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05 August 2010 @ 11:14 pm
Dear Naomi Novik,  
I am still hugely enjoying the Temeraire books, but please, for the love of tiny bunnies, hire an actual editor to proofread your novels! The typos! They burn!

(I was doing well at ignoring them until we reached the Nemean region, which is in Ancient Greece, not New South Wales. It was rightly the Nepean earlier. Betas are for fanfic, Naomi. I'm sure you've earned enough to pay for a good editor by now!)

Must dash, plot twist has just occurred and I only have time for another hundred pages before bed.

Much love,

AMY 凛☆ラブ☆アタックtomatoe18 on August 5th, 2010 02:10 pm (UTC)
Which publisher? I can't believe there are typos! Del Rey and HarperCollins are supposedly good with providing editors for their authors!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 5th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
Harper, Voyager imprint. And there have been several howlers in each of the volumes I can recall, alas. Though not as many as I found in my cheap 1960s Agatha Christie paperback on the weekend ;-) But that was very quickly and manually typeset, so we can forgive it more, I think.
AMY 凛☆ラブ☆アタックtomatoe18 on August 5th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
Which book and page is that typo on Nemean region located? I want to compare it with the Del Rey version. (Yes, I have too much time on my hands.)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 5th, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC)
Book 6, and I am afraid I cannot tell you what page, but it is when they are first moving out of Sydney with the other dragons. The correct Nepean comes earlier during one of Macarthur's visits to them in the Sydney covert.
silent hallucinationalex_s9 on August 5th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
Oh bugger, you've got one more volume published than I do.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 5th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
It's v new out, days in Oz, weeks in the US, so expect it soon!
silent hallucinationalex_s9 on August 6th, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
We've got a date (2010, not very sepcific) and a cover design. I betting somewhere in November.
AutumnHearti_autumnheart on August 5th, 2010 02:14 pm (UTC)
I read the first two over the weekend, inspired by your rec the other day. I enjoyed both, but they're not really leaving me with that OMG, must read the next one NOW feeling... do they get better?

The wordbuilding is excellent, and the draconic characters are well done, but so far the plot seems to be mostly an excuse to explore the scenary than an exercise in what-will-happen-next. I'd have liked to see more depth in the characterisation in the China scenes, especially

I wonder if part of it is that it's a YA novel where the coming-of-age story belongs to the non-human partner? Whatever it is, I'm not quite relating.

blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 5th, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)
Number three was the one that really hooked me, the feral dragons are terrific additions and expand the horizons really well. Book four grabbed me with its retelling of sub-Saharan African colonisation, though the pacing was a little shambolic.

Pacing seems to be a real problem: I like most of the characters, human and dragon, but have found the books a little unbalanced. Whether that's because she has written so closely from Laurence or Temeraire's POV, or because she's just not sure of action scenes, I'll have to reread to work out.

I want more worldbuilding! More politics! Where is the Regent? If Britain has only the East India Company to provide its wealth, where have the Lords of the Admiralty all sprung from? But I am content to wait if we get to see Draconic Socialism in the meantime ;-)
AutumnHearti_autumnheart on August 5th, 2010 02:49 pm (UTC)
Grand - I'll keep at them, then. But slowly, because I can forsee my newly-acquired e-book habit (I was given an iPod last week) could get expensive quite fast. But it does save me from needing to add another bookshelf, so that's OK.

More background would be a grand thing - it's such a great premise, but doesn't seem to go quite far enough. I really don't need another fandom, though, so I'll hope for a while longer that Naomi will fill that in on her own :).
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 5th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
I hope so, too! I realised that the whole reason I wrote any HP (aside from Gillian) was that there were too many loose ends and gaps that I wanted filled. Fingers crossed Novik fills many of them in!
Holly: Old school yogurthollyxu on August 5th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
I loved the first book (read it ages ago, when it first came out) but then I hit the China bits and decided that getting increasingly annoyed at a book wasn't worth the blood pressure, and stopped. Is the world-building in other sequels worth it? Because I have a rather large problem with her attitude towards non-English portrayals.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 5th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
I found it all easier if read as not-quite-Britain and not-quite-China (and later on not-quite-southern Africa). Because the POV is so relentlessly from the very Establishment Brits who mostly carry the narrative in the early books, I could deal with the Chinese cliches, since I never believed them to be accurate, rather the product of cultural illiteracy (the characters', I hope).

And then, as I read on with that book, and the following ones, I realised that the not-quite-China theme was actually very strong. This is Imperial China as the quiet and dominant world power, without the impact of a strong Britain or militant Japan, so the British terror of them was actually a good character note for the Brits. Rather than being the historical Empire on which the sun never set, Novik's Britain is a scrappy little terrier a bit at sea in a world far beyond its ability to control -- much like Laurence.

I'm reading the Australian book at the moment, and was about to bang my head against something with all the mystical Blackfellas appearing and disappearing (to be fair, they never act as though they're mystical, just as if they're out for a walk or a hunt, it's the European convict's reactions to them we see), but she's just added a very nice twist that sweeps that misunderstanding away and shows a good understanding of complexities of language groups and trade relationships and so on between peoples, which may make me like her a great deal if she gets it right. Should probably read it tomorrow, though, and get some sleep!

(She has a few problems with the English portrayals, too. But the dragons make up for it!)

Holly: Je suis loserhollyxu on August 5th, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC)
If I skip ahead to the third book, will I be missing anything crucial in the second half of book 2? I love the AU premise of a world with dragons, I really do, but I think it's the basic set-up I can't handle, which is a shame, because I know she's an excellent writer. I love her fic, and the first book rocked! But what you just described feels like a deal-breaker.

Novik's Britain is a scrappy little terrier a bit at sea in a world far beyond its ability to control

I feel like a gigantic judging prat, but I think I'll take a pass until my irony meter stops pinging.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 5th, 2010 10:59 pm (UTC)
I keep reading her Britain as being also a bit the US, so your irony meter is right to ping, in both directions!

You could skip, though there are three or four important plot points for future novels. If you ever want to do it, drop me a line and I will summarise them for you.
Holly: I bid thee farewellhollyxu on August 6th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
I have the first five novels in ebook form, so if you'd give me the details I could go right on. :D

(My irony meter is a pesky thing. I can't enjoy large swathes of romance or, for that matter, internet discourse properly.)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 9th, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
Sorry for the delay, I was trapped sewing for steampunk all Saturday and then at a wedding yesterday. Oh I am so tired ...

I am guessing that you made it through the early chapters in which Temeraire and Laurence were separated at the behest of the Lords of the Admiralty, after the Chinese government sent a demand for the return of the Celestial dragon. Temeraire refuses to lose his Laurence, and in the course of the dragon stealing him away they are engaged in an action against the French that sees Laurence wounded at the same time as saving the life of his attacker.

Prince Yongxing is established early on as The Bad Guy. An isolationist who is unhappy with Chinese contact with the West, he is appalled that Laurence has come into possession of an Celestial dragon -- believing they should only be associates of the Imperial family and the highest political contacts. Temeraire had been intended for Napoleon himself, which panics the British: does this mean that the Chinese have aligned with or plan to align with the French?

In the words of Hammond the diplomat: 'Our only comfort … has been our certainty … that the Chinese were no more interested in the affairs of Europe than we are in the affairs of penguins. Now all our foundations have been shaken.'

Off they set on the Allegiance, with the Chinese occupying one part of the ship, Temeraire and his crew another, and the Royal Navy and a few of His Majesty’s diplomatic corps attempting to make the whole thing go smoothly.

It does not.

The Chinese nobility on the voyage are presented as sketches: the jovial Liu Bao is fat and smiling, but appears to have a keen eye for expediency and not be inimicable to British interests, or at least British food. Yongxing is haughty, and his servant attempts to assassinate Laurence, twice, though with absolutely no way to link his master to his crimes. Sun Kai, the quiet and dignified young envoy ‘does not speak English’ (hands up everyone who sees through this? I thought so.)

Along the voyage the ship is imperilled several times, usually rescued through the valiant efforts of Laurence and Temeraire, with occasional brilliant help from Sun Kai. He and Lui Bao enjoy spending time with the Aviators, while Yongxing does his best to ignore them and talks wholly to Temeraire, who quickly grows fluent in spoken Mandarin and starts to study the written language and poetry, pleased to be connecting with the country of his breeding.

He does, however, disabuse Yongxing of the notion he would happily leave Laurence, no matter what temptations are waved before him.

Two other things of note happen on the voyage: Volly comes to the ship as it rounds the Horn of Africa to deliver a message and has a cold, Laurence’s letter from Jane Roland confirms that half the dragons in Dover have the same one. Temeraire catches it, and is miserable, but after putting in to a port I cannot recall, he recovers his strength and is well before they resume the journey. And Laurence is shown to be a lifelong abolitionist, as is his father, a good friend to Mr Wilberforce in parliament. Riley, Laurence’s friend and the captain of the Allegiance, has a father whose fortune was made in the slave trade, and things become stilted between them.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 9th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
part 2
Arriving in China, they find a culture wholly unexpected. The British have expected to be all at sea (boom boom!) and they are. But what they had not expected is to find a nation in which dragons serve as senior members of society, and work for a living at lower levels, too, all having full legal rights. The streets are broad enough for them to walk down and they own property and are paid for work. For Laurence it is like walking into Loch Laggan for the first time and finding a dragon in charge. For all the Brits, it is the start of a creeping realisation: China is not some quiet large country disinterested in anyone else’s affairs, it is in fact the only nation capable of being a global economic and military superpower, and holds itself in restraint only because Europe and the Americas look a lot of trouble for little gain.

Temeraire meets his mother, and they are delighted by each other. She does not approve of him being a fighting dragon, but does not dismiss his affection for Laurence. They also meet Lien, Yongxing’s dragon companion -- a pure white Celestial, unlucky in colour and for whom Yongxing gave up any hope of the Imperial throne. Shunned for her perceived ill fortune (superstitious Orientals strike again!), she has spent years in research and study, and has a fine mind, well schooled, but not liberal when it comes to the non-Chinese.

She is as against the Europeans as her human friend is, but Temeraire’s mother whose name I am too tired to recall, is more temperate, and most of the royal dragons are interested to learn more about Britain and her interests in the same way I am interested in red pandas. Yongxing continues to try to tempt Temeraire from Laurence, even supplying a spritely young relative of his as a possible alternative.

The British embassy has not fared well in the past, due to pride (some things don’t change in this world!), and the French have gained the upper hand. The senior dragons know that the story they have been told of European politics is necessarily one-sided, and seek to hear more of the other, without committing assistance or interest in either direction.

Spoken to as a valuable source of news, ideas and novelty, Temeraire blossoms. He is fascinated by the freedoms accorded the Chinese dragons and realises they are full citizens. When he asks Laurence how English dragons can suffer to be treated as property, Laurence is forced to admit he cannot give good reason. The parallels with the slave trade are only too obvious. Temeraire expresses his desire to spread freedoms among his kind, Laurence reminds him they are at war, and no one can be free until Napoleon is defeated. But his protests are half-hearted, even to his own ears.

Meanwhile, the Laurence problem is yet to be resolved. Temeraire is part of the Imperial household, but Laurence is ... English. Things improve when he can recite his ancestry back to the Plantagenets, at least he is a little Royal, but this does not stop the attacks on the British contingent, they escalate until there is an all-out assault, which Sun Kai tries to rescue them from. Through valiant efforts, they survive, but Temeraire does not come to help them in their need, he is busy visiting the Chinese dragons, and Laurence has a horrifying realisation: he may be Temeraire’s preferred human, but how can he compete with his actual family?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 9th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
part 3
As Sun Kai finally leads the British to safety, Laurence thinks he has spotted the missing dragon, but it turns out to be Temeraire’s brother, the dragon companion of the Crown Prince. Suddenly the political situation becomes clearer: Temeraire was not being sent to Napoleon to show special favour to the Emperor as a result of successful French politicking, he was being sent from China so that no other high ranking member of the Royal family would have such a dragon and the Crown Prince would be unopposed in his position of power.

To the British diplomats, this is a cause for great joy. The fear of the French has lessened, now if they can just convince Laurence to give up his demands to a Celestial dragon ...

Said dragon has reappeared. He has been cavorting with a girl dragon, the young terror! Laurence is even more worried now ... family, sexy girl dragons, full legal rights, dragon-sized books and writing tables ... why would Temeraire leave all this behind to go back and fight England’s wars? But the dragon remains devoted to him, if only the Emperor will allow them to remain together.

Liu Bao reappears at this point and makes a suggestion. Since only a member of the Imperial family may possess a Celestial, why does the Emperor not simply adopt Laurence? He need not enter into the succession, nor gain any power other than the right to Temeraire, and the forms will all be observed. The Imperial household dragons mostly support the idea, because they wish Temeraire to be happy, save Lien, who, with Yongxing, considers the idea appalling.

The Emperor, who is barely seen, is happy to get this problem out of the way in the least awkward manner possible, and agrees to the adoption. Celebrations involving a performance are arranged and there Yongxing and Lien are accompanied by the young boy who earlier came to visit Temeraire as a prospective replacement for Laurence. He is named as a prince high in line to the succession, and suddenly Yongxing’s plans are revealed: With a Celestial, his nephew would be in a strong position to challenge the Crown Prince for the throne. While his hatred of the Europeans is sincere, it has concealed a pointier political goal.

And he cannot let Laurence triumph. During the performance, a knife is thrown, catching Laurence in the chest, though not badly so. Temeraire leaps to his defence, and Lien leaps to protect Yongxing from him. They two dragons fight, youth and experience having early advantage, but cunning and hatred faring well, too. In their struggles, they knock down the pavilion and Laurence only just manages to save to the young prince, who had been unknowing in the scheme. Yongxing is killed.

Filled with grief, Lien takes his body away and has him buried quietly, as he is now considered a traitor. Laurence sees her walking with the French ambassador, the uncle (or some such) of the young French aviator whose life he saved at the beginning of the book. He knows this does not bode well, but he has his own problems.

He does as his conscience demands and offers Temeraire the choice to stay in China. Temeraire considers it, but knows that Laurence is a military man, so chooses to serve the British crown again, and to bring news of the Chinese dragons’ conditions back home. One hundred years too early to know what a Bolshevik is, Laurence shakes his head at the rebellion he foresees, but is glad enough to head back to do what he can to stop Napoleon.

Thus ends book 2!

On the whole, the episode of Orientalism mostly function as disconnects between the British 'understanding' of the Chinese and the reality. Yongxing is dodgy, but the others seem all to have far more interesting lives that are lived off stage, where there are no scruffy Aviators nor Royal Navy. The setting up of Imperial China, Global Superpower is the really important motif that will come about again and again. That and meeting Lien, who returns in several more books.

And I am CERTAIN I have missed something important, but I'm sure it won't matter that much.

Finished reading the Australian one: a few moments of deep cultural head shaking, but I'll live ;-)
(Deleted comment)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 5th, 2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
No revolution yet. But reports of small reformations back in Britain ;-)
(Deleted comment)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 5th, 2010 11:08 pm (UTC)
The politics are problematic for about 3000 reasons. If you can squint to get past that, which is not too hard to do and MAY just turn out to be be authorially intended (the jury is still out), then the dragons are a delight, and the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire is splendid.
Meredythmeredyth_13 on August 5th, 2010 11:52 pm (UTC)
I sadly gave up on this series - while I really liked the first book, and made my way through the second, I'm afraid I'm not a person who deals well with the frustrations of idiotic politics or the constant thwarting of the lead characters. I need my happy times, and her books deliver very little in the way of happy times. When I looked at the next couple, all I could see was an ongoing struggle and downward spiral of misery, and I just wasn't up to that.

I guess typos were the least of my problems.

Of course, I have managed (at much earlier times in my life) to read two books in sequence, where in the first a robot character is called Bollux and in the second Zollux (no explanation given, except I think that someone recognised that Bollux may have an interesting connotation in various parts of the world that aren't the US of A), and the two novelisations of the Man from Snowy River movies, where in one his horse is called Dany and in the other Andy. Go figure!

I don't mind not reading more of her Dragon books - but I do wish she'd write more Merlin fic. ;)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 9th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
Did she write Merlin!?

You know, in one way, yes, that is what happens, but in another, it's actually a downward spiral into freedom and self-determination, in which Laurence discovers what is important to him and what is not. I like a happy ending, too, which these all are to me, if not Happy.

There are novelisations of the Man from Snowy River? *Boggles!*
Meredythmeredyth_13 on August 9th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
I could see the glimmerings of Laurence becoming more enlightened, but he was such a slave to king and country - all very understandable in the age depicted, where duty was all. It's just ... I wanted it to happen more, um, I don't know, distinctly. He allowed so much to happen, especially to Temeraire, that my admiration for him kept slipping away. And despite all the evidence before him, including his own feelings, it was taking him far too long to truly respect Temeraire as a thinking, feeling being, with everything that entails. I wasn't emotionally equipped to deal with how far down it was necessary for him to go before he worked it out. Possibly my problem and not the books'. Maybe. >.>

And yes, there are. Probably not the highlight of great literature.
Anna Fugazzi: Winkannafugazzi on August 6th, 2010 03:06 am (UTC)
Funny the things that snag your eye as you scroll past... I grew up in Nepean. I'd be miffed if someone suddenly moved me to Ancient Greece ;)
jolinar_rosha: got gaidinjolinar_rosha on August 6th, 2010 11:00 am (UTC)
ooh, I've been meaning to read these books! I can sympathise with you - glaring errors in published popular books annoy me to no end. Don't they have editors for that?