Category Archives: coming-of-age

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Middlegame by Seanan McGuire #Brainfluffbookreview #Middlegamebookreview

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I was intrigued by the Hand of Glory featured on the cover and I also liked the premise, so requested this one and was delighted when I was approved.

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story. Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math. Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet. Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.

And that’s the blurb. Reed is definitely the villain you love to hate – he is completely amoral and fully focused on attaining the highest power that all alchemists are seeking. He has created several sets of twins, who are designed to perfectly complement each other’s strengths. Some are brought up together in the laboratory where they were created, while others are split and brought up separately until they grow into their powers. Roger and Dodger fall into the second tranche.

However, they manage to find each other, even though they are both very young and living hundreds of miles apart. Once their connection is discovered, they are split up again – causing anger and trauma to both… Initially, the viewpoint jumps around a bit as McGuire establishes the stakes and demonstrates just what the hapless twins are up against. But once the action centres on Roger and Dodger and we follow their highs and lows as they grow up, I was pulled into the story and became engrossed in the unfolding action.

I liked both of them – Dodger is the more sensitive and brittle personality, who grows up holding people at arm’s length, while Roger is more comfortable in his own skin. I enjoyed watching their development – and the various twists as first they are separated and then get together.
Meanwhile Reed is always lurking in the background, monitoring their progress and comparing it with his other experiments… And yes, the Hand of Glory features throughout the book. Because we get to know the characters well, I really cared and found this one difficult to put down once it hit its stride. I’m not sure that opening section is necessary as I found it distracting while waiting for that particular shoe to drop, which I think interfered with my enjoyment somewhat.

However, the climax was suitably convincing and brought this epic story to a strong conclusion – although there is potential for another book in this world. While I obtained an arc of Middlegame from the author via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

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Friday Faceoff – Blue oblivion, largely lit, smiled and smiled at me… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week at least one of our covers has to be BLUE, so I’ve selected Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor.

 

This edition was produced by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in September 2011. The monochrome face with that fantastic blue feathered mask is very eye-catching and I also really love the title font, which is both striking and effective. This one is so very nearly my favourite…

 

Published in August 2015 by Fischer Taschenbubh, this German cover is another strong contender. I love the shades of blue patterns backlighting the Prague cityscape. The girl looks otherworldly with the treatment to her eyes and the title font is also stylish and eye-catching. Yet another well designed and beautiful cover, wholly appropriate in tone and mood for this enjoyable fantasy adventure.

 

This edition, published by Hodder & Stoughton in September 2011, is my favourite. I love, love, LOVE those fabulous feathers with the iridescent sheen in all the shades of a sunlit starling. My choice might be influenced by the fact that this is the cover of the book that I read – I also think the title font is very well done.

 

Produced by De Boekerij in April 2013, this Dutch edition is yet another superb effort, being a variation on the design of the first cover. The mask is beautifully designed and the colours shading the title font replicate those colours, intensifying the lovely effect with the clever repetition. Another accomplished and appropriate cover for this book.

 

This Indonesian edition, published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in September 2012, is yet another well-designed cover. If this had been a different book, I would be raving more about the restraint… the clever, subtle blue shading around the edge of the single feather… the way that colour is picked up and reflected in the stylish title font. But there are so many wonderful, classy covers for this particular book, it is just added to the list – lucky, lucky Laini Taylor! Which one is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 28th April, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

It’s been another busy week. On Tuesday I returned to Northbrook to start the last course I’ll be teaching there – even as I type the words, it doesn’t quite seem real… I was delighted to be able to run all three classes again and meet up with my lovely students.

My friend, Mhairi also drove down from Lincolnshire and came to stay, so after arriving when I returned from college at around 9.30 pm, we stayed up until about 3 am in the wee small hours of Wednesday to catch up. Much later on Wednesday morning, we went out for breakfast to Morrisons and she joined in our Pilates session in the afternoon. After hobbling away, we both agreed we needed to go more often! On Thursday, I resumed teaching Tim, though last week I accompanied him and his mother when we went to the music college that has offered him a place on their songwriting course – the same course attended by Tom Odell… There are still a few issues to address, but whether he actually goes or not – it’s a massive achievement to have been offered the place.

Yesterday I went shopping with my sister in Worthing. Her 60th birthday is looming and we’re off to an all-expenses paid spa break together so some serious shopping needed doing… We were shattered by the time we finished and decided that it’s something we need to do more often! I was doing the driving so once I took her home, I stayed and we had a takeaway Chinese – yum – before I returned home.

Last week I read:

The Unbound Empire – Book 3 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
While winter snows keep the Witch Lord Ruven’s invading armies at bay, Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira attempt to change the fate of mages in the Raverran Empire forever, earning the enmity of those in power who will do anything to keep all magic under tight imperial control. But in the season of the Serene City’s great masquerade, Ruven executes a devastating surprise strike at the heart of the Empire – and at everything Amalia holds most dear.
It’s always something of a risk, plunging into the final book of a much-loved series and I won’t deny that I was a bit apprehensive. But I needn’t have been – Caruso brought this outstanding series to a magnificent conclusion. This is one of my favourite series of the last few years…

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection – Collected Short Stories
Ever since he made his first appearance in A Study In Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes has enthralled and delighted millions of fans throughout the world. Now Audible is proud to present Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection, read by Stephen Fry. A lifelong fan of Doyle’s detective fiction, Fry has narrated the complete works of Sherlock Holmes – four novels and five collections of short stories. And, exclusively for Audible, Stephen has written and narrated nine insightful, intimate and deeply personal introductions to each title.
If I don’t listen to anything else – ever, this gem has made my foray into the world of audiobooks worth it and represents fantastic value as it cost me all of one credit for 72 hours of fabulous listening. While I wouldn’t want to read through this – listening to it while cleaning the bathroom transforms a miserable chore into a wonderful pleasure. It has been split into six sections and I am prolonging the joy by listening to something else in between.

My posts last week:

Review of The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso

Teaser Tuesday featuring Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton

Friday Faceoff featuring A Hat Full of Sky – Book 2 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Unbound Empire – Book 3 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso

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

I don’t believe in diabetes https://writerunboxed.com/2019/04/26/i-dont-believe-in-diabetes/ This thoughtful, passionate article on writers’ block is something I also feel strongly about, having taught a number of students whose writing mojo suddenly deserted them.

Monday Musing: Fangirling https://randombookmuses.com/2019/04/22/monday-musing-fangirling/ This moving article highlights just how important books and the imaginative worlds they create can become to readers…

The International Extinction Rebellion https://acstark.net/2019/04/19/the-international-extinction-rebellion/ I am increasingly dismayed at the tardy, inadequate response to the gathering catastrophic climatic changes around the world and ongoing struggles of our wildlife by all the leading governments – particularly ours which is currently paralysed.

Rainy Day Reads: Top Ten Tuesday https://aquapages.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/rainy-day-reads-top-ten-tuesday/ It’s always useful to have some solid recommendations and this selection particularly caught my eye…

How to Plan Your Protagonist’s Journey https://lorraineambers.com/2019/04/18/how-to-plan-your-protagonists-journey/ I really like the way Lorraine has approached this subject. Whether you are a planner or a pantzer, this can still be an invaluable aid to sorting out your thoughts before plunging into your w.i.p.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Unbound Empire – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheUnboundEmpirebookreview

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I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Tethered Mage, – see my review here – I thought the premise was a really smart one. The idea that lethal magic-users need to have their power curtailed from the time their talent becomes evident makes complete sense – as do the inevitable consequences following from that necessity… I recently read and reviewed the second book, The Defiant Heir, and liked it even more, so was delighted to be approved to read and review The Unbound Empire

While winter snows keep the Witch Lord Ruven’s invading armies at bay, Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira attempt to change the fate of mages in the Raverran Empire forever, earning the enmity of those in power who will do anything to keep all magic under tight imperial control. But in the season of the Serene City’s great masquerade, Ruven executes a devastating surprise strike at the heart of the Empire – and at everything Amalia holds most dear.

As with the second book, the political and personal stakes in this book continue to ramp up. Amalia continues to grow from the shy academic, whose real passion was studying magical practices, to a political player in her own right, determined to push through a piece of legislation that will impact every magic-user in the Empire. I love her character progression – along with the changes that every other major character undergoes. Caruso makes that aspect of writing a series look a lot easier than it is.

All the characters work well, but two in particular stand out – Ruven is a particularly satisfying villain, who I loved to hate. His arrogant dismissal of anyone non-magical and his tendency to inflict horrible tortures just because he can – as well as his targeting of our protagonist – makes him creepy and revolting. The cleverness in the writing is that Caruso manages also make the reader aware of what is powering his nastiness, so that he doesn’t come across as a pantomime villain. The other character I became a little in love with is one of those enigmatic, dangerous Witch Lords, Kathe. His entourage of crows, his courage, his love of games and his gradually emerging more vulnerable side made him very endearing. His odd courtship of Amalia made the romantic thread running through this series thoroughly entertaining.
Caruso’s other superpower is the pacing – I found The Unbound Empire almost impossible to put down because the narrative arc works so well. I quickly became caught up in her political fight – which then turned into something else far more challenging. Caruso’s ability to ramp up the stakes compelled me to keep reading far longer than I should. The final denouement in a series needs to be able to wrap everything up and give each of the major characters an ongoing path, so the reader gets a sense of their probable future, given the life-changing events they have undergone. Caruso manages to achieve this, making this trilogy one of my favourite, most memorable fantasy series I’ve read in recent years.

Please read these books in the correct order, though – it would a real shame to mess up such a well-crafted progression by crashing midway into this outstanding series. The ebook arc copy of The Unbound Empire was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Review of Library book The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDefiantHeirbookreview #LibraryLoveChallenge

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This is the sequel to The Tethered Mage – see my review – which so very nearly made my Outstanding Reads list for last year – I loved the idea that mages with their magical power needed to be contained. While it isn’t a new idea, this version where each mage has a minder who can release their power or shut it down works very well.

Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction. Amalia and Zaira must go behind enemy lines, using every ounce of wit and cunning they have, to sway Vaskandar from war. Or else it will all come down to swords and fire.

Thoughout the book, we stay in the viewpoint of Lady Amalia, whose mother, La Contessa, rules Raverra with a canny intelligence. Right from the beginning, Amalia knew she was destined for a life in politics, despite her interest in studying forms of magic as an academic subject. And then she inadvertently ends up in a situation where that academic interest suddenly becomes far more practical when she crosses paths with a mage with a rare but lethal talent. I think it’s a clever move to make Amalia bookish and rather shy at the start of the series – her character progression is noticeable from The Tethered Mage through to this book.

However the political crisis, where Raverra is threatened by the terrifying Witch Lords who rule Vaskandar, now needs her to represent her mother on a diplomatic mission where thousands of lives are at stake. The gathering sense of danger and sense of fear at what the Witch Lords are capable of doing, with the hideous beasts they are able to enchant, is palpable. From the first page, I was snagged by this one and found it difficult to put down. While I thoroughly enjoyed The Tethered Mage, I think The Defiant Heir is even better. The supporting cast are all well written and nicely three-dimensional – particularly Zaire and the unpredictable Kathe, who controls the crows…

The pacing is beautifully judged throughout, so that by the end I stayed up waaay later than I should to discover what happens at the end and found the conclusion completely satisfying – though leaving me with a real hankering for more from this world. Thank goodness I shan’t have to wait too long for the next book, The Unbound Empire. Highly recommended for fans of well written swords and sorcery with a splash of romance.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Better to fight and fall than to live without hope… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is a LONGBOAT, so I’ve selected Half the World – Book 2 of The Shattered Sea series by Joe Abercrombie.

 

This edition was produced by Del Rey in February 2015. I like the design – the huge wave rising out of the sea, with the breaking surf at the crest morphing into edged weapons. However, I don’t like the monochrome treatment – it looks rather drab and gives the impression that the book is a lot darker than it actually is. And other than that small flourish on the tail of the R, the title font is unforgivably boring.

 

Published in February 2015 by Harper Voyager, this cover makes my point. I think this one looks sooo much better than the bleak version above. We can fully appreciate the detailing of all those cool weapons, while the deep green water on the face of the wave gives a sense of the power of the sea, even without the plucky Viking boat fighting up it. And the title font is far more appropriately eye-catching – altogether a much better version. It never fails to surprise me how much changing colours can affect the whole feel and tone of a design. This is my favourite.

 

This edition, published by Harper Voyager in June 2015, is another strong offering. This time around we are on the longship, alongside the heroes as they negotiate a tricky strait. I love the prow of the boat, the back of the protagonist and the ominous sky, giving a sense of tension. The title font is both appropriate and eye-catching – I really like this one.

 

Produced by Arqueiro in January 2017, this Portuguese edition chooses to focus on the characters rather than the setting. While I think it is well executed and I very much approve of the clean, uncluttered look of the cover – and the fact they choose to let us know that it’s the second book in the series. However, I find the stern-faced, armed female protagonist rather generic.

 

This Romanian edition, published by Nemira in April 2016 is another attractive, well-crafted offering. However I think the scale is wrong. The longship is beautiful – that gold edging of the sail looks fabulous – but it’s too small and the grandeur of that epic landscape is simply lost. I’m itching to apply a zoom option to this cover, which has so much going for it… Which one is your favourite?

Review of PAPERBACK Satellite by Nick Lake #Brainfluffbookreview #Satellitebookreview

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This is another book I hauled last summer with my birthday money – and yes… I can’t lie, it was allll about that stunning cover.

He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.

That’s part of the blurb. But what is interesting is that if blurbs are supposed to be a taster for what is inside the book, then this back-book matter should be written in text-speak because Lake has taken the brave decision to write this near-future adventure in this format, complete with no capitals except for names. It took me a couple of pages to get comfortable with this format, but I’ve read a string of reviews from indignant readers who simply couldn’t cope. That’s a real shame, because they missed a cracking story as a result. And to be honest, I’m not sure this step was worth it, given it certainly posed an additional barrier to accessing the story.

Leo is a rather self-contained character, who is always an outsider – he’s bound to be given he is raised in a space station alongside a set of twins. When he sees his mother, which is infrequently, she never shows him any affection – not so much as a hug, let alone playing games and reading to him like Orion and Libra’s mother during her visits. At fifteen, Leo tells himself that he has become used to her attitude, while readying himself for his return to Earth. I loved his personality, which is important as this tale is told in first person viewpoint. Lake managed to denote his emotions, while we are also aware he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. Given the nature of his upbringing, he is wary of people and their motives, which stands him in good stead once he finds himself back on Earth.

Leo’s wonder at the beauty he encounters is wonderfully conveyed as he begins to acclimatise to gravity while living on his grandfather’s cattle ranch. But all too soon, his life there becomes disrupted. Earth is in trouble. Water and food are running out as global warming is drying up farmland and turning swathes of the landmass into desert. There are dangerous factions abroad who would like to get their hands on one of the famous space-born children…

As events stack up and the story turns a whole lot darker, I found it hard to put this one down. The scenario portrayed is chillingly plausible, which sharpened the sense of distress at the children’s plight. However, after carefully building up a realistic sense of the near-future, this adventure suddenly takes a sharp left-turn into a plotpoint more suited to Hollywood silliness. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but I could easily visualise an alternative scenario that wouldn’t have entailed all that nonsense and still given more or less the same ending.

So while I coped with the text-prose, I have marked this down from a five-star rating to a four-star novel, because I strongly felt that one final action scene at the end was entirely unnecessary and distracted from some of the hard ethical questions this thoughtful story raises. But don’t that discourage you from reading this one – it’s a gripping story with a hard-hitting message and left me with a lump in my throat, notwithstanding that final act.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Certain Dark Things by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia #Brainfluffbookreview #CertainDarkThingsbookreview

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I encountered this remarkable author when reading The Beautiful Ones – see my review here. My admiration of her writing grew when I read Prime Meridian, so I treated myself to this one, which everyone mentions when talking about her work. Would I, too, enjoy it?

Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…
Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten.

I’m not adding the rest of this rather chatty blurb, as it ventures into Spoiler territory and this one is far too good to be compromised by unwanted knowledge about future plotpoints. It’s a gem. Moreno-Garcia is superb at getting under the skin of her characters and making you care, even when they aren’t very likeable. Atl is entitled and spoilt – a fact even she acknowledges. She has done terrible things – and yet, like Domingo, I was smitten. I really wanted her to succeed in fleeing Mexico City without be executed by the police, or worse still – fall into the hands of a sadistic young vampire, who has a very valid reason for wanting to torture her. As her story unfolds, along with Domingo’s own life as a street kid, I found myself inhabiting the smelly hideout and eking out a precarious existence, while constantly harried by the inescapable hunger for blood.

I mostly read SFF, so while it isn’t my go-to genre, I’ve read one or three books featuring vampires. This is the one that best depicts their otherness, the differing races, differing customs and what drives them. It clearly lays bare their sense of entitlement and utter lack of humanity, while demonstrating their dangerous ability to mimic those emotions in order to influence the humans around them. I could see all that – and yet I still wanted Atl to prevail. And as for Domingo… sweet, trusting Domingo, who was enchanted by her from the first moment he laid eyes on her. What did I want for him? Well, not to have his throat torn out, obviously. Other than that – I wasn’t sure. He clearly wanted to become part of her life and leave with her when she went on the run. Was that the best thing for him?

I don’t know how Moreno-Garcia manages to worm her characters right into my inscape – I suspect she is a witch, whose books weave an enchantment. But I have yet to read anything of hers where I haven’t passionately cared about her world and the people in it. As for what happens to Atl and Domingo – you’ll have to read the book to find out. Even if you’re sick of reading vampire books, even if you’ve never read a vampire book, pick this one up and give it a go. It is every bit as beautiful and dark as that amazing cover.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Endgames – Book 12 of the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr #Brainfluffbookreview #Endgamesbookreview

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When I saw this offering on NetGalley, I immediately requested it and was delighted to be approved – see my review of the first book, Imager. No… I haven’t read all eleven of the previous books in this series – I think I got as far as eighth book. However, although I have a few issues with this book the fact that I hadn’t read the previous two in this particular story arc wasn’t a problem.

Solidar is in chaos. Charyn, the young and untested ruler of Solidar, has survived assassination, and he struggles to gain control of a realm in the grip of social upheaval, war, and rioting. Solidar cannot be allowed to slide into social and political turmoil that will leave the High Holders with their ancient power and privilege, and the common people with nothing. But the stakes are even higher than he realizes.

I always enjoy Modesitt’s protagonists and Charyn is no exception. He has the steady good sense and even temperament that is the hallmark of many of this author’s main characters. As ever in a Modesitt book, we get a progression of everyday details alongside the ongoing drama which tends to build slowly. I don’t know anyone else who writes fantasy in quite so much detail and gets away with it. However, the question has to be with this particular offering – is there just too much detail silting up the pace?

Unfortunately, I would have to say yes. While there were still many elements that I enjoyed and I found it difficult to put this book down, I also found myself skipping the love letters that passed between two of the main characters, along with the long-winded philosophical questions they discussed. I don’t dive into a high fantasy adventure to read several pages about the nature of evil being discussed between the protagonists – I would rather it was played out within the action. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker and at no time was I tempted to DNF the book because I still cared about the characters and I really wanted to know how it was going to work out.

I was surprised at where the story went, with real poignancy during the aftermath of the action. This is one of the aspects that Modesitt handles really well – because we are pulled into his stories by following the day to day routines of his characters, it matters when bad things happen to them. Overall though I enjoyed this one and know that the next time I have an opportunity to get hold of another Modesitt book, I will jump at it. He may not always get the balance absolutely right, but he remains one of my favourite authors.

While I obtained an arc of Endgames from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

Review of NOVELLA Ebook The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky #Brainfluffbookreview #TheExpertSystem’sBrotherbookreview

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Anyone who has spent the odd moment or two glancing at my blog will know I’m a huge fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky – see my review of Children of Time here. So when I realised faaar too late that Himself had treated us to this novella, I immediately tucked into it…

After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine. Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?

This is another of Tchaikovsky’s interesting offerings where he provides us a rich, well-developed world through the eyes of Handry in an immersive first-person viewpoint. I really liked Handry – what happened to him was clearly very wrong and somehow the fact that it took a long time before the inevitable happened made it somehow worse… This is classic Tchaikovsky – what happens when an injustice occurs? How does this future colony cope with a victim of circumstance? For starters, you begin to see that Handry isn’t the only one on the raw end of a bad outcome – humanity is clearly struggling on a planet that was never designed for animals with our DNA. And over time, the increasingly beleaguered colony found a biological option to help humankind survive – hence the ghosts, a form of parasitic infestation that syncs the brain of the host with a skillset and knowledge that is no longer available to the average colonist.

And then he encounters Sharskin… I have read several reviews where the readers felt this was a predictable story. While I got a sense of exactly what we were looking at once they arrived at Sharkin’s settlement, I didn’t foresee what would happen next and the way in which Handry’s loyalty and sense of humanity would be tested. Because at the end of the day, this novella is all about one of Tchaikovsky’s major themes – a question he keeps coming back to in a variety of fascinating forms and forces his readers to ask – what does it mean to be human? What is the price you pay for your adherence to your code of behaviour? What happens when you turn your back on that code? What defines you, then?

I thoroughly enjoyed this clever, thought-provoking story and have found myself thinking about it quite a lot since I finished reading it, which surprised me rather. There’s something about Tchaikovsky’s writing that always gets into my inscape, leaving me pondering those questions he raises while telling a cracking story. Highly recommended for fans of colony adventures.
9/10