Shellie’s quick take:A fast paced, complex but easy-to-read science fiction romance st...moreOriginal review written by Shellie posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take:A fast paced, complex but easy-to-read science fiction romance story that had me quickly turning the pages. It has a believable alien, cool science oriented “time warps”, and a wonderful, strong and likeable female lead. It was nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award and is an unbelievable .99 cents at various ebook retailers. What a deal!
Shellie’s description: On a distant planet in the distant future, our heroine Siggy Lindquist has grown up on a planet that is much like ours but where trips to other nebulas and galaxies, and other futuristic phenomena are the norm. However, this world is recognizable and Siggy has a life similar to a regular girl (excluding her beautiful and unusual contrast of brown skin and white hair), with her various interests and life events. For example, she is a terrific dancer and believes she is going to marry her childhood sweetheart.
The drama starts when Siggy graduates from high school and her dreams for the future fail unexpectedly; she accepts an undesirable job on a distant planet knowing that this may be her only option of getting away from her heartbreak and earning a living. It’s not by any means a dream job – since Siggy will be doing janitorial work in a maximum security prison/hospital for the criminally insane. That the inmates are the absolute bottom of the heap when it comes to human nature is an understatement; worse yet is that they are brilliant. Get in, get it finished, and get out is her motto. But when the “Director” of the prison requires Siggy to ascertain information from the patients for research, things get a bit more complicated.
Then to twist things nicely there are the aliens called “Speedies” - who do everything that humans can except much faster - who are occasionally attacking the planet. It all creates a story even more wonderfully convoluted than what I have summarized here.
Shellie’s thoughts: Emily Devenport is one of those unusual writers who writes complex plots in a way that makes them feel easy to read and simple. Broken Time was one of those books for me. I did not struggle with it or have to re-read any parts because it flowed, yet it’s layered with intriguing plot lines, subplots and themes. The only negative thing I can say about this book is that I could see it easily being a third or more longer; maybe there will be a sequel?
I like science fiction anyway – especially science-based science fiction – and I loved this book. It does help that I also enjoy books with a wonderful strong female character, and Siggy certainly fits the bill; it is also nice to see great science fiction written by a woman. I also love the dark psychological aspects, including the insane yet brilliant inmates that give the book a taste of horror.
That is five big pluses in my opinion, so I cannot recommend this book enough, especially for those who like science-based science fiction, those who enjoy romance and are perhaps looking to try out the sci-fi genre, and perhaps for fans of Lois McMaster Bujold. It was a 4.5 star read for me. I will definitely be reading more from this author with her accessible but complex writing style.(less)
An awarding winning novella, that has a dark and lovely rendition of a numb...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought in a graphic novel trio review.
An awarding winning novella, that has a dark and lovely rendition of a number of combined ancient fables. It’s gorgeously illustrated and celebrates Japanese mythology.
About: A young Buddhist monk who is at peace with his life is in charge of a small temple set in some beautiful mountains in Japan. While attending to his his daily rituals and household maintenance he is emotionally accosted by two animals/spirits who want to live in his place. In their attempt to finagle the little church from the Zen priest, the fox falls in love with him. Later when his life is in danger from another selfish faction who would like to live his life, the fox spirit has no choice but to attempt to save him.the dream hunter
Thoughts: This is a stand alone story from the Sandman series which I am only just learning about, it was apparently written after the series had been “retired”. Technically not a graphic novel, this is really a story with a lot of illustrations. Happily they are gorgeous – I love Japanese art. The text is incredible too – complex and yet very easy to read, which is a big favorite style for me.
It won several awards in 2000 including a Bram Stoker and a Hugo. In my research I also became aware that several other versions of the book have been printed and are using other artists in a more traditional comic book format, including a very recent version. A warning for parents is that it is adult in nature with some very dark themes, so I would not give this book to children or immature teens. The story contains “dream hunters” which are particularly menacing – very cool but scary. I am thinking nightmares.
I loved this book at 4 stars and I am now a fan of Neil Gaiman. Believe it or not this is the first of his books that I’ve read. So what’s next? Perhaps American Gods before the movie comes out? I better get cracking!
Please note according to my searches the version I read is not available in the US. It is however available in the UK and Canada. (less)
An excellent read – a mashup of alternative realities, particle physics, experimental jazz music,...moreOriginal review by John posted at Layers of Thought.
An excellent read – a mashup of alternative realities, particle physics, experimental jazz music, the Second World War and science fiction. How could you not like that combination?
About: It’s 1941 and Sam Dance is a an intelligent but uncoordinated jazz lover who has poor eyesight. He struggles to be accepted by the US army, but finally manages to wangle his way in, and then finds himself plucked from regular training and sent on a series of esoteric technical courses. After a passionate evening with one of the temporary lecturers, a brilliant and mysterious Eastern European physicist, the woman leaves him with a strange device, associated technical plans and scientific papers. While the device is an early prototype, she believes that once improved and if used properly, it can change the course of history for the good; it can affect the physics of consciousness and human behavior, and maybe even diminish man’s warlike tendencies. Dance is puzzled but intrigued and tries to understand some of the complex papers.
The very next day, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and Dance’s beloved elder brother is killed in the attack. He is heartbroken and the US is drawn into the Second World War.
So begins a strange tale. Dance becomes deeply involved in a program to design and deploy a top-secret radar and gun director that could help to win the war. He becomes close friends with Wink, another soldier who like him is a fanatic lover of modern jazz. They are deployed first to England and then to France and Germany, becoming ever more embroiled in the war effort and experiencing first-hand the horrors of the Nazi regime. All the while Dance remains fascinated by the device, and with Wink’s help they secretly try to create improved versions of it. Their deep understanding of jazz seems to help them make mental connections in the complex science behind the devices. Mysteriously the devices almost seem to have a mind of their own, and periodically mutate – but it’s not clear that the devices are actually doing anything. Meanwhile it is clear that the allied secret services suspect that the devices exists and want to find them.
Times move on, the Second World War ends but evolves into the Cold War, and Dance remains involved with the US armed forces, in Europe, the US and the Pacific. But strange things are happening. Times seem to be shifting, people are appearing and disappearing, and Dance becomes aware of alternative realities that seem to intertwine. He becomes drawn towards a critical historic event that appears to be the locus for those alternative realities. Can he and the mutated device affect those possible realities and prevent a grim new world from evolving?
John’s thoughts: This is a meaty, twisty, complex and thought-provoking story. At times I felt like I was just about hanging on, and found I often had to re-read sections - which isn’t intended as a criticism; this is one of those chewy stories that exercises the old grey matter in a positive way.
I like all of the detail about the Second World War, much of it (and some of the plot elements) being pulled directly from Goonan’s own father’s wartime experiences. He was actually involved in the secret radar project and was based for a time in most of the places featured in the story. I found those details really interesting, apart from which they also help to give the fantastic storyline a very grounded foundation (which I think is a definite plus in a plot that is so complicated.) I guess any story that is based around alternative realities and time travel is bound to be complicated, and this one is certainly no exception.
I really like the way that an actual historic event (the assassination of JFK) was used as the pivot for a variety of alternative futures. You can certainly see how our world might have turned out very differently if that event had never happened.
There are some really strong characters in the story – principally Sam Dance himself and the secret agent who becomes his wife. They are both conscientious and deep thinking, and strive to figure out what is right. The enigmatic Eastern European physicist too is an interesting character. She is actually a Magyar Gypsy who was heavily involved in the free-thinking European scientific community of the 1920s and 1930s, providing a nice contrast with the era of the Nazi regime that followed.
Was there anything that didn’t grab me? Well, the jazz connections with particle physics and biochemistry were interesting but at times felt just a smidgeon contrived. Clearly jazz is a big deal for Goonan, but for readers who aren’t that way inclined, the big focus on jazz in the story might get in the way a little bit.
Overall I’d rate this book 4 stars. For anyone who likes stories about alternative realities and histories this will be a great read. Also interested in the Second World War? And Jazz? Then you just have got to give this one a go. (less)
A futuristic science fiction novel with underground “noir-ish” themes, which takes the reader on a journey v...moreOriginal review post at Layers of Thought.
A futuristic science fiction novel with underground “noir-ish” themes, which takes the reader on a journey via internal biological internet connections into an intriguing online world.
Trouble is well known online as one of the best and most notorious “crackers”. She is a future version of a hacker, where cracking is breaking through IC(E) – the acronym for the complex security systems which simulate actual ice. Intriguingly, web users have connections to the web via “dollie ports” and “brain worms” giving a “virtual reality” experience to being online, where one smells color.
A story set in a dystopian US where things have gone environmentally sour, the beaches are so polluted that visiting them is toxic. Political factions have set in place laws which make “cracking” illegal and dangerous. As the stakes become higher, Trouble disappears in an effort to protect herself.
What brings her out of hiding is that someone is using her name. Not happy (neither are some significant powers that be), she emerges to set things right. As Trouble lives up to her name - she and her friends have an interesting and not entirely safe romp into an online and real-world futuristic adventure.
Trouble and Her Friends is cyberpunk. It is a subgenre which is characterized by a high tech dystopian environment with characters that are of marginal class standing. It is also said to have a “noir-ish” feel. Which are perfect descriptions for this science fiction novel.
Melissa Scott uses many intriguing science fiction concepts - for example the “dollie ports” and “brain worms” which actually hook the user up to the net through implants into the body. Beyond the nerdy bits she also has included romance (lgbt), virtual sex (nicely done), and the experience of traveling the net via internally hard wired brain connection with some excellent results.
I could not imagine a writer being able to tell you about a virtual web experience as it occurs in Trouble’s world. But she does – and very well at that. Scott uses a technique that toggles between real world and internet experiences, using italicized letters for the virtual world travels and normal text for the real world experience.
Despite the description, the book is very accessible and is actually a mystery thriller set in a darker future time. There are strong female characters (another favorite element) and it has some realistic science (another one too). I will be looking at this author and this subgenre more. This is an impressive novel with a redemptive ending. I give it 4 stars.(less)
Historical fiction and a multi-generational tale, set in the freezing Newfoundland seaside town of Paradis...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Historical fiction and a multi-generational tale, set in the freezing Newfoundland seaside town of Paradise Deep. Layered with snippets of the resident’s lives containing a touch of myth and small tastes of paranormal.
About: Galore is a complex and page-turning book, set in an area and time where living is bleak – a frigid seaside town in the mid 1800’s. Sadly the locals are starving, so when a dying whale swims into the harbor the town folk eagerly wait for the animal to take its last breath. All are lurking on the beach, with their knives and buckets and plans to use every part of its body for sustenance; to their surprise when removing its stomach they discover the body of a man. Thinking it’s a corpse they plan to bury it, but are shocked to find that he is still alive. Judah, as they name him, is at first feared due to the nature of his arrival, his unusual appearance, a lack of apparent ability to speak, and a very strong odor. However, in time he is thought to be the reason for an increase in the fish being pulled in by their once empty nets and other improvements in the relative comfort of the remote community.
My Thoughts: The above is only a short description of the very first part of the book; the rest contains interwoven stories around the numerous characters developed within the text. The author skillfully and incredibly weaves together the complex personalities of the resident’s lives in an earthy, heartbreaking, and at times starkly hilarious way. It includes some interesting twists, a full circle and an appropriate ending. The story is a take on a universal theme of a man being swallowed by a whale - this is a myth which is found in various cultures, religious text, and folk stories. Although Galore does not have an ancient setting and it is also not religious, it does contain a strong thread containing two Christian factions and several colorful local clergymen.
Michael Crummey is an exceptional writer with an unusual style that is at once page-turning and complex. With so many tangled threads it’s a good thing there are two genealogy trees located at the beginning of the book; it is needed. Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers, those who enjoy a mythic theme, and those who love complex colorful characters in their reads. I rate Galore at 4 stars; I loved it and now know why this author has won so many awards.(less)