Ada Palmer, of Ex Urbe, and historian at University of Chicago, has just published her first novel, Too Like the Lightning.

I just finished it (though there was one scene that almost made me stop reading, for real) and would love to talk about it, but I'm not going to spoil you.

Instead, I'm going to give you the jacket blurb, and hope that intersts those of you who haven't picked it up yet:

Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer–a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labeling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world’s population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competition is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destabilize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life…
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On Tuesday I went with [personal profile] greenygal and L to see Project Itoh: The Empire of Corpses.

It's an alternate-history anime featuring Dr. John Waston (yes, that one) working for the British government trying to find the lost notebook of Victor Frankenstein. In a world where reanimated corpses have become cheap labor.

Yup, a steampunk zombie movie from Japan. I loved it; it was gorgeous and ridiculous and utterly fascinating.

In no particular order there was:

John Waston, who has stolen and reanimated his friend's corpse.
M/Walsingham, the head of a British intelligence agency who blackmails John into working for him
Friday/Noble Savage-007, the aforementioned friend as a reanimated corpse; Watson has programed him to act as scribe
The Nautilus, in a moment of sheer WTF?!
An automaton that just wants a soul
A cameo by Thomas Edison
Babbage analytical engines directing corpse labor
Analytical engines running on punch cards with input/output by manual typewriter
Ulysses S Grant in Japan
Alexei Karamazov as Russian corpse-engineer who has stolen the Frankenstein notebook and run off to Afghanistan
Nikolai Krasotkin as a Russian agent sent to track down Alexei Karamazov
A battle at the Khyber Pass, as enacted by armies of reanimated corpses
Frederick Burnaby, who is assigned as Watson's handler/bodyguard
The British super-computer/analytical engine is named Charles Babbage
The American one, in San Francisco, is named Paul Bunyan
Frankenstein's actual monster
Universal Horror's version of Frankenstein's monster
A Japanese military officer with truly outrageous eyebrows
A woman on top of a stagecoach, wielding a flamethrower
Zombie shinto monks as scribes for a Japanese corporation's analytical engine
Security hacking of reanimated corpses and with reanimated corpses
A villain who wants everyone in the world turned into a reanimated corpse, because that's the way to peace...uhm, no?
Corpse-bomb, because what's creepier than reanimated corpses? Reanimated corpses that explode!
A trip around the world from London, to Afghanistan, to Japan, to San Francisco, and then finally back to London (by submarine? from San Francisco?!)
Frankenstein's brain, in a jar!

It was like someone had put 19th century European literature and history in a blender, and then filtered it through Japanese anime.

I want more of it, possibly in crossover with Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, possibly just a 5000 word essay on how abundant corpse labor would have transformed Victorian culture, with special focus on the effects on the working class of being replaced by undead factory workers, on death and dying when bodies might be reanimated, and on the leisure class when half your servants are dead.
neotoma: Neotoma albigula, the white-throated woodrat! [default icon] (Default)
( Jan. 1st, 2016 04:39 pm)
Of Castes and Honey (1253 words) by Neotoma
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Books of the Raksura - Martha Wells
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Moon (Books of the Raksura), Chime (Books of the Raksura)
Summary:

Chime, Moon, and honeybees.



If you haven't read any of the Books of the Raksura by Martha Wells, they're the story of Moon, an orphan who has spent his entire life hiding his ability to shapeshift into a form capable of flight. His discovery of people like himself changes his life.

The novels are notable for the fact that the world is populated by a wide variety of not-quite-human species and that there are no humans in the setting. Also, the detritus of previous civilizations are quite literally everywhere, and some of the artifacts are outright deadly; the worldbuilding is excellent, and the characters both alien enough to be not human, but human enough to be relatible.
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