Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Solaris Satellites

These Lifeless Things

Rate this book
Eva is a survivor. She's not sure what she survived, exactly, only that They invaded without warning, killed nearly all of humanity, and relentlessly attack everyone who's left. All she can do to stay sane, in the blockaded city that's no longer home, is keep a journal about her struggle.

Fifty years later, Eva's words are found by Emerson, a young anthropologist sent to the ruins to study what happened. The discovery could shed light on the Invasion, turning the unyielding mystery of the short war into a story of hope and defiance.

113 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 5, 2021

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Premee Mohamed

47 books266 followers
Premee Mohamed is a Nebula award-winning Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton, Alberta. She is an Assistant Editor at the short fiction audio venue Escape Pod and the author of the 'Beneath the Rising' series of novels as well as several novellas. Her short fiction has appeared in many venues and she can be found on Twitter at @premeesaurus and on her website at www.premeemohamed.com.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
63 (30%)
4 stars
72 (34%)
3 stars
53 (25%)
2 stars
16 (7%)
1 star
4 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 50 reviews
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,603 followers
March 5, 2021
Extraordinary novella about life after the apocalyptic invasion of Lovecraftian *things*. Told by the journal of a woman living in a Russian town in the aftermath, struggling to survive and to grapple mentally with the situation, and also the scientist many years later studying events, when what's happened is mostly over.

It's a weird, disturbing story where much is left unclear or unresolved and things happen in the gaps between sentences, and we come up against the impossibility of knowing, the evanescence of existence, and the way humans just don't want to confront stuff. Terrific, terrifying.
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,268 reviews231 followers
March 27, 2021
Here are the bad guys. Are you paying attention?
Hunger. Thirst. Illness. Injury.
Rain. Snow. Dust.
Sickness. Loneliness. Despair. Mistrust.
Agents. Looters. Rats.
The statues of the conquerors.
The trees which seek to seize and skin you.
The small monsters which seek to harry and eat you.
The Them, who have come from far away, and a different time, to drag you into the darkness. But Them you already know.

A very intriguing novella from Premee Mohamed - one which builds on a Lovecraftish foundation through alternating accounts of an anthropologist and a woman surviving the invasion of Them, some hundred years apart.

There's such interesting hints of the world 100 years from invasion, and I'm hoping at some time the author revisits it - which is not to say I wasn't satisfied by the story, I'm just greedy. Most of the focus is on our historical diarist, whose entries hint at some truly monstrous moments, but also give us glimpses of what people can be capable of when only their best will keep them alive.

It's so short that to get into it properly would spoil it, but suffice to say - I very much enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Richard.
Author 1 book41 followers
April 11, 2022
These are the few notes I made while reading These Lifeless Things:

    — the Setback lasted 3 yrs, only 6 verifiable documents survive from that period. But now there’s the notebook (journal? diary?)
    — it was some kind of invasion, worldwide—a weird invasion though, not alien spaceships [is this like the Cthulhu mythos?]
    — switches back and forth between excerpts from the journal and the scientist (anthropologist) who found and is now reading it
    — anti-science tone running thru the book
    — almost ¾ thru and this is v. repetitive, getting a bit boring—first ¼ is quite subtle and intriguing, but the next two ¼s author doesn’t add much, just more of the same
    — it’s the content I don’t think much of, writing style itself very good
    — ¾ way thru suddenly Kyiv mentioned—first and only place-name in book
    — underwhelmed

I like “subtle”, like “strange” very much too—and also like unreliable narrators, at least one of which we may have here, but in the end still found this pretty uninteresting anyway.
Profile Image for Shannon (That's So Poe).
1,022 reviews108 followers
March 6, 2022
This is my favorite SFF novella from 2021! Just such amazing writing, and such good themes. I loved the dual timeline, the way it explored invasion and appeasement (especially relevant given that it's set in Ukraine), and the strength of the characters in surviving and resisting. Beautiful writing, creepy atmosphere, and an excellent discussion of history. It's for sure a slow, contemplative read, but that made it absolutely perfect for me. I loved this so much and hope lots of other people will read it too!

Content Warnings:
genocide, murder, starvation, cannibalism, injury, invasion
Profile Image for Wayne Santos.
Author 5 books42 followers
February 24, 2021
A dark, thoughtful, almost Lovecraftian literary science fiction novella about life at the end of the world. Told from two points of view, a historian researching ruins after an apocalyptic event, and Eva, a woman who lived those times and committed her time in that period to a journal.

This is a thoughtful, stately, and yet at the same time emotional and deeply creepy story about life in a world destroyed by invaders you can barely comprehend. It's a mix of the harsh realities of survival in that period, the rich inner life of a woman that refuses to stop thinking and feeling even in as it hurts her, and the confusion of struggling against an enemy that doesn't even obey Newtonian physics.

Despite its short length, this is a dense, rich story, and Mohamed manages to cram in an impressive amount of lyricism and human insight into a survival story about the apocalypse.
Profile Image for Jessica.
2,095 reviews62 followers
April 7, 2021
Lovecraftian colonizer monsters. I was biting my nails through 90% of it, and need to re-read it at some point (I miss things when I'm anxious, and there's a lot of subtle nuances).

I've been reading a lot about colonialism lately, and here are some of the passages that really made me think of that frame:

No one's got any proof that these... these new things, these statues that began springing up, ever did anything except remind the conquered peoples that they had indeed been conquered, just as had been happening throughout history

(This one reminds me of the part in Ecofeminism that talks about the difference between an intentionally rootless global elite and refugees forcibly dispossessed from their roots.)
They are not from here, in any sense, any, that a human mind would understand as 'here.' Nowhere is 'here' for Them. Or everywhere is here.

This idea Eva had, that They were gods or something, I can't get behind that, but I can't shake it either. They had the trappings of gods, maybe They had fooled other worlds. But no hint of real divinity, except for power.

Appeasement, of course -- the policy with which I've lived most of my short and academically-focused life -- never worked... The truth was it never did, but that didn't stop places from trying it.

The enemy is not each other and the enemy is not love. It's not wanting to be loved, either.... That's the ally. The only one we've got. It will not help us win the day. Nothing will. But it will fight at our side. It will not save us. It will only save our humanity.
Profile Image for Michael Dodd.
972 reviews68 followers
February 16, 2021
The first title released as part of Solaris Satellites – Rebellion Publishing’s new direct-to-reader range of novellas – Premee Mohamed’s These Lifeless Things is a strange, unsettling, ambiguous tale of the costs of survival and the difficulty of piecing history back together. One of a handful of survivors from when They invaded, Eva ekes out a rough living in the city, avoiding the terrifying sentinels and all the other new dangers, and keeping a journal of her days. Decades later, young Emerson finds Eva’s journal on a research trip to the city, recognising it as a rare opportunity to gain an insight into what actually happened in the years following the invasion.

It’s hard to know quite what to make of a story like this, with all the questions that it leaves unanswered and the sense it gives of a wider, more expansive world just waiting to be explored further. Readers who like stories to be neatly wrapped up by their conclusions may well find it frustrating, but there’s no question that it’s compelling from start to finish, beautifully written and quietly powerful. As a vision of the cold, chilling unknown it’s extremely effective and often deeply emotional, examining questions of survival and the awful prioritisation that requires, love, loss, the preservation of history and even the competitive realities of competitive science, all under the lurking shadow of the faceless, nameless, abstract yet deeply disturbing Them. It’s certainly a story that will last long in the memory, unsettling but thought-provoking.

Read the full review at https://www.trackofwords.com/2021/02/...
Profile Image for Owlphabetical.
69 reviews9 followers
May 30, 2021
Haunting. That's the best word I can think of to describe this.

I loved it.
Profile Image for Shabbeer Hassan.
587 reviews34 followers
April 2, 2021
A dystopian tale with simmerings of eldritch horror in the background. There are times when a lot can be said by not explicitly stating them, as nameless horrors are much imagined than the ones seen in the flesh.

My rating - 4.5/5
Profile Image for Frances.
499 reviews27 followers
March 11, 2021
I loved this one. It's a beautifully understated pair of stories about people dealing with the presence and the aftermath of incomprehensible cosmic horrors. I mean, very tangible cosmic horrors, certainly present, but incomprehensible. The descriptions of the Setback time are beautiful, and the tired focus of Emerson's 'current' narrative is extremely relateable.

The ending of both stories... I feel like there's technically room for hope, but what I really took away is an overwhelming sense of more work coming, and uncertain outcomes. The griefs that happen in that context are bright, but they are so small.

I was initially taken aback by Emerson's framing of things--I kept thinking of it as too safe and recovered--but as the work progressed, I started to see her context differently. Not as one of recovery, but as a held breath; a long moment with no expectation that things were actually better. Like living in the fourth-last paragraph of Bob Leman's "The Window" with no fixed timeline.
Profile Image for Merit.
186 reviews1 follower
March 30, 2021
The novella has two timelines - the journal of a woman named Eve, in the aftermath of a Lovecraftian apocalyptic event that lingers in strange unreality, and Emerson, the anthropologist studying the events some fifty years later as the world is beginning to recover. A strange, disturbing story, where memories and events are unreliable, and little information is even known about the invasion that broke the world. Fantastic cosmic horror, with deep layered psychological dread that builds as the story reaches a crescendo in both timelines.
Profile Image for Eileen Lee.
Author 8 books14 followers
February 7, 2021
Loved this book so much. It had so many elements I like in a book: a close, introspective voice that offers some beautiful philosophical insights, strained and uneven relationships, the constant threat of annihilation from incomprehensible forces despite which people struggle to continue meaningful human lives. The found journal structure creates a lot of tension. It's a short book, but I inhaled it as fast as I could. This little cosmic horror novella should not be missed.
Profile Image for imyril.
436 reviews62 followers
February 17, 2022
99.5% of humanity were wiped out in 3 short years after They arrived. 50 years later, a team of researchers sift through the ruins of a siege city to better understand the catastrophe. When Emerson finds a survivor’s journal, it feels like the jackpot. But can Eva’s account be taken at face value?

There is so much to unpack in this remarkable novella, which interweaves Emerson’s frustrated efforts against the clock with the horror of Eva’s final months in the unnamed Ukrainian city. So many apocalypse narratives focus on a last ditch defence or the fight back. Here, we get the small stories of life in the ashes, the humanity of a handful of ordinary lives making history only because one woman chose to write them down. It encompasses everything from the civilian experience of war to academic pecking orders, with a side of (implied) cosmic horror.

These Lifeless Things may not be for everyone: it raises far more questions than it answers. We never discover what They were (are?) or how They were defeated (even if They were defeated), and – perhaps inevitably – we never find out what happens to Eva. Shockingly, given my addiction to coherent world-building, I didn’t care. It works brilliantly on its own terms, and keeps us firmly in Emerson’s shoes: the past is a mystery, of which we can only grasp at fragments. Perhaps it resonates so deeply with me because I studied archaeology; perhaps I love it purely as a reader for inviting me to fill its world with my own theories.

Either way: it’s bloody brilliant. These Lifeless Things was one of my Best of 2021, quiet and fierce and unnerving.

Full review
Profile Image for Melissa Polk.
Author 7 books50 followers
May 13, 2022
As always, Premee's writing is amazing. It's beautiful and evocative. I was entirely enthralled with the world presented both in the diary entries and in the "present" time. Two places that couldn't be more different but shared origins. I adored it. That said, I'm neither smart enough nor deep enough to grasp the fullness of her stories. I can tell you that this one spoke of the nature of humanity and memory and truth and what is truly important. But I also feel like I'm entirely making that up--like a teenager playing at philosophy. I get it, but I can't ever hope to get it. As with all Premee's stories, I'm left thinking and feeling things that confuse me in the best way.
Profile Image for E..
Author 170 books111 followers
December 14, 2021
Every time I read a new Premee Mohamed book, I'm like "oh this is my favorite of what she's written." Every. Single. Time. If this is a curse, I shall live with it.
Profile Image for Allyson.
45 reviews2 followers
April 26, 2021
Holy cow! What the heck?!? This was astonishing. A great quick read if you’re looking for something in speculative fiction.
Profile Image for Ishraq.
10 reviews
April 25, 2022
It’s a solid 3.5/5. Very interesting world building that’s almost taken for granted in a way that has you asking questions 🤔 ended with a lot of questions still to be explored by the end of the book but honestly? I liked it.
Profile Image for Megan.
1,085 reviews66 followers
June 19, 2022
This was tense and beautifully structured. I was glad I was finished reading it before the sun went down, and I was also really moved by the emotional throughline of this.

There are two narrative strands. One is the journal of a middle-aged woman who's survived two years so far under a terrifying global invasion by Lovecraftian creatures in which 99.5% of the world's human population is killed. The other strand is set two generations later, after the creatures have left, and it's the story of the young anthropology graduate student who finds this journal on a research excursion and is struggling to prove the worth of studying that era of history.

This is a story about colonization, history, and the linkage of humanity. I hadn't realized before starting this book that it's set in Ukraine, and that made this complicated to read in ways that weave out of the text and into real world of early 2022.

A quotation from near the end:
378 reviews1 follower
October 4, 2021
Bleak. Lovecraftian. Kindof topical, given that it feels like the world is ending (though not in an eating rats in the rubble way). A good but disturbing read, with of course no answers.
27 reviews
July 13, 2021
There is nothing wrong with this novella, there was nothing I think was done poorly or that annoyed me. The reason for my rating (according to Goodreads' rating system 3 is 'I liked it') is that it wasn't particularly engaging either. The story was serviceable, there was some mystery and some trills, but it did not make me feel anything other than a mild interest.

I think the author had a good idea, and then tried to build a plot around it, but didn't quite know how to do so. Still, the basic premise is such that there can hardly be any plot, and I do appreciate this is a novella and not a 500-page novel. But maybe it would have been better as a short story.

As a whole, I would recommend it to those, who are looking for something less heavy or complicated, with limited characters and a simple plot, and who prefer to focus on the atmosphere rather than the action.
Profile Image for John Folk-Williams.
Author 5 books10 followers
October 3, 2021
There is a moment in Premee Mohamed’s brilliant novella, These Lifeless Things, when the narrator, an anthropologist exploring a post-apocalyptic landscape, says in frustration with her “hard” science colleagues that there is more than one way of knowing. That gets to the heart of this absorbing narrative.

She has found a treasure in the ruins of a city destroyed in a mass human extinction event known as the Setback. It is the diary of a woman named Eva who carefully recorded all the hardships, terrors and tactics of survival she and a handful of others used to stay alive after an invasion of alien creatures known only as Them. These Lifeless Things unfolds as powerful parallel stories as the narrator is drawn more and more into the details of Eva’s life.

They, the seemingly transdimensional beings who suddenly appeared everywhere on earth, can never even be properly seen, let alone understood. The destruction They caused and the reckless nuclear bombing unleashed by humans in a vain effort to destroy Them wiped out all but a half percent of the human population. Eva captures the special fear of not knowing who They are, what They want or might do. She and her small band stumble amid the rubble looking for food or patches of ground where they can plant a few things to harvest.

The parallel stories of Eva and the anthropologist build to a fascinating climax that poses the question of what do you need to know about a story’s ending. After all, it is not just a story that matters but how the events it narrates affected people’s lives. Premee Mohamed manages to challenge basic ideas about story-telling and belief while delivering a brilliantly written and unforgettable tale, one that grows on me after I put the book down. All that in a short novella. Mohamed is an absolutely astonishing writer.

Read the full review at SciFi Mind.
Profile Image for Laura.
682 reviews73 followers
November 22, 2021
Premee Mohamed’s These Lifeless Things is a dystopian novella that switches between the diary entries of Eva, a forty-something survivor of an apocalyptic attack, and the first-person point-of-view of Emerson, an anthropologist studying the ruins of her city fifty years later. Eva refers to the monsters that have devastated the world only as ‘Them’, and both narrators struggle to understand what they truly are/were: they don’t seem to be aliens who hail from the same kind of time and space as we do, nor beings that have emerged from Earth itself. The narrative chillingly hints at Their ability to affect human minds themselves, with millions committing suicide at the beginning of the invasion. In Emerson’s time, They have disappeared without a trace, but Emerson is convinced that her research is essential to understand what happened during the three years now known as ‘the Setback’. However, her colleagues in the hard sciences aren’t convinced, and tell her she is wasting her time studying Eva’s diary, even when what she finds in the ruins starts to mirror what Eva described.

I found These Lifeless Things to be an adept and skilful read, but it didn’t affect me in the ways I’d hoped. There was something in the way the story was told that made me expect more of a twist, or perhaps more of a sudden linkage between Eva’s world and Emerson’s. Unless I’ve been too stupid to miss subtle clues, this doesn’t really happen. Instead, Eva’s story devolves into a cliched -let’s-rescue-the-children plot, and Emerson’s frustrations with her colleagues are spelt out rather too clearly at the end of the novella when she bursts out: ‘you think there has to be an application for things we study? You think everything has to end up in some… lab somewhere, a product for people to buy. Well, I happen to think there are other questions in the world.’ The novella wasn’t quite as scary as I had hoped, either, despite some good lines about statues coming to life and trees being possessed by Them. I found Emerson’s sections much more engaging than Eva’s diary entries (but then I love fictional anthropologists and hate diary entries as a narrative device, so that was pretty inevitable) and I found myself wondering if this might not have been better, and more frightening, if it had been told completely from Emerson’s point of view, with perhaps quoted snippets from Eva’s entries. (Interestingly, Eva’s close alliance with another survivor in the face of this devastation reminded me of Sarah Hall’s pandemic novel Burntcoat, but I wasn’t sure what it added here). However, I would certainly read more by Mohamed. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Elena Gaillard.
Author 3 books3 followers
March 7, 2022
I am unabashedly a fan of Premee Mohamed's writing. This novella did not disappoint.
There are two POV: Emerson, a researcher in the "current day" who is living in a rebuilt world, attempting to discover lost details of the past...and Eva, a woman who experienced the apocalypse that led to the current world but had no idea whether humanity would persist.
There is such aching beauty in Eva's journal, dwelling on what survival has cost her and her companions, battling terrifying monsters that came from dimensions unknown with an agenda of destruction. She is filled with rage against an impossible enemy, filled with sorrow for her lost loved ones, suspicious of her random companions, and desperate to save anyone she can save.
Emerson hopes Eva's journal will shed light on the invasion that nobody now talks about or wants to even acknowledge happened. We are left to fill in the blanks for ourselves...just as Emerson must.
Profile Image for Gary Varga.
304 reviews
February 16, 2021
I really enjoyed reading this novella.

It has an interesting premise and uses the writing technique of twin protagonists at different points in time. Not a spoiler but the following describes how the book achieves this: part of the book depicts a researcher on an archaeological/scientific interest site with a 50 year old diary documenting what was occuring at that very same site.

The characters are deep, flawed, and ordinary. That is what makes this story real. Not one single character is a hero or villain in disguise. That isn't to say that the book avoids heroic or evil moments, just that this is a sci-fi Armageddon story with both feet firmly planted in the ordinary. And that is what makes it such a wonderful read.

Don't expect answers to all your questions. I always find this frustrating. Unfairly (to the author) so.
176 reviews2 followers
April 15, 2021
This novella starts with a great premise: in the story's past, Lovecraftian entities invaded the Earth. In its present, a researcher finds a journal written by a survivor of that invasion who was part of a group struggling to survive in an entity-occupied city. The story switches back and forth between journal entries and the first person narrative of the researcher

Initially, I found the story gripping but it quickly becomes repetitive and drags in the middle (despite it's short length). It never reaches a satisfying conclusion.

I'm not a reader who needs every monster described or every story wrapped up in a neat, tidy bow but These Lifeless Things was too vague and ambiguous for it's own good. In the end, rather invoking the terror of the indescribable, it was just dull.

I've boosted it a star because despite my disappointment, I thought the writing was good.
Profile Image for Emma Leadley.
Author 18 books9 followers
June 17, 2021
This is a hard review to write. Not because of spoilers but because I read the novella and then sat back saying, “yes, well, ummm…” over and over to myself. This is an extraordinarily brave and confident piece of writing.

The story has post-war echoes, as well as those of the Cold War and post-disaster, such as Chernobyl. A whole world is built with very little actually explained and it worked for me as a reader. As the story unfolds, we learn just enough about the world and it’s cleverly controlled by the author.

Read the rest of my review at https://www.autoerraticism.com/review...
Profile Image for Sebastian.
Author 8 books29 followers
June 16, 2022
When Lost ended in that puerile non-explanation of all the “mystery box” questions it set up, some people tried telling me that it was not really about the mysteries, it was about the people the whole time. I called bull on that, because I was watching the show for the mysteries, not the Harlequin Romance side-plots. Mohamed, on the other hand, has managed to produce exactly that effect with this novella – I’ve accepted the mystery of Them as ultimately incomprehensible and truly alien, and very quickly started caring about both the survivors and the scientist studying the rubble for clues of what actually happened through the (unreliable?) journal of the former.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 50 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.