Review: My Father’s Country By Saima Wahab
With the movement recently for more diverse books I decided I should pick up something complexly different from what I typically read and review. As cultural experiences go I don’t think I could get a lot more different from Siama Wahab the author of In My Father’s Country. She is an Afghan woman who fled to the USA during the Soviets attack on Afghanistan.
The beginning of In My Father’s Country is the best part. I really was drawn into the culture that she grew up in and as an American more than a little frustrated by it. But much of the story is about her trying to understand what it was about the culture that her father was willing to die for. And while I am never going to like aspects of their culture it is worth trying to see it from their point of view and this book does a reasonably good job of that.
As you near the middle of the book you get into the American war in Afghanistan. Siama worked as an interpreter and eventually as someone assigned to understand the cultural landscape of Afghanistan. And this, along with her heritage really does give her a unique perspective to see things from both sides. She can understand why the Americans act the way they do and why that can upset people who don’t understand it and explain what has happened in Afghanistan better than I would have expected.
But the closer you get to the end of this book the more the biggest problem in it appears. That problem is that it’s a book that is about a story that isn’t finished. There is some meandering in the middle, discussing relationships that really don’t go anywhere and minor personal conflicts that don’t really matter. But those tend to have at least have informative effects on the rest of the story. The problem is that the war isn’t over, and Siama isn’t done. I’m not even convinced she really answered the most basic question of the book yet, what did her father die for?
I read this book because I like diversity. I want to understand the world from points of view other than mine and for that purpose it largely succeeded. Where it fails is that, as a biography it can fall apart a bit towards the end of the book because, as many modern biographies it was written too early. The story isn’t done or even close to done yet. So, if you want to understand Afghanistan and what it’s like to be a woman there and how the military could do a better job with the hearts and mind part of the solution then this is great, but as a biography I would wait because Siama Wahab has a lot of work left to do before her story is finished. That said, she has convinced me that there is work worth doing.
Arc Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher (A Dresden Files Book)
After reading the first fourteen books in the Dresden Files series there seemed little doubt that I was going to love Skin Game by Jim Butcher. The only real question was whether I was going to like it more or less than other books in the series.
For those who don’t know the Dresden Files is a series of books that follows Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book. It is generally described as a noir story with Harry as the detective, a job that fits a wizard well since the job of a wizard, beyond the magical energies he carries around is wisdom and information.
Over the course of the series that has changed in some ways. The first books are clearly noir detective stories in which Harry solves murders and mysteries, but as the story has advanced it has become more than that and while Harry’s personality hasn’t really changed his situations has. He has far more responsibilities than simply cases now and with every book it becomes clearer that there is more going on than we know.
One of the things I love about Skin Game is that while it is in large part a return to form as Harry is once again alive and in Chicago and we’re one again in a genre that at least borders noir because at its core this is a fantasy heist movie. Without giving away more than that Harry is part of the crew that has to break into an extremely secure vault. And like in any good heist movie you have to gather the crew, figure out who you can trust and eventually pull off the crime along with all the twists and turns that comes with that.
There are only a couple of very minor complaints in this book. The biggest, which is really very small in the scheme of things is that Harry spends just a little more time than I might like not trusting himself. He has good reason to question himself, but he is at points in the story reassured by Murphy, Michael, an archangel and a god, yet at the end he is still struggling with it. I know this type of struggle never goes away and internal conflict is important to good character, but it could be toned down just a hair. The other issue is with Dresden himself. Hells bells man, stop walking around without any of your tools. I know you’re going to a fancy party and can’t bring everything but put something in your pocket so you don’t exhaust yourself in your first fight every time. It was fun the first fourteen times, but at some point you want the character to learn from his mistakes.
That leaves to the recommendation which seems largely unnecessary for a series that is this long and this good. If you have read the first fourteen books in the Dresden Files you should order Skin Game now. It won’t be out for most of a month but you’ll want to make certain it arrives on your doorstep on May 27th and if you can take the day off so you can start reading immediately. This is my current favorite of The Dresden File books. It had truly funny moments, moments that made me cry and one or two at the end that did both at the same time. This may not have expanded the lore of the series quite as much as some other books in the series but it showed the character of its characters and had a lot of fun doing it.
P.S. and if you haven’t read the Dresden Files you’re in luck. There are fourteen excellent books to read already out. No need to wait for any of them and by the time you’re done Skin Game will be out and you can read it too, but I don't necessarily recommend jumping in here. You'll probably enjoy it, but no where near as much as you'll enjoy all fifteen books.
*Note* I was given an advanced review copy of Skin Game by Jim Butcher. This did not bias my review in any way.
Hugo Nomination Review: Selkie Stories are for Losers by Sofie Samatar
I clearly don't get it. That is all I can really say about "Selkie Stories are for Losers". Perhaps if I read or knew anything about Selkie stories I would be a bit more connected to this, and I know I'm not the target audiance but even with that I usually feel a bit more connected to stories, especially stories that are nominated for major awards.
The basic idea of this story is taht of a woman who's mother has left. She is, evidentally, a selkie, or a seal who sheds their skin to come on land. The skin is stolen and she can't return to the sea until she finds it. She then returns without remorse. I suspect that in this story it is a metaphor for abandonment and perhaps it always is. The story is told through a series of very short sections that tell some minor event as the main character becomes friends with another girl who has a suicidal mother.
I can certanly see the quality of this story and I suspect if you were abandoned, or had a rough relationship with your parents this would hit a lot harder. I suspect even been femail and most certainly a teenage girl this would stlike harder as well and I understand the need to write to a specific audiance and I'm certainly not always that audiance, but, the best fiction, to me is the type that can write to an audiance but also give insite into a world that you're not typically part of. This is close to that, but perhaps for me the distance was just too great.
Perhaps the biggest problem i had with this story was that for much of it I was trying to understand what a Selkie story was. I certainly got hints but I actually ended up looking it up. That isn't to say that it isn't explained at least in part in the story, but until I looked it up I wasn't really certain I understood. But this is very easily solved by the reader if you don't already know.
I can't give a real recomendation for Selkie Stories are for Losers. I can only say that it wasn't written for me and I clearly don't get it. I understand the basic idea, the tone and even the characters, but I feel very little more connection to them than i did at the beginning. But it came close and obviously other people do get it and if you're even a bit closer to the target audiance I suspect you will as well.
- Apr 24, 2014 Hugo Nominee Review: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu
- Apr 06, 2014 Captain America: Winter Soldier Questions
- Mar 27, 2014 Review: Bow Shock by Gregory Benford
- Mar 22, 2014 Review: The Girl with the Killer Eyes by B. B. Kristopher
- Mar 20, 2014 Review: Dog Soldier by Garth Nix
- Dec 19, 2013 Nora's Song by Cecelia Holland (Dangerous Women Anthology)
- Dec 17, 2013 A Few Scene Notes on The Desolation of Smaug
- Dec 16, 2013 My Heart is Either Broken, by Megan Abbott (From Dangerous Women)
- Dec 10, 2013 Review: Some Desperado from Joe Abercrombie (From Dangerous Women)
- Oct 22, 2013 Is Castle Now a Science Fiction Series?