Just finished: Short Story – The Weight of Memories by Cixin Liu

Here’s the blurb:

From the author of The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and the forthcoming Death’s End comes a story about unborn memories.

First published in Chinese in Sea of Dreams, 2015, a collection of Liu Cixin’s short fiction.

My thoughts:

Ok, so some of the science here is just bad. It starts off with the old, “you don’t use all of your brain” trope, which is terribly annoying to anyone who takes an interest in brain science.  And while intergenerational trauma is a theory of human behavior, intergenerational memory not so much, but that is why it’s called science fiction, imho.

This story, like many by Cixin Liu, is pretty bleak. At the same time, it manages to capture the cyclical nature of hope and disappointment that is embodied (in this case literally) by the scientific process. It is a very short read but chock full of commentary.

Overall: 4 stars


Just finished: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

Here’s the blurb:

A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper.

When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.

Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change.

At Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive…and even evolve.

My thoughts:

Ok, look, this was chosen by our Science Fiction book club as our read because it was on a Best of 2016 so far list. I don’t know that I would have chosen to read this book otherwise. That being said, good on our book club for pushing us to read outside our comfort zone.

The prose of this novel was actually very strong. For example,

“There comes a time in a man’s life when he realizes stories are lies. Things do not end neatly. The enforced narratives a human impinges on the chaotic mess that is life become empty labels, like the dried husks of corn such as are thrown down in the summer months from the adaptoplant dwellings to litter the street below.”

This was the saving grace for this book for me. Otherwise it tried to fit way to many concepts into one slim volume.

Our group has really been enjoying episodic novels told from multiple points of view so our hopes were high. Unfortunately, this narrative style works against the author in this case. Rather than cleverly unifying the story it fragments it. The cast of characters was large and unweildy which was also made worse by the narrative format.

Speaking of concepts, I was super interested in the idea of artificial intelligence as first contact. Unfortunately, that story gets shunted off to the side to talk about space travel, vampires, religious fragmentation, oracles, and seeming magic.

This book really suffered for need of a good editor, in my opinion. A more focused story in both cast and theme would have done wonders for it.

Overall: 3 stars

Just finished: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Here’s the blurb:

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

My thoughts:

Woof! This book was so good, but also so hard. As I mentioned on Goodreads, there should be a trigger warning for suicide here. She touches on the subject early and it comes up several times, all of which are hard to read. There is also a lot of violence against trans folk which can also be graphic and hard to get through, but necessary for the truth of the story.

I definitely recommend reading the Author’s Note at the end of the book. She addressed a lot of my concerns about the portrayal of Amanda in this book and the plurality of trans and genderqueer experiences. I will say I was very excited to read a book about a trans character, written by a trans author, who used a trans model for the cover. Goooo representation!

Because this was a young adult novel, it was a fast read. That being said, there were some gems in this book. Both in turn of phrase and insight the book knocked it out of the park. The metaphors were rich and thoughtful. Yet there was a spareness to the prose that kept it from being as sugary as some YA fare. And thank you Meredith Russo for not cheapening the story by wrapping it in a pretty bow at the end.

I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a better understanding of what life can be for lgbtq youth in our current culture. Librarians should have this in their back pocket as a suggestion for teens and adults alike. Parents who have kids struggling with their sexuality or gender identity should also give it a read.

Overall: 5 stars