World building that throws you in

I’m two-thirds through Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir and there is still so much I don’t know about the world in this book.

This is not a bad thing.

It is a rare book that throws you into a world, assuming you’ll stay along for the ride. It doesn’t always work. Muir pulls it off.

We start on the planet of the Ninth House. Super dark and creepy. Lots of skeletons and weird nuns praying over strings of bones. Aha! A Ninth House implies at least House One through Eight.

Gideon wants to leave and fight in the imperial army. A space ship is coming for her. Ok, there’s at minimum interplanetary travel.

A couple of pages in and there’s a lot going on. So many questions spring to mind but it’s enough information to start.

Gideon and her frenemy Harrow fly to the First House. (I’m not getting into the plot here.) They land, along with seven other ships, each containing two representatives. We know the house is enormous and that’s about it. No matter because we learn about the house once we’re inside.

In classic gothic style, this mansion (what’s a word for something between a mansion and a castle?) has many floors and hundreds of doors. In the Upstairs/Downstairs version of this book, which I would totally watch, there are skeleton servants and three priests lightly overseeing events.

I am loving this book and clearly there has been good descriptions of the world(s) of this book. But I want more! I have so many questions!!

How did all these necromancers come to live on these planets? Something about being resurrected but what? What is the Lock Tomb on the ninth planet? Why is there an army? The nine planets don’t seem to be fighting themselves? Are there more planets out there? Do they also have necromancers???

I love that have these questions. Muir gives us the information we need to understand the immediate world of the characters, including the decrepit mansion, while hinting at a large world to explore. I’m sure I’ll learn more as I finish the book and then when I immediately start Harrow the Ninth.

If you want to hear my brother Craig and his friend Andrew discuss Gideon the Ninth, check out their podcast Overdue.

A Book I Recommend to Everyone

Whenever anyone ask for a book rec I start with The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I read it when it first came out in 2006. I think it was a B&N highlighted book of some sort.

It didn’t take much to sell me on the story. A reclusive author has a mysterious thirteenth tale never written. She hires a biographer, a young woman with her own family secrets, to witness her final tale.

The story is written out of time. There are no cell phones, even for 2006. The world exists but not in detail. At that matters are the characters and their immediate surroundings.

It is a Gothic tale in the best ways. Secrets, ghosts, a governess, a fire! All the hits!

Take a chance on a backlist book. Trust me, you’ll love it.

Looking for Steampunk novels

I’m finally on the other side of COVID which is tremendous. For some reason, I got a hankering for some steampunk while I was sick. I looked up for recs online to find relatively recently published stories.

Clockwork Angel came up a bunch of times so I’m reading it. It’s fine but I guess I learned I don’t want a bunch of supernatural with my automatons and cogs.

I know all about the historical steampunk novels and I’m not really into other -punk sub genres. I’d read and loved Gail Carriger.

Any recommendations for me?

A book for the pandemic

I finished How High We Go In the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu a week ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. It could easily be categorized as a pandemic book but it’s so much more than that and has a longer history.

The book consists of linked short stories, many previously published. The links are tenable but slight. The newest protagonist in a chapter/story is a relative of a character from a prior story. But their personal experience of the pandemic’s impact is always different.

A worker at an amusement park that euthanizes children. A scientist growing transplant organs in pigs. A forensic scientist at a body farm. Their occupations provide an entry point into a new element of how the world is dealing with the massive death toll. Then we discover their personal loss, pain, grief.

No one comes out unscathed which is basically life. With so much of the focus on a new funeral industrial complex that provides new ways to grieve, you’d think this book would be depressing. Yes, it is smothered with loss but every story contains the second truth of the human experience – the need for connection.

It is the hope contained within the act of connection that balances the grief of loss. There is no grief with without loss, no loss without connection.

Some chapters are more sci-fi than the others. They challenge you to think about the themes in a novel way. Thousands of people in a dark, unknown place must work together. A sentient, telepathic pig learns the truth of its reason for being. These chapters are interspersed between more traditional chapters and provide an interesting respite from the more straightforward pain.

Read this book. Tell someone else to read it so you can talk about it together. Tell someone else. Trust me, you’ll want to continue to revisit these stories.