Vacation Reading: Okorafor, Blake, and Kagan
One of many nice things about getting away for vacation earlier this month was the chance to catch up on some reading.
It began with Nnedi Okorafor‘s Binti: Home [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], the sequel to her award-winning novella Binti (reviewed here). The new novella will be coming out from Tor.com in early 2017, but I got the chance to read an early copy and provide a blurb. The story has Okorafor’s trademark imagination and creativity and wonderful worldbuilding. Binti (the character) is once again caught in the middle of cultural conflicts, both between humanity and the alien Meduse, and among her own people and family.
I loved getting to see more of Binti’s home and family, as well as the additional background and history. In some ways, this felt a bit more introspective than the first novella. We don’t get the same level of world-changing conflicts and resolution. The focus is more personal, and I thought that worked well.
My one complaint is that this is part two of a trilogy, and had a bit of a cliffhanger ending. But that’s just more reason for me to put the third Binti novella on my To Be Read list, and to hope Okorafor writes and publishes it soon!
Next up was Deborah Blake‘s Wickedly Powerful [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], the third book in her Baba Yaga paranormal romance series. “Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world.”
This book follows the third of the three U.S.-based Baba Yagas, a woman named Bella Young with a fiery temper and magic to match. An accident with her power when she was young led her to isolate herself so she wouldn’t hurt anyone else. Her only company is the dragon Koshka, who lives disguised as a Norwegian Forest Cat.
Enter scarred (inside and out) former Hotshots firefighter Sam Corbett, who works the fire watch tower in a forest plagued by magical blazes. Blazes Bella has been sent to investigate.
These books are fun. I read this one in about two days. Bella, Sam, and Koshka are all quite likeable, even as their insecurities lead them through the usual romantic stumbles and misunderstandings. The villain is unapologetically evil. It’s a nice wrap-up to the three Baba Yaga books, and a good bridge into Blake’s next set of stories.
My only minor complaint is that the confrontation with the villain felt like it ended a bit too quickly and abruptly.
This one does rely a bit on events that happened in book two, so there might be a few minor moments of confusion if you’ve not read the earlier books, but you can still read, follow, and enjoy this one on its own if you so desire.
In short, I’d call this a good old-fashioned comfort read. With a cat-who’s-really-a-dragon. But then, aren’t most cats?
Finally, my son and I finished reading Mirable [Amazon | B&N], by Janet Kagan.
I’ve talked about Janet’s books a few times before, but I’m happy to say my 11-year-old really enjoyed this one. It’s set on the planet Mirabile, in the early days of a human colony. The geneticists back on Earth really wanted to make sure the colonists had redundant copies of various species, so not only did they provide frozen embryos, they also backed up genetic codes in different creatures. So your dandelions might suddenly give birth to a swarm of bumblebees, or a cat might have a litter of raccoons. And then there are the Dragon’s Teeth — hybrids like the Kangaroo Rex or the Frankenswine…
The book is made up of six stories. We were reading the old print edition, which has bridge sections between each story, but I’ve been told the new ebook edition lacks those. Regardless, its a lot of fun.
Annie Jason Masmajean is a wonderful character, a gruff, fierce, loving older woman devoted to the people and wildlife of her new home. She also knows her way around a shotgun, gets a lovely romance with lots of making out, and is just generally awesome.
The secondary characters are great as well, and Kagan obviously put some thought into the cultural norms and makeup of the colony. And if some of the science strains credulity a bit, it’s all in the service of creating an imaginative, creative, and shamelessly fun world.
July 18, 2016 @ 5:07 pm
Hellspark has been one of my all-time favorite books since middle school and one I go back and re-read when I need a pick-me-up. Her books are almost impossible to find in print. I would love to be able to recommend them to my customers at the independent new/used bookstore I work in, but alas, we never have any copies.
July 19, 2016 @ 10:10 am
Ooh, a new Binti!
I read and enjoyed the first of the Baba Yaga series- I think that dragon was a pit bull. Cute and fun.
More votes for loving Mirabile. Annie is not only fierce and loving, but allowed to have a love interest as well. The Collected Kagan also has lots of fun stories, and Hellspark is in my virtual TBR stack.
July 19, 2016 @ 9:24 pm
I just finished Mirabile myself (I think it was in a recent Humble Bundle or something?) and adore it. It’s so much FUN, and lacks many of the things I find annoying. I loved the romance and the friendships and the ridiculous science and the obvious love Kagan has for biology. It’s also funny as hell.
Hellspark seems to be about a different set of characters on a different planet? So I haven’t gotten to that one yet. I just want 52 more books of life on Mirabile, lol.
Jim C. Hines
July 20, 2016 @ 10:36 am
Yep – Hellspark is different characters, different planet. It might be set in the same universe as Mirabile, but if so, it’s probably pretty far in Mirabile’s future.
But Hellspark has the same heart and the same sense of fun 🙂