Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
🎵 The song for this post is Shia LeBeouf, by Rob Cantor. This one is really good, if you haven't seen it, I highly suggest you give it a look. 🎵
The Flash Forward book club continues! This month we read The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley. If you'd like to see previous entries, here's last month's non-fiction about AI, and the first entry, some fun sci-fi.
Non-spoiler thoughts (at least, no intentional spoilers)
I largely loved it; some people in the book club mentioned having trouble relating to the main character, but I absolutely did since their prime motivations were spite and revenge (what powers Pablo? a consistent supply of self-generating bile!).
More charitably, when one has suffered severe trauma, you can cope a lot of ways; one way is to put yourself in reckless, harmful situations, desperate for a purpose. This can look a lot like being single-minded about revenge against the the perpetrators of the trauma that affected you.
War is central to this book; there's a large and rotating ensemble, and a lot about the bonds of war. In a way, it illustrates that human socialization and relationships are more flexible and bendable than our need to blow ourselves up: we'll adjust everything about how we pursue and maintain our relationships before we decide to put down the guns and refuse to shoot.
One thing I pay attention to in war narratives is how awful they're presented—I read The Braindead Megaphone years ago, which contained Mr. Vonnegut in Sumatra, which in turn pointed me to Slaughterhouse-Five, and my favorite thing about it was how it stated upfront that war fucking sucks. The first chapter, breaking the fourth wall to just share an anecdote that makes a point, is something everyone should internalize: stories and narratives about war and conflict have little bearing to the realities of it, and there's no redeemable goodness in it. Anyone arguing that there is is likely not properly accounting for the costs very well, and they've probably got reasons to do this.
I felt a lot of tonal similarities to other stories: the war and jingoism to the point of parody of Starship Troopers (the movie, not Heinlein). The whiplash-inducing narrative of BioShock: Infinite and its multiple realities. Total Recall. Some 1984 and some Jennifer Government. The writing is highly entertaining with a lot of highlighted gems (most of my highlights of this book were a line or two with a "lol" or "relatable"), and the politics align closely to mine.
Spoiler-filled stream of consciousness
I love stories with excellent representation, and it especially amplifies the strengths of sci-fi's social commentary by pointing out how far we would still have to go once we have many forms of social parity. I had a friend who observed that in a lot of sci-fi with alien societies, they may have gills or lay eggs, but still have two genders, sexual reproduction, and hetero nuclear family structure (early Star Trek comes to mind). Similarly, we have fucking grisly, terrible war in a world, but it's gender-balanced! It reminds me of this old tweet (since deleted):
Like, we might achieve better gender parity, but we can't be allowed to stop there, since we could very plausibly still end up in a futuristic warzone hell-hole. But, like, with women!
I got some accidental introspection of my biases at the end of the book when I heard the main character's love interest address them. It's also an incredibly touching moment, and is in strong contrast with the depersonalization/coping with war I mentioned above.
Like City In The Middle Of The Night, it's fun to see futures where it's suggested that US hegemony stopped being so singular and dominant, where the entire rest of the world got a chance to participate in a good story or two.
The interrogation scenes are a tad indulgent and soapboxey. It doesn't really bother me because, well, I agree with it and live for this shit, but it's a bit different than the rest of the book.
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