Tag Archives: Hugo Award winner

Sunday Post – 28th August

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been a vile week – a heartbreaking week. When a single issue pounced from the corner, ambushed and overwhelmed me. And just to crown it all – my writing, which is my refuge and defence when Life smacks me around, isn’t going all that well. I’m in the process of ripping apart one of my manuscripts and rewriting it. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, but cutting out a major character is a messy process. It might work but right now the remnants of the damn thing are lying in shards around my ankles and as I’m on the last stages and reaching the climactic final stage – it feels like I’ve ruined it. I’ve worked so very hard all through this year – putting in hours and hours. And for what? Right now, I don’t know. Nothing makes sense or feels worth it. Anyway – enough with the whining.

This week I’ve managed to read:

The Obelisk Gate – Book 1 of The Broken EarthTrilogy by N.K. Jemisin
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.

I was delighted to learn that The Fifth Season won the Hugo Award for the best novel – and deservedly so. This sequel of an extraordinary novel whose world is an amazing feat of imagination, scoops the story up and takes it further. I’m still reeling and buzzed from it… Thank God for books like this, there’s times when they are lifesavers. Though DON’T pick it up until you’ve read The Fifth Season or you’ll flounder. I reviewed this gem yesterday.

 

American Monsters – Book 3 of The Demon Road trilogy by Derek Landy
americanmonstersBigger, meaner, stronger. Amber closes in on her murderous parents as they make one last desperate play for power. Her own last hopes of salvation, however, rest beyond vengeance, beyond the abominable killers – living and dead – that she and Milo will have to face. For Amber’s future lies in her family’s past, in the brother and sister she never knew, and the horrors beyond imagining that befell them.

The action and violence ramps up another notch in this last book with some truly creepy moments – and the climax holds a poignant sting in the tail that completely winded me. This YA offering should be vetted, as I wouldn’t be happy letting any of the younger teens in my life read it.

 

 

 

Unraveled – Book 15 of the Elmental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep
What could go wrong when you’re trying to unravel a decades-old conspiracy?unraveled
As the current queen of the Ashland underworld, you would think that I, Gin Blanco, would know all about some secret society controlling things from behind the scenes. I might be the Spider, the city’s most fearsome assassin, but all my Ice and Stone elemental magic hasn’t done me a lick of good in learning more about “the Circle”. Despite my continued investigations, the trail’s gone as cold as the coming winter. So when Finnegan Lane, my foster brother, gets word of a surprising inheritance, we figure why not skip town for someplace less dangerous for a few days? That place: Bullet Pointe, a fancy hotel resort complex plus Old West theme park that Finn now owns lock, stock, and barrel. At first, all the struttin’ cowboys and sassy saloon girls are just hokey fun. But add in some shady coincidences and Circle assassins lurking all around, and vacationing becomes wilder—and deadlier—than any of us expected. Good thing this assassin brought plenty of knives to the gunfight …

The perky first person viewpoint is accurately portrayed in the blurb. While this offering is full of death and mayhem, it is unabashedly classic urban fantasy with snarky dialogue, plenty of action and dollops of humour. Estep’s bouncy approach provided some much-needed solace and I’ll reviewing this book during the coming week.

 

The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee
the1000thfloorWelcome to Manhattan, 2118.
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose. Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched. Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart. Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one? Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies. And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

This intriguing book starts with one of the girls featured in this ensemble piece plummeting to her death – and then the narrative timeline jumps back two months to show why she ends up falling off the roof… This YA offering could have so easily descended into an angsty mess – but McGee’s slick handling makes this futuristic thriller a real page-turner that I thoroughly enjoyed and will be reviewing it in the coming week.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 21st August

Review of Across the Universe – Book 1 of Across the Universe series by Beth Revis

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Unraveled – Book 15 of the Elemental Assassins by Jennifer Estep

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Spellbreaker – Book 3 of The Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of American Monsters – Book 3 of The Demon Road Trilogy by Derek Landy

Friday Faceoff – Looking Out on All I Own featuring The Poison Throne – Book 1 of The Moorhawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Obelisk Gate – Book 2 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

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

I Went to a Funeral, and I Never Went Home https://mommyisawidow.com/2016/08/17/i-went-to-a-funeral-and-i-never-went-home/ A beautiful, heart-wrenching piece on bereavement

Tales of the Wellspring 5 – the White Spring of Glastonbury https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/tales-of-the-wellspring-5-the-white-spring-of-glastonbury/ Another wonderful article from a gifted writer…

Day #15 – Doors closing, doors opening #30 Days Creative http://mhairisimpson.com/2016/08/day-15-doors-closing-doors-opening-30dayscreative/
A reminder that sometimes all you can do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other – and if you are lucky there are fab friends to help…

Saying Goodbye to the Sun https://richardankers.com/2016/08/24/saying-goodbye-to-the-sun/
A steady stream of short and micro fiction pours from the pen of this quirky, original author – the very hardest writing to get right. And this is a gem…

Writer’s Music: Ramin Djawadi https://jeanleesworld.com/2016/08/25/writers-music-ramin-djawadi/ Though you don’t HAVE to be a writer to want to get your hands on this music – I’m guessing one or three Game of Thrones fans might also like it…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Favourite Alternate History Worlds

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This interesting sub-genre that intersects with both science fiction and fantasy, is a real favourite of mine. I’m a sucker for a well-constructed alternate history that posits some of the more fascinating ‘what ifs’. And these are the best ones I’ve encountered so far. Again, in no particular order…

Ghosts of Columbia by L.E. Modesitt Jr
This nifty omnibus edition contains the first two books in the series – Of Tangible Ghosts and The Ghost ghostsofcolumbiaof the Revelator. This is a world where people who are killed violently or accidentally with sufficient time to realise that they are about to die, become ghosts. So large battles become undesirable – battlefields overrun with hordes of ghosts make an area uninhabitable until they fade. The point at which history has also diverged is when the colonists from the Mayflower landing in the New World succumb to the plague, denying England any foothold on the American continent. Which means a chunk of Canada and North America is settled by the Dutch, in a nation called Columbia with New France down in the south and the Mormon state of Deseret jostling in an uneasy truce. For the time being…

Drop into this interestingly original world, ex-espionage agent and political minister Johan Eschbach, now living quietly in New Bruges and working as a lecturer on Environmental Studies at the Vanderaak Centre who tells his story in first person POV.
The story and espionage are well constructed – but what sticks in my memory is this wonderful world Modesitt has created. I love the details he produces about the weather, Johan’s shopping habits and what he has for breakfast – so that when it does all kick off, the violence is all the more shocking. Read my full review here.

 

Farthing – Book 1 of the Small Change series by Jo Walton
In a world where England has agreed a peace with Nazi Germany, one small change can carry a huge cost… Eight years after they overthrew Churchill and led Britain into a separate peace with Hitler, the farthingupper-crust families of the ‘Farthing set’ gather for a weekend retreat. But idyll becomes nightmare when Sir James Thirkie is found murdered, a yellow Star of David pinned to his chest. Suspicion falls, inevitably on David Kahn, who is a Jew and recently married to Lucy, the daughter of Lord and Lady Eversley of Castle Farthing, but when Inspector Peter Carmichael of Scotland Yard starts investigating the case, he soon realises that all is not what it seems…

As ever, Walton braids the apparently cosy into something different and when you’re lulled into a false sense of security, she pulls the rug from under you. The familiar backdrop here is the classic country house murder. Guests are staying over – mostly the ‘Farthing set’, with the inevitable alliances and enmities, both political and personal. Inspector Carmichael and his loyal sidekick, Royston, set about the task of unpicking the various secrets of all the likely suspects. The investigation in alternate chapters is described in third person viewpoint, harking back to those Agatha Christie whodunits we all know and love.

But that sense of order being re-established is entirely false – as we get to discover in the two ensuing books… This is a storming start to an excellent trilogy by one of the most versatile, interesting speculative fiction writers around today. Read my full review here.

 

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
I picked up this copy of the book as an SF Masterworks because as a solid fan of many women fantasy doomsdayand science fiction writers, I had never read her work and I discovered it was a Hugo Award winner. I’m so glad I did…

When Kivrin Engle travels back through time to complete her doctoral thesis, due to an accident she lands in the middle of a major crisis her Faculty were struggling to avoid. Meanwhile the Oxford she left behind is laid low by a mysterious strain of influenza and, with no one willing to risk arranging her rescue, time is running out. Mr Dunsworthy – who opposed the whole hare-brained notion of Kivrin going back to this particular time, yet somehow found himself caught up in helping her – is an outstanding character. The book is largely in his and Kivrin’s viewpoint and as the situation in both timelines slides away into chaos, it is these two main characters on whom the whole story arc rests.

Willis lays bare the internecine struggles within the famous University with a sense of gentleness that is refreshing in a genre which often exposes human frailty with ruthless savagery. There are a couple of characters who resort to petty rule-hugging in order to protect themselves, but most of the people depicted step up and do their best in increasingly awful circumstances. Read my full review here.

 

Age of Aztec – Book 4 of the Pantheon series by James Lovegrove
The date is 4 Jaguar 1 Monday 1 House; November 25th 2012 by the old reckoning. The Aztec Empire rules the world, in the name of Quetzalcoatl – the Feathered Serpent – and her brother gods. The Aztec ageofaztecreign is one of cruel and ruthless oppression, fuelled by regular human sacrifice. In the jungle-infested city of London, one man defies them: the masked vigilante known as the Conquistador. Mal Vaughan, one of the Jaguar Warriors, who police affairs in London, is determined to track down and put a stop to the Conquistador – a determination honed by the knowledge that if she doesn’t deliver, her life will be forfeit…

We follow the exploits of the Conquistador as he rebels against the might of the Aztec Empire for his own reasons – a personal tragedy that sums up, for him, all that is wrong with the current regime. Britain had been one of the last countries on the planet to fall under Aztec domination and as a patriot, the Conquistador – or Stuart Reston, to use his everyday identity – yearns for the country’s lost freedom. But as the chase between Stuart and Mal intensifies, the unique twists that Lovegrove has made his own in this series transform this book into something far cleverer and more memorable. Read my full review here.

 

Dominion by C.J. Sansom
Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany dominionafter Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent Auxiliary Police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. There are terrible rumours about what is happening in the basement of the Germany Embassy at Senate House. Defiance, though, is growing. In Britain, Winston Churchill’s Resistance organisation is increasingly a thorn in the government’s side.

What must be jumping out at anyone interested in reading the book, is that the event where Sansom’s version of history diverges takes place twelve years previously. So he has to construct a completely different world that emerges after Britain’s surrender. As Sansom is an accomplished historian, his version of this world makes fascinating reading. In this Britain there has been a prolonged period of financial stagnation, leading to widespread poverty without any Welfare State. This is a world where the BBC is strictly censored with newspapers, television and radio staying silent when violent protest spills into death – and morris dancing is upheld as a national dance… But perhaps the most startling demonstration of the difference is when young Queen Elizabeth – still unmarried – is commemorating Remembrance Sunday, with Rommel stepping forward and propping on the cenotaph a large poppy wreath, complete with a swastika.

This is a strong read for anyone interested in exploring alternative historical landscapes and Sansom has beautifully conveyed the fog-shrouded desperation of a country slowly grinding to a halt under a punitive rule. Read my review here.

Review of Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

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I picked up this copy of the book as an SF Masterworks because as a solid fan of many women fantasy and science fiction writers, I had never read her work and I discovered it was a Hugo Award winner. I’m so glad I did…

doomsdayWhen Kivrin Engle travels back through time to complete her doctoral thesis, due to an accident she lands in the middle of a major crisis her Faculty were struggling to avoid. Meanwhile the Oxford she left behind is laid low by a mysterious strain of influenza and, with no one willing to risk arranging her rescue, time is running out…

This book, indeed, deserves to be part of the SF Masterworks series – from the moment I opened the first page I knew I was in the hands of a great writer at the top of her game. Willis sets the scene in Oxford’s near future with deft dexterity, her characters crackle with humanity and there is a bone-dry humour running through the whole story that helps to make the grim adventure Kivrin endures bearable.

Mr Dunsworthy – who opposed the whole hare-brained notion of Kivrin going back to this particular time, yet somehow found himself caught up in helping her – is an outstanding character. The book is largely in his and Kivrin’s viewpoint and as the situation in both timelines slides away into chaos, it is these two main characters on whom the whole story arc rests. Willis lays bare the internecine struggles within the famous University with a sense of gentleness that is refreshing in a genre which often exposes human frailty with ruthless savagery. There are a couple of characters who resort to petty rule-hugging in order to protect themselves, but most of the people depicted step up and do their best in increasingly awful circumstances.

Be warned though – Willis can lull you into a false sense of security. While the writing style can seem gentle, she is unflinching in her depiction of one of the worst tragedies in human history. Part of the ironic humour is the academic studies – with often ludicrous pontificating by esteemed members of the History Faculty – set against the terrible reality that confronts Kivrin. Willis manages to make the medieval family that takes Kivrin in, entirely plausible – despite her initial struggles with the translating device that doesn’t work as planned – and we get to know them well, from the curious and bright five year old Agnes right through to the rigidly proper mother-in-law from Hell… And if anyone is in any doubt that this is the best Time to have been born, especially for a woman, then read the account of a small village on the outskirts of Oxford struggling to survive a harsh winter. Personally, I snuggled under the covers of my electrically heated bed and offered up silent thanks.

I have a soft spot for time travelling books – when done well, as in Kage Baker’s Company novels, they take a lot of beating. This offering from Connie Willis is right up there with the best of them and if you come across a copy, pick it up. Better still, give yourself a treat and actively hunt down this book – you won’t regret it.
10/10

Review of Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

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This Hugo Award winner of 2005 brought back some interesting echoes of a book I’d read in 2009 – Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero, where the crew are trapped inside a space ship travelling through time to the end of the universe.

spinThe time is the day after tomorrow, and three adolescents – Diane and Jason Lawton, twins, and their best friend, Tyler Dupree – are out stargazing. Thus they witness the erection of a planet-spanning shield around the globe, blocking out the universe. Spin chronicles the next 30-odd years in the lives of the trio, during which 300 billion years will pass outside the shield, thanks to an engineered time discontinuity. Jason, a genius, will invest his celibate life in unravelling cosmological mysteries. Tyler will become a doctor and act as our narrator and Jason’s confidante, while nursing his unrequited love for Diane, who in turn plunges into religious fanaticism.

Told in first person POV through Tyler’s viewpoint, we have a ringside seat into the fractured society caused by the shield and echoed in its impact on the three main characters. Wilson manages to keep the narrative bouncing between a social commentary on the unfolding science fiction events driving the story, as well as giving us the protagonist’s personal journey. It is a clever trick to pull off and one that he manages with deft skill.

However, the fractured narrative timeline means the reader has to stay sharp – there were occasions when I had to flip back a couple of pages to ensure complete understanding of what was happening. This isn’t a criticism, merely an observation. Some books are light enough to be able to skim through without paying absolute attention – and this isn’t one of them.

Wilson’s excellent handling of the main characters gives us a real sense of their emotional damage, alongside the consequences for near-future society of this immense happening. I wasn’t too sure about the Martian, however. While I had a vivid image of his odd physical appearance, the sense of ‘otherness’ Wilson was striving to portray seemed to get rather swallowed by the events cascading around his sudden arrival. However, this is a picky point.

Spin does exactly what a well-written science fiction book should – presents an interesting technological issue, creating plenty of drama, while recording the reactions of the main protagonists and addressing some thought-provoking conclusions or themes. Through Diane’s experiences, Wilson takes a hard look at what religion has to offer frightened humanity – and what worldwide fear can do to civilisation. Somewhat predictably, religion doesn’t come off very well, but Wilson is adept at giving us snapshot views of how the world is coping, without holding up his narrative with pages of info dumping.

His handling of the alien shield encompassing Earth was convincing enough to suspend my disbelief throughout the novel – even to the jaw-dropping and frankly improbable ending. What he captured very ably was the desperate search for answers – the why this was happening. All in all, an excellent read and a real treat for both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sci-fi fans.
10/10