Sunday Soupçons #9

Posted 1st May 2022 by Sia in Reviews, Sunday Soupçons / 6 Comments

soupçon/ˈsuːpsɒn,ˈsuːpsɒ̃/ noun
1. a very small quantity of something; a slight trace, as of a particular taste or flavor

Sunday Soupçons is where I scribble mini-reviews for books I don’t have the brainspace/eloquence/smarts to write about in depth – or if I just don’t have anything interesting to say beyond I LIKED IT AND YOU SHOULD READ IT TOO!

Two mini-reviews this week!

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
Genres: Fantasy, Sci Fi
Representation: Black cast

"Riot Baby bursts at the seams of story with so much fire, passion and power that in the end it turns what we call a narrative into something different altogether."—Marlon James

Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.

Riot Baby is not escapism, but that feels fair when you’re writing about systemic violence a group of people can’t escape.

By which I mean, this is a hard book to read because of its subject matter – racism, violence, oppression – but it is an excellent book, one that pulls no punches, and paints a picture of a disturbingly plausible near-future. It’s powerfully and addictively written, and very much makes me want to read more from Onyebuchi.

I can see why some readers would be frustrated with the lack of explanation for Ella’s powers – where did they come from, and what are her limits? – but for some reason that didn’t bother me; I was able to just go with it.

What did bother me was that, like Emezi’s Bitter, Riot Baby wraps up with a magic-will-force/make-change ending, which is pretty depressing to me. I don’t want the solution to be magic because we don’t have that kind of magic in the real world, and the implication is that without it, things will stay as they are, or get worse. It’s the kind of ending that tries to paint itself as hopeful, but I can’t help seeing right through it.

The Long View by Susan Palwick
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Representation: Major character with ADHD PTSD & BPD
ISBN: 1250849772

A university student seeks special accommodations for her new support animal, causing havoc all around her.

I was so excited for this story, but ended up feeling pretty hurt by it. It might be one of those times I’m not smart enough to recognise satire or something, but up until near the end the entire story felt like it was mocking people with mental and emotional disorders, and critiquing ‘wokeness’ in general. I’m not sure it’s redeemed by the MC’s last-minute realisation that ‘he’d been too blind to see’ the truth of things.

The dragon was beautiful, but the story left me feeling bruised.

What have you been reading this week?


6 responses to “Sunday Soupçons #9

  1. I’ve been reading a lot of different interesting collections and anthologies. I read my first Elizabeth Bear and my first Chaz Brenchley. I have so many things I’m excited to read! I can’t wait to read FEVERED STAR and LAST EXIT!

      • Oh! Subterranean Press put out two Best Ofs, with their work! What are your favorites by those authors, so that I may later seek out the titles?

        • For Elizabeth Bear, I adore her Promethean books and her Eternal Sky trilogy! And Brenchley – it’s not very high-brow, but I love his Three Twins at the Crater School, which is basically an old-style British Boarding School story…but set on Mars! Lots of fun 😀

  2. I have heard that about “The Long View” from several people whose opinions are typically spot on, so I have been avoiding it. Though I love dragons and anything to do with them, as the parent of special needs children, any mean-spiritedness in that direction would hit too near.

    • It’s good to know I*m not the only one who thinks it’s kind of awful. I wish I’d heard the chatter about it earlier and known to avoid it! Sometimes even dragons aren’t worth it.

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