muccamukk: Darcy sitting at a table drinking coffee, flowers on her right. (Thor: Breakfast Table)
[personal profile] muccamukk
What did you finish reading?
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
I'm reading Blazing World next partly to tell what I think of this book, which honestly felt very much like the author's notes at the end: She read a bunch of Virginia Woolf and then wrote a novel about Margaret Cavendish.

I appreciated all the historical detail, and the research the author put in, and it was certainly literary and attempting to show warts and all, but I don't think I came out with a hold of what was driven Cavendish to write, or at very least what was driving her to publish. The prose is dreamy and disconnected, with occasional vivid moments, and the end impression of Cavendish is the same. Which doesn't marry with what I've read of her writing.

I am left perplexed.


The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World by Margaret Cavendish the Thrice Noble, Illustrious, and Excellent Princesse, the Duchess of Newcastle.
So this book is very much of its time, which is interesting in an of itself because the form of the novel hadn't really hit England, let alone been codified, and the author has this huge amount of space to do whatever she wants.

Granted, whatever she wants is more or less long sections of complaining about the Royal Society (a Tradition Swift would pick up and run with), and attempting cosmology, which was theoretically interesting, but did tend to drag on. Also there are very few full stops, fewer paragraph breaks, no dialogue punctuation and the spelling is eccentric.

However, it also allowed her to write a secondary world sff story where in someone from a made up world traveled to yet another world, became its empress, and started talking to people from our own world on the astral plane. Which was pretty nifty, but then the empress starts hanging out, on the astral plane, with the author of the book in a way that is described in the text as "Platonic" but which I would called "Slashy as all get out" and I really can't tell if this is basically self-insert self-cest or what, but it's fascinating.

AND THEN! The Empress decides to invade and conquer her original world, and there is an earnest discussion of the efficacy of a zombie army, but they eventually go with submarine warfare and aerial fire bombing. And then the book ends. Which in and of itself, upgrade the book to four stars.

If I were to read it again, I'd read up to where she starts talking about philosophy, then skip to where the Duchess of Newcastle shows up and read through to the end of the war, then skip the five pages of describing lutes and read the epilogue.

(I saw a couple reviewers saying Cavendish invented the submarine, which is incorrect. There were working(ish) submarines in England in the 1620s, which were witnessed by Constantijn Huygens, who was in Cavendish's circle. It might be the first novel portaying submarine warfare though?)


What are you reading now?
Gate of Ivrel by C.J. Cherryh, which is pretty fab. Also rereading Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch.


What are you reading next?
Presumably Well of Shiuan, and also some library books once I get back home.

Date: 2016-10-06 07:25 am (UTC)
lilysea: Books (Books)
From: [personal profile] lilysea
Thank you for this post. ^_^

Date: 2016-10-06 07:40 am (UTC)
nenya_kanadka: BB8 in flower crown (SW BB8 flower crown)
From: [personal profile] nenya_kanadka
Really should reread the Morgaine books. I remember liking them but also finding them frustrating, but I don't remember why. I'm deeply enjoying your discovery of Vanye's woobieness, though. :D

And ofc this was the series that made me realize my love for the sf-seen-through-fantasy-eyes thing. I'm trying to think if I've encountered that elsewhere other than Steerswoman, but both cases were done so well.

Date: 2016-10-07 04:14 pm (UTC)
nenya_kanadka: Millennium Falcon doing some dangerous flying (SW Millennium Falcon TFA)
From: [personal profile] nenya_kanadka
Yeah Star Wars is a whole other thing. Not a bad other thing, but a different one.

Date: 2016-10-07 03:15 pm (UTC)
spiralsheep: The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity (ish icons Curiosity Cures Boredom)
From: [personal profile] spiralsheep
Mary Gentle's Golden Witchbreed probably qualifies, as do many of Andre Norton's fantasy-as-sf novels, unless fantasy as sf is a different category from sf as fantasy?

ETA: Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, and Marion Zimmer Bradley, all used similar tropes but their novels would still work as fantasy if one edited out the sf, whereas Golden Witchbreed and some of Norton's stories need the sf worldbuilding because it's fundamental to the plot and society/characters.
Edited Date: 2016-10-07 03:26 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-10-07 04:25 pm (UTC)
nenya_kanadka: I will put aside fear for courage (Young Wizards courage)
From: [personal profile] nenya_kanadka
I'm not sure which would be a better description of the thing I'm talking about--it's that thing where you have advanced technology of some kind, and you as the reader are aware or slowly become aware that it's tech. (Usually tech that's advanced beyond what we have in the real world today, so SF in that way.) But one or more of the POV characters sees it as magic, or the general approach of the story is such that everyone goes, "And then we went to the wizard's castle and the doors opened but there was none living to make them move!" rather than "The doors hissed open and we went looking for the command centre."

(ETA: I think Martha Wells's The Wizard Hunters does that too?)

It's important that there not be any "LOL look at the fools from the past/this native culture/etc who don't know shit about basic techology, haha!" in it. More like an expansion of Clark's third law. I think what I like about it is the dual-vision effect of seeing it both as unexplainable myffic magic and as technology that was definitely engineered by normal people (if quite smart ones, or even aliens). It's both/and! (So bonus if some characters see it one way, e.g. Morgaine, and others see it another, e.g. Vanye, and both are reasonable interpretations based on the data they have.)

I also like stuff where there's a magic system but it has rules like STEM does (Rivers of London does this, as does Young Wizards by Diane Duane). But that's yet again a slightly different thing to me?

Then of course there are the stories where it's near-impossible for the reader to tell whether "a wizard did it" or "a Starfleet engineer who can turn rocks into replicators did it" is the better explanation. Which is yet another thing. Never sure if that one is fun or if it drives me nuts--I think I like to be able to pin it down as one or the other, or both/and, rather than not being sure.

Thanks for the book recs. :D
Edited Date: 2016-10-07 04:27 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-10-07 04:46 pm (UTC)
spiralsheep: The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity (ish icons Curiosity Cures Boredom)
From: [personal profile] spiralsheep
::nods understanding::

It's important that there not be any "LOL look at the fools from the past/this native culture/etc who don't know shit about basic techology, haha!" in it.

Yes, I mostly dislike what I think of as the Connecticut Yankee trope, unless it's very well done, because it's a direct continuation from the worst types of colonialist adventure fiction.

I'm not sure I'd recommend Mary Gentle's Orthe series, and the second novel is especially bleak, but it is well written and probably reminds me more of Steerswoman, for multiple reasons, than any similar stories although Steerswoman is both more original and better realised imo. I loved Golden Witchbreed when I first read it as a young teen and then disliked and was even creeped out by it when I read the sequel novel, Ancient Light, in my later teens. Ms Gentle's subsequent work definitely moved towards creepy and disturbing subject matter. Many other people love Orthe though and it is thoughtfully constructed.

I haven't read Martha Wells' Wizard Hunters for years, my Ile-Rien re-read only got as far as Death of the Necromancer before I needed smaller books to carry around with me! :-)
Edited Date: 2016-10-07 04:46 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-10-07 05:01 pm (UTC)
nenya_kanadka: lightbulb moment (@ inspiration)
From: [personal profile] nenya_kanadka
Yes! If it's got that colonialist tinge to it, that immediately skeeves me out. But I'm all about exploring the boundaries between science and magic.

I probably would have put Ile-Rien on ebook if Mucca didn't have them all in hardback on her shelf and I wasn't sitting in our living room to read them! They are not sized for tucking into one's purse on the bus, lol.

Date: 2016-10-06 06:59 pm (UTC)
spiralsheep: Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society (Sewing Circle Terrorist Society)
From: [personal profile] spiralsheep
I love your review of Blazing World, and am now wondering why it's never been nominated for yuletide, lol.

Date: 2016-10-06 08:21 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
Blazing World sounds great.
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