It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It hasOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It has a feisty lead character so it’s a perfect read for the fans of Gail Carriger – only it’s a bit darker.
About: Petite and feisty redheaded Cherry St. Croix is a bit tarnished. Orphaned at an early age, she is from an upper class family and lives comfortably with a variety of servants in her estate home - albeit as a ward to a never-present male benefactor, since women from this alternative Victorian period cannot own and are considered property. Darker still is that she is addicted to laudanum or opium depending on which is closer at hand; and she is a collector – a hired bounty woman who tracks down the wanted.
As she travels the polluted and sooty underworld of this different sort of London, she is asked to “collect’ a “ripper” who is killing local “sweets” (the most beautiful and desirable prostitutes) and taking their body parts for goodness knows what. It’s in the process of finding this insidious killer that she discovers darker things about her past; and sidesteps two romantic entanglements.
Thoughts: I really liked Cherry, the intelligent, tainted and strong main character who denies the existence of magic and only believes in science. It was also appealing that she is adamant about not wanting to get married, contrary to proper behavior for the time.
Although I really dislike comparing newer novels to wildly popular ones, I would say that this historical-ish novel felt quite similar to Gail Carriger’s Soulless, which I really enjoyed - although Tarnished is darker, less humorous, and has a more realistic setting than Carriger’s books. But like Soulless it includes science and gadgets, along with Victorian fashion and propriety, so it’s a genre-blender mystery story like Soulless.
My only niggle was that I had a slight problem getting into the author’s writing style at first. But I found it became easier after several chapters. And once I did I was completely hooked. I also want to mention that this first book is a cliff hanger, but what better way of starting off a series since it definitely created a desire to read the next in the series, even if I now have to wait.
Highly recommended for those interested in steampunk, historical romance, urban fantasy, murder mysteries, and especially for those who like strong female leads. It’s a 3.5 star read for me. I can’t wait for the second in the series....more
Told from the perspective of a young man who resides in what is left of an almost unrecognizable “dystopia“Lament for Lost Atlanta” ~ by Arlan Andrews
Told from the perspective of a young man who resides in what is left of an almost unrecognizable “dystopian US”, where the south is very different than it is today.
In an alternative future (a post Civil War America of sorts) this short story examines a South where the Union did not embrace the Confederates after the war. As is often the custom by the winners of a war, there is a changed “mythology” around the war’s history - where the heroes from the loosing side are portrayed as villains by the usurpers. In this sad story all are designated as “terrorists”, including the beloved Robert E. Lee.
What is terrific about this readable short are its realistic consequences; looking at what is considered a terrorist, then thinking about how this kind of “mentality” is created in a person or group. Better yet (for me at least) is that this story occurs on Western soil, so I have a relatable and recognizable face for the quintessential “bad guy”.
Highly recommended, this story is a 4.5 star in my opinion. One of my favorite type of reads: a story with social relevance, a glimpse inside the complexity of human nature revealing how character can be created or destroyed, and answering a question that I personally have been struggling with.
About the author: Arlan Andrews has been writing for more than 30 years, with his work published in various magazines and intellectual journals. He is a member of the SFWA and resides in Texas. For an interesting 2007 article from USA Today where Andrews and 4 other science fiction authors of “deviant thinking” are consulted on warding off terrorist attacks: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/...
Alt Hist is a relatively new and promising magazine featuring historical fiction and alternative history stories. This first issue contains 5 more shorts on various subjects and is where this great story was found. For more info: http://althistfiction.com/...more
An excellent read – a mashup of alternative realities, particle physics, experimental jazz music,Original 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. ...more