There might be spoilers in the comments.
Nisi Shawl, Everfair
Steampunk alternative history of the Congo Free State. The story is told through the eyes of a couple of dozen viewpoint characters. I'm glad I read this but I found it a bit dissatisfying. I was going to say simply that I felt unqualified to appreciate it (and I still think that's somewhat true, because I don't read much alternate history), but a few other reviews discussed the same issues, so I decided to review it after all. I loved reading a book based on the history of a part of Africa and something I had never studied or known about. I think it's a great contribution to the steampunk genre. I liked the diversity of the characters—not only ethnic diversity but also diversity in terms of the work they did (it's not a book where everyone is an aristocrat), their viewpoints, their religions, their relationships. I liked that it was not just a book about war and government but that the characters led their everyday lives and thought their everyday thoughts alongside the work they were doing to build a nation. But I think I would have liked the book better if it were twice as long (and therefore twice as detailed) or a series of books. Often I felt like I was reading a sketchy outline, or maybe more as if I were walking in and out of a room while a show was playing on TV and so I was seeing some scenes, enough to get the gist, but missing about half of it. I liked the steampunk inventions and the characters, but many of them didn't seem to get fully fleshed out. (Exceptions being King Mwenda, Josina, and Fwendi.) A character would crop up and I'd get a brief sense of what was in their head but then they'd disappear again. I felt the same way about the history that was being described. I've previously felt that Nisi Shawl was mostly a short story writer, and the sketchy style where you have to infer stuff works ok in a short story but I don't like it in a long novel.
Here are a few other reviews, which I encourage looking at if you're trying to decide whether to read the book.
- "'Everfair' Looks Into Steampunk's Dark Heart by Amal El-Mohtar
- This reviewer approves of the choice to keep the story to a single book: "Everfair, in love and war" by Paul Constant
Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races
Well narrated by Steve West & Fiona Hardingham. (I don't like books with double narrators because it bothers me when the same character has two different voices, depending on who viewpoint character is. But they did a good job because I was only distracted by it a few times.) YA fantasy based on humans racing something like the Celtic mythical water horse (Capaill Uisce). I liked the protagonists and most of the relationships felt nuanced. The villains were somewhat cardboard but they did have motives. I thought the ending felt wrong but that didn't spoil the book for me.
None this week
Agents of SHIELD was back with new episodes last week.
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Just finished Season 2 (the DVD has some great extras; the one about the costuming was my favorite). Season 3 is not available on DVD from Netflix yet, and the OH doesn't like watching things via streaming, so we bought the DVD set of the first three seasons from shopPBS.com.
Nikita: Series from 2010–2013 starring Maggie Q, a sequel of sorts to the movie La Femme Nikita. We've watched about 5 episodes so far. It has a problem I've noticed with a number of American TV shows where I find it hard to tell some of the younger characters apart because the actors and actresses look too much alike (young, pretty/handsome, toned/buff, white).
The OA: Watched 2 episodes of this not-sure-what-genre-it-is-yet. Liked that it addressed the problems of second-generation immigrant kids. Someone told me there was problematic stuff later in the season.
Person of Interest: We're watching season 3 and have gotten past [massive spoiler]. Love the ensemble cast of this show and how it keeps adding new recurring characters.
Bridge to Another World: The Others: BigFishGames hidden object / puzzle story
The ABC Murders: Point-and-click-and-solve-puzzles game based on the Agatha Christie Poirot novel of the same name
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