Posted in Fantasy, reviews

Shadowplay by Laura Lam; contain shadowy spoilers

Shadowplay by Laura Lam UK Print Date: 4th January 2014 ISBN: 9781908844392 Format: Medium Paperback R.R.P.: £7.99

 

Shadowplay was published by, the YA imprint of ‘Angry Robots Books’,Strange Chemistry’, who have kindly given me the Arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. It is the second book in a series; the sequel to her earlier work Pantomime.  This book continues the adventures of Micah, as she continues her attempts to; find a place in the world, and accept/understand her identity.  The story begins where the first book left off. The two main characters are suffering the consequences of the explosive events of the previous work. They find themselves seeking shelter from an old friend, a mysterious illusionist with secrets of his own, who once performed an  act that seemed to consist of a series of tableau played out with very advanced automatons.  They find that he owns a theatre. However, due to a pact with a former colleague, punishment for real or imaginary sins,  the building has remained silent and lifeless.  Needing work,  they ask him to teach them his skills. They plan to get his old theatre working again.  They plan to make money through new shows. However,  The re-emergence of  old secrets and old rivals put their plans in jeopardy. An old rival challenges Jonah, and his new company, to a duel.  They must compete with his rivals new company to create the best show.  As they prepare,  and Micha comes to terms with her ambiguous identity, she discovers that there is more to that identity than she first thought.  She must fight historical foes, in order to save; herself and the world.

 

When I ordered this book from Netgalley,  I had forgotten that this book was part of a series. Being a completest, I had to track down a copy of the first book. But, to my disappointment, I wasn’t really excited by the first book Pantomime.  It was an interesting book, but it didn’t really speak to me. It seemed to echo other works of this type. Therefore, I was not excited by the prospect of reading Shadowlands.  But, as soon as I started to read, this book really grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. This book gives us a greater exploration into both; the world in which the book is set and the identity of its main characters.  It explores sexual identity and what happens when individuals can’t, or won’t, fit into existing sexual categories. Therefore,  It is an interesting work and I am interested to see where this author goes next.

Posted in Fantasy, reviews, Science fiction, Uncategorized

Space Is Just a Starry Night short fiction by Tanith Lee (short review)

http://www.aqueductpress.com/books/SpaceIsJustAStarryNight.php
Space Is Just a Starry Night short fiction by Tanith Lee

This work combines; horror with science fiction, urban fantasy and speculative fiction, vampires and aliens, Werewolves with space stations, modernity with ancient traditions; all conjured into being by the use of wonderfully descriptive prose. Myths are deconstructed, and normalised.  Vampires work as carnival techs. Werewolves survive on the moon, observed by Robots.  In doing this, Lee encourages the reader to  examine our  earth based myths and starry stories. Lee uses scientific\futuristic scenes as a backdrop for humanistic stories.  Less stories allow us to explore; fantasy, identity,  narrative and the future.  In Lee’s world, man didn’t leave his myths behind him when traveling into  space. They took them  along in their emotional baggage.

Posted in Fantasy, library thing

Library thing review

The Chosen (Portals of Destiny #1)

by Shay WestShay Fabbro .

I was given this book as part of Library Things’ early reviewer scheme.  But, as you can see, I’ve been honest in my review.

A threat is on the horizon and many worlds are in peril; their future lying in the hands of a group of chosen individuals, currently scattered amongst the various worlds. Unaware of their future, these individuals are being schooled, and protected, by a group of alien beings. These beings await the signs that will herald the opening of a series of portals.

This is a multi-world saga.   One world resembles a high fantasy biosphere full of inns and busty maidens.. Terra is portrayed as a dystopia; a world that has returned to its early, non-technical roots. The third  world has a futuristic feel; being set in a sterile space which is peopled by clones. The  variety and diversity of  the  worlds enabled the writer to cross genres. In addition, it gives the work, superficially an adventure tale, another interesting dimension.

For a tale of this type, the characters are surprisingly well drawn. Although, you may feel that you’ve seen many of them before; the wise pipe smoking sage, the silly lovelorn teenager, the wise boy who is yet to find his power, the cynical warrior/priest who learns to love the world which he once despised, the evil queen, etc., etc.

In fact, that queen is my main cause of concern. Firstly, she seems to be a stereotypical character. In addition, her royal town, and its back story, trouble me .  We are told that this group of women had thrown off the shackles of patriarchy and formed a Matriarchal society.  The town is portrayed as a  tyranny, having a lustful queen at its head.  We have seen this before. Captain Kirk, or some other male Starfleet captain, lands on a planet and finds that it is headed by a woman.  The world seems to be peopled by semi- clad women.  It always turns into a tyranny.  It always has to be saved by men. It’s a cliché and it’s slightly demeaning to half of the world’s inhabitants. This work sets up an interesting world and begins to ask the question- what would a female headed world look like?  But, rather than giving us a nuanced picture, the writer returns to the tropes of bad science fiction.

This  genre crossing book could have been an exciting, boundary crossing and thought-provoking work. But, the writer never pushes hard enough. The author asks interesting questions but answers them with stereotypes and tropes.  But, saying that, if you want a good adventure story, and have a few empty hours,  then this book is for you.

Posted in Fantasy, reviews

contains snow and spoilers

The Snow Child

By Eowyn Ivey (Goodreads Author)

I read this book because gavreads recommended  it to me. The story begins when a couple move to a snowy rural farm to recover from the death of a child. But, they find that they cannot escape either themselves or their grief. In addition, times are hard. Due to their lack of farming knowledge and their unwillingness to draw on the expertise of their neighbours, their crops are dying. They do not think that they will make it through the winter.  Their marriage is falling apart. Then it snows. In a rare playful moment, they build a snow child. As the weeks go by, weird things begin to happen.  The pair get glimpses of an unreachable child, who is always in the shadows- flitting between the trees.

Gradually, however,  the sightings become more vivid.  The child becomes an obliging spirit helping the husband catch the moose  that will allow them  to survive the winter. The child starts to visit but refuses to sleep in their house. Throughout the winter, they enjoy her company, feeling that they have been given a child to replace the one that they have lost. Inevitably, however, the child vanishes with the snow. Their luck goes with her. The husband has a fall and they fear that the farm will die without his care.

This is when the truly interesting section of the book begins. During the winter, the couple have been forming a relationship with their neighbours. This family rescue the farm and enliven  the story. They bring a sense of novel warmth to this cold traditional tale.

Winter returns and with it the snow child . She encounters the son of their neighbours and you can guess where the story goes from there.

This story, while on the surface being a simple retelling of a fairy tale, is really an exploration; of loss, family breakdown, isolation, desolation and  recovery  through belonging. When we first meet this couple they seem lost and isolated. The seem disconnected from; themselves, each other and their wider community. The arrival of the snow child heralds a gradual thawing in their relationships.  The snow child allows them to find each other and connect with the local community. It is those neighbours who bring the farm, and the story, to life.  This warm, rural resourceful family adopt our couple; drawing them out of their shell and rescuing the farm from ultimate doom.

This is a revisit of a fairy tale. It is a pleasant read. But, there was something missing. The story failed to enchant me. The simplicity, and sparseness of the writing style , while being justifiable for this story, left me cold. But, if you have a snowy weekend free then this is the book for you.

Posted in Fantasy

Cloud atlas, David Mitchell

David Mitchell (2004) The Cloud Atlas, Septre

 

 

Well, due to my Booker Read Marathon, I have not reviewed any books on this blog for quite some time.  But, this month I took a break from my Booker read, and, influenced by Jenny Colvin Reading Envy and my friends on the The Sword and Laser (goodreads) reading group,  I read this book.  I am glad that I did.

 

This book has several, seemingly unlinked or loosely linked, strands.  The segments of each strand are interspersed throughout the book.  The stories are subtly linked and the connections between the tales are uncovered throughout the work.  But, in many ways, they remain separate ‘artifacts’, retaining their own sense of uniqueness.

 

The first stream entitled “the Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing’, which reminded me of Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ and Mieville’s ‘Moby Dick’, is the story of an explorer ‘Adam Ewing’ and  ‘Dr Henry Goose’ who meet on an island and join the crew of a ship.  You follow their journey, explore their relationships and find stories within this world.   While the second Stream ‘Letters from Zedelghem’ revolves around a failed musician/composer/human being who manages to wheedle his way into the household of a retired, hermit, composer.  Both of these are set in a Victorian world and they are written in an appropriate style.  They mirror the romantic style of the period.

 

The third strand ‘Half Lives; The first Louis Rey Mystery’ is the story of journalists, detectives, and scientists. It mirrors the writing of Noir  crime mysteries.  Once again, the writing mirrors the genres on which it is based.  But, I find this writing style irritating and therefore, for me, this was the weakest story within the work.

 

The fourth strand ‘The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish’  tells the story of a hack publisher who actually manages to publish a hit.  This strand was reminiscent of the works of Eighties/nineties authors such as Martim Amis (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11337.Martin_Amis) and Will Self http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13794.Will_Self .  It has a comic/farcical tone and plot. The characters, both Timothy Cavendish and other supporting players, are well drawn. The story works well as a stand alone story while contributing to the whole story arc.

 

The fifth ‘an Orison of Sonnit’, which is set in a futuristic world, centers on the experiences of a ‘soulless being’ who has been created to serve, as a sort of lifeless slave, in  a fast food restaurant   and soon learns that he can be greater than his programming.  The story portrays a chilling world in which; one sector of society has been created to serve another, in which one class oppresses the other and in which that oppression has been naturalised.

 

Another strand, ‘Sloosha’s crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin After’ involves a post apocalyptic world and an anthropologist who is visiting from another planet. This book is the hardest read.  This world has been destroyed and their civilization is very different from our own.  Their language mirrors this difference.  Words are continually abbreviated and the sentence structure differs from standard usage. But, it’s probably the most satisfying read of the book.  It raises some interesting points about civilization, identity, Cultural anthropology   and the stories that we tell ourselves in order to understand our world.

 

I liked some of the strands better than others. But, the writer seems to have  worked really hard to ensure that the language fits the setting.  I thought that the third strand was relatively weak and was tempted to skip the section. I really liked the futuristic strand ‘An Orison of Sonni’, finding that the central character was captivating.  I really liked his voice. I thought that the central ideas within this strand, i.e. Identity, and civilization were fascinating. I thought that the world, created within this strand, was chilling. I thought that the post apocalyptic strand ‘Sloosha’s Crossin’ An’ Everythin’ After’ worked really well and once again the issues addressed/the world created were fascinating and chilling.  I am not sure if this book works as a whole.  But, it is an interesting read.

 

Posted in awards, Fantasy, i science fiction, Sci f, Science fiction

Watch the Hugo awards on ustream

Are you going to be watching?

 HUGO AWARDS CEREMONY THIS SUNDAYAugust 27th, 2012 by 

Time to clear your calendar – the Hugo Awards Ceremony is coming to you live this Sunday, September 2nd.
Both the Chicon 7 and Hugo Awards websites have additional information, here’s the gist:
Ustream (video coverage)
CoverItLive (text coverage)
Both should kick off around 7:30 pm, Central Daylight Time, Sunday, September 2nd.
To see a list of the nominees – here

and to see one bold set of predictions, visit Amazing Stories (the magazine that helped make HUGO Gernsback the ‘father of science fiction’)
To take a look at past winners, visit Locus Magazine’s Index to the Awards,and to learn more about the awards themselves, visit the official Hugo Awards website

or – get out of your chair and high-tail it over to the Hyatt Regency Chicago and be a part of Chicon 7, the 70th Worldcon.
Science Fiction Awards Watch » Blog Archive » HUGO AWARDS CEREMONY THIS SUNDAY.