I haven’t been doing a lot of book reviews recently, have I? Well, maybe I have and just can’t remember. Regardless, I just finished one book and had a few others I didn’t think I could say enough about to fill a post, so here goes.
Winter, by Marissa Meyer – The last main book of the Lunar Chronicles, although there’s also a collection of related short stories called Stars Above out now. The series transposes classic fairy tale plots and characters into a futuristic setting. Previous books have done this with Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel; and now it’s Snow White’s turn. She becomes Princess Winter, the evil Lunar Queen Levana’s stepdaughter, who is beautiful and charismatic but also suffers from hallucinations. There’s an equivalent of the poisoned apple, and the huntsman and prince become the same guy. This book also resolves the ongoing attempt by Cinder, the long-lost heir to the Lunar throne, to overthrow Levana. She and her friends stir up a people’s revolt on the Moon, and the protagonists live happily ever after, although not without some interesting twists. I appreciate how the books recreate old stories while also fitting into a larger plot involving conflict between Earth and the Moon. Sometimes the fairy tale elements develop over time, like how Carswell Thorne is already a major character in Scarlet before playing the role of Rapunzel’s prince in Cress. And I must congratulate the author on the effective marketing campaign of commenting on my posts. Okay, that might have only worked on me, but it was super effective nonetheless. I feel bad that I’ve missed every time Meyer has come to New York in the past few years; I’d like to meet her.
The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, by Maria Tatar – The scholar who did the annotations for The Annotated Brothers Grimm here does a general overview of the brothers’ collection of stories, noting how it developed and what changes they made to it. While it was first billed as a collection of folklore for fellow academics, it became popular with children, so the Grimms altered the tales accordingly. Interestingly, while they tended to edit out references to sex, they increased the violence in many cases. They also often changed evil mothers into stepmothers, both to make less cases of biological parents being abusive and to reflect realities in a time of scarce resources. Something like the Hansel and Gretel situation of the stepmother convincing her husband to abandon the kids out in the woods didn’t happen often, but it wasn’t totally outside the realm of possibility.
Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain, by A. Lee Martinez – A humorous science fiction tale about a super-intelligent invertebrate from Neptune who becomes the unquestioned overlord of Earth, then tires of it and gives up his title. With help from an officer from Venus, he has to unravel a complicated plot involving Atlantis, time travel, and the revived brains of historical figures. Emperor Mollusk is an interesting character, a megalomaniac who actually cares about his subjects, a brilliant scientist who will delve as deeply as he can into potentially dangerous experiments, and a narcissist who will walk right into hazardous situations because he’s confident he can get out again. Anti-hero would probably be an appropriate term, but he’s a little more complex than that. The universe in which the story takes place is one of pulp sci-fi, in which every planet in the solar system is inhabited and several conspiracy theories are true as well.
Djinn Rummy, by Tom Holt – Most of Holt’s comic fantasy books are now available electronically from the New York Public Library, so I’ve been catching up on them. There’s a certain repetitive style to them, even though the basic premise and the sort of fantasy being skewered differ from one book to the next. In this one, a suicidal woman finds a genie in a bottle of aspirin, and the two form an uneasy relationship. This genie also frequently thwarts the plans of a fellow of his who’s constantly trying to cause worldwide destruction. This other genie tries to thwart Kawasaki Integrated Circuits, or Kiss for short (jinn in this book have corporate sponsors) by getting Cupid to make Kiss fall in love with his mistress. As such, Kiss is worried about having to give up his immortality for her. Meanwhile, a young man is being taken on a series of adventures by an Australian dragon king who’s shown up in a few earlier books. This isn’t one of my favorite Holt books, at least partially because I never really got much of a sense of the characters, but there were some world-building elements involving genie society that I enjoyed.