laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
This week I'm struggling to keep reading Karin Lowachee's Warchild, which is wrenching, excellently-written, serious sci fi about a boy orphaned in wartime and trained as a soldier. It's powerful. It's smart. It's unflinching.

And the problem is that I'm flinching. I can see it winding up for more crises, more emotional hurt and confusion, for its main character, and...as a writer I can respect the craft with which it's done, but as a reader I don't want to go along.

It turns out this is why I am so drawn to the romance versions of my favorite genres: it isn't the sex (though that can be a bonus), it's the emotional promise. The crucial difference for reader-me between, say, military sci fi and military sci fi romance is the reassurance the latter gives me: the connection between these characters will be strong enough to survive. The connection between characters is the central thing I read for—which may also explain my failure to be interested in a lot of modern literary fiction; stories about detachment and lack of affect leave me cold. I don't believe there's some kind of powerful commentary or deep truth inherent in the literary thesis, "people fail to understand each other"; that's pessimism, not a law of the universe.

(By counterexample, in Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane's The Druid Stone, which is urban fantasy/romance, the scene that undid me and made me fall for the book was Sean coming along to Cormac's family's Beltane party. The warm, welcome chaos of that scene made me feel like my heart would be safe with this story—it clearly valued kinship and camaraderie as highly as I did.)

I don't know. I'm going to keep trying with Warchild, but maybe slowly. And probably with doses of something more comforting in between, because I care so much about Jos's relationship with his mentor and I fear it's going to be a casualty of war. Damnit.

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Laylah Hunter

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