 3 of the Long Way to a Small Angry Planet readalong!

This week we’re taking a look at Part 3 from “The Last War” to “Heresy” – this is my first time creating questions for a read-along, so I do hope you like them.

Thanks again to Lisa at Over The Effing Rainbow for organising the read-along and inviting me to host this week. Also hats off to both her and Chris at Galleywampus for coming up with really cool questions. Anyway, onto this week’s discussion points…

From here, proceed with caution: Spoilers galore!

***

1. There is a lot of focus on some of the different alien races in this section, from Dr Chef recounting the story of his people’s decline and Sissix introducing Rosemary to her families, to the surprise visit from the Aeluons and the much less welcome search by the Quelin. What are your thoughts on the various beliefs systems we encounter? Does anything specific pique your interest more than the rest?

The Grum – There’s a grim sort of wisdom to Dr Chef’s story, which I found deeply weird and fascinating. As a species, the Grum got caught up in internal struggles enough to bring themselves to the brink of extinction, and it seems that they gained some sort of insight once they got there, some form of self-awareness that let the few remaining Grum see very plainly that the species couldn’t be saved. To go from this much blind, intense action, always fighting, to such a peaceful state of acceptance of their fate – it could have easily come across as cowardice but the way that Dr Chef was shown resting with his feeling felt more like it was a fight to remain sane and die out gracefully. I really, really enjoyed this chapter (though it did make me well up on the Tube).

The Aandrisks – I enjoyed the visit to Sissix’s home world and the discussion of her three different families and what the concepts mean, but I didn’t think we learned a lot about the Aandrisks in this part of the book. Because we’ve met Sissix before and been in her point of view, what we read about here is more reinforcement than discovery. I thought the chapter worked well though, and as an expat myself, I found it really relatable.

The Aeluons – I’m a bit confused about the Aeluons. In the first half of the book, we learn that they don’t mix much with other alien races, yet Pei’s crew are all fairly pleasant during their visit to the Wayfarer – though of course they’re given a good reason to be grateful & friendly after Kizzy finds the mines. It’s baffling to think of an alien race that’s considered incredibly attractive to all others, but seeing as their technology also seems really shiny, maybe all of it is just a result of the Aeluons being an older, much more advanced people.

The Quelin – Before they came aboard the ship for their inspection, I didn’t feel like I had a good idea of what kind of aliens the Quelin were, though it was clear from the crew’s reaction that they were bad news. They were suitably threatening as (secondary?) villains, but I wish we’d gotten more insight into why they behave as they do. It’s clear that they have a strong objection to clones but I’d have liked to know more about it, is it a moral, ethical, religious objection? I really liked reading Sissix’s take on her interaction with the Quelin guard – it was great to see the different alien species put in context of each other with the idea that Aandrisks are a big deal at GC level.

2. Ashby gets the chance to give Pei a tour of his ship and introduce her to his crew, meanwhile Jenks and Lovey decide not to risk transferring the AI into a body just yet, and Rosemary initiates a relationship of sorts with Sissix. Were you happy to see any of these developments, or not so fussed?

I know some people don’t want romance cooties in their SF, but since I’m an utter sap, I was completely on board with more Ashby & Pei and more Jenks & Lovey.

Ashby & Pei’s relationship needs to be kept hidden at all costs, yet of the three we see in this part, it’s probably the closest to a traditional romantic relationship we are used to seeing portrayed in fiction. It was good to see everyone in the Wayfarer’s crew behaving themselves, and not endangering their captain for the sake of cheap jokes.

I was fully expecting Jenks & Lovey to press with the body kit plan (it would have been a great source of danger and conflict for the story) but I’m glad they didn’t! Though I was surprised by their decision, it made complete sense. After hearing the Quelin condemn Corbin because “he exists”, I don’t want to think of what they’d do to poor Lovey (although of course Jenks gives us a pretty good idea). I’m convinced they’ll have to use the illegal kit at some point of another – whether it happens before the end of the novel or not, I don’t know! I still don’t have a great sense of who Lovey is as a character but it was very sweet to see both she & Jenks willing to put the other’s needs (for safety or happiness) before their own.

I found the development of Rosemary & Sissix’s story really intriguing, I especially liked the concept of ‘tresha’ that Sissix cannot put into Klip. Rosemary’s interest for how & why other alien races tick is quite relatable to me, and I admired the depth of her understanding and empathy. I’m glad that we get confirmation this is something Rosemary really wants, not only a gesture of sympathy. The way it was done (Sissix picking up on Rosemary’s  pheromones) was also quite clever. And Ashby notices something after a while, can’t wait to see where this goes…

3. Cloning technology exists and is used is many sci-fi universes, but the GC does not look kindly on it and it is abomination to the Quelin. Did the reveal of Corbin’s nature change your view of the character?

I thought the reveal of Corbin as a clone was quite cool, as well as the rescue operation, although the latter felt a bit predictable to me. Corbin is part of the crew, and even Sissix acknowledges he is part of her family when talking to Rosemary in the previous chapter. There was no way they wouldn’t save him (in an he’s a grumpy asshole, but he’s OUR grumpy asshole sort of a way). And of course, it had to rest on Sissix’ shoulders – to be honest, I didn’t really buy the explanation of why it had to be her (it felt like ‘for reasons’ to me), but I loved reading about her processing what it meant. One can only hope that it’ll lead to Corbin re-evaluating himself, his own close-mindedness, and the way he treats Sissix.

The conversation with his father felt more significant than the revelation of Corbin being a clone, and I really enjoyed those passages with the two of them. It was also good for Corbin to get an outsider’s perspective of what we’ve known all along, that the crew of the Wayfarer may not all be his best mates, but they care about him still.

4. Each chapter told a different and fairly self-contained story, without any big cliffhangers from one to the next. How did you feel about the pacing of the story so far? Are you satisfied with how long the long journey is taking the crew or are you impatient for the crew to finally get to their destination and do some tunnelling?

It’s a little bit of both for me, if I’m honest! I really liked those four chapters and I only noticed how self-contained they were when I was preparing these questions. I never wanted to put the book down at any point, so clearly the pace hasn’t suffered too much, but I worry about being so far into book and having so much story left to go through!

The succession of smaller events in each chapter gave a good impression of time passing on the Wayfarer’s journey, and the structure helped underline that it is indeed a long way to the tunnelling site. But even as we’re reading about a ‘long journey’ and I’m loving it, I can’t wait to get to the ‘small angry planet’. As I get closer and closer to the end I start worrying that there won’t be enough pages for a great, climactic conclusion to the plot. I’m not sure how Chambers is going to pull this of, but by now I’ve read enough of this book that I trust her to do a great job. I’m sure it’ll be sudden and inevitable and we’ll all curse at this betrayal. (*ahem* you know I had to…)