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remotevoices

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  1. just for the record, don't think i've posted notes since april, so here is everything from mid-april till now.... Wild Girls - Ursula le Guin - part of book bundle, mainly novellas really, with extras like interviews. This was OK, important city culture thrives on stealing country folks as slaves - two girls taken and the story of the jealouses between their captors. Gardens of the Sun - Paul McAuley - Gardens of the Sun - 2nd of the Quiet War quartet. Lots of green themes vs anti-science. Earth vs colonies. Occupied territory and brutality vs resistance, science and art. Dense, but building to an emotional climax Curse of the Wolf Girl - Martin Millar Been slow on the Kalix books for some reason, probably because they are such slabs compared to typical Martin Millar novels. But read Curse of the Wolf Girl and loved, always such a distinct voice. Shame about being dated thanks to Brexit, no more Polish Werewolf Hunters! Kalix is a 17 year old depressive, Scottish werewolf, living in London with two students. Drama from inter-family werewolf politics, the increasing risk of the hunters, and Kalix's overwhelming depression/rage. The Unlikeable Demon Hunter (Nava Katz 1) - Deborah Wilde - I got a 6 book omnibus on kindle, but only read book 1. Our titular Demon Hunter has been raised with the expectation that her brother would grow up to take on the role of demon hunter in a world wide secret organisation. But hey sexism, the assumption that only men can be demon hunters, so her brother is obviously the chosen one. Though the revelation that she is in fact that she is the chosen one, with no training, and a reputation for drinking and fucking, kind of makes things...interesting. Demons, handsome men, discrimination, sassy determination, and probably one of the steamiest books in the genre that I've read. Roadside Picnic - Strugatsky Bros - Picked up Roadside Picnic cheap on kindle recently, been meaning to do a reread, see how new translation compares. Feels more contemporary/conversational than I remember. Funny to reread against new TV series Debris and Chinese satellite coming down, look out for weird artefacts Chaos on CatNet - Naomi Kritzer - book 2 in the CatNet series, following on from the short story about the AI who tries to help people in exchange for cat content. I loved the short and Catfishing, and I love Chaos. Stef returns, starting yet another new school, where she meets Nell also on her 1st day. They both have troubled backgrounds, Stef's history of fleeing her violent father and Nell's involvement with an apocalyptic cult, and they both like girls which has different problems according to background. Stef's friends are all on CatNet, where she is friends with the AI CheshireCat. But with the new school she is persuaded to join a new app and Nell has access to an app through her cult introduces the question - what if there is another AI & its less well meaning? Warm, charming novels, written for teens, which shows at times, but lovely books, a joy. For all the warm and fuzzy, there is still threat: guns, kidnapping, riots, chaos. But friends & cat pictures. Firebreak - Nicole Kornher-Stace - I admit I bought this book with only a notional sense of the plot, based on pretty cover and having read and enjoyed Latchkey in the last few months. With that, Firebreak is a stand alone novel, while also being an unexpected prequel to Latchkey. Archivist Wasp/Latchkey are set in a haunted post-collapse world, while Firebreak flashes back to collapse in progress to encounter the ghosts as living people. Mal & Jessa are refugees from a corporate city war, living in a hotel with a load of other people per room, with water/power rationing. Doing all the odd jobs and trying to establish themselves as streamers on the corporate game. A game haunted by the ghosts of the corporate super soldiers created to fight the corporate war. When the pair stumble on these characters in game, then IRL, their lives are turned to shit. A story of personal trauma, environmental trauma, war trauma, corporate manipulation & how people buy in to the toxicity of celebrity, pop culture and the power of media manipulation. All Systems Red - Martha Wells Artificial Condition - Martha Wells Rogue Protocol - Martha Wells Exit Strategy - Martha Wells Been catching up on the Murderbot Diaries. Had to start again with All Systems Red, having skipped one and becoming confused. Really works as an arc, one of those tor series of novellas that probably could be a novel. I think the next book was a novel, then another novella. An aware security cyborg ends up trying to understand itself, work out who tried to kill it's clients, and unearth the truth, while watching all the shows and minimising emotions and stuff. We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker - a pilot is a device to help people concentrate, to be their best selves. Starts with the rich, then subsidised so those cool branded blue lights are on every skull. Or not quite. Pinsker's 2nd novel follows the 4 members of one family. Val the teacher, who doesn't get a pilot due to her unease and the fact her daughter can't have one. Sophie her adopted daughter, prone to epileptic seizures, left behind. Julie, Val's wife, gets a pilot to remain on top of her game in a politicians office. And David, their son, 1st in family to get one. We follow David's getting one in school, joining the army and what happens from there. Sophie's increasing activism in the anti-pilot movement and the sense of unease, perhaps cover up around the technology. Song For A New Day was more rock and roll, being about music and all. So We Are Satellites feels like a quieter novel, though having read Sooner Or Later it feels like Pinsker. Quiet is a good thing and a right thing for a novel like this, making it more intimate and personal than a more explosive work would be. Also given the themes of noise and quiet, that feels like an appropriate approach. For all that it isn't explosive, it still had me lying awake thinking. When The Tiger Came Down The Mountain - Nghi Vo - 2nd Singing Hills Cleric novella. Again story within a story, this time the cleric has to tell a story to tigers about famous tiger spirit or be eaten. When a tiger tells you the story is wrong you listen. The Brother's Jetstream: Leviathan - Zig Zag Claybourne - self described as goofy, a big saturated pulp adventure of Hollywood vampires, conspiracy cults, false prophets, and a war for the multiverse. A bit Jerry Cornelius, a bit DNA Cowboys, a bit... Comic book fun, full of colourful and engaging characters, perhaps like The Invisibles if they had been written & illustrated by Kyle Baker. The Angel of Crows - Katherine Addison - apparently there's a genre of fanfic where you take a character and add wings: wingfic. This is Sherlock Holmes fanfic, but add wings. Dr. Doyle is injured by a Fallen Angel in Afghanistan and sent back to London, struggling to make ends meet he ends up in Baker St, sharing a flat with an unconventional angel called Crow. Together they solve crime; many of the cases being particularly familiar. While in the background Jack The Ripper works away, seemingly uncatchable. An entertaining enough read, a novel twist on familiar material. Hummingbird & Salamander - Jeff VanderMeer - a mystery novel, a woman falling into obsession after she is handed a message that leads to a taxidermied extinct animal. Trying to make sense of the woman behind the message and the trade in rare animals our narrator self-destructs on the page. With the novel following that collapse. For me there is something missing here, the living characters are sidelined, the key characters are already dead. Even the trade in animals and the collapse of civilization are mainly asides. Resulting in a readable enough novel, that seems largely distanced from the stuff that would make a difference. The Album of Dr Moreau - Daryl Gregory - mixed genre novella, where the beast men are a boy band on brink of break up and Moreau the pop impresario who has been ripping them off all this time and has now been murdered. Science fiction, murder mystery, comedy. Great fun. Victories Greater Than Death - Charlie Jane Anders - pretty much read this cover to cover on my day off yesterday. A delight to read. Tina is the chosen one, or at least a clone of a hero, except the result is she is just a teenager with lots of data but no experience. Meanwhile she and her Earth friends are out in space, caught in the middle of an ongoing war, in a race against time to stop the other side from getting their hands on some kind of super weapon. YA target audience, but readable for all ages. The Compassion perhaps recalling Iain M. Banks, with something like The Affront. Big space opera, roller-coaster adventure and the friendship that sees you through, hopefully. Ink & Sigil - Kevin Herne -this was something of a random buy, not having read Hearne's work before, partly driven by the fact that it was set in Glasgow. Trying to capture a Scottish accent is tricky, given the variables, and with that the results here are mixed. Though I'm happy to go with it, not least because of the sense of place - it can be such a rare pleasure to read somewhere set where you live and pretty much comfortably recognise locations as places you've been. (conscious of recent novel that had scene set in Glasgow that made me go: naw mate, that's Edinburgh!) But then, when I saw who his Glasgow guides were, knowing I've been some of those places, with those people, made sense. This is 1st book in a new series, a spin off from his Iron Druid novels. Aloysius MacBharrais is a Sigil Agent for the fae, who has lost his latest apprentice to a suspicious scone related incident, which in turn uncovers a dodgy fae trafficking circle. Drama and humour ensue and the result is a thoroughly good read. Black Water Sister - Zen Cho - I think it was Spirits Abroad that I first read Zen's work, having bought the short story collection at 2014 London Worldcon just prior to attending a panel she was on, where I spoke to her briefly and got the book signed. The contemporary Chinese Malaysian informed stories were the ones I enjoyed the most, so there is an element where BWS is the novel I've been waiting for. Jess returns to Malaysia with her parents after growing up in the USA. Worried about not coming out to her parents while deciding how to achieve her planned future with her long distance girlfriend, she instead finds her life disrupted by her estranged dead grandmother who demands she helps to protect the temple of the Black Water Sister against gangsters. This felt less light in tone from my memory of the early stories, in fact the big encounter with the Black Water Sister is positively chilling. Very much a contemporary novel, informed by a culture, rather than an obvious fantasy novel, verging into horror at times with the elements of violence against women and the haunting results. Gilded Latten Bones - Glen Cook Wicked Bronze Ambition - Glen Cook Having not read any of the Garrett novels in about a decade, I have read what appears to be the last three this year. I typically don't binge read, but with only two left and sense of culmination I read these back to back. Ex-marine turned private detective, becoming more respectable (for certain values...) over 14 novels. These last books throw the ensemble cast together, with all the characters added over the series for big battles with magic and murder and mayhem. Probably dated in ways, but light page turners, genre mash ups. Chilling Effect - Valerie Valdes - I bought this a while ago, but bumped up my reading list after seeing it was nominated for Clarke Award and I'm glad I did. A big fun space romp, following Eva and her crew. Eva quit the dubious crew she was a member of after she did something too problematic to keep going and put together her own crew. Just coming off a failed attempt to deliver a score of psychic cats she is contacted by The Fridge, a notorious and anonymous interstellar criminal organisation, who have put Eva's sister on ice, where she'll stay unless Eva does some jobs. (Boy that is a run on sentence!) From there she pisses off a space emperor who wants to make her a fuck toy, and things just continue to deteriorate from there, until Eva has just had enough! Aliens, cats, artefacts, escalating peril. Good fun, bought sequel, hope it delivers more on the cats! Alice Isn't Dead - Joseph Fink - I guess it was Christmas 2018 that I got the hardback of Joseph Finks adaptation of his podcast Alice Isn't Dead? So why did take so long to read? Might as well ask why the chicken crossed the road! But the weird dreams I had the night I read the first 100 pages before bed are definitely a contributing factor. Though, giving some space between podcast and book helps as well. I enjoyed the podcast and for all the "reimagining" of the story, this is the same plot in broad stroke terms. Alice disappeared, assumed dead, until her wife Keisha spots her in a crowd in a news item, repeatedly. Keisha takes to the road, a truck driver, trying to find clues, but stumbling across the Thistle man. A misshapen horror, haunting Keisha's trail, providing little doubt it is only a matter of time before he corners her in some lonely spot and eats her alive. But it isn't just that, it expands and builds, conspiracy, opposing conspiracy, escalation, deception and Alice isn't dead. Thoroughly enjoyed as a companion/expansion, I've downloaded the first series of the podcast to my device to listen to again from the start The Left-Handed Booksellers of London - Garth Nix - A young woman travels to London, preparing to study art and hoping to find her father. Instead she stumbles on the world of the booksellers of London, an organisation who engage in the paranormal, enforcing accords with the fae and the like. But perhaps this stumbling is not a coincidence? As disturbances escalate and tensions rise. A breathless page turner, I tore through it and was done before I knew it. City of Brass - S.A. Charkaborty Master of Djinn - P Djeli Clark Pretty much read these two back to back, both alternate takes on djinn, both part set in Egypt, both with references to The City of Brass. I have the whole trilogy by Chakraborty, this is the 1st. A 500 odd page slab of epic fantasy, which probably could have been shorter. Djinn politics and finances are surprisingly dull - much of the material with Ali didn’t engage me as much as Nahri. Nahri the street kid with glimpses of abilities that end up being more, sending her on a race for her life from Cairo to the Brass city, which is where the joy of the story is. Master of Djinn is Clark's first novel, after handful of novellas and acclaimed shorts. A number of which set in an alternate history Egypt, where steampunk is replaced by djinnpunk (no idea if anyone actually using that term, but allow me a passing amusement...). Particularly this follows on from the short A Dead Djinn in Cairo. Fatma is an agent of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantment and Supernatural Entities, called to investigate the murder of a number of rich white men, who have been dabbling in the occult. Set against a background of Egypt as a world power, Europe on the brink of World War I, angels and djinn, murder and mystery. This feels much fresher and engaging than City of Brass, though that is absolutely a reflection of my tastes. The Quantum Thief - Hannu Rajaniemi The Fractal Prince - Hannu Rajaniemi The Causal Angel - Hannu Rajaniemi Finnish authors trilogy written during his Edinburgh years, some of those influences showing throughout, partly as most obvious ballpark is with Stross and MacCleod. I read the 1st years ago and meant to get to the rest, but didn't get to it till now, deciding it made sense to reread the 1st to provide context and just as well. A thief broken out of prison, journey to Mars to retrieve a memory state, to Earth to put the next step in the heist, and an escape route to Saturn? Privacy standards, processor gods operating on dead souls and planetary fabric, and gaming systems. Worked well binged all together, keeping a steady flow. Doesn't feel like a lot of people writing this particular strain of science fiction, which is disappointing, even if some of the aspects feel dated (when was the last time you saw a reference to spimes?) The Quantum Magician - Derek Künsken - Our man, see, he's gone straight, set up an art gallery in puppet town. Legit. Except, this dame, uptight, military type, she needs a magician and that he knows some tricks. They've got a new weapon, they're going to overthrow the government who has been suppressing the Sub Saharan Union for years. Problem is getting through the puppet's wormhole, it would take a miracle! Our man, thinks it is all going to go tits up! But for that kind of dosh, he's putting a crew of specialists together... for one last job. Probably risky to follow Quantum Thief with Quantum Magician, given how acclaimed Thief is, but it made a certain sense. But they are different beasts in many ways, Magician much more a proper heist, putting a team together, establishing the connections, the risks that undermine the team, and the run itself. Lots of big post-human engineering, wormholes, banks and nations oppressing client states. Thoroughly enjoyed, thoroughly recommended. Redder Days - Sue Rainsford -Second novel by the Irish author. Follow Me To Ground was an impulse buy, lovely little hardback and a seductive opening few pages. Disappointingly Redder Days is one of those ugly oversized paperbacks, which I particularly dislike, which is particularly frustrating as clearly given cover design the publisher has tried to capture something of the same feel. Having enjoyed Follow a lot I had been watching for this to appear, but it as yet isn't something I've found on any of my rare bookshop trips this year - so I ended up ordering. Like Follow, Redder is very much earthed in place, about land and a dank feral magical nature. The red is described as not really being a plague, but seems possibly infectious? A story of a cult forming around a conviction that only with their charismatic leader, and protection rituals informed by lies and salted with self-harm can protect them against the red. All the shades of something that isn't a plague, that transforms a person, and can infect those around, colour coded degrees, chanted in song to ward off the red. The details of that and much of what happens here are unclear. With some works a lack of clarity can be frustrating, but in other, like Rainsford's work, the uncertain is part of the appeal. Writing that draws you in, seduces you, leaves you a little disoriented. Star Eater - Kerstin Hall - debut novel by the South African writer. I was keen to pick this up after her novella The Border Keeper, which was a lovely piece of new weird fantasy. Star Eater follows a sister in the governing body/church, where the women gain powers by eating the flesh of their mothers. One side effect is that men who get too close to a sister are transformed into hideous immortal monsters. Faced with a drought, likely rationing and inevitable unrest things are getting difficult. With factions back stabbing to force through their own solutions, inevitably our heroine becoming central to the plot. I had a few niggles about plot/world building, but I am also going through particular phase of inhaling books and perhaps not taking as much time as I should. Enjoyable overall and I'll be interested to see what Hall does next. Rabbits - Terry Miles - if you are familiar with Miles' podcasts then you'll have an idea what to expect from the novel adaptation from the Rabbits podcast. It isn't strictly an adaption of the first series, though id has been a while since I listened, but it is full of elements from there. Rabbits is the name given to a game, following clues and conspiracy theories, with an increasing sense of mania and possibly altering reality. I rushed through this over the weekend and was very much satisfied. It gets pretty far out there at times, but ticks a lot of my boxes, and curiosities. There is no Antimemetics Division - qntm - Had this recommended by word of mouth and I'm sharing with you word of mouth. A meme is an idea that spreads, an antimeme is an idea that hides itself, some times erasing memories, sometimes devouring all who learn of the idea. Reminiscent of Stross' Laundry Service novels, where demons and elder gods are mathematical functions. Here they are memes, but ones people can't remember, dealt with by a division people can't remember. An odd book, at times feels episodic, but that form makes sense given the fact characters keep needing to remember what is going on. qntm throws everything at the reader, the full range of anti memes leading to ultimate disaster. I enjoyed this, something different, a bit indie, a bit raw. After I posted this on instagram, someone said they were interested, but thought it sounded like an SCP. Which I had never heard of. SCP appears to be an online shared fictional world, and qntm is a participant in that, and this is an SCP. Sisters of The Vast Black - Lina Rather - A tor novella. Nuns on a living space ship just want to help people. But central earth church and state are looking to regain a foothold in the distant colonies. Meanwhile all the nuns have secrets and agendas, as does the space ship itself. For a novella the pacing feels off, too much going on. So it is at least half way through before we can get a grasp of all the parts and appreciate where it is going. Decent enough in the end, but not really as engaging as I want a novella to be. Upright Women Wanted - Sarah Gailey - a tor novella,which I've had my eye on for a while. Came across on last week's trip to Edinburgh, stocked by same specialist store as I previously bought hardback of Magic For Liars. An alt-Western, where America is consumed by war, all machines and fuel going to the war effort. Leaving a wild west world in its wake - small towns adhering to approved rules, enforced by sheriffs. A woman runs away after her girlfriend is hung for owning unapproved material, stowing away in a librarian wagon. But her perception of the librarians as upright women distributing approved material turns out to be more complicated in reality - rebels, posses, life on the road is dangerous, but she is enthusiastic and determined. A good solid short book, the romance element maybe comes in too quick given circumstances, but likely has to given a book this length. Good fun read. Contraband - George Foy - Science fiction is about the time it was written. Science fiction dates quickly. It is increasingly difficult to write science fiction. All things people say and that I was conscious of reading Contraband. My understanding is that this is a 2019 edition of a 1997 novel. But reading it felt really temporally weird - world war 2 references, lots of 1960s references, a stray Alanis Morrisette reference. Clearly there are a couple of decades between my reading and original publication, but it just felt older. And I can't tell if that was me or the book. As the title suggests this is a book about contraband. The lead character is referred to primarily as the pilot and he is a smuggler. But the new BON agency is cracking down on smuggling and their algorithms have become spookily effective. To a degree retro, a straight forward smuggling novel, it mixes in VR with VCR, and TV addicts with algorithms, which makes this cyberpunk novel. A lot of the themes are about borders and free trade. Which recall Hutchinson's Fractured Europe novels and I wonder how those will read in 20 years. On other hand flu like viruses at 38°C and references to Afghanistan are timeless in some ways...? I definitely enjoyed bits of it, took it as is. But there are parts that are dated on so many levels, which creates such a strange experience. Definitely the nature of the beast when it comes to reading unknown old novels, but an experience one is more used to from perhaps reading a Philip K. Dick novel rather than a 1997 novel. Within Without - Jeff Noon - The 4th of Noon's Nyquist novels. Each set in a different location/country, where the private investigator has to deal with the unique rules that the place lives by before he can solve his latest case. From each zone having a different time zone, a country of words and fiction, a small town folk horror, to Within Without which is about borders - inside and outside. If you are familiar with Noon then there are a lot of his familiar themes at play here, sifting of his twitter spores into a novel shape. In Delirium celebrities bond with "images", an alien life form, which enhances who they are building up their fame. But when a famous actor is separated from Oberon, his image, then Nyquist is hired to retrieve it. Fame and fog, magic and mystery, encounters with fictional characters that come with real threat. I probably need to go back and re-read the 1st two novels in this series, I enjoyed them, but Creeping Jenny and Within Without are just so good I suspect there was an element of my brain catching up.
  2. I'm not sure I could one jab as being vaccinated, as likely another 2 months before I get my 2nd. Certainly not especially at point where I feel safe or keen to get back to working in office. Though certainly I have a certain level of privilege inherent in that.
  3. depends whether you count a one jab of a two jab vaccine as vaccinated. i've had one pfizer. brother and sister had one AZ. parents had two AZ. locally starting to get round to folk in mid to late 30s for 1st jab.
  4. Lilly pointed out initially on Slack. But I had a few reminders as I've joined the Lolli mailing list. It was a good talk. I enjoyed the stuff about how the writing was inspired by art objects, the objects being so central to the book, then how in turn more objects were inspired by the writing. I didn't catch the artist's name though, I'll need to look that up. I also note I was checking out Mariana Enriquez's short story collection in the book shop the other day, it has quite the eye catching cover. So I've signed up for the talk with her at the same time next week. part of the season on nominees.
  5. I got the Employees direct from the publisher. Joys of indie publisher, not necessarily going to be stocked very well. Particularly during current events. Was in book shop for 1st time since like September, and they had some obvious stuff, but very little from my list of things I was looking for.
  6. Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge from my Tilted Axis subscription 2020, small press specialising particularly in Asian works we'd likely not see otherwise. I really enjoy books like this, not novels in the traditional sense, but somewhere between short story and collection of anecdotes with little magical/odd elements mixed in. The city of Yong'an is full of beasts and each chapter combines a definition of the beast, the author's encounter with the beast, and elements of the story she writes for the newspaper. In some ways reminds of Calvino's Invisible Cities except with Beasts and Kawakami's Strange Weather in Tokyo, as the author always ends up in the Dolphin bar with her no good friend or her elusive professor's assistant. Whimsical and witty, but also with darkness in places and like Invisible Cities all of the beasts describe people.
  7. https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/olga-ravn-martin-aitken-with-heather-parry And online conversation with Olga abd translator through Edinburgh Book Festival, next week.
  8. Reading a lot of novels in April, so far, less shorts than in some months. Bitterhall - Helen McClory - Contemporary novel by Edinburgh novelist, I don't think it expressly says that it is set in Edinburgh, but I assume it is and recognise some of the locations. Daniel is attracted to his new flatmate Tom, but quickly forms an intense friendship with Tom's girlfriend Orla. Daniel is obsessed with a historic diary, that he has stolen from a friend, but when Tom reads the diary something in it changes him, haunts him. The bulk of the novel is told by Daniel and Orla, their side of events, their meeting, their friendship, and their observation/understanding of what is happening with Tom. The friendship, and chemistry between the two has a lot of appeal and drives the novel, particularly from Daniel's POV. An immersive novel, that I enjoyed a lot, though perhaps had mixed feelings about the end. Wilder Girls - Rory Power - I believe I picked this up after a recommendation from Jeff VanderMeer, who has a quote in the book. It has a certain Lord of the Flies/Annihilation feel to it - an exclusive girl's school located on what appears to be a contaminated island, they are quarantined from the main land, as each of the girls goes through a transformation. Over time the survivors try to find a balance, but more mutations are inevitable, food is running out, and something has to give. Mainly revolves around a group of friends, their reliance on each other and how the changes threaten to tear them apart. Quick, engaging, weird girl's school. Dread Nation - Justina Ireland - from one weird girl's school, to another: Miss Preston's School of Combat for Negro Girls. The American civil war was cancelled after the dead soldiers got back up and started eating the living. This changed America substantially, but it didn't eradicate racism - the theory that the Negro isn't really human, so like an animal is immune to zombie bites, which obviously makes them perfect for being the first line of defence. Jane McKeene has been moved from the plantation to the combat school, where she will be trained to be a body guard for rich white women. The politicians claim everything is better, but families are disappearing, hostility is growing, and when Jane sticks her nose where she shouldn't things get real bad. At times the believability is stretched, the old chosen one, Jane is better than her peers in every way, people underestimate the highly trained killer because racism. Though, the racism is real, shocking and believable. And on the whole Jane works well, and I put the sequel on my wish list. The Black Veins - Ashia Monet - I appear to have hit a run of catching up on semi-YA teen girl adventures - Blythe is a guardian, which means she has been given special magical powers, but so far has no access to them. When an opposing magical regime try and kill the guardians steps are taken to protect them, but not before Blythe's family are kidnapped by the enemy and she aims to recruit the rest of the guardians in a rescue attempt. This is a self-published novel, and it shows. I don't have a problem with self-publishing, I have no doubt there are some great novels. This one is very much enjoyable for what it is, it is a page turner, and in terms of craft there is a good solid pacing, elements that are introduced come back in a satisfying manner, and the ending nails the story, while leaving it open for book 2. But, as I say, it shows, the multitude of typos, of the wrong words in places, wrong characters. To be fair, plenty of professional novels have some of these issues, some very prestigious novels even. But this definitely feels like it could have benefited from another draft, tightening up some aspects, and really nailing all the errors that shouldn't have been there. Definitely entertaining enough, but you are warned. The Employees - Olga Ravn - as recommended by @Fashionpolice, Danish SF novel, translated into English and published in UK by indie press that specialises in translated works - of which there are number of very good publishers at the moment. A short work, I suspect might count as a novella by word count, rather than a novel. 133 pages, a collection of witness statements, some a single sentence, others 2-3 pages. The people of the Six-Thousand Ship are all employees of the company that sent the ship into space. Some of them are born, human, they'll grow old and die. Some of them were manufactured and trained in 2 years, and will not die, can regenerate. But in other ways it is hard to tell them apart, they live in mixed dorms, eat in mixed mess hall. They find alien objects on the planet New Discovery and study them. The way the book unfolds it isn't entirely clear what is going on, that is up to you to piece together. The rivalries between human and humanoid, humans with their hologram children touching on themes of mortality/procreation/immortality. There is the sense of isolation being so far from home, and being somewhere that reminds of home, but isn't. There is a sense that the objects are having strange effects on people, the way the smell, feel, seem to get into people's heads, build obsessions. As the reports progress there is a sense of unease, of things going wrong, of things building towards something. It can be interesting to see the reviews, what other folk thought, though I also hate generic "it was like film X and TV program Y". The reviews on the cover suggest "Samuel Beckett if he had written the script for Alien" and "A sort of delicate Westworld - compact, crystalline, unnerving." As I reached the end I did wonder how this would feel filmed by Tarkovsky - the objects kept in a room and the responses to that recall Stalker, while the suggestion of a weird palpable alien influence recalls Solaris. This won't be for everyone, there aren't particularly characters, there isn't a clear plot, or development, you have to put it together. A genuinely odd little book, very much satisfying in its way.
  9. I have "The Ten Loves of Mr. Nishino" part read after you had mentioned it previously, but it doesn't work got me as well as Strange Weather/Thrift Store, it feels too much like shorts. I will go back and read. Though, "People From My Neighbourhood" worked better than Nishino, and it is also more fragmented. Spent Friday reading the latest Becky Chambers, "The Galaxy, and the Ground Within". The suggestion is that this is the fourth and final volume of The Wayfarer series - which always struck me as unfortunate pitch, given the Wayfarer and her crew are only present in book 1 - though, like the others, there are connections here to The Wayfarer. A small planet, middle of nowhere, but a convenient hub for wormholes to place that are somewhere. So the planet becomes populated by service stations - the story is set in a mom and son station, folks stop for a couple of hours, refuel, get snacks, free dessert in the garden, before getting their connecting tunnel. There are three ships, each with a single passenger, when there is an accident and the system has to shut, so that effectively the five characters are stuck, waiting for connections. Four alien races, none of them human: the mom and son big floppy muppet creatures, determined to make sure everyone enjoys their stay; the colour communicating lizard alien, who was in book 1, and is on way to meet the Wayfarer; an insect/beetle alien, disgraced and in exile with a crucial appointment they must make; and a refugee, unlike any of the others, mistreated and consistently on the edges of society. Typical of Chambers, this is warm and charming, there are tensions between the characters, between the races, there are questions of whether any of them will make their connections on time and if no what that will mean for their lives. So plenty of drama, for essentially a handful of characters locked in a service station for a number of days. I enjoyed this a lot.
  10. March reading - Acadie - David Hutchinson - a SF tor novella, mad scientists and rogues have pushed the limits of earth laws and fled into space, but the earth still searches for them. When an odd search vessel arrives the decision to flee and set up somewhere else is made, with a small team left behind to hide evidence and make sure they are not found. The initial set up is good, and I enjoyed. The twist and pay off frustrated some. I Shall Wear Midnight - Terry Pratchett - book 4 in the Tiffany Aching series. Tiffany's past actions have triggered interest from uncanny things, here something dark is unleashed, which spreads in whispers and insinuations, causing women to be accused of witchcraft and witches to be beaten and hunted. I continue to enjoy this series particularly. Moonshine - Jasmine Gower - had this for ages, one of those books with an eye-catching cover, and a pitch that made me curious. It is probably a good companion piece to Witchmark by CL Polk, which I read in February. Both have that kinda post-world-war 1 feeling, but not our world, despite the trappings. Here magic is frowned upon, live music is played in clubs, and there is a very flapper/modern girl sense. A nation of refugees, the only reason the live in this ash heavy volcanic city. A young woman starts a new job, hiding her particular form of magic, until she realises she is working for criminals and magicians. On the whole enjoyable, nicely atypical and unobvious. The "about the author" said about how much Jasmine likes world building and honestly, that was my biggest problem with it - numerous languages for no reason, ogres for no reason (the faeries made plot sense, but ogres seemed tenuous), and centrally all these people living normally breathing ash every day just felt too unbelievable to me. Bestiary - K-Ming Chang - I caught a book launch for this, Chang being interviewed by another I am familiar with and like. I ordered the book after the launch from bookshop in London who held the launch, and was interested to see that the cover had a Kelly Link quote as an extra boost for this being an interesting work. Notionally the story is told through a series of anecdotes and folk tales, split between three generations, so chapter narrators are Daughter, Mother, Grandmother. But for the most part the story is the daughter's story, 2nd generation Taiwanese American, and how the family shape her. To a degree the story is lumpy and all over the place, it is hard to pin down a clear narrative and say "this is what this book is about." On the other hand, it is a joy of fantastic realism and oddity. The family live in a house build on landfill, holes open in the back garden triggering odd experiences. The daughter is told a story of a tiger spirit, who parents warn will eat children's toes if they don't go to bed - a tale that came from China to Taiwan, and persisted even though the island has no tigers, and on to America with immigrants. The daughter grows a tiger's tale, falls in love with girl at her school, squabbles with her brother. I can't explain this book, at times dream like, at times dizzying and hallucinogenic. I enjoyed. Tindalos Asset - Caitlin R. Kiernan - The third in this series of novellas. There is an element, I've said of the previous ones, where they haven't really satisfied. And yet, in some way the previous stuck with me. So I read the third. Which, feels like the best of the three. I'm not sure whether the titular character was in the first one, I suspect not, but the Signalman is her handler and was definitely in the previous. Like the previous the story jumps around in time, piecing together the security agency's actions as they endeavour to prevent the latest potential Lovecraftian apocalypse. Here a siren priestess returns, and despite the asset's failure to stop her the last time she is forced back into operation. Quick, satisfying read. What Abigail Did That Summer - Ben Aaronvitch - the third Rivers of London novella, set at same time as one of the previous novels, Peter is out of London and Abigail is drawn into a case of missing children by the talking foxes. There are a couple of stylistic niggles, particularly the persistent footnotes (and why they are addressed to an American audience). But as ever Aaronvitch satisfies and again as a novella this is a quick read. Mythago Wood - Robert Holdstock - I've read a few Holdstock, but not this one, I've had it sitting for awhile, understanding it is considered by many to be a key text. Seeing various chatter on twitter, I bumped it up my reading list. Steve and Chris were neglected by their father, who was obsessed by the small patch of woods adjacent to their property. The brothers went to war, were affected by war, and the father died. Steve returns home, to find that Chris is now obsessed - the woods are not what they seem, they are primal woods, haunted by "mythago", or archetype historic figures from British mythology. Chris vanishes seeking his love, but instead she comes for Steve. The brothers fall out, and this leads deep into the impossible woods. Likely dated in places, and honestly feels like it gets a little bogged down in itself at times. Fairly consistent ideas with the other works of his I've read, and fairly enjoyable with that. Dealbreaker - LX Beckett - sequel to Gamechanger, set 20 years or so after the 1st. I enjoyed Gamechanger a lot, and Dealbreaker doesn't disappoint - exciting, engaging, and to me essential science fiction. Unlike Gibson's Jackpot climate collapse, Beckett flips it so that the rich don't win, people work together sharing resources, encouraging pro-social behaviour to save the world. In book 2, things are still difficult, but pushing technology the story expands into space and first contact. Frankie who was a kid in book one is now a top pilot and is pushing out to the limits of our space to where the Exemplar races are waiting. But again, there are those who work against the common good, for their own selfish aims and to undermine everyone else. Over 500 pages, but a good solid page turner, which I thoroughly enjoyed and thoroughly recommend. Walking to Aldebaran - Adrian Tchaikovsky - picked this up after friend's mention elsewhere. A novella, under 100 pages, read in a day. Scientists find the classic SF Big Dumb Object floating out past Pluto, inscrutable and inexplicable. A team of explorers is sent, and Gary, the British astronaut, finds himself wandering a vast labyrinth, encountering strange aliens, and not really understanding what any of it means. Fits into the lockdown/isolated location thing I was struck by with Armageddon House in February. I had mixed feelings, the back story felt extraneous at times, and the writing felt like it was trying too hard in one or two places. But interesting and largely enjoyable.
  11. Yeah, I was underwhelmed by Fleet of Knives, it felt pretty light weight, and I was trying to decide if that was just that book or my feelings on Gareth in general. Glad to hear it wasn't just me, and that it was likely the middle book syndrome. I've kind of burnt out on Aliette. She was the It Girl of SFF for a while, and she was doing some interesting things. I think she has disappeared into her niche, which clearly is delighting her, but really isn't engaging me as much.
  12. Ministry of the Future - Kim Stanley Robinson - this is a read in progress, pacing myself, one suspects only KSR could get away with bending expected writing rules, such that it feels like a collection of essays interspersed with periodic characters. I'll come back to it once I eventually finish. Witchmark - C.L. Polk - a much easier read, the first of a trilogy by Polk. It feels like post-WWI, the lead character a gentleman medic, disgraced by running away from his responsibilities to join the army, now returned and working with shell-shocked veterans. Except another world, country names that are unfamiliar and secret magics. Our doctor has noticed something weird about his patients, but can't reveal how he sees this, because if he does he'll reveal his nature and be branded a witch. A stranger turns up, a journalist dying in his arms, clues adding up to show the man knew The Truth. I was looking for something slow, mellow, easy, and in first chapter or so I worried that this would be too slow. But once something spoilery happens in next chapter or two, then it really picks up and is thoroughly charming. Will they won't they gentlemen, magic secrets, and lots of drinking of tea. Jolly good. Armageddon House - Michael Griffin - picked this up after after friend recommended. A novella, working out at a couple of hours reading. Four people are living in lockdown in a facility, each day feeling like a loop of the day before, a feeling I found familiar given current circumstances. Quickly it is clear things are odd, contradictory statements, suggestion that none of them entirely know what is going on. I was struck by how effectively this piece was set up from the narrators voice, establishing the standard, the theories, the characters in a tidy and concise manner. I was also struck by the idea of contained works, like in one location, which i have various thoughts about. With a story like this there is a joy in the immersion of the oddity/uncertainty, and I liked that a lot. But unfortunately there is a need to wrap it up, which is a less easy task, where many will fall down. Does the ending here work? I have mixed feelings on that, but regardless getting up to that point was entirely worth it. Fleet of Knives - Gareth Powell - the second of Gareth's Embers of War trilogy. I was wary of the 1st book because of the War in the title, I tend not to be engaged by war, violence, etc, to a certain degree, depending how it is done. But book 1 was reasonably enjoyable. Unfortunately book 2 has more war, executions, prison breaks, and I stumbled on first attempt. Not what I'm looking for given current events. However, trying to decide what to read last Friday having finished the above two, I thought well I'll pick at this and see if I can get much further, and finished it. Like my comments in last post about Expanse, I can only say so much without getting into spoilers - characters from first book return, dealing in their own ways with events of first book, trying to establish how those events have changed everything. Meanwhile, read Jan/Feb F&SF, January's Clarkesworld, BCS from December, and just read the most recent Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, in which the (i guess) novella You Have The Prettiest Mask by Sarah Langan is really good, complex take on pandemic, masks, culture, and how women are mistreated. The story is told from POV of 12 year old girl in an exclusive girl's school as society shifts and manages a pandemic carried by women that kills men. Which sounds a little too much for now, but it works really well. The other stories in this issue were really good too, so I recommend this particular issue.
  13. After reading loads in December/January, February has been much much slower. At least in terms of novels, loads of shorts, and graphic novels continue to be a reliable cushion. Tales From the Folley - Ben Aaronovitch - First collection of Rivers of London stories. There are special/exclusive edition in UK/Australia that include an extra of a short story. Most of these come from there, some I had read, some I skipped, some I didn't get those versions. If you like Rivers of London series, then you'll like this collection. Shadows of the Short Days - Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson - I got this cheap as a debut author promo deal on kindle awhile ago, was reminded of it when @Kradlum tweeted about it being on a new deal. This should totally be my thing, but good god I just wanted it to end. Set in an alternate Reykjavik, city in Hrimland, which is occupied by the kingdom on the mainland. The kingdom of the Huldufólk has collapsed, and the various races are caught in this world, a world full of weird magic and discrimination. Sæmundur is an asshole, magic hungry and convinced he knows better when it comes to being a student and following the rules, he goes full Dr. Doom and is just a complete and utter fucking asshole to everyone, destroying everything he touches. Garún splits up with Sæmundur, recognising he is a self-centred selfish bastard, while excusing her own drive to destroy everything as a response to the racism she has experienced as being half huldu/half human. There are so many interesting things going on with magic, and culture, and alternative take and time, and it mirrors in some ways a piece I have part written, and I could undoubtedly learn a lot from it. I guess being from an Icelandic author, an argument could be made for resisting typical Western story forms, and I'm all for that. But at times the pacing feels just off, bogged down in itself. I wanted to like this, I wanted it to redeem itself, I nearly gave up 80% in, but persevered, and when I got to the end and realised the remaining text was appendices I didn't need to read I said "thank fuck for that." Cibola Burn - James S. A. Corey - Book 4 in the Expanse series. I don't tend to binge books, I know some folk do, so I own up to book 7, but taking time getting through that. Also holding off watching more of the series until I've caught up a bit. Always hard to talk about a series, particularly when this book depends on having read book 3 as those events very much shape these events. I do find these books very solid, very well written, the multiple POVs that let us see the overall shape of the plot, the way the world builds, and the tension that comes with that, until with out fail each volume becomes a thriller and we're turning pages to see who/how survives. A new world survivors, new disputes, new excuses to get involved, and the alien goop is never too far away. If you are enjoying the series, you'll likely enjoy this, if you are enjoying the series, you are probably a head of me. Trying to keep better track of what magazines I'm reading, particularly having supported something like four kickstarters last year, and renewing more subscriptions at the start of year. Traditionally I've listed to a lot of fiction podcasts, which in the last year just isn't working for me, and in fact even the podcasts that were working for me are increasingly now. But reading shorts at lunch time, then kindle sat to side of work screen, so if i'm waiting for stuff to load or run, then I can read a page, etc. So, since start of year I have read: Cossmass Infinities 4 - enjoyed, solid. F&SF J/F 2020 - went back to start of last year after seeing twitter reference to particularly story by author I hadn't read. Always solid. Constelacion 1 - good 1st issue of English/Spanish magazine, though does feel odd in ways. Apex 121 - 1st issue after editor took medical break, bleak as fuck: extinction, death, baby death, and oh look a covid reference, which was the point I noped out. Asimov's Jan 2021 - like F&SF, Asimov's remains solid stuff. Beneath Ceaseless Skies 321 - two issues a month, couple stories each, very manageable in an afternoon, and for the most part pretty reliable. Clarkesworld 173 - I took a year off this, but came back, they do tend to have some good stuff, and if I'm not listening to podcast I get by one of my big problems. Couple really good pieces, couple of more average pieces. Lightspeed 128 - perhaps unfortunate that the best material in this issue was the reprint material, but I guess that is why folk wanted them kept in print.
  14. Sorry to hear that, especially during this period where observance and processesing and being with family is so damn hard.
  15. There is definitely a factor of no WGB can be the classic WGB. Too much has changed in how the Internet works, the rise of phones, of social media. Of how we process/interact. I think most of the active slack crowd are the same people who were there, because we all recognise and know each other. But yeah, we've all changed.
  16. I guess one big question is what are people looking for from Slack vs board? How do folk engage? It was good to see a rush of joining the slack, but suspect we're down to the same dozen people after a point. Maybe we do need to focus more of stuff like planning zooms, at least on certain channels. Get the engagement/support structure that folk are looking for. With the isolation of events those are all good things. I am happy for the general/random chatter, good to engage regularly with old friends. But that i expect isn't what most are hoping for?
  17. OK, I failed to do more regular posts vs I read a LOT in the last month. End of December: Latchkey - Nicole Kornher-Stace - sequel to Archivist Wasp, the events of which have changed the Archivist and the whole town. Unfortunately, in this post collapse society, the perception is that the Archivist's actions have removed her goddess's protection and made them a fair target for violent raiders. Cunning plans to protect the vulnerable and fight the raiders go wrong, and in the process the history of the town and perhaps the collapse are progressed with encounters with ghosts. It is funny how publishing works, Archivist Wasp has had something of a success thanks to persistent word of mouth, but doesn't seem to be particularly well known. Nicole describes it as being her funny books, that are a genre mash-up and not entirely sellable. So funny, for Latchkey in particular, to remind in ways of Gideon The Ninth - there are a lot of parallels, ghosts instead of skeletons, archivist instead of necromancers, and they write differently, but definitely parallels. I liked the 1st a lot, and put the 2nd on my list to read when I learned it existed and I enjoyed it a lot as well. Boy Parts - Eliza Clarke - An indie literary novel, I saw something of a buzz, picked it up and kindle and had on my list to read before end of 2020. It won the Blackwells Book of The Year, so had something of a profile. Irina moved back to Newcastle after graduating from art schools in London. There was suggestion she would potentially be the next big thing, and suggestion that something happened that drove her back home. She takes explicit pictures of men, somewhere between flipping the male gaze and becoming exploitative. When she is offered an exhibition in London she thinks this could be her big chance. Irina is a curious character, an extreme/unreliable narrator, likeable in her refusal to be obviously likeable. Up on her pop music, reality TV, watches extreme foreign cinema, listens to noise music, has seen all the serial killer documentaries. There is ambiguity in the character, in events, so the reader has to decide their take. As it went on I had increasing sense of unease, my one niggle is perhaps whether the ending entirely delivered. But on the whole, I liked. The Space Between Worlds - Micaiah Johnson- this has been getting some quiet buzz over the last year, and I bought it off the back of that, listening to podcast that suggested it was absolutely one of the best books of 2020 bumped it up to my books to read before end of 2020. I hate film comparisons to sell books, too often it is lazy and misleading, but sometimes they do make sense - so there is definitely a Mad Max feel to this, the souped up cars, the road warriors, the desert town lacking resources, rich in violence. But that is only half of the idea - there is a rich town, where all the rich people live, and the shanty, rough poor place outside. In the rich town a genius has invented a way to travel between worlds in the multiverse - big problem is that you can't travel to a world where you already exist. So people who don't live in a lot of worlds are valuable, like Cara from the poor town, who has died in 100s of other worlds, more worlds than anyone else. I really enjoyed this, the balance of ideas, the similarities and differences in the other worlds (always something that is a big draw), the way the story, the technology all unfolds, and the twists as shit goes wrong. Red Pill - Hari Kunzru - This was the last book I read in 2020. I was a little wary of this, given the little I knew, but White Tears was a great novel, and between following Hari on twitter and listening to his podcast (which is a research trip, trip into the weird, for both White Tears and Red Pill), I was keen to get into this. The narrator is an intellectual, a writer who has gained popularity from his chatter rather than what he really wants to write. Struggling to deliver his masterpiece, he accepts a residence in Berlin, getting away from his wife and young child. However, the group work spaces, surveillance of work progress and the like are not what he bargained for. And confronted by a bombastic bumbling more right wing intellectual also at the residence he finds himself on precarious ground. A downward spiral, propelled by being widely read, but poorly argued, confronted by the rise of antagonistic thought and politics, growing obsession and darkness, against a background of East Germany's difficult history. In the end this was much easier to read than I expected, on some level a black comedy, building towards darkness. With that there is a definite subtlety, Hari weaves in so much to work with, so I found it living in my head after I finished. Into January Mexican Gothic - Silvia Moreno-Garcia - this hit new year, which can often be a weird time, so started before, lost momentum, got round to it in the week after. I liked this well enough, same as I liked Signal To Noise well enough. But for me, there is a certain level of hype around Moreno-Garcia's work and for me, she doesn't deliver. Her work is fine, readable, but just doesn't quite reach the promise. This reminds a lot of Crimson Peak, and has a lot of slow build, so it takes till half way before all the parts are in place and it has enough momentum to carry me along to the end. Set in the 1950's Mexico, a young socialite, with aspirations of academia, is persuaded to head out to middle of nowhere to check up on her cousin who has married a previously wealthy Englishman. The family is odd, hostile, manipulative, the cousin isn't entirely lucid, apparently ill , our heroine determined to discover the truth and help her cousin, even as though her sense of events becomes weirder. Cruel Zinc Melodies - Glen Cook - I believe this is book 12 of the PI Garrett novels by Glen Cook, my first encounter was with a misprinted copy of book 2 found 2nd hand. My understanding is that these were never published in UK, so I've kind of stumbled upon them over the years. Last time I tried to read one I bounced off it, but these are funny times, and this was much easier reading than some things. Garrett is an ex-marine, turned private investigator, very noir, very 1950s black and white movie, all patter, hard drinking, admiring the ladies, etc. But the setting is almost more wild west fantasy novel. He shares a house with a dead man, of a non-human species, that doesn't die like other races, and has psychic powers. His best friend is a dark elf gangster and they always seem to get on the wrong side of the wizards who live in the rich part of town. In this book he is hired by frequent boss, the head of local brewery, who is looking to branch out into theatre - except the building site is haunted, and full of giant insects, and there is a protection racket, and... so what should be easy money of course isn't. The actor turned author, Luke Arnold, wishes his novels read like Cook's series - I got a few chapters into The Last Smile In Sunder City and thoroughly hated the character, the writing and the world. Of course between cover design and cover blurb, trying to pretend to be like Rivers of London didn't help. The blurb described it as Rivers of London meets Dresden Files and Terry Pratchett. Which it isn't, can't discourage you from reading enough! (had put off talking about on the vague chance i might go back, but i won't, and instead i have another two garrett novels waiting) No Man's Land - A. J. Fitzwater - one of the handful of post NZ worldcon books I bought. I've read and enjoyed shorts by Fitzwater, and this was a novella, which I believe is the longest thing they have written to date. 2nd world war and our heroine Tea has volunteered to become a Land Girl, arriving at the farm her brother previously worked as a sheep shearer before being deployed to fight. Tea has funny senses, something odd, she thinks is just her, but when she meets a couple of the other workers she learns there is more. A mix of world war 2 drama from the home front, a young woman trying to fit in to farm life, and elements of magic, and queer themes. A really lovely quick read. Sing For The Coming OF The Longest Night - Katherine Fabian & Iona Datt Sharma - given this was set in December, leading up to the longest night, I probably should have read then, but actually turns out to be very good companion piece to No Man's Land - with both having queer themes and a core water magic. I bought this novella after reading Iona's short story collection Not For Use In Navigation, I enjoyed their writing so much I bought this and another short kindle piece. Layla and Nat have nothing in common, Layla is a Muslim, lesbian with kids, settled into family life, and Nat is a Jewish non binary punk. However they are both in a polyamorous relationship with a young male magician, who spent his early years in fairyland, and has now vanished. The two allies have to work together, despite their dislike for each other, to find their missing partner, following the clues and getting a better understanding of each other along the way. Another really lovely quick read. Empress of Salt & Fortune - Nghi Vo - I hit a run of novellas here, reading one a day, which was just really pleasing. I just bought the 2nd of these, so figured I better read the 1st. With the death of the Empress a cleric from an order or archivists rushes to the lakeside home where the Empress lived in exile for a number of years, to document the history before looters can get there. However, she is surprised to find an old servant still there, over the course of a week the story of the Empress unfolds, each object the cleric find earns a story from the servant. A curious way to tell a story, of a character that isn't present, but is the heart. Nicely done. My understanding is the two novellas are stand alone, so expect something different from the 2nd. These Witches Don't Burn - Isabel Sterling - a YA novel, a debut I believe, certainly 1st in what has become a series since I picked this up. Over the years I imagine many of us have picked up book 2 of a series by mistake, I know I have. There is a certain way they read, recapping book 1 as reminder to those that have read, and backfill for those that haven't. It can be a little disorientating, but so it goes. Weirdly, that is how this book feels. Like book 2, rather than natural backfilling of the life history of characters, which would be more normal in a first novel. Hannah is a witch, and witches remain underground, afraid "regs" will find them and burn them again. Especially living in Salem, as she does. Novel starts with Hannah hating her ex-girlfriend because of the shit that went down in book 1, um in New York. As the book progresses she stumbles on stuff, has fights with her girlfriend, becomes afraid the fall out from book 1, um New York, will catch up with them. BUT New York is a read herring! Probably. Magic, teen love, teen heart break. And oh look, there is going to be a prequel novella to follow book 2, wonder if that is set in New York?? I enjoyed it, light, easy, YA page turner, though the sense of being book 2 was unfortunate. Taste of Marrow - Sarah Gailey - the 2nd of Gailey's hippo western's, having read the 1st one a while ago I'm finally getting to the 2nd. A team of hippo riding criminals got together to pull off a heist, to cause some trouble, etc in book 1. Shit was trouble OK, and chaos was the result. Set a month after the 1st, the survivors try to work out what next, try to work out what happened, did anyone else make it? At the same time, the Marshall is getting closer, and the bad guys are thickening the plot! Pretty decent fun, especially with the hippo riding and river boats. House With No Doors - Jeff Noon - The second of Noon's crime novels. Set in 1980's our dishevelled, disrespected detective inspector is called out to a strange suicide. A big sprawling old house, a man in his 80's has killed himself, so where is the crime? In dozens of rooms a woman's body is lain out in effigy, the same dress every time, the same wound. There must be a crime, surely? The mystery unfolds, clues and twists, but in a way that is very much distinctly a Noon novel with the baked in weirdness. I really enjoy this series, as I'm sure I said with Slow Motion Ghosts, more than the Nyquist series which is more obviously Noon.
  18. I ordered Employees last night, they only had 10 copies left, not sure if they reprint, does seem to be small press. Moore's Jerusalem is a funny one. I'm progressing through it slowly. To a degree it is short stories, though with connections. Not sure if there is a big overall plot yet. I dip in, read a chapter, read something else, and so on.
  19. I enjoyed Convenience Store Woman, i see she has new novel translated as well. I used to listen to a lot of podcasts commuting, so definitely lost that! But fighting remote servers and working from home exhausts, so finding that I'm reading a lot more instead of being on computer as much or watching TV/films.
  20. The initial creation of the slack is for future planning of zoom. Though, suspect it is growing arms and legs!
  21. they did the same to me before, they go through phases of hitting a load of folk. do you have email in your profile? i guess you can't login to check? what i ended up doing was giving number to get back in, then going into profile to delete number. i had also previously deleted email address from profile - because every time i logged in i got a warning of suspicious behaviour, because i don't tolerate cookies. yay security theatre covering up tracking bullshit.
  22. The hell year continues and my levels of reading continue to escalate as my only consistent and reliable escape route from events, so as ever this is a long post, which I apologise for. I should get into habit of posting smaller more often rather than a month at once. Winged History - Sofia Samatar – A prequel to a Stranger in Olondria, with first impressions that we are reading a collection of random histories, like the later Tolkien books that were odds and ends. But, as one progresses it becomes clear that the stories each fit into the period of events circling around an uprising, territories claimed by Olondria looking for independence. Also, a number of stories come from POV of same family – alliances within old kingdoms, the olds manipulating lines of succession towards them taking the throne, the younger rebelling against the rise of a particularly restrictive new religion/the manipulations of their parents. The tom boy soldier, who refuses to become a society lady. The daughter of the stone priest, at the core of the new religion. The soldier's girlfriend, the soldier's mother, her sister. Pieces coming together before and after upheaval. As I read it felt more like Virconium, than Middle Earth, with more same sex relationships, odd cultures, and conquering lands through capitalism. Beyond the Veil of Stars - Robert Reed – one of Reed's early novels, dug out from my archives, that backlog of unread stuff that I'll get to, originally published in 1994 and probably not in print at the moment. A kid is raised by his UFO obsessed father, believing his mother has been abducted by aliens, dreaming that one day she'll return with so many stories. But one day the sky flips, something fundamental changes, and clearly it must be aliens? In which case where is his mother? But as he grows apart from his father and nothing become clearer, he is recruited by an agency that do know what is going on. So he finds himself on another planet, inhabiting the body of an insect like alien, having switched working with one obsessed man to working with another. I tend to enjoy Reed, he does world building well, interesting places, and atypical plots, at least by today's space war standards. The Thousand Year Beach - Tobi Hirotaka – The Thousand Year Beach is a virtual holiday resort, probably designed on the South of France. The town is populated by AI, like West World hosts, there for the benefit of the customer – to create colour, family experience, inevitably for sex. But, no one has visited the world for 1000 years, hence the title. The book is full of various characters from the town, but to a degree the most obvious are a pair of teenagers – one super smart, who wins the chess competition, and the other who is one of the few people who can master the weird glass balls that have started to appear with almost magical powers. Every day is much alike, until the giant hunger filled spiders arrive, and start to devour everything in the virtual world. I had mixed feelings on this, at this point I have taken a break, because at times it is wooly, overwritten, but at the core I am enjoying, interesting ideas and how it works together. Some of it feels flat, which might be translation, and the odd sex moments are curious – don't know whether they are some commentary in the way that West World is, or supposed to titillate the reader. This was a random book, in one of those World SF bundles that pop up a few times a year, translated from Japanese, spotted it on my kindle and started to read as much to work out where it came from. A Large Czeslaw Milosz With A Dash of Elvis Presley: Stories from Belarus - Tania Skarynkina – This is a random buy from the Edinburgh Book Festival from a few years ago, it is a series of essays from the website for a Belarussian newspaper, with that the book appears to have been published by Edinburgh publisher. Tania is a poet, apparently acclaimed, who has done various jobs, like these columns for the paper, which she started after returning home from a decade living in Portugal. To a degree it doesn't necessarily feel like essays, it feels like a series of anecdotes from the author about her life, about her family, about her town. She refers to familiar western media at times, but also local media (some Polish, Russian, etc), using those to build an anecdote around, sometimes including extracts from her poetry. I am never sure how these kind of books fit into whatever, but I find that I do enjoy them, a lot of odd moments, and found myself laughing a load. The Last Stand of Lychford - Paul Cornell – I understand that this is the final, and fifth, in the series of Lychford novellas. Like many of these tor novellas there is part of me suspects that if they had been published as one solid novel, or two slimmer novels then they might have worked better. The series starts well, maybe gets a bit muddly, and ends reasonably. The arc of the series is clear, discovery by the next generation of what the weird old lady has been defending the town against, how they take over the role, how the town attitude changes, the ongoing threat, the build of the big bad, and the losses and finds that go with that. I suspect at some point I need to re-read the 5 together, to get the best out of the experience. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams – I had never read Adams, as I probably said when I read Hitchhikers a couple years ago, there is a lot of hype/reputation which can lead to disappointment. But a friend bought me the five in one volume, so taking my time reading through them. I enjoyed Hitchhikers, and I enjoyed this, which was a fairly direct following on from action. Given ending I'm not sure how next will go, but I'll find out. The Boys – Garth Ennis – I've never been a huge fan of Ennis, just something about his work doesn't really invite me to give it a go. When the first TV series showed there was a Humble Bundle of all the books, I ignored it. But people seemed to like the TV series. So when they did another Bundle to go with series 2 I thought I'd give it ago. So I read all 12 volumes and then watched series 1, and, of course, they are very very different things. Having read the books, the TV series is so much safer and politer. I was half way through the books when I saw people describe them as problematic, and oooh boy are they. There is a lot of gratuitous violence, sex, swearing and general shock tactics – some of which is uncomfortable, but there is question of how it confronts some of these things, is it exploitation or is it making a point. Or is it both? I had very mixed feelings, I appreciated the ways in which it tears the super hero medium apart, so many little things, which if you are familiar with the medium are quite clever/caustic. In the end I appreciated a lot of it, with an unease about a lot of it. Which turns out to have largely been not necessary for watching the TV – the base line characters of The Seven and The Boys are there, but there is a lot of stuff has changed, a lot of stuff toned down, a lot of world building just not there (for now). It is interesting to see how approaches vary – adaptations have become such a different beast from source material – which we have all celebrated and coursed. Modern TV/film has changed and works in its own ways, some of which is very much good thing, even while shaking our heads at some of the other choices. The Rook - Daniel O'Malley - Which brings me on to The Rook, an Australian author, writing urban fantasy/spy novel set in London, which I read back when it first came out. A TV series came out last year, which I enjoyed a lot, having had mixed feelings on the book. The book cover describes itself as “MI5 for wizards”, which was obviously pitching in a certain direction, and definitely the book is full of references to abilities being paranormal, and the enemy as being science based. The book is filled with casual references to vampires and dragons and stuff like that. While the TV series is much more toned down, maybe MI5 for X-men, but in a much more subtle, low budget fashion. My memory of the book was about little things, niggles, stuff like the lead character being called Myfanwy being pronounced Miffany... But going back and re-reading the book, I found I enjoyed it a lot more this time, I noted more humour in ways, and it is actually a bit like Stross' Laundry series – possibly more understated, but also perhaps tighter on the whole for that? Plot wise, Myfanwy is high ranked officer of the secret service branch with special abilities, she wakes up with no memory, surrounded by bodies. Her past self has left a letter, she has been betrayed by another high ranked officer, and she needs to work out who if she is to live. Stiletto - Daniel O'Malley – at this point there are only 2 novels by O'Malley, as part of the Chequey series. While I enjoyed the TV series and was curious about re-reading Rook, and reading book 2, I was wary of paying full price based on memory of not being overly impressed by Rook. So, I waited till Stiletto went to 99p on kindle, picked it up, and read the two together. Book 1 introduces The Grafters, scientifically based super soldiers, monsters as far as the Chequey are concerned. And as is Mywfanwy's life wasn't hard enough with the loss of memory the return of the ancient enemy has shaken everything. Stiletto follows a few months after events of Rook, it also switches POV, alternating for the large part between a young woman in The Grafter's and a young woman in the Chequey, both raised to believe the other is a monster, the big bad bogey man of their organisations. The novel follows the aftermath of book 1 from these two view points. As I say, I was reminded of the Laundry, particularly as the world expands – so if you are out of Laundry books, or maybe Rivers of London novels, I find myself surprised to be recommending these as being pretty solid after all. People From My Neighbourhood - Hiromi Kawakami – this is a small book of small stories, in a way it reminded of Tania Skarynkina's book discussed above, but this is definitely fiction. I enjoyed Strange Weather in Tokyo and The Nakano Thrift Shop by the same author, this is like those in that it is a collection of anecdotes all from the same POV, not really a story as such, but these lovely little incidents. Here things are a bit more surreal, like the strange boy creature the narrator brings home one day, who never ages, while she does or the sand festival for the visiting bird god, or the day that gravity fails. Like those other books, there are recurring characters, friends and enemies, rivalries and local characters. I read it in no time and just loved the quietness, the quiet absurdity, the odd little Japanese town. Bulletproof Air - Tim Akers – a novella by Tim Akers, more cyberpunk/obviously future than a lot of his recent works, I suspect the potential start of something time permitting, and I think perhaps self-published between novels? An ebook only, as far as I understand. The world building is pretty much need to know as it happens, and it is pretty much about action – Joan Dark lives in an arcology, a contained environment protected from the outside contamination, the collapse of wider society, she takes odd jobs to survive, a skilled fighter, but she needs work to eat, to have health coverage. She gets a job that seems to good to be true, has ridiculous risk rating and of course gets her in shit. Short and sharp, enough to make a reader curious for the potential of more. The City We Became - NK Jemisin – the first in a new trilogy from Jemisin, based on the 2016 short story The City Born Great. The short pretty much being the prologue to the first novel. It is a little odd as a starting point, as we are introduced to the character who is the avatar of a New York city that has become sentient. Wary of spoilers, but something happens, and much of the rest of the book is from POV of other characters responding to what happened. There were a couple of little things I wasn't sure about, but on the whole I enjoyed – I like city stories, weird city stories, the magic in cities, the forces of weird horror that would destroy magic of cities, and this has all those things. The Death of Vivek Oji - Akwaeke Emezi – This is the third novel by Nigerian author Akwaeke Emezi, who I had largely been unaware of until reasonably recently. Part of that awareness comes from their sister Yagazi, who is a photographer I follow on Instagram, and she was talking about her sibling's books. My interest was further piqued by the writer Maria Dahvana Headley, who raved in no uncertain times about the previous novel Pet. My understanding is that Akwaeke is trans non-binary, and that is particularly difficult in Nigeria, a couple books into their career and they have been able to leave Nigeria, start a transition, and shift pronouns from she to they. Their experience growing up has shaped a number of books, and certainly elements of that can be seen here. The title itself should be a clear sign – there is tragedy in this book, and at times it is hard reading. The book starts with the death of Vivek Oji, from which we get the story of his Igbo father meeting his Indian immigrant mother, the family, and how Vivek was born. The story balances out the oddities of Vivek, the moments of fugue state, the connections to his grand mother who died the day he was born, the shared scar. The story follows the fallout, a naked body left on his mother's door step, his head caved in and bloody – what happened? His mother haunts the friends and family for answers, his cousin and lover is devastated and he struggles to cope with the loss. The elements combine, in some ways the wonderful friendships of the children of immigrant parents who bond and love, and the tragedy of failing to fit expectations. Read in a day, finished at 1am, with an inevitable knock out culmination. Much more literary than genre, for folk that are guided in that way.
  23. Conscious as the year goes on that my level of reading this year is much higher than it has been for years. It varies weirdly, some stuff I have to put aside, some stuff I'm reading in a day. But weekends are good for that, and I'm not doing much else with my down time. Year's Best New Zealand SF&F vol 1 - picked this up after New Zealand Worldcon recommendations list, 1st of 2 volumes I am aware of for year's best NZ SFF. Pretty good collection, a load of end of the world type stuff to start with, but balances out thematically after. I think there were 2 pieces I had read previously - Octavia Cade and Sean Monaghan - most of rest of writers were new to me. Couple OK, mostly enjoyed. The Once & Future Witches - Alix E Harrow - After 10,000 Doors and trouble getting that in shops, and just general not getting to shops, I pre-ordered this, so got it couple days after release, took a week or so to take my time reading and enjoying. Juniper is the youngest of three sisters, abandoned to put up with her father's abuses, she hasn't seen the sisters in 7 years. Arriving in New Salem, wanted for murder, unsure what to do, she stumbles on a Suffragette protest, and is enamoured by the idea of empowering women. Suddenly a black tower appears, people panic and scatter, leaving three women standing - Juniper and her sisters Amaranth and Belladonna, who hadn't even realised they were living in the same city. Has destiny spoken, are they three witches who will return the craft to the world and empower women after the burning of Old Salem and the eradication of witch craft? The three women explore these ideas, taking on the roles of Maiden, Mother and Crone to some extent, making allies, causing mischief, and attracting the attention of forces determined to destroy them. Full of magic, of repurposed fairy tales, taking American history and cramming it together in a new way. Very much a page turner, would have been too easy to read this in no time, and probably have not enjoyed it as much as I did by savouring it, by appreciating it. Two Witches & A Whiskey - Annette Marie - more witches, but a very different speed by comparison to Future Witches. Third in Guild Codex series, very urban fantasy/paranormal romance, weird balance of witches and magic and creatures, all the men are handsome, the narrator swoons, but is surprisingly chaste for all that. Tori is a human, which means she shouldn't have been able to find the guild bar in book one, but she did and now works there, has made many friends, and continues to get mixed up in stuff she shouldn't. But the Magic Polis turn up and she needs to be deniable. She gets bored quick, and nervous about losing her job, but nothing is easy in the world of magic, and two witches turn up to obtain her help in preventing bad people chaining a powerful elemental. Of course, Tori ends up connected to it instead, and it'll kill her if it isn't sorted out. Easy, page turner, charming characters, fun interactions, just pleasing undemanding stuff. I was interested to see the punchline of this book after Hal Duncan's rants on twitter about Harry Potter, for a book like this to have got to the same point while others fuck it up. In The Approaches - Nicola Barker - I've read a number of Barker's books over the years and always enjoy her, caught her at book festival at least once, maybe twice. Got a couple of her books sitting in my too read pile and decided to pick this up. Seems very literary and rural tale, with will they won't they chemistry going on. For the most part the narrative alternates between Mr. Huff and Miss. Hahn, who hate each other, or do they? Huff is an American, ex-journalist, who has been persuaded to travel to the south coast of England to research a book for his estranged wife, who was part of events years before and has a series of photographs documenting that. Hahn was there at the time, integral to events, and inherited the cottage, which Huff has rented, that was central to events. Barker as she often does sets up intense characters, ideas of cult characters/situations - here there is a child saint, a shrine, a ghost - then mixes in other stuff and keeps you guessing, with the likes of a dead dog, shark, soil erosion, an IRA bomb, a mouthy parrot and breaking the fourth wall. It all builds to a comedy, that had me laughing loudly a few times, and I very much had no idea where it was going as each new development comes in to complicate matters. Reminding me just how much I enjoy Barker's work. The Black Tides of Heaven - Neon (JY) Yang - As i've mentioned before, Tor novellas get funny sometimes, like this is 1 of 4 novellas. Initially one of a pair, each apparently following the life of a twin, both published at same time, which makes me wonder why this wasn't a novel. Maybe that'll be more evident when I read the 2nd one, but I have doubts. I note Yang is now known as Neon Yang, and their books appear to be listed under that name, though I note that the covers still list the author as JY Yang as they were previously known. The series is set in a kind of steam punky Asian inspired world, though instead of steam it is magic, and it tends to be magic applied by the ruling class. There has been social unrest prior to start of this piece, the monastery has been called in to back up the ruling class with fighters. In return the ruler has promised to provide a child for the monastery to groom as a monk. The ruler is sneaky, and instead of getting the child expected, the monastery has new born twins delivered. Years pass, and one develops powers of prophecy, which is a big deal. The other decides that they are a spare wheel and goes off on adventures, which is what this piece is. I enjoyed it well enough, and will likely read the others soon. But as a single piece, it did feel incomplete, it did feel like a fragment of something, which is a little frustrating. The Delirium Brief - Charles Stross - I got this for Christmas last year, or the year before, I believe this is the last of The Laundry novels, which I've had mixed feelings about over the years. I like the idea, I like the characters, but sometimes they are over written, mixed on editing front, and Stross is prone to going off on his interests on planes once per novel. This combines a lot of the elements from previous novels - the aftermath of the elf invasion, the prominent vampire roles, the return of characters from the early novels who nearly killed Bob, actually several characters who nearly killed Bob, and character from the superhero side novel. The Laundry has been forced to go public, they are being criticised in parliament, the Americans have arrived to try and privatise the business, and of course elders beings are trying to do those things elder beings do. Reasonably effective, again an easy read. I understand the Laundry has been rebooted from here Under New Management, starting with a new book 1, though I guess more of the same, generally speaking. Wintersmith - Terry Pratchett - Third Tiffany Aching book, apprentice witch Tiffany steps into something she shouldn't attracting the attention of the Wintersmith, the spirit of winter incarnate. Again expect more folk are more familiar with Pratchett than I am, picked 1st of this series up in pound shop, been enjoying it, steadily working through these 5 books specifically of all his works. When We Were Magic - Sarah Gailey - A complimentary work to Gailey's previous novel Magic For Liars. Six teenage girls are at prom, school is winding down, they are planning their future, university etc. When Alexis decides to lose her virginity on a whim, which is more complicated than she expected, particularly when the boy in question ends up dead. Panicking she calls in her friends, and together they agree to dispose of the body. Oh, and they are all magic. The cast are diverse - adopted, mixed race, bi, non-binary - all done in a way that just works, and is comfortable without feeling crammed in there. Of course, disposing of a body isn't easy, even with magic, people notice the boy is missing, others have noticed their suspicious behaviour, their magic... I read this Saturday, cover to cover, even though it was over 300 pages, but again weird times, and it was pleasing and engaging and enjoyed, a degree more than Liars, which was good.
  24. I've seen reviews along the lines of this article going around: https://www.themarysue.com/racism-vs-representation-the-missteps-of-naomi-noviks-a-deadly-education/ So there are definitely corners of the internet responding, how much of it is a bubble I don't know.
  25. Funny how it goes, I saw authors raving about Deadly Education on the run up to publication, then saw the reviews saying it was racist as fuck, and all the other diverse characters were cardboard thin and only there to support the main white characters. So, um, yeah. Be interesting to see how that plays out long term. I went a week with barely reading anything, probably shorts, and comics, then read a load last weekend, and more shorts and comics since. The Black God's Drums - P Djeli Clark - This was the debut novella by Clark, I read his 2nd one 1st, the one with the haunted tram. The tram was set in alt-history rise of steam magic/change of history/race dynamics. This one is set in a split America, after slave uprisings, etc, New Orleans is a free city, though confederate agents are plotting to get their hands on a doomsday weapon, the same weapon that was used by Haiti to decimate Napoleon's navy. I was sure I had read the first page of this and hadn't been sure, but decided to give it ago, to find it wasn't what I expected at all. Local girl, with loa connections, over hears bad guys, decides to sell info to woman captain from the free island states who she admires. This was a great adventure, read in a day, enjoyed. Gooseberry Bluff Communty College of Magic - David J Schwartz - After the Deadly Education fuss, this was recommended as a magic school with diverse cast. Another alt-history, Crowley helped end World War II with magic, and magic became a thing with schools and bureaus of investigation, etc. Gooseberry Bluff is a respectable, but 2nd rate, community college of magic, where one of the teachers has ceased to exist, and where someone is smuggling demons. Enter Joy Wilkins, replacement teacher, and undercover agent. Competing conspiracies clash, plots for revenge interfere with well laid plans, and the end of the world is being plotted. This was a lot of fun, had expected to be a series, but appears to be one off, and from 2013! Proper's Demon - KJ Parker - I've only read a few stories by Parker, and he has established a definite voice for his characters, which is in play here. Like Black God's Drums this is a tor novella, so again read in a day, which is probably just as well - not sure I could have taken a full novel of that voice, I was feeling the strain as was. I know folk like his writing, but too much for me. Our narrator has been born with ability to see demons and to push them from people. One demon he has had repeated run ins with gets somewhere he shouldn't, and when our ant-hero steps into sort it out it turns out to be more complicated than he expected, putting him at risk. Decent enough, works OK. Piranesi - Susanna Clarke - the anticipated and buzzed about new novel from Susanna "Strange & Norrell" Clarke. A journal charting our narrators life in a world sized house, he thinks of himself as Myself and the one other person he encounters as The Other. On the top floors there are clouds and rain, on the bottom floors there are seas and the floors in between he explores - charting the tides, fishing and documenting statues. As the book goes on we realise there is more to it, particularly as someone new enters the house, to the alarm of The Other. But what will it mean for Myself, who is nicknamed Piranesi by The Other? Over 200 pages, and I sat and read it cover to cover on a Saturday. I enjoyed a lot of this, ticked so many boxes, very much satisfied. (which isn't always the case with BIG BUZZ books) The Devil's Road - Gary Gibson - I hate when folk spend so much time comparing books to films, often feels lazy and counterproductive. On other hand, this is so clearly Death Race meets Pacific Rim. Dutch is broken out of prison by some shady billionaires, who want her to drive The Devil's Run - a lethal car race round an island nation, where a rift has opened and kaiju run free. About 150 pages, so kinda novella cusp novel, again I read this in a day - just solid, does what it sets out to do, car races, monsters, asshole sassy characters. This weekend I spent a chunk of it running the entire run of Grant Morrison's New X-Men comics. Which is interesting, as I also just read volumes 1-3 of Dawn of The X-Men, so 20 years apart, what has moved forwards, what have moved back. X-Men has always been a comics benchmark for me, and when they are good I just enjoy reading them.
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