Jacqueline Carey’s third Terre d’Ange trilogy, the Moirin books, seem to be in general better liked than the books about Imriel. I can’t agree with this opinion. It might be because I read them first, and therefore had gone pretty far into Naamah’s Kiss before I got a satisfactory translation of “diadh-anam“. From context, I was forced to conclude that “”diadh-anam” was Cruithne for “plot”. As in “Jehanne, I adore you, but I find that the plot is telling me I must go to China.”
Of course all the main characters in the Terre d’Ange books have been a singularly god-ridden bunch. However, Phèdre and Imriel and their cohorts had to deal more with powers and inclinations that they received from their gods in much the same way that other heroes have received them from radioactive spiders. The actions they take are to help friends, or make bargains with enemies, or act for their country, or earn a living, or do stupid things because of lust or youth or stupidity.
Moirin, on the other hand, has a goddess that micromanages her every action. Go to Terre d’Ange. Date a hot magician. Learn tai chi. Etc., etc. The Maghuin Dhonn winds up being a character as present in the book as poor, sexy, silly Moirin herself, only a lot less interesting. It’s the Q problem. How do you use a god among mortals as a character? Alan Moore did it with Dr. Manhattan, but that worked because he let us into Dr. Manhattan’s brain, showed us what the world looked like to him. But all you ever see of the Maghuin Dhonn is just her moving her favorite character around like a chess piece; and why would you ever want to read a book about the adventures of a chess piece, when you could read about the mind behind the chess game?
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The City and the City is a murder mystery. That is the first thing. Miéville makes it perfectly clear: the book explicitly follows the rhythms of this genre, the steps as strictly defined as the rules of a sonnet: the death, the jaded, world-weary but still tender-hearted investigator, the discovery that the victim was not quite what she seemed, the additional deaths, the dead ends and red herrings, the gathering momentum, the Explanation between murderer and detective, slotting all the puzzle pieces together in front of all the characters assembled, the wry denouement.
And the fact that an almost superciliously correct mystery can blend so perfectly with the surreality of a fantasy of superimposed cities is due to the fact that, as Miéville says in the Random House Reader’s Circle interview at the end of the book, the crime novel is “at its best, a kind of dream fiction masquerading as a logic puzzle. All the best noir – or at least I should say the stuff I like most – reads oneirically. Chandler and Kafka seem to me to have a lot more shared terrain then Chandler and a true-crime book.”
Spoilers below the cut. Don’t read them. It just tied for the 2010 Best Novel Hugo – just go read the book!
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So Echo Bazaar, the free browser game set in the Fallen London, “a mile underground and a boat ride from Hell,” is a fantastic diversion. (I’ve mentioned it before.)
One of the things I love about it is that, despite its pseudohistorical goth neo-Victorian/steampunk setting (it’s like what might happen if steampunks discovered black), it’s not all that hateful about sex.
Which is a fine line with historical or pseudohistorical fantasy, right? You don’t want to be intolerably oppressive with your historical attitudes, and you don’t want to be irritatingly anachronistic by jamming in progressiveness where it doesn’t go.
And with history, at least you can rely on being accurate: with fantasy there’s a whole nother element where you have to be plausible, which basically means subscribing to historical fanon. There were black people living in Victorian London, but if what you know about it comes from seeing fifteen different versions of A Christmas Carol, you’ll probably think that the Repentant Forger is an example of unrealistic political correctness.
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