book review: boxers & saints

Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints is a pair of volumes about rebellion in 19th century China. In Boxers, we follow a young man whose father is humiliated at the hands of the foreign devils and the people who’ve gravitated to their power so he turns to mystical powers to try to rid China of their influence. In Saints we follow a young woman as she tries to become a foreign devil herself.

The stories are good, but somewhat slight. I don’t know. I liked the representation of the Brotherhood of the Righteous Fist becoming gods in their fights. Whenever I read histories of the Boxer Rebellion it seems stupid that so many people would believe a little ritual would protect them from bullets. This represented things in a way much easier to empathize with.

Really though, this book is a decent enough fictionalization of history, but it felt like the characters were there as a means of showing us history rather than having real depth of their own. Which is disappointing, because Yang’s made me care about characters and their individual struggles before.

book review: space lords

Oh man Cordwainer Smith is a pretty awesome writer, even if that isn’t his real name. Which it isn’t. Space Lords is a book of short stories set in a far distant future where they’ve decided to bring back languages and nations and all that because perfect efficiency was kind of boring, but it’s also a book of old stories. He retells Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, and the tale of Joan of Arc and the life of Rimbaud and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dante’s Inferno. In a couple of hundred pages. He’s got this very Stanislaw Lem-like mythicalness to his storytelling, making these things feel timeless. So good. In the last story there’s a planet where people grow extra organs so they can be harvested. It’s so outlandish the way it’s done it has nothing on something like Never Let Me Go, but it’s also so passionate. There’s no reserve there, just a story told well. I like it and its pulpiness because science fiction is a genre of ideas, right? And this was full of them.