Tag Archives: far future

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters

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I enjoy my whodunits and I love science fiction, so it was a no-brainer that I would request an arc for this far future murder mystery.

After a five year sabbatical following the tragic death of his wife and fellow agent Alysha, Keona Rause returns to the distant colony world of Magenta to resume service with the Magentan Intelligence Service. With him he brings an artificial recreation of his wife’s personality, a simulacrum built from every digital trace she left behind. She has been constructed with one purpose – to discover the truth behind her own death – but Keona’s relationship with her has grown into something more, something frighteningly dependent, something that verges on love. Cashing in old favours, Keona uses his return to the Service to take on a series of cases that allow him and the artificial Alysha to piece together his wife’s last days. His investigations lead him inexorably along the same paths Alysha followed five years earlier, to a sinister and deadly group.

This noir thriller has a wonderful setting – the planet Magenta has an unfriendly, heavy gravity and terrible weather, to the extent that buildings are more like bunkers in order to survive the terrible storms and the only transport system is an underground railway. Peters’ scene setting is spot on, establishing the mood music of this classy murder mystery – an important component in noir crime. The protagonist is also suitably moody with a full suite of emotional luggage on account of his wife’s death – it has haunted him that although the person who actually set off the bomb was brought to justice, the conspiracy behind the crime was never fully uncovered. In a desperate attempt to try to uncover Alysha’s last movements – Rause has no idea why she cleaned out their bank account and what she was doing on the train in the first place – he has Liss constructed, based on every scrap of information he possesses about Alysha. However, this leaves him with a construct who looks, sounds and acts like his dead wife – so five years on he is no closer to coming to terms with his loss.

It’s a great premise. Peters drops us in the middle of this world, which I really loved – though initially I slightly struggled with the welter of unfamiliar names, though by the time I was 20% into the story, I had become sufficiently acclimatised to the world this was no longer a problem. And the reason for their unfamiliarity became apparent well before the end.

This police procedural is tightly constructed, with various clues and a number of suspects who are considered by Rause and his team. I also thoroughly enjoyed the cast of supporting characters – Rangesh, who has been undercover with the drugs squad, bounces off the page with his West Coast slang and his unorthodox fashion sense – Rause is rocked when he turns up for duty in a flamboyantly coloured caftan. Rangesh provides much of the welcome shafts of humour in amongst Rause’s gritted determination to discover what happened to his wife.

Alongside the murder mystery, Peters also raises the problem of how to grieve when technology can provide a replacement with a strong likeness to the dead person; there are also issues around the artefacts left behind by a powerful alien race as various powerful corporations race to try and uncover their secrets; Magenta is a colony world with a sudden influx of immigrants from Earth which is also causing resentment. Without losing pace or focus, we get an insight into these problems along with others bubbling under the surface that add to the texture and richness of this world. Peters’ unfussy style keeps things moving at a fair clip as the complex case of a series of drugs-related deaths cris-crosses the five-year-old bombing incident. Like many noir thrillers, this is one where you need to pay attention or you’ll miss something vital. Indeed at the end, I found myself backtracking to ensure I fully understood what was going on, as the denouement unspooled with something of a rush and it took me a couple of goes before I worked out all the ramifications – though I’ll freely admit I wasn’t at my shiny best at the time.

I was heartened to note there are plenty of dangling plotpoints, which I’m hoping will mean there will be a second book set in this world – and if there is, then I’ll be tracking it down. This is a world I very much want to dive back into.

While I obtained the arc of From Darkest Skies from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 18th April, 2017

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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:

From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters
18% ‘Bix? Bix Rangesh?’ Enki waved the gun vaguely around his head. He was drunk and probably worse. I pinged his Servant for an assessment of his medical status but didn’t get an answer. He’d turned it off.

‘Hey, man.’ Rangesh headed up the path through the garden, slow and casual but with caution. ‘Dude, could you maybe put the illegal firearm down or else give it to me before something really heavy happens? It’s making my new partner all kinds of nervous.’

I jumped out of my pod and my legs almost buckled under Magenta’s gravity. Mercy’s painkillers had made me forget how fragile I was.

BLURB: After a five year sabbatical following the tragic death of his wife and fellow agent Alysha, Keona Rause returns to the distant colony world of Magenta to resume service with the Magentan Intelligence Service. With him he brings an artificial recreation of his wife’s personality, a simulacrum built from every digital trace she left behind. She has been constructed with one purpose – to discover the truth behind her own death – but Keona’s relationship with her has grown into something more, something frighteningly dependent, something that verges on love.

Cashing in old favours, Keona uses his return to the Service to take on a series of cases that allow him and the artificial Alysha to piece together his wife’s last days. His investigations lead him inexorably along the same paths Alysha followed five years earlier, to a sinister and deadly group…

As you can see, I’m almost a fifth of the way through this far future murder mystery. It is a steep familiarisation for the first handful of pages, but the writing is punchy, the world vivid and the main protagonist suitably grumpy and hard-bitten. If I have a grizzle it’s that Peters could have been kinder with the names – they are difficult to absorb and tend to crop up with alternative nicknames. Other than this one niggle, I’m really enjoying this offering.

Friday Faceoff – Without gambling, I would not exist…

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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 week the theme is casinos and gambling, so I’ve chosen Player of Games – Book 2 of the Culture series by Iain M. Banks.

 

This is the offering produced by HarperPrism in February 1997. I really like the warm tones and the chequerboard effect with the detailed games. Unfortunately it is ruined by that block of black plonked right in the middle of the artwork that seems to have been the fashion for books of the time and now looks ugly and amateurish.

 

At least this doesn’t have the block of blugh, but that is all that can be said for this rather dreary generic offering produced in August 2008 by Orbit. The cold colours and blurry male figure does nothing to depict the vibrant Culture world crafted by Banks – and frankly this wonderful, genre-changing series deserves better.

 

This cover design produced in 1989 by Orbit is my favourite – perhaps influenced by the fact it is the cover of the book we owned and loved. I love the splashes of vivid pink, the clean font and the cool dude featured in amongst those intriguing playing pieces. This quirky cover manages to accurately reflect the tone of this wonderful book.

 

This offering is another intriguing effort, produced in August 1988 by Macmillan. I like the arresting image of the two players completely engrossed in the game – my gripe with it is the styling of the figures. This book is set in the far future and while post-humanity riffs with the past, using clothing and design we all equate with the distant past doesn’t reflect the flavour of this coolly futuristic story.

 

This Hungarian offering is another lacklustre affair, produced by Agave Könyvek in 2003, with a generic background and some blurred chess pieces in the foreground. All in all, I think poor Iain Banks was ill served by most of these efforts…

Which one is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

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This established writer has produced a strong canon of work over the years such that when I saw this offering on Netgalley, I immediately requested it.

revengerThe galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives. And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them… Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection – and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous. Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

This intriguing coming-of-age story is set in the far future where humanity is making do with the leavings of earlier, greater civilisations. Adrana and Fura Ness are teenagers who have grown up with tales of scavenging ships who made their fortunes for their crews by homing in on likely worlds as they periodically open up for a short time to mine them for their treasures. And they are guided to these secret locations by bone readers, youngsters who have the gift of reading ancient skulls.

When it becomes apparent that both Adrana and Fura have this prized gift, at Adrana’s urging, they both sign up on a ship to try and save their father from financial disgrace. However, the consequences of this action is catastrophic for both girls… This story is told in first person viewpoint from Fura’s point of view and amongst all the mayhem, piracy and double-dealing charts her steady transformation from a rather shy, well brought up young lady to a vengeful, dangerous character that has people crossing the street to avoid her.

There is a wild, swash-buckling quality to this space opera adventure, aided by the fact that the ships use solar sails to aid their progress and the job of salvaging valuables from these hidden worlds is highly dangerous and life on board is hard. I really loved the world-building and the impact on Fura.

This is a world where terrible things happen, where people lose their lives and existence is precarious such that people sell their limbs when they fall upon hard times. It’s a world where a father is entitled to imprison and drug a rebellious daughter until she conforms. It’s a world where soldier robots, promised freedom for loyal and brave service, have their programming subverted so they continue service in menial circumstances unaware of how they have been betrayed. And yet, there are friends to be had – comrades who have shared terrible ordeals.

As for the ending… the story’s conclusion leaves plenty of room for this book to turn into a series – I very much hope it does. This world is completely different from Reynolds’ remote posthumans – the characters leap off the page with a vividness that has lodged in my head. And I would love to revisit this beguiling, bloodthirsty world.

I was provided with an ebook of Revenger by the publisher via Netgalley, in return for an honest review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Obelisk Gate Book 2 of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

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I’ve recently reviewed the first book in the series, The Fifth Season, here and was delighted to hear that it has garnered the 2016 Hugo Award for best novel. While I haven’t read the rest, it blew me away and is certainly my favourite read of the year so far. So will The Obelisk Gate be able to live up to the very high bar Jemisin set with The Fifth Season?

theobeliskgateTHIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.
The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever. It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy. It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last. The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

The first recommendation I’d make is DON’T pick up this one if you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading The Fifth Season, what with the continuation of the unusual pov – in second person ‘you’ for one of the main protagonists, the slightly fractured nature of the narrative time and the density and richness of this odd, dystopian world, I think it would be an almighty struggle to work out what was happening. The Obelisk Gate pretty much takes up the story where The Fifth Season finishes and Jemisin doesn’t hold up the action to explain the story so far… So if it was a while ago you read the first book, then I’d have a quick skim just to remind yourself of exactly what was going on, just so you can fully appreciate this extraordinary story.

I was slightly concerned that the unfolding story might slide into a more predictable pattern, or the intensity of The Fifth Season might slump. Nope. I was immediately whisked back into this desperate situation, bonding with these spiky, difficult characters. They are people I’d rather never encounter in my daily life – all carrying emotional baggage and scrabbling to survive, they are lethal. However, I found them all engrossing, such that several times I read with a lump in my throat and on one occasion had to blink back the tears – not something that happens all that often to me, these days.

Any grizzles? Nassun is only ten years old and during the first part of the book, I never forgot that fact, but as she is steadily pulled further into the middle of the action, I don’t think she continues to realistically act like a ten-year-old. Even an amazingly talented, traumatised child surrounded by people she knows want to harm her… That said, it isn’t a dealbreaker and if I didn’t spend a chunk of my normal life around that age-group, I probably wouldn’t have even registered it as an issue.

Other than that, the story of the Earth, whose constant geological instability has spawned new species adapted to this state of affairs, continues to unwind as humanity struggles to avoid extinction. Marvellous, momentous stuff demonstrating a wonderful imagination that had me buzzing with excitement long after I finished the book. I’m now desperate to read the third one…
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Telepath – Book 1 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

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Both Himself and I are solid fans of her very successful series Earth Girl – see my review of the first book, Earth Girl. So we were delighted to hear that Edwards had produced the start of another series.

telepathAmber is one of over a million eighteen-year-olds in one of the great hive cities of twenty-sixth century Earth. She’s about to enter the Lottery of 2532, which will assess her abilities and decide her hive level, her profession, her whole future life. Amber’s dream is to be level 10 or above, her nightmare is to be a level 99 Sewage Technician. When Lottery discovers Amber is a rare and precious telepath, she must adapt to a new life protecting the people of the crowded hive city. Her job is hunting down criminals before they commit their crimes, but she doesn’t know she’s being hunted herself.

Amber is every bit as enjoyable and sympathetic as Earth Girl Jarra – but I found her key position at the top of the pile even more credible. Telepaths provide a vital function in sensing lawbreakers – preferably before they commit crimes – and then their teams spring into action to scoop up the criminals. But these crack teams are a very well-kept secret and even her parents do not know what she does – only that she is a Level 1, living in luxury they can only guess at. Her warm, approachable first person voice means she avoids any hint of smugness and her chatty style gives us all sorts of important details about the world, without lapsing into ‘tell’ mode. It’s harder to pull off than Edwards makes it look.

Amber is supported by a team, which I enjoyed getting to know as we follow the tense action while they attempt to prevent a variety of crimes, producing plenty of page-turning excitement. Another strength in this entertaining read is the pacing. From following Amber as she goes through the barrage of tests she experiences to discover how she will spend the rest of her life, we then are immersed in her training programme, followed by the action of real crime-fighting. Which is when a major wrinkle occurs… I’ve no intention of venturing into Spoiler territory to reveal the major plot twist in the book. I loved this – not only does it satisfactorily raise the stakes and hooked me into reading faaar later than I should, given I was in major granny mode – but it reveals yet another layer of this far future world. It’s very nicely done.

The climax wraps up the action, though there is a dangling plotpoint which I’m looking forward to seeing addressed in the next book. All in all – another cracking read and the start of an exciting series from a writer who continues to produce thought-provoking and entertaining worlds.
10/10