06 Dec

Capsule Review: Toussaint Louverture by Philippe Girard

Several people hit me up to note that Toussaint Louverture by Philippe Girard just came out. It’s apparently the first biography of Louverture that’s English first that has come out in 80 years.

I snagged a copy that arrived last night and read the book promptly.

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It’s best read if you already have an appreciation of Caribbean history. Something like Carrie Gibson’s Empire’s Crossroads is a great start.

Haiti’s history and the US is so intertwined. I could write a large essay. But short of it: the entire Louisiana Purchase came about because Napoleon wanted to reinvade Haiti after Toussaint Louverture’s successful rebellion. Haiti was such an economic crown jewel that Napoleon jettisoned enough territory to the US that it doubled the size of the US, much to the shock of the negotiators who showed up. There is no modern US as you conceive of it without Haiti. The French gave up plans to invade the US as well, which was a war that had been possibly brewing.

See Haiti and the Founding Fathers.

Hamilton (yes, that Hamilton) helped Toussaint draft a constitution. Hamilton, famously finding democracy and liberty messy, basically suggested a highly centralized military run system and advised against an American styled system. We’re not sure how much that influenced Toussaint, but that’s what he went with.

I find the American blindspot to Haiti very frustrating.

Oh, yeah, and Jefferson as president actively supported the French attempt to retake Haiti (Sant Domingue) because he was just plain racist.

A lot of the American South reacted to the revolution and refugees by becoming super racist, setting the state not only for the American Civil War but to the Southern Strategy in US politics that just kicked our ass right now.

It’s all bound together. History still lies with us. The evil of slavery and the creation of racism as a major tenet of modern Wester Civilization still stains the body politic, so it’s important to read about one of the major figures in this long, sad history of the fight against slavery and its follow on effects.

So finally digging deeper into Toussaint is important, and I read biography last night in one big gulp. It’s not a hagiography, but then few really good delves into the complications of major historical figures are. While I learned some things I wasn’t expecting, I have a greater appreciation for the sheer unlikeness of what Toussaint did.

Here are some highlights I noted on twitter as I was reading:

18 Nov

Capsule Review: Planetfall by Emma Newman

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One of my regrets about how scheduled I was last year was that I got very little time to read books I was hearing buzzed about. Planetfall was one of those on my shortlist. I finally got to pull this one off my shelf and start reading it a couple days ago.

This was an interesting book because the main character struggles with a disorder and trying to plumb too much about what that is gives away some of the core secrets of the book, and this book is interestingly constructed as a mystery. A lot is revealed all at the end, even if you suspect going along the pay off is still all unraveled right in the last pages. Which is something you rarely see in this day and age of spoilers and reviews that give away endings. I’m glad I was able to miss any spoilers and come at this fresh.

Let’s just say if you like classic SF, but also enjoy a deeply personal angle on the big ideas and a bit of a mystery genre, this is a personal tragedy that makes for a fast read and is a great piece of science fiction. You have your Big Dumb Object, ‘God’s City’ which has been left by aliens for humans to figure out what it is there for. You have a plucky band of interstellar explorers heading out to explore it. And then you have the strife of survivors trying to pick up the pieces and the consequences of bad decisions made and their after affects years later.

I recommend giving it a read, reminded me of some of my favorite classics:

Planetfall on Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com.

11 Nov

Capsule Review: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

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This is one of the most fun reads I’ve had in a while.

Revenger is full of all the stock Alastair Reynolds world building that I love, since Chasm City (in some ways it’s a real return to his roots of mixing low, almost steam level punk technology and high space opera settings), yet the narrow focus on a single POV, that of Fura Ness, gives it a fast-moving whip pace that meant I ate through this book in a quick couple of days.

Set in the ruins of a galaxy that has seen many civilizations rise and fall Fura Ness and her sister join a ship plying the space ways in search of artificial worlds that have since collapsed and been locked away. With strong hints of the age of sail, but with a vividly imagined solar system as its playground, and a revenge quest plot (one of my favorites!) I felt really sad when I finished because I didn’t get to stay inside the book.

Seriously, I’ll read the fuck out of a sequel.

Indie Store near you
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

04 Oct

Capsule Review: Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit

A capsule review of Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit that I wrote on twitter:

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I’m thinking I need to do more capsule reviews as I read things, plus maybe a books received post as they come in. I’ve been so bunkered down I haven’t been very good about sharing bookish goodness!

After reading the above book I now want to sign all my emails with “Yours in calendrical heresy.”