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remotevoices

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remotevoices last won the day on December 12 2019

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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...
  9. 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.
  10. 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
  11. 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.
  12. I do like everything by Sloan I've read. As well as his two novels there are two novellas, a weird detective story Annabel Share, and a Penumbra prequel, though I think those are both electronic only. Sourdough is obviously his most recent, so more learned as an author, he said himself in this week's newsletter that his first novel was clumsy in ways (though charming with it). Rosewater: Insurrection - Tade Thompson - Bought this and read this as a result of catching Tade at the Cymera festival in Edinburgh. Book 1 followed Kaaro's history in relation to the slow invasion in the form of the alien incursion Rosewater in Nigeria. Book 2 follows a number of the supporting cast from book 1. So we have the mayor of Rosewater, the "alien ambassador", Kaaro's girlfriend, etc, and some presence of Kaaro himself. The alien plan has gone off the rails, various protocols seeming to act against the overall aim, something which we get more of an idea of with this book. At the same time, we learn more about the organisations working in Nigeria, who probably should be working together, but as the Nigerian leader and Rosewater clash a civil war comes to Rosewater. So the alien plan has gone to shit, human plans have gone to shit, and everyone else is caught in the shit. I enjoyed this one more than the first, there was less of the jumping about in time, so it felt more consistent, it was also interesting to see all the POVs, and how they came together. The Goblin Emperor - Katherine Addison - There was a lot of buzz about this when it was originally published in the US, a good strong word of mouth that it was something special. It has only recently been published in the UK, and a friend gifted me a copy because she wanted me to read it. Problem some time with word of mouth/hype is that it can create excess expectations, so sometimes I'm not sure how it is going to work out, but this paid off. There is an Elvish Kingdom and a Goblin Kingdom, the Elvish Emperor regretted making his 4th wife a goblin, and the resulting child was an embarrassment to him. Maia, that elvish/goblin child, was raised in exile, supervised by an exiled cousin, given a poor education and generally abused. But when an airship crash kills the emperor and all his heirs, Maia suddenly finds himself an ill-prepared emperor. Baffled by the court interactions, the back stabbing, the betrayal, the expectations for him to be married, to do all the right things - he manages to put his foot in it repeatedly, but also refuses to be used as a pawn for someone else's power grab. Slowly but surely he finds his own way, at each step maintaining dignity and kindness that is seldom returned. Deeply charming, moving and warm. I enjoyed it a lot. Castle in the Air - Diana Wynne Jones - The second in the Howl's Moving Castle trilogy. This is much more of an Arabian Nights style adventure: Abdullah the disappointing son of the second wife of a carpet salesman in Zanzib was set up with a small carpet stall on the outskirts of the market, while the family of the first wife have the prestige store. There is a prophecy about Abdullah, which is what lead to his father's disappointment, and was never passed on. But when a stranger sells him a flying carpet and he wakes up in garden belonging to the Sultan's beautiful daughter he starts to get an inkling. Of course, she is promised to the prince of Ingary, but then is abducted by a djinn anyway. Abdullah goes on an adventure, meets criminals, genie, soldiers, monsters, and eventually comes to Ingary, the home of Howl. There are a couple of bits I suspect haven't aged well, and probably would be problematic now. But on the whole it is decent fun, easy reading, not quite as good as Howl, but good to see more of the world. Three Mages and a Margarita - Annette Marie - this was a very random buy, as about half of what I pick up is. I am still partial to a certain level of Urban Fantasy, which this is and is why I picked it up. It has a certain light heartedness to it, so not grim, suggestion of romance without getting full on Paranormal Romance. Tori has moved to Vancouver, where her brother is working, and thanks to her read-headed-temper she has lost as many jobs in as many months, and is sleeping on his sofa. When it gets to point the cafes have been warned about her she thinks she is trouble, but coincidence... provides her with an advert for a barmaid job. There is something odd about the bar, or as it turns out private club/guild, but she muddles through and seems to be in there. Only for it turn out that all the guild members possess magic of some sort and as someone without magic she shouldn't even have been able to get through the front door. Add three handsome mages (see title), Tori's temper, rival guilds, bad guys, and of course she gets dragged into the world. Light and enjoyable, good chance I'll pick up the next volume. Summerland - Hannu Rajaniemi - finished the above as started train journey Thursday night, and moved on to this, so read at least half of it on train, a wee bit more over my holiday weekend, then finished on journey back up today. I think it is reasonable to describe this as Weird, though perhaps not as firmly in the bounds of what we probably tend to think of as the strictures of that genre. The British Empire has conquered the lands of the dead. This means that death is not the end, and Britain has set up a nation over the border, playing on fairy mythology they call the city Summerland and the intelligence community is called the Summer Court. With this the living intelligence agency becomes the Winter Court. The British won the first world war with these intelligence agencies and the use of technologies making use of aetheric weapons, ectoplasmic tanks and fighter planes. As a result by 1938 Britain is involved in a Cold War with Russia, Lenin has become an aetheric hive mind intelligence (bolstered by the minds of the Russian dead), and Franco and Stalin are competing for control of Spain. Rachel White is an agent of the Winter Court, babysitting a troublesome defector, the operation goes badly, but not before he reveals the existence of a mole in the Summer Court. Peter Bloom is the mole in the Summer Court, a ghost agent, working against Britain for the opportunity to join the hive mind. So yeah, on one hand it is a very cold war noir drama, dead drops, encrypted messages, covert stuff. On other as we alternate between a living agent and a dead agent we get a very odd world. It is all very stiff upper lip and the tone is period, so it is understated, but definitely weird. The flashbacks of Bloom are perhaps a little distracting, given that White's story is more integrated. But definitely something different and engaging. Miranda in Milan - Katharine Duckett - finished Summerland with a couple hours still left on train, so finished journey with a Tor novella. A sequel to The Tempest, though with less of the Shakespearean language. Prospero deposes his brother than sent him to the island, and returns to rule Milan. Miranda, his daughter, really only knows life from the island, with Caliban and Aerial. The winter climate and the fact that she seems to be regarded as a monster by the court of Milan, make her life miserable. Until she encounters the servant girl Dorothea, who is not afraid of Miranda, because Dorothea is a witch. An affection grows between the two, and along the way the origin of why Prospero was banished, why people treat Miranda is treated the way she is, and why Prospero is still not a great guy are all revealed. Quick read, ghosts, and magic.
  13. I've had that sitting (in English) for a while. Really do need to get to it. But so many other things in the waiting list! The Cybernetic Tea Shop - Meredith Katz - this is a short work, I guess a novella, it may have been picked up, and enjoyed largely based on the title... Clara is an AI technician, she is largely nomadic, her particular skills giving her that freedom. Sal is an AI, the old kind, not the little animal familiars that everyone has now, the kind that is humanoid and still scares people. When Clara arrives in Seattle a work colleague suggests she'll be interested in The Cybernetic Tea Shop, and she is bemused by the quaint place that is clearly 100s of years out of date - other than interesting tea blends the place feels archaic. Then she meets Sal, the proprietor of the tea shop, and a great friendship starts. This is a really lovely little book, there is tension/drama, but essentially it is about two people and their relationship. Redemption in Indigo - Karen Lord - as I said last time, I picked up a couple of Karen's books when I caught her talking in Helsinki. I read The Best of All Possible Worlds already, which was her science fiction novel, and I picked up the sequel to that when she was in Edinburgh last year. Following on twitter, I see that her next book is a follow up to her first book: Redemption in Indigo. Which I've had sitting unread since Helsinki. So I was spending train time for Edinburgh's new genre book festival last week, and pretty much tore through Redemption in a day. Paama is a cook, her husband a glutton, perfect! Except his avarice is grotesque and all consuming. So she has fled, returning to her family. He wants her back. All fine and straight forward, except the djombi are watching and have their own agenda for stirring shit up. A retelling of a Senegalese folk tale, by the Barbadian writer, the djombi are kind of parallel to what Christians would think of as angels and devils, though comes more in the form of beneficial meddling and mischievous tricksters. One djombi has decided that a colleague has fallen from his path, and the way for her to punish him to take his power over chaos and hand it to Paama. Of course, the indigo skinned djombi sees it as an insult and wants his chaos back, but it isn't as easy as that. As with Possible Worlds, I am struck by how warm a writer Karen is, here particularly she has a big story telling voice, and even where we have villains she manages to talk us through them, not forgive, or negate, but to understand what drives them, upsets them, turns them. Really enjoyable. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Book Store - Robin Sloan - a re-read. Unemployed after the tech collapse in San Francisco our narrator finds himself working the night shift of a weird bookshop. Mixes weird book shops, fantasy novels, Google technology, Industrial Light Magic model makers, and so much more. A contemporary novel, but very much about science and technology, and that kind of post-Gibson-Pattern-Recognition thing.
  14. another funny month of reading, got a handful of books started and in progress, and a couple that I suspect are drifting from in progress to whatever. Jade City - Fonda Lee - I believe this was World Fantasy Best Novel a few years ago? I read the first chapter online and enjoyed. It is a fantasy novel, but feels much more like a Hong Kong film set at the turn of last century: the martial art schools mixed in politics, the introduction of cars and TV being new things. But it is a different world, the island of Kekon has been occupied after a world war, but thanks to guerilla war lead by the Green Bone Warriors it has become free and is redefining itself. Green Bone is a reference to Jade, which to trained and disciplined Kekonese can provide special abilities of strength, speed, perception, and the like. Which is why the city is known as Jade City, and the Jade is coveted by the world powers. Things change, the unified warriors are now split into competing families, their ex-occupiers have developed drugs that enable them to use Jade without the side effects. And tensions mount. I was reminded of Ian McDonald's Luna, which unfortunately for this I have read pretty recently - the Kaul family are one of the biggest Jade families on the island, but their ex-allies the Ayt family have been expanding in secret and are ready to take control. Cue family drama, generations, power struggles, betrayals and losses. All of which should make for an exciting and engaging fantasy novel markedly different from what we expect from much of the fantasy genre. However, I've not been able to finish it yet, I keep taking brakes because I'm finding it hard work. The prose disconnects me, and I recognise part of that is that persistently things happen off page - like one character arrives home, sits in their kitchen, and reflects on what they have been doing or one character is having a quiet night when someone rushes in to tell him there has been an attempt on his brothers life. The result is we're distanced, and I struggled to engage, and increasingly even like any of the characters. It is interesting premise, set up, engaging world building, but... Eh, I might finish it, in a quiet moment. Malamander - Thomas Taylor - I suspect this is younger than YA, listed as 9-12, ended up in the kids/YA floor of Waterstones and picked up this (book of the month) and another as part of a deal. Set in a beach side resort during winter, full of mystery, legend, ghosts and monsters. Cheerie-On-Sea is transformed every year, the wind builds and rips off the first two letters, welcome to Eerie-On-Sea. Herbert Lemon is essentially a kid, but washed up on the beach as an orphan, in a crate of lemons, he finds himself working in The Hotel Nautilus's Lost & Found thanks to Lady Kraken and despite hotel manager Mr. Mollusc's best attempts to get rid of him. When a young girl, about same age as him, arrives begging to be hidden, he finds himself sucked into finding out who Violet Parma really is, what happened to her parents, and what it has to do with the hideous perhaps mythical monster, The MALAMANDER! Obviously all the names are very deliberate, and work into the tone of a book for that age group, as do all the plot developments and adventures. A good fun, easy going page turner. Apparently Taylor has had a career as an illustrator, so is famous for having done the original cover of the first Harry Potter novel, so there you go. The Wee Free Men - Terry Pratchett - so, apparently the pound shop in Sauchiehall St have added second hand books to their "re-play" line, which is to say that essentially they are selling second hand books for a pound. Not a huge/great selection, but they did have this, and I've never read. So I read. And enjoyed. And imagine that there are a load of folk who read it long before me. Summer In Orcus - T. Kingfisher - aka Ursula Vernon. As Kingfisher, Vernon writes younger fiction, as Vernon she has done the wombat comic and a number of stories/books. Friend told me about this, as we were struggling through a different book together and being dissatisfied. The book was published online as a serial, and can still be read online: http://www.redwombatstudio.com/portfolio/summer-in-orcus/ Summer is 11 and lives with her super over protective mum. One day Baba Yaga turns up and essentially gives her a choice, wish for her heart's desire or be eaten as a light snack. Wishing for her heart's desire Summer finds herself stumbling out into the land of Orcus, with only a talking weasel as her companion. Quickly she has adventures, encounters, and makes enemies (thanks to the fact she reeks of crone magic, if you can smell that kind of thing). The author includes notes to explain the idea, deciding to do an online serial under suspicion that no one would publish the work (while making enough money from wombat comics to keep her going). It is a collection of stray ideas, which at times shows in the patchier parts of the work, but ultimately they all come together. And a reaction against Narnia - would a child really be a big hero, would they really not be traumitised by events? Reminds me of a few other works, that big mish-mash of ideas and a strange land, some puns and silliness, and increasingly engaging and charming as an adventure. I enjoyed.
  15. Ragged Alice - Gareth Powell - a new tor novella from Gareth, pitched as a crime novel, but it is from tor, so we know there is something else to it. DCI Holly Craig returns to the Welsh town of Pontyrhudd where she was born, after a traumatic experience in London. Barely arrived and it looks like a hit and run was actually a murder, but things become complicated when the obvious suspect is brutally murdered. And then there are more murders. Holly has odd experiences, part of what drove her away, something changed in her head, meaning she can see into other people, part of which has made her a good police inspector and alcoholic. It is a decent read, but I think it maybe lacked something somewhere. Infinite Detail - Tim Maughan - another Bristol writer, like Gareth; Tim was born in Glasgow, raised in Bristol, spent sometime in Amsterdam, moved to New York and is now in Canada. Infinite Detail is Tim's first novel, though he has written a number of short stories over the last few years. The novel builds on work like Paintwork (AR grafitti hacks in Bristol), Limited Edition (app organized smash and grab) and Flight Path Estate (up and coming Bristol musician getting involved in protest against gentrification). Characters from those stories cropping up in the novel, along with references to his own experiences in New York and as part of a contingent of artists/thinkers on cargo ship exploring the shipping lanes to China. The novel is set "before" and "after", following Rush and Annika who are part of a collective that create an interzone in Bristol, disconnected from the main net. The themes relate to surveillance and data collection, things Tim touches on regularly in his work, and along the way Rush starts to notice the imminent collapse. After Annika has been in Wales fighting against martial law put into place after the collapse, returning to Bristol for the first time since the night everything went wrong. With that we have Mary and Tyrone, two young, post-collapse teens - Mary who can see things that no one else can, particularly related to the horrors of the collapse, and Tyrone who is her bodyguard by day and the music programmer for the estate's pirate radio station by night. I liked the writing, I liked the characters, I found it interesting to see how he built on the existing stories, without necessarily being too referential to the past works. But something niggled, part of me says for a novel called "infinite detail" it is missing too much detail, the characters seem to exist within the spaces of the story, but aren't the whole of the story, and I think I wanted to see more of the story, more of the understanding and detail. In someways that could be said to be a good thing - I want more. But also a failure, because it doesn't deliver as strongly as I want it to. I liked it, I'm glad to have read it, I have a lot of time for Tim's work, but I can't pretend it wasn't missing something overall.
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