Read Recently — April 2006

Speaking Sex to Power: the Politics of Queer Sex by Patrick Califia

Patrick Califia was formerly Pat Califia, noted butch lesbian and BDSM activist. Her transition to masculinity must have confused a lot of people (I didn’t even know about it until picking up this book, which really says more about me than it does about him).

This book is a series of essays, running through such topics as Califia’s own transition, his childhood (as a young Mormon), and his relationship with his then-partner, Matt (also a transman) and their son (born to Matt during a period in which he was not able to take testosterone due to an allergy, so he figured if they were ever to have a child that was the time), to general issues regarding BDSM and lesbians.

Califia’s an interesting writer, able to get points across easily on esoteric subjects even where he, himself, is somewhat confused. Recommended.

Furies of Calderon: book one of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

The people of Alera are almost universally able to bond with elemental creatures they call Furies, explaining half the title. Amara, a Cursor (agent) of the First Lord of Alera, discovers that a renegade legion is at large in the country when she is betrayed by her teacher, a Cursor named (ironically) Fidelias, and barely escapes from the situation with her life. She flees through the air with the help of her Fury, until a storm blows her into the valley of Calderon.

In Calderon, the boy Tavi is in trouble. 15-years old, and still without a fury of his own, Tavi feels left out of society. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that he’s an orphan, raised by his uncle Bernard, Steadholder and former Legionaire, and his aunt, Isana, healer for Bernardholt. What has Tavi in trouble is that he’s been herding sheep and, while he reported that all the sheep were in the night before, they in fact are not. He heads out early in the morning to round up the last few, and is caught by his uncle, who gives him a chance to redeem himself by showing him how well he can do. While finding the sheep they are attacked by savages and Bernard is seriously injured. Tavi sends Bernard back to the Holt with his fury, and stays behind to draw the savages off, only to be caught out in the storm that brings Amara.

Meanwhile, Fidelias and his allies seek orders from higher traitors, and then wait out the storm before relocating to Calderon, where they will rendezvous with Alera’s enemies: the unhuman (but not inhuman) Marat hordes.

Can Amara, Tavi, and the Steadholders beat back the huge numbers of enemies facing them, not to mention the Fury-using forces striking from within? Will Tavi ever have a fury, or will intelligence have to serve?

Butcher has written a fun, exciting book, which I found difficult to put down. All the characters are well-shaped, the society is mostly well-thought-out (it could be argued that fortress-building in a world in which people can fly would have to change somewhat, though it could also be argued that the fortresses were never meant to keep humans out), and the suspense from chapter to chapter is gripping. Highly recommended.

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