Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey

The final book in the Expanse series was everything I hoped it would be. This was a wild ride to an extremely satisfying and well written ending.

Babylon's Ashes by James S. A. CoreyIf you’re a fan of sociological story telling or science fiction, then I can not recommend this series highly enough.

 

Spoilers: Final Thoughts

I really liked the way they concluded the man in the lighthouse chapter, and the fact that they found a tonic ending which closed all the loose ends with the dark gods and the ongoing conflict.

I love that they showed that the bad guys were never really the bad guys, and the people who saw themselves as the good guys were actually hurting the aliens who reacted to defend themselves.

I love that Amos is immortal even after the protomolecule tech all died.

I wonder what the fuck happened to Filip and how that was never addressed.

I wonder if the BFE is still alive.

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

CJ Trowbridge

2021-12-08

AIS 440

Jonny Appleseed

            This book follows several formative moments in the life of a person who would come to identify as two-spirit, indigenous, and with sex work. The central themes of the book is of coming to terms with the many ways he didn’t fit with the norms and expectations that were placed on him; from the norms of Manitoba to the norms of the reservation and even the norms within his own family.

The story follows the author’s journey to accepting the fact that he was different and learning to identify with those differences. He talks about healing generational trauma in terms of what Judith Butler might call “subversive acts” but he talks about these discourses from the perspective of indigenous wisdom traditions, “I wish he knew that when an Indian laughs, it’s because they’re applying a fresh layer of medicine on an open wound.” (Whitehead 25)

There are many moments where the author describes seeking catharsis in kindred spirits, “There are tons of unfuckable holes in me that need to be filled.” (Whitehead 33) Indeed many of the stories and examples are of moments of solidarity-building with other queer people or as modern queer ethnic discourses might describe it, survival pending revolution.

One of the best lines in the book comes when the author describes discovering a photo of someone else on the bedroom mirror of a long-time (though starcrossed) lover, “When he fucks me, I wondered, does he think, “I wish my woman was here?” Or is it the other way around—when he fucks her, does he think of me?” This line perfectly captures the shared miscommunication that’s intrinsic to the essence of any fundamentally queer discourse about romance; with individuals who live at the interstices – drawing lives in colorful pastel crayons way outside the lines – and too far from anything normal to do anything but talk past each other. This kind of angst and ennui and dissatisfaction — even with the things we most want — are as fundamental to queer anxiety as the image of Foucault frantically chewing his nails while debating Chomsky, translated from black and white film to YouTube for consumption by now-future generations who have no idea who either of them even is.

Ultimately, it’s a story of loss and of coming of age. The author discovers who he is, without the help he expected to receive from his Kokum. In the end, when it’s too late and she’s gone, he laments not accepting that help in time. But it turns out he was able to answer those questions for himself through the sexual, emotional, and interpersonal challenges he is forced to face in his relationships and his work.

When I did my degree in LGBT Studies and Queer Studies some years ago, I learned that there are four criteria of queer literature analysis. This book touches on all four and does it from an indigenous perspective; the story is about queer characters, the story contains queer characters, it speaks to queer people in a different way from others, and it means something different to queer people who read it. For these reasons, this story adds tremendous value as a component of any Queer Indigenous Studies program.

 

Works Cited

Whitehead, J. (2021). Jonny Appleseed: A novel. Arsenal Pulp Press.

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

The Broken Earth book series was recommended by a close friend. It is an amazing read. Afrofuturism in general is always amazingly insightful, and I find that’s especially true when it’s distant-future Afrofuturism.

The Broken Earth

These books paint a picture of a post-apocalyptic world, but it’s a world that has passed so many apocalypses that the landscape is dotted with relics of ancient civilizations which are in today’s distant future. The worldbuilding is really great.

Also the world is full of functionalist institutions, and the story centers on those who reject their assigned functions. It’s a deeply queer post-structuralist discourse and a critique of caste structures and  adherence to our socialized roles in society. It’s also an admonition to actively reject and usurp those roles and institutions. I highly recommend this book to any fan of Queer Theory, Quare Theory (Racially-situated post-structuralism), post-structuralism, or Afrofuturism.

 

Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good (Thrawn 10)

This is the second book of the third Thrawn trilogy.

Thrawn Ascendancy Greater Good by Timothy ZahnI really liked it. It was a great next step. I see a lot of really interesting attempts at explaining the background that allowed him to accomplish his later feats which featured in earlier stories.

It was cool to see the way that other characters viewed the asymmetric advantages conferred by cultural blind spots. This is the first time I’ve seen a character other than Thrawn do this in Star Wars.

It’s interesting to see the way Thrawn vs Haplif played out.

I liked the character of Jixtus. I was sort of bored by past individuals from his species so this was cool to see a better developed character from them.

It was also interesting to see the way Haplif pitted the families against each other, and how Thrawn circumvented that whole gambit by playing the fool. I thought that was a nice bit of poetry.

I thought the idea of the three families just pretending nothing happened was kind of a lazy way to tie those threads off.

Very excited for the next book!

All Tomorrow’s Parties by William Gibson

This is the third book of The Bridge, a newer trilogy by Gibson which reintroduces many of his earlier ideas within the context of the new technologies that had come out since the Sprawl Trilogy.

All Tomorrow's Parties by William Gibson

This book starts to tie everything together. I liked the way he portrayed Laney and I initially liked Konrad. It was cool to see the AI manipulating people in the real world — just like in The Sprawl — but the Idoru ending was so predictable. I thought that was how the last book would end.

I did really like all the connections to interstitial and existential sociology. That was really cool to see explored so thoroughly.

And then the rest of the ending was just as bad as the Idoru. Most of the characters go unresolved and just randomly disappear without ever being explained. The B-story about Harwood goes totally unexplained, as does his relationship with the ostensibly central character of Konrad who is at first described as “the key to everything” but then it’s never explained how he is key to anything.

Also the quiet kid who can’t talk except sometimes he can. And somehow he is able to hack all computers but doesn’t actually know how to do anything on computers.

Overall this book was terrible, and especially the way it ended. I’m glad he reintroduced his ideas with more modern concepts, but I just don’t understand how the ending became such an unsatisfying mess.

Idoru by William Gibson

This is the second book of The Bridge, a newer trilogy by Gibson which reintroduces many of his earlier ideas within the context of the new technologies that had come out since the Sprawl Trilogy.

Idoru by William GibsonOne of my favorite pieces of this story is the concept of “nodal points,” “emergent systems of history,” “the shapes from which history emerges,” in “vast floes of undifferentiated data”; “he palps nodes of potentiality, strung along lines that are histories of the happened becoming the not-yet.”

Laney’s node-spotter function [from Idoru] is some sort of metaphor for whatever it is that I actually do. There are bits of the literal future right here, right now, if you know how to look for them. Although I can’t tell you how; it’s a non-rational process. — William Gibson, August 1999

Another cool idea is the idea that when artificial intelligence does evolve, it may happen in a way that is not intentional and not clear right away.

I also liked the way Gibson described the system which inadvertently gave rise to AI,

-the result of an array of elaborate constructs that we refer to as ‘desiring machines.” … “Not in any literal sense,” Kuwayama continued, “but please envision aggregates of subjective desire. It was decided that the modular array would ideally constitute an architecture of articulated longing

Of course the titular character was also fascinating. There are of course now nearly identical entities in the real world, particularly in Japan as Gibson predicted.

Lastly, the idea of the walled city strikes me as in many ways identical to things like distributed organizations, distributed finance, cryptocurrencies more broadly, etc.

And they were out of his room, fast-forward through the maze of Hak Nam, up twisted stairwells and through corridors, the strange, compacted world flickering past. “What is this place? A communal site, right? But what are you so worried about? Why’s it all a secret?” “Walled City is of the net, but not on it. There are no laws here, only agreements.” “You can’t be on the net and not be on the net,” Chia said, as they shot up a final flight of stairs. “Distributed processing,” he said. “Interstitial, It began with a shared killfile-“

Virtual Light by William Gibson

This is the first book of The Bridge, a newer trilogy by Gibson which reintroduces many of his earlier ideas within the context of the new technologies that had come out since the Sprawl Trilogy.

Virtual Light by William GibsonIn this first book, he ties together the ideas of existential and interstitial sociology and introduces a concept he calls “nodal points.”

It was interesting to see how he updated his idea of “the matrix” or “cyberspace” (both terms which he invented for The Sprawl Trilogy).

Rather than plugging your brain into the network, you use VR. This reflects the way technology actually evolved after he wrote the Sprawl Trilogy. But the title of this book refers to a new technology predicted by Gibson; Virtual Light is basically the same as VR, only the images you see are generated in the brain electromagnetically rather than being viewed on screens in the goggles.

Ready Player Two by Earnest Klein

This book was really bad. It manages to somehow be worse than the first one. Honestly I wish I had never read either of them.

It’s basically just exactly the same story as the first book but somehow also a rip-off of Neuromancer without any of the good parts. 0/10. Do not recommend.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

This was a great read. I read it for a class on Race, Gender, and Science Fiction as part of my degrees in Queer Ethnic Studies and Racial Resistance.

Afro-futurism is a super interesting literary space with very different perspectives from mainstream science fiction.

This story was also adapted into a graphic novel. I read both.

The story follows a character who lives in a very Snow-Crash-style walled suburb amid a vast dystopian landscape. The streets outside the enclave are a lawless chaos of resource conflict and drug addiction where violent drug-fueled mobs murder people on sight to steal any resources they have.

Water and food are scarce and most people go hungry or die of thirst or contamination.

The arc of the main character is the development of her philosophy of building secure and remote communities which can grow food, manage their resources, and protect themselves from the outside world while focusing on building an internal education system to focus on rebuilding some kind of society at least locally.

I see these ideas as very closely aligned with the evolution of my own personal philosophy of futurism over the last few years. We are not far from a future like this. Unless we act now to start planning to survive it, we won’t.

Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn (Thrawn 0)

How to describe how this book fits into the story of Thrawn? So this was the first Thrawn book which was published. I became aware of it after I finished the first Thrawn trilogy. So I’m ironically reading it last, but probably it should come first. There is a special sadness knowing this is the end until more books are published, but it’s a consonant note to end on.

Outbound Flight

In terms of the story, this book takes place after book nine and before book six. It’s all out of order and that’s part of the magic. I don’t think there is any correct order to read these books in. Honestly you could shuffle them all into any order and they would be great.

The whole story is super interconnected and tangled and not linear in any normal way.

This story ties a lot of loose threads together and fills in a few blanks between many of the storylines and characters from the other books. Particularly C’baoth, Ar’alani, Doriana, and Cardas.

Spoilers and Theories

I really don’t know what to make of Ar’alani’s role in this story particularly given Thrass’ role. It low-key seems like Thrawn and Ar’alani are playing Thrass against the syndicure but also it high-key seems like maybe that was not thought out at this point so it will probably be retconned later or something.

I also found it interesting to see the emphasis on Cardas. He had a very brief role in the third series but like a super lot of back story which tied in with Yoda, so it seems like that will eventually be developed further. I wonder if he will get his own spin-off, though I’d rather see one about Karrde first.

The whole Doriana/Thrawn thing answers a question I had from book six when Thrawn meets Sidious and Sidious asks him some questions and then he’s like “IT IS YOU!” Like obviously they knew about each other somehow but this explains that.