[Book Review] The Core of the Sun

The Core of the Sun / Johanna Sinisalo

The Core of the Sun is a must-read for fans of The Handmaid's Tale, set in an alternate historical present Finland 'eusistocracy' that revolves around public health and social stability, and where women are bred for beauty and subservience. Women who meet the beauty and subservience standards are allowed to breed and known as ‘eloi’ or ‘femiwoman’ while women outside their beauty standards or who display intelligence are sterilized and labled ‘morlocks.’ The narrator passes as an eloi and has an addiction to capsaicin, an illegal substance under the ‘eusistocracy.’

This was a re-read for me, it seemed timely for a number of reasons, but with The Handmaid's Tale being so highlighted lately I liked the contrast of this title and had a previous interest of including it as a book club read.  The fact that I ended up with two Finnish authors in a row wasn't intentional, but let's go with it (this one for April and The Quantum …

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: II. The House of Eorl

The House of Eorl gives us the history of the "Eorlings" or the Rohirrim, and their longstanding connections with Gondor.  The horse lords claim kinship with the people of Gondor, but have a more migratory lifestyle with finally settling in a permanent homeland after being awarded territory for helping Gondor against it's enemies.  The name "Rohan" comes from Gondor, and "Rohirrim" meaning horse lords.

We also learn the history of Shadowfax's lineage, a horse that threw Eorl's father and later called to account by Eorl himself and named Felarof.  Horses of that line were called mearas, who would bear only the King of the Mark or his sons and none other, until Shadowfax.  It helps put a little more in context why perhaps there was upset to exploit in Theoden about Gandalf riding off with Shadowfax.

The refuge known as Helm's Deep earned it's name for King Helm Hammerhand, a King of some renown and some fighting skill.  It was there that…

[Book Review] The Saint

The Saint (The Original Sinners: The White Years #1) / Tiffany Reisz

Readers of The Original Sinners series will already know Nora Sutherlin, and her relationships with Soren and Kingsley. In The Saint, Nora has left everyone behind to be alone with her grief after her mother dies. But she is unexpectedly joined by the handsome Nico, with whom as pillow she shares the story of how she first came to meet Soren, Kingsley, and the world of BDSM as 15-year-old Eleanor.

Soren comes into Eleanor's life as the new priest at her mother's church, and quickly becomes the center of her fantasies, and then becomes bound to him in a private agreement after he rescues her from a father who pushes his daughter to steal cars to pay off his debts. Their relationship is drawn out, Soren trying to stay his distance until Eleanor reaches adulthood before she's fully introduced into the world of BDSM, and then waiting further before 'consummation' of their relationship due to the emoti…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: I. The Númenorean Kings (v) Here Follows a Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen

Everything in the appendices ties directly to the saga of the Ring, that goes without saying and Tolkien held the history and language to higher importance that the story itself.  But to me, this section is particularly tied to The Lord of the Rings.  Maybe it's because it's not just backmatter, but specifically the the backstory for two living characters that have a full arc within the saga?

The section is illuminating in several areas, actual age and expectations of Duindain stand out, with Aragorn being born to a 58-year-old man and to a woman considered young for motherhood among their people.  Long life-spans tend to correspond with a longer immaturity/childhood, so regardless of expectations and adult behavior, it makes sense that expected reproduction occurs decades later in life than it would for regular folk.  Aragorn's blind fostering by Elrond also explains much, including some of the peculiarities of their relationship and Aragorn's general lack of royal as…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: I. The Númenorean Kings (iv) Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion

To me this section could come with the following alternate titles:

Power, Hubris, and the Inevitable DeclineThe Good Old Days Weren't Necessarily All That Great TL;DR: Bloodlines falter, they go crazy for ships (which is great, except we also know they're not supposed to sail in a certain direction, and we know where this is going to go), and the Great Kings of Old aren't really all that great.
Gondor most clearly falters with Atanar Alcarin, who liked his wealth and power, but really couldn't be bothered to maintain it (and neither could his sons).  Among his various failings we can list laxity towards Mordor.  Then we go forward to Narmacil who decides actually being King is just too much hard work and names Minalcar Regent of Gondor.
Then we get a little bit of racism mixed in, since the son of a Regent married a bride from the Northmen, and the Dunedain fear the degradation of their long-lived and majestic race.  Unsurprisingly, when their child Eldacar, who proves …

[Book Review] This Alien Shore

This Alien Shore / C. S. Friedman

So this made it onto the Virtual Speculation reading list based on curiosity and recommendations of this novel as a key piece of SF literature.  I expected a Space Opera with some of the normal dissection/discussions of society that one often finds in rich speculative fiction.  What I did not expect was to find a book that respectfully not only included non-neurotypical characters, but actively embraced neurodiversity.  Overall an excellent piece of speculative fiction.

Discussion Fodder:
In this story, what is alien?  What makes it alien?How do the different societies embrace or reject neurodiversity?  What do you think of the handling of neurodiversity by the author?  What is done right/wrong?How do the Hausman societies contrast with that of Earth, be it Earth of today or the Earth of the novel?What points does the story make about hacking and security?  How do they hold up as the book has aged?  How does malware differ (or not differ) in this advan…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: I. The Númenorean Kings (iii) Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur

Remember that list of names we just read... now we get to read about them!  This week we'll gander at the Northern Line, next week the Southern Line.

The narrative here splits between a speaking tone, as if someone is relating this history to us (including use semi-personal references) and more prosaic recitation of history.

It starts out rather similar to the decline of most Kingdoms.  Several generations (if they're lucky) of strong union and continuance, then the inevitable decay as quarrelsome siblings split kingdom.  Though, eight generations spans a few hundred years easily in modern lifetimes, let alone the extended lives of the Western men, so they definitely had a good run.

From there we get into the back matter of our saga, from the corruption of the Barrowdowns to the wandering state of the Dunedain.  We're also gifted with some of the future beyond The Return of the King, as we learn that the Shire becomes off limits to the Big People and that good relations co…