Category Archives: weather events in books

Review of KINDLE Ebook Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle #Brainfluffbookreview #Windhavenbookreview

Standard

While I cannot get on with his sprawling epic, A Song of Ice and Fire, I am a real fan of much of Martin’s writing – see my review of Tuf Voyaging here, and I also enjoyed Lisa Tuttle’s The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – see my review here. So it was a no-brainer that I would pounce on this one when I spotted it. I’m so glad I did – and I’ll be linking this review to Sci-Fi Month.

The planet of Windhaven was not originally a home to humans, but it became one following the crash of a colony starship. It is a world of small islands, harsh weather, and monster-infested seas. Communication among the scattered settlements was virtually impossible until the discovery that, thanks to light gravity and a dense atmosphere, humans were able to fly with the aid of metal wings made of bits of the cannibalized spaceship.

Many generations later, among the scattered islands that make up the water world of Windhaven, no one holds more prestige than the silver-winged flyers, who bring news, gossip, songs, and stories. They are romantic figures crossing treacherous oceans, braving shifting winds and sudden storms that could easily dash them from the sky to instant death. They are also members of an increasingly elite caste, for the wings—always in limited quantity—are growing gradually rarer as their bearers perish. With such elitism comes arrogance and a rigid adherence to hidebound tradition. And for the flyers, allowing just anyone to join their cadre is an idea that borders on heresy. Wings are meant only for the offspring of flyers—now the new nobility of Windhaven. Except that sometimes life is not quite so neat…

The story charts the fortunes of Maris, who we first meet as a small child, foraging for anything of value on the beach when she makes a life-changing encounter. She meets a flyer called Russ who picks the child up and treats her dream of being a flyer as something more than just the imaginings of some land-bound brat. He eventually adopts her and trains her – until unexpectedly, he has a son. Maris helps to bring the motherless boy up, until the terrible day when she is forced to hand over the wings she has been flying with. For she is not entitled to keep them – they belong to Coll, Russ’s son, even though he yearns to be a singer and has already caught the eye of one of the best professional singers on Windhaven, who wishes to train him. But tradition says that Coll must follow Russ as a flyer, despite his inability to feel the wind.

As we follow Maris and her battle to continue to fly, we also learn of the original colonists and how they accidentally encountered Windhaven. The worldbuilding is excellent with wonderful descriptions of the storms that regularly sweep the planet and the air currents that generally keep the flyers in the sky – and occasionally fling them into the sea. It is a hard, dangerous life and flyers keep to themselves, forming close ties with each other, while despising those who are not able to fly.

A particular decision is made that overturns a tradition that has begun to cause problems – and in a less nuanced, clever book, we would get a variety of adventures involving talented flyer Maris and that would be that. However in this book, decisions have consequences that no one foresaw. The rest of the book continues to follow what befalls Maris, while also exploring the fallout from those decisions and how they impact upon the traditional way of life on Windhaven for both flyers and land-bound alike. I love the way this plays out and how the previous faultlines in society are not only heightened but previous prejudices are also strengthened.

This is a clever, thoughtful book that nonetheless also delivers an engrossing story full of adventure and incident, featuring a sympathetic and believable protagonist. Highly recommended for fans of quality colony adventure… quality fantasy… quality books, basically. Read it and you’ll see what I mean.
10/10

Advertisements

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Outcasts of Order – Book 20 of the Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. #Brainfluffbookreview #OutcastsofOrderbookreview

Standard

And if you’re blanching at the prospect of ploughing through nineteen other books to get to this point – I’m here to tell you that isn’t necessary. This is actually the second in a spinoff series charting the adventure of Beltur. His adventures started in the previous book, The Mongrel Mage – see my review – and these continue in this adventure…

Modesitt continues his bestselling Saga of Recluce with his 20th book in the long-running series. Beltur began his journey in The Mongrel Mage and continues with Outcasts of Order, the next book of his story arc in the Saga of Recluce.

Beltur, an Order mage, discovers he possesses frightening powers not seen for hundreds of years. With his new abilities, he survives the war in Elparta and saves the lives of all. However, victory comes with a price. His fellow mages now see him as a threat to be destroyed, and the local merchants want to exploit his power.

This book does more or less pick up where the previous book left off, and we find Beltur recovering from the effects of his previous adventure and mourning the loss of one of his friends. He is a refugee in a new city, struggling to establish himself and earn as much as he can, as he wishes to settle down with a special someone. However, there are obstacles to his ambition…

If you are in the mood for a foot-to-the-floor adventure, where it is all kicking off at a breathless rate, then this one isn’t for you. Modesitt doesn’t write like that – he slowly builds the world by taking you through his protagonist’s daily routine in every little detail. We learn what Beltur thinks about the worsening weather conditions; how he feels about working at the forge and the Healing House; what he wears; what he likes to eat and drink; who he trusts; what he thinks about having to get up early in the mornings… I’ll be honest, while I enjoy the accretion of all these daily details, there were times when in this book I felt that the pacing had become just a bit a too stuck in the daily rhythm. There are also places where Modesitt’s normally smooth prose is a little rough around the edges. While I’m aware this is an arc and there are liable to be changes, I do hope some of the missing words and repetitions are sorted out before the publication date. That said, it wasn’t sufficient to blunt my engagement with the story and most of the time, I relished once more being immersed in this richly depicted world.

What all that detail means is that when it does kick off – there is a real sense of shock at the violence and the consequences that occur in its wake. I like Beltur and the people around him, although there are times when I’d like to see him a little more grumpy and not so unfailingly good. As a result, the person who I really bonded with, is the healer and emerging mage, Jessyla. I do like the fact she can be quite snarky, at times.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one – though I recommend that you start with The Mongrel Mage and I’m delighted there is to be a third book in this series. Recommended for fans of epic fantasy. While I obtained an arc of Outcasts of Order from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – I collect hats. That’s what you do when you’re bald. (James Taylor)

Standard

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 week the theme is hats, so I’ve taken the idea of hats into space by choosing The Martian by Andy Weir – see my review. After all, he is wearing his helmet on his head – it must count as a type of hat…

 

This is my personal favourite. I love the drama of the swirling red dust as poor old Mark is being swept away and think this is the cover that most effectively depicts the initial drama the starts the book. It was produced in February 2014 by Crown.

 

This edition, produced in February 2014 by Edbury Digital is produced as a movie tie-in cover. So it is Matt Damon suffering on the cover, with flashes of the faceplate hinting at the helmet as he considers his plight after being stranded on Mars. Again, the colour of the cover and his agonised expression captures the drama of the situation.

 

Published in February 2014 by Broadway Books, this is the ‘arrested’ version – we all have them. The photo of us that looks like it’s been taken at a police station after we’ve done something naughty… I’m quite comforted to see that even film stars endure such pics, as I thought it was only one’s children who specialised in taking these efforts. Suffice to say this isn’t a cover that would persuade me to rush out and buy this book.

 

This cover, produced by Autopublished in September 2012, is clearly a DIY effort. Having said that, I’ve seen worse – the biggest criticism of it being that it is very generic. However, that clearly didn’t stop people buying this book in droves, as it subsequently attracted a publishing deal based on its popularity.

 

This Russian cover is another strong contender. I like the drama and fact it depicts the full horror of Mark’s situation. Produced by ACT in September 2014, I like the fact we are seeing exactly what Mark sees – although I’m not sure there are quite so many clouds in a Martian sky. Which cover do you like best?

Friday Faceoff – Drivin’ Along in My Automobile…

Standard

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 week the theme is cars, so I’ve chosen Ill Wind by Rachel Caine.

 

willwindThis is the offering produced by Roc in December 2003 and was the reason why I selected this series of covers and it is the only one that features Joanne’s beloved car, Mona… I really like it, though I could do without that ugly black strip across the top of the cover.

 

willwind1This cover produced by Alison & Busby in January 2011 may have the inevitable beautiful girl scowling out at us, but at least she does look as if she’s in the middle of some serious weather. I also love the font design, which gives a real sense of movement and menace. This is my favourite.

 

willwind2This cover, produced by Eclipse in November 2010, is another good effort, with the tornado swirling in the distance and the girl representing Joanne Baldwin looking suitably storm-tossed.

 

willwind3This Czech edition, produced by Triton in 2006, is certainly different. I love the seascape and that magnificently stormy sky – but that oddly stilted tentacle female plonked in the middle of it rather ruins it, I think.

 

willwind4This Portuguese edition, produced by Underworld in 2010, features yet another grumpy beauty glaring out at us. She is certainly eye-catching, but I still prefer the covers featuring the dire weather as I think she is simply too generic.

Do you agree? Which of these covers do you like or loathe?

 

Interview with Paul Grzegorzek about his book Flare

Standard

Hi Paul, thank you very much for agreeing to let me grill you on my blog. I really enjoyed Flare, which I reviewed here. As you generally write crime thrillers (a logical genre for an ex-policeman), what gave you the idea for this apocalyptic science fiction thriller?

Hi Sarah, I’ve always loved Sci-Fi and fantasy. I write crime because I know it so well, but I’ve always wanted to write Sci-Fi, although every novel I started fizzled out until Flare. The idea for it came while watching Blackout on TV last year, which made me wonder how much worse it would be if all the immediate resources (i.e. the supermarkets etc) were destroyed in the initial apocalypse, and how quickly society would fall apart.

Without giving any spoilers away – how much research did you have to do about the Nasty Event that engulfs your poor characters?

I actually did more than I needed to! I’ve always been fascinated by space, stars and anything else that might be out there, but researching solar flares and CME’s and the potential devastation to our way of life was terrifying but incredibly interesting at the same time, particularly when you realise how lucky we are that it hasn’t happened already.

Your backdrop is very well described throughout – those of us who live in on the south coast of England could instantly identify parts of Brighton and the places you mention. How closely did you follow actual places as your characters travel north?

Google maps was my best friend! I charted their path across the UK and each place they visited is exactly where it is in the book. The places I hadn’t actually been to were explored via Streetview, so that anyone reading it who knew any of the areas they travelled would identify with it immediately.

I really liked your protagonist – he seemed entirely believable with his reactions as an ordinary man in the street, yet also quick-thinking and reasonably courageous. Did you base him on anyone in particular?

Not really, but I wanted a real person, with real fears and uncertainties. Having made some huge decisions that affected people’s lives and safety in the past, I know how crippling it can be to make harsh choices, and I wanted that to be reflected in Malc. Anyone can write a protagonist that mows people down by the dozen and is immune to bullets, but how can a reader ever identify with someone like that? I also wanted to balance him out with Emily. Having an average Joe as the protagonist with a strong female as his second seemed much more interesting (and realistic – I know the score, I’m married!)

There is a very good mix of characters your protagonist encounters – I enjoyed the fact that you don’t have ‘evil’ and ‘good’, but a mixture of both.

One thing I learned in the police is that no one is all good or all bad except for a very few unfortunate souls. One person’s evil is another person’s necessity, and that would only be amplified by an event as horrific and unstoppable as the one in Flare.

Given how well balanced the action, characterisation and description are, how carefully do you plan your storyline before you start writing?

Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t! I’m a “seat of the pants” writer. I wrote Flare in four weeks after the seed sprouted in my mind (if that makes any sense at all), and all I knew was that Malc needed to find his daughter and she was in Manchester, and that the flare was going to utterly devastate society. The rest just came out of my dark imagination and a compulsion to get the story onto paper. I loved writing it, but I was even dreaming about the characters by the second week!

As I previously mentioned, you have also written a number of crime thrillers. Can you tell us a bit about those?

I wrote The Follow just after leaving the police and it’s full of vitriol. It revolves around an officer who lives in a moral grey area between the law and doing what’s right. I think it’s flawed, but I’m assured it’s still a good read. When Good Men Do Nothing was my fourth novel but only my second released on Kindle. The main character is Rob Steel, a firearms positioning forensics expert who gets caught up in a double murder, an MI6 investigation and a terrorist threat to Brighton. It was a lot of fun to write and until Flare it was my best seller.

I’m hoping there will be a sequel to Flare – can you tell us what you are now working on and when we can read about Malc’s next slice of adventures?

There is indeed a sequel to Flare being written as we speak. It’s called Winter, and it starts about two months after the end of Flare. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I’m hoping to have it finished by midsummer, and then out on Kindle not too long after!

 

Talking About the Weather…

Standard

I tend to do it a lot on Twitter. During the last few years I’ve whimpered – online and at home – about the long, miserably gloomy winters we’ve endured and whined about the disappointing dank summers. I was always aware the weather affected my mood – but didn’t really realise just how much until this heatwave started.

summer photoI wake up with the sunshine blazing through the curtains and a grin crawling across my face before I’m properly awake. Things that would normally have me cursing under my breath and bad temperedly slamming kitchen cupboards now get a mere shrug in response. I’m ridiculously happy. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, I’m sweaty. But the light levels flooding the house and the luxury of having the back door open ALL DAY is just marvellous. I skip around the kitchen singing…

So when I read books where the weather hardly gets a mention, I’m aware there is a thinness in the scene setting – even if I don’t immediately realise why. And when books do a particularly good job of weaving the weather into the plot, it just feels… right.

In science fiction and fantasy there are a number of stories that hinge around major weather events, so they become the engine of the plot. Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series, where Joanne Baldwin is part of an elite secret force fighting to save millions from catastrophic meteorological events, is a classic example. Caine’s entertaining, snappy writing and high octane action makes this an enjoyable read, although like many long-running series, it does get steadily darker as it progresses.

Tim Lebbon’s The Island is an interesting offering – the cataclysmic storm that creates havoc brings another threat theislandalong in its wake and only one person in the devastated fishing community is aware of just how dangerous the newcomers may be. The storm is an agent of change and misery – and makes the community a whole lot more vulnerable to any kind of danger. Lebbon fully exploits that sense of nationshock and chaos – and rising sense of wrongness. Terry Pratchett’s Nation takes a similar event – a devastating tsunami – to reshape the lives of two young people who are literally flung together in a survival situation. It is supposedly a YA novel – though I think it should be required reading for every politician on the planet, but the vivid description of the killing wave was heart-wrenching and immediately ensured that readers felt sympathetic and protective of both young protagonists.

James Lovegrove’s Age of Aztec uses the stifling humid conditions to emphasise his unusual setting of a jungle-strewn London, dotted with ziggurats, and to also enhance the sense of pervading wrongness and menaceageofaztec. Britain, the last bastion of freedom against the Aztec Empire, has at last been conquered. The weather doesn’t present the kind of drama the other books I’ve mentioned have offered – but the oppressive heat effectively mirrors doomsdaythe subjugation of the population. And Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book gives the same energy to the action, by providing a strong feeling of rising tension in the bad weather that accompanies Kilvrin, a young Oxford-based historian who in 2054 travels back in time to explore medieval life. However, due to a number of factors, she ends up in the wrong time and place, entirely at the mercy of a tiny community in deep mid-Winter, who are suddenly afflicted by a terrible illness. Without any modern comforts, the bitter weather becomes a constant challenge.

What all these books have in common, is that they provide us with readable, convincing settings – including the weather. And if I ever need a reminder as to just how vital that ingredient is, I’ll just recall my sunny response to this year’s heatwave.