Read This Week: All the Goggles

Read this week: Ganymede by Cherie Priest, The Ex* by Jenny Trout

Up next: Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest

ganymede fiddlehead

Spoilery thoughts on Ganymede:

Ganymede continued the run of entertaining Civil War steampunk with zombies stories by Cherie Priest, but I’ve got to take issue with her hamfisted handling of a trans woman. Ruthie Dorniker is a minor character in the Ganymede story, and though her part is not insignificant, the narrative is never about her. That’s why the dramatic (and anatomically based) reveal of her trans status is more than a little gross – it’s a moment for our two protagonists and POV characters to have the narrative say something about them, but not actually a moment that contributes anything to Ruthie’s characterization or story. It is, if anything, a moment of fear and embarrassment for Ruthie as she is outed very much against her will, and wherein she is mostly silent while one protagonist misgenders her and another corrects the misgendering.

I am 100% for the presence of trans characters in any and all narratives, in parts of any size. What I’m not a fan of is those trans characters functioning as tools for our cisgender characters to demonstrate their goodness, or badness, or learn a lesson. One argument, I’m sure, is that without Ruthie’s wardrobe malfunction, we the audience never would have learned she was trans, and therefore her inclusion would be erased because it was never made explicit (see: Dumbledore is gay). I’d suggest that in a third person limited POV where one of the two POVs knows Ruthie is trans, where Ruthie’s personality, wants, and desires have already been demonstrated to some degree, and where the two had at least one conversation that hinted at such, there are about a million** ways besides a ripped dress to clue the reader in.

By the afterword in which Cherie Priest mentions why she included Ruthie (short version: trans people exist, they have always existed, it is important to acknowledge their existence) I know she wanted to do something positive with that inclusion. She also set up an excellent subplot with Ruthie that, had it been combined with a reveal that Ruthie had some agency in and any step toward resolution, would have made her trans status part of her story rather than part of someone else’s. I hope if she writes trans characters again (and she may have already! there are lots more books of hers I need to read) she lets them have their stories.

*In brief, because this is a SFW blog, The Ex is really good. The whole series is fantastic. Buy it for any sad, sad fools in your life who read Fifty Shades of Grey. The Ex (and the other books before it) are actually sexy and actually not about an abusive relationship. Imagine that.

**Actual scientific calculation.

Read This Week: Steampunk Spies

Read this week: Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Up next: Clementine by Cherie Priest

dreadnought clementine

Dreadnought was excellent, and having now read two books from the Clockwork Century (Cherie Priest’s Civil War era steampunk novels) I like how the books are standalone but also tie meaningfully into each other for those who have read the others. They’re an excellent study for how to handle plotting.

Read This Week: Civil War Zombies on a Train

Read this week: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (TW for rape in the book and the below discussion)
Up next: Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

NOS4A2 dreadnought

Brief thoughts on NOS4A2: Wow, there was a lot of rape. I am aggressively not a fan of sexualized violence (as distinct from sexual violence) and rape as lazy shorthand for “look how evil this guy is.” Without going into a lengthy spiel about it, the latter, especially, is part and parcel of the societal delusion that rape is a thing that evil people do. Therefore even though the majority of rapes are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows and even trusts are apparently not “actually” rapes, because those people aren’t mustache twirling, sociopathic evil, it must have been a misunderstanding, he* would never, and so on and so forth until we twist ourselves in knots to not call a rapist a rapist. This is way of thinking is a huge problem with real world consequences, as any survivor who has had to hear what a “good guy” her rapist is can tell you, and even on pure literary merits just a really cliche thing to do.

*Men can be raped and women can be rapists. But specific social complicity in rape I’m talking about here applies to men raping women, so I say “he.”

There were also a lot of narrative fat jokes and lingering descriptions of a character’s morbid obesity.

Those were my two main gripes, and they are significant for me, but I finished it and enjoyed all the parts without rape or lengthy condemnations of fatness, which was indeed most of the book. The main villain was creepy, compelling, and dangerous, the magic of the book was explained just enough that the rules were clear without over-explaining to slow the pace or ruin the mystique. Vic was a fantastic protagonist, and her arc from childhood to the end of the book was satisfying to read.

I’m still on a horror kick for the month of October, so I picked up Dreadnought, aka Civil War Zombies on a Train (as distinct from Snakes on a Plane). I’d read and enjoyed Cherie Priest’s first book in this universe, Boneshaker, when it came out years ago, so this one should be fun too.

The horror kick may or may not end with October, as Lee & Low released an amazing looking list of Thirteen Scary YA Books that have either been on my reading list for ages (Battle Royale) or sound like they need to move to the top, stat (Anna Dressed in Blood, The Girl in the Well). Have you read any of the books on the list? Picking up anything spooky for Halloween season? Let me know in the comments.