July 20th, 2007

lion in winter broken because you're bri

the dragons are going to fly tonight

book report # 57: Michael Swanwick, The Dragons of Babel (ARC)

This comes out in January, according to the title page, and man, are you guys jealous of me.

This is the long-awaited sequel to The Iron Dragon's Daughter, which I haven't read since it came out, and now really feel I must reread.

This is an award-quality novel, in my not so humble opinion, and reading it was really interesting because I wasn't sure of that until the very end. Because Swanwick has absolutely mastered something, in this book, that he's been working at for a long time. Which is to say, it's an apparent picaresque, a seemingly random series of events--at one point, I was shaking my head and going "Sure, this is lovely, and amusing, and the cool shit quotient here is incredibly high--but does any of this have a point?"

And in short? Yes, it does. It pays off in social commentary, character development, and a thematic argument that I'm going to be thinking about for a while. Also, it's a total pillorying of some of the standardest of standard fantasy tropes, the quest fantasy and the farmboy-makes-good tale, with a couple of codwhallops for good measure, and a little painful examination of class and political issues.

In addition, it's fun. And it's got a cryptic caper plot. Man, am I glad Undertow has a four-month lead on this sucker. And that's all I'm saying about that.

My only real complaint is: sometimes he loses me on the transitions--people appear and disappear in scenes , and sometimes I was like "Whoa, where did X leave the building?" and there's a lack of female characters, except in roles that center on the male protagonist: daughter, lover, mentor, etc. But since I know something about the end of The Iron Dragon's Daughter that I won't spoil here, and this book takes place in the same mileau, I'll just leave it as making perfect sense on a meta-level that everything and everyone in the book revolves around the protagonist in an odd iterative fashion, and sometimes things are a tad disjointed.

But yes, for those of you who know the spoiler, it's that same kind of patterning, though the outcome is completely different from that in the first book.

Also, there are short random appearances by characters with rather familiar names, including a sardonic swordfighting instructor. Whose identity I will not reveal here, because when I saw the name on the page, I blinked, read it twice, and then crowed aloud and fired off three delighted emails. *g*

Swanwick's Iron Dragons are still in the five best dragons anywhere, and my only wish is that they were in the book more in person, and less as a metaphor. (I also love Diane Duane's dragons in The Door into Shadow. I love good dragons, and dragons are so very rarely done well.)

I am going to be recommending this one to skzbrust and truepenny, especially as the plotting style reminds me very much of the sort of thing they do so well.

Also? jaylake? I thought you should know: Unca Mike has just totally raised the coolness bar on all of us.

In short, I wasn't sure I loved this book until I read the last page, and now I am sure. I love it a lot.
writing carnival

This is it.

Item the First:

Bush administrations extends executive privilege.

Bush administration officials introduced a bold new assertion of executive authority Thursday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

In case you're not clear on what just happened? That's a claim of immunity from prosecution.

Item the Second:

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America,... hereby order:

Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,

(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or

(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;

(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

The rest of the Executive Order here.

pecunium explains what this means.

In short form? If the current administration deems that any person or organization is obstructing the establishment of democracy in Iraq, they can seize their assets.

And pecunium explains the context of both issues some more, also.

Dear Congress:

It is time to invoke inherent contempt and start hauling people's asses before the Senate. It is time to initiate impeachment and censure proceedings. It is time to remember that constitutionally, you are the body with the power to declare war.

And please don't wait until after lunchtime.

Because this is it. This is a constitutional crisis. This is history in the making, right here, right now.

This is the point where we stop them, or the United States of America ceases to be a republic, and becomes a tyranny, ruled by fiat.

problem cat

wasn't that a time we had i bless you for it

Volokh Conspiracy commenters on Bush's attempted extension of executive privilege, and the case for and against impeachment.

Coincidentally, I'm reading a biography of Geffrie Hudson, 1619-1681.

Some interesting things went on in England during that time period, regarding the relationship between Parliament and kings.