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Starlings by Jo Walton (2018) (read in 2019)

Published by marco on

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an interest in this book, then I’m happy for you.

I’d recently read about Jo Walton, that she’d won several awards (Hugo, Nebula) and was intrigued. I grabbed the only book the library had available, a book of her short stories. Her preface, though, indicated that she wasn’t really a short-story writer and had never really understood the genre. She was, unfortunately, right. I think she’s a good writer, but her short stories felt too underdeveloped. Several of the stories—she admitted—were just books she’d started and never finished. There were some interesting ideas, but nothing really memorable.

I’ll try again with a full-length novel.


“Oh, wait until you’re eighty-nine, my proper little daughter-in-law, wait until They’re conspiring against you and taking your books away before you’re so quick to judge.”
Page 45
“Oh, wait until you’re eighty-nine, my proper little daughter-in-law, wait until They’re conspiring against you and taking your books away before you’re so quick to judge. Janice is part of the conspiracy, I think. She talks in code. She spells words out, and speaks in French. I think this is a blind meant to put me off. Richard had the grace to look uncomfortable when they shuffled me into this place and stole my books. Oh, they’d already replaced them with ones with wriggling letters, all but the ones where the print was too small to read even with strong glasses.”
Page 45
“The Soviet Union crumbled away in 1989 and let its end of the Overton Window go, and the world slid rightwards.”
Page 92
“what’s the point of anything? We didn’t volunteer to be here, we’re here because our ancestors made certain decisions. We could change those decisions for ourselves, and for our descendants.””
Page 130
“Above the clouds, above the whole planet, is the sun, and beyond the sun other more distant suns, and the whole turning galaxy. In that scale, one jellyfish doesn’t matter any more than Adam and Eve, any more than the whole Earth. There’s everything in the universe in this story; except answers.”
Page 152
“Britney rocked a moment, and then she said, “You know, I’m glad you asked me that question. I was born from a tank myself, and my whole generation, as you know. The thing is, when the ship first landed we only had what we’d brought from Earth, before we got the Mufug Plant set up, and even then, it could only make certain things, not like today. So when I was growing up, in the orphanage, and when I was first married we didn’t have any dishes big enough to take a whole ham, so we used to cut the end off to fit in the dish.” And Walter laughed, and Britney smiled her sweet smile, and Maud laughed, and Arabetsy, who was the only one of the children old enough to understand, laughed until she almost fell off the balcony into the sea.”
Page 164
“She was the only one I ever loved, and the only one I’d ever thought of loving.”
Page 165

This grammar is so common and so sloppy. Right in the same sentence. Unjustifiable.