No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118
essentialsaltes

Warm Worlds & Otherwise, The House in the Cerulean Sea, The Last of Us II

 Warm Worlds & Otherwise is a 1975 collection of science fiction short stories by James Tiptree, Jr. For those not in the know, Tiptree is a pen name for Alice Sheldon, from back in the days when many women authors of SF were still using initials. I guess I didn't realize the extent to which Sheldon disguised her real identity, which was only know after this collection was published. Which makes Bob Silverberg's introduction that much more amusing, as he discusses the speculation about 'Tiptree':  "It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree's writing." It's so over the top, one half suspects Silverberg is providing camouflage, except that he's probably some small part of the reason why female authors were disguising their names.

Anyway, to the stories. Some of them have a bit too much of the 1960s/1970s experimentation with language for my taste. I adore Stand on Zanzibar, so it's not an automatic turnoff, but not everyone is John Brunner.

"The Girl who was Plugged in" won the Hugo for novella, and deserved it. Some of the stuff we take for granted today -- say that if you were in a VR rig and 'controlled' an android, you would come to identify with the android -- is carefully earned here in the story. And while some of the setup is absurd (advertising becomes illegal), some of the details (that influencers 'advertise' the products they use to their fans) probably rings truer now than in 1970.

"The Women that Men Don't See" is pretty astonishing. I can see the Heart of Darkness-y or Hemingway-ish slant that might have confused Silverberg, but.... I'll stop short of saying that no man could have written this story, but I will say that no male science fiction author in 1975 could have written this story. It takes a special sort of genius to craft a story like this and choosing the narrator to be someone torn from the cover of a men's adventure magazine. 

Both stories are decades old, but both still resonate.

--

The House in the Cerulean Sea is a lighthearted look at a world where magical, human-ish creatures exist and when these children are located they are sent off to 'orphanages'. Really, they are more to keep them out of the sight of polite society. Our hero is a mild-mannered government functionary at the ministry of magical youth, who makes sure these orphanages are properly run and the children properly cared for. The best part of the book just sets up how meticulous and fair he is at his job. While many in society are prejudiced against magical youth, he just isn't. So he goes about his job assiduously, everything by the book. Great character study in the set-up and early parts of the book.

Ultimately, he's sent to inspect a facility on the extreme end of the spectrum, where some of the most difficult cases are housed. And now that the stage is set, the plot moves dutifully along to its necessary conclusion. Over time, his heart is warmed by his connection with the little inmates, and his heart is stirred still more by the mysterious proprietor of the home.

It has a bit of an Auntie Mame feel about it -- to accept and enjoy our differences in the face of conformity -- done with charm and warmth. But the predictability of the story is a bit of a let-down.

--

The Last of Us Part II obviously picks up a bit after the events of The Last of Us. Let me quote a bit of that previous review: "[Ellie] slowly learns survival skills from you, and ultimately becomes a psychotic killing machine just like you"

In some ways, that's where the story takes off. In the sequel, you are now playing Ellie, and you are kind of a monster and grow more monstrous.

A lot of people complained that after about half the story, your viewpoint shifts to another character, an antagonist to the first. I guess I complain, too. I wanted some completion on Ellie's story, and the shift to someone else was not what I was looking for. Abby's story is also well-realized, and obviously you can sense the parallels being drawn, but it seemed a bit of a cheat.

My biggest disappointment? No Road Trip. The first game took us on a journey halfway across America. This one is largely a tour of Seattle. There's a lot of great variation in Seattle, but I missed that. I perked up when there was a mention of Santa Barbara. But I figured the plot was too far advanced for a trip down the coast from Seattle to California to be coming. And I was right. BUT I WOULD HAVE EATEN THAT SHIT UP WITH A CORDYCEPS FUNGUS COVERED SPOON.

Tags: book, game, malebutnotnarrow, straightbutnotnarrow
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