Reading Wednesday - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Reading Wednesday
Thursday, 20 August 2015 at 11:09 am
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Recently read:

Currently reading: The Fresco by Sheri S Teppper. This is for the Bringing up Burns challenge item a book your friend loves, and the book was given to me as a Christmas present by [personal profile] cjwatson. I've been reluctant to pick up anything of Tepper's because I have formed the impression she has some pretty scary views, can't remember if I got that from people talking about her or summarizing her books or essays and excerpts in her own words, but on the positive side, I know she's also a very famous feminist SF writer.

I'm about half way through The Fresco and enjoying it so far as an alien contact story. I like the main character, Benita, a middle-aged Hispanic woman with a lot of integrity but not too implausibly special otherwise. I like the aliens, they're a reasonably good example of very technologically advanced beings with almost magical powers, which is not always what I want from an alien contact story but works when it's done well. I like the way that their voice is reasonably fluent in English while being plausibly foreign; they don't speak in linguistically implausible broken English or have a magically perfect translator device, but rather they speak like intelligent and advanced non-native language learners, which is a difficult thing to imitate consistently.

What I don't like is that the book is too much enmeshed in American culture wars that I find it hard to care about. It seems to assume that American Liberal or Democrat-voting values are synonymous with moral rectitude. Sexism bad, environmentalism good. Yay reproductive and sexual freedom, yay free speech (although the narrative seems to really really hate the ACLU, for some reason), down with religious hypocrisy and cargo-cult militarism. I kind of cringed at the aliens' judgement that Afghanistan, Israel and Serbia are the most terrible places on earth but the US is mostly a good society that just needs a few minor things sorting out, because of the way it so perfectly matches the judgement of a typical American lefty. There are a lot of unsympathetic characters who are given the viewpoint for a chapter or so, but I don't think Tepper succeeds in really empathizing with them, from the people working for companies that destroy ecosystems for short-term profit, to the evil Republican senator who doesn't care how many people he hurts as he advances his political career. They all just come across as straw-man versions of everything that blue-Americans are against.

Also, I may be biased by my previous impressions of Tepper but I am detecting more than a whiff of eugenicism in the book. I am just hoping that the aliens are going to turn out to have something to learn from the (nice liberal American) humans, and they're not just a way for the author to imagine powerful beings descending to earth to impose her own political views on the planet.

Up next The next item on my Bringing Up Burns challenge list is a book published this year which gives me a good excuse to read one of the award nominees. Probably The Three-Body Problem rather than Ancillary Sword, as I'm travelling for a few days and the former is already on my e-reader.

OK, wrote this on the train yesterday, it's actually Thursday by the time I've got online to post it.

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Whereaboooots: Pistach
Moooood: happyhappy
Tuuuuune: Angels and Agony: Unison
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ghoti: default
From:ghoti
Date:August 20th, 2015 11:05 am (UTC)
24 minutes after journal entry, 11:05 am (ghoti's time)
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I loved The Fresco! I'm so glad that recommendation got as far as you, it took me years of recommending it to Colin before I finally got round to just giving him a copy :) I agree it's not perfect and has problems, but they are the sort that I can live with. I hadn't been aware of anything else about Tepper, never read any other of her works or interviews or anything though, which might make a difference.
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siderea: default
From:siderea
Date:August 22nd, 2015 03:05 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, August 21st, 2015 10:05 pm (siderea's time)
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I am just hoping that the aliens are going to turn out to have something to learn from the (nice liberal American) humans, and they're not just a way for the author to imagine powerful beings descending to earth to impose her own political views on the planet.

That would be... a different one of her books, the name of which would be a spoiler, so I won't say. The aliens come along to rescue humans from theism by imposing agnosticism, by means of which I won't spoil.

I have decided I don't want to read any more Tepper. I don't like horror, and she seems to write very much in the horror vein. I think I'm a slightly better person for reading a few of her books and allowing her politics to challenge my thinking. But not to the point I want to put myself through re-reading them or branching out.
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