Tag Archives: Jude Houghton

My Outstanding Books of 2016

Standard

Last year was an amazing year for reading. I cannot recall when I last read so many exciting, engrossing and well crafted books. Below are the ones which have left a niche in my inscape so they may not have initially got a 10/10, but nevertheless these are the ones that have stayed with me…

The Just City – Book 1 of the Thessaly series by Jo Walton

thejustcity

This amazing, thought provoking series is essentially examining Plato’s ideas for an ideal society striving towards excellence as propounded in The Republic. It’s quirky, imaginative and clever – vintage Walton in other words. She has to be one of the most exciting, talented writers of our age.

 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

uprooted

This is a variation of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story that is filled with mystery, magic and a strong sense of place. The isolation and brooding sense of being at the whim of someone who is perhaps not wholly stable permeates the book.

 

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

manyselvesofkatherine

This hard science fiction tale of a shape-shifter is an extraordinary book, rich with techie detail and some of the most vivid sensory writing I’ve read. In addition, the story takes you in one direction – until you suddenly realise it is about something else altogether. Clever and original, this impressive debut novel marks Geen as One to Watch.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

thestartouchedqueen

The cover of this book is lushly beautiful – which is also an accurate description of the prose spinning this story into a classic tale that wouldn’t be out of place if it turned up as one of the tales of Scheherazade. What really sold it, though, was the carnivorous horse with smart mouth…

 

The Annihilation Score – Book 6 The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

theannihiliationscore

Unlike the rest of this clever, readable series, this book is told in the viewpoint of Bob Howard’s wife, Mo. She has a bone violin as a weapon to battle the Lovecraftian monsters emerging from another dimension and threatening life on Earth as we know it. You won’t be surprised to learn that wielding such an instrument exacts a heavy cost. Stross has depicted a heartbreaking heroine who leaves a lump in my throat.

 

The House with No Rooms – Book 4 of The Detective’s Daughter series
by Lesley Thomson

thehousewithnorooms1

I love Thomson’s clever, layered writing that assumes her readers are capable of joining the dots and her leisurely pacing that steadily builds a creeping sense of wrongness. Stella’s quirky world view prevails and in amongst the tragedy and pain, there are welcome shafts of humour. I’ve dreamt about this book…

 

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

mebeforeyou

This book, rightly, has garnered a huge amount of attention and I nearly didn’t read it because of the fuss. Which would have been a real shame, because the story is gripping, funny and painful and without an ounce of sentiment. I certainly didn’t think it would end the way it did.

 

An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows

anaccidentofstars

This portal fantasy gripped me from the first page and still hasn’t let go. I was completely caught up in the adventure, which quickly took me out of my comfort zone and captivated me. I still find myself wondering what I’d do if confronted with the same circumstances and hope that Meadows writes quickly, because I badly want to know what happens next.

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

thefifthseason

I love her Inheritance series, but blogging buddy Sara Letourneau kept banging on about this one, so I got hold of it. And I’m so very glad I did… The writing is extraordinary. Jemisin takes all the rules about writing by the scruff of the neck and gives them a thorough shaking. I stayed awake to read this one, caught up with Essun’s furious grief and felt bereft once I came to the end of it.

 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky

spiderlight

This clever, unsettling adventure takes the classic fantasy trope of the band of heroes and bounces it off the walls. The result is funny, creepy and poignant by turns – and absolutely engrossing. It also raises some tricky moral questions.

 

Spellbreaker – Book 3 of the Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

spellbreaker

This fantasy adventure vividly depicts a family where every one of them is lethally powerful such that it seriously gets in the way of their love for each other. The result is riveting and original – it has lodged itself in my brain like a burr, because if you have the power to level cities or predict your father’s death, then it’s probably going to make the inevitable family tiff somewhat tricky.

 

The Summer Goddess by Joanne Hall

thesummergoddess

I’ve always enjoyed Hall’s writing – but this particular tale of abduction and slavery tugged at my heart from the first chapter and kept on doing so throughout. Her heroine is painfully fallible and yet doggedly courageous – and the writing is always so well crafted. It’s another one that won’t leave me in peace…

 

Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

songsofseraphine

This disturbing portal novel is about revenge and bloodshed – and how those that pay the price often are innocent. It grabbed me from the beginning as we learn about the three sisters and I read through the night to learn what befalls them – and I’m really hoping that Houghton is busy writing a sequel, for I want more of this savage, magical world.

 

A Natural History of DragonsBook 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series
by Marie Brennan

anaturalhistoryofdragons

What’s not to love? A dogged, adventuring Victorian lady who defies convention to go adventuring to learn more about dragons in their habitat. The book is written after the style of a 19th century novel and enchanted me – happily there are more in the series and I’m going to be plunging back into this world just as soon as I can.

 

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s
by Jodi Taylor

jsutonedamnedthing

This time travelling novel is set in a Government-run establishment that has the same feel I imagine Bletchley would have done during WW2 – though the attrition rate is definitely higher at St Mary’s. The time-travelling historians – or ‘disaster-magnets’ as they are described in this punchy, amusing adventure – tend to die rather a lot.

So there they are – my outstanding reads of 2016. I highly recommend each and every one of them as offering something special and unique. And if you insist on forcing me to choose only one of them, then you’re a cruel, unfeeling monster – but if I HAD to, then it would have to be N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. The intensity of the writing, the cool premise and the way she builds on the characters has this one etched into my mind.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – November Roundup

Standard

After setting some crazy writing goals with my writing partner, Mhairi Simpson, moonway back in the dying throes of 2015, how am I doing?

Family issues rather ambushed me and I had little mental energy or necessary headspace required to cope with my demanding rewrite. On a more positive note, I gave a talk at West Sussex Writers on the joy of writing reviews and posting them online and my Creative Writing course gathered momentum, while Sally and I finally sorted out Tim’s syllabus and have drawn up a coherent schedule of work for him for the next two years.

• During November, I read eleven books. Again, it’s been a great reading month. I really enjoyed songsofseraphinethe wonderful the children’s book Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson, cyberpunk adventure Synners by Pat Cadigan, Bloodrush by Ben Galley and E.D.E. Bell’s penricsmissionThe Banished Craft – however Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton and Penric’s Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold are my standout reads for the month.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. I fulfilled this challenge in August, but I am continuing to read and review more enjoyable, exciting books.

 

• I am currently stranded in the boggy mid-book bit of Miranda’s Tempest. Realistically, I don’t expect to get much further this side of Christmas, but there’s no point in getting in a spin about it. I’ll continue as and when I can manage it.
Challenge – To continue to submit my work.

 

• I’ve continued to improve my fitness with Pilates and Fitstep classes and we’re now learning extra steps for the jive and tango – so much fun … thanks to the marvellous Louisa Jones, an inspired and very patient teacher. I hadn’t quite reached my target weight during November, but it was very close and I am continuing to improve my fitness and stamina.
Challenge – To continue to improve my fitness.

Another month where nothing has gone to plan… Oh well, that’s Life I suppose. I wrote just under 17,000 words on my blog during November, nearly 6,000 words on my teaching admin and just over 10,00 words on my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest, bringing my total for the month to just under 33,000 words.

How are you getting on with your targets now the year is drawing to an end? Are you anywhere close to fulfilling them?

Review of KINDLE Ebook Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

Standard

Every so often you come across a book that takes an established genre, gives it a thorough shake and tips it on its head – and this is what Houghton has done to epic fantasy…

songsofseraphineSome battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars. Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience.

This is a portal world story where a deadly war on one world bleeds into the lives of a family struggling to rebuild their shattered existence on another world. We regularly read tales of dreadful battles where whole races are wiped out in epic fantasy tales, except for a desperate remnant. This story isn’t really about that – this is more about the aftermath, when those wars have slipped into history. Except in this case, the war isn’t done and forces beyond these three sisters are determined to shape their destinies.

I loved it. Family dynamics within speculative fiction always grabs me and when these three sisters go to live with their grandparents, I was completely hooked by the building sense of something radically wrong and getting worse. The flashbacks the girls experience are all very clear and deftly handled and Houghton’s depiction of the three very different characters all coping in their own way worked well. He doesn’t sentimentalise them – something that would have been easy to do – and while the writing is slightly heightened in the manner of epics, it works well. I also like the way the magical element works. In Houghton’s world, whenever power is wielded there is a price and all too often the price is far too high. There were moments when I was winded at who got damaged and who died… But that surely made me pay attention for the duration.

The only major concern I have is that this book has ended on something of a cliffhanger and I’m really, really hoping Houghton has plans to write a sequel. This disturbing, rich and original world is one I’m desperate to visit again.
10/10

Sunday Post – 6th November 2016

Standard

 

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

bristolcon2016It’s been another hectic week. At the start of the week, I was still recovering from the awesome Bristolcon 2016. Mhairi and I travelled up on the train and once more were enveloped in the warmth of The Friendly Con. It was great to catch up with regulars, though there were far too many people I only got to exchange quick greetings with – the likes of Justin Newland, Sophie E. Tallis, Sammy Smith and Jo Hall. I’m sure there are others I’ve missed out, and apologies for the omission. I had the huge pleasure of meeting Rosie Oliver, who I regularly chat with on my blog. She was one of the participants in the excellent ‘Uncanny Valleys of the Mind’ panel about the possibility of sentient robots. The quality of this discussion was superb with moderator Pete Sutton, Rosie, Kevlin Henney, Claire Carter and guest of honour Ken MacLeod.

Other enjoyable panels included ‘SF & F on the Margins’, which discussed the joys of the small presses, bristolcon1who are providing an increasingly vital role during this time when the larger traditional publishers are finding it tough. ‘The Regiment of Monsters’ panel investigated the contention that too much fantasy lacks diversity and is still stuck in the ‘boys own’ adventures for and about white males. While the panel agreed there was still a preponderance of such fantasy around, there are increasing examples of alternatives to the staple of the plucky group battling overwhelming evil in a quasi-medieval setting. And there was also the delightfully whacky ‘Storming the Castle’ panel moderated by John Baverstock with tyrants (panellists) Ade Couper, Mhairi Simpson, Jacey Bedford and Dom Dulley sporting enough to provide daft ways in which to defend their castles from members of the audience on a dice throw… After that we had no option but to retreat to the bar, where I had one of the best evenings ever. Meeting another blogging friend, Leona was a delight, along with authors Mark Lawrence, R.B. Watkinson, T.O. Munro and G.R. Matthews and the awesome Kitvaria Sarene and Marielle (thank you for those yummy Dutch cookies, which had me falling off the sugar-free wagon – but I can’t be good ALL the time). By the time Mhairi and I staggered back to our hotel room around 2 am, my sides were aching with so much laughing. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to a fabulous time – I’m grinning as I type at the memory…

Coming back to earth has been something of an effort, though I haven’t had too much time to sit around twiddling my fingers as I was back to teaching again on Monday and Tuesday and on Wednesday Mhairi and I got together for a writing day. On Thursday I was in London for a training day for the CoPE syllabus that Tim is starting to work towards with Sally. We’re now both excited and relieved that we finally have a clear path whereby his exceptional abilities can be formally recognised with qualifications that will help him become an independent adult with a fulfilling career. This week-end I’m grannying.

This week I have read:
Frontier – an Epsilon Sector novella by Janet Edwards
Life on a frontier farming planet in the twenty-eighth century has a few complications. The imported frontierEarth animals and plants don’t always interact well with the local ecology, and there’s a shortage of doctors and teachers. The biggest problem though is the fact there are always more male than female colonists arriving from other worlds. Single men outnumber single women by ten to one, and girls are expected to marry at seventeen. Amalie turned seventeen six months ago, and she’s had nineteen perfectly respectable offers of marriage. Everyone is pressuring her to choose a husband, or possibly two of them. When Amalie’s given an unexpected chance of a totally different future, she’s tempted to take it, but then she gets her twentieth offer of marriage and it’s one she can’t possibly refuse.

This is a characteristically engrossing read, full of Edwards’ bouncy prose that pulled me into the story which I read in one greedy gulp and surfaced feeling very happy… They ought to bottle her writing and make it available on the NHS.

Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton
songsofseraphineSome battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars. Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience.

I realised Jude Houghton was One to Watch when I read his stormingly good science fiction novel Autonomy earlier this year – but this amazing take on epic fantasy has very much confirmed his wonderful talent. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel – or I might stamp my feet and DEMAND one.

The Hanging Tree – Book 6 of The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
The Hanging Tree was the Tyburn gallows which stood where Marble Arch stands today. Oxford Street thehangingtreewas the last trip of the condemned. Some things don’t change. The place has a bloody and haunted legacy and now blood has returned to the empty Mayfair mansions of the world’s super-rich. And blood mixed with magic is a job for Peter Grant, who is back as are Nightingale et al. at the Folly and the various river gods, ghosts and spirits who attach themselves to England’s last wizard and the Met’s reluctant investigator of all things supernatural.

This sparky, London-based urban fantasy has always had a special place in my heart since I read the first one – and like the rest of his fans, I’ve been waiting very patiently for this book.

My posts last week:
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

Waiting on Wednesday – featuring The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb

Friday Faceoff – Nomad is a wanderer… featuring The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – October roundup

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
#SPFBO Final Round https://lynns-books.com/2016/11/05/spfbo-final-round/ For those of you who don’t know the acronym stands for Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, which is organised by best-selling author Mark Lawrence, where a group of stalwart book bloggers volunteer to take a stack of self published fantasy novels – this year it was 30 each – and whittle it down to a single entry to be forwarded to this final list.

All My Halloweens http://melfka.com/archives/1994 A delightful article by Joanna Maciejewska on her recollections of Halloween celebrations throughout her life so far – and given she’s something of a traveller, it also takes us to a number of different countries…

The This Is My Genre Tell Me Yours Book Tag https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/the-this-is-my-genre-tell-me-yours-book-tag/ Many thanks to Drew for including me in this particular tag. I’m really looking forward to having a go – but as he threw it open to everyone who likes reading, I thought I’d let others have the pleasure of taking part, too.

9 Tips for Novice Spelunkers and Cave Exploration https://roamwildandfree.com/2016/11/01/9-tips-for-novice-spelunkers-and-cave-exploration/ And this, people, is one of the reasons I love the blogging community so much. I can sit at my computer and learn about places and situations I’ll never encounter from the wonderful people who do.

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

Teaser Tuesday – 1st November, 2016

Standard

Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
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:
Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton
89% Saffron vaguely wondered why they were so aggressive. Mirages were usually a one trick act – songsofseraphineappear then disappear, forever disappointing.
“What do you seek?” the rider demanded, startling her with his material presence. The sun burned behind him and she couldn’t see his face, only a dark silhouetted outline.

BLURB: Some battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars.

Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience.

As you can see, I’m well into this one. Which by rights, I shouldn’t be. I’ve a stack of things to do a mile high. But from the moment I opened this up on my Kindle, I’ve found it very hard to put down. It’s an amazing, roller-coaster read which gives a completely different spin on epic Fantasy. Original, sharp-edged and engrossing…

Sunday Post – 21st August

Standard

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.

iphonestuckEarly in the week I had some tech issues when Apple finally managed to foist an unwanted update onto my phone when I was downloading some pics (note to self: that’s what my camera is for…) which jammed the wretched thing. Fraught hours I couldn’t afford later, I finally managed to it by restoring it to factory settings. The whole episode rankles, frankly. Just like the fact I can’t remove the Stocks and Shares and News links from my phone – since when do Apple get to mediate the priorities in my life?

The grandchildren returned unexpectedly for another stay on Tuesday through to Friday, which was a lovely surprise. The better weather meant we were able to go to the beach and visit the gorgeous Highdown Gardens, where my butterfly pic above was taken last year.

Other than that, we didn’t go out and about all that much – I have a fair amount of work on my plate and we also spent a significant slice of time watching the Olympic action in Rio. Oscar, in particular, was very keen to follow Team GB.

This week I’ve managed to read:
Spellbreaker – Book 3 of the Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charltonspellbreaker
Leandra Weal has a bad habit of getting herself in dangerous situations. While hunting neodemons in her role as Warden of Ixos, Leandra obtains a prophetic spell that provides a glimpse one day into her future. She discovers that she is doomed to murder someone she loves, soon, but not who. That’s a pretty big problem for a woman who has a shark god for a lover, a hostile empress for an aunt, a rogue misspelling wizard for a father, and a mother who–especially when arguing with her daughter–can be a real dragon.
This intriguing offering can be characterised as hard fantasy, with a rigorous magical structure played out within a highly talented, touchy family. It makes for a fascinating, original dynamic in epic fantasy.

 

 

Autonomy by Jude Houghton
autonomyBalmoral Murraine works in a Battery, assembling devices she doesn’t understand for starvation pay. Pasco Eborgersen is the pampered son of an Elite, trying to navigate the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, the self-sacrifice of the Faith, and the high-octane excitement of Steel Ball. They never should have met, and now they will rip the world apart. What happens when ninety percent of the world lives on skaatch – a jellyfish and insect composite? What happens when mankind spends more time in alternative life sims instead of in the “real” world? What happens when economic interest is the sole determinant of global decision making? What happens when a single secret is discovered that calls into question everything we have ever believed? Welcome to the Autonomy. Welcome to your future.

This post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction adventure is a cracking story, with some sharp things to say about the current inequality of resources and the damage caused by runaway capitalism embedded in amongst the entertaining action. A strong, thought-provoking read I reviewed yesterday.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 14th August

2016 Discovery Challenge – July Roundup

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Autonomy by Jude Houghton

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

Favourite London Spec Fic Tales – Part 2

Friday Faceoff – There’s Blood on Thy Face featuring The Radleys by Matt Haig

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Autonomy by Jude Houghton

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

Harry Potter Month (20) https://lynns-books.com/2016/08/20/harry-potter-month-20/ Lynn has been featuring all things Harry Potterish this month and I really enjoyed this selection of covers from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

A Weekly Ritual https://ginnibites.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/a-weekly-ritual/ This sharply clever little poem aptly sums up my own experiences on leaving the house…

Miss Majorie Fay https://readlorigreer.com/2016/08/15/miss-marjorie-fay/ Lori Greer pays a moving tribute to an inspirational teacher.

Introducing the Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom – coming this autumn from the Wizard’s Tower Press http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2223 Exciting news of a new collection for fans of quality fantasy from author Juliet E. McKenna

How to Panel Like a Pro http://writerunboxed.com/2016/08/20/how-to-panel-like-a-pro/ This funny article had me chuckling – I’ll be on the alert to see which panel members at the Cons I’ll be shortly attending will be taking these top tips to heart…

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Autonomy by Jude Houghton

Standard

I was offered the opportunity to read this Autonomy by Grimbold Books, in return for an honest review should I enjoy it. I’m so grateful they did…

autonomyBalmoral Murraine works in a Battery, assembling devices she doesn’t understand for starvation pay. Pasco Eborgersen is the pampered son of an Elite, trying to navigate the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, the self-sacrifice of the Faith, and the high-octane excitement of Steel Ball. They never should have met, and now they will rip the world apart.

What happens when ninety percent of the world lives on skaatch – a jellyfish and insect composite? What happens when mankind spends more time in alternative life sims instead of in the “real” world? What happens when economic interest is the sole determinant of global decision making? What happens when a single secret is discovered that calls into question everything we have ever believed? Welcome to the Autonomy. Welcome to your future.

And yes, folks, this really could be your future… In Houghton’s dystopian vision, our civilisation implodes in 2020 during a welter of environmental and political upheavals that sweeps away the old order. Autonomy emerges from the ruins after the death of millions, while the rest of the population are battling lawlessness and famine. And Autonomy’s solution is runaway capitalism to provide the bare necessities for the bulk of humanity and a far better standard of living for the chosen few. So, in essence, nothing really changes – I just love the ironic title…

I’m not sure if Houghton has ever studied the Industrial Revolution, or read The condition of the working class in England in 1844 by Friedrich Engels, but some of the details he produces about the wretched lives of Balmoral’s family were scarily reminiscent. However, this isn’t some polemic rant about how awful it’s going to be if we don’t get our act in gear and I wouldn’t have bothered reading it if it was. It’s a strong story crackling with narrative tension, vivid characters and a snaking plot that drew me in.

Structured as an epic, with a variety of third person viewpoints, Houghton isn’t afraid to kill off a number of his characters along the way – with some of them I saw their imminent demise coming, but there are several that pulled me up short. The plot spans the two worlds represented by Balmoral and Pasco. Initially, my sympathy was all with Balmoral and I rather despised Pasco – but as the book wore on, I found myself warming to Pasco despite the fact that he isn’t our classic lantern-jawed, action hero, which is a slot taken by his twin brother.

In amongst all the mayhem, Houghton raises some interesting questions – if you are enmeshed in a truly undemocratic, brutal regime, are you justified in inflicting violence on passing innocent bystanders in the struggle to overthrow said brutal regime? If by inflicting a brutal undemocratic regime you can keep millions alive on subsistence level, is it justified, given that without that skimped, grudging infra-structure they’ll all die anyhow?

However, in the end, it was all about the story. The climactic finale had to have plenty of action and drama, given the heightened tone throughout – I was wondering whether Houghton would be able to ramp this up another notch, and I pleased that he managed to pull it off, tying up and bringing together all the elements in the narrative in a satisfying ending. All in all, this is an entertaining near-future thriller with a thought-provoking message embedded amongst all the action. It’s what science fiction does best.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 16th August, 2016

Standard

Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
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:
Autonomy by Jude Houghton
34% The tour included endless rows of pristine assembly lines, the workers silently and efficiently autonomyconstructing components, machine shops full of smoke and dust and grease, a triage centre, a cafeteria that fed a million people a day with jellyfish and insects, and even an underground catacomb of stone shelves where workers in tightly overlapping shifts were allowed to rest for a couple of hours.

“So in total we have seven hundred and fifty buildings, each with twenty thousand workers, and a turnover of over thirty-five million employees a day,’ Solquist said proudly.

BLURB: Balmoral Murraine works in a Battery, assembling devices she doesn’t understand for starvation pay. Pasco Eborgersen is the pampered son of an Elite, trying to navigate the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, the self-sacrifice of the Faith, and the high-octane excitement of Steel Ball. They never should have met, and now they will rip the world apart.

What happens when ninety percent of the world lives on skaatch – a jellyfish and insect composite?
What happens when mankind spends more time in alternative life sims instead of in the “real” world?
What happens when economic interest is the sole determinant of global decision making?
What happens when a single secret is discovered that calls into question everything we have ever believed?
Welcome to the Autonomy. Welcome to your future.

This is a compelling near future tale about what happens when civilisation crashes in 2020. The remnants of world leaders decide in their wisdom (highly plausible when you think that many current governments are clearly unfit to lead us out of a wet paper bag…) that runaway capitalism is the way to keep humanity alive. The writing is smooth and readable, the plotting sharp and the message very chilling… I’m loving it.