Reading Locus

1. Cecelia Holland managed to put me off Ursula K Le Guin’s Lavinia with one paragraph of praise:

Most of the time, Le Guin is vivifying a seamless, sacred, blessed time which may never have existed but which we all fervently long to believe in: the morning of the world, when the whole of nature was suffused with spirit, and people lived in reverence to it. The details of sacrifice and rite and oracle are lovingly described not for their own sake but because they reveal the deep sense of oneness with the world that supported and uplifted the ancients.

Speak for yourself: not only do I not believe in any such time, I do not fervently long to believe in it. (And if anything, I’m a bit sceptical of people who do.) If Holland’s review had said something like, “Le Guin manages to make us long for a time which may never have existed …” then I might have still been interested. But if the book doesn’t do that work, then it’s not for me, I’m afraid.

2. It’s a forthcoming books issue! Highlights from the UK section that I didn’t already know about:

Ketos, Little Brown UK/Orbit, Aug 2008 (tp)
[I had no idea his next book was coming out so soon.]

Ascent of Demons, Orion/Gollancz, Oct 2008 (hc, tp)

Kraken, Macmillan/Tor UK, Nov 2008 (hc)
[I can’t imagine what this is about.]

Above the Snowline, Orion/Gollancz, Nov 2008 (hc, tp)
[Time to get around to reading The Modern World, then.]

On other books, Ian MacLeod’s Song of Time is now listed (a) as a June book, sigh and (b) as being by Ken MacLeod; and I’m intrigued by this, which I think is a tie-in to this, but doesn’t seem to be being promoted as such.

3. You may want to shield your eyes for this bit, particularly if you thought the cover for the US edition of Halting State wasn’t up to much.

Astonishing, isn’t it?

Posted in Books, SF. 19 Comments »

19 Responses to “Reading Locus”

  1. David Moles Says:

    Kind of my problem with le Guin all around, really.

  2. Graham Says:

    A friend whose judgment I trust says that the Le Guin is in fact extremely good (and is likely to get underpromoted by Harcourt).

  3. Farah Says:

    The Stross cover is (astonshingly) an accurate depiction of the protagonist.


    Freya Nakamachi-47 has some major existential issues. She’s the perfect concubine, designed to please her human masters ? hardwired to become aroused at the sight mere of a human male. There’s just one problem: she came off the production line a year after the human species went extinct. Whatever else she may be, Freya Nakamachi-47 is gloriously obsolet

  4. Niall Says:

    Farah, thanks. Knowing the book’s premise I thought there was a chance it wasn’t an entirely arbitrary picture. I’m even willing to believe they were shooting for a pastiche of “sexy sci-fi covergirl”, to match the fact that the book is a pastiche of/tribute to late-period Heinlein. I think they rather missed the target, though, and ended up with one of those covers you’d be embarrassed to be seen in public with. Fingers crossed the UK edition is a bit less cringeworthy.

  5. Susan Booth Says:


    My thoughts exactly when reading that paragraph, though it is not, I suppose, really fair to blame Le Guin for Holland’s interpretation.

  6. Graham Says:

    Re the Stross cover: I guess the problem is that the novel as you describe it is all about ironising the “sexy sci-fi covergirl”, and that the cover contains 0% visible irony.

  7. Sacrificial Details Says:

    Old time ritual realism.

    Totzin wiped the blade of his obsidian dagger across his tongue, tasting the sweet salty richness of her blood. He had an extraordinary knowledge of anatomy due to the thousands he had sent to his Jaguar god. He had stabbed her low, just above the pubic hair. It would take long for her to die, perhaps even days.

    — Barry Sadler

  8. Christopher Barzak Says:

    Yeah, I agree, that blurb from Holland leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I’ll read it anyway, because LeGuin is usually worth it.

  9. Graham Says:

    Chris: does “usually” extend as far as Always Coming Home? That’s usually the litmus test for Le Guin true believers…

  10. Jonathan M Says:

    I always thought that the whole “Fantasy is full of pagans” that got thrown around in SF Eye was a dismissive urban myth but having heard about Liz Williams’ Boutique o Piffle at Picocon and the idea of a world full of spirit (isn’t that what cheerleaders are always going on about?), I’m starting to think that it might be a disturbing amount of truth to it.

    That cover is hideous though. Not only would you not want to be seen reading it in public, it’s also quite poorly drawn. I don’t know any women with implants but I’m pretty sure that they’re supposed to sit in front of the rib cage rather than in front of the armpits. Poor thing, she’s have to move herself out of the way every time she moved her arms :-(

  11. Christopher Barzak Says:

    I have the Always Coming Home original boxed set with the cassette included, because I collect her work. It’s not my favorite, but I thought it was an interesting experiment for its time, and I enjoyed the main narrative in the book, if I remember correctly (it’s been a long time since I read it) and it was fun to poke around in all the collected texts of an imaginary culture. But it’s definitely not one of her books that have stuck with me over time. I prefer “Four Ways to Forgiveness” and “Unlocking the Air”.

  12. MattD Says:

    In terms of signifying pastiche, that Stross cover did immediately strike me as an exaggeration of the US paperback cover of Friday.

    (Which is not to say I would be caught dead with it on the train.)

  13. David Moles Says:

    I liked Always Coming Home. I just can only take it in small doses.

  14. Martin Wisse Says:

    What’s wrong with the US cover of Halting State?

  15. Gary Couzens Says:

    The other thing that struck me about Holland’s review of Le Guin is that a novel that runs to 288 pages can be described as a “splendid little novel” (my emphasis). But then I’m old enough to remember when new SF and fantasy novels under 200 pages, or even under 150 pages, were not considered uncommercially short for an adult readership.

    (I haven’t seen the book, so maybe – to be fair to Holland – it’s in a larger typeface to disguise a smaller-than-normal wordcount.)

  16. Peter Hollo Says:

    While the cover is surprisingly appropriate for the novel’s content (despite the lack of irony, as Graham mentions), Charlie was very unhappy about it, but failed to get the publisher to change it this time round. So it goes.

  17. Niall Says:

    Postscript: the UK cover of Saturn’s Children has a spaceship diving into a star.

  18. Reading Locus Redux « Torque Control Says:

    […] Locus Redux 1. Remember the review that put me off Lavinia, from the March Locus? Gary K Wolfe’s review in the April issue has won me back over: […]

  19. Out with the old … « Torque Control Says:

    […] actually pretty ambivalent about Lavinia; I only finished it today, but the problem might be that Cecelia Holland and Gary Wolfe are both right, which I didn’t reckon on being possible. But like my other […]

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