Saturday, May 30, 2020

Tuyo, by Rachel Neumeier

You may have noticed that I'm a big Rachel Neumeier fan, so when I heard about Tuyo I was more than moderately excited. New story in an entirely new world! And she's so good at making worlds!

I did not anticipate how intensely I would adore this book. Ryo captured my heart from the moment we meet him kneeling in the snow tied to a stake, and I was unable to put the book down after that. I think it might be safe to say this is now my favourite Neumeier novel. It turns out I have some buttons, and Tuyo pushes all of them. In no particular order, things I loved about this book:

Intriguing world-building. Neumeier always creates fascinating fantasy landscapes and, even more important, believable societies to inhabit them: given the constraints of this landscape and these laws of physics/magic, what society would work to deal with them? Tuyo is set in a world divided by climate: the vast, snow-bound, moon-ruled winter lands and the gentle, fertile, sun-ruled summer lands. And I believed entirely in the Ugaro of the winter country and the Lau of the summer country—and in the reasons for their conflict.

Learning about a culture through fish-out-of-water characters. The two main characters are both competent and respected in their own country and confused and inept in the other, and this makes for a humorous and organic way to explore the world.

Military stories. I do not know why I enjoy these: I who have never held a weapon, never taken a martial arts class, believe strongly in peace and diplomacy and think war is a dumb way to solve problems. But it makes for great plots! I loved the two military societies: the tribal Ugaro with their harsh but fair laws governing conflict; the Roman-esque Lau with their orderly hierarchy and comradely soldier culture. I particularly loved watching characters from each society come to appreciate and value those from the other. And I was glad the fighting was not the main focus of the plot, even though there were some great action scenes. I love it when a conversation is more intense than a swordfight.

Heroes with integrity. I love plots that explore what honour is and the conflict of characters determined to do the right thing but not sure what that is. Ryo and Aras are on opposite sides of a war; they are loyal to different countries and believe in different goals; but they are both honourable men who keep their word. I loved watching Ryo negotiate between his duty, his loyalty and his word. I loved how oaths are used in Tuyo: so powerful.

Loyalty and trust. These are themes that stir me deeply, and Neumeier deals with them especially well. One of the main reasons I love the Black Dog books so much is the relationship between Ezekiel and Grayson Lanning—so many punch-in-the-guts moments between them—and the main relationship in this book is possibly even better.

Bromance. See above, re: loyalty and trust. All the feels here. I will not spoil who the bromance is between, but it's the best.

Interesting explorations of women in society. Love it when fantasies try out different ways of imagining women's roles, because, hey, it's fantasy—why wouldn't you?! I enjoyed what Neumeier did with women in the Ugaro society, and the contrast with the Lau and how the characters dealt with it. Female characters didn't play a huge role in this novel, but they were awesome!

Loved the world, loved the characters, am happy to know she intends to write more about them!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Murderbot!!!! And my birthday present finally arrived! A good week!

Martha Wells' Murderbot novel, Network Effect, came out on Tuesday, and yay for the pandemic because I hardly had anything I needed to drop so I I could spend all day reading it! Also a good thing I was all by myself, because I was laughing out loud and crying (sometimes with laughter, sometimes not) and yelling at the characters, and having the most fun I've had all pandemic.

I may have mentioned one or two times how much I love Murderbot. The novel is everything I wanted it to be and more. We get Dr. Mensah's brother-in-law, who doesn't trust Murderbot and definitely doesn't like it, and Dr. Mensah's teen-aged daughter, who is miffed at Murderbot but also trusts it implicitly,  and ART, who—gah—can't say anything about ART! And new scary villains and weird scenarios that only Martha Wells could think up that require Murderbot to care about things. A lot. Also, some of the really terrible bad things that have happened to Murderbot may have caused some lingering trauma that might possibly be affecting its performance reliability.

I liked this quotation and Rachel Neumeier's comments about it: kind of sums it up, really! But amidst all the violence and mayhem there are the awesome character moments that punch you in the gut, and always Murderbot's sarcastic, defensive, sulky, exasperated, painfully human, wise voice.
You know that thing humans do where they think they're being completely logical and they absolutely are not being logical at all, and on some level they know that, but can't stop? Apparently it can happen to SecUnits, too.
I've told you this before: go read the Murderbot Diaries. Start with the novellas so that you'll be able to fully appreciate the novel. Trust me, you need this in your life right now!

(According to Goodreads there is a short story told from Dr. Mensah's point of view, but I can't find it anywhere! Anyone know where I can get my hands on it??)

Then on Friday, the book I had ordered for my birthday back in March finally arrived. It's the new Folio Society illustrated Howl's Moving Castle. Look how beautiful it is!