Best of January: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Brandon Sanderson): While this book took around 400 pages to really break into frenzied action, I have to commend the world-building. Mistborn has a rich magic system involving metals that is intriguing and imaginative, managing to feel fresh in the plethora of magic wielding protagonists. My favorite part of the book though is that instead of crafting a faceless nameless evil, Sanderson motivates the villain in a compelling way. This is a trend in fantasy novels that I support–tell me why the ‘evil’ created the empire instead of just going “idk, it’s the manifestation of evil. you know. they’re bad, they have red glow-y eyes to prove it.” and Sanderson does this with a brilliant subtlety. Vin is also pretty kick-ass as a main female character that doesn’t just exist to be a damsel in distress or a mysterious love interest but instead as a dynamic foil to the other characters. Visually stunning.
Worst of January: Guy in Real Life (Steve Brezenoff): Geek boy meets weird sewing-pixie girl and whoomp, love happens (of course it does). I am so tired of the ‘nerd’ stereotypes in YA fiction and G.I.R.L. did nothing to break out of those tired and greasy tropes. Also, like The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak, the book took a hard and unnecessarily dramatic swerve at the end that left me baffled because it felt shoe-horned uncomfortably in to create a climax. Those kind of events seem ridiculously out of place in books that otherwise stick to strict feasibility and relatable-ity and always jar me out of the world. Why does your dopey teen love story need the threat of MURDER (or creepy stalkers I guess)? This book wasn’t horrible, just the worst I read this month (sorry).
Best of January: The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight by Martha Ackmann
If I had to imagine my soulmate in book form, it might just be Mercury 13 – level-headed, informed, articulate, and a good storyteller with a strong feminist streak. Focusing on the women pilots subjected to astronaut testing in the 50s and 60s, Ackmann manages to compress a staggering amount of information about these women into just under 200 pages while still making the story compelling enough to keep me reading. Since most nonfiction authors are heavy on info and light on story or light on info and heavy on story, I was especially impressed with Ackmann’s skill here. She also manages to keep a level of objectivity and professionalism even when reporting on sensitive topics, allowing the information she’s gathered to speak for itself in a powerful way. I guess all I’m saying is if Erika Eiffel can marry the Eiffel tower, then I should be able to court Mercury 13.
Worst of January: Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison
It’s been a couple weeks since I finished this book and I’m still filled with smoldering bitterness. The book was roughly 225 pages long, so let’s do some math here. The first 200 are forced and clumsy world-building, so the first 89% is complete shit. The last 25 pages are poorly-written and heavy-handed philosophy concerning birth control, so the last 11% is complete shit. Leaving us with approximately 100% shit. The only way I imagine this book being published is the editor’s wife threatened to take Billy and go stay with her sister if he was late to another of their son’s birthday parties:
Harrison: I wrote, “It is hot in New York City. There are many people here. There is not enough food. Look at all the people being sad because there is not enough food. This is bad. It is hot. We should have birth control.”
Editor: Well, yeah. Okay. I mean. But why don’t you show me, not tell me – you know?
Harrison: Oh, yeah. I see what you’re saying. I’ll develop these characters, use them to illustrate how bad the world is.
Editor: Yeah, yeah. We’re getting somewhere here, Harrison!
Harrison: Alright, I got, “Andy said, ‘It is hot in New York City. There are many people here. There is not enough food. Look at all the people being sad because there is not enough food. This is bad. It is hot. We should have birth control.'”
Editor, checking watch: …
Editor: It’s… probably fine.