tried to eat the safe banana (thefourthvine) wrote,
tried to eat the safe banana

Books: Gender Blender and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Book I Have Issues With: Gender Blender, by Blake Nelson

Let's just present this as a conversation between me and the book.

Gender Blender: I am YA bodyswap!
Me: Sold.
Gender Blender: So. Let's start off with a spurious Native American legend! Ha ha, those wacky Indians and their crazy gender-swapping gods!
Me: Um.
Gender Blender: And then I think we should explore gender by reinforcing stereotypes! Emma is a sweet little gymnast A-student perfectionist, always eager to please, but also part of an evil bitch cabal! Also, she likes to talk about feelings. Tom is a slacker slobbo thrill-seeking baseball player dude! He likes to spit and punch things.
Me: Oh. Um. Look, since we're talking and all, can I ask you a question?
Gender Blender: Sure!
Me: If you're going to have a scene where Tom-in-Emma's-body looks in a mirror to have his First Real Experience of Boobs, and he's all excited about that, then why does Emma's only exploration of Tom's body consist of thinking Tom's dick is a chipmunk when she wakes up with an erection?
Gender Blender: Because, see, boys like boobs.
Me: But girls don't like cocks?
Gender Blender: Well, not good girls. Also, we prefer to use the term "boy part."
Me: This is my review, and I will call it a tiddlewinkle before I call it a boy part.
Gender Blender: Fine. Clearly you aren't a good girl.
Me: Nope. Also, why is there a whole chapter of Tom checking out the girls in the locker room (where most of them turn out to be ugly and fat!) and the shower, and getting to see the boobs of his crush and so on, but Emma never gets a chance to check out guys in the shower or the bathroom or anywhere?
Gender Blender: It might make boys uncomfortable. Plus, you know, she's a good girl, so obviously she wouldn't want to.
Me: I see.
Gender Blender: But I have many other things to offer! Did I mention that there is embarrassment squick aplenty?
Me: Oh, joy. Remind me why I finished you?
Gender Blender: My chapters are short. And you were desperate.
Me: Right.
Gender Blender: I did avoid the smoochy ending you were fearing. Don't I get credit for that?
Me: Sure, yes, absolutely. In the "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln" sense, anyway.
Gender Blender: You know, if you're going to be like this about it, I think maybe you should stick to bodyswap and genderswap in fan fiction.
Me: I will, thanks.

But you'll all be relieved to know that Tom and Emma got good grades on their gender report and learned not to argue so much. There. Now you don't have to read this. (If anyone feels like writing me bodyswap, especially Spock/Kirk or Sam-Teal'c, as a "thank you for saving me from this terrible book" gift, I will not say no. For the record.)

Book I Love: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N. K. Jemisin

You know, when I used to play AD&D (when I used to have time to play AD&D), I was always welcome in any group I cared to join. Because I was willing to play the cleric. No arguments! No roll-percentiles-loser-has-to-be-the-cleric! No letting one person have two player characters if he'd make one of them the healer! I actually wanted to be on the god squad, giving hit points and taking them away (usually not to the same person). I liked using a mace. I preferred clerical spells to magic-user spells. But most of all, I loved gods. (I could, no lie, spend a whole hour just selecting my character's god. This is an important choice, people!)

So, you know, you give me a really well-thought-out pantheon, I am pretty much your girl. I will cling to you through two thousand pages of dense prose and let you kill off nearly all the awesome characters. I will even forgive you shoddy worldbuilding and cookie-cutter fantasy and women whose entire purpose is to have sex and make babies and then die so the hero can experience manpain. (To a point. Don't test me on this one.)

Which makes me all the more grateful that in this book, I didn't have to forgive anything. There's, yes, a massively awesome pantheon. (Some of the gods are slaves, and some are dead, and one is crazy, which is just so incredibly wonderful I can't even tell you. Um, not for the gods, though. Just the reader.) But it doesn't stop there, because this book is incredible: well-written, set in a world the author clearly actually put thought into, and not a Tolkien knock-off in sight. (I think this book might actually have killed Tolkien, in all honesty, if it somehow managed to travel through time to land in his extremely cultured hands. For one thing, the squat dark-skinned girl isn't actually evil, and the tall skinny white people sort of go beyond evil. We all know how hard he would have taken that.) Plus, it provides a functional education in all the things that can go terribly, terribly wrong with ruling by divine right. (Particularly if the divine right is, shall we say, explicit.) You have to admit that's a handy bonus.

I am supposed to pace myself with new books - otherwise I end up reading things like Gender Blender, which never ends well for anyone - but I couldn't with this one. I didn't so much read it as fall on it like a starving wolf. In the end, my only complaints with this book were 1) it ended and 2) there was not nearly enough of it.

If all fantasy was like this, you would not be able to pry me out of the genre with the jaws of life.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: [books], [recaps and reviews]
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