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bear by san

March 2017



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can't sleep books will eat me

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Book report #36: Naomi Novik, Black Powder War

I have mixed emotions about this one. There's an awful lot of travelogue here, which takes some determination to get through, and I can't help but feel that the book falls prey to some of the common flaws of homage--which is to say, mimicking too closely the less-effective bits of the source material. (This is also a problem I had with The Jennifer Morgue, which I otherwise liked a great deal.) In particular, the desert sequence is on the predictable side: we all knew there was going to be a dry oasis, and a sandstorm, and then when we got to the mountains there would inevitably be an avalanche, because we have all read this book before.

It does pick up once the political intrigue starts, although I more and more want to bite Laurence as the series progresses. He's both a little too perfect and a little too stupidly honorable in ways that force him to engage with plot he has no real reason for encountering otherwise, which is also probably something I should be blaming on the source.

On the neither-good-nor-bad-but-slightly-brainhurty side, I am somewhat distracted by the way in which Laurence related to Temeraire as a somewhat naive but very intelligent wife, even to calling him "my dear" and not wanting to confuse him too much with the exigencies of war. I'm not sure if it's genderfuck, parody, or what, but it results in my endlessly envisioning Temeraire in skirts and an apron, which makes my eyes cross.

There is much adventure towards the end, and hopeless battles, and cleverness, and that is very good. (Even if this all happens in the midst of me wanting to bite Laurence, who somehow seems to have forgotten his sworn duty and his orders, (which he's been rigorously faithful to thus far, even when he thinks they are dumb) in pursuit of the Plot.)

The baaaaaaaaaaaby dragon is awesome. She's going to be trouble for books on end, I'm sure. I'm seriously looking forward to her when she's grown.


I'm confused. Why is a desert a problem for a dragon?

(I mean, we've seen the beasties fly for looong distances without stopping to eat/drink.)

Also, avalanches? Is there not flying, for some reason?

/irrelevant ignorant commentary

Did you see the post I made about the comment where cija talked about the Novik dragons = women?
It's a big desert?

Actually, Temeraire sort of causes the avalanche.


I don't recall the post. *goes to look for it.*

Good comment thread.


And yes. What Temeraire wants is suffrage, essentially, and Laurence keeps putting him off.
It may not be as genderfuck as all that -- Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin call each other "my dear" pretty frequently, and Jack often despairs of getting Stephen to understand naval matters.
No, it's the entire social structure surrounding the dragons and their riders that makes the dragons seem like a metaphor for oppressed womanhood, not just the use of "my dear."

I think communism is a red herring.

Er. I mean, the slave trade is, I think (hope) just a stalking horse.

It's not like "Slavery is bad!" is much of a thematic statement in this day and age.

Re: I think communism is a red herring.

Naomi made me this icon. Which is why it's doubly appropriate.

Also for distracting sexy canadians.

Yes, I agree about the exigencies of war being at issue. I don't think I ever said there was only one level here.

I *also* think the books largely remove the issue of *real* women, which allows them to talk about ideological women without some of the baggage getting in the way.

Re: I think communism is a red herring.

It's not like "Slavery is bad!" is much of a thematic statement in this day and age.

"Women get treated badly!" has reached precisely that level of terrible cliche as far as I'm concerned.

Re: I think communism is a red herring.

The genderfuck here is a little more complicated. It's more like "Here are some ways that women are complicit in their disempowerment."
I assumed it was period usage. Of all the things that would make me think of dragons as women, it's not the "my dears".
I myself am passionately fond of "technically correct but trips the reader" things, ESPECIALLY if to a modern eye they read as genderfuck.

Mind you, I am sharing a house with a girl who refuses on principle to wear anything but boy clothes to work, and a boy who sits around playing World of Warcrack in a band T-shirt and a long denim skirt, so I may have a more developed taste for genderfuck than most. :)
Also, he *only* does it to the woman. I mean, dragon.
Ah, now that DOES make a difference.

There is about a novella's worth of plot in both book 2 and 3.

Also, I like more angst, I'm afraid.
The lack of plot was my big problem, especially in book 2. We spend the entire book waiting for the showdown, and then... wait, what, it's over? Just like that?

Will read the next book for the genderfuck, intentional or otherwise, and for the baby dragon.
That was my problem with Book Two, too. Too much filler.
Interesting. I thought #2 was a bit of a slog, put off reading Black Powder War for six months or so, only to have it be my favorite in the series.
Yeah, for me Book #3 was the least compelling of the series.
Something I wrote upon first reading the book:
kate_nepveu once compared the dragon-bonding genre to romance novels, and pointed out that the ceremony at the end of the second book was analogous to a wedding. If that's so, then you could characterize His Majesty's Dragon as primarily about Laurence & Temeraire getting to know one another, while in Throne of jade, the threat of separation hung heavy over them. By this third book, their relationship was established enough to be relatively stable. And thus, there was little tension between them, and not as much room for character growth. I'm not saying there was none, but not enough for my tastes. I found myself wishing the new dragonet had hatched earlier, because it so livened up the story.
Also, my lack of Napoleonic War history definitely seemed to take its toll. I no longer know what's historical and what's AU, and for some reason in this book it bothered me.

I did enjoy the dragonet, too, and thought it brought a breath of fresh air into the conclusion... though I saw a bit of Scrappy Doo about him that could get annoying if overplayed.

Hopefully the fourth book will return them all to England and the rest of the supporting cast will buoy up the weaknesses between L & T.

yes, genderfuck but

it doesn't speak to Temeraire in skirts and apron to me. The first few Aubery/Maturin books the use of "my dear" tripped me up as slashy but by the later books I am so used to it that the use of "my dear" speaks completely to m/m relationships.

So it comes across as homoerotic to me. To me, Temeraire is Stephen, and Laurence is Aubrey. (Although Laurence is smarter than Aubrey, the analogy is not exact.)
I've only read Temeraire as yet, but I spent the entire book waiting for the, to me entirely expected, revelation that in the general ignorance of Temeraire's breed the gender had also been mistaken and "he" was going to be "she". It did feel so hubby and little-wifey.

Space Alien Here

Just as a point of information I'd like to record this conversation makes me feel that either I'm a space alien or I'm very thick. Temeraire did not come of as female or wife-ish to me. So there's an opposing data point for you.

Is this the first book where the dragons = women theme has come up? I'm a third of the way through the second book, and while I've noticed how confined a life the dragons lead, the dragons haven't yet struck me as coded women. Perhaps that's because Temeraire is so young in the first book that Laurence's sheltering behavior and "my dear"s make sense.

But then, that brings up the children = women association, and that's another unpleasant can of beans...
I think it struck me a bit in the second book, but it's *really* evident in this one.

There's even a bit with a harem, to make the parallels more evident.