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remotevoices last won the day on March 5

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  1. So, I think everyone I know is finding currents events stressful/difficult. I know my brain has been pudding and it has been a struggle. With that, the writing group I am part of, the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle, has decided to put together an anthology for charity. We put it together in a week, one of my friends drove the whole process through, collecting, editing, putting website together, all that. Collection contains 20 stories, most of which are available for the first time, all money goes to charity. If anyone was interested we'd appreciate your support. Promoting and spreading the word is a big help. http://flotationdevicebook.co.uk/ Table of Contents: “Threnody” – Hal Duncan “Of Gods and Monsters” – Cameron Johnston “Rare As A Harpy’s Tear” – Neil Williamson “The Anniversary” – Ruth EJ Booth “A Suitable Offering” – Shona Kinsella “Where I Went On My Holidays” – Ian Hunter “Some of the Great Old Ones are on the Pitch” – Brian M. Milton “Amaranth” – Heather Valentine “Sugar Coated” – Don Redwood “Ancient History” – Elaine Gallagher “Chat” – Stephen Cashmore “Filmland” – Stewart Horn “A Cold Day in Hell” – CJ Brian “The Map or A Pocketful of Dog’s Teeth” – Elsie WK Donald “Nelson’s Blood” – Richard Mosses “All the Way to the Dead Dog Party” – E.M. Faulds “The Sea Calls Its Own” – Christopher Napier “The Snow Baby” – Jenni Coutts “The Worms Of Talav” – T. H. Dray “When Yer A Shark” – Peter Morrison Original cover art by Jenni Coutts I know all of the authors, and most of them are good people Thanks.
  2. Claire DeWitt & The Bohemian Highway/Claire DeWitt & The Infinite Blacktop - Sara Gran - The 2nd and 3rd of these mystery novels. I read the 1st last year after recommendation from Maria Dahvana Headley. After reading the first I bought the other two right away, but have been saving them. Read book 2 on train down south, cover to cover and book 3 almost cover to cover on the train back home. Across the three books we learn about Claire and her car crash life, from being a teen detective, to losing one of her friends, and how the particular school of detection is a blessing of geniuses and a curse because it changes how you see the world. And in each book there is a separate mystery - an ex is murdered and someone tries to kill her. I have to believe there is a fourth still to come, because there are some dangling threads, but how these three work together is mind blowing. Not for everyone, but the particular combination of all the elements really worked for me, big serious emotional roller coaster, incandescent and devastating. A Song For A New Day - Sarah Pinsker - oh, man! This fits nicely into a run of physical books, discounting the ebooks read at same time: Gamechanger, CatNet, Agency and this. This is much quieter and small scale, but much more personal and packing a punch with that. Told in two times lines, before and after The Crash. Before: Luce is on the cusp of being huge, touring hard, doing all the interviews, and the night everything goes wrong she is supposed to play an actual big theatre, with her name on the front. There are a series of terrorist attacks and most of the country shuts down, years later looking back, it turns out she was the last artist of any size to play a live gig. After: the attacks were followed by a pandemic, massive casualties, public distancing, systemic collapse. Rosemary is about the age Luce was when the shit went down, she homeschooled via internet, like everyone else, her job if telepresence/VR customer service from her bedroom, like everyone else. Gigs and entertainment are VR subscription/immersive experiences, which she can't afford. Until she gives good service to StageHolo, who invite her to a gig - her first gig, she plugs in, her avatar loads, and it is an incredible, mind blowing experience. One thing leads to another, and she is recruited, go on the road, in the post-Crash world, and find new artists to perform on StageHolo! But how do you do that? And whatever happened to Luce? Quiet, powerful, really engaging if you are into music/gigs. And very weird to have read this month as the visa systems for musicians are announced, followed by talk of restricting public events in light of Corona... False Values - Ben Aaronvitch - The latest in the "Rivers of London" series of novels. The last one was the big culmination of most of what has gone before, with a little aftermath and mainly tangent from the previous. With that, I did feel at times I was missing something - probably could do with a re-read sometime to keep everything straight. But all the favourite characters are here, and as usual successfully builds up a new plot. Peter has been suspended and let go, so has taken on a job as security for a tech firm with a serious Hitch Hikers Guide theme going on - on his first day he is issued with a towel which has to wear round his head so people know he is new. But of course, there is something going on, big technology, software billionaires, and things that go bump in the night. Other parties trying to get in there first, shit hitting fan, and general page turning delightful romp that fans will expect. Always buy and read as soon as I can, not disappointed. Zolitude - Paige Cooper - collection of short stories, working my way through, about half way, but always that thing of how do you cover a collection generally. I picked this up after Jeff VanderMeer raved about it on twitter, and funnily the story I'm reading just now has cameo by character called Van der Meer. This is an interesting collection, not a writer I knew before, so no expectation. I'm really enjoying the way each story creates the impression of place, many of the stories are places that are "foreign", like maybe Eastern Europe, nearly familiar, and detailed, but not quite. There is one in particular, which has a war veteran back in the country where he fought, with the sense that it might be Vietnam, but then just casually and totally obvious to the characters, there are dinosaurs, no big deal, just a thing. And there are various things like that, characters have crises, just regular people in relations, with little throw away wait a minutes, and that occasional sense of something not being what you thought it would be. Some of the stories are really good, the rest are good, assuming second half of the collection will continue to reward.
  3. Catfishing on CatNet - Naomi Kritzer - One assumes that everyone is familiar with the short story Cat Pictures Please? (go, read! again! http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_01_15/) This short novel from Tor Teen is a sequel to the short story, and given the indication at the end that there is another book soon, then the start of something bigger? Stef is a teen girl with no IRL friends, because her mum keeps moving them every few months, afraid that Stef's dangerous father will catch up with them. Her only friends are on CatNet, a forum for people posting cat pictures - after a short time on the board, members are added to a private chat group (a Clowder, like a group of cats), where they will get on with every member. The narrative alternates between Stef and CheshireCat, a member of her Clowder, a member of all the Clowders, all the board moderators...the AI that runs the forum and wants to have friends and see cat pictures. In a new school, Stef finds herself disconnected again, desperate to move on, till she suddenly makes a friend, and before her mum falls ill, and the shit hits the fan. This was great, light, diverse, total page turner, I just found it so much fun. The One That Comes Before - Livia Llwelyn - I had noted Llwelyn after reading and listening to one of her shorts, and planned to follow her work up. Which is what brought me to this novella. The words horror/weird get used in discussion of Llwelyn's work, and I have mixed feelings on those genres - some of it is wonderful, and some of it is mince, and I'm not sure I know enough to pick reliably. This worked as being exactly my sweet spot. Alex is a receptionist in a prestige publishing house, dreading Monday morning, trying to gauge how she is going to balance her alcohol intake between now and payday. Which has her lying awake listening to the horrors in the night, super tired on the way to work with her must have coffee. The latest rich bitch intern bugs her, only there because daddy is well placed, swanning round the office with her diamond pierced gills and being all superior to the ugly, ageing, alcoholic receptionist. But Alex quickly realises today is different - something bad is going to happen, and as things get messy she wishes she had followed the urge to not come in to work. It balances utter mundanity, shitty work colleagues, office politics with a constant low level weird (the air conditioning is shoggoth generated, which is the only explicit lovecraftian reference). Short, sharp and that creepy pleasure. Now reading: Agency
  4. Circe - Madeline Miller – this one has been a big one, lots of press, stocked by supermarkets, and all that. Witch/goddess/mythology, sure that sounds like my cup of tea. And it is, quite enjoyable. I perhaps expected more, given the buzz, but it is fine (one friend suggested it was “a big ovaries” book, when I suggested I was slightly underwhelmed, so I guess that explains everything?). Anyways, Circe, daughter of the titan Helios who sided with Zeus in the war of the Heavens. Nondescript to look at, a mediocre human voice, not nearly as powerful as her siblings. Still, she manages to find her ability to shift reality through witch craft and get exiled for the rest of her days in the process. A lot of the book is spent on her naivety, her expectations of what will happen, her bluster/arrogance, and the resulting disappointment. Then there is a good chunk set on her island, which is quite nice, wild and rambling and idylic. There excursions and encounters, monsters, gods and goddesses, encounters with significant humans, the full spectrum of Greek mythology. At times perhaps Circe is too passive, too naïve, too much a witness to other people's story, which is where that little niggle comes from. But I did enjoy. High Tower Gods - CL Corona – the latest novella from Cat Hellisen's alt-pen-name, and I gather a piece set in the future of a world she has previously explored in other works, which I have not read. The main character is a proto-immortal science-alchemist who has been instrumental in creation of chimera-cyborg-slaves. She lives in the middle of nowhere, continuing her studies into the esoteric, and making sure no one notices that she never ages. Until there is a murder, which threatens her legacy, and she finds she must meddle once more in city affairs. Decent, quick read, with no experience of the world I felt it could have been explored more, could have been a novel, which in someways is a good thing? Gamechanger - LX Beckett – Probably reasonably unknown, I encountered Beckett for their piece in F&SF in...2018. It was a near future SF piece, following a musician journalist Woodrow Whiting, weird art and conspiracy. It touched on a number of important, interesting things, and I enjoyed a lot. We talked in passing on twitter and they mentioned the novel Gamechanger as being the follow up/expansion – lead narrators being Woodrow (and old bloke) and his grown up daughter Rubi. Though there are other narrators, like the AI conspiracy, the weird and elusive anti-social character, Rubi's nemesis, and their daughter. So environmental collapse, but unlike Gibson's Jackpot, where shit hits the fan and only the rich survive, the population goes through Setback (collapse) and Clawback (recovery). Where everyone has to come together, where the economy is replaced by pro-social, environmental supportive reputation culture – you held or your #triaged. Things aren't perfect though, progress maybe plateauing and Rubi is pissed that she failed a law exam because she was playing her part as celebrity gamer, and support for her pet ocean cleaning/oxygenating project had collapsed. So she is throwing herself at her legal career, and determined to revive the project, while her gaming nemesis is determined to get her back for the big new game. Meanwhile her dad is still haunted by his past and has gone out looking for the truth. Over 500 pages makes it a dense read, lots of world building about the environment, technology, culture, gaming, characters, the tensions and drama, but as it all falls into place it gains momentum and I enjoyed reading a lot. Beckett pitches it as hopeful cli-fi, I'm not 100% convinced that it is as hopeful as she would like and little things niggled, but it did provide a contrast to most of the other ballpark books I can think of. Half way through Stross RTd author Alyx Dellamonica, who was mentioning that they were actually LX Beckett, so a pseudonym for a work that is a change from Dellamonica's previous novels (though perhaps touches on some of the more SF works earlier in their career). The Awesome - Eva Darrows – Maggie is a 17 year old monster hunter, apprenticed to her mum, who is a loud rock and roll loving gun toting bad ass, and what Maggie aspires to. As a trainee there are only so many things she can do, and as a virgin she can't go anywhere near vampires, because virgin blood puts young vampires into a frenzy. So Maggie has to go out and get laid, which gets messy, then the testing to see if the messy was maybe effective enough gets even messier and... hilarity/carnage ensues. A quick crude urban fantasy, feeling much more tongue cheek and ribald than most of the genre. A lot of daft fun.
  5. Huh, curious that I've not seen new Hiromi Kawakami, Strange Weather and Nakano Thrift Shop seemed to do quite well, and I enjoyed both. Looks like there are more listed from small press that I've not seen as well. I started her collection of three long shorts, Record of a Night Too Brief, but that first piece was an incoherent dream piece and I never got round to reading the other two (I would have sworn it was still sitting on pile beside my home desk, but apparently not). Will still look into her new stuff though. I'm still on hold with Commendatore, finding it really slow and the translation/writing seems overdone so that it is repetitive. I'll get back to it though, Murakami does remain one of my favourite writers. And I have Alternate Routes sitting on my kindle, it sounded curious when I read about it. Just finished "Gideon The Ninth" by Tamsyn Muir, which is one of the most hyped books I've come across in a long time. Authors falling over themselves to sing its praises as far in advance of an actual publication as was possible. Which, honestly, starts to become a pain in the arse, yes, yes, we get it, we should all read this book that you got to read and we'll not see for another year, thanks. On other hand, given how many of those authors are folk I do enjoy, generally, I did get a little curious. With that, this wasn't necessarily the bat shit, lesbian space necromancers I was lead to believe. Gideon in an orphan, raised in a nunnery, she is raised with the daughter of the lord and lady who run the sprawling gothic crypt/church/death cult. They are best friends, except for the stabbing, the skeletons and general hatred for each other. So when the 9 houses are called together to visit the sprawling, near derelict mansion of the First, home of the Undying Emperor, Gideon gets to be Harrow's other half. So 8 couples, and a twin, turn up at the home of the First, where they are set on a treasure hunt/murder mystery. Oh, and each couple is comprised of each houses's top necromancer and sword wielding bodyguard, and each house has their own peculiarities which makes the other houses despise them, with the skull face painted bastard house that should have died being represented by the necromancer Harrow and swaggering swordswoman Gideon. On some level it perhaps reminds of Knives Out or The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, it feels like it should be an Agatha Christie whodunnit, with locked rooms, puzzles and twists, only with a lot more skeletons and walking dead. Tonally it was actually much more understated than I expected, subtle given the way it had been talked up, which in someways was a good thing. Overall, I enjoyed this a lot, crammed it into the post new year/pre-return to work work, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable page turner. I may have some reservations about the ending, but likely minor all things considered.
  6. Been meaning to do recap of what I read in December, now is as good a time as any. The Magicians - Lev Grossman - Third time I've read this, last read before reading the final volume. Funny how a book changes, as we change, and in this case after watching the TV adaptation, which in places is faithful and in others is wildly different. Against a background of 2019 and particularly the election, my reading this time was particularly bleak - part of the core message of the book being that no matter how Quentin's dreams are met he will never be happy. For those that don't know, it is Harry Potter if he went to wizard school at 17 and had dreamed of Narnia his whole life. Still fascinating on how it approaches magic, and again interesting to see how this fits with the Russian novel Vita Nostra, which Grossman described as an influence on this novel. Hatful of Sky - Terry Pratchett - 2nd of the Tiffany Aching novels by Pratchett. Again, I assume more folk have read more Pratchett than I have. More exploration of magic, and its relation to the land, and how there can be different measures and approaches. Tiffany having being hailed a witch in book 1 goes off to train, but that takes her away from home and the land that informs who she is. And what she learns along the way... I enjoyed a lot, easy and pleasing. Uprooted - Naomi Novak - read this in paper at same time read Hatful on kindle, and they are very complimentary reads. Every 10 years "The Dragon" takes a teenage girl from the lands he protects from the DARK EVIL WOOD and they are transformed by the experience. Agnieszka convinced that her prettier more skilled friend will be picked is thrown when she is instead picked... because she is a witch. The story follows the torment between the two - him with his rigid book magic and her with her weird unpredictable intuitive magic. And there is a dark evil wood, which will destroy everything, hilarity ensues (it doesn't, but drama and action does). Been recommended loads of times, and lives up to that pretty well, though in the end turned out I had no idea what to expect. The Haunted Girl - Lisa M Bradley - another of my random story bundle reads, this one was part of Latinx batch. I thought it was a short story collection, as often is the case with these bundles. But it seems to be more of a mix of poetry and stories. With the poetry I think I probably missed a lot, I just don't get it. But fortunately the poems were reasonably narrative, and those worked with the stories to form a less seen side of American urban fantasy - vampires, saints, ghosts, shape shifters - but from a different culture/community than the mainstream. Which was a big strength and selling point. Starling Days - Rowan Hisayo Buchanan - Rowan's 2nd novel, picked up at Edinburgh Book Festival I think...where I saw her talk and a brief conversation, and she recognised me from twitter, which was nice. I first came across her work in short stories, which lead me to her 1st novel Harmless Like You, and on to this 2nd. Rowan is mixed race, came out as bi during an interview, and has experience with depression - all of which are factors in this novel. The depression in particular is at the core of this novel, with suicidal themes through out. The story alternating between husband and wife viewpoints of Oscar and Mina, Mina struggling with her depression and Oscar struggling with how to deal with his wife. They leave New York for London, hoping change of scene will help, but when Oscar has to go on business trip and Mina explores her attraction to Phoebe things get messy. Not my usual reading on surface, but Rowan's writing is really good, though with the themes this was at times a difficult read. Regards VanderMeer, I think the Southern Reach is his strongest work. I struggled a little with Borne, was just too bleak. Though, I expect I'll still be picking up Dead Astronauts when it comes out here. (He has been touring US with the new novel, though not sure if that is finished now). I just picked up Shriek in the sales, which is one of only a few I don't have.
  7. remotevoices

    Tour dates!

    London 4th https://www.howtoacademy.com/events/william-gibson-on-the-future/ Don't know if will others, he usually manages a couple in London. Though FP signing is a standard.
  8. remotevoices

    Tour dates!

    https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/festival-of-ideas-william-gibson-tickets-84737599441 A Bristol date just been linked on twitter. Same event he did last time he was in Bristol. February. Not seen any other dates so far.
  9. The Rosewater Redemption – Tade Thompson – The third volume of Tade's Rosewater trilogy, and I think you definitely need to have read the other books to get this. Definitely part of a series it builds on the events of the second book, the clashes, the civil wars, and expands the cast further. Chunks of this are told from the POV of bicycle girl, though the POV shifts through chapters, hitting the characters that were established as leads in book 2, as well as continuing to give Kaaro a significant role in the whole. I enjoyed this book, I enjoyed the series, and hard to say anything about that without getting into spoilers for the series, but a lot of it is that the series isn't entirely anything I've seen before (even if bits are perhaps familiar), and as it went on I didn't really know where it was going, and Tade kept pushing it further out. Our narrator is an old woman, one of only three people living in a cluster of summer homes during the winter. She is a bit of a character, hates her name, and tends to use nicknames, so the novel starts when her neighbour Oddball comes to tell her that Bigfoot has died and they should take steps to ensure he is treated with dignity. But Bigfoot's death is just the first in the locality. Obsessed with astrology and animal welfare, she calculates the charts for all that die and tells all who'll listen she is convinced that the animals are taking their revenge. This is the second novel by the Polish author to be translated and published by Fitzcaraldo, following Flights which won awards, and both novels have got a decent buzz. Throughout I was reminded of the writing of Magnus Mills, peculiar little communities, where strangers come to town, or a single event occurs, which transforms the lives of the contained community. There is a lot of that here, and a similar kind of black humour, low level absurdity in the process. The blue covers of Fitzcaraldo's books in some way suggest that they could be difficult to read, but this is the second novel I've read from the small press and I've really enjoyed both (I have another 4-5 sitting on my shelves to be read).
  10. Gods, Monsters & The Lucky Peach - Kelly Robson - Another tor novella, another time travel piece. Set in post-environmental collapse, folks have gone underground, some have come back up and are trying to rebuild. Rebuilding is slow and painful, but progress gets derailed with the discovery of a form of time travel. A multi-limbed old woman of the rebuild generation, gets offered a gig to go back in time and study important river with task of recreating. She is joined by young sidekick, and we get the whole generational differences, experience and desperation and entitlement and drive that go with that. This was much more pleasing that I feared given base idea, perhaps niche but I really enjoyed all the environmental/economic stuff, that was great. The time travel stuff less so, though it was largely handled in a way that was complimentary. The end, sadly was frustrating, and oddly anti-climactic. So, I enjoyed reading, disliked end. The Last Supper Before Ragnarok - Cassandra Khaw - This is an odd series, down to the idea of ownership, which I have seen Khaw talk about in the past. The Gods And Monsters series is a publisher owned series of novellas - each writer created a character and the publisher then owns that character having paid the writer off. Very much an old school comic book model, the publisher being part of that school of thought. This is Khaw's third novel with her chef Rupert Wong. But oddly, this is the culmination, I understand, of the Gods And Monsters series, so she takes the characters from two other writers, and brings the set together in an end of the world scenario where only these characters can save the world. I think there are a few new characters, who act as instigators, and not having read the other books it was hard to say what I was missing. At the start of the story, I definitely felt I was missing something, but I was actually OK with that. A group of people from different backgrounds, different abilities go on a road trip of America, exploring the ideas of old gods and new gods, with a hat tip consciously made to American Gods at once. It is an odd book, a lot more eating and drinking and sarcasm than one might expect, but probably to be expected when your narrator is an ex-cannibal chef, weird immortal demon touched, ex-gangster. I enjoyed. The Curses - Laure Eve - Sequel to The Graces. The Graces was a YA book I picked up at random - not sure it was expressly sold as YA, pretty sure I picked it up off the general promo tables in Waterstones, but definitely that is where you will find the two of them now. The Graces was published in 2016, so following up with the promised sequel 3 years later isn't industry standard (though, knocking them out every couple of months might not be a preferred/sustainable model...) The Graces are a family of notorious witches that live in a small town, with this generation there are three teenagers - attractive, popular, influential, cursed. A stranger comes to town, she desperately wants to be friends with Summer Grace who is in her class, to date Summer's older brother. The girl recreates herself, names herself River, and she becomes a witch too, things are good, then they are not, and bad things happen. With The Curses, time has passed (though in terms of months, rather than years like publication). The Graces have been removed from school and are trying to move on from what happened. This book switches POV, from River in book 1, to Summer in book 2, so we follow Summer in a new school, then getting expelled. The Graces returning to their old school to find that River has somewhat taken on their role. But the result seems to be a ripple of increasingly dark curses, and maybe the resolution of the first book wasn't the solution they thought it was. The POV threw me a little, as did how much it has been since I read the original. Once into it and as events started to fall into place I enjoyed it more. Not sure I enjoyed as much as Graces, but I'm certainly in a different place from reading first book, so that is definite a factor. Dark Arts And A Daiquiri - Annette Marie - I've got a few books on the go, some harder more demanding books, and unfortunately my brain is struggling between work and the collapse of all we hold sacred. So I consciously switched from some of those other books, which I am still reading, slowly, and went for something lighter. Book 2 of book I recently posted about - continuing adventures of Tori, who is a basic human, working in a secret guild where everyone has magic abilities. The ongoing distinction between humans and magic people as not humans is always a thing that annoys me always. Between start of first book and course of this one the time period is weeks, Tori is enjoying her job and keeps maybe dating one of her extraordinarily handsome and rugged new friends. Those new friends act as bounty hunters, tracking down and stopping magic bad guys for the magic secret police. Here there is a missing girl and they recruit Tori as bait to help track down the super elusive bad guy they suspect has taken the girl. Which of course lead to Tori being abducted and her friends being unable to rescue her, but things aren't as they seem, and oh,boy,isn't the bad guy super swoony! I enjoyed again, starts nicely with continuity from book 1, twists it so that this isn't more of the same, continues good world building, keeps it sassy and fun, even when it gets dark and explosive. Exactly what I was after. The Ten Thousand Doors of January - Alix E Harrow - surprisingly not been able to find this in the shops, which given it is a new release from Orbit seems really weird. I ended up splashing out on full price kindle book, and might end up buying physical book anyway. Harrow's "A Witch's Guide To Escape" was one of my favourite stories of last year, and I imagine folk will not be surprised to hear it was very much up my street (read it here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witchs-guide-to-escape-a-practical-compendium-of-portal-fantasies/). This is Harrow's debut novel, and lives up to her full potential, it is great, I loved it. January is an in-between girl, skin a funny colour, not really definable, but thanks to her mentor/step-father she lives in a world of privilege. Her father travels the world discovering (and stealing) the most fantastic artifacts and sending them back to Mr. Locke. Mr. Locke takes care of January and tries to shape her into being a good girl, which isn't always easy given her fascination with pulp fiction and penny dreadful type adventures. But when she discovers a doorway to another world, something inside her changes, despite Mr. Locke's persistent attempts to forcefully keep here respectable. As the novel builds, January finds a book, a book about Doors and other worlds, and the story becomes a book with a book, alternating story and book chapters. Which reminded me of Will Do Magic For Small Change, another book I really enjoyed recently. There are plot points that fall into place for the reader, but not for the characters, which sometimes can be frustrating, here I felt Harrow handles them perfectly. So instead of being frustrated, there is a joy as pieces you have seen coming fall into place at just the right moment. If pushed I would perhaps admit a few little niggles, but you'd have to push me. This book was a joy, I had to stop myself rushing through it, slow myself to read it at a pace where I could appreciate each new chapter. I finished this morning and there is always a thing with a book like this as you watch the pages vanish: will the end satisfy, will it land 100%, will this book pull it off? Yes.
  11. there is that. but also the indulgent repetition was... reduced, if not absent. Meantime. Magic For Liars - Sarah Gailey - this is Gailey's debut novel, after a couple of Hippo Western novellas, and various short stories. It is a bit of a mixed bag, genre wise (but then, it isn't like one could describe Hippo Western as an obvious genre choice...). Magic is real, and Ivy isn't magic, but her twin sister is. Add to that the death of their mum through cancer, and the last 17 years have been a fucking mess. Still, she just about manages to make a living as a PI, with the same old same of cheating spouses and minor fraud. Until the headmistress from the local school of magic turns up - there has been a murder! Of course, the school is also where her sister teaches. So on the one hand this is a detective novel; there is a body, suspects, interviews, clues, and all that. But also a magic school novel, for all that Ivy tries to remain blase, to assume a role, the bratty kids are committing magic all around her, wasting it on the most mundane shit, then there are the talking books, and a Chosen One. Though, at the heart, despite the wonder, it is about a fucked up woman, in a fucked up situation, who is forced to face the extent of the fucked uppery. Very much an easy read, I think it was in some ways deceptively easy reading, given how much it is pulling off and just how audacious that process is in the end.
  12. Huh, looks as though I didn't post about The Poppy War here, though I did on the other forum I post reading comments on. OK. The Poppy War by R.F. (Rebecca) Kuang. It got something of a buzz, but I was put off by a few comments. I caught her speaking at the Edinburgh SF/F/H book festival Cymera, and she came across pretty well. So I gave it a go. It is a mixed bag, the first half I enjoyed, the second less so. The first is her in school - having worked out she can avoid being married off by her adoptive parents by passing the tests that get her into military academy. Second half is war breaking out and things getting nasty. There is magic, though honestly not enough for my liking. The war stuff is problematic, many of her choices are problematic, some of it is hard reading. But I caught her again after I finished reading, promoting the second book, and it was interesting to hear her talking in a way that validated my impressions. The war stuff isn't supposed to be easy, she isn't supposed to be a hero who knows what she is doing, so the horror and bad choices are very deliberate. Also interesting how she talks about it being her study of trying to understand how China became the country it is now, through writing fantasy novels exploring history/politics clearly influenced by Chinese history. The Rise and Fall of DODO - Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland - Bought this a while ago, on kindle, because Neal's books are just too damn big for paper. Heard some good stuff about it, got some good recommendations, bumped it up my reading list. Had intended it to be holiday reading in August, but Poppy War took longer than I expected. So it was late on in the holiday by time I started, but even though it is about 800 pages I pretty much ripped through it. A language expert is recruited from a failing university position by a secret government agency, as she translates the documents in obscure languages she realises they are all about witches and witchcraft. From which they piece together that magic stopped working in 1851 due to a number of scientific developments. With a Schrodinger like experiment they discover they can recreate magic, though only in the box. Which leads to a witch turning up to help them out, and to a series of complicated (Stephensonesque) time travel adventures. Things expand and get out of hand, allies are made, secret plots are plotted, and things get complicated. The narrative is largely from the academics journal, but as it progresses there are letters, intranet posts, and the like, introducing different POVs and time views. I found it to be well done and a lot of fun, presuming Galland's influence managed to temper some of Stephenson's historic excess. The Murders of Molly Southbourne - Tade Thompson - I had kinda been avoiding this, generally avoiding violence/war at the moment, life is hard enough! But having enjoyed the two Rosewater books I decided to take a punt on this novella, and there is more to it than the cover/first few pages suggest. Fortunately. Molly wakes up in chains, beaten and bloody and confused. Molly comes in to see how Molly is doing, bearing her own wounds and injuries, but not in chains. Eventually Molly sits down and tells Molly the story of Molly and her many deaths. Every time Molly bleeds a new Molly will form, each will be fine to start with, but without fail will become murderous. To a degree this was fine when Molly was young, home schooled on her parent's farm. But as she got older it is was more of a rollercoaster and she had to make a life for herself, and perhaps find out who she is. It is decent little page turner, a novella so quick, but also feels like an incomplete set up in someway. Which of course is partly accounted for by The Survival of Molly Southbourne, a second novella, which has recently been published - I've got it on my kindle already, so I'll likely get to it soon. Permafrost - Alastair Reynolds - another novella. The world is catastrophically fucked. An old woman, working as a teacher in one of the dead end of dead end towns finds herself recruited by the agency who are currently effectively running the world. Partly because her mother was a famous mathematician who did work on what might prove to provide a form of time travel. The possibilities are limited, they can only travel to a period where certain devices existed and only while they were running, and more that they can pilot a person who is there than go themselves. But if they can do that, then maybe they can change the barest thing that won't change the world, but might just provide enough hope that the entire population won't just die out. An odd little piece, feels quite atypical as far as time travel pieces go, from the technology, the AI presence, the Russian background of the characters/story. Amnesiascope - Steve Erickson - as opposed to Steven Erikson, which isn't confusing at all. I've read one of Steve's books before, though can't remember which. Think it was here that someone recommended him way back? He writes odd works, kind of contemporary, not hard genre, but slipping into genre peripherals. This piece is kind of a hysterical dialogue of the end of the world - I use hysterical, as that is the word the narrator uses to describe a type of cinema her reviews for the newspaper. After an earthquake LA is permanently on fire, has broken into sub-time-zones, and has a similar weird detached end times feel to the likes of Dhalgren or Black Wave. Which is something I appreciate, but to a degree becomes hard to pin down plot, and you just have to ride it out. The narrator is a novelist, makes a living from writing film reviews, his girlfriend is an artist, he writes the script for her erotic film, they kidnap strippers, a film he made up in a review starts to stalk him. Odd stuff happens and it all flows in an uncertain way. Not for everyone...
  13. oh, no worries. i'd have been surprised if there had been any ill intent, though conscious on some level he is the "name" author that people will know. and it would have been remiss of me not to point amal's role out, not least as i expect to be sitting in the pub with her at some point in the next month.
  14. To be fair, it is joint written with Amal El-Mohtar. Amal lives in Canada, but spent a number of years in Glasgow, where she was a member of the Glasgow SF Writers Circle (which I am also a member of). My understanding is that they each wrote one side of the correspondence. The pair of them did a number of promotional dates round America, and Amal is back here next month to promote it (no doubt coinciding with a trip to the Worldcon in Dublin, where a load of the GSFWC will be) I just finished the third Expanse book. Always interesting to see how it balances off the TV series. I've watched half way through series 3, ducking out to catch up on the book before the TV got too far ahead. Remains enjoyable, and the book obviously has more depth and texture to the story, even if they don't quite 100% match up
  15. Will Do Magic for Small Change by Andrea Hairston. I always assume people know about Humble Bundle and Story Bundle? Humble is more mainstream, Story more indie, both are hit and miss, but periodically both do really nice ebook packages, where you can get a dozen novels or so for like £15. (sometimes you get crazy comics humble bundles where you get dozens of books cheap). Anyway, that is how I came across this book at random - I think it was back in February, Story Bundle did an AfroFuturism bundle, and Will Do Magic For Small Change was part of that. Hairston is entirely new to me, but certainly tempted to seek out her other couple of novels after reading this. Though, I suspect there will be a certain niche appeal to this one, not everyone is going to get it - there are certain books that click on a more individual level, and I recognise this is one of them. Cinnamon has been made guardian of a weird book by her brother just before he died of an overdose. The pages of the book swirl and resolve, the story of The Wanderer gradually making itself known. So the story alternates between Cinnamon (her brother dead of an OD, her dad in a coma, the uptight Christian African Americans of her mother's family, the hoodoo theatre people of Native American/Irish theatre people) and The Wanderer (an alien, from the spaces between rather than outer, a spirit creature appearing in Africa in midst of tribal battles, allying his/herself with a warrior woman). Both stories cover a 3 year period, 1984 - 1987 and 1894-1897. We follow Cinnamon from 12 to 15 year old, making her attempts to become a theatre person, gathering her first meaningful friends to her. The Wanderer travels with their warrior woman, as they become recruited for a freak show, traveling by ship to Paris then America, making new allies along the way. In someways it could be considered as an African American Princess Bride - the modern material a bridge for an epic historic fantasy. But for all the mundanity of the modern material, it is charged and emotive, and as the story unfolds the book changes the lives of the reader. In that way it perhaps more reminds of The Invisibles, a book as a conjuration, a spell to change the world. There is a chunk in the middle of the book, which in some ways shouldn't work, but does: Cinnamon has been at an audition, is being snarky about the Japanese girl and German boy she is competing against, when her mum collapses and is rushed to hospital, with these rivals become new friends she has to find someone to drive her to the hospital, through the worst snow storm in years, and in the car they sing along with the radio at the top of their voices, taking turns reading from the book, in a way mirroring The Wanderers trials on a ship to Paris in a way that felt electric to me.
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