A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
. Came into Ozeki though My Year of Meats
, which had a lot of similar cultural themes, but didn't really hit on the zen, meaning of life and ethics stuff that this book was more or less about.
I liked the sections set on the North West coast, they really grabbed small island life (though I agree with everyone in story who said that there's NO WAY IN HELL tsunami debris has made it to Desolation Sound yet). The play between Ruth reading the story, and Nao writing it was really well done, better played then many Finding Historical Documents stories. Needing things translated and poor Internet connections seemed like a plausible way to spin out the drama.
It's interesting that the last two Japanese stories I've read have had kamikaze pilots as major elements. That story and Nao's about being a Japanese outsider in Japan were pretty brutal, in the "I hesitate to rec this because it has lots of explicit torture and sexual assault" kind of way. I liked a lot of the ethics discussion, and how different family members handled similar problems over the generations.
I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. I know it's meant less as a Left Turn at Albuquerque, and more as a culmination of everything the book had been leading too but... I don't care about quantum physics? It kind of just felt out of tune with the rest of the book. I was also sad we never did get much of Jiko's backstory, though that may have been the point as well.The Doomsday Vault (Clockwork Empire, #1) by Steven Harper
[please note that it's with a V and not a PH]. I really liked the gender dynamics here. Gavin was basically a manic pixy dream boy (He only wants to fly, he's from an exotic country (the US), the colour of his hair is described more often than any other physical feature in the book, he sings and plays the fiddle astoundingly beautifully, he spends a good deal of time getting rescued, and more or less exists to convince the heroine to break convention and follow her dreams). Alice is a genius mechanic who fixes giant robots as a hobby. She also gets stuck with a traditional marriage plot, which was one the weaker areas of the book, but mostly it was about her fixing robots and rescuing Gavin. The two chessmaster characters moving the plot forward were both middle-aged women, and that's not even counting in Queen Victoria. It felt great to read a Victorian set novel that was so deliberately breaking out of period gender roles.
Speaking of, this book also had feelings about colonialism and empire. It wasn't preachy, but it looks like the series is going to run in that direction. While the mandatory queer character was pretty secondary, and didn't get a lot of characterisation, he was there. Always nice to see.
None of it felt lick a diversity checklist! The writing was light and often funny, and though I saw a few plot twists a mile off, the ending surprised me. Always nice to read. I will say that it's very, very much the first book in a series. It had self-contained story and character arcs, but I've got to say, if when I catch up to where the series is now, if they're still doing these cliffhanger endings, I shall feel cross.