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Reading Roundup Week Of 10.15.23, Or, Visibly Skeevy Vizier

An illustration of a lovely hilly valley with a river winding through it

Yes hello I have decided to betray my brand and start including prose books, or “mind-comics”, in my reading roundu–HOLY SHIT I SHOULD CALL THESE ‘READING ROUNDUPS’, THIS EXPERIMENT IS ALREADY YIELDING FRUIT BEYOND MY WILDEST HOPES.

I haven’t been reading many comics lately, partly because all things are cycles and the Book Moon waxeth just presently, and partly because I’m taking part in a Read Every Day In October fundraiser event for the American Cancer Society and decided to give it more than just the minimum, “there I did it” effort1.

Let’s take a look! A book-look!

Blade Of The Moon Princess, Vol. 1

The new series by Tatsuya Endo, creator of Spy X Family! Also, apparently, a retelling of The Tale Of The Bamboo Cutter, a Japanese fable dating back to maybe as early as the 870’s CE and very possibly the oldest surviving Science-Fiction story2!

Kaguya’s the dang Princess of the Friggin’ Moon is what, and like all spoiled royal brats she doesn’t appreciate her position, responsibilities to her people, or that maybe not everybody loves having a leader they didn’t get to vote for. It is thus to her surprise that a visibly skeevy vizier attempts a coup and her mother has to escape-pod her down to the “tainted world” below, armed with only their ancestral dual-bladed sword, which is actually hella sick.

[Reminder: Manga read right-to left, both panels and page-order]

She crash-lands in…well it’s unclear, actually; it might be actual Fedual Japan Earth, it might just be that this fantasy planet happens to have those same world-settings and apparent technology-level. Either way, she’s surprised it isn’t fulla darkness and monstros and boarded-up Home Town Buffets like one would reasonably expect of a “tainted world”. As luck would have it3, she survives the impact and is found by an old acquaintance of her mother, who is in NO MOOD to put up with her royal demands:

Clearly you’ve got some growing up to do before she’s ready to be Empress of the Moon, young lady. Fortunately this large man with his synthetic arms and steady bamboo-cutting career seems committed to guiding her on that path4, and she’s gonna need all the help she can get, because she isn’t the only Selenite visitor the world will receive before this volume ends.

Moment Of The Week:

When Kaguya, confronted with some brigands or corrupt local officials or something and decides to open a can of Lunar whoop-ass on them, only to learn that her sword is ALSO a Moon-diva, but for better reasons:

Turns out it isn’t interested in vengeance or anger–as no leader should be–and until she learns this, she is persworda non grata, baybee:

Camp Damascus – Chuck Tingle

Longtime readers or observant newbies will recognize that I am famously reluctant to discuss smoochin’-matters in public fora, which I consider not a prudishness but simply a personal decision regarding the line between my private and public lives. That said, I consider myself very sex-positive and recognize the simply colossal debt that wholesome erotica owes to Dr. Chuck Tingle; I’m mainly familiar with his Void-related work, but if you run a copy of Oppressed In The Butt By My Inclusive Holiday Coffee Cups, My Macaroni And Cheese Is A Lesbian And Also She Is My Lawyer, or Not Pounded By Anything While I Practice Responsible Social Distancing up the flag, I’ll salute5.

Camp Damascus is the story of a very Christian girl sent to a Certain Kind Of Camp, who discovers that their methods are quite truly monstrous; it’s an enormous departure for Chuck, being non-erotica and (mainly) unrelated to the Void and its many Crabs, but his horror chops are just as well-honed as his looking-up-another-synonym-for-“pounded” chops. I’ve just started this and can’t responsibly have an analysis or meaningful opinion yet, but I’m already the most freaked out I’ve ever been by the sudden appearance of someone in a polo-shirt, and I went to Baptist school.

Moment Of The Week:

I don’t think Chuck has ever been accused of an excess of subtlety, but nobody who wrote Pounded By The Pound: Turned Gay By The Socioeconomic Implications Of Britain Leaving The European Union would paragraph-break that line if he didn’t mean to, and for that he gets a terrified finger-guns from me.

Earthdivers: Kill Columbus, Vol. 1

The premise, she is simple: it’s 2112, the Earth is goozled, and all that remains of terrestrial humanity is a handful of the marginalized left-behinds who couldn’t afford to get offworld and have been abandoned and burdened with putting the proverbial chairs on tables, turning off the lights, and locking up the world when they die. Fortunately, they’ve got a plan: go back in time, put that asshole Columbus in the ground6 and hopefully prevent all of this from happening. “All of this”, by the way, is explicitly the United States of America.

(Note: Columbus was widely recognized as a monster in his own time, and was stripped of his lands, titles, and fortune as punishment for his treatment of indigenous people by the Spanish fucking Inquisition7. I’m grateful to live here but he was a bad dude, it can be two things, this is not up for debate, do not @ me)

Of their group–which comprises several American Indian8 tribes and at least one member of the LGBT+ community–the only one they can all agree should take this one-way trip is the one who can speak the most languages that will be useful in that time and place, making Tad that rarest of all birds: the fabled action linguist. Finally, a hero I can relate to.

The plan is as follows:

  1. Go back in time by use of a special9 cave known to the Indigenous history of the region
  2. Murder the living shit out of that Genoese salami before he has a chance to become famous for being an idiot who didn’t realize the Bahamas weren’t India
  3. ???
  4. Hopefully leave behind a new and better world, here defined as “one that doesn’t run on the blood of minorities and/or won’t end a measly 700 years later”.

I don’t want to project extremely white, Christian frameworks onto Amerindian characters, but a nonzero amount of this plan is based in sacred-mission thought-patterns, and that does lend it a nicer, more spiritual air than most time-travel tyrant terminations.

As is the case with all time-travel stories though, things are complicating themselves quickly as Tad comes to realize that the man they’ve been demonizing10 is a symbol, not the problem itself, and while killing his ass dead would doubtless be very satisfying, these three ships on a mission from the frickin’ Queen of Spain probably wouldn’t just give up on that new trade route to India and go home forever11. Unless Tad finds a way to stab all of colonialism, this plan is going to need some adjustment. But as long as he keeps his head down, things will pr–OH GOD DAMMIT TAD.

Part of me wants to suggest that Tad could’ve done with a copy of Ryan North’s How To Invent Everything: A Survival Guide For The Stranded Time Traveler (see my review here), with which he could possibly give his people dozens of 600-year jumps in countless technologies and even the odds, but it also occurs to me that (no offense to Ryan) that’s a book by a white man full of technology for and by oppressors, and I couldn’t blame him for thinking maybe something like that wasn’t what they needed. Similarly, when the first Covid vaccines came out and communities of color were, statistically, less likely to get them because they had very good, very recent reasons not to trust Whitey’s medicine, I was frustrated as a healthcare professional but I Got It.

Moment Of The Week:

I was initially a little taken aback by how cavalier Tad is being with his future-knowledge in the above pages, but then I remember that this is not a Quantum Leap or Back To The Future scenario; this, by definition, is a suicide mission by a time-traveler whose expressed purpose is to change as much as possible with extreme prejudice. When I think of it that way, it’s actually amazing that he’s not blowing medieval Europe’s mind by rapping the entire Wu-Tang discography accompanied by Mozart with nine thousand dollar sunglasses and a steampunk keytar12.

A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine

A MURDER-MYSTERY WHERE THE VICTIM IS STILL ALIVE, KINDA. It’s Far Future Space Times, and Mahit Dzmare has been sent to the Teixcalaan crown-world to serve as cultural attache and ambassador from her station following the death of her predecessor…an out-of-date copy of whom lives in her head as a guiding phantom, in accordance with how their people pass on knowledge. He doesn’t take it well! Understandable. LET THE COURT INTRIGUE AND LINGUISTIC ESPIONAGE BEGIN.

I’ve gotten past my habitual mid-book slump with this one, and the (spoilery) pieces and players are set: Yskander had a deal with the Emperor to supply him with an imago mechanism (which the Emperor wrongly13 believes will allow him to transfer his consciousness into a new body when his fails) in exchange for the Emperor’s promise that Lsel Station would be spared in Teixcalaan’s upcoming war of conquest and expansion, which is only being waged in the first place because One Lightning can only challenge the Emperor during a time of uncontested peace throughout the City. Holy shit what a sentence, I love books so much.

Moment Of The Week: Mahit and Three Seagrass go to a restaurant where 3C orders fixin’s for the Teixcalaanli version of a sandwich, featuring large flower-petals as bread14 and real, actual, used-to-walk-around meat, which Mahit has never even seen before, let alone eaten; she’s used to lab-cultivated stuff that, I presume, conveniently grows into hamburger-shape within its petri dish. She’s more than a little repulsed by it, but is more repulsed by the fact that holy shit she wants it real real bad though, you guys, hers wanna go HOMP on that haunch; she’s had her first encounter with what John Hodgman called the Carnivore’s Burden15: the true, spiritual understanding that our continued existence requires the deaths of other living things, many of which are friggin’ delicious. This parallels uncomfortably with Lsel, her station’s, position re: this war, and the lives that will unwittingly be lost for the sake of her peoples’ protection; not eating the meat won’t unkill that poor beast16, but if she plays her cards right and the crick don’t rise, she has a chance to shut a galactic slaughterhouse down before its saws can spin up in the first place, and . That just occurred to me right now! Turns out writing about stuff helps you digest it more thoroughly, like a dang ruminant would do with delicious grasses!17

Rhythm Of War: Book Four Of The Stormlight Archives – Brandon Sanderson

Listen this is the fourth installment in a series of ten planned 1,200 page books (not counting interstitial novellas), so an introductory plot summary or book-back blurb is only gonna do so much here. If you’re interested–and you should be–see my review here of the first book in the series, which is incidentally my favorite book (category: genre fiction).

Listen as a resident of Arizona, where it’s going to be 102 degrees today, October 19th, I can confirm that the last goal on that list is on the EXACT same tier as the others

FOR MY PART, presently Kaladin18 is contemplating a two-edged change in career, Dalinar19 is trying to find cooperative ground with people who ask “what’s in it for ME if I help you defeat the actual Devil’s army”, Navani20 is heading the scientific stormlight revolution, and Shallan21is probably doing something I don’t care about. (I always worry this sounds misogynist, but I just liked her better when she was one whole character instead of three thin ones, and also, like, I get it, I’ve read Mistborn, something something Becoming The Mask, etc. Though in fairness, one of the reasons we love The Stormlight Archive is the realistic and honest depiction of mental illness (if fantasy-flavored) and how people have to live with their struggles every day, and I guess not all of those can be resolved with cool spear-fights and BRIEFLY BECOMING GOD MAYBE. I still trust BrandoSando to resolve Shallan’s whole deal satisfyingly, but like, how about he just texts us when she figures that out and we can dip back in.)

Moment Of The Week:

Dalinar invites the Mink, a Herdazian leader, to Urithiru in hopes of securing an alliance, and by combining his and Shallan’s abilities22 he manages to create a room-sized, interactive holographic map of the Shattered Plains with displays of up-to-date troop and supply information, it’s the coolest fucking thing, gang. And if it’s anything like the map in Baldur’s Gate III, it’s riddled with unhelpful sidequest markers and completely ignores elevation.

END OF LIST, but for those of you who stuck around, a wee bonus: yesterday I replaced our kitchen faucet and THOUGHT I could do it by myself through the blessings of Domesticus23, but eventually I had to wise up and call in some assistants:

Lemme guess, “union regs24

UNTIL NEXT TIME, be good to yourselves and each other or FACE MY WRATH, and be warned that my wrath includes calling Domesticus down from his up-to-code addition on the side of Mount Olympus to pass judgment on the IKEA stuff you “had spare parts” from after you put it together.


And every time I hear it play
I think of you, and those summer days

  1. Also known as ‘The Duolingo Method’
  2. It does taste a lot more like Fantasy at times, but 1. The girl comes from the damn Moon, what do you want, and 2. Trust me we do NOT have time to get into how Sci-Fi and Fantasy are 100% the same genre in different pants
  3. Or, in fairness, maybe her Momperor programmed it in when she launched the pod
  4. A phrase which here means “kick her ass down that road until she can outrun his foot”
  5. …as it were
  6. Or water I guess, he spent a lot of time on boats, we’ll play it by ear
  7. Y’know, the we-mass-torture-people people
  8. Based on my experience with this series’ author, Blackfeet Stephen Gramham Jones, my understanding is that “Native American” has fallen out of favor because it’s condescending as shit and that this is now the preferred nomenclature; if I’m mistaken in this, I apologize in advance and would love corrective feedback
  9. Magic? Naturally anomalous? Third thing? Unclear, and I think for the better.
  10. 100% correctly
  11. “Who needs all those silks and spices? We’ve already got oregano! The others are probably all bad too, right?”
  12. (Shannon, if you’re reading this: I will pay any number of BagelBucks for that illustration.)
  13. ???
  14. NERDS
  15. Although in fairness he was talking about how if you’re going to eat live oysters at a lunch your agent is paying for, you really ought to expect some screaming
  16. And, from my own personal perspective regarding only myself, would actually dishonor its death
  18. Or, as She Who Is My Wife calls him when I’m reading these to her while she falls asleep, “Cinnamon”
  19. “Danny”
  20. “Velour”
  21. “Salami”
  22. As a Bondsmith and a Lightweaver, respectively
  24. This is a joke about how lazy cats are, not about unions
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