Review: Pretty Monsters: The Wrong Grave

The book I started this weekend, Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link, is a collection of short stories.  So, I think I'll review them one by one.  Mostly because the first one was awesome, and I have loads I want to say about it. ...Below the fold.

The Wrong Grave is about a teenager who puts some poems in his dead girlfriend's casket, then later on decides he wants them back.  So he digs her up, but finds some other dead girl in her grave -- a dead girl with a snarky attitude and pretty intense supernatural powers.

I've been watching a lot of Adventure Time lately, and I cannot begin to explain how much this story reminded me of Marceline. 

I don't just want to gush about Adventure Time, though.  (Well, I kinda do.  I'm getting there.)  I read some of Kelly Link's work a few years ago, and I found it hard to follow, and fun, but only after a great deal of unpicking.  The everything-going-on-all-at-once aesthetic offers an extraordinarily complex sense of otherworldliness that, at the time, I had no experience with.

Now, though, I have Adventure Time to compare it to.

A couple years ago, I had very nearly no experience with narratives that implied huge, complex backgrounds that are totally alien to the intended audience.  Most of the stuff I'd read or seen very carefully spoon-fed all the necessary information to me before it relied on it for plot purposes.

Since then, either this screw-it attitude to explaining things has gotten a lot more mainstream, or I've just bumped into it a lot more.  Adventure Time is full of this kind of apparently uncoordinated backstory, and for a while I thought it was just thrown together randomly.  But the more I watch, the more it turns out there's a huge, coherent narrative, almost all of which we're just not being told.

I think this experience has made Link's work way easier to follow, and so it's way easier to enjoy.  (Not that I didn't enjoy it before.  Just now it doesn't take me several days.)  I'm glad I'm there now, too, because apparently that's the kind of writing that's getting popular.

Review: The New Moon's Arms

I finished reading Nalo Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms on Friday night.  And, I don't really know what to say about it. I mean, it was good.  Really good.  The writing was vivid and constantly engaging, the characters were well-rounded and compelling, and the magic snuck in so gradually that for a while I thought I might be reading one of those books that gets shelved in the other part of the book store.  You know, the ones about families and relationships and tragedy where it's all real-lifey and sad.

And it was.  I don't think I was really ready for that.  I mean, I wasn't expecting to come into a book that spent this much time exploring what it means to be a human being in a normal world, and I don't really know where to take that in terms of broad interpretation.

Mostly what I got from this book was the really brilliant, skillful writing, but that's not much of a topic for a review.  I've got a lot of reading to do this semester, but if I have time, I hope to circle back to this one and take a closer look.  This might be one of those books you need to read twice.  Or, at least, one that I need to read twice.

I'm going to leave off the spoilery section of this review, because I don't think I have enough to say to justify it.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell TV show!

I heard some important news this weekend.  So important, in fact, that I nearly dropped everything I was doing to write a post about it, and schedule it for Monday.  Unfortunately, I was busy at the time.  Even more unfortunately, I later forgot what the important news was. So I spent much of today trying to figure out what it was.  I couldn't remember where I'd seen it. I couldn't remember what I might have done with it.  I seem to have forgotten to write anything down about it.

But I found it.

The BBC is making a TV series of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. 

(News via io9)

It's going to be 6 episodes long, hopefully hour-long installments or longer -- a much better division of the story than a movie, which had been discussed before, because this book is very long, very rich in detail, and not entirely singular in narrative.  Also:  the book is divided into three major parts, which would fit six episodes nicely.

It's being directed by Toby Haynes, who io9 praises as the director of key episodes of Doctor Who and Sherlock. Those episodes, according to Den of Geek, are The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, for Doctor Who, and The Reichenbach Fall, for Sherlock.

Oh my crap this is going to be so awesome I can't even begin to imagine how great this is going to be.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Cory Doctorow posted today that Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, a novel by Robin Sloan, is available on Amazon.  So, like, if you needed a birthday present idea for me, here. I'm excited about this, because I listened to this story, several times, when it was a short story on Escape Pod.  You can get that link here, if you want to listen to the short story version, but I am super-excited about where this story goes as a full-length novel.

Vernor Vinge at Google

Today is a good day for good video.  Jane McGonigal released a new TED talk, John Green put up his first video on Fahrenheit 451, which I can't watch yet because I haven't gotten around to reading the first section of the book[EDIT: I caved, and am watching it now.  I guess It'll just inform my reading when I get around to it.], and Vernor Vinge's Author Talk at Google went up. I've been meaning to start catching up on Vernor Vinge's thinking and writing for a while now, because he's one of the popular names in the Singularity conversation -- he's the guy who came up with that name.  Personally, my opinion on the Singularity went back and forth for a while, and has now settled into a comfortable state of "I have no ████ing clue what's going on, but I don't think things are going to be the way they are now, this time next year."

This Google Talk turned out to be a pretty nice way to start to dip my toes in -- I found I could follow all of it, which was a plus, and I liked that it explored more Vinge's portrayals of the Singularity in fiction, rather than his beliefs about it in real life -- which seem, largely, to be:  He thinks it will happen, but accepts the possibility it won't, and doesn't have the remotest clue what it will entail.

Here's the talk, also embedded below:

And if you're not familiar with Google Author Talks, it's a channel all on its own, and generally features a few talks a week, mostly around an hour long.  I watch all but the ones that seem really, really boring.  There are probably at least some that would interest you.