So you want political machinations, spying, double-dealing, double-triple-quadruple talk, secret languages and codes, super-cool new technology, and an epic love story, all set in a matriarchal future society? Then you should probably read Carnival by Elizabeth Bear (M)
This book has a lot more sci-fi elements than I had expected and it is certainly one of the most intelligent novels I’ve ever read. I spent much of the time not completely sure what people were saying when there was dialogue, so much was left unsaid, but I still loved it and trusted Bear to guide me along. And the relationship between Michelangelo and Vincent is just lovely. My only complaints were that it was rather understated so there was a lot left unsaid that could potentially be confusing. And I didn’t like the Italicized portions where Kii narrated; I thought that was a bit of a conceit. Fortunately, there wasn’t too much of that.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (M)
Josef Kavalier is a young Jewish artist and apprentice magician/escape artist living in Nazi-occupied Prague with his father, mother, younger brother, and grandfather on the brink of World War II. Of the entire family, he is the only one who manages to secure a visa to leave for New York, where he will live with his aunt and his cousin, Sammy Klayman. Except it turns out that even with a visa, it requires a near-superhuman effort to actually escape.
Sam Clay, as his cousin will later be called, has a wonderful talent for writing and especially for thinking up character backstories. Oh, and he’s also a gay Jewish man living in the 1940s, with all the challenges that that entails. Upon Joe’s eventual arrival, he and Sam form a perfect team of artist/writer for comic books, the profits of which venture Joe hopes will allow him to purchase freedom for his family. But things go terribly wrong.
The novel covers a ton of ground. Chabon describes the horrifying restrictions placed on Jews in Prague, the woes of immigration, the world of comic books, the tricks escape artists employ, magicians, being Jewish and gay in New York in the 1940s, life in Antarctica, and life during World War II. The book is stunning work, with hard-hitting emotions and in-depth characterizations from the main characters to minor ones who only show up for one scene. This is one of those books that make you want to beg for a movie or mini-series adaptation.