SOMEWHERE BENEATH THOSE WAVES by Sarah Monette: 94/318
TW: Death, gore, alcohol abuse
Sarah Monette is one of my absolutely favorite authors in the whole world. She writes absolutely terrible things happening to a lot of complicated people, but (if you can deal with the content in any mode) it’s made manageable, thought-provoking, and vindicating by her compassion, brains, and unrelentingly feminist approaches to gender and character.
Her Doctrine of Labyrinths novels (TWs for rape, insanity, unhealthy relationships) include complex but not convoluted ideas about magic, gorgeously interesting cultural landscapes, tricky, difficult, fiercely loveable characters, and ultimately a hopeful conclusion that is a big old relief. The main characters are a really horrible, charismatic, wounded person who keeps trying to be better than he is and can’t figure out why his closest companion won’t leave because he’s bad at doing it—and that companion, who is completely trapped in a terrible situation, is smart and brave and loyal and not very okay a lot of the time.
A Companion to Wolves and The Tempering of Men are basically about gay vikings bonded to giant wolves who fight trolls. (TW: violence, explicit sex, homophobia, more more than usually attached to big dogs.) It’s also, SURPRISE!, about gender expectations, leadership, negotiation and sacrifice, the complexities of physical/romantic/sexually political relationships, sexuality, human perception of the monstrous, and also it features an awkward sort of poly relationship and some family leaders who are men-born-women, SO THAT’S COOL.
The Bone Key (and a few other stories) are about Kyle Murchison Booth, an awkward looking museum archaeologist with touch-phobia, a stammer, and a weird tendency to run into the occult. Basically it’s like M.R. James plus H.P. Lovecraft minus horrific racism plus queerness. (TW for past abuse, death, scary shit.) THESE STORIES ARE GREAT, and many of them are VERY different from one another, and the more you read the more horrible Booth’s life looks, except he always just keeps going and doing all the stuff no one else notices anyway! Except for his occasional companions, among them the IMPECCABLE Miss Claudia Coburn.
Somewhere Beneath These Waves is a compilation of previously uncompiled short stories, and it gives very quickly that Sarah Monette REALLY LIKES TO WRITE ABOUT TERRIBLE THINGS (AND DEATH). Mixed into the creepy and the grim are moments of unrelenting emotion, so I choked up a couple times reading at work yesterday. So far: murder mysteries, dead brothers lost at war, bad families, homicidal kings, dream tigers, the victims of the Trojans picking up their lives. Right now I am in the middle of “Amante Doree´,” which is about a French-American courtesan, a scruffy Englishman, Louisiane, and the death of a pretender to the title of Louis XVIII.