There's a lot in this book, inventive world building, a three-dimensional heroine with inherent conflicts and a multi-strand plot which includes classThere's a lot in this book, inventive world building, a three-dimensional heroine with inherent conflicts and a multi-strand plot which includes class structure, bankruptcy, personal jeopardy, health care, ecological disaster, political unrest and a love triangle. Yes, that's a huge amount for one book to cope with and at times it seems almost too much, and not all the strands are resolved.
The setting is a human colony on Penance, a Dyson Sphere created by (now long-gone) aliens. Amandine is three things, a pacifist Seeker, a circus trapeze artist of extraordinary skill, and a leopard, a human born with a gene mutation that causes spot marks on her skin. Unfortunately it's a common belief that leopards are plague carriers (they aren't) so a zealous sect of Plaguellants is in the business of tracking them down and murdering them, apparently with the approval of the authorities.
Penance society is somewhat bent out of shape. Not only does it allow the indiscriminate persecution of leopards, it has a highly divisive class system whereby the haves, Titans, basically make all the rules to suit themselves. (Hmm, this is sounding familiar.) There's a twisted universal healthcare system which allows (ordinary) folk to insure only one organ, so woe betide if you have a kidney complaint when you chose to insure your liver. Additional healthcare is also available via casinos - you need win the jackpot if you or your loved one needs a medical procedure that you're not insured for. Lose and you're indentured for a number of years to work in any one of a number of menial tasks. Of course the system is stacked against you.
Amandine is a trapeze artists, but she is also part of the Seeker network. In her role as a Seeker she acts as a guide to take endangered leopards to a hidden sanctuary. As the book opens she makes a mess of her assignment. Leopards are killed and she comes to the attention of Brother Sterling, the chief Plaguellant. In the meantime Cristallo, the circus that has sheltered her for seventeen years, is on the verge of bankruptcy and her long term lesbian relationship with Malaga (who runs an Exotica shop) is breaking down. Out in wider society there's a backlash from the Spots, a radical bunch of leopard terrorists who are protesting the situation with indiscriminate violence.
The circus research is impeccable and the descriptions of Amandine's trapeze routines with her catcher, Jango, her heart-brother, are lovingly and viscerally realised in great detail.
Gender roles are open, relationships are bisexual with single or multiple partners. The romance angle is beautifully written, Amandine after breaking up with Malaga meets Nikos, and it's love at first sight. They are soul mates and a pair bond made in heaven. Their love is thrilling, sensual and utterly believable. The reader meets Nikos, a Titan and a healthcare reformer, early in the book without realising the importance of his character (to Amandine) I wish she'd met him earlier because we're halfway through before their relationship starts and I would have liked to see more of that.
The physical world is fascinating though some of the world building is detailed while other bits fade to grey in the distance. Dyson spheres are problematical for human colonisation, but we don't get detailed explanations of how this works technically, just hints about its size and the fact that only some of its atmosphere is human-friendly.
If this review is a little jumbled it's perhaps because there are many facets to address. It's a self-published book and, for me, seems to spread itself too widely, tries to do too much and because of that lacks a little focus. It comments on contemporary society's healthcare issues, radicalisation of the disaffected, the dangers of religious extremism, class structure, and the beneficent effects of art. Any one of those would make a book in itself. There's enough material here for a trilogy.
This book came highly recommended. Perhaps I was expecting too much because I didn't immediately engage with it as well as I had hoped. It took me almost to the halfway point to really get into it and then I found the ending was a bit of a let-down which either went on for too long after the main story arc had finished, or didn't go on for long enough, because though resolution is in sight, it is not achieved. The character that goes through the greatest change is Brother Sterling and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that. There are some loose plot threads (The snakehead fish? Malaga?) so I wonder if Ms Schultz is planning to revisit this world.
Downloaded from NetGalley in return for an honest review. ...more
I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I approach all diet books with caution. I am more than highly suspI received a free copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I approach all diet books with caution. I am more than highly suspicious of anything that promises to work within six weeks, yet here it is. Chapters include 'The Interval Sprinting Belly Fat Loss Prigramme' and 'A Six Week Belly fat Loss Programme', especially when it immediately says it's following the Mediterranean Diet and includes a hefty exercise programme of intensive exercise.
Okay, let's set my personal views on one side for a moment. The book contains an exercise programme, a healthy eating guide, a stress reduction guide.
It tells you everything you probably know already about the relationship between weight and health and exercise and throws in some scare statistics about the number of obese people in America and how visceral fat can lead to type 2 diabetes. It doesn't talk about body shape, i.e. the difference between apple-shape and pear-shape, but it does say that people with higher concentration of thigh fat tend not to get diabetes (perhaps someone would like to tell that to my pancreas). Depressingly it confirms that the number of fat cells in our bodies is established in our teen years - one of the reasons why fat adults have so much trouble losing weight once their body shape is locked in, I suspect.
It does have some interesting things to say about exercise, and recommends an interval sprinting programme with short bursts of intense exercise followed by light exercise or rest while the body recovers. This can be as short as 8 to 30 seconds with recovery of 12 seconds to 4 minutes, but you should then continue the sprint and recover exercise for 20 minutes in total with four to six 'sprints' in a session. This should be done three times a week. The whole regime takes far less time than aerobic exercise and according to the book is more effective at burning fat and building muscle mass and reducing appetite. Interesting.
Though it does get quite technical about the exercise programme it also gives you an easy access guide to the programme and suggests building up slowly. For a book that appears at first glance to be a diet book, it doesn't talk about food until halfway through. Again it gets quite technical, but basically recommends a Mediterranean olive-oil rather than animal fat diet, lots of fruit and veg, some pasta but very little animal protein or dairy. Nothing particularly new here. It's a diet very much not to my taste. Swiss chard, cooked turnip greens, raw kale and raw beetroot greens don't fill me with joy, especially when the sent sentence tells me to cut out salt. Yes this diet may make you live longer, but it will make life feel interminable. ...more
I've been aware of Octavia Butler's writing for some time, but somehow never managed to get round to reading one of her books. My loss. This won't beI've been aware of Octavia Butler's writing for some time, but somehow never managed to get round to reading one of her books. My loss. This won't be my last Butler book.
A devastating nuclear war all but wipes out humanity and the few scattered survivors are rescued by extraterrestrials, the Oankali, a species driven to blend their genes (fairly indiscriminately, it seems) with other intelligent species, changing both species permanently. The first book serves as a first contact book. Lilith wakes from a centuries-long sleep and is gradually introduced to her saviours. At first she finds them terrifying and repulsive. They look like ugly sea-slugs with sensory tentacles all over their bodies instead of eyes/ears/noses. Gradually she gets used to them and comes to understand them a little.
The Oankali have three genders, male, female and the strange ooloi, genderless individuals with the power to manipulate genes, and also with consciousness sharing powers which include mental sexual stimulation between male and female partners of any species. (Threesomes being fun in this case.) After initial tests and acclimatisation to the Oankali, Lilith is charged with the task of waking forty human adults and training them to return to Earth to a rain-forest environment..
What she doesn't tell them at first, because she can hardly bear to think about it herself, is that the Oankali intend the next generation of human children to be Oankali-Human hybrids - a 'better' organism for survival on the recovering Earth.
This book contains a mixture of interesting ideas, weird sex and a deep examination of alienation and 'the other'. The conflict comes between Lilith's desire to remain human and preserve humanity in its original form, and her need to survive. The Oankali believe that humans, left to themselves, will self-destruct. Their controlling, paternalistic, Oankali-know-best attitude gives the humans little choice in the matter, so, of course, they rebel, leaving Lilith caught between her own species and the Oankali who have become her family.
There are several points to make about this book being a product of its time. Octavia Butler was the pioneering American black female writer who wrote about black female characters and paved the way for other writers of colour. Also, this book, published in 1987 was written before Stockholm[*1] Syndrome was a widely recognised phenomenon, but Lilith certainly develops sympathy for the Oankali whom she first sees as her captors, while they see themselves as her rescuers. It's a post-apocalyptic version of Beauty and the Beast, maybe.
[*1] The incident Stockholm Syndrome was eventually named after took place in 1973, but originally went under the catchy name of Norrmalmstorgssyndromet, only later becoming Stockholm Syndrome....more
As an ex librarian I have a fondness for anything library-oriented so I wanted to like this a lot - and I did. Genevieve Cogman's debut novel is a delAs an ex librarian I have a fondness for anything library-oriented so I wanted to like this a lot - and I did. Genevieve Cogman's debut novel is a delight.
Irene is a junior librarian - an agent of the Invisible Library which exists between dimensions, but has access to all the alternate earths in the multiverse. It's purpose is to collect and preserve all the alternate versions of important books that have been published in the various dimensions and the librarians are, essentially, book thieves (or sometimes book-buyers). Getting hold of the book seems more important that the morality of their methodology.
Sent to a steampunky alternate London to collect an important copy of Grimm's Fairyt Tales she's given the bare minimum of information and saddled with a trainee, the elegant and handsome Kai who is eager (maybe over-eager) to have a field assignment since he's been cooped up in the library for the last five years, learning the ropes.
Irene is bonded to the library which gives her certain powers, including being able to speak the language of the library which enables her to commence (mostly) inanimate objects, such as locks to unlock. Kai is not yet bonded but seems to have a skill-set of his own, which is a puzzle to Irene at first.
Irene is wrong-footed even before crossing over into the alternate London by Bradamant, once her mentor and now a rival. Bradamant wants the gig of finding the Grimm, but Irene suspects her motives and her authority and manages to cross over and leave her behind. In the alternate she's given, yet again, a bare minimum of information. This steampunk alternate is inhabited not only by humans, but by fae, werewolves and vampires. It's been infected with chaos, and chaos magic and the library's own powers don't mix. The book's owner, a vampire, has been murdered and the book is missing. Irene goes to investigate and quickly meets Silver, a fae who wants the book, and Vale, the Great Detective - that alternate's analogue of Sherlock Holmes.
Irene and Kai battle mechanical crocodiles, werewolves, silverfish, Bradamant (again) and, most terrifying of all, a renegade librarian who is known for returning the vital organs of those librarians whose paths have crossed his - mostly in separate, neatly wrapped packages. Zeppelins and mechanical hansom cabs are involved as well as a very proper policeman called Singh and an elderly blackmailer. The action takes place across London, including, of course, the British Library and the British Museum
It's well-paced, inventive and a very satisfying read, with Irene and Kai both being engaging and well-drawn protagonists with their own strengths, weaknesses and backstories. Yes there's a hint of attraction between them, but this is anything but a corset romance. I hope this book isn't the last in this universe. I'd love to read more.
I received an electronic copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review....more
This is a review of an advance uncorrected proof via Netgalley. It's due out in early March 2015.
The Fae's war with humanity, as depicted in the crossThis is a review of an advance uncorrected proof via Netgalley. It's due out in early March 2015.
The Fae's war with humanity, as depicted in the crossover Mercy Thompson series, is escalating and alpha werewolf troubleshooter Charles Cornick and his omega-wolf wife Anna are drawn into some nasty paranormal business while visiting an old friend to buy Anna a new horse.
A powerful fae is on the loose, kidnapping and killing (eventually) human children, replacing them with simulacra. Charles' old friend's grandchild is targeted via a particularly nasty piece of magic, and that involves the werewolves in the investigation.
This is Patricia Briggs usual tight plotting with a huge helping of will-they-won't-they dramatic tension, but what I found just as interesting is the continuing development of the relationship between Charles and Anna and also the examination of friendship between an (almost) immortal being (werewolves live a long time) and their human friends. It all hinges on the nature of love and whether it's better to love and lose, or to refuse to engage for fear of eventually getting hurt.
Charles' non-werewolf friend, Joseph is, indeed an 'old' friend. In the days of his youth he and Charles worked together, fought together and let off steam together. In the end Joseph married Maggie, whom Charles had loved. Now Joseph and Maggie are elderly and Joseph is on his death-bed. Charles steered clear for twenty years because he couldn't bear to see his friend's slow slide into infirmity. Now he has to say goodbye. There's an answer. Joseph could be 'turned,' made werewolf. His father, Hosteen, who still looks like a young man, is a werewolf and alpha of the local pack, but Joseph has chosen to stay human.
Also, the other side of this coin, Anna wants a baby. Werewolves can't carry children because the change from human to wolf causes spontaneous abortion, but Anna has a notion that invitro fertilization and a surrogate mother might work. Technically it's possible, but Charles doesn't want to see a child of his grow, age and die, or be endangered by the nature of the dangerous work Charles is often engaged in, dispensing rough justice to werewolves who become too dangerous to control their appetites.
Their problems are explored as the story progresses, which gives the book a good emotional kick as well as a solid whodunnit plot. As usual Briggs writing is absorbing and Dead Heat is a real page turner. Highly recommended, though if you're not familiar with Briggs' werefolf world, you may want to read some of the other Alpha and Omega books first, beginning with Cry Wolf. ...more
Yarvi is a prince, but a younger son, so not expected to inherit, which is just as well because he was born with a deformed hand and can neither holdYarvi is a prince, but a younger son, so not expected to inherit, which is just as well because he was born with a deformed hand and can neither hold a shield nor scale a fortress wall. He's never going to be the man leading an army into battle. He's destined to be a minister and has almost completed his rigorous training when his father and older brother are killed and he's dragged into the limelight - and not to his advantage.
Betrayed by his uncle and surviving only by good fortune and his quick wits, Yarvi is sold into slavery, strapped to a galley oar where he seemingly will stay until he dies, but Yarvi is clever. He's only ever had his wits to rely on in a land where physical prowess counts for everything. And despite the hardscrabble world he's been thrust into Yarvi is essentially kind, though not weak. He's determined to survive and determined to get revenge on his uncle.
When eventually he gets his chance for freedom, he takes a bunch of shipmates with him on a gruelling journey back to his homeland. There's a surprise twist at the end which means Yarvi gets what he wants, but not in the way he expected to get it and not without consequences.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I see some reviewers have dubbed it Abercrombie-lite because compared to the author's earlier books this is nowhere near as grimdark, however they don't seem to have taken into account that it's written with young people in mind. The story is more simple, more accessible than the First Law Trilogy, but no poorer for all that. It's a coming of age story with a physically flawed protagonist that kept me hooked. In fact - I only intended to read a chapter but I couldn't put it down. I read the whole lot in one sitting without even coming up for air or coffee. That's a real page turner....more
I read excellent reviews of this book and really wanted to love it. Ultimately, I didn't engage as well as I'd hoped, though I found much to admire. JI read excellent reviews of this book and really wanted to love it. Ultimately, I didn't engage as well as I'd hoped, though I found much to admire. Jen Williams' worldbuilding is excellent. Though the setting is medievalish, she builds a world in which the old gods and their power have been shut away. There are knights, mercenaries, taverns and lords, but it feels anything but generic.
I bounced off the characters, however. The three main ones are basically unlikeable in their selfish disregard for others
Wydrin of Crosshaven, a hard-drinkin' hard-fightin' female scrapper and her friend and companion, Sir Sebastian, a disgraced Knight of Ynnsmouth, who clings to the essence of the Order even though they kicked him out for something heinous, are chancers, mercenary adventurers living from hand to mouth and job to job. The trouble starts when Lord Frith employs them to see him safely into the dangerous underground labyrinth beneath the Citadel - a place from which few return. What could possibly go wrong?
I've never played Dungeons and Dragons, but the beginning of this reads like a trip through the Dungeon and yes, there is a Dragon, though it's not your regular kind. This one's a god with a manufactured army of green women warriors, new-born into the world. Frith gets what he wants, in fact he gets more than he bargained for, but only by ignoring the needs of others - a fair indication of things to come. An unspeakable horror is released on to the land, and our heroes run in the opposite direction. Frith isn't interested in the horror, he's single-mindedly seeking revenge on the people who broke into his castle, killed his family and tortured him for the location of the family vault.
The rest of the book is straightforward quest narrative. They all have to face individual fears, Sebastian's dark secret is finally revealed, though it's well flagged up in advance of the revelation (and it's not heinous at all). There are gains and losses and a few more gains until they are eventually in a position to do something about the problem they caused in the first place, though many people (thousands?) have already died because of it.
What I didn't know before reading it is that this book comprises four serialized novellas – Ghost of the Citadel, Children of the Fog, Prince of Wounds, and Upon the Ashen Blade. Had I known that in advance it might have accounted for the fragmentary nature which I found almost disorienting at times and is probably what prevented me from engaging as fully as I might have done.
What I did find fascinating were the scenes from the viewpoint of the individuals in the manufactured army as they gradually become self-aware. I could have done with a whole lot more of that kind of thing.
I have a review copy of the next in this series (from Netgalley) and hope to see Wydrin and Sebastian develop into better human beings....more
This is a prequel novella in Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares series detailing her first meeting with Tam Nathratch, the one-time dark Goblin mage turnedThis is a prequel novella in Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares series detailing her first meeting with Tam Nathratch, the one-time dark Goblin mage turned casino owner. Raine is a magical seeker, finding goods and people that have gone astray. Between them Raine, Tam and Raine's piratical cousin, Phelan, get involved with reclaiming jewels that have been used to store the stolen souls of children.
It's a fairly straightforward plot, but Shearin's strengths are character, pace and voice and this has all of her trademark quirks in good measure. It serves as a good intro to her world and a nice revisit for those of us who have read all of the Raine Benares series beginning with Magic Lost, Trouble Found. A quick read. Recommended....more
A literary fantasy set in the final years of the nineteenth century, ostensibly about a mysterious and wonderful circus which appears suddenly and isA literary fantasy set in the final years of the nineteenth century, ostensibly about a mysterious and wonderful circus which appears suddenly and is only open from dusk to dawn. But the circus - a collection of sideshows rather than the three-ring variety - is only half the story. The underlying story is a contest between two magicians, played out through their students acting as the protagonists. The reason the circus has been created is as a venue for the ongoing contest, a somewhat confusing affair in which neither the students nor the reader knows the rules.
The contest is basically a nature versus nurture contest. One student is the genetic daughter of Prospero an actual magician masquerading as a popular stage magician. His bastard daughter, Celia Bowen, is dumped on his doorstep when her mother commits suicide and Prospero quickly binds her (magically) into a lifelong competition with his rival's protegee, Marco, an orphan picked up off the street.
SPOILERS AHEAD: The circus, weird and wonderful, is the venue for their contest which (we learn later) will only end when one of them dies. In the meantime, though both are told of the contest neither is given a list of rules. Marco goes to work for Chandresh Lefevre, the rich impresario who owns the circus (and believes it to be his own idea, not realising how much he is being manipulated). Marco works on creating magical illusions from the outside. Celia, in the meantime, becomes the circus illusionist, travelling with the circus and working from the inside. Marco knows who Celia is, but it's many years before Celia discovers who her opponent is.
Despite this being a contest to the death, there's no sense of urgency, little dramatic tension and the whole thing in more like a collaboration than a competition. The story unfolds at a leisurely pace with sumptuous descriptions of the magical circus attractions, side-forays into the team of people Chandresh draws about him to create mechanical marvels and elegant costumes, (resulting in around fifteen point of view characters which dilutes any focus you might expect the novel to have). There's a sub-plot about American farm-boy Bailey and his growing relationship with the circus-born twins, Poppet and Widget which eventually ties into the solution to the contest.
The viewpoint shifts between omniscient and all these (15) characters. The tense shifts queasily between present and past. At times reading this book is like walking on quicksand while wearing a pair of sparkling magical fairy slippers.
Did I enjoy it? In a way. I enjoyed the imagination, but the playing out of the actual storyline was slow. Marco and Celia fall in love (eventually) and there is a resolution but there's no triumph or tragedy and the sociopathic magicians who started the whole process get neither a real result nor a comeuppance. ...more
Following on from the events in Kitty Takes a Holiday, Cormac is in jail and Kitty is living with her lawyer and new-made werewolf, Ben.
Kitty and BenFollowing on from the events in Kitty Takes a Holiday, Cormac is in jail and Kitty is living with her lawyer and new-made werewolf, Ben.
Kitty and Ben are drawn back to Denver when Kitty's mom is taken ill, which puts Kitty back in a confrontation situation with the pack (and alpha) that she fled from less than a year ago. She's also landed in the middle of a vampire takeover bid and it seems that Arturo, Denver's current master vampire, is using the werewolf pack as foot-soldiers. There's also a new vampire player in town (or rather, passing through) and some hints at vampire politics and a wider supernatural plot that will likely resurface in a future book.
Kitty as usual is just trying to get by, but ends up taking the initiative when her family is threatened.
This is unexpected in that Cormac, pretty much set up as Kitty's reluctant love interest in previous books, is now out of the running and Kitty has mated - in every sense of the word - with Ben. I miss Cormac, though he is still in it - being visited for advice. Vaughan's Kitty books are fast reads, but always absorbing. Kitty is an excellent character and this sees a major development in her story arc as she has to face the werewolf couple who bullied her when she was first turned, and who killed her best friend TJ in the first book. ...more
When sixteen year old Anna's father is dying in Naples he arranges for her to be married off to a sea captain in Nelson's navy. Henry Duncannon is a pWhen sixteen year old Anna's father is dying in Naples he arranges for her to be married off to a sea captain in Nelson's navy. Henry Duncannon is a penniless officer estranged from his good family, who is more or less forced into the marriage of convenience. Within half a day the two are separated as Henry heads back to sea, leaving Anna under the protection of Lady Hamilton. But war is flowing through Europe in the shape of Napoleon's armies and soon Anna is left alone - with her faithful maid - and determines to make her way using her only skill, music. She takes up singing in an opera company. It's six turbulent years in war-torn Europe before Anna and Henry are reunited and a love story begins.
This is a book in two halves - the opera years and the regency romance and both have theitr appeal. Ms Smith says that the novel came about because she originally intended to novelise the journals of Betsey Wynne, and, indeed, there's lots of rich detail in here and an underpinning of authenticity. The story is a slow-burn romance despite the early marriage of convenience. Anna survives post-revolutionary France, a theatre fire, touring with the opera company which at times is nore hazardous than the Battle of Trafalgar. Possibly more terrifying still is Anna's introduction to Henry's English family and the woman who spurned him for his older brother.
Packed full of ideas, but not falling into the trap of unlikely melodrama this is an engaging read. Highly recommended....more
I'm a big fan of Pratchett's discworld and although this book is set in London in the early years of Victoria's reign, the feeling is very Ankh-MorporI'm a big fan of Pratchett's discworld and although this book is set in London in the early years of Victoria's reign, the feeling is very Ankh-Morporkian, or maybe that should be that Ankh Morpork is very much based on London. Dodger lives in the Seven Dials and makes his living as a tosher, i.e. trawling through the city's sewers, true Roman relics, for valuables that have been washed away down the city's drains (at this stage more for rain water and detritus than personal waste). He's a geezer, known by and knowing all the likely coves in his orbit and he's not above finding the odd item that the owner didn't know was lost, however, Solomon, his landlord, friend and mentor, far from being a Fagin character, strives to keep the lad on the straight and narrow.
And indeed, Dodger's not a bad lad, though he's no soft touch, except perhaps where the vulnerable are concerned. Emerging from his sewer one night he sees a scuffle, an attempted murder maybe, and rescues a young lady who has been severely beaten up, possibly a young lady of quality by the ring on her finger (which amazingly Dodger leaves there). Close by, a certain journalist named Charlie Dickens grows interested in the happening and thus begins an adventure to rival anything the Discworld has to offer. The stews of London, the Peelers, nobby gentry, Solomon's wisdom, Onan the (very) smelly dog, a lethal assassin, Benjamin Disraeli and even Queen Victoria herself are all in the mix, plus Dodger's attempts to find out who is trying to harm the young lady that he's rapidly falling for, and a plan - which doesn't go entirely... err... to plan. Dodger's wry voice is appealing and his view of his surroundings and the people who inhabit them is amusing if not laugh out loud funny. A lively read. Highly recommended. ...more
This is Joss Whedon so it gets three stars before I even start, but it's a graphic novel so it probably loses one because I'm really not the target auThis is Joss Whedon so it gets three stars before I even start, but it's a graphic novel so it probably loses one because I'm really not the target audience for graphic novels. I don't interpret the picture panels well, I'm all about the words. So words first. Yes, a good little story and a continuation of the Firefly arc, so OF COURSE I'm going to like it. It's Firefly for goodness sake - the best cancelled TV show on the planet - or any planet for that matter. But the artwork - while it looks good, is not all that easy for my word-hungry brain to sort out. I literally cannot follow all the action from some of the panels without text. Is it me or is it the artist? I don't know. That's why something with Serenity in it written by Joss Whedon is only getting four stars. ...more
Think not what you can do for Mars, think only what Mars can do for you. (Sigh!) Yes, this is colonialist, imperialist and racist in equal measure, yeThink not what you can do for Mars, think only what Mars can do for you. (Sigh!) Yes, this is colonialist, imperialist and racist in equal measure, yet it's probably not fair to condemn it for that since it was Written in 1934 and is of its time. It would be cruel to review it through the lens of 2014 because it simply doesn't stand up.
A expedition to Mars which Weinbaum imagines as a dry desert with thin but breathable air and low gravity. It has plants and creatures consistent with the world and Weinbaum's imagination is not lacking. One of the expedition members is separated from the others and this is his recounted story about his (first contact) meeting with a sentient alien, an ostrich-like being, Tweel, who manages to learn half a dozen words of English and communicate quite complex concepts, but at the end of the encounter human and Martian are no closer to understanding each other than they were at the beginning. This is what lifts it to two stars in my opinion, because the rest of it, (the journey across Mars) is largely first-they-did-this and then-they-did-that. The interest lies in Jarvis and Tweel's attempts at communication.
Sadly there is no attempt to understand a third race which is quite benign until Jarvis steals the egg-like-thing which seems to be the focal point of their civilisation. Why? Because he can and because he believes it may be a powerful healing device. There's no concept of leaving well alone. No theft-is-wrong. No Prime Directive. Mars is there to pillage for whatever the humans can appropriate.
This is interesting only from a historical perspective. Available free from Project Gutenberg....more
I really *really* wanted to like this book. The blurb was superb and it sounded like immense fun, especially "bravely going where they really shouldn'I really *really* wanted to like this book. The blurb was superb and it sounded like immense fun, especially "bravely going where they really shouldn't...". As it turned out there was much to recommend it, with Captain Hadrian Sawback plunging into a series of ever more improbable and impossible Trekkie-type situations and trying to sleep his way around every female member of his crew. (This guy has no concept of what constitutes sexual harassment.) It was, however, relentless, and I found I could only read it in small chunks. It works excellently on the level if a Star Trek spoof, but less well in its own right. I know I'm not comparing apples with apples, but as Star Trek spoofs go it's no Galaxy Quest....more
I really admire Karen Traviss' writing and so the opportunity to revisit some of her early short stories in this book was not to be missed. Thirteen sI really admire Karen Traviss' writing and so the opportunity to revisit some of her early short stories in this book was not to be missed. Thirteen short stories including some classics such as 'Suitable for the Orient' and 'Does he take Blood?', and my personal favourite, 'Evidence' which is the powerful tale of how an archaeologist interprets/misinterprets the evidence in the find of an alien burial on a remote planet. All the pieces have speculative fiction content, mostly science fiction, some of it social, some of it alt-historical, some of it alien/extra-terrestrial and (unusual for Traviss) a smattering of fantasy. All of it speculative in the widest sense of the term.
A short adventure for the Third Doctor as he's struggling to get 'home' to Sarah Jane after suffering a fatal radiation overdose (which will cause hisA short adventure for the Third Doctor as he's struggling to get 'home' to Sarah Jane after suffering a fatal radiation overdose (which will cause his regeneration into the Fourth Doctor). The Tardis dumps him into the perfect English village where, it seems, his ailments are (temporarily) cured. But all is not as it should be. Daily wellness parades and a terrified queen presents this doctor with one last problem to solve. Written by Joanne Harris (Chocolat) this is an elegant little story, but shorter than I would have liked.
Note: I received this as a review copy from Netgalley....more