Category Archives: near future

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Library of the Dead – Book 1 of the Edinburgh Nights by T.L. Huchu #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheLibraryoftheDeadbookreview

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I found the premise of this one fascinating – a post-apocalyptic Scotland and a young, gutsy protagonist straddling two cultures. And I can’t deny that the cover also blew me away.

BLURB: When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

When ghosts talk, she will listen…

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world. She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.

REVIEW: Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Ropa is an engaging protagonist and given the awful circumstances she finds herself battling with, the fact that she is only fourteen worked for me, although I am aware some reviewers had a bit of a problem with her youth. But children in difficult times grow up fast and she still demonstrated that odd mix of maturity and flashes of someone much younger that makes up a teen personality. I thought the characterisation of the protagonist was the main strength of the book, though I also liked the depiction of a civilisation steadily falling apart. It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t aware of exactly why everything was quite so dire – given we are in Ropa’s viewpoint, pages of explanation about the political situation would have been out of character.

I also liked the members of Ropa’s family – her relationship with her younger sister could have so easily become a bit treacly, and I was pleased that it didn’t. The constant friction between the girls over the use of her phone was nicely realistic, having had to step into the middle of similar fights between my grandchildren. Her granny is also an intriguing personality, who taught Ropa the magic she uses, drawing on her Zimbabwean culture to be able to speak to the departed and help them. All this worked really well for me.

However, I wasn’t quite so impressed with the plotting. The story was completely predictable and I guessed (successfully) what was going to happen from about halfway through the book. As you can see from the score, that wasn’t a huge dealbreaker for me as Ropa’s personality made this an entertaining read anyway. I’m not wholly convinced about the library angle of the story, either. To be honest, it felt a tad tacked on, and wasn’t in the same league as Ropa’s characterisation, and the interesting world she is forced to operate in. There are some fabulous magical libraries out there already – ranging from the hilariously dangerous version at the Unseen University in Pratchett’s Discworld with an orangutang for a librarian, through to Genevieve Cogman’s highly successful Invisible Library series. Huchu is going to have to work at making this version really stand out.

That said, I would happily read the second book in this series just to spend a bit more time with Ropa. Recommended for fans who particularly enjoy strong young protagonists operating in difficult circumstances. While I obtained an arc of The Library of the Dead from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Covet the Covers – 18 #Brainfluffcovetthecovers #CovetthecoversNevilShute

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Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers. This week I’m featuring Nevil Shute’s books. Last week I featured A Town Like Alice on my Friday Face-off, which reminded me just how much I loved his books. I’ve gone for the older covers, though there are lots of options for each of these titles. I absolutely loved Requiem for Wren, which I cried buckets over, and In the Wet (published in 1953) which goes forward in time to 1983 – and had nightmares about On the Beach. But I loved all his books. What about you – have you read any of these and if so, which are your favourites? And which of these covers do you like best?

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?

Sunday Post – 20th December, 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.

Last night’s press conference by the PM regarding the new strain of COVID has wiped out Christmas plans for so many folks – my heart goes out to you if you were in the middle of preparing to see family you hadn’t laid eyes on for such a long time. We’re in Tier Two, so we have avoided the latest Tier Four measures – for now, anyway. Himself and I had our flu jabs during the week and I was mightily impressed at how quickly and efficiently the whole operation was organised. And our surgery has also contacted us to inform us that in due course we will be notified about the COVID vaccination programme being rolled out, which is a glimmer of hope.

Watching the Strictly Come Dancing final last night was quite an emotional experience – all those folks had worked so hard, isolating themselves from their families to take part. And each of them danced with their hearts, as well as their bodies. I’ve watched all the finals to date and this one was different and special.

On Wednesday, our Writing Group met on Zoom, and instead of our usual pre-Christmas bash in a restaurant, we offered up our lyrics for a 1980s pop song for Liz, who is writing a play about two women who were a pop duo. It was hilarious and full of laughter, tempered by the fact that one of our group is isolating, as he has tested positive for COVID. He runs a shop and during the busiest week of the year for him, he’s had to close.

The pics this week are an assortment of our decorations – apologies if you decorate your house with any kind of theme or taste, because I don’t. If it sparkles garishly, or sings a cheesy song with a cracked electronic voice while jiggling slightly inappropriately, then I’m up for cramming it onto a mantlepiece or other suitable surface, all the better to penetrate the seasonal gloomy weather.

Last week I read:
Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders: a Dominion of the Fallen novella by Aliette de Bodard
Lunar New Year should be a time for familial reunions, ancestor worship, and consumption of an unhealthy amount of candied fruit.

But when dragon prince Thuan brings home his brooding and ruthless husband Asmodeus for the New Year, they find not interminable family gatherings, but a corpse outside their quarters. Asmodeus is thrilled by the murder investigation; Thuan, who gets dragged into the political plotting he’d sworn off when he left, is less enthusiastic.

It’ll take all of Asmodeus’s skill with knives, and all of Thuan’s diplomacy, to navigate this one—as well as the troubled waters of their own relationship….
Writing a successful novella takes a particular skillset, which de Bodard clearly has. I’ve read a couple of books in this series, but it was a while ago and although I enjoyed the conspiracy and the insights into this particularly cutthroat world, I was aware I probably would have appreciated it more if I’d recently reconnected with this series.

Scardown – Book 2 of the Jenny Casey series by Elizabeth Bear
The year is 2062, and after years on the run, Jenny Casey is back in the Canadian armed forces. Those who were once her enemies are now her allies, and at fifty, she’s been handpicked for the most important mission of her life–a mission for which her artificially reconstructed body is perfectly suited. With the earth capable of sustaining life for just another century, Jenny–as pilot of the starship Montreal–must discover brave new worlds. And with time running out, she must succeed where others have failed.

Now Jenny is caught in a desperate battle where old resentments become bitter betrayals and justice takes the cruelest forms of vengeance. With the help of a brilliant AI, an ex—crime lord, and the man she loves, Jenny may just get her chance to save the world. If it doesn’t come to an end first…
Although I’d read the first book relatively recently, I found it quite difficult to get back into this world and fully bond with Jenny again. However, once I was back in the flow, I enjoyed the action-packed storyline with several major twists. Mini-review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK A Quiet Life in the Country – Book 1 of the Lady Hardcastle Mysteries series by T.E. Kinsey
Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they’ve just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life.

But it is not long before Lady Hardcastle is forced out of her self-imposed retirement. There’s a dead body in the woods, and the police are on the wrong scent. Lady Hardcastle makes some enquiries of her own, and it seems she knows a surprising amount about crime investigation…

As Lady Hardcastle and Flo delve deeper into rural rivalries and resentment, they uncover a web of intrigue that extends far beyond the village. With almost no one free from suspicion, they can be certain of only one fact: there is no such thing as a quiet life in the country.
Himself recommended this one – the rest of the audiobooks on my Kindle were too bleak for now – and it was just what I needed. A beautifully narrated, humorous and well-crafted murder mystery. Review to follow.

Inherit the Shoes – Book 1 of A Jersey Girl Legal Mystery series by E.J. Copperman
New Jersey prosecutor Sandy Moss is tired of petty criminals, and a new job at a glitzy Los Angeles law firm seems the perfect career move. Putting 3,000 miles between her and her ex-boyfriend is just an added bonus.

But on Sandy’s first morning as a family attorney, she inadvertently kills her new career stone dead when she offends her boss during a meeting with the firm’s top celebrity client, charismatic TV star Patrick McNabb. But that’s not as dead as Patrick’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Patsy, is that evening, when she’s discovered shot by an arrow, her husband standing over her. Did Patrick really kill his wife in a dispute over a pair of shoes? All signs point to yes. But Patrick is determined to clear his name, using all the legal skills he’s learned from playing a lawyer on TV, and to Sandy’s deep dismay, she’s the only person he’ll allow to help . . .
This was a joy – I haven’t encountered this author before but it appears he’s written other murder mystery series, not that I needed telling. The writing was too accomplished and confident to be a newbie – while the plotting was masterfully done. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Review of End Game – Book 8 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Friday Face-off featuring The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Two MURDER MYSTERY mini-reviews: The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne and The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

Review of The Zig Zag Girl – Book 1 of the Stephens and Mephisto series by Elly Griffiths

Monday Post – 14th December 2020

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog. If celebrating, I hope you and yours have a chance to enjoy the holidays – and whatever is going on in your life, may the coming week be a peaceful, healthy one. Take care.x

Covet the Covers – 10 #Brainfluffcovetthecovers #CovetthecoversAdrian Tchaikovsky #SciFiMonth2020

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Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers, aka Cover Love. This week I’m featuring Adrian Tchaikovsky’s science fiction covers in honour of #Sci Fi Month 2020, which I’m linking with this post.

We are both huge fans of his writing – and if you don’t know just how prolific this talented, quirky writer is, there are also a number of his fantasy covers that I haven’t included in this feature. If you’d like a sense of his writing, check out my reviews of Children of Time, Children of Ruin, The Expert System’s Brother, Ironclads, Dogs of War, The Doors of Eden, Firewalkers, and my mini-review of Cage of Souls. The Expert System’s Champion, Bear Head and One Day All This Will Be Yours are due out next year – you see what I mean about prolific… My favourites are the covers for the Children of Time duology, which are yours?


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Ministry For the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheMinistryFortheFuturebookreview

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I am a fan of Kim Stanley Robinson’s writing – see my reviews of Aurora and 2312. His habit of pushing the envelope regarding the structures of his novels, as well as his intelligent take on what is going on, and what is likely to happen, makes him required reading. I have included the complete blurb, even the hype which I normally delete, because it makes it clear what this isn’t, as much as what it is. For this isn’t some disaster, post-apocalyptic adventure. It’s far more original and thought-provoking…

BLURB: Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world’s future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story. From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined.

Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry For The Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us – and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face.
It is a novel both immediate and impactful, desperate and hopeful in equal measure, and it is one of the most powerful and original books on climate change ever written.

REVIEW: I initially struggled with this near future, cli-fi novel – I’m all too aware of what we’re not doing and where it’s likely to lead. So at times, the first quarter of this hefty tome made for harrowing reading – especially the terrible heatwave in India. Fortunately, Stanley Robinson isn’t interested in depicting apocalyptic outcomes – he’s far more interested in exploring ways Humanity can find ways out of the crisis we’ve boxed ourselves into. And this book, discussing our broken global fiscal system and uncontrolled capitalism, brings into being a Ministry For the Future, headed up by a gutsy lady, Mary Murphy.

She is the main protagonist in this sprawling, multi-viewpoint book that jumps across the globe, looking at a wide variety of possible fixes to sequester carbon, get our global temperatures headed back downwards, repair our eco-systems and rewild swathes of the world. While it doesn’t tip into a horrorfest of a destroyed civilisation, neither is it some wafty, unrealistic take on human nature – the bankers running the world’s finances are all but frog-marched into doing the right thing, for instance.

And if you’re wondering how the above turns into a tight, pacey story the keeps the pages turning – it doesn’t. Stanley Robinson doesn’t subscribe to providing the usual ingredients – while I quite like Mary, she isn’t innately appealing – too driven, self possessed, and frequently angry. But there’s no real overarching narrative, as the story keeps jumping from one scenario to the other and a few sections are just pure self indulgence – nope, I don’t want to read a first-person narrative from anything at a cellular level…

So why didn’t I hurl this one across the room for such nonsense? Partly, because the man can write. The prose is always punchy and readable. But mostly because the ideas he posits for possible fixes just keep coming… and coming… and coming. I’m fervently hoping that right now, there are committees not dissimilar to The Ministry For the Future – with futurists providing all sorts of ideas, scientific, sociological and societal to get us out of the looming climactic and environmental catastrophe we’re heading for. And that Kim Stanley Robinson is a member of at least one of them. Because if we are to get through the rest of this century as a species, we certainly need the kind of encompassing raft of changes Stanley Robinson advocates in this ambitious, thought provoking book. Highly recommended for anyone interested in looking at how to get the world out of the mess we’re in… While I obtained an arc of The Ministry For the Future via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Sunday Post – 25th October, 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.

All my frenetic activity of last week was slammed into reverse after Monday’s Pilates class – as I woke up on Tuesday very stiff, with a sore throat which has progressed into a cold (I think!). But whatever it is, my Fitstep teacher and hairdresser don’t deserve to find themselves having to quarantine ‘just in case’. So I’m staying in until it goes away. And writing… Work on Picky Eaters 2 is going well, and is great fun to write, but because I’m feel fairly awful – I’m not getting as much done as I want! My life has lit up with binge-watching The Big Bang Theory – what I’m going to do when I finally get through all 12 seasons, I’m not quite sure… And hurrah for The Great British Bakeoff and Strictly Come Dancing, as well as Portrait Artist of the Year

This week’s photos are from a walk I took along the beach at Bexhill.


Last week I read:

The Ministry For the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world’s future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story. From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined.

Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry For The Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us – and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face.
Despite NOT being a post-apocalyptic horrorfest, the earlier stages of this interesting book did made tough reading. But I’m glad I persevered as it does provide a message of hope, along with a host of possible fixes. Review to follow.


NOVELLA Masquerade in Lodi – Book 9 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Bastard’s Eve is a night of celebration for most residents in the canal city of Lodi — but not for sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple demon Desdemona, who find themselves caught up in the affairs of a shiplost madman, a dangerous ascendant demon, and a very unexpected saint of the fifth god.
It was a real treat to turn to more Penric and Desdemona goodness – this is an engaging fast-paced story that I tore through in a single sitting. Review to follow.


Map’s Edge – Book 1 of The Tethered Citadel by David Hair
Dashryn Cowl has run out of places to hide. The erstwhile sorcerer of the Imperial College fled the Bolgravian Empire when his high-flying family fell from grace, but the tyrannical empire is still hunting for him. So when he gets his hands on a map showing a place outside the known lands rich in istariol, the mineral that fuels sorcery, he sees a way back to power. There’s only one problem: it means masquerading as an Imperial Cartomancer (an instant death sentence) and finding some dupes to help him mine the istariol in secret, no questions asked.
But somehow, amid the dangers of the road (floods and avalanches, beasts, barbarians and monsters), a strange thing begins to happen: Dashryn starts to care about his ragtag followers and their strange odyssey into the ruins of an ancient forgotten civilisation. But his past won’t let him be: the implacable Imperial Bloodhound Toran Zorne has caught his scent, and Zorne has never yet failed to bring his quarry to ground. At the edge of the map, there’s no going forward and no going back . . .
If I’m a tad bleary-eyed today, it’s because I sat up faaar into the night, unable to put this delightful fantasy adventure down. It felt a bit like one of those wagon train Wild West stories I used to watch on TV when I was a girl – but with evil sorcerers, instead of corrupt sheriffs. Review to follow.


My posts last week:


Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Review of NOVELLA Night’s Tooth – Book 1 of Tales of the River Vine series by Jean Lee

Friday Face-off featuring How To Break a Dragon’s Heart – Book 8 of the How To Train a Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Postscript Murders – Book 2 of the Harbinder Kaur series by Elly Griffiths

Cover Love – featuring the covers of Elly Griffiths

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Fallen Princeborn: Chosen – Book 2 of the Fallen Princeborn series by Jean Lee

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Tuesday Treasures – 16

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Stranger Diaries – Book 1 of the Harbinder Kaur series by Elly Griffiths

Sunday Post – 18th October 2020


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

Blogger Statistics: a Quick Look https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2020/10/23/blogger-statistics-a-quick-look/ If you’ve ever wondered who else enjoys blogging alongside you – here are some stats…

10 of the Best Poems About Absence https://interestingliterature.com/2020/10/poems-about-absence/ Do you agree with this selection?

My #BookLaunch #Countdown for #FallenPrinceborn: Chosen Continues with #WritingTips on #Plot and #Character https://jeanleesworld.com/2020/10/22/my-booklaunch-countdown-for-fallenprinceborn-chosen-continues-with-writingtips-on-plot-and-character/ Another interesting article, revealing the writing process of a talented author…

Soaring https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.com/2020/10/21/soaring/ Cindy’s pics are often featured here, as they are fabulous. But this time around I caught up with them on Charles French’s blog…

Kids Books That Share True Stories of Native Peoples https://platformnumber4.com/2020/10/11/kids-books-that-share-true-stories-of-native-peoples/ This list looks both instructive and delightful. And important…

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Trials of Koli – Book 2 of The Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this post-apocalyptic adventure set in England in a ruined landscape where scattered remnants of humanity try to eke out a precarious existence – see my review of The Book of Koli. Though the overall tone of this one isn’t as bleak as that scenario might suggest – and if you’ve read his best-seller The Girl with all the Gifts or The Boy on the Bridge, then be aware that this series isn’t as doom-laden as those stories. For me, that’s a plus.

BLURB: Beyond the walls of Koli’s small village lies a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and shunned men. As an exile, Koli’s been forced to journey out into this mysterious, hostile world. But he heard a story, once. A story about lost London, and the mysterious tech of the Old Times that may still be there. If Koli can find it, there may still be a way for him to redeem himself – by saving what’s left of humankind.

REVIEW: The previous book, The Book of Koli, was solely in our young protagonist’s head, and the major difference here is that we also learn of what befalls the small community that exiled Koli, as we are also in the first-person viewpoint of Spinner. She featured largely in Koli’s life before he went on the run, so it was interesting to see her take on what happened. I would just mention that there are series where you can crash midway into them without too much trouble – this isn’t one of them. Essentially this is an overarching narrative that has been chopped into book-sized segments and if you try picking up what is going on, while you’ll probably get the gist, there is far too much of importance that you’ll have missed.

Once again, we have the broken, ungrammatical language that helps define the worldbuilding, partly to give an indication of the length of time that has elapsed and partly to show rather than tell of the lack of education and erosion of knowledge. It’s an issue that is bound to divide readers – some tolerate, some loathe, and others absolutely love it. I’m in the latter category and find it really helps me get immersed in the world. Koli isn’t travelling alone. He’s accompanied by a grumpy older woman who is a travelling healer and has come to a grim conclusion about the viability of humankind – hence the journey to try and locate a more organised settlement with a large population.

I really enjoyed this second slice of the adventure. We see and learn more about Koli’s companions, as well as also discovering more about the capabilities of the technology they are using. I particularly enjoyed seeing how another community, living near the sea, manages to exist. And it was refreshing to also realise that not every settlement in this dystopian view of the future is innately hostile or aggressive.

This second book is well paced, with plenty going on, as well as increasing what is at stake and how important it is that Koli and his companions succeed. If I have a concern, it’s how Carey is going to combine the two strands of his story – that of Mythen Rood and Koli’s fortunes – in the final book, The Fall of Koli, which is due to come out in March next year. While I obtained an arc of The Trials of Koli from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Afterland by Lauren Beukes #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #Afterlandbookreview

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I loved Zoo City – it’s one of my all-time favourite reads – see my review. And when I saw this one right at the beginning of the COVID lockdown, I requested it despite the pandemic theme. My heart goes out to Beukes as the timing for this one is dire.

BLURB: They’ll call her a bad mother. Cole can live with that. Because when she breaks her son Miles out of the Male Protection Facility – designed to prevent him joining the 99% of men wiped off the face of the Earth – she’s not just taking him back.
She’s setting him free. Leaving Miles in America would leave him as a lab experiment; a pawn in the hands of people who now see him as a treasure to be guarded, traded, and used. What kind of mother would stand by and watch her child suffer? But as their journey to freedom takes them across a hostile and changed country, freedom seems ever more impossible.
It’s time for Cole to prove just how far she’ll go to protect her son.

REVIEW: The way the apparently innocent flu mutates into something far more lethal is both scary and plausible – particularly now. I thought the worldbuilding was particularly good, but then that’s Beukes’ superpower, anyway. A post-apocalyptic America where many are reeling from their losses and trying to do deal with the situation as best they could was well depicted and, for me, one of the more enjoyable parts of the book.

My main problem was that I don’t much like Cole and I loathe Billie and as these are the protagonists, with a few sections in Miles’ head, it meant I spent most of the book tolerating, rather than sympathising with main characters. I found Cole’s stubborn, stupid idea to get Miles “away” almost as dumb as Billie’s nasty scheme, while some of the action scenes descended into a horrible kind of farce. Both sisters weren’t good at listening to others and I was profoundly sorry for poor Miles, who was being dragged around the country on the rather scattered whim of his mother and daily exposed to all sorts of unnecessary dangers. She wasn’t a particularly effective mother who’d bonded well with her son. A lot of the banter between them seemed to be Cole trying to coerce Miles into doing what she wanted, without being too heavy-handed about it. And most of the novel seemed to revolve around the toxic relationship between Cole and Billie, rather than an examination of how a society without men would really function.

As for the ending – what was that about? This pandemic was portrayed as a worldwide problem, so that simply didn’t make sense. That said, this one won’t leave me alone. The ugly muddled scenes of violence… the series of run-down places they stayed and some of the pathetic survivors, who’d lost husbands and sons… I’ve dreamt of these. Which proves that while it isn’t a book I necessarily always enjoyed, nonetheless it has sunk its hooks into my inscape with the powerful worldbuilding and vivid writing. Recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic, dystopian scenarios. While I obtained an arc of Afterland from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10