Archives for posts with tag: Fiction

The Infinite Noise is a slightly supernatural queer YA something that includes romance, but mostly not. I don’t read a lot of YA, so I’m not sure how to characterize it. The story follows two neurodivergent high school boys. Caleb is an empath – he can be overwhelmed by the emotions of others. He’s also on the football team. Adam suffers depression and is one of the stars of the debate team.

One thing that grabbed me about this book was the alternating first person narratives. Caleb and Adam are very different but have an endearing quality to their differentness. Adam’s depression has been known to lead to self-harm – it’s nice to read of a boy in this position because this is thought to be mostly a girl’s issue. We meet Caleb before a fight he has after which he blacks out. The fight is the impetus to put him in therapy. There are no spoilers in that – we learn these things about both boys in the first couple of chapters.

Note that this is released as a ‘Bright Sessions Novel’, Dr. Bright being Caleb’s therapist. I’m not sure how I came to this book – my guess is that it was a Tor.com freebie, but it might have been some other special offer. That said, it wasn’t until I read the afterward that I learned that The Bright Sessions started out as an audio drama podcast. This gives the book (and its place in a series that has two more books, both of which have different protagonists) more sense. Because the voices came out of audio drama, they had to be unique. Shippen succeeds admirably in bringing these differences to the page.

I also love the fact that the main characters are queer and that their varieties of neurodivergence are normalized in the context of the story. The parents are concerned, but their concerns are mostly for the health and safety of their kids, not any kind of homophobia.

Even the bully doesn’t have an issue with the fact that the two main characters are dating. It’s a little utopic, but I love how Shippen normalizes the nature of queer love – the focus on all the things they’re dealing with (including all the heavy emotions of the protagonists’ internal states, the emotions of just being adolescent, and some schoolyard violence) isn’t compounded by the fact that they’re queer. The queerness is simply adjacent. But the parents, who are most definitely issue-laden, are cool with the fact that their sons are boys in love.

As the story progresses, what we experience is a courtship and burgeoning relationship that captures adolescent angst about these things in a way that feels especially accurate. It certainly brought to mind the ups and downs of my own adolescence, in a bittersweet way.

The trick with stories like this, comprised of first-person internal monologues, is that you have to want to be in the characters’ heads, even when they don’t want to be in their own heads. It’s a feat to make that emotional rollercoaster attractive and inviting and Shippen makes it work.

I really like Caleb and Adam, so I’m not sure how I’ll feel about the other books in the series. I’m curious about the original audio drama that gave birth to the stories. A couple of episodes of The Bright Sessions are waiting on my phone.

A lot of rereads this year. And I’m mostly reading easy fantasy stuff because times are a little hard.
1. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – recommended by my friend Karen – a real winner. Nice evocation of San Francisco and the life of the independent bookseller of yore.

2. Jigsaw by Ed McBain – Always a great crime in the 87th precinct.

3. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell – My first Scarpetta – looking forward to reading more

4. Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan – Great back story for Mr. Penumbra’s 24 -Hour bookstore. Interesting to know how the characters got where they were.

5. John Carter and the Giant of Mars by Edgar Burroughs – Short and sweet. I can only read one or two of these a year, though. Pretty cheesy.

6. Neptune Crossing (Chaos Chronicles #1) by Jeffrey Carver – This was a 99p goodie from one of those daily book bargains. Having really enjoyed it, I found that the whole trilogy could be had for something like 4.99. Cool. I’ll play your silly game.

7. Day After Night by Anita Diamant – Really good telling of what it was like to settle in Palestine after WWII. Recommended by my wife. I trusted it would be good having really enjoyed The Red Tent. Would have been nice had the acknowledgements given a nod to Elie Wiesel.

8. Strange Attractors (Chaos Chronicles #2) by Jeffrey Carver – Yeah, #2 was a good continuation – stonking space opera with interesting robots, fantastic aliens of many kinds, and incredible scope. Looked forward to #3.

9. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – They call ’em classics for a reason.

10. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – Again, they call ’em classics for a reason.

11. The Infinite Sea (Chaos Chronicles #3) by Jeffrey Carver – Well, this was a goodie too, but as I got to 75-80% of the way through, I was really wondering how Carver was going to wrap it up. Yeah, got to the end, and he hadn’t wrapped it up at all. Three more volumes at 4.99 each. Kinda felt had, but I’ll probably buy the next ones.

12. 11/9 by Ben Lovejoy – A dandy thriller with plot holes kept to a minimum.

13. Trouble is my business and other stories by Raymond Chandler – Not a duff one in the bunch. But there’s a reason he’s considered a master of this stuff.

14. The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola – Never managed to finish this when I was in college. One way to look at it is as a collection of pre-colonial/cargo cult African mythology. That’s incredibly reductionist, though.

15. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming – I’d read the Bond short stories and figured I’d dig some of the novels. Good stuff.

16. Ciardi Himself – 15 Essays in the reading, writing, and teaching of poetry by John Ciardi – interesting collection by the bloke who did my favourite translation of the Inferno.

17. Star Wars Aftermath by Chuck Wendig – Really glad Wendig got chosen for this big-time gig – writing the novels that bridge episodes VI and VII. I’ve enjoyed his blog and his other work for years. He’s bloody prolific and worth delving into.

18. Live And Let Die by Ian Fleming – see above.

19. Night by Elie Wiesel – Given my feeling about the conclusion of Diamant’s novel, and that Wiesel’s obituary had just been printed, I gave this a reread. Still brilliant, but bloody sad. Of course it is, though.

20. The Robert Silverberg Science Fiction Megapack – High point: The Night of No Moon.

21. Thief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell – reread in advance of the second Widdershins novel, False Covenant. YA fantasy featuring a great female hero who is the last worshipper of a god who resides in her head. Trust me, it’s a good one.

22. The Second Fritz Leiber Megapack – Great sci-fi for cheap. The Last Letter was probably my favourite piece here.

23. The Cricket In Times Square – Another reread of a classic children’s story. I probably read it the first time when I was about 11.  

24. The Return of Vaman by Jayant Narlikar – one of several science-based sci-fi stories included in a Humble Bundle (same with the next one). Interesting, but not brilliant.

25. The Caloris Network by Nick Kanas – Yeah, interesting bit of sci-fi that takes place on Venus. 

26. The Pendragon Protocol by Philip Purser-Hallard – reread in advance of The Locksley Exploit. Tasty 21st century renewal of both the Robin Hood and Arthurian legends. First of a trilogy.

28. The Second Murray Leinster Megapack – There were a lot of good pieces in this – some great sci-fi and a couple of thrillers. Nightmare Planet, Murder Madness, and the Runaway Skyscraper were high points

29. Hooves Above The Waves by Laura Clay – Three tasty fantasy/horrorshort stories set in Scotland. 

30. Turing and Burroughs by Rudy Rucker – Interesting story that assumes Turing faked his death and met the beats in Tunisia and went on to wreak havoc in the United States. Displays a great love of the characters, but falls somewhat short. 

31. Mythology 101 by Jodie Lynn Nye – reread (probably first read it in ’86 or so) – Very sweet story of a college student who learns that there are elves who have set up a village in the basement of the library. The same library he’s been campaigning to have demolished in favour of a modern new one. I gather there are several sequels.

I may finish either False Covenant or Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors before the end of the year, but I may not. The Locksley Exploit will wait until after that.