Friday, September 23, 2016

Western Suburbs SF- The Traitor Baru Cormorant

Slowly but surely, I'm trying to at least touch in with all the Chicagoland SF/F book clubs. Back in July, I made it out to La Grange to join the Western Suburban Science Fiction Book Club for a discussion.

A discussion of "The Traitor Baru Cormorant" (2015), by Seth Dickinson! This was a pretty brief discussion, but I wanted to make a point of recording it just so I can plug the book a little more.

One comment was that "I like more fantasy with my fantasy"; if you're looking for magic, "Traitor Baru" is not where to look. There's some suggestions of possibly-supernatural things happening far away, but in terms of the narrative you're reading, Dickinson positively revels in naturalism. There's a deep kind of realism to this, pulling on a broad conception of history, that one doesn't often see even in the "grittiest" of fantasy. Interestingly, the only comparably "realistic" feeling fantasy I can bring to mind are Samatar's "A Stranger in Olondria" & "The Winged Histories" (Think Galactic and Chicago Nerds selections, btw), despite their definite inclusion of some supernatural elements, and despite working very differently than Dickinson's novel.

Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" seems a big influence.

We talked a bit about the economics angle of the story—not a ton of SFF that plays with that. We mentioned Stross's Saturn/Neptune  books, as well as some of Pratchett's—"Making Money" etc.

Elements of "Traitor Baru" were also compared to Becky Chamber's "Planetfall" and Scott Hawkins' "The Library at Mount Char" as well as Novik's "Uprooted" and Bennett's "City of Stairs".

I think this book is just really outstanding, will be suggesting for many others to read, so don't be surprised if it shows up on a book-club recap again sometime in the future.

WSSF meets monthly at varying locations—join their Meetup for more info. Also I learned that Joel Cunningham, who now runs the B&N SF/F blog, is a former member. Also also, I learned that one of the current members recently wrote a smashing revisitation of Swanwick's "Stations of the Tide", which of course is of interest to me—presented a paper on that novel at Worldcon, and also was a Think Galactic selection earlier this year.

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