beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
[personal profile] beccastareyes
I need to blog more...

I read Rolling in the Deep by Seanan McGuire (as Mira Grant). It's a horror story about mermaids eating a mockumentary crew. Unlike Seanan's other stuff, I didn't read as much into it, though it had some nice character moments talking about why academics would sign up for a 'Mermaids: Fact or fiction' expedition, and about the troupe of performing 'mermaids' (swimmers in costume) along. You know, before they all get eaten. (It's a story about people getting eaten, and Seanan includes a gay couple, a diverse cast and multiple disabled characters in ways that are just like 'these are people who exist in the world'*.)

Other book was a re-read of Ancillary Sword by Anne Leckie. Hard to review without spoiling the previous book. I did notice something. So the series got attention for the way it models the culture and language of the protagonist. She is from a culture with no gender roles, nor gendered language (animate and inanimate pronouns may exist). Leckie shows this by using feminine nouns (she/her/hers/herself and mother/daughter/sister/etc.) for everything spoken in that language (and the narration), even for the (few) characters confirmed male. Basically, the protagonist has only learned gender by traveling outside and still sees it about like how an Anglophone wonders why it matters that it's la mesa roja rather than el mesa rojo. She also has an awareness of culture shown when she arrives to another planet and realizes that most of the Imperial officers assume that the planet had one culture and language pre-conquest.

Anyway, the interesting thing I noticed myself is that I assumed Leckie picked her and not him because too often we assume him-dominated spaces are normal in space. So using her makes us more aware that we don't know most characters' genders. Except apparently my brain is fine with just assuming everyone is female until otherwise shown. (I wonder if this is because I'm female.)

The plot itself was about imperialism and class issues, and dealt with the way minorities are treated in a supposed meritocratious Empire. Which was a factor in the prequel, but here drove the plot. I'm going to include spoilers here. But Breq, the protagonist, was visiting a planet and got involved in local politics. Raughd, the daughter of a prominent tea-grower was a terrible person and Breq kept getting in the way of her 'pranks' (which got people in trouble). Raughd she decided to kill Breq, because Raughd has all the emotional maturity of a teenager**. Raughd gives a bomb to Queter, the older sister of a tea-picker she's been coercing into sex (Raughd claims it's consensual. Considering the tea-pickers live under sharecropping conditions, Breq and Queter both doubt Queter's brother has a choice). Raughd swears that if Queter does this for her, Raughd will protect her and help her family. Queter thinks Raughd is full of shit, but decides that if she and her family are doomed, she might as well use the bomb to kill Raughd. (It doesn't work, but there are injuries.)

It has me reflecting on the events of Baltimore. Queter tried to kill a young woman. Queter honestly thought it had a good chance to hurt her family, but nothing else would save things, so at least she could hurt her brother's tormenter. Queter had no reason not to engage in violence because she knew that she'd never see a magistrate or be believed by one. Even with Breq's help, the only way Queter is believed is when Breq using Raughd's maid's religious devotion to get her to confirm this. And people are still saying how Queter caused Raughd's mother to disown her and caused all the family drama. (And other people are upset that Breq couldn't save Queter and change the terrible situation with tea-pickers in general, when it took all of Breq's ability just to make sure Raughd got punished and the magistrate learned not to take Raughd's family's word about how everything is hunky-dory, so the tea-pickers could try to strike without being arrested.)

When one doesn't have good options, one starts to embrace bad ones. And it's easy to say 'you should go to the magistrate' when the person has tea with the magistrate weekly and knows she's a nice person who totally would listen to a tea-picker over the daughter of a rich businesswoman if there was something wrong.)

* There is a discussion about how we treat the disabled. Two of the performers had mobility issues and they discovered that being in a costume that would restrict an able-bodied person's mobility means they get treated like the rest of the troupe. When you are in a mermaid tail, no one knows if you can't walk.

** It was also damn obvious that Raughd was being emotionally abused by her mother, and had learned the only way to feel good was to tear down others. But of course, a woman running such an important business couldn't be a terrible person.
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