Tag Archives: environmental disaster

Review of INDIE Ebook Ichor Well – Book 3 of the Free Wrench series by Joseph R. Lallo #Brainfluffbookreview #IchorWellbookreview

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Himself recommended this series as an enjoyable steampunk romp – however, I picked up the third book by mistake!

Ever since Nita Graus left her homeland and joined the crew of the Wind Breaker, the reputation of the airship and its crew has been growing. The destruction of the mighty dreadnought, the escape from the legendary Skykeep, and the inexplicable ability to remain hidden from the ever-watchful eye of the Fug Folk have combined to make her and her fellow crew the stuff of legend. Alas, legendary heroes cannot exist for long without attracting a worthy villain. Luscious P. Alabaster strives to be just that foe.

Although I crashed mid-way into this series, I can report that not only did I manage to pick up all the relevant plotpoints without any undue floundering – I also finished this book with a firm resolve to go back and read the first two books. This is a world riven by political conflict since a catastrophic pollution event covered part of the planet’s surface with the fug – a purple-tinged smog that changes all who first came into contact with it. Those who live within the fug regard everyone else with contempt and arrogance as their own intellectual abilities have been boosted – not that it makes them any more likeable or wiser…

Unchanged humanity still manages to survive. Some eke out a living below ground in subterranean communities and others live above the pollution in airships, plying trade and destroying those who come looking for them. Those on the Wind Breaker are hardily accustomed to the continual freezing winds and the cold conditions the accompany high altitudes, but they are confronted with another major problem – it is becoming increasingly impossible to get hold of the fuel that powers the airship. I enjoyed the relationship amongst the crew – there were friction points and the Captain, in particular, makes a point of being grumpy. But then he regularly has to helm for several days and nights in a row without any sleep as no one else has his instincts when the going gets tough. However, there is also plenty of enjoyable snark and some unexpressed feelings that make the mix of strong characters entertaining and readable.

Meanwhile, Luscious P. Alabaster is determined to make a name for himself. Blessed with untold wealth and great family connections, he is convinced that destiny has chosen him to become the most famous man, ever. The man who destroys the infamous Wind Breaker – so he puts in place a cunning plan to snare the airship and her despicable crew. I loved this outrageously pompous antagonist, which is unusual, because generally anti-heroes and antagonist-based stories aren’t my thing. However, Lallo’s depiction of this character is a mixture of pantomime villain and a real drive to be remembered for this daring deed that certainly worked for me.

The denouement was an exciting page-turner as the plan took several unexpected twists, with some lovely reveals about the world, turning some of the previous information on its head – I love it when that happens… I’m looking forward to reading the other books in this entertaining series, which is highly recommended for fans of enjoyable steampunk adventure.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 30th October, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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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:

Satellite by Nick Lake

p. 168 for some reason, i had always thought that at some point we would go back up to Moon 2. i don’t know why i thought that. i mean, earth was the promised land. we were always told: when u’re strong enough u’ll go down to earth. so that was clearly the end point. the goal & yet somehow… somehow i saw it as a circle. saw myself back up there.
‘a problem, Leo?’ says my mother.
‘no, nothing,’ i say. ‘i just… i guess i always thought i’d go back up, 1 day.’
she nods. ‘i c.’
‘&?’
now she shrugs. ‘i guess u will have to apply urself & try to become an astronaut.’
yes. yes, i suppose that makes sense. we are not astronauts. we are people who happen to have been born in space.

BLURB: Fifteen-year-old Leo has never set foot on Earth. born and raised with twins Orion and Libra on the Moon 2 Space Station, Leo has grown up in the most extraordinary way. The time has now come for the trio to make their first flight home to Earth, but they cannot imagine the terrible consequences that their return will set in motion.

I treated myself to this paperback copy with my birthday, attracted by the cool cover. I rather like the near-future take on our spelling and punctuation – I can certainly already see signs of some of these changes already and it’s surprising how quickly I adjusted to the altered text. It was no doubt helped by the gripping story, which now has me desperate to find out what happens next…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Austral by Paul McAuley

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The great geoengineering projects have failed. The world is still warming, sea levels are still rising, and the Antarctic Peninsula is home to Earth’s newest nation, with life quickened by ecopoets spreading across valleys and fjords exposed by the retreat of the ice. Austral Morales Ferrado, a child of the last generation of ecopoets, is a husky: an edited person adapted to the unforgiving climate of the far south, feared and despised by most of its population. She’s been a convict, a corrections officer in a labour camp, and consort to a criminal, and now, out of desperation, she has committed the kidnapping of the century.

I absolutely love this one. This first-person narrative by Austral grabbed me from the first page and wouldn’t let me go until the end. It very quickly becomes apparent that Austral is telling this story for the benefit of someone who she feels needs to know her family history, which is woven into this classic chase across the harsh peninsula as Austral and her kidnap victim try to stay one step ahead of those in pursuit – who aren’t necessarily the forces of law and order.

There is all the excitement and tension of their adventure as they encounter a number of memorable characters, some kind and helpful but most are nothing of the sort. This is a hard new land peopled by many refugees from a drowning world, which doesn’t engender soft fluffy feelings. I was waiting for the inevitable moment when the two fleeing finally bond – the huskie outcast and the rich, privileged child of a rising politician. But McAuley avoids that cliché. There is never a time when Austral can relax and feel her young companion will innately trust her.

Meanwhile, Austral’s unfolding story is one of abandonment of the promises made to keep Antarctica ecologically sustainable as once again, the vested interests of multi-nationals and capitalism trumps all else. The sub-species of huskies, whose DNA were edited to equip them for living and working on the land, are now no longer required for that prime purpose. Nor are they wanted by the normals, who fear their size, superior strength and stamina, so ensure the law enforces their instinctive reaction to keep them as far away as possible.

The other character that features throughout is the landscape itself. McAuley’s scientific background shows in the depth and detail of this harsh environment. I love the fact that mammoths have been brought back as a viable eco-system has started to be designed – until forest plantations swallow up the fragile landscape and inappropriate crops are grown to appease the appetites of a people with no appreciation or real knowledge of how this emerging landmass is being eco-engineered. It all sounds horribly familiar.

Any niggles? While I felt that Austral’s storyline about her own family history worked very well alongside the ongoing adventure, the one ongoing narrative thread I could have happily done without was the fairy story Austral’s young teenage companion was reading. It was the one part of the story that didn’t really convince me, both as something that would interest Austral, or its relevance to the other two plotlines and to be honest, I mostly skimmed over those sections. However that aside, this story has lodged inside my head since I’ve read it and notwithstanding that one false step, this is an extraordinary book. Highly recommended for fans who like hard science fiction and cli-fi (climate fiction). While I obtained the arc of Austral from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

 

ANNDDD…

Today Lillian at Mom With a Reading Problem is featuring Running Out of Space as part of the blog tour, including her interview – where she asks which breakfast cereal I’d like to be…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Crash Land on Kurai – Book 1 of the Hikoboshi series by S.J. Pajonas

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One of my book blogging buddies, Lola, reviewed this book here and I was so intrigued by the premise, I got hold of it.

Crash Land on Kurai is the first book in the Hikoboshi series, an action adventure, space opera series that explores the worlds settled by the Japanese who fled Earth a century ago. Culture, history, technology, and swords clash in a fast-paced future society on the brink of war. Yumi Minamoto has the shortest fuse on the ship. She’s just whipped a bully and been confined to quarters, but she’s not staying there. A disgraced journalist trying to clear her name, her job is to document the mission to the Hikoboshi system, and she’s determined to get it right, despite all the trouble she causes. But when unknown vessels fire on their ship, and Yumi’s life pod crash lands on a dying moon, she’s separated from her family and friends, and her mission falls to pieces. Now she must navigate the unfamiliar and deadly terrain, deal with a society she doesn’t understand, and try to stay alive until rescue comes… if it ever does.

Yumi is an interesting protagonist – from a powerful and influential family, she is clearly the cuckoo in the nest. Constantly in trouble with the authorities, I liked the fact that when she says at the start of the story that she is a pain in the neck with an attitude and a knack for rubbing folks up the wrong way – she means it. Quite often we are told at the start of a story the heroine is a trouble-maker and rebel – only to find she is actually a pleaser who very much minds what everyone thinks of her, especially the male characters. I also like the fact that she claims to be plain – and judging by the responses she gets, that does appear to be the case. That said, I wanted at times to shake her until her teeth rattle, as she really does rub folks up the wrong – even those who are trying to keep her alive

What I particularly enjoyed was the depiction of how environmental pressures affect a culture, so the colony that only a few hundred years ago was identical with the same values as its Earth equivalent from whence it came, now has morphed into something quite different. The runaway capitalism, where the majority population are born indebted and have to work continually to keep alive, is both shocking and plausible, given the ongoing warfare between the factions. The way the visitors are treated is also depressingly realistic. I’m conscious that Crash Land on Kurai is a spin-off from a previous series, but I didn’t find myself floundering in any way.

Any niggles? While I liked the idea that Yumi suffers from migraines – it seems hardly any protagonists have to deal with such physical issues in books – maybe the reason is because when pickforked into the middle of an adventure, her recovery time slows the pace somewhat. And when I think of how disabling my migraines used to be – particularly when I was in hospital and didn’t receive any pain relief – it took me days to get over it, I did feel a bit annoyed at how quickly she bounces back. However, I did enjoy how adrift and traumatised Yumi feels when subjected to the violence of real combat, even though she has regularly sparred throughout her life.

All in all, this is a thoroughly engrossing adventure and a strong start to the series that I will be definitely following in future. Highly recommended.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Fifth Season – Book 1 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

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I generally have the memory of a goldfish regarding books I’ve read, though it has dramatically improved since I started reviewing/logging every book on completion. But there are a handful I recall with pinsharp detail years later. One of those is the first time I encountered Jemisin’s writing. I was sitting in Victoria Station, having just bought the book at Waterstones and waiting for the train home. Himself was seated next to me, also engrossed in a book, so Life was pretty much perfect. Especially as the opening passage of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms hit me with the force of a sledgehammer – see my review here.

thefifthseasonSo I’m still scratching my head as to why it took me quite so long to get around to reading The Fifth Season which has been patiently waiting on my Kindle. Thanks to Sara Letourneau’s nagging, I bumped it up my TBR queue and I’m very glad I did…

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

I’m conscious this sounds like yet another gritted struggle for survival in a land where civilisation has suddenly broken – an abiding staple of science fiction that has reached new heights of popularity, recently – but as with most really successful books, Jemisin has scooped up the basic concept and turned it into something uniquely her own. For starters, there’s the viewpoint. As a Creative Writing tutor, I spend a great deal of time telling new writers that addressing the reader in a magnificently detached authorial voice might have worked for Charles Dickens, but modern tastes dictate that it’s now a no-no. Unless you’re Jemisin, of course… She then launches her main protagonist at us in second person viewpoint, so we are experiencing Essun’s trauma as ‘you’. Frankly, my jaw was grazing the ground at this point and I did wonder if I’d manage to put this character voice on the backburner sufficiently to become engrossed enough that it simply didn’t matter, or better still – added to my enjoyment of the story.

And, along with almost everyone I’ve met, I can report that by the time I was a quarter of the way into the story, it simply didn’t matter. I was so caught up in the story and the unfolding situation, I would have persevered if Jemisin had taken it into her head to omit every sixth word. Furthermore, there is a solidly good technical reason why Essun’s story is relayed in second person pov which I’m not going to elaborate further, as it would also be a thumping great big Spoiler. Suffice to say, it isn’t just some idle whim but matters to the narrative structure of the book.

Along with Essun, there are a raft of vivid characters I really cared about – my favourite being the prickly, tormented Alabaster. The narrative arc of this story isn’t straightforward. There are regular flashbacks, that initially appear to be random interruptions to the ongoing storyline, as well as those omniscient intervals. It all comes together at the end in the shocking twist that still has me humming with pleasure at the symmetry of it all. And desperate to get my hands on The Obelisk Gate – which definitely won’t be hanging around for months on my TBR pile.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Last Gasp by Trevor Hoyle

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This book has an interesting history. It was first published in 1983, when it was treated as straight science fiction with emphasis on the fiction. However, as some of the predictions made by Hoyle have now become frighteningly accurate, given the grim finale, Quercus are now republishing it.

thelastgaspMANKIND IS KILLING THE AIR WE BREATHE. Scientists have been warning for decades that we are poisoning the Earth. Now their prophecy is coming true. The oceans have become polluted, destroying a crucial link in the planet’s life-support system. Instead of joining in friendship to meet this deadly future, corrupt superpowers are plotting to secure the last remaining clean air for the privileged few. This is the terrifying 21st-century prophecy of what we are doing to our home in space. Once it was just a scary bedtime story. Now it has become horrifyingly real.
TIME IS SHORT.
THE AIR IS RUNNING OUT.

I wasn’t aware of this book’s longevity when I was reading it, but it didn’t surprise me on discovering it. The sections of scientific information occur at regular intervals in blocks, that to be honest, is a hard science fiction habit I could do without as it tends to crash through the narrative in omniscient viewpoint. However, I’m aware there are fans of the genre who love this convention so I’m not going to mark down the book on those grounds, though it did mean I struggled with the storyline more than I would have liked.

Hoyle is clearly on a mission to alert his readers to the danger we pose to ourselves as there is a relentless quality to this novel, while the antagonists embark on a mad scheme to use the environment as a weapon of mass destruction. Initially I thought it was too far-fetched, until I considered the insane stupidity of the nuclear missile programme.

However, I did find it difficult to bond with the main characters, as they are all fairly superficial and mostly wheeled on to serve the driving force of this book, the narrative arc. This rolled forward inexorably, spanning several decades into the near future when climate change and diseases overtake the population. It made for depressing reading. The penultimate scene in the hotel takes on the feel of an out and out horror movie – and I thought I knew how this book was going to end – until I reached it. And this is where it completely lets itself down in an unrealistic conclusion that simply doesn’t work for me. A shame, as it undercuts the cumulative effect of the strong warning through the rest of the book. That said, it is a thought-provoking, disturbing read with a strong warning our politicians and law-makers would do well to heed.

The ebook arc copy of The Last Gasp was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
7/10

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kindle EBOOK Rook Song – Book 2 of The Gaia Chronicles by Naomi Foyle

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I loved Astra, the first book in this series – see my review here – so was delighted when I had the opportunity to acquire the sequel.

rook songAstra has found work in an ancient fortress in Non-Land: headquarters of the Council of New Continents, the global body charged with providing humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of this toxic refugee camp. Recovering from a disorienting course of Memory Pacification Treatment, Astra struggles to focus on her overriding goals – to find her Code father. But can the CONC compound director, the ambiguous Major Thames, protect her from the hawk-eyed attentions of her old enemies? And who in this world of competing agendas can she trust? The deeper Astra ventures into this new world, the more she realises her true quest may be to find herself.

The first book left Astra in a hard place – I was shocked at the speed at which events overtook her, so was eager to dive back into this detailed, complicated world. But initially I struggled and needed to really focus on what was going on with whom as this story is told in multiple viewpoint, with Astra being one of a group of protagonists. But I’m so glad I persevered – it is worth it.

Once I worked out the cast of characters, the tension steadily builds up, as the bubbling dissatisfaction amongst the landless refugees finds a new focus. Foyle is certainly a gutsy writer, who is unafraid of dealing with subjects not often discussed in science fiction. A number of her characters are born with deformities due to the environmental pollution and she describes how they cope in the camp where they live with inadequate medical assistance. Given the issue of the Syrian refugees, a lot of events and settings in Rook Song are scaldingly topical. Foyle’s sure-footed, vivid writing takes this story into another, slightly mystical level and I enjoy the fact that some of the people and happenings are left ambiguous – I still cannot make up my mind which side Lil is on… But, then Astra hasn’t a clue, either, as various political groups decide to make her a pawn for their own ends.

Astra lingered with me, despite the fact that I read it several months ago and since have been engrossed in a number of other great books – so far 2016 has been a golden year for the sheer quality of my reading choices. Although I only recently completed Rook Song, I’m guessing this one will have scored similar inroads upon my inscape and I recommend this challenging, well written series for anyone interested in complex and immersive stories.

All the views I have expressed are my honest opinion, in exchange for an ARC copy of the book via Netgalley
10/10

Review of The Waters Rising by Sheri S. Tepper

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Sherri S. Tepper is one of my all-time favourite authors – A Plague of Angels and Beauty are books I recall with great fondness and a couple of years ago, I reviewed The Margarets here.

The waters are rising. Rivers have become fjords, swamps have become lakes, towns along the shore have been moved up, and up, the waters risingand up again. Within the century, there will be only a few mountaintop islands above a world-wide ocean, and all land life, including mankind, will have ceased to be.

If this were not enough, a monster from the days of The Big Kill has awakened, a slaughterer out of time determined to eradicate all thinking beings. Arrayed against the monster are a dying woman, a fearful child and her two guardians, and a travelling peddler and his horse.

The blurb burbles on a bit longer, but the section I’ve included gives a reasonable idea of the main plotline. Once again, Tepper takes the idea of post-apocalyptic, dystopian world where a degraded remnant have survived a major crash in human civilisation – only to now face probable extinction. All that can save them now is the generosity of the Sea King, a formidable sea creature, and the genetic wizardry from a lost past. Tepper fuses fantasy and science fiction together more elegantly and convincingly than anyone else.

I loved the start of this story with the frightened little girl finding herself prompted to act in ways that don’t make sense – this beguiling protagonist sucked me into the story as the gathering threat surrounding this child is scarily powerful. Just as I settled down to read a particular story, it then jumps sideways into something else. And then, once more, shifts gear into something far more mythical, with the language and pace also altering accordingly.

In a genre where many authors are content to produce a series of books in a particular world, reprising the same characters and narrative voice, Tepper’s continual insistence on pushing herself right to the outer edges of her comfort zone is both admirable and risky. In this book she attempts to use a small number of relatively humble main characters to relate a world-changing epic tale – and I think she mainly succeeds. However, there is a section about seven eighths through the book where the pace suddenly drops away and the narrative drifts. It doesn’t last too long, before the story once more gathers momentum and we re-engage with the narrative with renewed urgency, but I do feel that at least some of that section could have done with being slaughtered in the interests of keeping up the narrative tension.

However, as ever, Tepper provides us with a layered, fascinating world provoking all sorts of hard questions about the direction of our current civilisation. And the book should be required reading for all politicians for that reason alone. At her best, Tepper is in a class of her own, and while I don’t think this book falls into that category, it will stay with me long after most of the books I’ve read this year slide into forgetfulness.
8/10