Category Archives: dystopian science fiction

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Bear Head – Book 2 of the Dogs of War series by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #BearHeadbookreview

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I loved the first book in this series – see my review of Dogs of War – which I thought was masterful in producing a really entertaining story and raising an interestingly gnarly moral point. So I was extremely excited to get hold of this addition to the series…

BLURB: Mars. The red planet. A new frontier for humanity, a civilization where humans can live in peace, lord and master of all they survey. But this isn’t Space City from those old science-fiction books. We live in Hell City, built into and from a huge subcontinent-sized crater. There’s a big silk canopy over it, feeding out atmosphere as we generate it, little by little, until we can breathe the air.

It’s a perfect place to live, if you actually want to live on Mars. I guess at some point I had actually wanted to live on Mars, because here I am. The money was supposed to be good, and how else was a working Joe like me supposed to get off-planet exactly? But I remember the videos they showed us – guys, not even in suits, watching robots and bees and Bioforms doing all the work – and they didn’t quite get it right…

REVIEW: It took me a while to get into this one, as I didn’t immediately bond with Jimmy, the grunt labourer who is working on Mars. I also loathed Thompson, who has to be one of the most satisfyingly nasty antagonists I’ve encountered so far this year and found his poor put-upon assistant rather difficult company.

I was hoping that dear old Rex, who featured so movingly in Dogs of War, would put in an appearance. However, I don’t think I’m introducing anything of a Spoiler when I disclose that at the start of this story, Rex has long gone. Indeed, while it was enjoyable to know where some of the politics started, I think this is one a reader could pick up without having read Dogs of War and happily enjoy it without struggling overmuch as Honey and Bees are fully explained and have undergone major changes since the first story.

Once I got about a third into the story and settled down with the characters and the action and pace began to pick up, I was fully invested in the story and once more enjoying Tchaikovsky’s world. Mars was interestingly portrayed and I really liked the exploration of the scenario whereby someone’s personality can be uploaded elsewhere. Because immediately the question has to be – where? After all, who wants to spend their lives sitting in a jar, or machine? Inevitably, if you’ve gone to the trouble and expense of uploading your consciousness – you’ll want it in a body, won’t you? So whose body gets to act as passenger?

The other interesting issue Tchaikovsky explores in this book is how a narcissistic personality like Thompson manages to become such a powerful leader. In the wake of Trump’s presidency, I think this is a question that is being examined quite a lot… And Thompson definitely has some Trump-like attributes. I loved the sudden twist, whereby the action on Mars becomes gripping and very dangerous. Poor old Jimmy finds himself right at the heart of the action and I found myself reading this and thinking that it would make a cracking good mini-series on TV. Highly recommended for fans of colony adventures. While I obtained an arc of Bear Head from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Friday Faceoff –Perfect love is to feeling what perfect white is to color… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffwhitecovers

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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 being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week – the first of 2021 – we are featuring WHITE covers. I’ve selected The One by John Marrs – see my review.

Edbury Digital, January 2017

This is one of the default covers, produced by Edbury Digital in January 2017. It is my favourite cover, as I think the heart is eye-catching and clever and I also like the strapline. The detailing of the genetic sequencing around the edge in the blue also works well – a nicely subtle touch that finishes the cover with a pleasing border. It was always going to be a challenge to design a suitably appropriate cover that didn’t give the impression that this is a love story – and I think this one achieves that brief really effectively.

Hanover Square Press, March 2018

Published in March 2018 by Hanover Square Press, this design takes a variation on the previous cover, with the obvious main difference being the initial O becoming a splatter of blood containing a fingerprint. I do wonder if the blood spatter gives this design more of a horror vibe, which isn’t correct as this is more of a thriller. The border is still in place, though the use of the black rather than the pale blue gives the cover more of a grungy feel, I think.

Romanian edition, 2019

This Romanian edition, published in 2019 by Editura Trei, is the least successful of my selection, I think. The knife dripping with blood gives the impression that this a murder mystery, rather than a techno thriller. While the fontsfor both the author and title fonts are plain boring.  

Hanover Square Press, April 2019

Published by Hanover Square Press in April 2019, this is the only coloured cover in my selection. I think this one is strikingly attractive – and I like the red darts sticking out of it. The contrast between the blue and red works well. I also like the uncluttered look, though once again, I think the title font is overly plain and a tad boring, which is a shame given how successful the overall design is. This is a strong contender – I so nearly went for this one…

Maxim, June 2018

This Hungarian edition, published in June 2018 by Maxim, is also a contender. I really like how it has taken the default cover design and added His and Her. It gives the cover real interest – my only major concern is that it gives the impression that this is a romance. And while all the protagonists are searching for The One, the novel is more about the process that’s used. Which one do you prefer?

November 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffNovember2020Roundup

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November was defined chiefly by the second lockdown in the UK, and although it wasn’t as strict as the first one, it did bring my social life to an abrupt halt again. So other than seeing the grandchildren when necessary (we are part of our daughter’s support cluster as she is a single-parent family) and shopping when Himself wasn’t able to fulfil the brief, I hunkered down at home, busy writing and reading. Other than teaching Tim, which I did resume after a long, serious discussion weighing the pros and cons with his mother…

Reading
I read twelve books in November, which isn’t a particularly large number – but that’s okay. More importantly, once again it’s been a great reading month qualitywise – particularly for space opera and space adventures in general. Because this was #Sci Fi Month 2020, which was once again organised by Imyril at There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa at Dear Geek Place and was a huge success.

My Outstanding Book of the Month was Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen and my Outstanding Audiobook of the Month was Wintersmith – Book 3 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett.

My reads during November were:

Dead Lies Dreaming – a Laundry Files novel by Charles Stross. See my review.

AUDIOBOOK Wintersmith – Book 35 of the Discworld novels & Book 3 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett – Outstanding Audiobook of the month. Review to follow.

Architects of Memory – Book 1 of The Memory War series by Karen Osborne. Review to follow.

The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas. See my review.

Angel Six Echo by Robert Appleton. See my review.

AUDIOBOOK The Son of Neptune – Book 2 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan. Review to follow

Nophek Gloss – Book 1 of The Graven by Essa Hansen. Outstanding book of the month. See my review.

The Sculpted Ship by K.M. O’Brien. See my review.

Aftermath – Book 5 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre. Review to follow.

Fallen – Book 10 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka. See my review.

Lifelode by Jo Walton. Review to follow.

The Dark Archive – Book 7 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman. See my review.

Writing and Editing
Halfway through the month, I finally completed the manuscript for Picky Eaters 2 – which initially was going to be a novella – only to discover that it was a monster of over 117,000 words! I will be writing about all this in more detail in a separate post later in the month – but basically that was just nonsense. I’m not in the mood right now to read anything of that length – so why would I expect my readers to do so, either? Particularly as the whole point of this series is to provide some escapist fun. So I rolled up my sleeves and dived in. It took nearly a week of hard work and rewriting – but I now have a version of Picky Eaters 2, renamed Flame and Blame, that I’m happy with at just under 73,000 words. The great news is that I also have just under 50,000 words of the next novel in the trilogy, which will be called Trouble With Dwarves.

Overall, I wrote just over 61,300 words in November, with just under 20,000 on the blog, and just under 40,000 on my writing projects. This brings my yearly wordcount to date to just under 477,000 words. I’m very happy with that – the increased in the speed of my writing since I returned from Bexhill has been a gamechanger and should mean that next year will be far more productive.

Blogging
Blogging revolved around Sci Fi Month, which was a joy. I added far too many books to my towering TBR and was able to swing by and chat to some other blogs I don’t regularly visit. Though as I battled with teasing apart my manuscript during the second half of the month, I’m afraid my visiting once more suffered. Sorry about that! In the meantime, I hope everyone is able to stay safe. Take care.x






Sunday Post – 22nd November, 2020 #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.

This was a much quieter week. I spent part of Thursday afternoon at my sister’s place, because she’d woken up in the morning to no heating or hot water – so I went along to let the heating engineer in, armed with my little plug-in heater as it was rather on the nippy side. Fortunately, it was a case of topping up the boiler with water, which was a huge relief – she doesn’t need the expense and upheaval of replacing the boiler in the runup to Christmas… So I popped back in yesterday, after she returned from work, to show her where the relevant taps are and for a natter. She is part of our bubble, as she lives alone. On Friday, I taught Tim. He’s working on a lovely project – making a song by using words from a variety of films. He’s already some 30 secs into it and having huge fun. My grandson is isolating, as one of the children in his class tested positive for COVID – I’m hoping that he will be fine, and that the school will find a way for him to resit the GCSE Drama exam that he and the rest of his class have now missed. Who’d be a teacher right now??

My big news this week – I’ve finally completed the first draft of Picky Eaters Part 2. I got a tad carried away, to I’ll need to split it. The manuscript has ended up at a monster of 115,500 words, which is far too long. But that will be a case of reorganising various narrative arcs and subplots so it all makes sense and hangs together. I will probably be writing an article about that in due course. In the meantime, I’m still thoroughly enjoying Sci Fi Month and topping up my wish list of authors I want to tuck into.

No photos this week, I’m afraid. Every time I looked up, intending to get out for a walk – it was raining!

Last week I read:

Nophek Gloss – Book 1 of The Graven series by Essa Hansen
When a young man’s planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy by debut author Essa Hansen, for fans of Revenger and Children of Time.
Caiden’s planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans.

He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.
I thoroughly enjoyed this full-on, action-packed space opera adventure. Not only does it deliver a great deal of enjoyable, nail-biting action, but also asks questions about the nature of revenge and coming to terms with the hand you’ve been given.


The Sculpted Ship by K.M. O’Brien
Starship engineer Anailu Xindar dreamed of owning her own ship, but she didn’t find the courage to actually go for it until she was forced out of her safe, comfortable job. She goes shopping for a cheap, practical freighter, but she ends up buying a rare, beautiful, but crippled luxury ship. Getting it into space will take more than her technical skills. She’ll have to go way outside her comfort zone to brave the dangers of safaris, formal dinners, a rude professor, and worst of all, a fashion designer. She may even have to make some friends… and enemies.
This gentle story about likeable young engineer, Anailu Xindar, was a complete contrast to the adrenaline ride I had with Nophek Gloss, but no less enjoyable or readable. At present, there isn’t another book – but I’ll be keeping an eye out. I had far too much fun with this one not to want to dive back into this world. Review to follow.

Aftermath – Book 5 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre
Sirantha Jax has the right genes—ones that enable her to “jump” faster-than-light ships through grimspace. But it’s also in her genetic makeup to go it alone. It’s a character trait that has gotten her into—and out of—hot water time and time again, but now she’s caused one of the most horrific events in military history…

During the war against murderous, flesh-eating aliens, Sirantha went AWOL and shifted grimspace beacons to keep the enemy from invading humanity’s homeworld. The cost of her actions: the destruction of modern interstellar travel—and the lives of six hundred Conglomerate soldiers.

Accused of dereliction of duty, desertion, mass murder, and high treason, Sirantha is on trial for her life. And only time will tell if she’s one of the Conglomerate’s greatest heroes—or most infamous criminals…
I let this series lapse for some reason – and I’m so glad that I got back in touch with it! This is a lovely episode, providing a poignant and moving time where Jax does her best to try and make amends for a terrible decision she was forced into during the heat of war. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Review of AUDIOBOOK Finder – Book 1 of the Finder series by Suzanne Palmer

Review of Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker

Friday Face-off featuring Artemis by Andy Weir

Thursday Treasures

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Nophek Gloss – Book 1 of The Graven series by Essa Hansen

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Doors of Sleep: Journals of Zaxony Delatree by Tim Pratt

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Angel Six Echo by Robert Appleton

Review of The Valhalla Call – Book 4 of The Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie

Sunday Post – 15th November 2020


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

You Just Won a Giveaway – Now What? https://booksbonesbuffy.com/2013/10/04/you-just-won-a-giveaway-now-what/ Tammy raises the issue of what happens if your anticipated prize doesn’t materialise…

The World Is Still a Pretty Awesome Place Photos https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2016/03/15/the-world-is-still-a-pretty-awesome-place-photos/ It’s worth swinging by and taking a look at this post if you’re slightly in despair over the way things have panned out during this year…

November 19 – Children’s Grief Awareness Day https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2020/11/19/november-19-childrens-grief-awareness-day/ Wanda’s thoughtful post here highlights a hidden problem. And a statistic that I found horrifying…

Escape… https://cindyknoke.com/2020/11/14/escape/ If, like me, you love looking at wonderful photos of nature, then Cindy’s blog is always worth a visit…

The problem with (space) debris https://earthianhivemind.net/2020/11/08/the-problem-with-space-debris/ During Sci Fi Month, I thought this was a timely reminder of some of the issues we are stacking up for ourselves when we do want to make that big push out into the stars…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Friday Faceoff – A bright future beckons… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffbrightfuturecovers #SciFiMonth2020

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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 being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring BRIGHT FUTURISTIC covers. I’ve selected Synners by Pat Cadigan – see my review – and I’ve linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020

Thunder’s Mouth Press, October 2001

This edition was produced by Thunder’s Mouth Press in October 2001. It’s a really clever, eye-catching cover with the face in the bottom half nicely contrasting with that intense red above it. And a mushroom cloud effect made by a brain… So this cover works on all sorts of levels with this classic book. I particularly love the title font running right up the centre of cover and through the mushroom cloud/brain – and the fact that it is made of dots – a bit like one of the earlier printers.

Gollancz, 2012

Published in August 2012 by Gollancz, this Masterworks edition is another successful cyberpunk cover. The cityscape outlined against the grungy yellow backdrop can also double as synapses or brain connections. While that face staring out at us looks mournful and slightly wrong. This is the cover of the book that I read, so I have a soft spot for it, memorable and disturbing as it is.

Spectra, February 1991

This edition, published by Spectra in February 1991 is so nearly my favourite. I love the colour and chaos of it – and the slightly old fashioned feel, which is achieved by the use of that large, colourful font that some of the publishers – Baen, in particular – used as their trademark in the 1980s.

HarperCollins, October 1991

This hardcover edition, produced by HarperCollins in October 1991, is my favourite. It’s a classier version of the second cover, playing with the same theme. I love the unusual aspect of the face tilted back as if the character is sunk into a VR trance. The lines running from the cyberscape up, across her neck and face pull your attention back to it, and create stronger links between the two. I particularly love the detail where it looks as though her face is starting to depixelate across her forehead. Again, this cover works on so many levels.

Polish edition, March 2003

This Polish edition, published by Solaris in March 2003 was the one that popped into my head when I thought of bright covers. It is great fun, but I don’t like it quite as much as the others. That ugly box in the right-hand cover, in particular, really spoils the look of the overall design and neither am I a fan of the rather clunky text box across the top of the cover. What about you – which is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 1st November, 2020 #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.

I was just looking forward to re-emerging having tucked myself away for a fortnight, after suffering a heavy cold. And then our Prime Minister last night announced the country is going into a month-long lockdown, starting on Thursday… My thoughts are with teachers and other key workers (including Himself) who once more will be facing the world, while the infection rate goes on rising. And for all of you, who are staying at home and coping with hard financial difficulties… Meanwhile, I’m going to retreat back to Wyvern Peak and the adventures of Castellan the Black – I’m now on the final lap of writing Picky Eaters, Part 2.


My photos are from the last night we spent at Bexhill – and the sunset that roared across the sky…


Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Labyrinth Index – Book 9 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
The arrival of vast, alien, inhuman intelligences reshaped the landscape for human affairs across the world, and the United Kingdom is no exception. Things have changed in Britain since the dread elder god Nyarlathotep ascended to the rank of Prime Minister. Mhari Murphy, recently elevated to the House of Lords and head of the Lords Select Committee on Sanguinary Affairs (think vampires), finds herself in direct consultation with the creeping chaos, who directs her to lead a team of disgraced Laundry personnel into the dark heart of America. It seems the Creeping Chaos is concerned about foreign relations.

A thousand-mile-wild storm system has blanketed the midwest, and the President is nowhere to be found. In fact, for reasons unknown the people of America are forgetting that the executive branch ever existed. The government has been infiltrated by the shadowy Black Chamber, and the Pentagon and NASA have been refocused on the problem of summoning Cthulhu. Somewhere, the Secret Service battle to stay awake, to remind the President who he is, and to stay one step ahead of the vampiric dragnet that’s searching for him.
This one is told in multiple pov, with the main protagonist being Mhairi Murphy, a British Government secret service vampire, who is sent on a crazy mission. Lots of mayhem and rather dark fun, though perhaps with not the tension of The Delirium Brief. Review to follow.


Crackle and Fire – An Angela Hardwicke sci fi mystery by Russ Colchamiro
Angela Hardwicke isn’t just any private eye. She’s a PI from Eternity, the cosmic realm responsible for the design, creation, and maintenance of the Universe.

When accountant Gil Haberseau hires her to find an intern with stolen corporate files, Hardwicke soon finds herself embroiled in a deadly case of lies, intrigue, and murder, clashing with vengeful gangsters, MinderNot rallies, and a madman who’s come a long way to get what he wants.

Bonus story included! The AI-themed Angela Hardwicke murder mystery, “The Case of Jarlo’s Buried Treasure”
An entertaining sci fi mystery thriller. There were plenty of plot twists in this whodunit, and Angela is a sympathetic protagonist that kept me turning the pages – but I wasn’t wholly convinced about the wider worldbuilding. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Map’s Edge – Book 1 of The Tethered Citadel by David Hair

Friday Face-off featuring Hatchet – Book 1 of Brian’s Saga by Gary Paulsen

Covet the Covers aka Cover Love – featuring the covers of Charles Stross

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Dead Lies Dreaming – a Laundry Files novel by Charles Stross

Interview with Jean Lee Regarding Her Writing Process and Her Books

Tuesday Treasures – 17

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Fallen Princeborn: Chosen – Book 2 of the Fallen Princeborn series by Jean Lee

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Ministry For the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

Sunday Post – 25th October 2020


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

SPFBO: Finalist announcement https://lynns-books.com/2020/10/28/spfbo-finalist-announcement-2/ Lynn, excellent book blogger and all-round good egg is one of the judges of this ambitious and long-running contest, which give indie fantasy writers a chance to get their books more recognition. And having waded through 30 books and kept us abreast of all her decisions in a series of blogs, this is it – her final choice…

Little Free Library Celebrates Milestone 100,000th Library https://littlefreelibrary.org/little-free-library-celebrates-milestone-100000th-library/ What a fabulous achievement – I know several wonderful book bloggers who are part of this scheme. And at such a difficult time, we know what a comfort books can be – so this is so very important.

Five 20th century science fiction books I love https://notesfromareaderholic.com/2020/10/23/five-20th-century-science-fiction-books-i-love/ Jan’s list brought back some lovely reading memories in this stormingly good list…

MANTIVORE DREAMS by S.J. Higbee: a review https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2020/10/29/mantivore-dreams-by-s-j-higbee-a-review/ I had a lovely surprise when I came across Rae’s review of the first book in my Arcadian Chronicles series. How kind of her to take the trouble to post her thoughts on it!

Halloween or not https://bereavedsingledad.blog/2020/10/30/halloween-or-not/ I enjoyed this well written article from a parent who didn’t even consider Trick or Treating – and has other options to offer families in the new normal…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow #Brainfluffbookreview #AttackSurfacebookreview

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I enjoy Doctorow’s writing – see my reviews of Makers and Down and Out in the Magical Kingdom – so I was delighted to be approved for this Netgalley arc. Would I enjoy Doctorow’s latest offering?

BLURB: Cory Doctorow’s Attack Surface is a standalone novel set in the world of New York Times bestsellers Little Brother and Homeland.
Most days, Masha Maximow was sure she’d chosen the winning side. In her day job as a counterterrorism wizard for an transnational cybersecurity firm, she made the hacks that allowed repressive regimes to spy on dissidents, and manipulate their every move. The perks were fantastic, and the pay was obscene.

Just for fun, and to piss off her masters, Masha sometimes used her mad skills to help those same troublemakers evade detection, if their cause was just. It was a dangerous game and a hell of a rush. But seriously self-destructive. And unsustainable. When her targets were strangers in faraway police states, it was easy to compartmentalize, to ignore the collateral damage of murder, rape, and torture. But when it hits close to home, and the hacks and exploits she’s devised are directed at her friends and family–including boy wonder Marcus Yallow, her old crush and archrival, and his entourage of naïve idealists–Masha realizes she has to choose. And whatever choice she makes, someone is going to get hurt.

REVIEW: I haven’t read Little Brother and Homeland – though given they are set in the same world and Marcus Yallow makes more than a walk-on appearance in this story, I’m going to track them down. But that didn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying this thought-provoking read about some of the consequences caused by our love of social media and mobile technology. And exactly how repressive regimes can use this technology to keep their population under their boots…

Masha is a smart, edgy protagonist whose brilliance has led her into working for some murky organisations. I love the fact that she isn’t presented as some helpless, bewildered victim who has been coerced into making her dodgy decisions, but realises all too well that what she is doing has bad consequences. I also enjoyed her pride in the money she’s making and the status she’s accrued – after all that is the American dream, right? Her mother struggled all her life to provide sufficient money to educate her clever daughter, so it’s not surprising Masha highly values her wealth and the ability to buy the best. It makes her struggles with her conscience more plausible and visceral – and snagged my sympathy far more effectively than if she’d somehow been bamboozled into putting her brilliance to work for people who are now not on the side of the angels. Though given that this is aimed at the YA market, I’m intrigued to see how this plays out with that age-group, given that teens tend to see things as more black and white.

As for the technology – inevitably there needs to be a fair amount of explanation about what some of the programs Masha is dealing with can do. I’m guessing that youngsters probably won’t have to flog their brains into following said explanations as hard as I did, because they’ve been born into this world. However, I didn’t find it unduly hard to follow what was going on and neither was it a problem – because it was far too chillingly plausible and made for instructive reading.

Science fiction can provide the escapist fun of the far future, but it can also sound warnings about where we’re headed and provide scenarios to show the consequences of what will happen if we don’t change our ways. Cli-fi has been doing this for years. This is another of those books that shows how technology designed for our convenience and ease of communication can be put to far darker use. More imaginatively though, Doctorow also provides a solution to the problems he raises and this book ends on an inspirational, upbeat note that left me feeling empowered and slightly buzzed. This would be an excellent book to be studied in schools, as it raises all sorts of issues our youngsters will be grappling with for years to come – as well as suggesting how they should be dealt with.

Highly recommended for fans of thought-provoking, near future sci fi – though do be aware that Doctorow’s politics and views won’t be for everyone. While I obtained an arc of Attack Surface from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Cover Love – 2 #Brainfluffcoverlove #CoverloveNKJemisin

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Welcome to a second helping of Cover Love where I’m displaying N.K. Jemisin’s covers😊. I was inspired by the awesome covers of the Broken Earth trilogy – which is also one of my all-time favourite reads. See my reviews of The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky, The Killing Moon, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and The Broken Kingdoms. Which ones do you particularly like?


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheSpaceBetweenWorldsbookreview

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I can’t lie – it was the beautiful cover that caught my eye – and then that quirky blurb nailed it, as I was looking for more science fiction goodness with a bit of a difference. And I got that, alright…

BLURB: Reasons Cara has died:
– The emperor of the wasteland wanted to make an example of her mother and started with her
– One of her mother’s boyfriends wanted to cover up what he did to her
– She was born addicted and her lungs didn’t develop
– She was left alone, and a stranger came along
– The runners came for a neighbour and she was in the way
– The runners came for her mother and she was in the way
– The runners came for her boyfriend and she was in the way
– The runners came for no one, serving nothing but chaos and fear, and she was what they found
– Her mother left her alone in a shed while she worked or got high and she fell asleep alone and hungry and forever

Reasons Cara has lived:
– She doesn’t know but there are 8.
The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.
Enter Cara. Of the 382 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but eight
But on this earth, she survived. Born in the wastelands where if a basic lack of resources didn’t kill you, violence would, Cara is happy to reap the benefits of a job and a safe place in the city to call home. But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

REVIEW: I loved Cara, who is a gutsy survivor with a grim past which defines her and makes her valuable, giving her a lifestyle she couldn’t have dreamt of. She travels to parallel worlds where there isn’t her equivalent, because that would kill her, so she regularly visits other Earths where there are characters she grew up with – in some of them she has a surviving family – as well as those where her murderer thrives. Having been the victim of violent, abusive behaviour and regularly gone hungry and thirsty, she is keen to stay employed by the Eldridge Corporation. However, she becomes increasingly unhappy in the direction that the company is going. It doesn’t help that the role of traversers – people like her, who travel to parallel worlds – is steadily being pared down to a handful of operatives and the rumour is that in a few months, their job will be automated.

The worldbuilding is well done. I liked the premise and while there isn’t shedloads of science, the explanations offered are all cohesive and make sense. Cara can only travel to 372 of the possible 380 worlds available – and there aren’t more available, as those that become too misaligned from Earth Zero, the original world where the found of the Eldridge company made his breakthrough, they disappear and are no longer reachable. The gulf between the haves and have-nots is far too wide between Ashtown and Wiley City. Climate refugees and the descendants of the people end up in Ashtown, scrabbling to survive. Inevitably they are black and horribly poor, so are kept out of Wiley City by ferocious security. While there is trading between the two communities, it is limited and access to clean water and decent food in Ashtown depends on who you know and how strong you are.

The dystopian world was plausible and well depicted, though not overly original – that was left to the plot, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The dynamic Johnson sets up, where Cara’s traversing uncovers some unexpected surprises that forces her to re-examine her priorities, works well. I thought Cara’s harsh past was very well handled – it could have so easily tipped into victimhood and it didn’t, though do be warned, this book does deal with violent relationship abuse, in amongst the general murder and mayhem. I also liked the hopeless longing that portrays Cara’s romantic yearnings throughout most of the book, too.

The denouement is effectively handled, with plenty of tension as the stakes continue to grow – until the climactic ending, where all the plotpoints are satisfactorily tied up. Overall, this is a really strong debut novel and Micaiah Johnson is certainly One To Watch. Recommended for fans of multiverse science fiction in a near-future era. While I obtained an arc of The Space Between Worlds from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Seven Devils – Book 1 of the Seven Devils series by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May #BrinfluffNETGALLEYreview #SevenDevilsbookreview

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I was thrilled to be approved for an arc for this book. However, when I started reading it, I had a massive struggle getting into the story – because throughout the text all through the book were the words NOT FOR SALE OR DISTRIBUTION randomly appearing in the middle of sentences. It made it very difficult to connect with the story. After appealing to Orion, they did send me a PDF which had watermarked pages, instead, making it much easier to read – but the catch was that I could only read that on my desktop. I spend HOURS in front of my computer every day – I read for fun and relaxation on my Kindle. I did try… but it wasn’t fun, so in the end I returned to the version with the phrase running through it and persevered. Though I won’t be using the word DISTRIBUTION in my own writing any time soon.

I know piracy is an ongoing issue for publishers and I am aware that a few reviewers abuse the privilege we’ve been given in being allowed to read advance copies, but I’m not sure this is the answer. It is a cracking story – but being constantly yanked out of the story really hampered my enjoyment. I have tried my best to not allow this issue to influence my honest opinion of the book, but I’m not sure if this would have been a solid 10 from me if I hadn’t had such a struggle. If that’s the case, what a shame…

BLURB: When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray. Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.

When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.

REVIEW: This is an ensemble narrative, as this group of desperate women of driven to face overwhelming odds to try and fight back a corrupt and inhuman system. I loved the dynamic and real danger posed by the deep programming inserted in every loyal Tholosian, who won’t hesitate to attack if they suspect they are facing a traitor. Life is both cheap and merciless – this dystopian society is rotten right to the top.

It would have been so easy for either author to have resorted to chunks of info-dumping. However, they manage to avoid such measures by giving us chapters in alternating viewpoints and also providing flashbacks to show how each character arrived at the stage where they’re prepared to risk all. It’s well done. Not only have May and Lam managed to keep the plot moving forward, those flashbacks heighten the stakes and strengthen readers’ bonding with the protagonists, which is always more of a challenge when there are more than one or two protagonists in the mix.

The gathering sense of drama as this book moved to the final denouement is what really sets it apart, however. I love May’s writing – it was the prospect of reading a space opera adventure written by her that prompted me to request this book, after her fabulous Falconer trilogy – see my review of The Falconer, The Vanishing Throne and The Fallen Kingdom. She writes with the brakes off – and this book is imbued with that madcap energy I have grown to associate with her style and works brilliantly during the closing climactic scenes. I couldn’t put this one down as that ending played out – and I do hope we don’t have to wait too long for the second book, because it ends on a real cliffhanger that had me dreaming of the world. Highly recommended for all space opera fans. The ebook arc copy of Seven Devils was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.

9/10