RESURRECTIONS by Roz Kaveney

I was supposed to review this for Strange Horizons. I have sent them an email saying that is not possible, because I have been trying to talk about it sensibly for months and failing. It is time to own up to the truth: I will probably never be able to talk about it sensibly.

 

Here is my not very sensible response to this particular book.

 

Resurrections is the third volume of a planned four in Roz Kaveney’s difficult-to-classify “Rhapsody of Blood,” following on from Rituals (2012) and Reflections (2013). Like its predecessors, Resurrections follows two main characters whose narrative strands never directly touch: unlike its predecessors, here they aren’t given approximately equal weight. For the greater proportion of the book, this is firmly Mara’s story, not Emma’s.

 

Yet the strands finally touch in the conclusion, and reveal that these two characters are connected more intimately and more strangely than the reader has previously surmised.

 

Mara is known as the Huntress. She is not a goddess, although that is by choice and not for any lack of power on her part: she has spent most of her very long existence (since the Mesopotamian Bronze Age) hunting down gods and wannabe gods and killing them, because most gods are very unpleasant people who achieved power through violence and blood. Resurrections is the story of her and how she met Judas and his brother Josh, and their deaths; and the later death of her sister and lover Hypatia. Resurrections is also the story of how Emma and her mysterious employer Josette storm hell, and how Emma becomes a goddess. And other complicated things.

 

I first read this book five months ago. Ever since, I have been trying – and failing – to write a review that discusses it in ways that make sense without the context of its predecessors. To articulate why it appeals to me despite its peculiar flaws; to outline its epic scale and playful – frequently surreal – weirdness, is a task that continues to elude me. I know of nothing comparable to what Kaveney is doing with her Rhapsody of Blood, and so I can’t even approach it sidelong, sidling up on it by talking about other things.

 

And yet. Kaveney’s whole project here is queering history and mythology. In both senses: making it more strange and portraying it as filled with people of a variety of genders and sexual orientations.

 

It does things. With stuff. Things explode in interesting configurations. I don’t know how to talk about it. It gives me complicated feelings, mostly happy ones, some disappointed ones. I don’t know. Kaveney should write more books?

Books in brief: Stross, Leckie, Kaveney, Lackey/Mallory, Hambly, Lackey/Edghill, Godfrey, Baldwin, Maddox

I have read over 150 books so far this year. Maybe I should slow down…?


Charles Stross, The Rhesus Chart. Orbit, 2014.

The fifth installment in Stross’s “Laundry Files” series. Rather more episodic than its predecessors, with an approach to pacing that staggers rather a bit in the middle, it never quite transcends the sum of its parts. But it’s a fun story with an interesting twist in the climax that clearly sets up some New Changes in the life of its protagonist, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword. Orbit, 2014. Review copy (electronic) courtesy of Orbit.

It is space opera, and could have been written JUST FOR ME. I love it as much as I loved its predecessor. Read this one for review for Tor.com: expect to hear more about it from me soon.

Roz Kaveney, Resurrections. Plus One Press, 2014. Review copy courtesy of the author.

Third in series, and what a fantastic bloody series it is. Kaveney isn’t afraid to make ambitious messes with mythology, genre furniture, and your own expectations. Structurally it’s not an entirely successful offering, but I love it incredibly much, and hopefully I’ll get to talk about it at length in a review somewhere else.

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, The House of the Four Winds. Tor, 2014. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

A competent if not particularly exciting fantasy novel set in a version of our world sometime in the 1700s – with all the names of the countries changed, but still with things called “French doors.” It has pirates and the high seas, and doesn’t fuck up shipboard life entirely, but you can call the plotpoints in advance pretty easily.

Barbara Hambly, Crimson Angel. Severn House, 2014. eARC courtesy of the publisher.

The latest Benjamin January novel, and in my opinion one of the best. (Mind you, my two favourites are Graveyard Dust and Sold Down The River.) Here, death and threats and an old family secret lead Ben and Rose – accompanied by Hannibal Sefton – to Cuba, and thence to Haiti. A fantastic, powerful, atmospheric novel.

Sharon Kay Penman, The Queen’s Man and Cruel As The Grave. Ebooks.

Two mysteries set in 12th-century England from an acclaimed historical novelist. Fun mysteries, diverting but not particularly stunning.

Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill, Legacies, Conspiracies, Sacrifices, and Victories. Ebooks.

Four novels in a Young Adult series called “The Shadow Grail.” Which was fun, until it became reincarnated Arthurian mythos nonsense.

Shea Godfrey, Blackstone. Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Review copy (electronic) courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian fantasy romance. The prose is competent enough, but there’s not a lot of plot to hold the attention in between fairly unimaginative sex scenes. It is probably fairer to describe this as “romance, subtype erotic” than anything else, and that’s not exactly my style.

Kim Baldwin, Taken By Storm. Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Review copy (electronic) courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian romance. Bunch of Americans and a handful of other nationalities (who don’t have characterisation) get trapped in a train carriage during serious avalanches in the Swiss Alps. There is some interesting ice climbing stuff. Mostly it is more competent than not, although the lack of attention paid to non-USian characters is deeply annoying. Not particularly special, but good enough if you’re looking for more women having relationships with women while adventures happen.

Jaime Maddox, The Common Thread. Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Review copy (electronic) courtesy of the publisher.

Novel in which the lives of twins separated at birth come to intersect after a murder. The idea for the narrative is ambitious, but the execution is lacking. For all that, it is a perfectly readable book, if ultimately a little too… well, trite.

Hugo Award Nominations 2014. Part IV.

I’m attending the 2014 Worldcon, and that means I get to nominate for the Hugo Awards. And, because I’m the kind of shy retiring flower who hesitates to share her opinions, I’m going to tell you all about my nominations!

But I’ll do it in more than one blogpost, because the Hugo Awards have a lot of categories. And one may nominate up to five items in each category.

First post here. Second post here.

Now, let’s talk about the final category: Best Novel.

The sheer size of the field means it’s impossible for any single person to read every novel published in it, much less every novel and a good proportion of the short work, and the related work, and grasp at least some of the art – rather like Jonathan McCalmont and Martin Lewis and Ian Sales, I’m pretty convinced the Hugo Award has too many categories. (But we run with the award we have, not the one we wish we had.)

So when it comes to the novels I read that were published in 2013, let’s not pretend it isn’t a more limited field than the field as a whole. And while I’m going to be picking the best of that, let’s not pretend that technically-best isn’t going to be playing up against favourite-things-best.

So, caveats aside, what novels did I find best of 2013?

Ann Leckie’s ANCILLARY JUSTICE tops the list. A debut novel, it is polished, powerful, doing interesting things with space opera, and kicked me in all the narrative squids.

Elizabeth Bear’s SHATTERED PILLARS comes second. It is an incredibly well-written book, and I really think its predecessor, Range of Ghosts, should have made more award lists last year.

Marie Brennan’s A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS is also on the list. I really like the world, the voice, and the narrative conceit of it, even if the pacing can be up-and-down.

Nicola Griffith’s HILD. I don’t care if it is fantasy, magical realism, or “merely” straight historical fiction. It is ON THIS LIST, because it belongs here.

I am torn over fifth place on the list. Nalo Hopkinson’s SISTER MINE? Roz Kaveney’s REFLECTIONS? Something else I haven’t got to read yet? Feel free to convince me in comments.