Survival is Insufficient: STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel – Review

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Adult Dystopian/Literary Fiction
Publisher: Knopf
Release date: September 9 2014
Source:  eARC from publisher via Edelweiss
Pages: 352

five stars

The nitty-gritty: A luminous, end-of-the-world story full of hope, multiple elements and characters that are skillfully knit together, all written in beautifully spare prose and evocative imagery.

But first there’s this moment, this lamp-lit room: Miranda sits on the floor beside Elizabeth, whose breath is heavy with wine, and she leans back until she feels the reassuring solidity of this door frame against her spine. Elizabeth, who is crying a little, bites her lip and together they look at the sketches and paintings pinned to every wall. The dog stands at attention and stares at the window, where just now a moth brushed up against the glass, and for a moment everything is still. Station Eleven is all around them.

I could save you all some time and simply say “Read this book!” But I suspect most people need some convincing when it comes to deciding to invest your scant free time in reading a particular book. This may turn out to be my favorite book of the year, although we still have three-and-a-half months to go. However, I feel certain that Station Eleven will always be a book that I will fervently recommend, even years from now. It’s that good. I’m going to have to compare my reading experience to other wonderful books like Life of Pi, The Secret History, Bel Canto, or The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I’m sure most of you are familiar with that feeling, when you finish the last page of a book and time stops. When you’re afraid to breathe or you might break the spell. When you want to run out into the streets and tell anyone who might listen that this is the book they should read next.

Everything came together for me, and I’m going to attempt to tell you why. If you like linear stories, then you may have some trouble with this book, because the story loops around from the past to the present and back again, and at first it isn’t easy to see how the author could possibly make sense of all her separate vignettes. But make sense she does, and it doesn’t take long before you begin to realize just how brilliant this story is.

We begin in the past—or rather, the moment where everything starts to fall apart. On stage at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto, famous actor Arthur Leander is performing King Lear. In the middle of a speech, he drops dead of a heart attack. But this horrible event is only the beginning of what’s to come: a pandemic called the Georgia Flu is about to wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population, and before the week is out, millions have succumbed to this terrible virus.

The survivors, a handful of people who are either immune to the disease or just lucky, begin their tentative steps into a new life, trying to survive in a world that gradually loses everything familiar: electricity, the internet, airplanes, gasoline. How these characters are related is the driving force that propels the story forward. Twenty years after the flu devastates the human population, a travelling band of performers sets out to find the lost members of their troupe, not knowing that their journey will end in a new place with familiar faces. And tying all these people together is a hand-drawn comic called Station Eleven, a comic that eerily mirrors the future.

There are so many wonderful pieces to this complex story, and I certainly don’t want to spoil anything for you. But I will say that this is a much different apocalyptic story that I thought it would be. You won’t find any vampires, or zombies, or cannibals in Station Eleven. The survivors face real dangers: running out of food and water or getting caught out in the elements. One story thread, however, follows a mysterious and sinister man simply called “the prophet,” who has coerced a band of innocent people into following his crazy religious beliefs. Our intrepid Traveling Symphony comes upon them at one point in the story, and things get tense for a while.

But most of the book is filled with quiet and introspective moments written in Mandel’s gorgeous and simple prose, moments that make you feel sad, or grateful, or remind you that the world is indeed full of wonder. I came to care about these characters deeply, even those who appear to only have bit parts. Kirsten, who was only eight when the flu hit, has mostly grown up in a world without technology. She only remembers certain things about “before,” and only in flashes. Kirsten has carried two comics with her ever since Arthur Leander gave them to her right before he died, comics that were written and drawn by Arthur’s ex-wife Miranda. Mandel uses these comics as a device to bind her characters together, as they are passed from hand to hand. I won’t tell you what happens to them at the end, but it was a wonderful moment.

Many of the characters were older than Kirsten when the flu struck, and feel a lingering sadness towards the things they don’t have any more: movies, oranges, television, and especially, electricity. One of my favorite story lines is that of Clark, Arthur’s boyhood friend, who was stranded in an airport when the world stopped. Clark eventually creates the Museum of Civilization, where he collects old artifacts to preserve for the future: credit cards, iPhones, and more. I loved the feeling of nostalgia that the Museum evoked. The characters in this story have lost so much, and there are many heartbreaking scenes that will linger long after you’ve finished reading the book. But there is also a glimmer of hope at the end, and the feeling that all is not lost.

I could go on and on, but I’d rather you simply read Station Eleven for yourself. Emily St. John Mandel has written something very special. She weaves a story where both characters and objects keep reappearing in completely unexpected places, and she never seems to lose track of her many story threads. Station Eleven is heart-wrenchingly beautiful and sad at the same time, and I feel very lucky to have stumbled upon it.

Many thanks to Knopf for supplying a review copy. The above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ in the final version of the book.

Find the book:

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Waiting on Wednesday (117) THE SHADOW REVOLUTION by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books you’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. Click on that link and check out other WoW posts! I have been trying to find time to read the Vampire Empire books by Clay and Susan Griffith, but have failed miserably. However, they are starting a new series, and it makes me even more anxious to read their other books first. Here’s what I’m waiting on:

The Shadow RevolutionThe Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key #1) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith. Releases June 2015 from Del Rey. I love this cover! Victorian urban fantasy! With werewolves! I’ve heard nothing but good things about this writing duo, and I expect this will be just as good as their first series. Here’s the description from Goodreads:

A thrilling new Victorian-era urban fantasy for fans of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, and the Sherlock Holmes movies featuring Robert Downey, Jr.
 
They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver.
 
As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.

After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.

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What about you? Have you read the Vampire Empire books? I’d love to know what you’re waiting on this week:-)

 

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Tammy’s Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From – But I NEED to Read More!

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! I love this week’s theme, because I seem to have found some new-to-me authors in recent months, and I can’t wait to read more of their books. I am only listing authors that already have more than one book published, not debut authors. So here they are: my top ten authors I’ve only read one book from – but I NEED to read more (and sorry, I’m not linking these up—there are just too many!):

1. Andrew Smith. I’ve read: 100 Sideways Miles. I’m dying to read: Grasshopper Jungle and Winger.

2. Marcus Sedgwick. I’ve read: She is Not Invisible. I’m dying to read: Midwinterblood and My Swordhand is Singing.

3. Kevin Hearne. I’ve read: Hounded. I’m dying to read: Hexed and Hammered.

4. John Scalzi. I’ve read: Lock In. I’m dying to read: Redshirts and Old Man’s War.

5. Kathleen Tierney. I’ve read: Blood Oranges. I’m dying to read: Red Delicious and Cherry Bomb.

6. Gillian Flynn. I’ve read: Gone Girl. I’m dying to read: Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

7. Patrick Ness. I’ve read: A Monster Calls. I’m dying to read: The Knife of Never Letting Go and More Than This.

8. Marissa Meyer. I’ve read: Cinder. I’m dying to read: Scarlet and Cress.

9. Stephanie Kuehn. I’ve read: Charm & Strange. I’m dying to read: Complicit and Delicate Monsters (no cover yet).

10. Libba Bray. I’ve read: A Great and Terrible Beauty. I’m dying to read: The Diviners and Going Bovine.

Have you read these authors? I’d love to hear from you!

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Book Review Giveaway! August 2014

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One of my favorite things about being a book blogger is sharing the books I love with other readers, and once a month I like to give away one of my review books from the previous month. It was an awesome reading month for me, and I hope you see something that you’d like to win. Although I hate to pick favorites, I’ll have to say The Martian was my favorite book of the month. Remember, this giveaway is international, provided The Book Depository ships to your country.

Congratulations to last month’s winner, Lisa from Tenacious Reader, who chose California Bones by Greg Eekhout!

Here are the books you can choose from if your name is randomly selected (click on the titles below to read my review!):

five stars

The Martian by Andy Weir

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

four and a half

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan

four stars

Lock In by John Scalzi

The Apex Book of World SF edited by Lavie Tidhar

three stars

Broken Forest by Eliza Tilton

Bloggers, you can grab the giveaway button and put it on your sidebar for extra points:

Book Review Giveaway - August
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Ready to enter? Simply click the Rafflecopter button below to enter:

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Over-Booked (10) – The Subterranean Press Edition

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Welcome to Over-Booked, my book haul post where I share recent book acquisitions, whether it be purchases, review copies, or contest winnings! I’m happy to be linking up with Stacking the Shelves over at Tynga’s Reviews and The Sunday Post at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

This week I received my highly anticipated Subterranean Press “Grab Bag,” which I ordered over a month ago. If you aren’t familiar with Subterranean Press (and why aren’t you?), they are a high quality, small press genre publisher that mostly publishes special signed editions of some of the top names in science fiction and fantasy. Their books almost always become collectible, and while they are certainly not cheap, they are so gorgeously produced that they are worth every penny. Every so often they decide to clear out some of their back-stock and offer customers grab bags for a fixed price. This time around the cost of the grab bag was $150.00 (I know it sounds like a lot, but just wait!). For that amount, you are guaranteed at least thirteen books at a value of at least $475.00. You won’t know what you get until you open the box, hence the “grab bag” part of the deal. Such excitement! This was my first grab bag purchase, but hopefully not my last. Because I started working full-time, this was the first time in a long while that I had an extra $150 to spend on books. I received fourteen books in my box!

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And here they are spread out so you can see the beauty of the artwork:

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Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz by Garth Nix. Signed by the author and numbered. Dust jacket artwork by Tom Canty. This beautiful and slim story is “for adults only.”

Jack in the Green by Charles de Lint. Signed by the author and numbered. Dust jacket artwork by Charles Vess. This novella is a tale based on the Robin Hood tale.

Sergeant Chip and Other Novellas by Bradley Denton. Signed by the author and numbered. Dust jacket design by Jason Gurley. Three novellas by an award-winning writer.

Jewels in the Dust by Peter Crowther. Signed by the author and numbered. Jacket artwork by Edward Miller. This is a book of short stories by a guy who is well-known in the genre world for not only writing but also as the guy behind PS Publishing, another small, high-quality genre publisher.

Hot Times in Magma City 1990-95 by Robert Silverberg. Sans dust jacket. It looks like Subterranean is compiling all of Silverberg’s short stories. This book says “Volume Eight” on the cover, so I’m guessing he’s got quite a bunch of stories under his belt!

The River of Souls by Robert McCammon. Jacket artwork by Vincent Chong. I haven’t started this series yet, but McCammon is one of my all-time favorite writers. He’s mostly known for his horror stories, but this is historical mystery, and I hear these books are quite good. This just happens to be #5 in the series, so I will need to go back and pick up the first four books!

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Balfour and Meriwether in The Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs by Daniel Abraham. Jacket artwork by David Palumbo. Abraham has won many awards for his writing, but I’ve never read him before. I’m loving the artwork on this cover:-)

Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear. Signed by the author and numbered. Jacket artwork by Maurizio Manzieri.  Elizabeth Bear is a force in the SF/Fantasy world, and here she writes a prequel to her novella Bone and Jewel Creatures.

Stranger Things Happen and Origin Stories by Kelly Link. Signed by the author and numbered. Jacket artwork by Kathleen Jennings. These books came packaged together, and Origin Stories is not available in any other format. I already own (and have read) a different edition of Stranger Things Happen. Link is an amazing short story writer, and if you love quirky and magical and surreal stories, you should try her. These books are simply beautiful. Heavy, gorgeous paper and line drawings inside!

Baba Yaga’s Daughter and Other Tales of the Old Races by C.E. Murphy. Signed by the author and numbered. Jacket artwork by Tom Canty. I’m not familiar with this author, but these short stories are about characters from another book of hers. Looks interesting!

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Forbidden by Kelley Armstrong. Signed by the author and illustrator and numbered. Leather-wrapped and full of gorgeous artwork by Lisseth Kay. Wow, this is my favorite book of the bunch! It’s simply beautiful. I love Kelley Armstrong to begin with, and I’ll definitely read this. I wish I could let each of you hold this and look at it in person. Here’s what the inside cover looks like:

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The Gist written by Michael Marshall Smith, translated by Benoît Domis, re-translated by Nicholas Royle. This is an unusual short story about a book, but it gets stranger. The first part of the book is the story itself. Then we get a French translation of the story. Then it is re-translated from the French back into English! Awesome.

The Last Full Measure by Jack Campbell. Jacket artwork by David Palumbo. This is a short alternate history novella that sounds pretty good. Here’s another author I haven’t read before, but I feel like I should!

So that’s my Subterranean Grab Bag! Since many of these are very short, I’m hoping to read them soon and sneak in some unscheduled reviews. I also received a very exciting review book in the mail this week, but I’m going to save it for next week’s Over-Booked:-) What books did you get this week?

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Making the Familiar Extraordinary: Guest Post with Kameron Hurley + Giveaway!

Author Guest PostKameron Hurley’s epic fantasy The Mirror Empire was recently released by Angry Robot Books, and it’s been getting quite the buzz in the SF/Fantasy world. All the big review publications have been giving it starred reviews, and well-known authors and bloggers alike have had a lot to say about this imaginative, dense, and violent story. My reaction? I honestly had mixed feelings about it (you can read my review here), but there is no denying that Hurley has some pretty solid world-building chops. She’s pulled out all the stops in The Mirror Empire, and if you’ve read the book, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m thrilled to have Kameron visiting the blog today to discuss her tips for creating amazing worlds. So without further ado, please welcome Kameron Hurley to Books, Bones & Buffy!

The Mirror Empire

Making the Familiar Extraordinary:
5 Tips for Creating Worlds We’ve Never Seen

I recently stopped by Charlie Stross’s blog to discuss how making the familiar extraordinary plays a big part in creating successful, creative ideas for fiction. Building creative worlds is much the same way: it’s about finding all those things that delight and amuse and awe and surprise you in real life, pushing them together in new ways, and seeing what comes out the other side. Much of the time, what you create when you really put in the effort is truly extraordinary.

  • Read widely. You might think this is a “duh” thing, but you’d be surprised how many people who want to be writers don’t read books, or only read books in the genre they want to publish in. If you don’t know what other people are doing, or worse, have only ever seen worlds built in the same way, you’re going to end up writing work that’s exactly like it. It’s not just that “the market” is buying those rolling Tolkien knockoffs, it’s that we’re writing an incredible glut of them. The more you read, the more you’ll know what’s possible.
  • Travel. Can’t travel? Hit the books again. Plenty of great writers never made it more than fifty miles from their homes. But what they did do is spend a great deal of time reading nonfiction: especially history. Read travelogues. Read biographies, autobiographies, creative nonfiction. If you’re able to travel, be sure to keep your eyes open.  One of the sad things about a lot of traveling experiences is that so many people will sit in their hotel rooms doing the safe, expected things, only hanging out with other tourists, and only doing the approved tourist things. Stray from the beaten path. You’ll bring that experience back with you to write about.
  • Put stuff together that doesn’t go together. This one is huge. We’re used to seeing milk and cookies, peanut butter and jelly. Start flipping the script. What’s the weirdest thing you can think of to drive the technology of a world? Bugs? Milk? Dirt? Garbage? Throw it in and see if it works. Then figure out how that one change will have ramifications across the whole world. I decided in The Mirror Empire that I wanted to use flesh-eating, semi-sentient plants as a big set piece in the book. I then had to figure out how that would affect things: how did people travel between spaces with this sort of danger? Did plants count as living creatures to pacifists? How were plants being used for medicinal and technological uses?
  • People live very differently. Fictional people should too. It’s often difficult to get across to folks that we haven’t all lived in these two person, strictly gendered households for all time. In fact, the nuclear family really only became a thing in the 50’s. Generational family living still happens, but was even more typical a hundred years ago, where you’ve got parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and in many places, uncles, aunts nieces and nephews in the same spaces. It’s still quite common in many cultures outside our Western-centric one, too. Group marriages, polygamy, polygyny, are all documented ways folks create social contracts and relationships. I’d also consider thinking about what friendship means, and how sexual friendship, especially same-sex relationships like this, have also been considered pretty standard depending on one’s culture and place in time. Think it through. Don’t just do what everyone else does.
  • Don’t forget the butterfly effect. Remember number three, when I said to consider the ramifications of the technology or landscaping you’re putting in? That goes for everything you do. Geology, history, social relations – all of these things feed into everything else. Your protagonists are going to have been intimately changed and affected by world and social events. Think about your own life, and the big political and social changes in the wider culture that affected you. I know where I was when the Challenger space ship blew up. It was the minute I reconsidered being an astronaut. It was the minute I realized it was possible for everything, no matter how well planned, to go wrong. Big events, technologies, wars, culture, will bleed into everything your protagonist does, what they think is normal, what they think is smart, what they think is weird. Don’t forget that for a new world to really live, it needs to be totally integrated.

 About the author:

kameron hurleyKameron Hurley is the author of The Mirror Empire, as well as the award-winning God’s War Trilogy, comprising the books God’s WarInfidel, and Rapture. She has won the Hugo Award, Kitschy Award, and Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer. Hurley has also been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award, BFS Award, and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed MagazineYear’s Best SFEscapePodThe Lowest Heaven, and the upcoming Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women.

You can find Kameron here: Website | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads

Big thanks to Kameron for visiting today! Do you want a chance to win a copy of The Mirror Empire? Please enter by filling out the form below. One entry per person, please! One U.S. resident will be randomly drawn. Entries will close on September 25th. Good luck!

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Waiting on Wednesday (116) THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN by Marcus Sedgwick

WOW 2014 copyWaiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books that you’re excited about with other readers and bloggers. I just caught wind of this book recently:

The Ghosts of HeavenThe Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick. Releases in January 2015 from Roaring Brook Press. The format of this appears to be similar to Midwinterblood, a series of linked stories with different characters and set in different time periods. I haven’t yet read Midwinterblood, although I have a copy waiting for that moment when I have time! Here’s the description from Goodreads:

From 2014 Printz award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick comes a bold, genre-bending epic that chronicles madness, obsession, and creation, from the Paleolithic era through the Witch Hunts and into the space-bound future.

Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet’s obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book’s final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time. Merging Sedgwick’s gift for suspense with science- and historical-fiction, Ghosts of Heaven is a tale is worthy of intense obsession.

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This book gets two cool covers! Here’s the UK cover, which I love just as much as the US cover. Let me know what you’re waiting on!

 

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A Dazzling World, But a Confusing Story: THE MIRROR EMPIRE by Kameron Hurley – Review

The Mirror Empire 3D

The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release date: August 26 2014
Source: ARC from publisher
Pages: 539

three and a half

The nitty-gritty: A fabulous and fantastical world, a dense and complex plot, female characters that steal the show, but ultimately a fractured story that left me dazed and confused.

When Lilia was four years old, her mother filled a shallow dish with Lilia’s blood and fed it to the boars that patrolled the thorn fence.

“Nothing can cross the thorn fence,” Lilia’s mother said as she poured the blood onto the hungry, gnarled fence. The boars on the other side licked up the blood. Lilia liked the boars’ yellow eyes and wrinkled, mucus-crusted snouts. They reminded her of hungry babies. The thorn fence kept out the semi-sentient walking trees and conscription gangs who sometimes climbed up from the churning bay that clung to the base of the cliffs. The cliffs and the fence should have protected them forever. Her mother was a blood witch, and never doubted her power. If you fed enough blood to a thing, her mother said, it would do all you asked.

We all know books are subjective. It’s rare to find that special snowflake that EVERYONE agrees is the Best Book Ever. Often, I tend to fall on the side of the masses when reading books like this. Usually the big trade reviewers—Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews—get it right for me: when they love something, I usually do too. So it’s frustrating to fall on the other side of the fence when a book just doesn’t click. Unfortunately, The Mirror Empire was one such book. The hype, the glowing reviews, the Hugo Awards—all these things spelled out a five-star book, but although the individual elements are truly unique and wonderful, they didn’t come together as smoothly as I would have liked.

It’s hard to even give you a synopsis of the plot, because I lost track of the individual plot threads more than once. But what’s basically happening is this: two worlds, very similar to each other but not, exist side by side. In one world, a star called Oma is about to rise, after being absent in the sky for hundreds of years. Oma’s rise portends tragedy and destruction, and so the people who live in this world want to find a way out, to get over to the “mirror world.” Thus begins a terrible war, and the two worlds begin to destroy each other.

Now this is a very simplistic description of a complicated plot which has many rules that hold the different societies together. There are magic rules: Some people are sensitive to the satellites that rise and fall in these worlds, and when their particular satellite is in orbit, that person can draw power from it. There are social rules: Women dominate in The Mirror Empire, and Hurley has done a great job of turning normal society on its head. And there are political rules: The death of the Kai means that her brother must take up the job, a job he doesn’t want at all.

One of the most interesting things about this book—and there are a bunch of them—is Hurley’s matriarchal society. We are introduced to a character named Zezili, an assassin who is commanded by the Empress of her world to begin systematically destroying the lower caste members of society. Apart from the fact that she willingly does this, she is also married to a man named Anavha, whom she uses as little more than a sex slave. Anavha stays home while his wife goes to war, pining for her while she’s gone. He is kept hidden away from Zezili when she is home, and is only brought to her when she needs him. My reaction to this set-up surprised me. Rather than cheering for the strong female character who doesn’t let men push her around, I felt sympathy toward Anavha, who became one of the most intriguing characters in the book for me. Zezili is also fond of raping and torturing her husband, and this respect I thought Hurley took the role reversal thing too far. Feminists may applaud this decision, but I was mostly left with a sick feeling in my stomach. After all, rape is rape, no matter who does it.

Other male characters were not nearly as interesting to me. Ahkio takes over his dead sister’s role as Kai, the leader of his society, but he isn’t respected at all, and he came across as quite weak. In another part of the world, Roh lives and works in the Temple of Oma, and his story starts out promising. But with so many story threads, I soon lost track of why I found him so interesting in the first place. Hurley was deliberate in the way she created her male characters to be weak and uninteresting. Even a man named Taigan, who seems powerful in the beginning, turns out to be, not just a man, but someone who can change his sex! So in the end, he turns out to be a powerful woman!

If you are squeamish, then The Mirror Empire probably shouldn’t be your next read. Being a horror fan, I can take a fair amount of graphic violence in books, but this story contains a never-ending stream of it. Everything from beheadings to disembowelments to limbs being hacked off was standard fare in The Mirror Empire, and not unusual for a book dealing with war. However, I wanted just a glimpse of something lighter and happier to balance it all out, but those moments rarely came.

There is no disputing the fact that the world-building is amazing. Hurley has intricately crafted a very complex world, with wonderful touches of imagination that I was drooling over. Poisonous sentient plants litter the landscape and are a danger to everyone. (Watch out, or you may be pulled into a bladder trap underground, where a plant’s poisons will start to dissolve your body!) Instead of riding horses, Hurley has her characters riding giant dogs and bears! And the bears have forked tongues! There is blood magic, which although horrifying, I actually loved, and the idea behind the mirror of the title and the way it ties into the two parallel worlds was fascinating.

I also loved her frank approach to sex and sexual relationships. In a society with more than two sexes, marriages often involve five or six people. There’s also no “sneaking around” in this world, because adults often have affairs with people they aren’t married too. It’s just an accepted part of society, and I found it refreshing.

It took me two weeks to finish The Mirror Empire, mostly because I kept putting it down. I actually picked up and read two other books during that time, which tells me that there just wasn’t enough to hold my interest. I wanted to love this book, and at times I did. But the constant back-and-forth between story lines was confusing, and the characters whose stories I really wanted to follow kept being interrupted by other less interesting ones. Kameron Hurley is a supremely talented writer, but this one just didn’t work for me.

(**Tammy’s note: After writing my review, I did have a brief correspondence with the publisher regarding changes that were made from the ARC version to the finished copy of the book. According to editor Caroline Lambe, “…the ARC is quite different.” Hurley also addresses the changes briefly on her  website here. I was surprised to find out that the finished book contains not only a map that explains her world, but a glossary in the back! Neither of these appeared in the ARC (which is not uncommon), and having these tools available while I read the book would have helped me enormously. Although, I’m not sure whether they would have changed my option of the book or not.)

Thank you to Angry Robot for supplying a review copy. Quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may be different in the final version of the book.

Want more insight into Hurley’s method of world-building? Stop back here on Thursday for Kameron Hurley’s guest post, and a giveaway of the book!

 You can find The Mirror Empire here:

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Over-Booked (9) – A Book Haul Post

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Welcome to Over-Booked, where I share my recent book acquisitions with you! I’m happy to be linking up with Stacking the Shelves and The Sunday Post. It’s been a month since I did a book haul post, which is a good thing, because it means I haven’t been requesting much. But I do have some purchases this time, books I really want to own and at some point, read. I also received my second Blogging for Books review copy and a couple of other review books as well! Quite a mixed bag, I would call this bunch:

overbooked 9-5Purchased:

Landline by Rainbow Rowell. I really want to read this, especially since I’m married. I think you really have to be married to enjoy it, at least that’s what I’ve heard. Not the sort of book I would probably review here, but still.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. This is gearing up to be BIG. It’s got all sorts of rave reviews and even though I’ve heard it described as a “hard” book to read—subject matter-wise, at least—I’m pretty sure I’ll love it once I find time to read it.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami. Seriously, I have no idea what this is about. But when I saw it sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, I couldn’t help but pick it up. It’s a gorgeously designed book (you can’t tell from this photo), and I wasn’t at all surprised when I discovered that Chip Kidd did the book design. (If you love graphic design at all, and you don’t know who Chip Kidd is, you really need to go Google him right now!) If you see this in the store, I dare you not to pick it up and take off the dust jacket!

For Review:

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. I received this from Blogging for Books, and I’m unbelievably excited to read it. I was thrilled when it popped up to request (because honestly, the selection at Blogging for Books is not that great if you mostly read science fiction and fantasy). Many of my favorite bloggers adored this book, so I can’t wait to dive in! Thank you Blogging for Books!

Premonitions by Jamie Schultz. Jamie contacted me himself and asked if I’d like a review copy. Let’s see: black-market magical drugs, crime lords, a heist: yep, I think this is going to be good! Big thanks to Jamie Schultz!

For Review, digital:

The Heart Does Not Grow Back

The Heart Does Not Grow Back by Fred Venturini. Right after I decided to feature this as a Waiting on Wednesday, I found it on NetGalley. I’m super excited to read this superhero story (that doesn’t appear to be a superhero story on the outside!) Thank you Picador!

That’s it for me! Let me know if you got any goodies this week:-)

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Using Blurbs From Bloggers: Do Publishers Need Your Permission to Reprint Reviews?

Bookish Discussions

This may have happened to you. You read a book and fall in love with it, write a rave review, put the review up on your blog, and months later you discover that a blurb from your review has made it into the author’s next book. It’s a pretty cool thing, and it’s only happened to me a couple of times (that I know of). But recently, fellow blogger Chiara tweeted me to let me know I had been blurbed in Rebel Nation by Shaunta Grimes. I was surprised, because I honestly don’t remember if anyone had asked me if they could reprint a part of my review.

Rebel quote

This is taken from the Amazon website, since I tried to buy Rebel Nation at my local Barnes & Noble but they didn’t have it.

Now in all fairness, it’s very possible that months and months ago, someone did ask me and I just don’t remember. I’m pretty busy and sometimes things like that—as cool as they are!—slip my mind after some time goes by. But this disturbs me for two reasons:

1. I’d really like to know if someone thought highly enough of a review of mine, so I can bask in the idea that my words are out there, published, in a book.

2. Although it’s a nice surprise to find out you’ve been blurbed in a book, it feels wrong somehow, not to have someone ask permission to do so.

The books in question.

Now, I’m not talking about someone linking directly to my reviews. Linking happens all the time, and it’s a pretty cool thing. I love when authors and publishers give me a shout-out on their websites, because they’ve read and enjoyed my reviews. I love when bloggers share posts from other bloggers that they enjoy. But actually taking words I wrote and printing them in a book or on Amazon without my knowledge just feels odd.

This post is just me throwing this out there for comments. I haven’t done any research on the matter, I haven’t tried to interview publishers about this. I honestly don’t know what the rules are for this particular occurrence! And even though I’ve written this post, which may seem as if I’m complaining, I’m very flattered that Berkley Trade or Shaunta Grimes thought enough of my review to include it in Rebel Nation. But I’d love to get your feedback: Has this ever happened to you? Do you think publishers and authors should ask permission before putting a blogger’s own words in print?

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