Category Archives: Arthur C. Clarke Award

Sunday Post – 5th November 2017

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This was the first full working week since I recovered from the flu, so Monday and Tuesday saw me teaching as usual. I am now on the last lap of the final edits for Dying for Space which is the sequel to my debut novel, Running Out of Space, and am planning to release it on 14th December. So I am in the process of preparing for the blog tour – Lola is once more organising it for me to run from 14th-31st December. And I was a bit startled to realise when about to publish my usual Friday Face-off blog, that it was my 1,500th post…

On Wednesday I returned to Pilates and Fitstep, taking it easy, which was just as well as I was horribly unfit and Friday found me stiff in places I didn’t even know I had muscles. On Thursday, Mhairi came over and offered her usual awesome help and companionship. On Friday evening Himself and I actually had a date night – we went out to The Dragon, our favourite restaurant and afterwards returned home to snuggle up on the settee and watch the final two episodes of season 7 of Game of Thrones. Oh my goodness – what a finale! It was raining yesterday – of course it was as we were due to pick up the children. My daughter invited us to stay for brunch, which was wonderfully good. On the way home we swung by Worthing for some shopping and in the afternoon my sister came over for a meal and we sat and watched Strictly with Oscar, aged 7, passing judgement on the dancing and the judging.

Today, I will be spending most of the day filming Tim’s script in a converted barn for the medieval scenes. We are nearly at the end, so fingers crossed it doesn’t rain and the light levels are good. I hope everyone is also having a great weekend.

This week I have read:

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.
This took me some time to complete, but it was worth slowing down my normal reading speed to savour the dense prose and keep track of the characters. An unusual, rewarding read with some surprising twists and a poignant, powerful ending.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.
This is another quirky, unusual read which defies strict genre classification. It’s a lovely, warm-hearted tale that nonetheless avoids sentimentality. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

 

 

 

The Prisoner of Limnos – Book 6 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series
In this sequel novella to Mira’s Last Dance, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary.
This little gem is yet another excellent addition to this entertaining, unusual series and takes the story that halted at the end of Mira’s Last Dance onward, encompassing yet another exciting adventure.

 

Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Special limited edition sceince fiction hardcover novella by the Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author. Only 1000 copies.

Scions have no limits. Scions do not die. And Scions do not disappear.

Sergeant Ted Regan has a problem. A son of one of the great corporate families, a Scion, has gone missing at the front. He should have been protected by his Ironclad – the lethal battle suits that make the Scions masters of war – but something has gone catastrophically wrong…
This supposes that in a post-apocalyptic world where resources are scarce, corporations are involved in the inevitable wars with the top families encased in top-of-the-range armour that makes them almost invulnerable. Needless to say when the dirty jobs are handed out, it’s the regular grunts that end up having to pick up the pieces…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 29th October 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of World of Fire – Book 1 of the Dev Harmer Mission series by James Lovegrove

Teaser Tuesday featuring Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang + Mello and June at It’s a Book Thang host the final leg of the blog tour for Running Out of Space

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Artemis by Andy Weir

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Mongrel Mage – Book 19 in the Saga of Recluce series by L.E. Modesitt Jr

My 1,500th Post… Friday Face-off – Much as I love you, I cannot permit you to maul this particular coat – featuring Frederica by Georgette Heyer

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Hostage Heart by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Gerry Rafferty: Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/10/31/gerry-rafferty-her-father-didnt-like-me-anyway/ Once more Thom at The Immortal Jukebox presents a gem of a tune, complete with knowledgeable analysis.

Pirates for Halloween? https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/pirates-for-halloween/ Viv discusses this ongoing blight that steals income from authors – and how it can also cause other serious consequences..

Halloween Special: Petticoat Loose https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/10/29/halloween-special-petticoat-loose/ In amongst this marvellous scenery lies a spooky tale…

10 of the Best Seduction Poems https://interestingliterature.com/2017/11/01/10-of-the-best-seduction-poems/ As the weather cools and we start snuggling up together for warmth, we reflect on other ways to generate some heat…

When I’m Almost Done Reading a Good Book… https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/when-im-almost-done-reading-a-good-book/ Yes… I think we’ve all been there.

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Advertisements

Review of Synners by Pat Cadigan

Standard

I’ve been reading a number of novellas and some children’s books, so suddenly felt like getting my teeth into something a bit more meaty and this alluring, dark cover beckoned to me from my teetering To Be Read pile. So I scooped it up and dived in…

synnersIn Synners, the line between humanity and technology is hopelessly slim. The human mind and the external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with ‘reality’ is incidental. Now you can change yourself to suit the machines – and all it will cost you is your freedom. And your humanity.

This cyberpunk winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award takes a while to get going as the group of disparate characters are established amongst a tech-heavy world in a near-future where everyone is increasingly reliant on their technology. Given that this was written and published back in 1992, before many of our current technological gismos were in current use, Cadigan’s world is eerily prescient. I felt very at home with much of her near-future predictions, which is a tad worrying when considering how it all ends.

When there is a number of main characters, there are always the one or two who particularly chime – for me, these were Gina, who hooked up with the video star Visual Mark twenty-something years ago and is still drifting in his wake as he becomes increasingly lost to his videos and drug-taking. Though she is still a name to contend with, as her daredevil stunts in Mark’s videos have earned her respect throughout the industry. She sings off the page with her cynical, acidic asides and her gritted passion for what she believes in. The other character I really loved is poor old Gabe, the typical artist-turned-corporate-wage-slave, who makes advertisements, while wishing he did almost anything else. To allay his boredom and sense of futility, he regularly escapes into a classic game using a hotsuit to enable him to virtually interact with the two main characters in the game.

This is one of the main attributes of cyberpunk – not only to pull the reader into a high-tech, near-future world, but also into cyberspace where reality exists in the interface between humanity and machines. And the best of this genre takes you there, immersing you into an altered landscape, where memes and symbols take on different meanings that the reader completely accepts.

Therefore when it all starts kicking off, two-thirds of the way through this one, Cadigan’s virtual world sings off the page in a blend of poetry and prose as she depicts her characters’ rich inscapes with complete conviction. This is why I am prepared to slow down my normal reading rate for this particular genre and pay attention – because the rewards are so very satisfying when it is done well. Needless to say, the climax is beautifully handled, and the final third of the book was difficult to put down as the plot continues gathering momentum during the ongoing crisis and humanity attempts to fight back. And in this genre, there is no guarantee of a ‘happy ever after’ ending.

I finally put the book down, aware of coming back to the present from a long way away – always the mark of a master worldbuilder. So while Synners takes time to get going, my advice with this one is to persevere – it’s worth it.
9/10

Sunday Post – 20th November 2016

Standard

Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This week has been a lot calmer, thank goodness. I cannot believe that there is only three more weeks to go before we break up for Christmas – where has this term gone? I received the news on Friday that both next term’s Creative Writing courses have now sufficient students to run, which is a lovely position to be at this stage in the term.

This week I resumed my Fitstep and Pilates classes after a two week break – and realised just how fast I’d lost ground in my efforts to keep fit… it was a struggle! On Thursday, my writing buddy Mhairi came over for the day and we both got plenty of writing done, as well as putting the universe right. And on Friday morning, to celebrate Himself overcoming a miserable spell at work, we treated ourselves to an outing – we went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at Chichester, then had lunch out together. I’ll be reviewing the film this coming week.

I’ve only read two books this week and one of those is a children’s book, but I’ve been working hard on my rewrite for Miranda’s Tempest and after having made a really strong start, I’ve hit the boggy mid-book bit. As I’m also making a major viewpoint change, it is slow going for the time being, until I hit the final few chapters, which I’m confident will be mostly as is.

This week I have read:
Synners by Pat Cadigan
In Synners, the line between humanity and technology is hopelessly slim. The human mind and the synnersexternal landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with ‘reality’ is incidental. Now you can change yourself to suit the machines – and all it will cost you is your freedom. And your humanity.

This award-winning cyberpunk adventure from 1992 is eerily prescient and well worth the effort of slowing my normal reading rate right down so I could fully appreciate the technical world-building. It took a while to get going, but is a satisfying, thought-provoking read and an apt reminder of why science fiction is my favourite genre.

 

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson
clovermoonClover Moon’s imagination is her best escape from a life of hardship in poverty-stricken Victorian London. When tragedy plunges her into a world of grief, Clover realizes that everything she loved about the place she called home is gone. Clover hears of a place she could run to, but where will she find the courage – and the chance – to break free? And could leaving her family be just what she needs to find a place that really feels like home?

I love Wilson’s gritty, tender writing and this Victorian adventure about a child born into a London slum was impossible to put down once I opened it up. And for those who enjoyed Wilson’s awesome Hetty Feather series, there is a wonderful scene where Clover meets up with the indomitable Hetty. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 13th November 2016

Review of Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Synners by Pat Cadigan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of An Empire Asunder – Book 2 of The Scourwind Legacy by Evan Currie

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Friday Faceoff – The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play… featuring Storm Front – Book 1 of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Review of The Silver Tide – Book 3 of The Copper Cat series by Jen Williams

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

All the Gear and No Idea Guide to Maintaining Fitness in Wellington http://memoirsonthemove.com/maintaining-fitness-wellington/ In this enjoyable article, Jess charts her efforts to find a suitable pilates class after recently settling in New Zealand from the UK. But you don’t have to go around halfway around to world to pick up some sound practical tips if seeking a suitable exercise class.

These Words are Knives and Bridges https://jeanleesworld.com/2016/11/17/these-words-are-knives-bridges/ There are times when people who have undergone terrible experiences take the brave, generous decision to share them in all their raw messiness with rest of us. Jean is one such courageous person and I honour her for it. It doesn’t hurt that she also happens to write like an angel…

Five Fascinating Facts about John Skelton https://interestingliterature.com/2016/11/18/five-fascinating-facts-about-john-skelton/ This site is one of my favourites – and this particular article snagged my attention as John Skelton is an ancestor of mine.

That moment just before… https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/that-moment-just-before/ Another favourite site – and this beautiful pic says it all.

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

Standard

This science fiction offering was a BSFA nominee and the winner of the 2013 Arthur C. Clarke award, so I was interested to see what all the fuss was about. Would my tastes line up with those who felt it was an outstanding read?

You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of Angela and Tommy. You shelter beneath the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the forest lie mountains so forbidding that no one has ever crossed them. The Oldest recount legends of a time when men and women made boats that could travel between worlds. One day, they will come back for you.

You live in Eden. You are member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of two marooned explorers. You huddle, slowly starving, in the warmth of geothermal trees, confined to one barely habitable valley of an alien, sunless world. You are John Redlantern, a teenager and agent of change for life in Eden.

darkedenThis book has a 1970’s feel about it – but with modern nuances and the story being told through a number of the most prominent characters in first person viewpoint. John Redlantern, the main protagonist who feels that the Family emphasis on the past and insistence on staying put in the Circle Valley despite the increasing scarcity of food, starts off as a classic hero. But Beckett is far too sophisticated to leave him as the idealised leader-in-waiting for the group. Despite his intelligent farsightedness, John is essentially far too calculating and self-absorbed to be an effective leader. There is also a sense that the colony’s very open-ended attitude towards sex has caused harm to youngsters like John, who are in demand from the older women. The dynamic between the sexes is very interesting. While the Family is static over a period of time, the Leaders are mostly women who govern through a series of meetings. Once the situation becomes more tense and fluid, this group of women are by-passed as a group of the most effective male hunters take over and decide that they will fix the problem using more aggressive methods. Because the story unfolds through the characters’ viewpoint, Beckett allows the reader to decide which option is preferable for the long term stability and wellbeing of the Family

The backstory of the colony is poignant and effectively depicted, and as the Family’s eldest members all recount the stories of a place where they belong – a place with light – the majority of the colonists yearn to return to Earth. One of the interesting twists, is that one of the original astronauts had a cleft palette and with the amount of inter-breeding that has occurred, there are a number of colonists born with this defect and other more significant problems.

The prose is spare, with a number of invented words and phrases the colonists have coined during their time on Eden (an ironic choice of name), but this belies the richness of detail and complexity Beckett has managed to include in this tale. Several other reviewers have speculated as to whether there will be a sequel. Like others, I would certainly go to some lengths to seek out a continuation of this fascinating story – but my hunch is that Beckett has so effectively portrayed the plight and ongoing situation of this lost strand of humanity, he sees no need to revisit this scenario. And if you only ever pick up a handful of science fiction books a year, make this one of that handful. You won’t be sorry if you do.
10/10