I’m conscious that I’ve never experienced a month like it in the whole of my life – and I’m not sure I ever will again… Or perhaps I will. Perhaps May and June will continue being in social isolation with lots of handwashing and staying at home. But what has kept my head straight is my love of reading and writing – thank goodness for both! I’ve also loved the wonderful sunny weather – it’s been a joy being able to sit in the garden and watch Spring springing… I’m conscious that I am very blessed. And given that none of us can guarantee if we will survive this, I’ve determined to be as thankful for every coming day as I can be. So despite everything, this has been a very precious April.
I read eighteen books in April, which isn’t quite as marvellous as it sounds, as one of those was a short story and another was a novella. This is the list:
The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
Scythe – Dimension Drift prequel NOVELLA #1 by Christina Bauer
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is my EBOOK read of the month
Dead Eye – Book 1 of the Tiger’s Eye Mystery series by Alyssa Day
Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Q by Christina Dalcher
The Hedgeway SHORT STORY by Vivienne Tuffnell
A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel. This is my AUDIOBOOK read of the month
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Palm Tree Messiah by Sarah Palmer – manuscript read
Witch Dust – Book 1 of the Witch series by Marilyn Messik
Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
After Seth by Caron Garrod
I continued working on my Creative Writing How-To Book on Characterisation and I’m pleased with the progress, but I woke up on 11th April with an epiphany about some issues that had been niggling me with Mantivore Warrior – so I dropped my How-To book and immediately dived back into the manuscript to fix it. I’ve learnt from hard experience not to ever put those kinds of moments off – otherwise they pass and I forget!
I have also been working on another project that I’m hoping to be able to discuss in another couple of weeks. I don’t normally flit between so many different writing projects – but right now everything is extraordinary. So it makes sense that my writing patterns would suddenly go AWOL, too… Overall, I wrote just over 43,000 words in April, with just under 17,000 words on my blog and just under 25,500 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just under 180,000 words so far.
I have found keeping up with my blog such a source of comfort and encouragement – I know social media can be responsible for some dark acts, but I happen to be fortunate enough to inhabit a really lovely corner, where I meet some of the nicest people on the planet. But that’s not a surprise, because they are readers, or writers, or both. I hope May is a good month for you and that you stay safe. Take care.xxx
I’m a real fan of Scalzi’s writing – I enjoyed his Old Man’s War series and absolutely love the Lock In series, which has redefined crime fiction, by putting a futuristic spin on it, so that crimes are committed and solved in ways that right now are impossible – see my review of Lock In and Head On. So I pounced on this epic space opera series – see my reviews of the first two book in this trilogy – The Collapsing Empire, and The Consuming Fire. Has this third and final book in this interesting trilogy managed to bring this ambitious adventure to a satisfactory end?
BLURB: The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known. Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of this collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people from impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough. Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization… or the last emperox to wear the crown?
Unusually I’ve included the complete blurb, because you need to understand the extent of Scalzi’s ambition in depicting this world. The Interdependency has existed for a thousand years, after a series of wars that nearly snuffed out humanity – and Rachela, the very first Emperox, put in place a system on which each planet or colony outpost needs supplies and raw material from elsewhere in order to exist. So the Interdependency continues to thrive on mutual dependence – which has worked well enough, until now, when the space pathways that allow ftl travel are starting to collapse…
There is a really nifty Prologue with nicely reminded me of the situation and the main characters in the frame, without feeling like an info-dump, and once more I was scooped up into the middle of the infighting and social shark tank that is Grayland II’s court. Though despite this helpful update, I would strongly advise that if you’ve picked this one up without having read the previous two books, then put it down again and go hunting for them first. This book is essentially a continuation of the overarching story, so if you don’t actually flounder, you’ll be missing far too much of the backstory to be able to fully appreciate the scope of what is going on.
There is an interesting dynamic, wherein Scalzi has ticked all the boxes for writing an epic space opera adventure, but at the same time has included the kind of snark and edged humour more commonly encountered in urban fantasy. There are a couple of characters who are very sweary, so if you are offended by liberal use of the f-word, among others, then you’d be better off giving this one a miss. But dear Emperox Grayland II isn’t one of them and I love her principled stand, refusing to take the easy way out by saving just the nobility, but attempting to ensure the billions of her subjects also stand a chance, too.
This one buckets along at a fair clip, with some major plot twists that I simply didn’t see coming and left me reeling. To be honest, I’m still trying to process the ending… because it really, really isn’t the conclusion I was looking for, or wanted. Yet, as it was explained, I have to accept that realistically speaking – it was the only possible outcome. Does it work? Oh yes. It’s also really clever. But, even so…
That said – I don’t feel I’ve been cheated, or short-changed in any way and I certainly don’t regret having dived into the rambunctious world of the Interdependency, even if I’ve surfaced a tad dazed and battered. Recommended for fans of enjoyable, well-written epic space opera. The ebook arc copy of The Last Emperox was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
It’s been another quiet week, although I did manage to teach Tim via Skype on Monday and have our fortnightly Writing Group meeting on Zoom. Himself is still driving trains, although he finds it an eerie experience as formerly busy stations are deserted.
On Wednesday, I took a pair of scissors to my hair – and I’m really pleased with the result, but to be honest I was so sick of the tousle-haired old bat staring back at me in the mirror I’d got past caring. I hadn’t been out of the house since driving down to see our parents for Mothering Sunday a fortnight ago, so we went for a walk along the seafront yesterday morning. As you can see, it was deserted despite the lovely weather so it was easy to be mindful of the social distancing.
We have now discovered The Amazing Mrs Maisel – and loved the first two episodes, so will be watching more. I’m finding it difficult to face The Expanse or The Crossing at present, with what is going on day after day… As for my How-To book, I think I’m about half-way through and really enjoying writing it.
Last week I read:
A Dragon of a Different Colour – Book 4 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron
To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives. Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who’s always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect.
I love this series – it just goes on delivering. The worldbuilding is exceptional and the magic system complicated and engrossing, while the characters are nuanced and charismatic. I’m dreading reading the final book, as I don’t want the fun to end…
The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will.
Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture beyond the walls. What he doesn’t know is – what happens when you aren’t given a choice?
This one is a solid joy. Carey absolutely nails the first-person POV and I fell in love with Koli – though he is in danger of being upstaged by the delightful, funny Monono, one of the most enegaging sidekicks I’ve encountered in a while. Review to follow.
The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known. Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of this collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people from impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough. Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization… or the last emperox to wear the crown?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series – Scalzi manages to provide a classic epic space opera scenario with an urban fantasy vibe. His characters are sharp, often funny and in amongst the grim risk of an apocalyptic end of civilisation looming over everyone, there is also a swashbuckling energy. Review to follow.
My posts last week:
March 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…
Friday Face-off featuring The Whisper Man by Alex North
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor
Review of AUDIOBOOK Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures written and narrated by Stephen Fry
Review of KINDLE Ebook Warrior – Book 1 of the Doppleganger duology by Marie Brennan
Sunday Post – 29th March 2020
Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Music video – Surreal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2sfsE8KVPs&feature=youtu.be This is the song my student, Tim, has composed about the coronavirus…
Productivity vs Chaos: How to Hit a Balance https://writerunboxed.com/2020/04/03/productivity-vs-chaos-how-to-hit-a-balance/ I really like this article for its compassionate, non-judgemental stance… It seems to me we are all dealing with this crisis as best we can in our own way.
Updates: a new resource on sports and games in science fiction https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2020/04/03/updates-a-new-resource-on-sports-and-games-in-science-fiction/ For those among you who might be immersing yourselves into other universes and worlds for the duration…
Wordless Wednesday: Hairdo(n’t) https://applegategenealogy.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/wordless-wednesday-hairdont/ I was sorely tempted to write the conversation this couple might have had once he had a chance to see the pic…
It’s Camp NaNoWriMo Time! https://comfortreadsbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/31/its-camp-nanowrimo-time/ For those of you who are considering working on your writing projects – but would like some companionship along the way…
Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.