Fiction: NK Jemison, 'How Long Till Black Future Month', with the optimistic plan of attending the Tokyo Feminist Book Club meeting next week.
Non-fiction: Flaneuse, still
Lit Mag: Technically, summer Meanjin. Very very slowly.Recently Finished:
A surprising number of things!A Decline in Prophets
by Sulari Gentill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a fun read, but again the historical fiction work was stronger than the crime plot - and both were significantly less well done than the first novel.
The setting and characters were engaging: the novel begins (although it doesn't end) on an ocean liner from Europe to New York, and continues (although still doesn't end) on the same liner from New York to Sydney) as Rowland and his rag-tag bundle of companions finish the last leg of their Grand Tour. They meet an assortment of fascinating characters, including the historical Theosophist leader Annie Besant, the philospher Jiddu Krishnamurti (also historical), and the fiery (but as far as I can tell fictional) Roman Catholic bishop Hanrahan. At least one murder, and several near-death incidents, take place, and due to the juristictional murkiness of murder at sea, are not fully investigated. The plot continues to unfold at home in Sydney, as Rowland and his friends are forced to deal with the arrival of a bevvy of Rowland's conservative relatives.
The plot, I'm afraid to say, drags somewhat: it would have been stronger, I suspect, were it a murder-at-sea closed plot, rather than sprawling across several continents. The strength of the first book was how incredibly effectively Gentil tied her mystery plot to a very specific historic event and its tight timeline, whereas here, although historical figures appear, we aren't bound to a specific event.
The sprawling narrative and lack of a strong secondary plot means it's obvious that Rowland has all the spine of a wet lettuce, and is by no stretch of the imagination a detective. Things just happen to him, and he has neither drive nor principles. I would much, much prefer to read The Edna Mysteries, in which Our Bold Heroine solves crimes, deploying her radical acquaintances and her spineless but rich benefactor-friend to good ends, than the Rowland Sinclair Has Things Happen To Him Stories.
In addition, it stretched my credibility in the first book but now far exceeds it: I simply cannot see why Clive, Milt and Edna associate with Rowland, if it's not that they're cunningly milking the upperclasses for anything they can. Rowland has, and I stress this, no principles, no moral centre. He feels vaguely bad about things, but all his association with socialists OR his conservative upbringing have failed to induce him to have an opinion. (In comparison, Phryne Fisher is filthy rich and unashamed of it, but it's very easy to see why Bert and Cec, the radical cab drivers come informants come getaway drivers, associate with her: they respect her principles and conduct despite her wealth.)Lies Sleeping
by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this, for its sense of humour, as I always do. My admiration for Kobna Holdbrook-Smith's narration has taken a beating in the face of his utter inability to pronounce 'Nguyen', though. It's not an UNCOMMON name! (Subtract points from the audiobook publishers, too, for not employing a name-pronouncing-coach or at least beta-reading for names. With a racially diverse cast of supporting cast, they really ought to.)
Plot-wise... eh. I'm starting to feel the series has over-reached itself. Aaronovitch's talent for worldbuilding has now established so much, a single book can't wow on the basis of introducing a vast amount of new concepts, and so his weaknesses in plot and character development are more jarring. In particular, although I get that this book is *supposed* to be showing Peter going into low-grade burnout, it's not very well done: largely what we got is 'confirmation Leslie's right that Peter lacks initiative, combined with a lot of comments about psychological risk, and one weird scene on a bridge'. It's possible to compellingly depict a character in burnout and/ptsd who doesn't know that's what's happening to them: this book doesn't do it.
As for relationships? It seems like Aaronovitch is moving SIMS around. If we put the two SIMS in a house, and computer says they're In A Relationship, well, everyone infers the correct emotional beats from there!Any Old Diamonds
by K.J. Charles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
SLAY ME NOW. This is KJ Charles in top form
and I love it so damn much. Absolutely brilliant use of single-POV, and then the twist where it turns out our deep POV has been UNRELIABLE deep POV??? UGH. Masterful craftwork, ten points, also I'll be in my bunk.
Also an ARC of KJC's 'Proper English', which I loved, but it's not quite the masterpiece of plot structure that Lilywhite Boys or some of her other work achieves. Full review later, probably on the weekend.Up Next:
I keep meaning to start 'A Hand of Knaves'. I'm PUBLISHED IN IT and haven't read it yet, it's faintly ridiculous. I also have all of the Victoriocity podcast queued up for a suitable mood.
Still listening to Grace Petrie a lot. Deeply fascinated by I've had worse
, although it's rather odd that should resonate with me right now.