Lidabet (biggersandwich) wrote,

Sulking about books

I just want to shake virtually all the authors who contributed to Queen Victoria's Book of Spells and point out that people were, occasionally, from time to time, happy in the 19th century, no, really. I'm only halfway through, but so far every single story has essentially been: "HERE IS MY ONE PIECE OF RESEARCH ABOUT THE PERIOD. Now, some sexual assault and/or child abuse, in that setting!"

You can't just start a story with "The governess occupied a liminal space in the household." That's the opening to an undergrad essay. Not that Victorian governesses were unaware that their position was odd and uncomfortable, but they certainly didn't talk about it like 21st century academics. I love research, but it doesn't all need to appear in the story. It's especially disappointing because some of these authors have written quite acceptable historical novels which didn't feel over-researched at all.

On the other side - no middle ground apparently allowed - there are people who have learned a single detail like cholera outbreaks being blamed on miasmas, and then written a story about vague impressions of the Victorians (big dresses! mistreating women! the poor had it badly off, but apparently not enough to actually talk about anything from their point of view!) to stick it in.

I'm all for writing steampunk/gaslamp fantasy that acknowledges the ways that the Victorians screwed over a lot of people, and a lot of people living in Britain at the time were not living the sparkly fancy lives of the heroines of society novels, but does it have to be this dismal?

Perhaps the second half of these stories will be better, but I am not hopeful so far.

Equally aggravating was Mike Brown's How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming where the science was so heavily doused in smugness that I felt firmly on the side of the scientists who had attempted to scoop his discovery of Kuiper Belt objects, and was entirely prepared to believe that they had tried to take him down because he was so pompous, rather than, as he put it, perhaps being terribly, terribly mistaken about how science works and what first really means. Just tell me about planets. I don't want to hear about how awesome it was to propose to your wife. That is a story for people who already care about her, which you did not manage to make me do, though I'm sure she's very nice.

I have been enjoying Ursula Vernon's Dragonbreath books, but I would like to find some actual adult reading that didn't make me want to tear my hair out, no matter how charming her tiny reptiles are, and how unreservedly I would recommend them to any small child of your acquaintance.

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Tags: books, reviews
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