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13 March 2010 @ 05:52 pm
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.
 
 
 
The sanest lunatic you've ever met: farscape: Rygel says - Word yosdwolfpup on March 14th, 2010 02:45 am (UTC)
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.

Are you me? I LOVE playing the cleric, for all of the reasons you listed, but the god-choosing was the most important (and fun) part.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 02:59 am (UTC)
I am not nearly awesome enough to be you! But clearly we are AD&D sisters. Because god selection is AWESOME FUN, and clerics are clearly the best possible class. *dreamy sigh*
lilacsigil: hermionelilacsigil on March 14th, 2010 02:45 am (UTC)
Second book is on order already!

Also, another way to get a cleric is to have a little brother, several years younger than you, who would really, really like to hang with the big kids and play D&D. Just saying. If you're planning the Earthling's D&D future, or anything.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 03:02 am (UTC)
Second book is on order already!

YAY.

Also, another way to get a cleric is to have a little brother, several years younger than you, who would really, really like to hang with the big kids and play D&D. Just saying. If you're planning the Earthling's D&D future, or anything.

I will, of course, attempt to raise the earthling with an appreciation for the wonders of clerics, but if he falls for the paladin or the magic-user or the thief or whatever, I guess I can see if I can recruit a little brother for him. *thoughtful*
Adinaadina_atl on March 14th, 2010 02:53 am (UTC)
I discovered that Jemisin's book is available on the Kindle, so I've asked for the sample chapters. Thanks for the recommendation (and the discommendation for the gender-bender).
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV dogtagsthefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 03:06 am (UTC)
Yup! (Many of the books I review will be on Kindle, since that's how I do most of my reading these days.) The sad part is, Gender Blender is also on Kindle, and I suspected it would be bad from the sample, and I bought it anyway. Apparently I am just that much of a sucker for bodyswap. It's sad, really.
kungfunursekungfunurse on March 14th, 2010 02:53 am (UTC)
While I thank you to high heaven for saving me from Gender Blender (because I, too, would have bought it, then cried little girlie tears, i suppose) I don't have time to write fic at the mo! *cries*

BUT! I have something else to offer. Something so good, so wonderful, that it will make you delirious with joy. Have you ever heard of Boston Legal?
kungfunursekungfunurse on March 14th, 2010 02:55 am (UTC)
Also, I *adored* playing the cleric and still have several, very treasured, characters I'd worked up to 25th level from back in the day. And you're right, choosing the correct god is VERY important. It's always good to be on the right side of the divine powers that're gonna keep bringing you and your friends back to life, after all. *G*
(no subject) - thefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 03:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kungfunurse on March 14th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 03:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kungfunurse on March 14th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
themadpokerthemadpoker on March 14th, 2010 03:05 am (UTC)
I have read both of these books! Gender Blender is pretty much as terible as you say (yet I read it because it was infinitely preferable to actually writing the paper I was in the library to do) and The Hundred Thousand Kingdom is absolutely not! I actually picked it up yesterday and consequently used up most of the today reading it (...which is not too far off what happened with Gender Blender. :/ I am sensing a pattern in my reading habits maybe)

Anyways! The gods in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms were EXCELLENT. I kept changing my mind about my favourite. I'm pretty sure it's Sieh but cannot claim one hundred percent certainty as Nahadoth offers his own hugely compelling argument. And on the non-god side of things I adored Yeine like an adoring thing. Favourite main character I've read this year. ^o^
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV Katamari Damacythefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 03:47 am (UTC)
I'm impressed that you've read both, since they aren't exactly a pair that would crop up in Amazon's Better Together or anything. And, also, I am filled with commiserations on the Gender Blender thing. (I would argue that writing a paper is SO MUCH BETTER than reading that, but I guess it would depend on what the paper was on.)

But The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms makes it all better, doesn't it? My mistake was finishing it BEFORE Gender Blender.
like using semaphore at the drive thru: Booksprettyshiny on March 14th, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
Okay, you sold me on Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I went and bought it for my Barnes & Noble nook just now, since I trust your judgment so well. Thanks for the rec.

Also, thanks for the warning on Gender Blender. *wince*
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV lettersthefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 03:49 am (UTC)
Yay! I think you will enjoy The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. (And I don't think anyone who has read a fannish version of bodyswap could possibly enjoy Gender Blender.) I feel I've done a good evening's work here.
Vanilla  ... Spiked with Slivovitz: witch by Carus_erusjenna_thorn on March 14th, 2010 03:21 am (UTC)
Godwalking is fun.
Not only do I play a cleric as a rule, I set up an entire pantheon of my own - names, spheres of influence, family ties, in order to have a single set of gods for a campaign I was running.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV menorahthefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 03:51 am (UTC)
Re: Godwalking is fun.
True fact: Best Beloved and I, in our pre-child days, used to have a game we played at restaurants and before movies and so on. One of us would name three things (blood, flowers, cocoa) and the other would have to build a pantheon around it, and then a world around the pantheon. It was fun.

...We were nerds, yes. But it was FUN.
Re: Godwalking is fun. - stasia on March 14th, 2010 04:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
lightning rod for criticism: beatlesannakovsky on March 14th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
Oh man, so I was about to be like, "I'm pretty sure I read that Gender Blender book when I was like 12! It was indeed pretty terrible!" But then I thought, maybe I should check the publication date on this to be sure it's the same book and... it really is not. WHICH MEANS THERE IS A BOOK JUST LIKE THAT WRITTEN IN THE '80S OR EARLY '90S. That is extremely distressing to me.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV shoesthefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
I am pretty sure there's a paper in this, Anna! "Unchanging change: A longitudinal study of bodyswap in young adult fiction." Except think what you'd have to READ.
The long dark wet t-shirt contest of the soul.: gracetripoli on March 14th, 2010 03:37 am (UTC)
When me and my younger sister were little, we used to take her Barbies and sort them into pantheons and act out their ridiculously baroque court intrigue. Kira was my favorite, so I think I made her the goddess in charge of the Barbie mansion that was some kind of gateway between feuding parallel Barbie universes. It's frankly a miracle we grew up even as functional as we did.

Wow, I hadn't even thought about that in years. I vaguely remember something about Stacy, Goddess of Music and Skipper, God of Waiting In the Car.
The long dark wet t-shirt contest of the soul.: gracetripoli on March 14th, 2010 03:39 am (UTC)
Oh, and when I graduate from grad school in May and get to be a real person again, I'm so getting my hands on the Jemisin. I may buy it now just so I can admire it on my shelf.
(no subject) - thefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mecurtin on March 14th, 2010 04:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
Admission to the Burning Ruins — 10¢: Readinglaughingacademy on March 14th, 2010 03:40 am (UTC)
...a chipmunk? What, sitting on zir crotch?
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 04:57 am (UTC)
YES. She thinks it might have built a NEST. On her CROTCH. Because obviously if you wake up with something poking up from your general crotch region, you assume it's a chipmunk. I mean, I'm not even in a guy's body, and that would not be my first assumption. Or my fifth. Or my THOUSANDTH.

(And, okay, maybe I'm just misunderstanding the way tiddlewinkles work in puberty, but she'd been in Tom's body for like three days at that point. Am I really supposed to believe that that was the first time she experienced an erection?)
(no subject) - stasia on March 14th, 2010 05:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
ethel, the pirate's daughtere_clare on March 14th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)
Gender-bending YA, you say? I give you Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin, in which our heroine changes into a boy for a week every month. Haven't read it yet personally, but seen it talked up frequently at the above link and elsewhere -- it's on the list! There's also a sequel: Recycler (naturally).

Thanks for saving your readers from Gender Blender. It sounds...*unique*.

tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 05:01 am (UTC)
Thank you. That sounds awesome, and I am SO READY for that book. (For true and serious: I was so irked by Gender Blender that when I took a shower this evening, I plotted out a YA bodyswap story. It would be better, because, well, how could it be worse?)
(no subject) - e_clare on March 14th, 2010 06:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
Stasiastasia on March 14th, 2010 04:40 am (UTC)
I haven't bothered to read the comments (yet), but I have to tell you about this series. They're by Lois McMaster Bujold. The first one is called The Curse of Chalion. There's a sample chapter (the first one) here. There are, so far, three books in the series, and I wish so damned hard she'd drop the series she's working on now and get back to these.

I like both the pantheon, and I can spend a long time working and thinking about different panthea as well, and I love the main character of this book. The male main character of the third one is also an interesting guy.

Stasia

(now off to read comments)
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV dogtagsthefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 05:04 am (UTC)
I have read them! And I LOVE The Curse of Chalion. (My relationship to Paladin of Souls is, um, much more complex. Much more.) It was totally the pantheon that sold me, too - well, that, and I just loved the characters. But, oh. The pantheon. <3 <3 <3!

And, hey, if you are a fellow pantheon junkie, may I suggest Dave Duncan's Great Game Trilogy? It may feature in a Books I Love post someday, but why wait? (Past Imperative, Present Tense, Future Indefinite. I really do love these books, entirely because of what they do with gods and world-building. Um. Although if you are a very Christian person, you may need a further warning.)
(no subject) - stasia on March 14th, 2010 05:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 05:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - stasia on March 14th, 2010 06:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - stasia on March 14th, 2010 06:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
Whatever turns you on, whatever gets you off . . .ladyblahblah on March 14th, 2010 04:54 am (UTC)
I've never played a cleric, but I did briefly play in a Greek Mythology campaign where we were all VERY CAREFUL to make regular tributes to our patron gods, lest we be smote like the heathens we were. (There was also the fascinating addition of "hubris points", which I advocate with a fiery passion.)

I'm going to have to track down The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms now. I may even have to pay full price for it, curse you, if we don't have it at work! I'd also recommend you check out--if you haven't already--The Lies of Locke Lamora. The gods aren't the main focus, and are in fact only ever mentioned sort of in passing and as cultural references, but the I offer unquestioning support to any pantheon that includes gods like Iono the Stormbringer, The Lord of Grasping Waters and Nara the Plague Mistress, The Lady of Ubiquitous Maladies. The world is also fantastically built, and it has just enough recognizable fantasy tropes to be entertaining.

As far as bodyswap goes, um . . . I'm usually too shy to do this, and it's going to take everything I have to hit 'post comment' after this, but . . . I've actually written a K/S bodyswap fic, and it's the only one I can think of off the top of my head. Um. *cough*

*hides*
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV flowersthefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 06:51 am (UTC)
There was also the fascinating addition of "hubris points", which I advocate with a fiery passion.

FABULOUS. I want to be in that campaign right now!

I'd also recommend you check out--if you haven't already--The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Oh god how I love that book. It is AWESOME. I am all sadfaced and mopey because The Republic of Thieves isn't out yet. Waaaaant.

I've actually written a K/S bodyswap fic, and it's the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

OMG LONG BODYSWAP PON FARR STORY YAY. Thank you for linking me! Now I must face the Eternal Question: do I Kindle it ahead of schedule or make myself wait? (I read all fan fiction over 1000 words on my Kindle, because, well, I spend a lot of time nursing, and it's nice to have something to read.)
(no subject) - ladyblahblah on March 14th, 2010 07:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fleurrochard on March 14th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - nix_this on April 3rd, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Proactively Untwist Octagonal Hippopotamus Pants: sex soupdramaturgca on March 14th, 2010 04:57 am (UTC)
Is it a sign that there's too much sexuality in my life that, when reading a paper that referenced "elaborate balls", my first thought involved genital tattooing?
tried to eat the safe banana: UF indigo girlsthefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
I would say that it is a sign that there is just enough sexuality in your life!
plus one skeletondelurker on March 14th, 2010 05:11 am (UTC)
So... not so much Gender Bender as Gender Stereotype Reinforcements? Le sigh.

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?
Ahahahaha what? Seriously?
And surely you could at least go with the family cat, as a smallish animal which could plausibly be in the house? (Agh, but no! It still makes no sense!)
Girl, where is your sense of adventure and curiosity?
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV glowythefourthvine on March 14th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah. Or you could call it Gender Stupidity. Or This Is Not How You Do Bodyswap, Moron. That would also be a good title!

Ahahahaha what? Seriously?

SHE THINKS IT HAS MADE A NEST. If you woke up and there was something poking up from your crotch region, would your first thought be "A chipmunk has made a nest near my genitals"? I can't imagine thinking that. But then, I would also think to LIFT THE SHEET AND HAVE A LOOK.

Girl, where is your sense of adventure and curiosity?

She's a GIRL. She doesn't have a sense of adventure or curiosity! BOYS have those. What kind of girl are you that you did not know that? *eyes you*