That amazing cover caught my eye, as did the intriguing blurb. And as I’m a sucker for good space opera, I immediately requested this one.
BLURB:Murder forces unlikely allies
On the eve of the planet Ileri’s historic vote to join the Commonwealth, the assassination of a government minister threatens to shatter everything. Private investigator Noo Okereke and spy Meiko Ogawa join forces with police chief Toiwa to investigate – and discover clues that point disturbingly toward a threat humanity thought they had escaped. A threat that could destroy Ileri and spark an interplanetary war… unless the disparate team can work together to solve the mystery.
REVIEW: The strapline for this book is: Golden Girls meets The Expanse with a side of Babylon Five… Hm – not sure about that one. The older women that feature in this sci-fi adventure thriller are far tougher and grimmer than the protagonists in Golden Girls. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that they are women of a certain age. I liked both Noo Okereke and Meiko Ogawa very much – though it took me a while to nail the names. The author didn’t do his western readers any favours by insisting on giving us two unfamiliar surnames starting with the same consonant.
I did enjoy the social dynamic and the political setup. As this story is character-led, it took a while for the full scope of the world to unfold – but once things started really kicking off, the narrative moved forward at full pelt. It was difficult to put this one down, as the stakes just kept on piling up against our plucky protagonists. Appel writes the action really well – I liked the weaponry and tech toys, as well as the cultural differences between the factions which were well portrayed.
All in all, this is a cracking story, full of incident and tension that works well with a solidly depicted world and strong characters. My main concern is that the story leaves some dangling plotpoints that need to be cleared up – and there’s no indication that this is the first book in a series. I would be very sorry if this turns out to be a standalone. Highly recommended for space opera fans. While I obtained an arc of Assassin’s Orbit from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with dizzying images. I’ve selected Dead Astronauts – Book 2 of the Bourne series by Jeff VanderMeer.
This edition was produced by Fourth Estate in December 2019 and it’s certainly eye-catching. And has the sense of surrealism and power that runs through VanderMeer’s writing. I love the swirling colour and glorious difference – I just wish the title and author fonts were less wussy and more visible.
Published in December 2019 by MCD, someone must have heard my grizzle about the previous cover. Because this time around, we get the psychedelic colours AND the emphatic title and text – in eye-blurring detail, actually. But you certainly can’t miss them… And I take my hat off in tribute to the cover art designers – this book pushes all sorts of boundaries in regards to narrative, use of language and story conventions. New Weird aptly sums it up. And it’s a testament to the skill and imagination of the designers that this offering and the previous cover gives the potential reader a very strong clue as to what they’re getting into.
This edition was published in 2020 by Subterranean. It couldn’t be more different to the other offerings for this book – but is still beautiful, for all that. My main reservation is that I’m not sure it adequately conveys the sheer oddness of the book.
This Turkish edition, produced by Alfa Yayınları in March 2021, is my favourite. I love the Mandelbrot fractal designs – a strong clue to the challenging nature of the book, as well as being beautiful and very easy on the eye. And the addition of the fox outline introduces another main character who features in the book, which is always a plus for me. Which is your favourite?
At the beginning of the year, I made a resolution to pick up with series I’d thoroughly enjoyed, and yet somehow lost track of. Otherwise, I’d continue endlessly continue to be led off to the new shiny and not allow myself to follow a character’s development over a well-told narrative arc. And as I’m a particular fan of character-led stories, this wasn’t the smartest way to get the best of out my reading experience. So I got back in touch with one of my favourite, groundbreaking, adrenaline-junkie heroines – Sirantha Jax – see my reviews of Grimspace and Killbox.
BLURB: Sirantha Jax has the right genes—ones that enable her to “jump” faster-than-light ships through grimspace. But it’s also in her genetic makeup to go it alone. It’s a character trait that has gotten her into—and out of—hot water time and time again, but now she’s caused one of the most horrific events in military history… During the war against murderous, flesh-eating aliens, Sirantha went AWOL and shifted grimspace beacons to keep the enemy from invading humanity’s homeworld. The cost of her actions: the destruction of modern interstellar travel—and the lives of six hundred Conglomerate soldiers.
Accused of dereliction of duty, desertion, mass murder, and high treason, Sirantha is on trial for her life. And only time will tell if she’s one of the Conglomerate’s greatest heroes—or most infamous criminals…
REVIEW: I am so glad that I picked up with this series, again! I recalled the last book and the desperate strategy that Jax uses to prevent the terrible, flesh-eating Morgut aliens from invading the whole of human-space. And so this one starts with Jax in a lot of trouble, and at a very low point in her life. Whatever you do – in the event of encountering this book without having read at least Killbox – put it down and backtrack. I make a hobby of crashing midway into series, and it won’t work with this one. You will simply have missed too much of Jax’s amazing journey to fully appreciate who she is and where she’s come from.
I found this book immensely moving. Sirantha Jax was a real hell-raiser in the earlier books and has been through all sorts of life-changing experiences. I’m delighted to see that they have, indeed, changed her, which isn’t always the case with our kick-ass heroines. I was on tenterhooks throughout her trial – as I know only too well Aguirre isn’t necessarily kind to our gutsy protagonist. And then the resultant adventure that she’s embroiled in also originates by her trying to put right a wrong that she inflicted earlier. I’m conscious that I’ve managed to make this sound as if it’s a rather dreary read – it isn’t. There is plenty of danger and action. But I love the relationship between her and Vel, her Ithtorian companion (think of a large, upright cockroach) as it goes on deepening and they appreciate each other as firm friends. Friendship isn’t always fully explored in space opera – but this one is beautifully portrayed.
I came away with a real sense of loss on leaving this world. With the current upsurge of popularity in space opera adventure, I hope readers will consider picking up this fabulous series. Highly recommended for fans of character-led, high-octane space opera. 9/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
We are still recovering from a nasty attack of Covid and it’s baby steps. I walked to my local supermarket yesterday – only the second time I’ve been out and about since the beginning of March. A journey there and back, including the shopping normally takes about half an hour, if it isn’t too busy. I took nearly an hour and only bought two items. By the time I staggered back through the kitchen door, I felt as if I’d run a marathon. However, it’s now four days since I needed to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon. Himself is back at work, but still battling with a horrible cough. We are both taking lots of supplements and ensuring that we are eating and drinking healthily.
The photos this week are of plants blooming in the garden. It hasn’t been warm enough to sit out, but one lovely sunny morning I couldn’t resist wandering around taking some pictures. Though the garden is in desperate need of TLC and neither of us feels up to tackling the weeds, so frankly it’s a disgrace.
Last week I read: The Recollection: Tenth Anniversary Edition by Gareth L. Powell Four hundred years ago, Ed and Alice Rico threw themselves through a mysterious portal on the London Underground, hunting for Ed’s lost brother—Alice’s husband—Verne.
Now, starship captain Katherine Abdulov embarks on a desperate race against ruthless rival captain—and her former lover—Victor Luciano, to try and earn back her family’s trust.
Tomorrow, all their lives will be thrown together by disaster, as an ancient evil stirs among the stars, threatening the survival of all life… I took a while to get invested in this dual narrative adventure, as initially I didn’t bond with any of the protagonists. But once things started to kick off, I was able to settle into this enjoyable space opera adventure and let the pages turn themselves. Review to follow.
The Russian Cage – Book 3 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris Picking up right where A Longer Fall left off, this thrilling third installment follows Lizbeth Rose as she takes on one of her most dangerous missions yet: rescuing her estranged partner, Prince Eli, from the Holy Russian Empire.
Once in San Diego, Lizbeth is going to have to rely upon her sister Felicia, and her growing Grigori powers to navigate her way through this strange new world of royalty and deception in order to get Eli freed from jail where he’s being held for murder. I’ve read and enjoyed the previous two books in this entertaining alternate history series and appreciated learning more about the Holy Russian Empire and exactly how it became established. There is plenty of action and more of Lizbeth, which is always a bonus…
Railhead – Book 1 of the Railhead series by Philip Reeve Zen Starling is a petty thief, a street urchin from Thunder City. So when mysterious stranger Raven sends Zen and his new friend Nova on a mission to infiltrate the Emperor’s train, he jumps at the chance to traverse the Great Network, to cross the galaxy in a heartbeat, to meet interesting people – and to steal their stuff. But the Great Network is a dangerous place, and Zen has no idea where his journey will take him.
This YA adventure, with its sentient trains that span galaxies, is great fun. Though poor Zen is plonked right in the middle of something far bigger and scarier than he initially realised. Review to follow.
The Eyes of Tamburah – Book 1 of the Archives of the Invisible Swords series by Maria V. Snyder Shyla is a researcher who resides in the underground desert city of Zirdai, which is ruled by the wealthy Water Prince and brutal Heliacal Priestess. Even though Shyla is sun-kissed – an outcast, considered cursed by the Sun Goddess – she is still renowned for uncovering innumerable archaic facts, lost artefacts, ancient maps and obscure historical documents.
Her quiet life is about to change when Banqui, an archaeologist, enlists her services to find The Eyes of Tamburah: legendary gemstones that bestow great magic on their wielder. These ancient objects can tip the balance of power and give whoever possesses them complete control of the city. But chaos erupts when The Eyes are stolen soon after they’re found – and Shyla is blamed for the theft. I thoroughly enjoy the bouncy energy in Snyder’s writing – particularly now I’m feeling a tad embattled. So this cracking Sand and Sorcery adventure ticked all the boxes. Review to follow.
By Other Means – Book 5 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie The Hayden War has ended and now SOLCOM and the Alliance are face to face in talks, but neither side has the slightest idea what happened in the ultimate battle of the war. Amid political jockeying and diplomatic gamesmanship, Captain Sorilla Aida has been given an assignment : Find a weakness to exploit, buy SOLCOM time to learn just what the hell happened to Valkyrie, and make sure that the Alliance isn’t prepared to risk another conflict in the open.
Sorilla has problems of her own, however, and after losing so much in the war she isn’t as certain of her life choices as she used to be. Unfortunately for her, the Alliance, SOLCOM, and others don’t intend to let her have time to figure it out for herself. This offering is a thoroughly enjoyable page-turner with plenty of tension and action, despite the lack of full-on space battles that Currie tends to specialise in. Review to follow.
Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – One Day All This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovksy – release date 2nd March, 2021
#science fiction #time travel #humour
BLURB:Welcome to the end of time. It’s a perfect day.
Nobody remembers how the Causality War started. Really, there’s no-one to remember, and nothing for them to remember if there were; that’s sort of the point. We were time warriors, and we broke time.
I was the one who ended it. Ended the fighting, tidied up the damage as much as I could.
Then I came here, to the end of it all, and gave myself a mission: to never let it happen again.
I am really looking forward to this novella. For starters, it’s about time travel and there’s a dinosaur on the cover – what’s not to love? The icing on the cake is that it is by one of my favourite authors, who is going through an insanely prolific patch right now. We can guess what Adrian was doing during lockdown last year… writing, writing and more writing! I’m intrigued to see how the humour surfaces, too. Anyone else have this one on their TBR pile?
I can’t lie – it was the cover of this one that first drew me – isn’t it lovely? And then I read the blurb and the opening chapter, given this offering was published last November – and I was hooked. Yes – I know it’s a children’s book, but so many books written for them are far too good just to be left to the youngsters in our lives…
BLURB: Abducted from Earth as a baby by a well-meaning alien, Terra has grown up far across the galaxy on planet Fnrr. Terra has always known she was different. Her skin isn’t grey. Her eyes are a weird blue colour. She has … ears. And now Terra is starting high school. A daunting prospect, even without being the only human in class.
There’s lots to like about life on Fnrr. Society is ordered and peaceful; founded on reason, logic and the pursuit of knowledge. However, its inhabitants are blissfully unaware of the impending invasion that could destroy their way of life forever …
REVIEW: I enjoyed Benn’s writing style, which is direct and confiding with slices of omniscient viewpoint, which tends to happen in children’s fiction. But it is also shot through with a wry humour, which is handy in diffusing the horror of some of the more shocking scenes in this book. This is far from being a cosy read – it deals very directly with prejudice on all sorts of levels, guilt, regret and loss. And it doesn’t necessarily offer any comforting answers, which is fine by me. I think that fiction is very good at demonstrating that the world is frequently a violent, messy, unjust place to be – and maybe offering some coping strategies, or clear warnings. That goes for adults as well as children.
What caught me was the poignant passage about Mr and Mrs Bradbury right at the start of this book, which contrasted starkly with Lbbp’s take on what is going on, and leads to him taking the baby home with him. It isn’t a long book and the pace motors along at a good clip, which is what you want for younger readers. If I have any grizzles, I felt Terra was just a bit too calm and up together, given that she is always the exception and oddity – but it wasn’t a dealbreaker. There were moments when I sniggered aloud – particularly at the reaction of the human scientists when they realise there is actually a spaceship headed their way.
Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining science fiction adventure aimed at pre-teens, though this granny also found it great fun. While I obtained an arc of Terra from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
January has slipped by quietly without very much going on, given that we are now back in full lockdown, again, while the Government grapples with this new, highly infectious variant. Meanwhile the vaccination programme is proceeding apace. Both sets of parents have had their first vaccination and my sister, who works in a pharmacy has had both her jabs. I’m hoping Himself will be getting his sooner, rather than later as he is a key worker who has to go out every day and regularly travels to London.
We have had the grandchildren staying over several times – including little Eliza, again. It was another successful visit where she seemed very happy to be with us. Right now, we are still coping with some hefty family issues, not improved by COVID and the lockdown. Thank goodness we are part of my daughter’s support bubble, so we can be there to help out when needed.
Reading I read fifteen books in January, and again, I can’t fault the quality of the books. I did DNF The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell, but that was because it was too dark for me to cope with – the writing was excellent. My Outstanding Book of the Month was The Night Parade of 100 Demons – A Legend of the Five Rings World novel by Marie Brennan, and my Outstanding Audiobook of the Month was Tombland – Book 7 of the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom.
My reads during January were:
Spirited by Julie Cohen – review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK I Shall Wear Midnight – Book 4 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett – review to follow.
The Lord of Stariel – Book 1 of the Stariel series by A.J. Lancaster – review to follow.
Writing and Editing
I’ve made steady progress with Trouble with Dwarves, which is the second book in my Picky Eaters series, featuring grumpy old dragon, Castellan. I’ve now written the opening adventure featuring the ice giants and am now working on the closing chapters of the book, which I hope to have completed by the middle of February. I’ve also completed several editing projects and am continuing to work with my father-in-law on his memoirs.
Overall, I wrote just under 44,000 words in January, with just under 26,000 on the blog, just over 1,200 on lesson reports for Tim, and just over 16,000 on my writing projects.
Blogging January was a better month for the blog, as I wasn’t going anywhere and managed to get back into the rhythm. I’m still not doing very well at visiting other bloggers – and I will try to do better! In the meantime, I very much hope you are all able to continue to stay safe, while waiting for your vaccination. Take care.x
I read the audiobook of Ancestral Nightlast year and absolutely loved it, and thoroughly enjoyed Hammered – Book 1 of the Wetwired series. So when I saw this sequel was now available in the White Space series, it was a no-brainer that I’d treat myself to it…
BLURB: Meet Doctor Jens. She hasn’t had a decent cup of coffee in fifteen years. Her workday begins when she jumps out of perfectly good space ships and continues with developing treatments for sick alien species she’s never seen before. She loves her life. Even without the coffee. But Dr. Jens is about to discover an astonishing mystery: two ships, one ancient and one new, locked in a deadly embrace. The crew is suffering from an unknown ailment and the shipmind is trapped in an inadequate body, much of her memory pared away. Unfortunately, Dr. Jens can’t resist a mystery and she begins doing some digging. She has no idea that she’s about to discover horrifying and life-changing truths.
REVIEW: Another twisty mystery that starts in deep space. This time, however, the crew are expecting trouble, because Dr. Jens is a search and rescue specialist on the ambulance ship I Race to Seek the Living. She starts the story by getting ready to jump out of the ship, to gain entry into a lost generational ship from Earth. I loved her feisty, can-do attitude, and the fact that she suffers from chronic pain and is a lesbian. However, it’s just as well I strongly bonded with the main protagonist, because – like Haimey in Ancestral Night – she does do a lot of musing about life in general throughout all the action. For the first two-thirds of the story, I didn’t think this was a particular problem, but when the action started picking up, I do think we could have done without some of Dr Jens’ monologues, especially as towards the end of the book she frequently wasn’t saying anything new.
There are also some lovely shafts of humour – banter between the crew and also some of the moments between aliens that I thoroughly appreciated. Jens also has a nice way of describing the characters around her that were often amusing. It didn’t hurt that the narration by Adjoa Andoh was masterfully done. Her range of voices and accents were brilliant and she brought all the characters to life in a way that meant I wasn’t as troubled by the leisurely pacing as I think I would have been if I’d been reading the ebook. As for the mystery – the initial puzzle was utterly gripping and held me, so that once we got back to Core Central – the huge hospital that attends to every species’ needs, so they receive the very best medical care, I wasn’t quite as invested in the direction that the story then took. But, given Jens’ passion and commitment to her beloved hospital, I grew to care about that, too.
Overall, however, I love the world, the detail of Bear’s backdrop – listening to this one as I cleaned, there wasn’t any stage when I didn’t have a clear visual picture of what was going on. I also knew exactly what Jens was thinking, feeling and whether she was in pain, or not. So the worldbuilding and characterisation were brilliantly realised.
If you like your space opera full of details about everyday life and anecdotes on the philosophy, the history and the societal structure of the worldbuilding through the viewpoint of a singular main protagonist, then track down this series. No one else writes quite like Bear – and while she isn’t for everyone – her immersive, highly detailed world has stayed with me and I want to return. I particularly recommend the audio version – the narration is excellent. 8/10
I absolutely loved the first book in this series The Expert System’s Brother – see my review. I particularly fell in love with Handry and his struggle to survive once his adaptations to the planet had been partially revoked. So I was disappointed not to get hold of a review copy – not that I let that get in the way of sampling this intriguing world, again.
BLURB: It’s been ten years since Handry was wrenched away from his family and friends, forced to wander a world he no longer understood. But with the help of the Ancients, he has cobbled together a life, of sorts, for himself and his fellow outcasts. Wandering from village to village, welcoming the folk that the townships abandon, fighting the monsters the villagers cannot—or dare not—his ever-growing band of misfits has become the stuff of legend, a story told by parents to keep unruly children in line.
But there is something new and dangerous in the world, and the beasts of the land are acting against their nature, destroying the towns they once left in peace. And for the first time in memory, the Ancients have no wisdom to offer…
REVIEW: I struggled with this one initially, which was something of a disappointment – and not a usual experience with Tchaikovsky’s writing. There is a Prologue that goes on for 9% of the book that doesn’t include the main protagonist, Handry, who I really emotionally identified with in The Expert System’s Brother. I would have preferred more of a bonding event with Handry at the start of this adventure, because while I enjoyed the story and found the plight of the early colonists engrossing – I didn’t particularly care about any of the characters, throughout, this time around.
That said, this is still worth reading. Nobody does colonisation quite like Tchaikovsky and the sheer inventive cleverness of the story and the consequent oddity of the inhabitants had me turning to pages to discover what would happen next. Though I’m profoundly grateful I don’t live within an ecosystem that fundamentally is toxic to my body, given the ultimate adaptation that was made to provide humanity with the ability to survive the place. Wasps and snails are involved, for starters… And if Tchaikovsky produces another book set within this remarkable world, I’ll be getting hold of it. Even if this one didn’t emotionally chime with me as much as the previous book – it is still a thought-provoking, enjoyable read. 8/10
Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy gave this one a mention – and when I saw the cover and read the premise, I immediately requested it. And I’m so very glad I did…
BLURB:Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.
While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control. But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.
REVIEW: Well, this is great fun! I was immediately drawn into the story by the immersive writing, and my sympathy for happy-go-lucky Kiem went up several notches at his evident horror in being married off to someone so recently bereaved. Jainan, the Thean representative is far more difficult to get to know, but again, is likeable and sympathetic. Given the romance strand in this story runs alongside the wider ramifications of what will happen if the coming Treaty isn’t successfully ratified, it is very important that we bond with the two main protagonists.
I’ve read several other reviews that regard this story as mostly about the romance, with the rest of the storyline dealing with the tangle over the Treaty and growing suspicions regarding Taam’s death providing a convenient backdrop. I disagree. While I thoroughly enjoyed the unfolding romance, which is of the slow-burn variety fraught with misunderstandings all around, my attention was mostly drawn to the political situation developing within the Court. If it was written merely as a cardboard setting for the romance, I would have spotted it in a heartbeat and while I wouldn’t have necessarily DNF’d the book – the overall dynamic between them worked far too well for that – I certainly wouldn’t be giving it a nine.
I was impressed at the depth of the worldbuilding and how much I enjoyed the dynamic of the Iskat Empire, though in control of a solar system of seven planets, needing wider protection from bigger, more rapacious neighbours. I also liked the plurality on display – some Theans want to break away from Iskat, while others are clearly loyal to the Empire, such as Jainan, and within the Court there are also a number of factions. I also like the way same-sex relationships are treated. Not so much as an eyebrow is raised, demonstrating that it is clearly completely normalised within both Thean and Iskat societies.
I loved the actions scenes and the way the tension grew, making it all but impossible to put this one down until the end – and then I crashed quite hard once I finished it. All in all, this has been a wonderful start to my science fiction reads of 2021, and Everina Maxwell is clearly One To Watch. While I obtained an arc of Winter’s Orbit from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10