Rush-That-Speaks (rushthatspeaks) wrote,

me update + book rec

So I was meant to go up to Boston for Christmas, and up to Montreal for New Year's. As it turns out, I met sovay in NYC on the way up to Boston, and we went to handful_ofdust's reading at KGB, which was lovely, and that was the last thing that went as originally planned. sovay's grandfather died suddenly and all was sadness and chaos and logistics. (His memory for a blessing. I did not know him well, but everything I have heard was admirable.)

B. and my wife were in town for bits of time, too, though not for the funeral, and there was a lot of running about (faerieboots and rustycoon are heroes of the revolution for helping gaudior and me in Project Get Out Of The Grieving People's Hair So People Coming To The Funeral Can Use That Bed). I have a whole pile of Christmas presents I managed to forget to deliver to, like, everyone who was not twenty feet away from me at some point and in fact I failed to deliver some to people who were. Uh. I will manage this sometime in January I guess?

And then I came down with a nasty cold and so instead of going to Montreal I came back to B.'s and went to bed. Where I remain, about three weeks behind myself. (A Christmas season in which one only blows one significant writing deadline is... about average, actually, huh.)

The whole experience was, as is the way of such things, made a lot better by reading. As is her way, sovay handed me some really good books I hadn't read, and I read them. Most people do not do this with any frequency and it is one of the awesome things about my girlfriend that she can.

Urban fantasy, in the newer meaning of those words (i.e., more vampires, less Charles de Lint), is not really one of my genres. I have however read a fair bit of it, because I am always in search of new brain candy, and also I keep hoping somebody will do something not just fun but also good with it.

Tim Pratt? Totally did. His Marla Mason books are just plain good. Well, the first one is fun and has a lot of potential; the second through fourth are very good indeed; the fifth is epically awesomely heartbreakingly epic, and the sixth should be starting crowdfunded serialization right about now. (Oh and there's an inessential prequel novella and a lot of short stories.)

Marla Mason is an urban sorcerer who runs the city of Felport, somewhere on the U.S. East Coast. Felport, as far as I can tell, is a grungier iteration of New Haven. Marla likes grungy. She came up from street kid on a wave of being willing to do whatever it takes... to a point. Sorcerers basically dislike each other a lot of the time and can get pretty territorial, so there's a lot of political infighting. In the first book, Blood Engines, Marla and her sidekick Rondeau, a bodyswapping magical parasite of unknown origins currently inhabiting the body of a thirtysomething dude with horrible taste in suits, are in San Francisco trying to stave off a power play by one of Marla's vassals when they stumble into your classical I Will Subjugate The World By Summoning An Evil God Mwa Ha Ha plot on the part of a local guy. This book has a fair bit of travelogue and a lot of worldbuilding, and can get pretty info-dumpy. I like it because the world it builds has a fun everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to magic which nonetheless manages to avoid borking the overall metaphysics in the ways that have become almost traditional in its genre-- no secretly-everything-is-run-by-Biblical-angels-or-demons here-- and because, and this is positively bizarre for its genre, it is resolutely sex-positive, queer-friendly, kink-friendly, and populated by many people who are of many varied ethnicities who have agency and rounded characters and are not walking stereotypes. We haven't seen much of Marla's love life, but she's canonically bi; Rondeau is canonically It's Complicated; later in the series there's, will wonders never cease, a positively depicted and kickass asexual human character. Also, Marla is actually allowed to be ruthless. So: book one, fun.

Book two, Poison Sleep, is where the whole thing becomes awesome. There's an escapee from the hospital where Marla detains sorcerers who've gone too nuts to be responsible for their actions, and much of the book has to work as a result on multiple levels: the level of political reality and assassination and wondering whether the toilets have in fact been possessed by shit demons, and dream-logic, multi-valent surrealist image and the level of the escaped sorcerer's head. And it works. And it's beautiful. It's just purely beautiful, in images, in plotting, even occasionally in language.

And then the stakes go up, book by book, as the cast becomes larger and more fleshed out, as the limits of what Marla will and won't do become more obvious, as the metaplot of the series kicks in (boy howdy, does it). For reasons that confuse me deeply, the publisher dropped the series after book four, which ends on an extremely nasty cliffhanger. Book five may be found in its entirety at the series website, and I am going to buy a paper copy, because the author deserves my support, because book five did a whole bunch of things that this sort of novel doesn't do, including make me cry.

So the entirety of the holidays-that-weren't would have been much worse without those. You should totally all read them. I'm going to go stalk the author's LJ for updates on book six.

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