Tag Archives: science fiction

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 14th April, 2021 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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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 – The Recollection: Tenth Anniversary Edition by Gareth L. Powell – release date 27th April, 2021

#science fiction #portal adventure #dual narrative

BLURB: 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 have thoroughly enjoyed Powell’s Ack-Ack Macaque series – see my reviews of Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey and my mini-review of Embers of War. So I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with this sci fi portal adventure. And I can’t deny that the cover also aroused my interest – it is so pretty!

Sunday Post – 4th April, 2021 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

If you are celebrating, Happy Easter!

I’ve been away for a while, because Himself and I went down with Covid just after my last Sunday Post and we were both very poorly. Himself narrowly escaped being admitted to hospital due to his breathlessness and I was coping with aching joints and slept more or less round the clock. Thank goodness we are now on the road to recovery, though I’m still struggling with my energy levels and Himself has been left with a nasty cough.

We are part of a study whereby we take a Covid test every month. On Thursday, the monthly event rolled around again – and this time, they also asked us for a blood sample. They want around 5 ml and the catch is that we have to administer the procedure ourselves. It was a hoot stabbing my finger and squeezing the blood out, then encouraging it to drop into the little phial. By the time we got the hang of it, the first little cut had clotted and both of us had to start again with another finger! By the time we’d finished the whole procedure, we were giggling hysterically. Hopefully by next month, we’ll get the hang of it with only one stabbed finger…

I have no photos this week, as sadly, I haven’t yet made it outdoors since I was ill. Maybe next week…

Last week I read:
To Fire Called – Book 8 of the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series by Nathan Lowell

Captain Ishmael Wang finally gets the Chernyakova out of the yard and embarks on a voyage into the Toe-Holds where the Confederated Planets Joint Committee on Trade has no authority. Where the law is whatever you say it is as long as you can enforce it. Where he learns that some will do anything to hide their secrets and everybody has a secret.
This is a space opera series that I tore into while we were ill, which is highly readable and provided escapism without too much darkness or gore. As you see, I found it difficult to leave it alone… Mini-review to follow.

The Invitation by A.M. Castle
Thirteen guests. One killer. No escape. On an island on the coast of Cornwall, cut off from the mainland by the tides for most of the day, thirteen old friends meet at Tregowan Castle for a weekend of revelry. By the next evening only twelve are still alive.

Amongst them is a killer – but who? As a storm traps them on the island and past betrayals and grievances are revealed, nerves fray and friendships begin to fracture.

But with no escape and no way of calling for help it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again. And when everyone is keeping secrets, anybody could be the next victim…
I thoroughly enjoyed this locked room murder mystery set on a fictionalised version of St Michal’s Mount. There was plenty of dramatic tension and the denouement was well done – I’ll be reading other books by this accomplished author.

AUDIOBOOK The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…
The Thursday Murder Club

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
While this one took a while to get going, I ended up really enjoying this murder mystery featuring four elderly protagonists. Kudos to Osman for not patronising them in any way, providing plenty of food for thought and some poignant moments, along with the crimes and a mostly thoroughly likeable cast of characters. Review to follow.

The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne – Book 1 of The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne series by Jonathan Stroud
Set in a fragmented future England, The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne introduces us to a world where gunfights and monsters collide, and where the formidable outlaw Scarlett McCain fights daily against the odds. When she discovers a wrecked coach on a lonely road, there is only one survivor – the seemingly hapless youth, Albert Browne. Against her instincts, Scarlett agrees to escort him to safety.

This is a mistake. Soon, new and implacable enemies are on her heels. As a relentless pursuit continues across the broken landscape of England, Scarlett must fight to uncover the secrets of Albert’s past – and come to terms with the implications of her own.
This YA offering set in post-apocalyptic England is a rip-roaring adventure full of drama, with some shafts of humour and lots of tension. I inhaled this one, loved it and am now very much looking forward to the next one. Review to follow.

By Darkness Forged – Book 9 of the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series by Nathan Lowell
Profits. Coffee. Extortion.
All in a day’s work.

When Ishmael takes the Chernyakova back into Toe-Hold space, he finds a lot more than profit. A quick pass through the Telluride system reveals the answer to one question but leaves him docked without a cargo until the owner of Dark Knight Station makes him an offer he can’t refuse.
I’m not sure – but this book has a real feel of the final book of the series. While Lowell doesn’t generally go in for foot-to-the-floor action, this time around there was plenty of tension and danger, which worked really well. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Invitation by A.M. Castle

Friday Face-off featuring Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Fall of Koli – Book 3 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Best Thing You Can Steal – a Gideon Sable novel by Simon R. Green

Tuesday Treasures – 30

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

April is Autism Acceptance Month, April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day https://carlalovestoread.wordpress.com/2021/04/02/april-is-autism-awareness-month-april-2-is-autism-acceptance-day/ Carla’s excellent article provides valuable information about this issue. And given that in our daily lives, we are bound to encounter both adults and children on the autism spectrum, it is worth reading.

#WriterProblems: #StoryEndings and #LooseEnds (Also, a Defense of #EarwigandtheWitch)
https://jeanleesworld.com/2021/04/01/writerproblems-storyendings-and-looseends-also-a-defense-of-earwigandthewitch/ Jean Lee once more provides us with excellent writing advice, in one of her wonderful, quirky articles. It was lovely reading this after have been away so long…

Author Interview: Ilona Andrews https://lynns-books.com/2021/03/22/author-interview-ilona-andrews/ I am a huge fan of the Innkeeper Chronicles and have always been fascinated to discover how this husband and wife writing team work together. So this was a solid treat – especially as the questions and answers are excellent…

Book Buying Habits Tag https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2021/03/30/book-buying-habits-tag/ Maddalena has once again provided one of her lovely book tags. I’m always intrigued to find out how other book addicts manage their habit, so this was a must-read for me…

Top Ten Tuesday – Books Set in Places I’d Love to Live https://thebookishlibra.com/2021/03/30/top-ten-tuesday-books-set-in-places-id-love-to-live/ Now that we’re all stuck in one place, especially as Himself and I have been self-isolating for a chunk of March, I find myself increasingly dreaming of other places with longing – and books are a great way to escape. So I really enjoyed this article…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog. I hope you had a peaceful, healthy week – and do take care. x

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc A Desolation Called Peace – Book 2 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #ADesolationCalledPeacebookreview

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I loved the first book A Memory Called Empire – see my review, which made my Outstanding Reads of 2020, so I was thrilled to be approved to read this one.

BLURB: An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.

In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity. Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.

REVIEW: First of all, if you happened to pick this one up without first reading A Memory Called Empire, then put it down and go looking for the first book. This one picks up more or less immediately after the first book finishes, featuring the same characters and continuing the same narrative arc. So you’ll probably flounder and given that the writing style is dense, layered and challenging, you won’t enjoy or appreciate it as you should.

I liked that we got more of Mahit and Three Seagrass, though at the start I was worried in case Three Seagrass wouldn’t feature so much. I love the fact that they are both human, separated by differing cultures that make it very difficult to understand each other. Though at times, it’s easy to forget that – until they are confronted by an alien presence whose thinking and values is utterly different. And devastatingly lethal… That’s all I’m going to say about the plot, as I don’t want to venture into Spoiler territory.

It was interesting to further explore some of the characters who had only walk-on parts in A Memory Called Empire – particularly Eight Antidote, the young emperor-in-waiting. Seeing this eleven-year-old desperately trying to live up the expectations of his tutors and the empress Nineteen Adze was both poignant and gave us a ringside seat to the machinations of Teixcalaan politics, which is truly a shark tank of conflicting loyalties and ambitions. I also enjoyed following Nine Hibiscus, now promoted to be the ultimate warleader in charge of the armada of the fleet sent out to engage the alien threat. Her relationship with Twenty Cicada, her loyal No. Two who went through training alongside her is strikingly close – he is probably the only person she completely trusts… Which made the ending bittersweet and left me with a lump in my throat.

The aliens were very well depicted – it’s a big ask to successfully give an effective sense of ‘other’, but Martine triumphantly succeeds in doing so. This isn’t a foot-to-the-floor, action-packed story, as the writing is too dense and layered to move the story along at the usual brisk clip we’re accustomed to seeing with space opera adventures. But I think it works, nonetheless. For me, there was one jarring note that caused me to knock off a point – the steamy sex scene. There were a couple of details too much. I don’t know why we were treated to such a graphic scene, as the first book didn’t tend to linger on the sexuality of the characters in general and it was an unwelcome surprise. However, it isn’t a dealbreaker as I’m aware that although it is only February, this is probably going to be one of the best books I’ll read in 2021. Highly recommended if you enjoy reading space opera featuring beautifully depicted, complicated characters and an amazing world. While I obtained an arc of A Desolation Called Peace from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NOVELLA One Day All This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #OneDayAllThisWillBeYoursbookreview

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I’ve been really looking forward to this – a science fiction read by one of my favourite authors featuring a dinosaur on the cover! Yippee! If you’d like a sense of his writing, check out my reviews of Children of Time, Children of Ruin, The Expert System’s Brother, Ironclads, Dogs of War, The Doors of Eden, Firewalkers, The Expert System’s Champion and Bear Head.

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.

REVIEW: One of the wonderful things about Tchaikovsky’s writing is that when I pick up one of his books, I never quite know what to expect. There is only one other author I can think of who is quite so magnificently versatile – Jo Walton – and she isn’t nearly so prolific.

Even so, this one was a complete surprise – especially the magnificently dark humour. I don’t think I’ve ever read a first-person narrator of Tchaikovsky’s with such a persona, I both loved and loathed our hero’s insouciant bounciness as he works unceasingly to keep a very broken world fixed in his own unique fashion… It would be very easy to drop spoilers here that would blunt the reader’s ability to experience this book as the author intended, so I’m going to do my level best NOT to commit that sin. I was mindful that the blurb didn’t let the cat the out of the bag, so neither shall I.

But I will say that all is not what it first appears to be – I was both captivated and horrified by the unfolding events, which also left my brain aching at times. Timey-whimey stuff happens that has major consequences. But I devoured this compelling read in two sessions and surfaced after that ending, mulling over what I’d read. And wondering what I would do in similar circumstances. Highly recommended for science fiction fans who appreciate something a bit different. While I obtained an arc of One Day All This Will Be Yours from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Two SCI FI Mini-reviews: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington & Scardown by Elizabeth Bear #BrainfluffSCIFImini-reviews #TheLastAstronautmini-review #Scardownmini-review

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The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

BLURB: Mission Commander Sally Jansen is Earth’s last astronaut–and last hope–in this gripping near-future thriller where a mission to make first contact becomes a terrifying struggle for survival in the depths of space.

Sally Jansen was NASA’s leading astronaut, until a mission to Mars ended in disaster. Haunted by her failure, she lives in quiet anonymity, convinced her days in space are over.
She’s wrong.

A large alien object has entered the solar system on a straight course toward Earth. It has made no attempt to communicate and is ignoring all incoming transmissions.
Out of time and out of options, NASA turns to Jansen. For all the dangers of the mission, it’s the shot at redemption she always longed for.

I’m generally not a huge fan of space horror, as it’s often done badly, with scant respect for the actual science part of the fiction. This time, however, Wellington nails it. He has worked hard on his alien, so that the tension-filled build up is worth the wait. I found it hard to put this one down as the situation slithers out of control. And that ending is absolutely brilliant. Highly recommended for fans of first contact adventures.
9/10

Scardown – Book 2 of the Wetwired series by Elizabeth Bear

BLURB: The year is 2062, and after years on the run, Jenny Casey is back in the Canadian armed forces. Those who were once her enemies are now her allies, and at fifty, she’s been handpicked for the most important mission of her life–a mission for which her artificially reconstructed body is perfectly suited. With the earth capable of sustaining life for just another century, Jenny–as pilot of the starship Montreal–must discover brave new worlds. And with time running out, she must succeed where others have failed.

Now Jenny is caught in a desperate battle where old resentments become bitter betrayals and justice takes the cruelest forms of vengeance. With the help of a brilliant AI, an ex—crime lord, and the man she loves, Jenny may just get her chance to save the world. If it doesn’t come to an end first…

I loved the first book, – see my review of Hammered – but found it more of a struggle to get into this one. But I’m also aware that when reading this, I was extremely stressed, so that could have had a bearing on my ability to focus. However, I do think the crucial bonding moment with the main protagonist should have been differently handled. The first two opening scenes ought to have been the other way around. Or merged, so that if – like me – your memory is currently operating at the level of a concussed goldfish, enough of the ongoing story is fed into that initial scene so the reader isn’t scrabbling to make sense of what is going on, instead of relaxing into the strong, engrossing writing. Once I recalled the story and characters, I enjoyed the ongoing adventure and look forward to continuing with this series. If you pick this one up before reading Hammered – whatever you do, go back and find it. Bear’s fast-paced, immersive style doesn’t hang around for the bemused or floundering.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Galaxy, and the Ground Within – Book 4 of the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheGalaxyandtheGroundWithinbookreview

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This has been one of my most keenly anticipated reads of 2021 – even though I’m aware that said anticipation is something of a poisoned chalice. For if it doesn’t blow me away as the previous three books have – see my reviews of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit and my mini-review of To Be Taught, If Fortunate – then I’ll be very disappointed. But I’m aware that it’s not reasonable to expect an author to produce four books in a row that all blow me away…

BLURB: With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop. At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

REVIEW: I needn’t have worried – once again, Chambers weaves her magic. We are drawn into the lives of these disparate individuals as they are temporarily trapped at a small stop-over. Each one of these characters are aliens with very different bodies, customs and cultures – Roveg is a Quelin, though exiled from his homeworld; Speaker is an Akarak, frantic at being separated from her twin, and Pei is the one character who links us back to the first book, as he is Ashby’s lover. Their needs are being catered by a Ouloo and her adolescent child Tupo, who both captured my heart more than any of the other characters. That said, each one of them have their own challenges and simply do the best to get by – which resonated with me.

What leapt off the page was everyone’s striving to do their best to be accommodating and polite, despite finding themselves stranded in quite difficult circumstances. Which was often in stark contrast to what has been unfolding during 2020, while we grapple with our own difficult circumstances… Nonetheless there are cultural tensions – and they flare one evening when at least one of the characters has had too much to drink. And it is Ouloo’s response that brought tears to my eyes when she announces that she knows that what has happened to both Pei’s and Speaker’s people is completely unacceptable – but there is nothing that she can do about that. She is simply overwhelmed by the complexity of the arguments on both sides. What she can do is try to help people feel at home and relaxed when they stop off for supplies – and serve desserts they find delicious.

I am conscious that I’ve made this story sound rather sappy and Pollyanna-ish and it’s nothing of the sort. Despite the relative gentleness of Chambers’ writing, she doesn’t shy away from some gnarly subjects our small band of aliens are encountering – sexual and cultural prejudice, and the plight of refugees who through no fault of their own have no planet with no imminent hope of being allocated one because they fall outside the accepted norms in appearance… I’m aware my review hasn’t begun to adequately describe the magic of Chambers’ writing – probably because I’m not really sure how she does it.

However, I urge you to go looking for this one if you’re scratching your head at my inane attempt to try and sum up this book – and try it for yourself. If you fall under her spell, chances are, you’ll be thanking me if you do. It’s made my Outstanding Reads of 2021, that’s for sure. While I obtained an arc of The Galaxy, and the Ground Within from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 27th January, 2021 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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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 – Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell – release date 2nd February

#science fiction #space opera #LGBTQ romance

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.

I heard of this one from one of my book blogging buddies, liked the sound of the premise and fell in love with the cover… I have made a start and am thoroughly enjoying this one. We are immediately tipped into the middle of the action and both main protagonists are likeable and well written. I very much like the setup where the Iskat Empire, despite ruling the rest of the system, nonetheless relies on a higher power to keep itself and its vassal planets safe from more rapacious conquerors – so long as they do as they’re told. Has anyone else got this one on their radar?

Friday Faceoff – The main thing about aliens is that they are alien… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffaliencovers

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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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers depicting ALIENS. I’ve selected Bloodhype – Book 2 of the Pip and Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster.

Del Rey Books, September 1985

This offering, produced by Del Rey Books in September 1985, is one of the default covers for this book. I really like this dramatic spacescape, with the two protagonists about to enter/examine the beautifully weird craft or creature featured in the middle of the cover. The very symmetrical arrangement of the author and title fonts and blurb provides a strong frame for the action, adding rather than interrupting the impact of the design. This is my favourite.

This is a revamp of an earlier cover, but that is all the information I have on this edition. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, other than there’s a large planet nearby. So is that an asteroid or a spaceship – or a cross between both? And down near the bottom of the cover, there seems to be part of a torus, with the back view of a version of the Vitruvian man. Or is it? It’s rather fantastical and weird – and a bit creepy. By contrast, the author and title font is extremely boring and plain.

Del Rey, 1973

This edition is the original design, as far as I can ascertain, published by Del Rey in 1973. And here is the alien… along with Pip and Flinx and a young woman wearing an outfit that leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. That said, and despite the lack of spaceships, I think this cover has a certain charm – and I really like the title font which packs a visual punch. The other big plus for this cover is that it features the protagonists and the scene relates to the book content.

New English Library, 1979

This edition, published in 1979 by New English Library/Times Mirror, has gone for the mysterious island vibe. This cover has an oddly gothic feel to it. That island sn’t your cosy, inviting let’s-get-away-from-it-all version, complete with gorgeous beach and inviting coconut palms, is it? And that sky is downright threatening – complete with missile fire. While it is invitingly mysterious, I’m not sure that this cover successfully reflects the content.

Italian edition, 1976

This Italian edition, published by Nord in 1976 is the original artwork of the earlier cover. I love those pops of turquoise that are missing in the copy, which pull the design together and give it a lighter, more playful tone. Suddenly it seems less of a muddle and more of a lighthearted homage to certain tropes. I just wish it wasn’t surrounded and rather overwhelmed by that dreary grey boxing in the glorious design. This would have been my favourite if not for that. Which one do you prefer?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Doors of Sleep – Journals of Zaxony Delatree series by Tim Pratt

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I haven’t read anything by this author, but the cover caught my eye and I really liked the premise. I’m also a fan of Angry Robot, whose output is invariably interesting and well written, so I was delighted to be approved for this arc.

BLURB: Every time Zax Delatree falls asleep, he travels to a new reality. He has no control over his destination and never knows what he will see when he opens his eyes. Sometimes he wakes up in technological utopias, and other times in the bombed-out ruins of collapsed civilizations. All he has to live by are his wits and the small aides he has picked up along the way – technological advantages from techno-utopias, sedatives to escape dangerous worlds, and stimulants to extend his stay in pleasant ones. Thankfully, Zax isn’t always alone. He can take people with him, if they’re unconscious in his arms when he falls asleep. But someone unwelcome is on his tail, and they are after something that Zax cannot spare – the blood running through his veins, the power to travel through worlds…

REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining portal adventure, which has a pleasingly old-fashioned feel. The overarching narrative is very straightforward. For reasons that poor Zaxony doesn’t fully understand, every time he falls asleep or unconscious – he jumps worlds. Initially, he spends his time in a horrified daze as he tries to come to terms with his new normal. For the worlds that Zax encounters are mind-bogglingly various, ranging from idyllic to nightmarish and everything in between. He can take someone with him, as long as he is holding them when he falls asleep – but he is haunted by an upsetting incident where a lovely woman he fell in love with stayed awake during their journey between worlds and arrived in the new world raving – her mind broken by the experience. So he is very careful who he takes along.

We join Zax in the middle of his adventures, after a couple of the companions he has taken with him haven’t turned out to be ideal – and just as he starting a relationship with another kindly soul. There is a generally upbeat, positive vibe running through the series of adventures that I thoroughly welcomed and while the main plot isn’t overly complicated, or particularly original – what made this book really stand out is the sheer inventiveness and variety of alll those worlds Zax visits. There is a building sense of frustration that we only ever see the thinnest slice of their dynamic – because as soon as Zax falls asleep, off we go to somewhere entirely new, again. But I really liked that niggling sense of annoyance, as it helped me bond with dear old Zax, who is generally a well-meaning, honest chap – in sharp contrast to a nicely satisfyingly nasty antagonist in the form of the Lector, an archetypal evil scientist.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and note with satisfaction that it looks as though this is the first in a series. Highly recommended of fans of science fiction adventures with an upbeat tone. While I obtained an arc of Doors of Sleep from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Bear Head – Book 2 of the Dogs of War series by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #BearHeadbookreview

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I loved the first book in this series – see my review of Dogs of War – which I thought was masterful in producing a really entertaining story and raising an interestingly gnarly moral point. So I was extremely excited to get hold of this addition to the series…

BLURB: Mars. The red planet. A new frontier for humanity, a civilization where humans can live in peace, lord and master of all they survey. But this isn’t Space City from those old science-fiction books. We live in Hell City, built into and from a huge subcontinent-sized crater. There’s a big silk canopy over it, feeding out atmosphere as we generate it, little by little, until we can breathe the air.

It’s a perfect place to live, if you actually want to live on Mars. I guess at some point I had actually wanted to live on Mars, because here I am. The money was supposed to be good, and how else was a working Joe like me supposed to get off-planet exactly? But I remember the videos they showed us – guys, not even in suits, watching robots and bees and Bioforms doing all the work – and they didn’t quite get it right…

REVIEW: It took me a while to get into this one, as I didn’t immediately bond with Jimmy, the grunt labourer who is working on Mars. I also loathed Thompson, who has to be one of the most satisfyingly nasty antagonists I’ve encountered so far this year and found his poor put-upon assistant rather difficult company.

I was hoping that dear old Rex, who featured so movingly in Dogs of War, would put in an appearance. However, I don’t think I’m introducing anything of a Spoiler when I disclose that at the start of this story, Rex has long gone. Indeed, while it was enjoyable to know where some of the politics started, I think this is one a reader could pick up without having read Dogs of War and happily enjoy it without struggling overmuch as Honey and Bees are fully explained and have undergone major changes since the first story.

Once I got about a third into the story and settled down with the characters and the action and pace began to pick up, I was fully invested in the story and once more enjoying Tchaikovsky’s world. Mars was interestingly portrayed and I really liked the exploration of the scenario whereby someone’s personality can be uploaded elsewhere. Because immediately the question has to be – where? After all, who wants to spend their lives sitting in a jar, or machine? Inevitably, if you’ve gone to the trouble and expense of uploading your consciousness – you’ll want it in a body, won’t you? So whose body gets to act as passenger?

The other interesting issue Tchaikovsky explores in this book is how a narcissistic personality like Thompson manages to become such a powerful leader. In the wake of Trump’s presidency, I think this is a question that is being examined quite a lot… And Thompson definitely has some Trump-like attributes. I loved the sudden twist, whereby the action on Mars becomes gripping and very dangerous. Poor old Jimmy finds himself right at the heart of the action and I found myself reading this and thinking that it would make a cracking good mini-series on TV. Highly recommended for fans of colony adventures. While I obtained an arc of Bear Head from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10