Book Thoughts

The Stars Are Legion Book Cover The Stars Are Legion
Kameron Hurley
Science Fiction
Simon and Schuster
February 7, 2017
400

 

Here begin a bunch of disjointed thoughts, because my brain is still spinning from this book. Just, WTF, what was that?

If you’ve never read Hurley’s writing before, then brace yourself for some squicky, weird, stuff. We’ve got fleshy world ships, mutants, plenty of goo, giant spiders, tentacles, plenty of bodily/worldly fluids. The world building is crazy. World ships birth everything that they require to repair themselves – including non-sentient cogs and parts. You’ve got tissue work and repair, instead of welding and metal. Bodies are recycled, fed back into the ship. Oh, and every single person in the legion (a collection of world ships) is a woman.*

It’s written in first person present, which I know a lot of you are not fans of, but Hurley pulls it off well enough that I stopped noticing after a while. Whether or not you prefer it, I think first person present is useful for both immediacy, and stories where you don’t want to give away whether or not the hero lives or dies. A lot of people die in this book. This is not a spoiler, just an observation.

And then there’s the action. It starts off running, with the main character being launched off to war without memories of who she is. It’s a war story that turns into a quest of sorts, before returning to the war thread.

Aside: I’m glad this was a book, because I don’t think I could stomach watching it as a movie. I’d probably want to scrub my brain clean if I ever saw half the things described in the novel, and for once, I’m glad my imagination isn’t that visual.

Overall, it was a fast paced read, unexpectedly fun, and one of the weirdest things I’ve read in a long time.

*There's a variant cover titled "Lesbians in Space"

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The Happy Writer

Failure in writing is not:

  • Still having a lot to learn.
  • Being unsure if you’re good at this or not.
  • When one person doesn’t like your story (It might just not be for them).
  • Making mistakes.
  • Admitting you were wrong, then fixing it next time.
  • Reaching a certain age and not being published yet.
  • Unexpected things getting in the way of writing. Life happens. We cannot predict everything.
  • Watching other people succeed while you don’t.
  • Needing a break now and then.
  • Weeping at how good another writer is and that you’ll never write like that. (Hard truth: you won’t, because you are uniquely yourself)
  • Realizing that a public author life does not or will not make you happy.
  • Deciding this current path is not for you, and picking another one.
  • Finding out your true passion is elsewhere.
  • Writing only for yourself, or only to show friends.
  • Not getting an agent.
  • An editor rejection.
  • Being imperfect.
  • Finding this hard. It is hard.

 

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Journal

Writing:

It’s back to the beasty book I started writing between drafts of the current thing. My brain is enjoying the change in pace: a near future science fictional world and fresh characters: a cheerfully sweet genetically modified monster, and the son of the scientists who made them.

Drafting is my happy place. Even though I tend to work with a loose outline, things still happen that surprise me. Consequences grow out of personality and decisions, and characters start growing out of a seed into complex individuals. Watching the story emerge one of the few magical things I know. Its more like discovery than creation. The ride is always wild, but I always hate the end result.

I only love a story after it’s edited, because I never really understand the heart of a story until it’s gone through multiple drafts. For me, editing takes me longer than drafting. It’s is where themes emerge, I add layers to the bones, and where I can sharpen the words into needles or salves. It’s where the shape of the thing becomes clear, and I can decide whether or not the story has merit.

Which part of writing is your favorite?

Commuting:

My daily bus ride takes me through the shit part of the city every day. The people are a mix: construction workers, people in suits, people going to the gym in the early mornings, drunks, people going home after night shift, foreign students going to English school, homeless people, elderly folk heavy with groceries on their way home from Chinatown.

It’s never dangerous, but sometimes it gets uncomfortable. There are the occasional bible shouters who condemn everyone. The mentally ill passengers who babble nonsense. The usual men who demand your time, and then scream at you whether you politely listen or ignore them. There was the lady who kept bugging her drug dealer boyfriend for a score and threw a tantrum on the bus floor when he told her to wait till they got off. The homeless guy who ran into the bus to escape an argument with his girlfriend with only one shoe on. There was the drunk man who fell asleep on my shoulder. Once a correctional officer casually struck up a conversation about how inmates could turn plastic forks into shivs. He smelled like beer.

But always, someone will get up if they see someone elderly, disabled, parents with strollers. Usually no one makes a fuss, or even mentions it, someone just gets up and moves down the line. On a bus packed to standing full, a lady helped some French tourists figure out how to signal a stop and cleared the way so they could get out with their luggage. No matter how people are standing at the bus stop, people remember who came first, and a queue magically forms when the bus arrives. Small orderly niceties. People noticing.

And some of them are familiar now, even though I’ve never spoken to them. The construction worker with the worn out boots that looks like Cillian Murphy with a broken nose. The Filipino man that looks like a younger version of my grandfather. The woman who has two phones and is constantly on social media. The chatty woman who likes to talk about her boyfriend in Texas. The mother and daughter duo who both work downtown, but don’t live together. The daily work out fiend, with the unfinished tattoos. The ex-Albertan who used to (physically) throw tires for a living, and smokes too much. They’re part of my days, and I wonder about them if I haven’t seen them in a while.

You never know what you might mean to other people, even fleetingly. You are noticed as you pass through the world.

Books Read:

  • The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye
  • The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan

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