Category Archives: near future

Sunday Post – 11th February, 2018

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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.

No… I haven’t been abducted by aliens two weekends in a row. Last weekend, Himself and I attended a conference on marketing indie books at Runneymede, which was marvellous fun and very intense – I haven’t yet had a chance to absorb all the information we received.

It was a busy week as I was teaching both Monday and Tuesday evening, spent Wednesday evening with the wonderful folks at my writing group, where I read a slice of my WIP and on Thursday, after catching up with my writing buddy, Mhairi, during the evening I attended the West Sussex Writers meeting, which this month was featuring a manuscript surgery. It was an excellent evening. I had the pleasure of acting as facilitator to a lovely writer in the process of writing a fantasy adventure for youngsters. When the winner and two runners-up were announced for the Poetry Competition, I was delighted that all three poets are students of mine – and to cap it all, I also won a book in the raffle. On Friday morning I was teaching and then in the afternoon I had a meeting with the very nice chap who looks after my website to discuss the changes I’m hoping to make throughout the year.

Yesterday, I drove to Ringwood to stay over with my parents, who then took me to a lovely restaurant, The Jetty, in Christchurch. Unfortunately, the rain swept in, so the views of the wonderful natural harbour at Christchurch were a tad murky, though the fabulous food more than made up for it. We had a lovely drive through the New Forest this morning in bright sunshine and a wonderful cooked breakfast, before a cosy chat with Mum – the time sped by and I drove home before it got dark. The only thing that spoilt the weekend was that my sister was due to come with me, but was ill so couldn’t make it.

This coming week is half term, so I am hoping to get through loads of work. Have a great week, everyone!

This week I have read:

Going Grey – Book 1 of the Ringer series by Karen Traviss
Who do you think you are? Ian Dunlap doesn’t know. When he looks in the mirror, he’s never sure if he’ll see a stranger. After years of isolation, thinking he’s crazy, he discovers he’s the product of an illegal fringe experiment in biotechnology that enables him to alter his appearance at will. And the only people he can trust to help him find out who and what he is are two former soldiers trying to make their way in the high-stakes world of private security. He’s got a unique and disturbing skill: they can help him to harness it—and maybe even learn to accept it. Set ten years from today, these three unlikely allies search for identity and loyalty in an uncertain world.

This is an entertaining, action-packed military sci fi adventure with some engaging characters and lots going on.

No Time Like the Past – Book 5 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
St Mary’s has been rebuilt and it’s business as usual for the History department. But first, there’s the little matter of a seventeenth-century ghost that only Mr Markham can see. Not to mention the minor inconvenience of being trapped in the Great Fire of London…and an unfortunately-timed comfort break at Thermopylae leaving the fate of the western world hanging in the balance.

Re-join Max’s madcap journey through time in Jodi Taylor’s fifth inter-dimensional instalment No Time Like the Past.

Jodi Taylor nails it again. I love this wonderfully chaotic series, packed full of action, humour and tragedy. There aren’t many books that have me laughing aloud and sniffling into a hanky within a handful of pages – but this series does it every time.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shadow Play: A British Police Procedural – Book 20 of the Bill Slider series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Teaser Tuesday featuring No Time Like the Past – Book 5 of The Chronicles of St Marys by Jodi Taylor

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson

Friday Face-off – My, what big teeth you have… featuring Spellwright – Book 1 of the Spellwright trilogy by Blake Charlton

Reblog of Review of Running Out of Space (Sunblinded: 1) by S.J. Higbee

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

… what happens when there’s no bullet to bite on…
https://seumasgallacher.com/2018/02/09/what-happens-when-theres-no-bullet-to-bite-on/ This cautionary tale needs a strong stomach – be warned – DON’T click on this link if you have recently eaten.

Conquerors of the Useless – A Winter of Rock Climbing https://roamwildandfree.com/2018/02/08/conquerers-of-the-useless-a-winter-of-rock-climbing/ More stunning pictures that also left me a tad queasy, but for a completely different reason…

Senior Moments https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/senior-moments/ And a drop of humour…

10 of the Best Poems of Farewell https://interestingliterature.com/2018/02/07/10-of-the-best-poems-of-farewell/ Another excellent article from this site.

People are Making Books Out of Jellyfish Now https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/people-are-making-books-out-of-jellyfish-now/ It is a really good post, but one of the reasons I included it was because of that amazing title.

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

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Review of NETGALLEY arc We Care For You by Paul Kitcatt

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When I read what fellow book blogger, Ana, from Ana’s Lair had to say about this offering, I immediately hightailed it over to NetGalley to request it. I was delighted when I was approved and bumped it up to the top of my pile because I was so keen to read it.

Margaret Woodruff is slowly dying in a care home. When her son is presented with the chance of exceptional care in her final months, he finds the offer hard to resist. Winifred is assigned to Margaret’s care. She’s a Helper: a new kind of carer that’s capable, committed and completely tireless – because she’s a synthetic human being.

This is ambitious book is not only a gripping story about what happens to an old lady in a care home, but it is also a discussion about what it means to be human. Kitcatt isn’t afraid to hold up the pace of his unsettling story to provide detailed conversations between Margaret and Winifred, which have stayed with me since I finished reading the book. I’m not sure if I agree with the conclusions he comes to, but they are certainly food for thought and I do thoroughly agree with the prevalent view throughout the book that the life experience gained by the elderly is essentially thrown away in our modern society. This is in sharp contrast to almost every other culture throughout history, where the wisdom of the aged is valued and held in high regard. Although the conclusions that Winifred come to are somewhat worrying…

Any niggles? Well, I do have one. I’m still scratching my head as to why Kitcatt has set the book in 2022, given the sophistication and real-life appearance of the robot. That is only four years away and I simply don’t believe we are anywhere near producing an artificial being with that sophistication and complexity to be rolled out and fully interact with a very fragile human being in the manner described in the book. To be honest, when I saw the date I nearly didn’t continue, being rather nerdy about this sort of thing. While I’m aware, great strides have been made in the field of AI and robotics. I simply don’t believe we are within touching distance of the likes of Winifred and her hub.

However, the writing is sufficiently good and the book has been produced to a high standard with solid formatting, so I decided to proceed and give the author a pass on the unrealistic timeline. Other than that, this is an engrossing read with some important things to say about what we value as a society and a species, and though I thought I knew exactly what the ending would be, that final twist did leave me with a shiver up my spine. All in all, this is a memorable and unsettling read, recommended for anyone who enjoys near future science fiction relating to our current society.
8/10

Sunday Post – 21st January, 2018

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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.

Christmas now seems like a distant memory. I finally started back at Pilates and Fitstep this Wednesday and to be honest, was rather dreading it, given how little exercise I’ve done over the past couple of months. It didn’t help that my sister made the most delicious Christmas cake in the universe the size of a small house. I can never resist Christmas cake and this one somehow just disappeared from the cake tin and inside me – so now I’m the one the size of a small house… In the event, our lovely teacher Louise got it just right – we were eased into the classes again really gently so that although I was a tad stiff and sore on Friday, it was nothing major. This was just as well as on Friday, I had to drive over to Brighton to pick up the grandchildren, then dogleg across to Worthing Hospital to collect a new sleep mask for Himself as the one he’s been using has split. It meant I spent most of Friday afternoon behind the wheel of the car and in the evening, Frances and I went to a fish and chip party over at Sally’s house, where we met up with other cast members who had taken part in Tim’s film. There was lots of laughter over the clips Tim showed and afterwards some amazing karaoke performances – we both had a brilliant time.

On Saturday morning, the grandchildren and I shopped till we dropped. They were busy spending pocket money and I was buying in supplies for the rest of the weekend and a red lentil curry which I made last night. It needs a bit of tweaking, but overall I was very pleased with it. Today we’re meeting up with my sister who has now recovered from her ear infection and is on a mission to buy a new handbag, before we return the grandchildren back home this afternoon. It’s been lovely to catch up with them once again.

 

This week I have read:

We Care For You by Paul Kitcatt
Margaret Woodruff is slowly dying in a care home. When her son is presented with the chance of exceptional care in her final months, he finds the offer hard to resist. Winifred is assigned to Margaret’s care. She’s a Helper: a new kind of carer that’s capable, committed and completely tireless – because she’s a synthetic human being. Under Winifred’s care Margaret’s health improves beyond everyone’s expectations, and Winifred begins to learn from Margaret what it means to be alive. After all, she has a lifetime of experience to pass on – and in a world where youth is the ultimate prize, perhaps it takes a robot to recognise the value of old age. But how will Winifred use what she learns from Margaret – and what does she truly want from her?

This was intriguing read that also attempted to answer the question – what makes us human? Though I’m not sure I totally agree with Kitcatt’s conclusions, I wholeheartedly agree that as a society we completely disregard the wisdom the elderly has to offer. And I really didn’t see that final twist coming…

Talon – Book 1 of the Talon series by Julie Kagawa
Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. There was more romance and teen interaction than I’d bargained for. However, since I completed it, I find this book whirling around in my thoughts as I’m looking forward to getting hold of the second one in the series.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 14th January, 2018

Review of Netgalley arc The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Review of Kindle Ebook Ranter’s Wharf by Rosemary Noble

Friday Face-off – It’s only words and words are all I have… featuring Room by Emma Donoghue

Review of Indie Ebook Subversive by Paul Grzegorzek

 

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

Thursday Doors – Clevedon https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/01/19/thursday-doors-clevedon/ I used to live in Somerset and these lovely pics brought back just what a beautiful county it is… Thank you, Jean!

…the scariest Author project I’ve ever undertaken… https://seumasgallacher.com/2018/01/19/the-scariest-author-project-ive-ever-undertaken/ I can sympathise with Seumas, who is writing his life story – and finding it very daunting…

Franky the Finicky Flamingo by Wanda Luthman https://anitashaven.wordpress.com/2018/01/20/franky-the-finicky-flamingo-by-wanda-luthman/ If you have a child who is a fussy eater, then this books sounds like it could be a huge help…

How To Poop in the Wilderness when Bathrooms Aren’t a Luxury https://roamwildandfree.com/2018/01/17/how-to-poop-in-the-wilderness-when-bathrooms-arent-a-luxury/ Being a major screen hugger, I haven’t had to face this issue – but some of this advice was unexpected. If you’re headed out for the wilderness in 2018, do read this article, first.

#Lessons Learned from Diana Wynne Jones: In #Fantasy #Writing, Not all Rabbits Wear Waist Coats https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/01/18/lessonslearned-from-diana-wynne-jones-in-fantasy-writing-not-all-rabbits-wear-waist-coats/ As ever the talented Jean Lee has something pertinent and important to say about the craft of writing.

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

Review of Indie KINDLE Ebook Subversive by Paul Grzegorzek

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London, 2123. A century after ebola-bombs decimated the population, PC Sean Weaver of the Combined Police Force is a drone operative tasked with enforcing the Government’s dictatorial rule. Nearly anything and everything is considered Subversive and the people huddle behind ever-watched walls, under threat of forced labour on The Farms for the smallest infraction. Trust is nearly impossible to come by and terrorists could be anywhere. Trapped within this oppressive regime, Sean has to make do with small, secretive acts of rebellion lest he end up on The Farms himself. Until, that is, the day he witnesses the mass murder of hundreds of civilians. Events quickly spiral out of control, propelling him into a bloody and brutal conflict where he finds himself faced with the ultimate choice. Accept his fate and bury the truth, or fight back and become… Subversive.

I reviewed Grzegorzek’s apocalyptic adventure Flare – see my review here – which I thoroughly enjoyed. But this sci fic dystopian thriller hits the ground running and the pace doesn’t ease up until the climactic ending. Sean is one of the novel’s strength’s – he is a likeable chap who can certainly handle himself in a scrap and quite right, too, as he is a trained PC. However, while he is at the heart of all the action and manages to attract trouble like a magnet attracts iron filings, Grzegorzek manages to avoid his depiction of Sean becoming too invincible. While he is horrified at the wanton slaughter of fellow Londoners and wants to do the right thing, he is also reluctant to risk his own family or endure too much physical pain. In other words, he is just like you and me – which made me warm to him and care about what happens to him.

The other outstanding aspect of this book is the twisting plot, which kicks off when Sean sees something he shouldn’t. Immediately, he finds himself hauled into the middle of a plot to wipe out the terrorists who are held responsible for the incident and I settled into the book, thinking I knew how it was all going to play out – only to find within the next handful of pages, it all flips around and something else is going on. The speed at which Sean experiences reverses and finds himself in the middle of desperate situations reminded me of Darrow’s struggles in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series.

Grzegorzek’s depiction of a ravaged London, particularly the grim state of the underground stations, are memorable and provide a suitable backdrop for the desperate battles that are played out. The technology is believable and I was also pleased at Grzegorzek’s explanation of why a fair proportion of the population are now behaving like mindless sheep and showing slavish obedience to a corrupt and unpleasant form of government.

All in all, this was a cracking read – and as the first book of 2018, I was delighted it was such an entertaining book. Recommended for fans of dystopian and post-apocalyptic thrillers.
9/10

My Outstanding Books of 2017

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Last year was yet another bumper year for reading, particularly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. As usual, I’ll list the ones that stood out for me – and we’re not talking a top ten. I completed 174 books last year, but won’t go into too much detail in this article about my overall 2017 reading experience, as today it’s all about those that gave me the tingle factor. Most will have received a perfect ten on my scoring system, however there will be a couple that didn’t. The reason they are here is because that after I’d finished reading and writing about them, they didn’t go away, but continued to linger in my thoughts. So here they are, in no particular order:-

 

Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash

This godpunk duology set within the Japanese pantheon centres around a beautiful, dark-edged myth. Ash’s lyrical prose and deft handling of this tale has stayed with me throughout the year, despite having read it last January. See my review here.

 

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

I absolutely fell in love with this haunting retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. While I enjoyed and admired Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed – another strong contender – this one stole my heart. The ending gave me goosebumps, while making me weep. That doesn’t happen very often. See my review here.

 

After Atlas – Book 2 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman

While I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Planetfall, this one blew me away. The characterisation, the horrible situation the protagonist finds himself in – it all got under my skin to the extent that I woke my husband up as I yelled in shock at a particular point in the book. I can’t wait to see where Newman goes next with this amazing series. See my review here.

 

Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna duology by Ian McDonald

This depiction of an existence on the Moon where rampant capitalism holds sway hasn’t left me alone since I read this one. McDonald has called it ‘A game of domes’ and he certainly has nailed the deadly powerplays the main families indulge in with his reference to George R.R. Martin’s epic. I keep thinking about that ending… See my review here.

 

Winter Tide – Book 1 of the Innesmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys

This book was a delightful surprise – I had no idea the writing would pull me into this version of Lovecraft’s monstrous world, with a strong, sympathetic protagonist who is one of the few survivors of the attack on Innesmouth years ago. I loved it and am very much looking forward to reading more in this fantastic series. See my review here.

 

The Forever Court – Book 2 of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Knights of the Borrowed Dark, finding Rudden’s punchy prose style both enjoyable and memorable. But this sequel builds on the first with an engrossing adventure and some amazing characters. It’s far too good to leave just for the children. See my review here.

 

Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards

I have thoroughly enjoyed all Edwards’ books – but this managed to nock up the stakes to a point I could not put it down until I’d finished reading it. I have rules about never reading or watching TV until after 5.30 pm – otherwise I’d never get anything done. I broke that rule for this book. See my review here.

 

Cold Welcome – Book 1 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon

This is a new spinoff series by a much-loved author which I was delighted to read – even better, it was a storming adventure that proved to be an engrossing page-turner. I remembered all over again why I love reading this author. See my review here.

 

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

No one writes different aliens as well as Greg Egan – and I loved this adventure. I’m very much hoping it turns into a series as I would love to spend more time following the fortunes of these amazing creatures. See my review here.

 

The Lost Steersman – Book 3 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

This is a series I read longer ago than I care to recall – and when I saw it had appeared in Kindle, I snapped it up and reread it, something I hardly ever do. My instincts were spot on – I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this engrossing world and following Rowena’s adventures in this smart, cleverly written fantasy/science fiction mashup. This is the particular story that has stayed with me, though the other books in the series are just as good. See my review here.

 

Heir to the North – Book 1 of Malessar’s Curse by Steven Poore

This epic fantasy got under my skin and into my heart in a way that doesn’t often happen with this genre. I loved the clever, clever twist at the end and one of the treats in 2018 is to tuck into the sequel, The High King’s Vengeance. See my review here.

 

Sea of Rust by Robert C. Cargill

This was another amazing book that came out of the blue – I’d not read anything by this author before and was delighted by this post-apocalyptic world peopled by robots who are starting to wear out and fail. With no factories or warehouses full of spare parts anymore, the only option is to harvest those parts from other robots. See my review here.

 

The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

I’ve read a number of apocalyptic tales during the year, however in this version Walker triumphantly succeeds in giving us a dog’s version of a complete collapse in law and order. And the chilling results of what happens when that order is reimposed by the wrong people. See my review here.

 

Empire of Dust – Book 1 of the Psi-Tech novels by Jacey Beford

This epic science fiction adventure stood out because of the flawed protagonist and the gritty depiction of establishing a colony. I really enjoyed the world and the fact that love clearly doesn’t cure all. I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented author. See my review here.

 

The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

After her marvellous series How To Train Your Dragon, I was interested to see how she would follow it up. The writing is more lyrical, the underlying poignancy is more pronounced. My elderly Kindle didn’t like the illustrations throughout this book and part of my Christmas money is going on buying a print version of this book. Not for the grandchildren – for me. See my review here.

 

Whirligig: Keeping the Promise – Book 1 of Shire’s Union by Richard Buxton

I have to declare an interest – Richard is a former student and I had read some extracts from a very early draft. However that did not prepare me for the excellence of the writing, where this historical adventure finds two young English people from the same small village ending up in America during the Civil War. They are both caught in quite different ways and this story just kept on delivering in terms of plot twists and tension. See my review here.

 

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

This doorstopper is extraordinary. Don’t ask me what the storyline is – other than recalling there are five main protagonists with very different and vivid voices, it’s too complicated to recall. What I do remember is that very early on I took the decision to slow right down and savour this book as reads like this don’t come along all that often. It took me 10 days to get through this one and I recall feeling sad when it came to the end. See my review here.

To pare the list down to this required setting aside other books that still hurt to leave out – the likes of Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett, Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory, The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts, The Invisible Library books by Genevieve Cogman and The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews all missed making this list by a whisker. If you force to me to choose just one of these books, I’ll probably never forgive you, but it would have to be After Atlas.

What were your outstanding reads of the year?

Teaser Tuesday – 2nd January, 2018

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Subversive by Paul Grzegorzek

59% All of a sudden we emerged at another station, the first warning, a still-clothed skeleton that caught Lucy’s foot as we passed. The sound of bones clacking against the rail was almost deafening, as was the silence from behind us at the noise. There was no way our pursuers hadn’t heard that, and if they weren’t sure where we were before, they knew now.

BLURB: London, 2123. A century after ebola-bombs decimated the population, PC Sean Weaver of the Combined Police Force is a drone operative tasked with enforcing the Government’s dictatorial rule. Nearly anything and everything is considered Subversive and the people huddle behind ever-watched walls, under threat of forced labour on The Farms for the smallest infraction. Trust is nearly impossible to come by and terrorists could be anywhere. Trapped within this oppressive regime, Sean has to make do with small, secretive acts of rebellion lest he end up on The Farms himself.

Until, that is, the day he witnesses the mass murder of hundreds of civilians. Events quickly spiral out of control, propelling him into a bloody and brutal conflict where he finds himself faced with the ultimate choice. Accept his fate and bury the truth, or fight back and become… Subversive.

I am really enjoying this one. Sean is a great protagonist and Grzegorzek is very good at throwing him into impossible situations against some truly unpleasant antagonists. If you like your dystopian science fiction thriller heaving with action in a worryingly plausible grim world, then this one comes recommended. Review to follow.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Artemis by Andy Weir

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I loved The Martian and was delighted when I realised that Andy Weir had another book in the works and thrilled when I managed to obtain a Netgalley arc for it. Question is – does Artemis live up to Weir’s stunning debut?

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

The short answer is yes. Oh yes – Artemis has yet another memorably enjoyable protagonist every bit as ingenious and determined as Mark Watney – Jazz is a street-wise moon-girl who plays the odds. She ekes out a precarious living by a series of shady deals under the cover of her lowly job as porter as she needs more money. Lots more money. And it is that need that drives her to make a deal against her better judgement… a deal that trips over into something a whole lot more serious. I’m aware some readers have had a problem with her lack of judgement and maturity, but I feel her poor impulse control is entirely realistic and when we learn the whole story of what went wrong between her and her father, there is also a valid explanation.

Like The Martian, we are charmed into really caring what happens to this lively, irreverent protagonist as she takes us into her confidence and tells us how the domes work, how the society is structured and about her tempestuous relationship with her father. So when it all goes really wrong, we are with her every step of the way, hoping she will prevail. As Weir steadily ups the stakes and increases the pressure – I found this one almost impossible to put down.

Despite the strong character-led nature of the story, there are still plenty of details about life on the Moon for hard science fiction fans. We learn about how the domes were constructed, who initially settled this first moon settlement and what currently powers the economy – all without compromising the pace or the narrative tension. It’s a neat trick to pull off and far harder to achieve than Weir makes it look. If all these geeky details tend to slide past you, my firm advice would be not to skim too much – because some of this stuff has a major impact on the story progression.

So after setting up a precarious situation where our plucky heroine finds herself on the sharp end of the trickiest conundrum – does Weir satisfactorily wrap up the story? Absolutely. We get a gripping conclusion to this plotline, while there are also some dangling tendrils that would give Weir the opportunity to revisit Artemis with the surviving characters. I would love to see him do so. Highly recommended.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc novella Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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I was intrigued when I saw this on the Netgalley dashboard – and obviously went for it…

Special limited edition science 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. Now Regan and his men, ill equipped and demoralised, must go behind enemy lines, find the missing Scion, and uncover how his suit failed. Is there a new Ironclad-killer out there? And how are common soldiers lacking the protection afforded the rich supposed to survive the battlefield of tomorrow?

This year has marked an outpouring of creativity by this talented author, who is clearly relishing flexing his writing muscles. The last book I reviewed only a few weeks ago was in the first-person viewpoint of a wardog. This offering features battle-hardened Sergeant Ted Regan, who has improbably managed to keep himself and his small team from being killed thus far in a war where ordinary troops are regarded as fodder for the scary fighting machines and near-impregnable Ironclads.

I found that once I picked this one up, it was difficult to put down. I’m not a huge fan of novellas. It takes a degree of technical skill to downsize plot progression, characterisation and worldbuilding, particularly in science fiction and fantasy settings, so that the pacing and story flow doesn’t suffer. In my frank opinion, relatively few authors can successfully pull this off – and while I think the denouement was just a tad hurried so that I had to go back and reread it to ensure I completely understood what was going on, it certainly didn’t make a major dent in my overall enjoyment of this cracking tale.

The world is a grim one. Now resources are increasingly limited, the major corporations are fighting for control of governments and land in order to continue to make money. Most people have been knocked down to subsistence levels with only the privileged few able to live in any kind of luxury. However, as is often the case, the true motivations of the savage fighting are wrapped up in grander-sounding motivations – like freedom and democracy. Those at the sharp end know only too well what a hollow sham that turns out to be and I loved Ted’s world-weary take on what is happening around him.

It means that when it all kicks off, I care about him and the small band of outmatched underdogs tasked with a Mission Impossible job. Knowing Tchaikovsky’s form, I was genuinely worried that we might lose one of the team. In the event, as the action unspooled I wasn’t going anywhere until I discovered what happened and the ending came as something of a shock. I am really hoping that this proves to be the start of a new series – I’d love to see more of this world.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

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I enjoyed Angelmaker and loved The Gone-Away World, so when I saw this one on Netgalley, I immediately requested it.

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.

I normally read quite quickly – I’ve read 157 books so far this year. But this one took me nearly two weeks to complete. Partly it’s the fact that it is something of a doorstopper at over 700 pages, but the main reason was that early on I took the decision that I wouldn’t speed-read through this one. The prose is too rich, too dense – there are too many allusions and clues scattered throughout and as you may have gathered from the blurb, the structure isn’t all that straightforward, either.

It might have been tempting to have accelerated through it if I hadn’t been enjoying the experience so much. Harkaway is a remarkable writer and this is him at the peak of his capabilities. For all the depth and complexity, I found the book highly readable and engrossing. It would have been a real shame to have thrown away the experience by trying to skim through it. The writing is immersive and each character has their own flavour so that after a while, it only took a couple of lines to realise whose head I was in. Essentially, it is a thriller. But the puzzle is far more of the slow-burn variety, which doesn’t stop there being some jaw-dropping twists near the end.

For all their quirkiness, I was fond of all the characters, though my favourites remained dogged, persistent Inspector Mielikki Neith whose investigation of the untimely death of Diana Hunter in custody triggers the whole chain of events – and fierce, beautiful Athenais, once-mistress to Saint Augustine, before he decided to become so saintly. The characterisation is masterly and as I’m a sucker for character-led stories, it was their vividness and sheer oddness that sucked me in and kept me reading.

I also feel a similar anger that sparks through the book – the apathy of too many of us, the blind belief that if we put in place a whole raft of cameras and electronic surveillance, it will somehow be alright, no matter who ends up at the helm and in charge. This is a remarkable, brave book, deliberately constructed and written on an epic scale. Does it work? Oh yes. I loved it, but my firm advice would be – don’t rush it. If you try reading this one in a hurry, you’ll end up throwing it out of the window – and given its size, it may cause serious injury if it hits someone…

While I obtained the arc of Gnomon from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 25th October, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

#science fiction #military

Rex is a Good Dog. He loves humans. He hates enemies. He’s utterly obedient to Master.

He’s also seven foot tall at the shoulder, bulletproof, bristling with heavy calibre weaponry and his voice resonates with subsonics especially designed to instil fear. With Dragon, Honey and Bees, he’s part of a Multi-form Assault Pack operating in the lawless anarchy of Campeche, Southeastern Mexico.

Rex is a genetically engineered bioform, a deadly weapon in a dirty war. He has the intelligence to carry out his orders and feedback implants to reward him when he does. All he wants to be is a Good Dog. And to do that he must do exactly what Master says and Master says he’s got to kill a lot of enemies. But who, exactly, are the enemies?

I’m a fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s writing as he writes cracking adventures that also has you thinking about the issues he raises long after you’ve closed the book and walked away. I’m guessing this one will be no different and that poor Rex will be caught in a very difficult situation. Fortunately, I shan’t have to wait too long as this one is being published on 2nd November.

 

ANNDDD…

 

Laura at Fuonlyknew reviews Running Out of Space…