With Day of the F-Virus, Lyka Bloom weaves a post-apocalyptic adventure where the only thing more scare than hope is men. With most of the world's menWith Day of the F-Virus, Lyka Bloom weaves a post-apocalyptic adventure where the only thing more scare than hope is men. With most of the world's men already turned into submissive bimbos, and most of them women into Amazonian futa savages, a lone group of scientists is working underground, desperately searching for a cure.
This is a story of multiple conflicts, with the most dangerous risk coming not from the virus above, but from the trigger-happy soldiers and borderline psychotic scientists below. With no cure in sight, everyone has become desperate, with tensions strained and trust all but eroded. To make matters worse, one scientist figures that if they cannot cure the virus, then maybe they can alter it - and he is not above using his peers as guinea pigs.
While there are some sexy moments, and the nature of the virus itself is extraordinarily exciting, this is a dark tale that is as full of violence as it is sex. My only complaint is that we never get to see more than a glimpse of a man being infected, but readers looking for a little futa-on-female action will be delighted.
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is probably one of the most frequently retold novels of the 19th century, with countless spin-offs, sequels, and retJane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is probably one of the most frequently retold novels of the 19th century, with countless spin-offs, sequels, and retellings on both page and screen. It is a timeless story, and one with a dual appeal. Yes, there is the romantic aspect of it, but there is also the story of manners behind it, which looks at how proper young women are made, not born.
It is from that idea that Kit Scarbrough's Pride and Prettiness - A "Reluctant Transgen" Tale from Arcadia Island - springs forth. Taking place in the year 2021, the story deals with the Gender Shift movement, which has propelled the island nation of Arcadia to a position of power as the world's first Female Led Nation . . . a world in which the feminization of young men is not just accepted and encouraged. Here, proper young women truly are made, in a physical sense as well as an intellectual one.
In Part 1 of the story, Scarbrough introduces us to the family of Cleo Sherwood - Mayor, Vice Presidential Candidate, and Househead of a Female Led household. She is happily married to her pregnant wifeboy Jennifer (thanks to a uterus implant), and a proud mother to her four sheboy children, Victory, Alex, Candy, and Erin (who are kept young and soft through a combination of puberty blockers and chastity tubes). Erin, the youngest, is a bookworm obsessed with fairy tales and princesses; Candy is little princess, enthusiastic about his transition and in love with everything frilly and feminine; while Victory and Alex are the most reluctant of the children, rebelling against their impending transitions.
For the two oldest sheboys, it is less a rebellion against anything physical and more sociological. Part of the appeal in Arcadia is that it is a gender-swapped version of 1950s America. Sheboys are expected to become polite, docile house wifeboys, completely dependent and legally owned by their Househead. If they want to have a career, it will be as a secretary, a grade school teacher, or a waitress - and only until their implanted uterus is artificially impregnated. With strong memories of their lives as boys back on the mainland, Victory dreams of being a scientist, while Alex longs to become a doctor, careers which are denied to them by their newfound gender.
Scarbrough does a remarkable job of building an entire society in which we can both believe and even envy. It is not a perfect society, but it is a progressive one with some very open-minded ideals. Professional women across the world have flocked to Arcadia, embracing the opportunity to escape glass ceilings and sexual harassment, while transgender individuals have done the same, accepting the restraints upon their future in exchange for being openly accepted and appreciated. While there are some rumors of forced feminizations, Arcadia is not a world of sinister science-fiction conspiracies. Sheboys are accepted, but are still in the minority, and less than 10% of all marriages are Female Led marriages.
In addition to introducing us to the world and the Sherwood family, this opening chapter also sets up the budding romance of Alex, who fills the role of Mary in the story (while Victory serves as the gender-swapped version of Elizabeth).
The Mirror Empire is that rarest of fantasy beasties – a successful mainstream epic fantasy that is also boldly, brashly, and brazenly diverse.
It allThe Mirror Empire is that rarest of fantasy beasties – a successful mainstream epic fantasy that is also boldly, brashly, and brazenly diverse.
It all begins with a harsh, post-apocalyptic fantasy universe that is fully aware of its own mirror worlds. These are not just mirror worlds into which individuals accidentally slip, but worlds that wage war upon one another to survive the latest apocalyptic cycle. What is really interesting here is that everyone has a mirror counterpart, with whom they cannot coexist, leading to a sometimes confusing game of murder and usurpation. Most of the conflict centres upon a pacifist empire known as the Dhai, which just happens to be situated on the marching path of mirror conquerors.
As for that post-apocalyptic fantasy landscape, there is a strong theme of environmental awareness buried within it. Kameron Hurley avoids any long-winded speeches about the madness of foolishness of humanity, and does not bore the reader with details about we destroyed the world. Instead, she moves past all that, simply acknowledges that it happened, and shows us just how resilient and vengeful nature can be. This is a hostile environment with which humanity is constantly at war, fighting back carnivorous vegetation, including bone trees that incorporate human bone shards into their bark.
In terms of gender, gender roles, and sexuality, this is certainly the most diverse epic fantasy I have ever encountered. Gender is as much about roles as it is biology, with both passive and assertive males and females, as well as truly gender fluid individuals. I found myself confused by the diversity of pronouns at times, so I can only imagine how a mainstream reader might feel. Despites those gender differences, this is largely a world of matriarchal societies, where masculine rulers are almost unheard of, and the very idea of a male warrior is laughed at. It is the women who make the decisions, who fight the battles, and who enjoy the spoils. Assertive men generally serve as clerics and scribes, while passive men serve as the equivalent of the stereotypical housewife, performing domestic chores and providing sexual release for their polyamorous marriage partners.
Despite the diversity and the imagination involved here, this is a very dark and very violent epic fantasy. Kameron Hurley ploughs through her story about as quickly, almost dragging the reader along in her wake, so that we do not truly appreciate what she has accomplished until the very end. There are a lot of characters and a lot of points-of-view, which only adds to the confusion, but it does personalize much of the diversity and really allow us to experience the world of the Worldbreaker Saga.
Making a triumphant return to the world of his Nown World Chronicles, Donald Allen Kirch brings us The Return of Ka-Ron the Knight.
In many ways, thisMaking a triumphant return to the world of his Nown World Chronicles, Donald Allen Kirch brings us The Return of Ka-Ron the Knight.
In many ways, this third volume brings the entire tale full-circle, both in terms of narrative and world history. After a relatively straight (no pun intended) forward entry, in which genders remained fixed, even if they were sometimes disguised, Kirch makes Jatel victim of the same gender-bending curse as the man to whom he was once squire, and then husband, and now wife. It's interesting to see how he adapts to things, especially having been forewarned by Ka-Ron/Karen's experience, but I won't spoil the surprise.
At the same time, Count Voslow makes a rather surprising return, revealing the truth about his origins, his vampiric nature, and his role in world events. I really wasn't expecting to see him again after the middle volume, but I should have known a good vampire never rests for long. The way in which the world has evolved however, and the way the new settlements surrounding his castle have developed, both add some interesting depth to his role in the story.
Of course, once cannot talk about Count Voslow without mentioning the Nown. Mysterious figures from history, who have attained the status of legend, it turns out that Voslow is the only man left alive to remember who they are, where they came from, and where they left. Their return adds a significant science-fiction element to the saga, bringing the concept of alien invasion to a fantasy world. With no weapons of mass destruction, heavy duty armour, or any of the other scientific developments that usually see humanity triumphant in contemporary tales, Kirch's world is at a serious disadvantage.
Or, they would be, were it not for magic!
Just as much fun as the first two volumes, with a little more of the first book's erotic elements, but a serious increase in the level of excitement, The Return of Ka-Ron the Knight brings the story of Ka-Ron, Jatel, Keeth, and all the rest to a satisfying close.