The Magicians 2.4, “The Flying Forest”

This week I’ve been working a bunch and desperately trying not to catch the nasty cold that’s cutting a swath through my coworkers. On the more positive side, I’ve been writing and playing music and spending time with people I like, but those things also take a toll physically and emotionally. What I’m trying to say, here, is that I really wanted to just watch The Magicians tonight and enjoy it, without worrying about cranking out a coherent 500-1000 word recap.

Instead, I decided to live tweet the show. It’s not as comprehensive as my usual, but it was still fun. The official show account teased me for criticizing the writing, but I stand by what I said. Here’s a storify of my tweets from the hour:

Like I said, not as much detail as we’re used to, but if there are things I missed that you want to discuss, hit me up in the comments!

The Magicians 2.3, “Divine Elimination”

It’s only the third episode of the season, but we are getting into some season-finale levels of drama. Storylines are converging. Characters are in real danger.

There’s so much going on, and I’m sure I missed things. This might not be the most coherent analysis, but I promised a blog post, and a blog post you shall have.

Warning for language, mention of violence against humans and animals.

The Beast’s Curse on Castle Whitespire

Who knew sitting on a Fillorian throne would bring about the urge to murder the other monarchs? Martin apparently. I really enjoyed Penny as the last non-cursed man, cooperating with Fen to keep their only-recently-reconciled friends/lovers/found family from killing each other.

I’m not saying it wasn’t fun to watch, but it felt a little out of place compared to the emotional intensity of the rest of the episode.

Julia, Marina, and Martin in New York

The plan to summon Reynard works, although not exactly as Julia and Marina planned. Martin teleports Julia out of the room before Marina can finish the summoning, and then takes his sweet time unpicking the wards on her apartment (hmmm). Meanwhile, Reynard is inside horrifically torturing Marina. I appreciate the brave face that Marina puts on as Reynard turns her cat inside out and talks about eating her alive. This is some horror movie shit, you guys.

Julia and Martin drop back in just in time, prepared to kill Reynard with the knife. This is all taking place at the exact same second that Alice is powering up her battle magic in Fillory. Penny’s job is to travel to Earth, grab The Beast and bring him back so Alice can do her thing. But Penny’s lost one of the bindings that Sunderland put on his wrist and Julia is too close to The Beast. She ends up getting dragged into the fray as well, leaving Marina to grapple with Reynard.

The Aftermath

Alice manages to wound but not kill The Beast, perhaps because she was pulling her punches to not hurt Julia? I definitely need to watch this bit again. Martin disappears, one of his arms rendered useless. Everyone else blames each other or themselves for a few seconds, as is customary. Then Penny grabs Julia and transports her back to Earth, sans Martin, and she is pissed so she tears off his other bracelet, leaving him with no control over his magic.

The last shot we see of Julia is her kneeling by Marina’s bloodied body, quite likely blaming herself for another death and for letting Reynard get away. This is framed as a wound Julia won’t recover from easily. I suspect when Martin resurfaces, she might be vulnerable enough to ask him to remove her shade, as he’s been offering. I also have suspicions about how and when the knife is going to show up again, but those are influenced a bit by some things that happen in the books so I’ll keep my mouth shut for now to avoid spoilers.

Final Confrontation

Meanwhile, the kings and queens of Fillory regroup. Eliot and Margo go to petition Ember for help, but he’s not immediately available because he’s pooping in the well so Martin can’t use the water to heal himself. Totally fits with what we saw of Ember last season—he’s disgusting most of the time, but occasionally in useful ways. Is the rest of the season going to be about how the universe is out of balance because a god took a dump in the source of all magic? Tune in next time to find out.

Alice and Quentin travel by carriage to confront The Beast. Emboldened by the fact that he’s probably going to be dead soon, Quentin initiates a frank discussion about his feelings for Alice. She lets him get away with exactly zero bullshit and they kiss.

When they finally face The Beast, he’s wounded but still powerful. Quentin jumps in front of an attack and is wounded. Alice’s god powers desert her. Se resorts to the patchwork spell she invented in “Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting” to save Charlie. That’s a respectable foreshadowing game, man. The spell burns through Alice, turning her into a niffin, a being of heightened magical power and malice. She tears The Beast apart with her bare hands.

Newly absent a moral compass, Alice turns on Quentin. He probably would have tried to talk sense into her right up until she murdered him if Margo and Eliot weren’t there to draw her fire. Unable to watch his friends suffer, Quentin releases his cacodemon and watches it kill Alice. Quentin tries to move towards her body, in denial. Eliot and Margo know exactly what happened and do their best to keep him away.

So here is where we leave our intrepid heroes at the end of the episode:

Penny: MIA, not in control of any of his powers

Julia: Emotionally wrecked, allies gone

Marina: Dead

Cupcake the Cat: Dead

The Beast/Martin: Dead

Alice: Dead

Quentin: Physically wounded and responsible for the death of the woman he loves

Eliot: Alive, probably going to try to pick up the broken pieces of Quentin

Margo: Also alive, probably going to try to have sex with a talking horse

Fen: ???

Fogg: Didn’t miss him tbh

Kady: Absent from the credits, present in my heart

I could literally ramble for 1000 more words, but I need to sleep. Do come discuss the finer points of Alice’s ice cream toppings or Margo’s love of Conan the Barbarian in the comments with me, though.

 

The Magicians 2.2, “Hotel Spa Potions”

This was a very solid follow-up to last week’s premiere. We have a lot of different storylines already, so “Hotel Spa Potions” felt a little rushed to me. Still, it’s all good stuff, as I’ve broken down below:

The Brakebills at Brakebills

Through the fountain and to Earth we go. Quentin and co. need to learn battle magic that can kill The Beast. They go on a scavenger hunt through the library in order to track down Bigby, a former Brakebills professor and old flame of Dean Fogg’s. It’s all fun to watch, if a tad drawn out.

Alice blames herself for not killing The Beast, and her guilt combined with her waning god powers drive her to get this done. Her insistence to Quentin that “not everything that hurts is bad” is worrying.

Penny gets an assist with his out-of-control magic from Professor Sunderland. Honestly this is my favorite thing from this ep, it’s such a good companion to the scene in “The Strangled Heart.” Sunderland performs a ritual that involves tying Penny’s hands, because light bondage is the real source of magic. Penny starts trying to seduce her again, but he’s less aggressive this time, almost clumsy. By stepping in as his teacher to help him, and by turning him down in no uncertain terms, she’s re-established boundaries. Good for her.

Then we got to see the cacodemon scene and I died of happiness. In a direct shout-out to the first book, Dean Fogg give Quentin, Margo, Penny, and Alice tattoos. The tattoo serves as a portable prison for a powerful demon that the wearer can release with a word. The plan in this case is to have the demons distract The Beast, giving Alice time to deploy her battle magic.

Eliot in Fillory

In the absence of his friends, Eliot faces his first challenges as High King. Thanks to the Beast’s magical drain, the crops aren’t growing. Luckily for the starving populace, Eliot grew up on a farm. He’s well-equipped to learn them a thing or two about agriculture, mostly by hand-delivering manure to skeptical citizens who have only ever fertilized with magic. It’s funny and a little poignant to see Eliot embracing his least favorite parts of himself for the greater good.

Fen gets to have a bit more personality in this one. As Eliot said last week, I think I like her. She’s devoted to Fillory and to helping her husband succeed as a ruler. They clash, albeit politely, over sex. Eliot proposes inviting other partners into their bedroom as a sort of compromise, and Fen isn’t interested. She also points out the inherent consent issues—no one feels comfortable saying “no” to their king. I didn’t love that the last season ended with Eliot in this marriage, and I’m glad this season is tackling that problem head on. I feel for both of them here, and I hope the show continues to explore their dynamic.

There’s also the little matter of the curse that The Beast put on Castle Whitespire, but Eliot doesn’t know about that and it’s not clear if his struggles so far are curse-related or not.

Julia and Martin in New York

Julia is working on a way to summon Reynard. She’s willing to offer herself up as bait, but Martin claims Reynard won’t be tricked. They need someone new. I was expecting this to be Kady, but Martin shows up with Marina, the leader of the safe house where Julia cut her hedgewitch teeth. Julia isn’t up for holding Marina against her will, which Martin sees as a sign of weakness. He reiterates his offer to remove her shade/emotions, she makes a counter offer to remove some of his body parts.

Back on the street, Marina recognizes the threat posed by the Julia-Martin partnership and tries to team up with her West Coast counterpart to take them down. But Reynard gets there first, killing the other hedgewitch. This is the first time we’ve seen Marina truly scared, I think. She goes to Brakebills to ask for help and gets rebuffed by Dean Fogg before returning to New York. Marina has never been a favorite character for me, but I’m kind of enjoying her and Julia and their “so done with your shit” faces back together again.

Quentin and Julia have a brief reunion in New York, unbeknownst to any of their co-conspirators. They both want some of the same things, in the big picture sense—to go back to Fillory, to have magic in both worlds remain intact—but their short-term goals are at odds. Watching them admit that they’re on opposite sides again is tough, but that just seems to be the way it goes with these two.

Let me know what you think in the comments, and see you next week!

The Magicians 2.1, “Knight of Crowns”

Warning: This post contains discussion of rape, murder, and torture.

I’ve been vibrating with excitement over The Magicians premiere for like a week now, and “Knight of Crowns” did not disappoint. Lots of stuff happened in this episode, and you all know how I feel about stuff when it happens.

Julia and Martin on Earth

Julia is holding the only weapon that can kill Martin/The Beast, so she offers him a deal. She won’t kill him as long as he helps her get her revenge on Reynard, the trickster god who took over her mentor/friend/lover Richard’s body, raped her, and killed her friends. Once Reynard is dead, provided Martin hasn’t harmed Julia, Quentin, or any of Quentin’s friends, she’ll hand over the knife. They seal the agreement with a magical sigil that will automatically kill Martin if he breaks it. I’m unclear on what the consequences for Julia will be if she doesn’t hold up her part of the bargain, but let’s assume they’re also dire.

Both Julia and Martin are magically talented, both were denied their desires (Brakebills and Fillory, respectively), and both were victims of sexual assault. Martin, despite his stated desire to find a loophole in Julia’s deal, takes a bit of a shine to her. While she struggles with the aftermath of the rape, he offers her a way out of her pain—a spell that will remove her deepest self, her “shade.” Julia is clearly tempted by the offer, but she sees that Martin, cut off from his own emotions, has become a predator in his own right and refuses. For now, anyways.

These sections of this episode felt slow to me, even if they did pack an emotional punch. It was so satisfying to see Julia and Quentin’s storylines converge last season, and I’m sorry to see them separated again. New York has grown even grayer and grittier to contrast with the lush fantasyland that is Fillory.

The Brakebills in Fillory

This part of the episode was everything I could have asked for and more. The plot is basic—The Beast is still at large, and without the knife the gang needs a new weapon. Quentin, still our foremost Fillory expert, suggests the armory, a stockpile of books in Castle Whitespire that holds texts on powerful battle magic (Side note: magic that Rupert Chatwin may have used to win World War II. I’m actually very curious about Rupert. He was the only Chatwin to enter Fillory for the first time as an adult, and he’s also possibly buried there. Since the book-to-show adaptation had no problem ditching two Chatwin sisters, I imagine they must have needed Rupert around for something).

Before they can get to the castle, Eliot needs to be crowned high king, and crown his three co-rulers. This scene, with the titular knight, is both absurd and touching. The Magicians flirts with being a little too self-aware at times, and I tend to cringe at pop-culture references shoehorned into my fantasy. That said, I would not trade Eliot reciting the final speech from Dirty Dancing for anything in the world.

The whole impromptu crowning ceremony gives the group a chance to start patching up their somewhat tattered relationships. There are apologies and affirmations all around, but I particularly like Eliot’s face when Quentin asks him to kneel. It’s the perfect mix of I want to make a dirty joke right now and I’m still not totally over that time we had sex and Thank you for believing in me when I don’t believe in myself.

Penny, with his hands newly re-attached, stays in character and well out of all this sappy nonsense. Which like, okay, he’s not actually getting a crown, but maybe he has some issues he needs to talk about? Or possibly he would just like a hug and/or a forehead kiss? Anyways, I’m glad to see that he’s physically intact (let’s be honest, this show has better things to do with its budget than CGI Arjun Gupta’s hands off), but I’m also glad he doesn’t get off too easily. The least genre-savvy character, he breaks one of the cardinal rules of traveling in a magical land: always, always be polite to strangers you meet in the woods. Now Penny, who went to such lengths last season to learn control, has more unpredictable quirks to his magic.

“Knight of Crowns” puts down some groundwork for the rest of season. Here are some dangling plot threads that I sincerely hope will be picked up again:

-The vial of Quentin’s blood has to return. Otherwise, why the whole sequence in the woods with the healer/witch?

-The time-sensitivity on Alice’s godlike powers intrigues me, but mostly because it’s been implied that Julia has similar abilities. Not to be gross, but does the manner in which god-semen enters the body affect the endurance of its effects?

-I loved the tree growing scene, and that Alice initiates the kiss. An arc where Alice discovers her own strength would be fantastic, and if Quentin can be helpful and supportive without asking for anything in return, so much the better.

-The time difference between Fillory and Earth—what’s Eliot going to get up to while Quentin and co. are back at Brakebills? He might have years to rule Fillory by himself. I appreciate the poignancy of the scene between him and Quentin, but like, why not just leave Margo there too?

-What’s up with Eliot’s wife? She could be a valuable source of information, but she is mostly being ignored right now. I hope she doesn’t wind up dead just so Eliot can have feelings. Enough bad things have happened to him, guys, let’s just chill for a minute

-Okay this is digging back into season one stuff, but whatever happened to the Margolem? Is she in a closet somewhere? Is she attending classes at Brakebills, posing as Margo? There were some problematic elements of that subplot but I still want to know

-I miss Kady.

I’m predicting that from this point on, the series will continue to diverge from book canon, like Game of Thrones or True Blood did. The showrunners are doing their own thing here, and I can’t wait to see where they take it. Let me know all of your thoughts and feelings in the comments, and see you same time next week for episode two 🙂

My Year So Far, and What’s Coming Next

Hello lovelies! January is flying by, I think in part because I’m not used to winter in North Carolina. Shouldn’t I be hip deep in snow and miserable right now? But anyways, I did promise you an update about what to expect from me in the coming months, so here goes…

Working

As of about a week ago, I’m working full time again! My schedule is still settling in, but right now I’m teaching instrument lessons 1-2 days a week and working at a bookstore the rest of the days. I promise this blog won’t turn into “Andie’s Adventures in Retail,” but my employee discount is pretty sweet and should give me sufficient fodder for book-type blogging.

Reading

I want to keep discovering new books, series, and authors, but I also want to read deeply, to really engage with the texts. I’m going to start by re-reading some books I consider influences, but maybe haven’t visited in a while. On top of the pile right now are Stephen King’s On Writing, Mary Doria Russel’s The Sparrow, and Cate Tiernan’s Speak series. I’ll let you know how that’s going periodically.

Writing

…is a thing that I do, still. Draft six of the novel is underway, currently. More tidbits about that process on my Twitter, as always.

Watching

 If you follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, you know that I’m super excited for the second season of The Magicians, which starts next week. The show has moved to Wednesday nights, so I’ll be posting recaps here every Thursday. Looking forward to yelling about that with all of you.

So that’s what’s coming up for me in 2017! What’s new with you?

2016 Reading Challenge

About a year ago, I posted a run-down of the books I read in 2015, as well as three separate posts detailing my reading plans for 2016. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it is not the soul of this blog.

That was early January, but since it feels unlikely that I’m going to finish anything tomorrow, I thought I’d get a jump on the reflecting. This year, I made myself a spreadsheet to track my reading (my engineer husband is so proud). I finished 87 books. Of those, 42 were written by people of color, which is a drastic improvement from my mostly-white 2015 reading list. The breakdown of author gender was pretty similar, with about 2/3 female authors and only one non-binary author.

Wiser people write about the issue of diversity in publishing every day, but here’s my two cents: I had a harder time finding new fiction by people with backgrounds different from my own. These books were not always on library or bookstore shelves. Many of the ones I did find were indie or self-published, rather than from a major publishing house. The discrepancy has certainly made me more conscious about where I spend my book-buying dollars.

I read more nonfiction this year- thirteen books total. A good percentage of those were writing books that I read in an effort to improve my own craft, or maybe figure out what genre the book I’m writing is (With some help from friends and books, I’ve settled on calling it paranormal suspense). Reading with a goal in mind helps decrease the feeling that I’m doing pointless homework.

There was less fantasy this year, or maybe it just looks that way because I stopped lumping “paranormal” in with “fantasy.” There were a lot more romances this year—I was craving happy endings, for sure. According to my lovely spreadsheet I read somewhere in the neighborhood of 24,600 pages total, which is a basically meaningless number because of font sizes and different editions and illustrations and such, but still fun to look at.

I’ll be back sometime next week to let you know what to expect from this blog in 2017 (hint: it is mostly books and yelling about The Magicians). In the meantime, here are my favorites from the past twelve months:

Favorite New Series: Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate. I picked up Soulless back when it first came out in 2009. I can’t remember if I was having paranormal burnout or het romance burnout or what, but I didn’t finish it then. I’m so pleased I got it out of the library again. I’ve never purchased a box set that fast.

Favorite Continuing Series: The Obelisk Gate is the second book in the Broken Earth Trilogy. N.K. Jemisin continues to break my heart in new and creative ways.

Favorite Re-Imagined StoryThe Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. I love a good fairy tale retelling. Even though I’ve never read Hale before, this felt like coming home.

Favorite Classic That I Finally Got Around ToKindred by Octavia Butler. Newer, as “classics” go, but wrenching and still so necessary.

Favorite Comic: I am a little sad to be coming to the end of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, which gets better and better as it goes.

Favorite Surprise Discovery/Debut Author: I’ve already written about how much I found Mishell Baker’s Borderline thanks to a bookstore staff recommendation. It’s a stunning paranormal mystery full of complex characters, fairies, and modern Hollywood intrigue, and I’m so so happy I picked it up.

Favorite Overall: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is the 16th book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. Bujold has incredible range as a writer, but this is how I like her best—sci-fi with a twist of family drama, romance, and comedy.

What other excellent and life-changing literature did you experience this year? Tell me in the comments, and have a safe and happy new year.

Second Chances, Part One

My husband and I moved to Charlotte about two months ago. We’re about as settled as we can get considering the place we’re renting now is intentionally temporary, somewhere to stay while we look for a house to buy. There are lots of boxes that it doesn’t quite feel worthwhile to unpack, pictures that don’t go on the wall because they’ll just be coming down again so soon. I’m trying to make myself comfortable with the transience.

The first time I visited Charlotte was in 2012. I was with my then-boyfriend-now-husband. He was in town for a business related conference, which we’ve since realized are not good things for me to tag along on. There wasn’t anything objectively bad about the city. We had friends already living here, and we could have moved then, too. At the end of the week, though, we looked at each other and decided we would stay in Connecticut. It wasn’t until this past spring, three apartments, three jobs, one wedding, and almost four years later, that we really reconsidered.

The view from our porch this morning, blue skies and a little folliage
The view from our porch this morning, blue skies and a little foliage

 

It wasn’t love at first sight. Maybe it’s not even love at all yet. When my family and friends ask how I’m doing, I want to be enthusiastic. I want to tell them that everything is perfect, but I can’t yet. I’m tired of the traffic, the job search, the way I can’t walk or run in my neighborhood. I miss the people I’m far away from.

But there are good things, too. A new coffee shop, a band to play in, a part-time job. The weather is glorious. We’ve been hiking, an activity I resisted for years but found myself enjoying in practice. I’m finding my footing, one step at a time. There is enough here to convince me that Charlotte will be worth the second try.

Hope everyone is settling in right where they need to be this week- talk to you soon.

My Life as a Horror Fan

I get scared easily. You could call me a wimp, and you wouldn’t be wrong. I approach horror movies with extreme caution. If I’m going to watch one, I’ll do it at home, where I can cover my eyes and keep a light on if I need to.

Still, sometimes it’s fun to be a little scared. I’ve never had the same aversion to horror books that I do to horror movies. It’s easier for me to get past spooky stuff on a page than it is on a screen. Besides, when I read a book over the course of several days, it gives me time to get invested in the world and characters in a way I can’t with a two-hour movie. The thrills, when they come, don’t seem so cheap.

ghost-in-mirror-john-bellairs-hardcover-cover-art

When I was a pre-teen, I loved authors who wrote about ghosts and hauntings, like Mary Downing Hahn and Betty Ren Wright. John Bellairs was my #1 favorite for years, although I have to admit I shamefully preferred some of his posthumously published, co-written books to the ones that were all Bellairs. (*whispers* sorry John I still love you if you’re a ghost and you’re reading this let’s hang out).

As I got older and started to read more adult fiction, horror often blended with fantasy. I preferred the paranormal to straight-up thrillers. Still true. That’s partly my general “wizards, aliens, or get out” attitude about fiction and partly self-defense. I can get a satisfying shiver from zombies or vampires, but I’m too much of a skeptic to worry about them after I close the book. Actual human monsters have been known to exist, though, and the feelings those stories inspire aren’t as easy to shake.

I remember being fifteen and reading House of Leaves while I lay in the grass outside my high school, waiting for my mom to pick me up. The sun was shining, but I was completely absorbed in this dark, twisty book about a book about a documentary about a house with hidden secrets and a family coming apart. File this one under “things I am afraid to reread because adult perspectives might crush my happy memories.”

I discovered H.P. Lovecraft, like many horror fans do. I also discovered that I prefer other authors’ pastiches of Lovecraft to the real thing. Neil Gaiman and Caitlín R. Keirnan come to mind. I read enough of the genuine article to understand what the fuss was about, though.

I came to Stephen King relatively recently. I can’t explain my reluctance on this front, except I have a giant hipster mental block that makes me assume I will dislike anything that lots of other people like. I’ve read Pet Semetary, The Shining, and ‘Salem’s Lot all within the last year. They’re all really good, good enough to shut up my hipster brain for a bit.

Being a lightweight horror fan is good in the way being a lightweight drinker is—it takes way less effort to get my fear-buzz on. If you have any good books to recommend, I’ll be over here, with the lights on.

Bookstore and Borderline

These days I do most of my reading on my Kindle. It’s portable and easy to support when I’m lying on my side in bed (which is where I do a lot of my reading). The only downside is that for convenience’s sake, I wind up giving a lot of my book budget to Amazon. So, in the name of supporting local businesses, I do try to buy something whenever I find myself in an actual bookstore.

Even big box stores like Barnes & Noble won’t always have exactly what I’m looking for, so I feel like it’s best to go in without specific goals. Almost anywhere will order a book for me if it’s not on the shelves, of course, but I find joy in aimless browsing.

I love it when stores have displays that highlight the employee’s favorites. Who better to recommend a book that the people who work in the bookstores? A couple weeks ago a placard caught my eye at the Savoy Bookshop. I don’t recall the name of the staff member, but the novel was Borderline by Mishell Baker. The description seemed to be full of things that I like—urban fantasy, adventure, fairies—so I bought it.

borderlinecover-220x332

I was and still am immensely pleased with my decision. Borderline isn’t a short book (around 400 pages) but I tore through it in less than two days. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

The story centers on Millie, a former film student and double amputee with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) living in Los Angeles. A year after the suicide attempt that cost Millie her legs, she gets offered a job with the mysterious Arcadia Project. Enticed by the prospect of re-entering the world and possibly the film industry, she accepts.

The Arcadia Project is a pseudo-governmental agency that regulates traffic between the human and fairy worlds. A gate hidden in Los Angeles allows fey creatures to travel to the human world, but there are strict rules about what they can do while they’re here. The fairies in Borderline play to a lot of the same tropes that we’ve come to expect. They’re sensitive to iron, they can’t lie, they’re functionally immortal and can change their appearance at will. Still, most of them move effortlessly in the modern world, moonlighting as movie stars or bartenders without humans catching on.

The plot is twisty, fast-paced, and fun. Millie and her new coworkers are assigned to track down a missing member of the fey nobility, which leads them to a deeper conspiracy involving both fairies and humans. Millie’s narrating voice really shines. She’s self-depreciating but smart, capable in many ways but vulnerable in others. Her disabilities aren’t just set dressing, nor are they treated as blessings in disguise. They’re indelible parts of her life, and they create challenges that need to be considered just as seriously as any supernatural threats.

One of my favorite things was the interaction between Millie and the other members of the Arcadia Project—her enigmatic boss Caryl, her cranky idealistic partner Teo, and her delightfully catty rival Gloria, among others. They come this close to being a heartwarming found family, but the book doesn’t give them quite enough time to get past their own emotional baggage. The opportunity to learn more about the whole cast is one of the reasons I’m glad to hear there’s a sequel scheduled for 2017.

That was my discovery this month. What’s been your best bookstore find recently? Let me know in the comments, and have a great week!

Songs That Remind Me of Books, Science Fiction Edition

My post on songs that remind me of fantasy novels is here. Like I said, these book-to-song associations have more to do with the workings of my own brain than with actual plot or lyrical content. I know there are dozens of rock songs that directly quote or name drop 1984, but you’ve probably heard of those already. Here are some tunes that remind me of my favorite dystopias and space operas:

“Pompeii” by Bastille and Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee

Biting the Sun, originally published as the two novellas Don’t Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine, is one of my all-time favorite dystopias. In this vision of the future, there are no evil overlords intent on oppressing the human race. Instead, there are just super-helpful robots who are intent on doing everything for us. Bored and disaffected by all the state-sanctioned hedonism, the heroine goes to great lengths to find authenticity in her own life. There is a volcano, actually, but that’s only a warm-up act to the disasters that take place later on, leaving the characters wondering what life after is going to look like.

“Team” by Lorde and the Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield

There’s something a little dystopian about a lot of Lorde’s songs—it seemed really fitting that she has a song on the soundtrack to the Mockingjay movie. “Team” in particular seems to speak to a life lived off the grid, breaking rules and living by your own code. Uglies, like Biting the Sun, imagines a world where humans are provided with every possible luxury and the chance to be inhumanly beautiful. Over the course of the trilogy, the main characters find out that there’s a hidden cost for all of it, and they have to decide if the compromise is worth it.

“The Gambler” by Fun and The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

I spent the summer of 2012 working at summer school, drinking at bars, playing in bands, reading every book in the Vorkosigan Saga, and listening to the albums Aim and Ignite and Some Nights on a constant loop. It makes some sense, then, that I relate the music of the band Fun with the works of author Lois McMaster Bujold. “The Gambler” is one of my favorite tracks for a lot of reasons—the lyrical melody, the surprise French horn solo, and the way a 4-minute song manages to tell the whole history of a family. Bujold’s series is like that, too. Each book stands alone, but the saga taken together tells the story of Miles Vorkosigan and the people caught up in his orbit. The most recent entry, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, is my favorite book of 2016 so far.

“Hands Clean” by Alanis Morissette and Crystal Line by Anne McCaffrey

 

I’ve written before about my love for the audiobook of McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer trilogy. The last book, Crystal Line, is the only one I read in print before listening to. It was the winter of 2002, and Alanis Morissette’s “Hands Clean” was all over VH1, my preferred method for experiencing new music, at the time. The lyrics are about a young woman having a secret affair with an older man, rumored to be based on actual events in Morissette’s past. I was thirteen and I hadn’t had a job or a boyfriend yet, let alone a romance with my boss. But Killashandra Ree has exactly that in Crystal Singer. By the third book, that relationship gets swept under the rug thanks to circumstances that I find more chilling as I get older.

That’s my science fiction playlist. Enjoy your week, everyone!