Some beautiful writing, especially in the concrete detail of Sorlie and what he's going through in his new life on the prison island. Interesting ideaSome beautiful writing, especially in the concrete detail of Sorlie and what he's going through in his new life on the prison island. Interesting ideas about the near future too. Sorlie is rather a bratish hero, and very teenage in his concerns, but by the end he is (a little) wiser. There's some great characters, and I love the developing way Sorlie relates to Ishbel, and his grandfather Davie, and to Scud - who was my favourite character in the book. ...more
Phoenix/Railhead/Wondla I've read 3 brilliant Middle Grade scifi books recently. There should definitely be more Middle Grade/ Children's Scifi!
PhoeniPhoenix/Railhead/Wondla I've read 3 brilliant Middle Grade scifi books recently. There should definitely be more Middle Grade/ Children's Scifi!
Phoenix is a lovely mix of StarWars and Ray Bradbury-ish stuff. A great adventure story with some deeper philosophical musings about embracing your fear and becoming who you are, and a little bit of zen about the infinity of everything. The writing is truly beautiful and poetic, and is matched by amazing black and white graphic illustrations by Dave Mckean - one of my favourite illustrators, and the book is gorgeously designed for a paperback using the negative images of black and white to suggest Lucky - the hero's - astral journeys into outer space. So good! Go read it!
I was given a proof copy of RailHead to read and loved it. Packed with adventure and filled with unique story elements, it's a great sci-fi heist storI was given a proof copy of RailHead to read and loved it. Packed with adventure and filled with unique story elements, it's a great sci-fi heist story with a retro steampunky feel. Set on an interstellar rail network winding through the stars where, instead of spaceships, old fashioned trains travel through wormholes to visit other planets.
There's lots of intriguing world building that feels very immersive but is also in service of an interesting plot - rather than as can sometimes be the case, where you get slightly lost in the details of the world. It reminded me in parts of Perdido Street Station, and other theme elements are reminiscent of The Diamond Age or The Windup Girl, but being YA SciFi it feels more zingy and fun, light on its feet! Plus there's lots of amazing cliff hangers as Zen the young petty thief must use all his wits to perform the heist of his life on a speeding train!...more
I loved this. A great piece of middle grade scifi. So much imagination in the situations and settings which are beautiful illustrated by the author, iI loved this. A great piece of middle grade scifi. So much imagination in the situations and settings which are beautiful illustrated by the author, in a cartoony style in this gorgeously designed book.
It had flavours of both Star Wars and Princess Mononoke with its amoebic aliens and ramshackle spaceships. A few chunks of scifi prose were a little difficult to follow, but admittedly I did not read the first book and so perhaps some information is probably missing for me, because there's quite a lot of world building that is glancing referenced here that obviously occurred in the first book, which perhaps I should have read! Sometimes I felt like the action description is lacking a little physical detail also, but the pace is cracking fast, as with many middle grade books and to slow it down for the world building detail would probably be a little off putting to young readers.
Anyway I still found the whole thing thoroughly enjoyable and a great inspiration for my writing. Eva Nine is a brilliantly spunky heroine and the secondary characters like Rovender and Hailey are intriguing and lively too....more
This was a really mixed bag of science fiction stories, and many of them felt a little flat to me. There were a couple that I really liked - A sound oThis was a really mixed bag of science fiction stories, and many of them felt a little flat to me. There were a couple that I really liked - A sound of Thunder and Here be Tygers being the two most memorable - but having read a collection by Phillip K Dick before reading this, it was a hard act to follow. ...more
I love the paranoia of these short stories. All about identity and people who think they are robots, or robots who think they are people, or people whI love the paranoia of these short stories. All about identity and people who think they are robots, or robots who think they are people, or people whose minds have been wiped by drugs or their history has been altered. All sorts of ideas to do with questioning the nature of reality and what you are being told - even by your own senses....more
In the freezing cold ocean a boy struggles to keep his head above water, but the sea is strong and pulls him under. He drowns. Then wakes, alone, in aIn the freezing cold ocean a boy struggles to keep his head above water, but the sea is strong and pulls him under. He drowns. Then wakes, alone, in an empty street in a derelict town in England, the only human left on Earth. How can this be? Is he in the after life, or limbo? Or is this somehow a figment of his dying imagination? And what’s even odder, he knows this street from before. . .
Structure-wise, More Than This is very similar to The Knife of Never Letting Go - a teenage boy discovering secrets about his past in a world which is entirely alien to him, meeting allies, and being pursued by a dark figure. In fact, it has the same chase-and-catch structure of Knife, the same concrete real-time adrenaline pumping storyline that gradually doles out secret pieces of the past.
There are also thematic similarities to Knife: an exploration of interior thoughts vs exterior world through science fiction; the same interest in the way thoughts and the world bleed together and interact. In More Than This, however, these ideas seem to work much more directly than in Knife. In Knife it’s like thoughts are a magic ESP that characters possess, whereas in More Than This there is the hint that thoughts (or consciousness) is what the world is made of, and perhaps the story you create from your random experience is all there is. Is the ‘more than this’.
I love the directness of Patrick Ness’s writing, his urgent cinematic style where we are over the shoulder of our lead character - Seth - and stay with him only. It is the perfect way to tell the story of a character questioning the nature of reality; lost in a world he doesn’t understand. To stay close to Seth and his thoughts is probably the only way that you can tell this tale because the most important thing is that we do not know more than he does. We are learning with him, and have no concrete answers to the question of whether there’s an external reality at all or whether this is a dream taking place in his mind.
Patrick Ness is brilliant at having Seth think his way through problems, reason and consider both sides of an issue, and even when his friends, Tomasz and Regine, give him answers or help him out he questions the nature of their advice, even questions whether they and the driver (the villain of the piece) exist. This is a great post-modern way to undercut the problem of some of the scifi cliches that come up in a chase and catch plot, that at points is in danger of becoming Terminator meets The Matrix, and also keep things on an unsteady keel.
I love the depiction of Seth’s relationship with Gudmund in ‘the past’. The fact he is a gay hero in a scifi-ish novel, but also that that is only a part of his loneliness and his self, a fragment of it, and not what the story is solely about.
I also love it when a character like Seth, who feels alive, thinking and autonomous, suddenly questions the nature of their reality, and you, the reader, feel they are conscious of you and at any moment may work out that they are in a novel.
When Seth first questions the convenience of certain things in the story and whether Regine and Thomas are really real, I thought this was what he meant. And perhaps there is a playful hint of this all the way through, although maybe I am reading that wrong? Seth only exists, in that stream of words, while he’s telling himself the story, or is that the story being read? Just as you only exist when your brain is telling your story to you, and perhaps the ambiguous ending hints at these things too?...more
My 'big brain' couldn't really get into this one. It didn't have the shock of Slaughter House Five nor the humour of some of the other Vonnegurt storiMy 'big brain' couldn't really get into this one. It didn't have the shock of Slaughter House Five nor the humour of some of the other Vonnegurt stories. But still had some great moments especially towards the end....more
The Knife of Never Letting Go is a YA novels set in a dystopian future on a Earth-like planet called New World, where people constantly hear each otheThe Knife of Never Letting Go is a YA novels set in a dystopian future on a Earth-like planet called New World, where people constantly hear each others thoughts. The narrator Todd Hewitt is a settler (his family came from Earth on a spaceship) and he lives in Prentiss Town a tiny outpost with his talking dog Manchee (all the animals on New Earth can talk). One day, while walking in the woods Todd discovers a patch of silence and so begins a journey that sends him running from his home and everything he once thought true.
The best thing about the book is Manchee the talking dog, who Ness use to create a brilliant opening line and first page hook. The second best thing is the way the characters read each others minds. The different fonts for people's thoughts and the way Todd would thinks something in his narration and the character he was talking to might comment on this in the next paragraph, worked really well. That said, this clever idea undermines the credibility of the reveals and makes them problematic, because if everyone knows everything about everyone, how can there be secrets?
I loved Todd's present tense narration and the mixed style of simple language and odd misspelled words. He's uneducated but he can think and reason like a modern teenager. He even occasionally address the reader directly, with little asides. The plot is a real adrenaline pumping page turner and the themes reminded me of both Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban and also of the Chrysalids by John Wyndham, two of my favourite dystopian fantasy books about young people. This book, though good, for me did not quite reach those heights, because after all the horror movie shocks, all the fight and flight, I wanted some kind of resolution, which I didn't really get from the ending, but maybe that's a problem with continuing serials....more
Eleven year old orphan, Silver Rivers, and her uncaring Aunt, Mrs Rokabye, live at Tanglewreck a run down country house that once belonged to Silver'sEleven year old orphan, Silver Rivers, and her uncaring Aunt, Mrs Rokabye, live at Tanglewreck a run down country house that once belonged to Silver's father. In nearby London time tornadoes are sweeping the city, dragging people into the past and throwing the past into the present. Only one thing can stop the disintegration of time: the Timekeeper, an ancient broken clock that was once owned by Silver's father. Silver must find the clock and repair it before it is discovered by the villainous Abel Darkwater and Regalia Mason who plan to steal the clock and control time itself.
I had mixed feelings about this first children's novel by Jeanette Winterson but if I was a child I think I would love it. It starts off nicely with the Dickensian Mrs Rokabye giving Silver the Cinderella treatment. Mrs Rokabye is a character Jeanette knows well, another version of the legendary Mrs Winterson. Abel Darkwater is also an intriguing villain. He owns a watch shop in Spitalfields (probably right next door to Jeanette's own shop!) and Silver visits him there and is hypnotised. The first half of the book also introduces a group of underground mole-like people and a lot of intriguing story ideas around the time tornadoes ( ideas that are sadly never returned to).
In the second half of the book the fantasy and sci-fi landscapes and tropes really kick in and the relentless fast pace and the lack of descriptions of anything, particularly the sci-fi world, started to annoy me. Contrasting this, there is quite a lot of talk about quantum physics, time travel, and the real Schrodinger's Cat - Dinger - even puts in an appearance! All this and a bunch of Popes in space (how do those things go together?) made it come across like a mixture of His Dark Materials, Neverwhere, and a Doctor Who episode....more
Lije is a human detective in a futuristic New York who is partnered with a robot R. Daneel to tray and solve the murder of a prominent off-worlder. ThLije is a human detective in a futuristic New York who is partnered with a robot R. Daneel to tray and solve the murder of a prominent off-worlder. This has shades of Blade Runner and other science fiction series - more in the questions asked about Robots than the actual plot.
The murder mystery itself is a bit run of the mill but this book is well worth reading for the excellent world building details Asimov creates for his futuristic mega-city version of New York. That and the famous three rules of robotics - invented, and I think are first used here. There's also a lot of great philosophical musings about robots via the discussion the narrator Lije has with the various other character he meets during the course of his investigation....more