Saturday, January 7, 2017

You Got Your Romance in my Fantasy!

Kai Ashante Wilson “A Taste of Honey” (Tor.com, 2016)


Kai Ashante Wilson is a hot writer right now.  The breakout piece was “Sorcerer of the Wildeeps”, where he combined contemporary literary chops with some subtle and skillful world building.  Now he’s back with “A Taste of Honey”, a novella set in the same world.  There’s no direct connection between the two works, and you don’t have to be familiar with Wildeeps to understand Honey.  

Fundamentally, this is a star crossed romance.  A young nobleman falls in love with a foreign soldier.  That’s the sort of story we’ve encountered time & time again.

This is a very well written novella.  But to me, it fell prey to the stereotypical problem of a literary piece, namely the plot didn’t compel me. I felt as if I were reading a pure romance, and without the investment needed to have any stakes in the story.

More Than the Flintstones

Lydia Pyne “Seven Skeletons” (Viking, 2016)


In the last few years there has been a trend of writing about a group of objects, & using those objects to talk about larger cultural issues or history.  Pyne uses this approach to talk about some famous (& infamous) ancient remains.

Why did certain fossils become famous? How did they feed into existing narratives about humans and our ancestors?

It turns out that existing racist cultural narratives created theories that cast aspersions on the sophistication of our cousins.  Thinking of Neanderthals as brutal cavemen slotted neatly into a worldview that was fundamentally racist.  And yet now we know that those images were just projections. And we know that many modern day humans have Neanderthal DNA.

The subject matter here is fascinating.  My only complaint is that Pyne’s skill as a prose stylist is somewhat lacking.  She communicates the information clearly and directly.  But she doesn’t have the turn of phrase needed to elevate her writing into a truly compelling read.

So while this is an informative and entertaining read, it stops short of being truly essential.