Two more brief book reviewlets

Today is super exciting.  It is Friday, and yet I am home with my wife and son, who I get to spend an entire day with, and none of the three of us have to go to work or school!  Friday is always one of my days off, the boy is out because his school is doing parent/teacher conferences today (ours was last night; I was gratified to learn that, insofar as such things exist at my kid’s school, he’s in the high reading group) and my wife took the day off because my wife never takes days off and as it turns out if she doesn’t take every Friday off for the rest of the year she’s going to lose a lot of vacation days for no good reason.  So we’re all home!  I got up and had a cup of coffee and now I don’t need to hustle to get to work!

It’s exciting.

Anyway, I’ve been reading a lot in the last couple of days and there are more books I want you to know about:


9780765396310

First, let’s talk about Corey J. White’s Killing Gravity, a book billed as book one of the “Voidwitch Saga,” which is awesome because my main takeaway from this little novella is that I want a lot more of it.  Tor has absolutely been killing it with their novella imprint; these are short books but I have most of a bookshelf dedicated to them already and I’m getting to the point where if I find out a new one is out I buy it instantly without further investigation.  I’ve never done that with an imprint before.

Anyway, Killing Gravity is compared to Firefly on the cover but I don’t find that to be an especially apt comparison; I think for most people what they look for in a Firefly lookalike is the sense of humor and this book is emphatically not funny.  It’s a 160-page exercise in tone and badassery and gene modification and bioimplants and psychic assassins and shadowy corporations and lots and lots of psychokinetic murder and oh there’s also sort of a flying squirrel?  But it’s not funny.  That’s not a complaint; most books don’t have to be funny to be good, but you do have to be funny to remind someone of Firefly.   The prose is a particular standout here; this is one of those books where it’s so distinctively written that it almost doesn’t matter what it’s about– the writing is that good– but it’s an awesome setting and a cool story too and I really want to see more of it.  (EDIT:  March of 2018!)


518d7K+AT4LThe second book I just read this morning, and will almost certainly take you less than an hour to get through cover to cover.  You Have the Right to Remain Innocent isn’t so much a good book as an important one.

The premise of the book’s pretty damn straightforward, and the author isn’t especially subtle about making the point over and over again: don’t talk to cops.  Don’t talk to cops, don’t talk to cops, don’t talk to cops.  Don’t talk to cops if you’re innocent, don’t talk to cops if you’re guilty, don’t talk to cops at all unless you have your lawyer sitting right next to you, in which case your lawyer will tell you not to talk to the cops, or unless you’re telling the cops clearly and unambiguously that you will say not one word until that lawyer is sitting next to you.

Sounds pretty simple, right?  That’s not really a book all by itself, but this is America and folks need to be constantly reminded of simple shit like this, so the book is full of examples of the cops and prosecutors fucking innocent people over who were stupid enough to “head down to the station to get things cleared up” and ended up in jail for crimes they didn’t commit.

Don’t talk to cops.  If that statement isn’t obvious to you, read the book a couple of times until it sinks in.

#REVIEW: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

32075671One of our local radio stations does a bit called Group Therapy in the morning, which is usually airing just as I’m driving the boy to school.  The general pattern is this: they pose a problem, submitted by a listener, that should generally be easily dealt with by anyone with an average middle schooler’s level of sophistication and emotional intelligence.  They do not provide enough information about the problem to allow listeners to give useful advice, and people who like hearing their voices or names on the radio submit useless advice on Facebook or on the air so that the person involved can do whatever they were going to do anyway.

I’m going to start listening to Pandora more in the morning, is what I’m saying.

This morning’s problem was as follows: a parent’s 11-year-old has stolen their credit card, for the second time.  It wasn’t made perfectly clear, but it seems that as of the time of the advice-asking, the boy still had the card.  He had used it to buy $50 worth of drinks and snacks from a local convenience store and not to, say, order hundreds of dollars worth of electronics from somewhere, which is what you’d think most kids would do with a credit card they’d stolen.  Anyway, this parent had reported the card stolen, and apparently under the (incorrect) idea that the police would show up if the kid attempted to use the card again– which, yeah, right— was wondering if he/she should just talk to his/her kid or let the police “scare him straight.”

And all I could think of, listening to this, was that the person asking for advice and every single one of the dumb motherfuckers providing (generally approving) advice for the latter piece of advice had to be white.  Because every black parent in America knows that you do not let the police anywhere near your child unless someone is guaranteed to die if you don’t.  There are no optional encounters with the police.  Fuck, I’m white and I live in a nice neighborhood and I’m never calling the police again unless somebody is under serious immediate physical threat.  And you’re gonna call the police on your baby because of a $50 credit card bill?  Your privilege is not only showing, it’s leaking out of the dashboard of my car, and I ought to be able to charge somebody to clean that shit up.

(Leave aside the ridiculous notions that 1) the police care about a $50 fraudulent credit card charge because they have nothing else to do and 2) they have time to help you with relatively routine parenting decisions.)

Which brings me to Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, or THUG for short.  The title of the book is a Tupac reference; Pac was fond of the backronym, explaining, for example, that “nigga” stood for “Never Ignorant, Getting Goals Accomplished.”  “Thug Life,” to Tupac, meant “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody,” and the meaning of that phrase is discussed throughout the book.

The story is told through the eyes of Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old black girl.  Starr is the sole witness when a policeman murders one of her oldest friends during a traffic stop.  Her friend, Khalil, was unarmed and unresisting when he was shot.  The rest of the book spins out from that one moment; the different sections are even dated by it: “Three Weeks After It Happens,” and such.

You can probably predict the overall story beats from the premise, right?  America knows this story pretty Goddamn well by now, and the tension here is less from what happens (anybody want to put money down on whether the cop is exonerated by the grand jury or not?) than how the people in the book react to it.  Starr herself is a fascinating character; she lives in a rough neighborhood but her parents scrape and save to send her to a private school 45 minutes away, so many of her best friends aren’t black and she thinks of herself as being two different people, one at school and one at home.    Her uncle is a police officer, her father a former gang member.  Khalil himself has a complicated backstory, and the book dives into the inevitable attempt by the media and the police to slander him and make him responsible for his own murder.  For a large portion of the story Starr’s school friends and her (white) boyfriend aren’t aware that she’s the anonymous witness the news keeps referring to, and the way she reacts to their treatment of Khalil’s death is complex and fascinating.  Her navigation through the web of relationships and identities she’s struggling with throughout the book is a pleasure to read.

I recommend books here all the time; I rarely bother to review anything I didn’t love unless I think I can hate it in an entertaining way, but it’s not terribly often that I use the word important to describe a book that I’ve read.  You need to read THUG, and you need to get THUG into the hands of as many other people as you can, particularly young people.  Angie Thomas’ writing is crisp and clear, Starr herself is a wonderful character, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more work by this author.  Go read this book.  Do it right now.

Pre-review: THE HATE U GIVE, by Angie Thomas

I hav32075671.jpgen’t been around much lately– I’ve had a distinct lack of things to say, to be honest– and this post isn’t going to change things all that much, but at the moment I’m halfway through Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and I figure I may as well start right now: this book is a big fucking deal, and a whole goddamn lot of people who aren’t reading it need to be.   This book is fucking important in a way that nothing I’ve read in a while really has been, and I know I’m frequently all sorts of ebullient whenever I write about a book around here, but take this seriously.

Full post incoming once I finish it, of course.  I can imagine a world where the back half goes pear-shaped, but I don’t know that it even matters.  I can’t imagine it going sour enough that I wouldn’t be recommending this to everyone I could find when I was done with it.

A post in three videos, one image and zero words

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 8.51.47 PM.png

REBLOG: And none could say they were surprised: on #Ferguson

In honor of the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s murder (which, I admit, was yesterday) I’m reposting this.

Welcome to infinitefreetime dot com

SeasonsGreetings_FergusonMO_GrandJuryAnnouncement_Cops_112414I keep needing to remind myself of something: I have liked every cop I’ve ever known.  The number’s not large, mind you; four, perhaps five people,  one of whom’s faces I can remember clearly but whose name has escaped me.  At least one is a Facebook friend who may read this.  Alternate universe me actually is a police officer; if you Google search my real name most of the results you’ll get are for the other guy since I’m as diligent as I can be about keeping my name off the Web.

But as much as I want to generalize, I keep having to remind myself: I know cops.  I am friends, or at least cordial acquaintances, with two of them.  They aren’t all bad people, as much as it frequently seems like they are.  They’re just embedded in a system that encourages them to be bad people, and if…

View original post 1,197 more words