Quick Updates & Friday Reads

Hello, hello!

I wanted to do a quick post to say that I am going to be on vacation for two weeks. The first week, I am going to Norway with my family and the second one, I’ll be in th South of France with some friends. I won’t have any Wifi so I won’t be able to answer any comments before the 13th of August. All the posts that are going to be published during this period have been pre-written!

So, as for the Friday Reads, I am currently reading Koijiki by Keith Yatsuhashi, I read about a third of it and I am really enjoying so far, it has a very strong Hayao Miyazaki vibe and it’s pretty awesome. Also, the cover is absolutely gorgeous and suits very well the content of the book!

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You might have seen that the design of the blog changed a bit, it is still not as nice as I want it to be but, it’s still a little bit better than the previous version. It’s weird to think that this blog is almost one year old… Anyway, I should stop rambling!

 

What are you reading?

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T5W: Most Unlikeable Characters

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and  is now hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here.


 

This week we are talking about unlikeable, not villains per say, just main or side characters who are (mostly) not intentionally unlikeable. It was actually pretty hard to find five characters at the top of my head but some of them came to mind very, very fast:

Onyesunwu – Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Onye is not trying to be unlikeable and growing up the way she did, bullied and hated by everyone, it’s hard to turn into a little sunshine!

 

Dennis Beaumont – Harlequin by Nina Allan

I should have a review of this pretty soon (even though because of BooktubeAThone I’m 9 books behind on reviews..) but I have mixed feeling about this novella. It’s very good but it was hard for me to enjoy the reading experience because, well, I pretty much despised Beaumont. The guy obviously suffered from PTSD but still, even if I don’t think he was trying to be an a-hole, he played the part very well!

 

John Anderton – Minority Report by Philip K. Dick

If you watched the movie starring Tom Cruise, you might frown at the screen. Do not be fooled, in the book, Anderton is one hell of an unlikeable character: arrogant, rude and paranoic. The best cocktail.

Philip K. Dick write those kind of characters incredibly well.

 

Mycroft Canner – Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer

Mycroft is an ex mass murderer so, yes, not really the kind of super likable guys. However, since the story is narrated by him, it’s easy to forget that and to see him as the victim which, I’m not gonna lie, is a tad unsettling.

 

Anderson Lake – The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

I don’t know if Anderson is the right choice, he may be intentionnaly unlikeable but I don’t believe he is. I do find him unbearable but I am pretty sure he tries to do what’s best for him and his company even if he is, in my opinion of course, the perfect representation of the abusive and evil corporate dude.

 

 

What about you? If you did a T5W, don’t forget to link it down below, I want to see your choices! 😀

Book Review: Arcadia by Iain Pears – Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #3

I am currently trying to read the entire Arthur C. Clarke shortlist, before the announcement I only read Europe at Midnight but since all the other books looked interesting I decided to challenge myself to read the entire shortlist before August 24th (the date  the winner will be announced). The shortlist is as follows :

 

 


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Arcadia by Iain Pears

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Ace

Length: 602 pages

Format: ebook

Rating: 4 stars

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

 

“Henry Lytten – a spy turned academic and writer – sits at his desk in Oxford in 1962, dreaming of other worlds.

He embarks on the story of Jay, an eleven-year-old boy who has grown up within the embrace of his family in a rural, peaceful world – a kind of Arcadia. But when a supernatural vision causes Jay to question the rules of his world, he is launched on a life-changing journey.

Lytten also imagines a different society, highly regulated and dominated by technology, which is trying to master the science of time travel.

Meanwhile – in the real world – one of Lytten’s former intelligence colleagues tracks him down for one last assignment.

As he and his characters struggle with questions of free will, love, duty and the power of the imagination, Lytten discovers he is not sure how he wants his stories to end, nor even who is imaginary…

 

Review

Arcadia is peculiar novel following about ten different POVs and three different settings setting: Oxford,England in 1962, a dystopian future and what we could called a typical mediaval European fantasy setting.

In the dystopian-like future, Angela, a scientist designed a machine both capable of creating and allowing  travel between dimensions and time. However, her invention is threatened by the CEO of the company she works for who wants to sell it to the ruler of the society and her only solution is to destroy all informations on the machine and flee in another time period. However, time travel is not something withour consequences and basically, everything starts from there.

Arcadia was a very quick read, it took me two months to read the first 10% because I was reading other things and I had to study for my finals, however, I powered through the last 540 pages in two days. It was a very fun read; the short chapters really helped because each time I finished one I was like “Just one more!”.

However, not only was it fun and addictive, it also tackled some interesting themes such as hormonal control and snowball effect. I never read any books about hormonal control (I am pretty sure A Clockwork Orange also brings up the subject but since the movie terrified me, I am not too keen on reading the book) but it was oddly fascinating, in the book: scientists force Angela to be pregnant because it is a way for them to trigger synthesis of some hormones in her body that are going to upset her emotional stability but enhance her mathematical abilities. I never heard of something like this before and I found that it was a cool (and creepy) idea.

At first Arcadia appears more as fantasy but the more you read, the more I realized that this was much more science fiction than anything else. Iain Pears makes a lot of reference (sometimes subtle, sometimes less so) to Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Shakespeare: As You Like It is referenced quite a lot and plays an important role especially in one of the character storyline.

Arcadia is a blend of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, spy adventure novels and portal fantasy and it is delightful.

Despite of those elements, do I think that it’s the best book on the Arthur C. Clarke shortlist?

Well no. It is a very good, it was delight to read and I’m glad that I picked it up but compared to novels like The Book of Phoenix or Europe at Midnight, it’s not as memorable. I read it about ten days ago and I already forgot most of what happened: it’s a fun adventure and I am sure that it is going to please a ton of readers but, I don’t think that i really brought up new things. I like fun adventures in speculative fiction but, more than that, I crave new ideas and concept and important and thought-provocking themes. Arcadia had some of those, I mentionned the hormonal control bits, it had some interesting on genders but it wasn’t nearly as fascinating as Hutcherson’s or Okorafor’s books.

So yeah, I would highly recommend reading Arcadia, I’m just not rooting for it to win the award!

 

★★★★

 

Book Review: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year ed. Jonathan Strahan

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The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Ten edited by Jonathan Strahan

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Solaris

Length: 624 pages

Rating: 4 stars

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

“DISTANT WORLDS, TIME TRAVEL, EPIC ADVENTURE, UNSEEN WONDERS AND MUCH MORE! The best, most original and brightest science fiction and fantasy stories from around the globe from the past twelve months are brought together in one collection by multiple award winning editor Jonathan Strahan. This highly popular series now reaches volume ten and will include stories from both the biggest names in the field and the most exciting new talents. Previous volumes have included stories from Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Cory Doctorow, Stephen Baxter, Elizabeth Bear, Joe Abercrombie, Paolo Bacigalupi, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Margo Lanagan, Bruce Sterling, Adam Roberts, Ellen Klages, and many many more.”

 

Review

I discovered the wonderful Coode Street Podcast at the beginning of 2016 and I am now completely obsessed with it. Basically, if you don’t know what it is, The Coode Street Podcast is a weekly podcast hosted by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe where they ramble about science fiction and fantasy, discuss pretty much everything speculative fiction related and have great discussions with authors and editors. It’s a real delight to listen and I discovered some amazing books thanks to them like the fantabulous (yes it’s now a word), Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson.

Since I tend to have the same taste in books  than the host and one of them, Jonathan Strahan is the editor of the long going Best Science & Fantasy of the Year series, I thought that it would be good idea to read the latest instalment in the series so I pre-ordered the anthology when it became available. To my surprise, weeks later, it appeared on the Netgally website and it since I was very looking forward reading it, I requested it.

I really liked this anthology, of course, I can’t say that I loved every single story because, in 27 stories, it’s impossible. I am not going to do really detailed synopses of every single one of them because it would be really tedious so I am going to put the stories on different categories and say a few word or sentences about them.

 

Category 1: Not for me/did not finish/did not enjoy/forgettable

 

“The Lily and the Horn” by Catherynn M. Valente  DNF

I read the first three pages of this story and they did not manage to grab my attention at all so I started the next story and never tried to start it again because  what I previously read was very confusing..

“Drones” by Simon Ings

This story is based on a society where almost all the women have died of a plague. I don’t remember much about it except that I really didn’t like it and that the pacing was extremely weird.

“Dancy vs. the Pterosaur” by Caitlyn R. Kiernan

Again, I don’t remember much about this one, I think that it is set around an interaction between two characters coming from very different background (one character is very religious and the other one, not at all) in a post-apocalyptic world.  This story didn’t do anything for me, I pretty much forgot it the moment I finished it…

“The Winter Wraith” by Jeffrey Ford.

This is a kind of horror story I guess? The villain is a Christmas tree. I believe that it was supposed to be funny,but, it wasn’t. At all. I almost felt bad for the author… However, it might just be me, I read The Physiognomy by Ford and I didn’t like it either so I guess that we just don’t share the same sense of humor!

“Capitalism in the 22nd Century or A.I.R” by Geoff Ryman

Not gonna lie, I had to look up the story on Google to find a synopsis of this one because i had completely forgotten what it was all about. It follows two sisters who want to escape their planet but one of them change her mind at the last moment. I don’t know if it was supposed to be heart-wrenching or what, but this story didn’t touch me at all because none of the characters felt real and so, I didn’t feel like that the sisters had any relationship and it was hard to relate to them and to care about them.

“The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club” by Nike Sulway

This story had some interesting elements on gender, loss and evolution however, it was extremely weird and the main character was really unlikable.

“The Game of Smash and Recovery” by Kelly Link

I heard great things about Kelly Link’s stories but this one disappointed me quite a bit. The writing was off and even if I liked the ideas , I didn’t care about the actual execution..

 

 

Category 2: Good stories, maybe not as memorable as I would have liked but interesting nonetheless

 

“Jamaica Ginger” by Nalo Hopkinson and Nisi Shawl   racism and slavery, steampunk

I don’t have much love for steampunk, it’s definitely the speculative fiction genre that I like the least and I think that it’s probably why I didn’t love this as much as I would have liked.

It follows a black girl named Plaquette who works as a automation engineer and build porters robot in a steampunk America. It brings up a lot of great themes such as racism and slavery.

 

“Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan” by Ian Mcdonald

I was very much looking forward this story and maybe I set my expectations too high. It’s not that it’s not a good story, it is, it’s just not great in my opinion. The structure is pretty unique but the story isn’t. It follows the story of a noble woman looking for a family artefact stolen years ago and, even though it’s set on different planets, it didn’t manage to grab me as much as I would have liked. If I remember correctly, it took me five days to read, and it’s like, 20 pages or so…

Paolo Bacigalupi’s “City of Ash”

This story is set in the same universe as The Water Knife and follows Maria one of the main characters of the book. I already read this before so I did not re-read it, it is interesting, especially if you really enjoy the book but it did not think that I really stand well on its own.  You can understand it if you haven’t read The Water Knife but it won’t mean as much to you so, even though I liked it, I expected more from this story.

 “The Waters of Versailles” by Kelly Robson

Again, I read this story before and I didn’t re-read it, the setting of it, Versailles, is beautiful but I couldn’t really relate to the main character who’s an abusive idiot in my opinion… He is an engineer who runs the toilets of Versailles helped by a tiny fish and, for me, the fish was the best thing in this story. However, the writing and the pacing were very good so there’s that!

“The Empress in her Glory” by Robert Reed

It tells the story of a blogger whose predictions are always true. I won’t say much more than that, it was good, not the best story of the collection but I enjoyed the speculative fiction elements and being a blogger myself, it was fun to read!

“Emergence” by Gwyneth Jones

It’s set in a future where AIs can inhabit bodies and humans are basically immortals thanks to science. It had great ideas but it was almost trying too hard to tackle a lot of topics which was both overwhelming and confusing.

 

Category 3: Really really liked/Thought-provocking and awesome

“The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsyn Muir

This story follows a teenage seer who tries to help another girl escape her fate. It’s a Lovecraftian story but also a love story. It’s very beautiful and it has really interesting things to say on gender and sexuality.

“Kaiju Maximus: ‘So Various, So Beautiful, So New'” by Kai Ashante Wilson

This is varition on the Hero vs Villain trope because it is seen from the perspective “average” citizen, also, the hero is a woman and the man is the follower and takes care of the children. The writing was pretty odd but it’s the typical Wilson’s prose.

“Oral Argument” by Kim Stanley Robinson

I read this story when it came out last year and I didn’t re-read it. It follows the consequences of an invention which enables humans to photosynthesize. I don’t think that it’s the best story of this category but, even if I read it back in December 2015, I often think of this story so I guess it’s a good sign!

“The Ghosts of Home” by Sam J. Miller

If you follow a little my Short Fiction Sundays, you know I am a huge fan of Miller. This guy can’t write a bad story. This one follows the consequences of the housing crisis in 2008. It’s beautiful, heart-wrenching, well-written and tactful. I didn’t put it on the last category because this anthology has another Miller story which is even better.

Neil Gaiman’s “Black Dog”

This story revisits American Gods and follows the same main character, Shadow. I didn’t like American Gods but I have to say that this story was great! It is very atmospheric and creepy and I now really want to read collections of short stories by Gaiman!

 “The Machine Starts” by Greg Bear

Oh this one was good, very good. I don’t want to say to much about it. Actaully, I’m just going to say one word: multiverse.

“Another Word for World” by Ann Leckie

I really need to read her trilogy and after reading this, I’m really looking forward doing it. Again, I don’t think that you need to know a lot about this story but it brings up interesting discussion on languages,misunderstanding and preconceptions.

Genevieve Valentine’s “Blood, Ash, Brains”

I didn’t expect to love this one as much as I did and, when I read the last paragraph, I was a little teary-eyed. This story is set during World War II and follows women military aviator. One of them is a witch and tries to protect the other women.

 

 

Category 4: Fantabulous/You need to read this!

 

Alyssa Wong’s “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” 

I already mentionned this story  in a previous SFS three or four months ago. I was glad to re-read this story, it was still as powerful and creepy and I am SO glad that it won the Nebula!!

It follows a young woman who eats dark thoughts and is haunted by them. It’s a coming of age story and brings up themes such as the discovery of sexuality, mother/daughter relationship and determinism. It’s such a great story, I already read it three times and I still want to read it. A little warning though, it’s pretty gross.

 

“Little Sisters” by Vonda N. Mcintyre 

Oh lord, this story. I never read such an explicit rape scene and the worst is that, technically, it wasn’t a rape scene. However, it is definitely a story about rape, child custody and gender. I want to reread it and I kind of don’t. Warning: this is going to make you feel uneasy.

“The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” by Elizabeth Bear

This is a story about love, jealousy and scientific research and it’s done brilliantly. After reading it, I wanted to buy (and read) every story Bear has written so far. It was fairly short but powerful!

“A Murmuration” by Alastair Reynolds

Speaking of scientific research, this story also follows a scientific. However the tone is way different, this is much more creepy than Bear’s story and it brings up interesting reflexions on ethics and “academic madness”!

 

 “Calved” by Sam J. Miller

I previously talked about The Ghosts of Home, Calved is the other Miller’s story present in this anthology. I already said how much I love his stories and Calved is one of my favorite by him. It is a story f the relationship between a father and the son he doesn’t know. It’s a story about tolerance, discrimination, racism, parenthood and love. The setting is also brilliant, it’s set in a future where the USA is collapsed and the consequences of that on the former American citizens.

 

“The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by Usman T Malik

I can’t say that it’s my favorite of the anthology but it’s definitely on the Top 3! It’s the longest story  but I wouldn’t take off a single sentence. It is a gorgeous story about family, obsession, origins, knowledge and a jinn. It is available for free on Tor.Com and you should read it!

 

Conclusion

Does this collection contain the “bestSFF” of the year? I don’t know. Thousands of stories are written every year and you can’t possibly read them all. Do I think that every single story “deserve” a spot on this antholgy? No. Of course they are a few duds, I can’t possibly love them all. Do I think that it is a good Best of the Year anthology?

Absolutely.

I don’t love all the stories but they all contain interesting themes and reflexions on various different topics such as social issues, family, consciousness, discrimination and they’re all tactful. Yes, I didn’t love all of them but could I have done a better job than Strahan? Nope!

 

(Okay I might have added When Your Child Strays From God by Sam J. Miller because this story is fantastic but, oh well.)

 

Wow, I’m glad I finally finished this review, I took me more than 5 hours to write and I’m tired! Anthologies are fun to read but reviewing them is a bit of a pain!

 

★★★★

 

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Solaris!

 

T5W: Recent Additions to Wishlist

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and  is now hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here.


 

I haven’t done a Top 5 Wednesday in a while because I wasn’t inspired by the themes, however, since I constantely add new things to my wishlist, this topic is fairly easy!

So here are the latest additions to my Amazon wishlist:

  • Borderline by Mishell Baker

This book sounds great and I read some amazing reviews about it. I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy but I’m intrigued!

Synopsis

A cynical, disabled film director with borderline personality disorder gets recruited to join a secret organization that oversees relations between Hollywood and Fairyland in the first book of a new urban fantasy series from debut author Mishell Baker.

A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.”

 

  • Aickman’s Heirs edited by Simon Strantzas

I don’t much about this one except that it just won the Shirley Jackson award and that it was highly praised by Nina Allan but that’s enough for me!

 

“Edited by Simon Strantzas, “Aickman’s Heirs” is an anthology of strange, weird tales by modern visionaries of weird fiction, in the milieu of Robert Aickman, the master of strange and ambiguous stories. Editor and author Strantzas, an important figure in Weird fiction, has been hailed as the heir to Aickman’s oeuvre, and is ideally suited to edit this exciting volume. Featuring all-original stories from Brian Evenson, Lisa Tuttle, John Langan, Helen Marshall, Michael Cisco, and others.”

 

  • Nexus by Ramez Naam

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I heard a lot of good things about this series and the premise sounds great, the story is set in the near future where a new drug, Nexus, allows people to be linked mind to mind and basically, I don’t need to read more than that because, it sounds pretty cool. The last book in the trilogy, Apex, won the Philip K. Dick award this year.

In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link humans together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.

When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he’s thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage – for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.

From the halls of academe to the halls of power; from the headquarters of an elite agency in Washington DC to a secret lab beneath Shanghai; from the underground parties of San Francisco to the illegal biotech markets of Bangkok; from an international neuroscience conference to a remote monastery in the mountains of Thailand – Nexus is a thrill ride through a future on the brink of explosion.

  • Cthulhu’s Daughters: Stories of Lovecraftian Horror edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

For someone who only read one story by Lovecraft, I have a surprising amount of Lovecraft themed stories, books and anthologies on my wishlist! This one intrigued me because it contains a story by Angela Slatter and since I really liked Of Sorrow and Such I want to read other stories by her. I don’t know the other authors but I like to discover new ones!

They emerge from the shadows, to claim the night . . .
Women from around the world delve into Lovecraftian depths, penning and illustrating a variety of weird horrors. The pale and secretive Lavinia wanders through the woods, Asenath is a precocious teenager with an attitude, and the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Nitocris has found a new body in distant America. And do you have time to hear a word from our beloved mother Shub-Niggurath?
Defiant, destructive, terrifying, and harrowing, the women in She Walks in Shadows are monsters and mothers, heroes and devourers. Observe them in all their glory.

 

 

  • The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe by Kij Johnson

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

Another Lovecraft themed thing. This Tor.Com novella is a retelling of The Dream-Quest of Unknow Kadath by Lovecraft. I have not read the original story but I have wanted to read something by Johnson for a while now and so far, I have enjoyed almost all of the Tor.Com that I’ve read.

“Professor Vellitt Boe teaches at the prestigious Ulthar Women’s College. When one of her most gifted students elopes with a dreamer from the waking world, Vellitt must retrieve her.

But the journey sends her on a quest across the Dreamlands and into her own mysterious past, where some secrets were never meant to surface.”

 

 

 

What about you? 🙂

My 2016 BookTubeAThon TBR

It’s summer and summer means Booktubeathon!

If you don’t already know this, BookTube is the name of the community of people posting videos about books on Youtube. Every summer, this community participates in a seven day read-a-thon and it’s very fun to do. This year, it starts July 18th and end July 24th. As usual, it is hosted by Ariel Bisset and the main goal is to read seven books in seven days. However, Ariel created other mini-challenges so I am going to list them with what books I think I may read for the read-a-thon. I have several options for most of the challenges because I am a mood reader and I want to have several choices. 🙂

Challenges

 

1/ Read a book with yellow on the cover.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick.

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I started it a while ago but I put it aside because I was reading a ton of other things. I really enjoyed what I read of it though and I want to start it again!

2/ Read a book only after sunset.

Bodies of Water by V.H. Leslie

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I don’t read a lot after sunset so I decided to go for a novella. I don’t know much about it (I read or watch a positive review of it a while ago) but the cover is freakin’ gorgeous.

3/ Read a book you discovered through Booktube.

Easy. I am going to go with The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Beckie Chambers.

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Everyone on BookTube is raving about this and it’s part of my Read The Arthur C. Clarke 2016 Shortlist Project so it’s the perfect choice really!

4/ Read a book by one of your favourite authors.

The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley or Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor.

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I really need to finish Staveley’s trilogy but The Last Mortal Bond is pretty massive so I don’t know if it’s perfect for a read-a-thon… If I am not in the mood for it, I’ll go with Who Fears Death by Okorafor since I really liked the prequel that I read some months ago, The Book of Phoenix.

5/ Read a book that is older than you.

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Again I am not sure if it’s a pertinent choice for a read-a-thon but The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. But I could also go for Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

6/ Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation.

Minority Report by Philip K. Dick.

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I watched the movie years ago and I loved it, however I never read the actual story and I really want to rewatch the movie so it’s perfect!

7/ Read seven books.

Since most of the books on this list are pretty big or dense, I don’t think that I will be able to finish seven books. However, if I do, here are some of my options: The Alchemy of Chaos by Marshall Ryan Maresca, Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter, The Harlequin by Nina Allan or The Written by Ben Galley.

That’s a lot of books, if I managed to read three or four of them, I’ll be happy but who knows, I might be able to read seven!

What about you? Are you participating? 🙂

Book Review: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

27209459 The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan (Draconis Memoria #1)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Ace

Length: 592 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3 stars

 

 

 


 

Publisher’s description

“Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability harness them—known as the blood-blessed.
 
But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.
 
Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered blood-blessed, who finds himself pressed into service by the protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted territories in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin, facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an ironship, whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.
 
As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.”

 

Review

 

I have not read Anthony Ryan previous Raven’s Shadow trilogy but when I heard he was publishing a book featuring dragons, I was hooked (because DRAGONS!!). I know his first series has received quite mixed opinions (especially the second and third books) so I went into this book with a bit of apprehension.

I didn’t like this book as much as I would have five or six years ago when I  was rereading Eragon over and over. I still enjoyed it but I don’t think that I am the “target audience” for this book (which is not saying that this is not going to please a huge number of people).

If Mistborn: Shadows of Self and Eragon had a baby, it would probably be it. If you enjoyed one or both of those books, I would highly recommend The Waking Fire because you’re probably going to love it!

 

The Waking Fire has a lot going on, it’s a blend of steampunk and epic flintlock(it both has magic and guns) fantasy set in kind of Victorian setting but featuring western elements. And it has pirates, spies and assassins. Yep, it’s pretty much trying to do everything and it’s one of main complaint.

I like genre-bending books but sometimes, less is more. For me, Ryan tried to squeeze everything he liked into one single book and it threw me of the story because, I found that too much was going on too fast and it confused me. Also, I think that this book could have been about 150 pages shorter because it tended to be pretty repetitive especially during battle scenes.

However, it has some original elements and I do believe that it is going to be well loved by a good number of people. If you love epic battle scenes, kickass female characters, pirates, spies and dragons (yeah I HAD to put that in bold letters, because DRAGONS!), you’re in for a treat. I don’t especially love either steampunk, western, pirates story and long battle scenes (I am a bit of a pain  :P) and I still managed to liked the book so it’s really not a bad one. The characters are all complex and interesting, the dragons are epic and I have to say that I never read something quite like this before.

As I said before, I haven’t read Ryan’s previous works so I can’t really answer the “Is this as good as Blood Song?” question. However, I read a couple of reviews to see if people thought it was the case and so far, most people think that even if The Waking Fire is completely different from Blood Song, they enjoyed it as much, if not more because of how original it was. 🙂

 

 

 

So if you are looking for you next epic fantasy tome with dragons and a good numbers of pretty original elements, why not give The Waking Fire a try ?

Sans titre

 

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Ace. All opinions are my own.

Infomocracy by Malka Older

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Publisher’s description

It’s been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything’s on the line.

With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain?

 

Review

Infomocracy is a near future science-fiction book following a story set in a society where almost everyone can access to Information a system which is basically Google meets government databases and allows everyone to access everything from everywhere because, in this world, it’s actually illegal to hide information from, well, Information. All the states under the Information system are organized in centenals (groups of 100 000 persons) which are ruled as micro-democracies. It follows the same idea that, in Too Like The Lightning , people have the right to choose in which micro-democracy they want to live in and under which government. However, every ten years, there is a huge election to determine which government is going to obtain the Supermajority. The story takes place just before the third election and one of the main character, Ken, is working for Policy1st, one of the candidates.

The funny thing is that some of the candidates are actually big corporation like Sony-Mitsubishi or Philip Morris, former nations like China( here called 1China) or just more traditional parties like Liberty, Heritage or Policy1st which I think was really interesting idea. However, for me, those different candidates weren’t “fleshed out” enough, for most of them, Older omitted to explain their programs or what they were standing for and, for a book where the whole plot is centered around an election, it was a bit of a shame really.

Speaking of disappointment, I had to say that the execution of the book didn’t really work for me. It had a lot of cool ideas but overall, it just fell flat.

Infomocracy is a debut-novel and it felt like one. This story has four POV and they switch all the time, one paragraph was from one person, the next from the other and etc.. I am exagerating a little but really, it sometimes made the story really hard to follow.

Also, the characters were almost all one-dimentional, Ken was very naive, Mishima very insecure and Domaine, against everything. For me the only really interesting character was the fourth POV but still, she didn’t leave that great of an impression on me since I forgot her name and I just can’t find it anymore…

I don’t want to bash this book because, it was a quick read and it has some really neat ideas. However, for me it is trying to do the same things as Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer and Palmer did them much better so it is very hard for me to judge this book fairly. However, it is a lot easier to follow so if you want to read a fast-paced political thriller and you don’t want something super complex then, give Infomocracy a try.

I will definitely give Older another chance because I feel like she’s an author with innovative ideas and I’m sure what she’ll write in the future will be interesting!

 

★★★

 

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Tor.com. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Short Fiction Sunday | Clarkesworld #117

I haven’t done a SFS in a while because I haven’t read a ton of short fiction recently. I am actually an issue behind on my Clarkesworld subscription and I still haven’t read the May/June issue of Interzone . 😦 I have to be in the mood for short fiction, otherwise, I end up skimming most of the stories and since I read a huge number of them back in April and May, I wanted to have a bit of break.

However, I am back in the short fiction mood so I finally picked up the June issue of Clarkesworld! It wasn’t my favorite issue but it still had three great stories so, it was still a pleasure to read.

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XTC by Vincent LAIK

Content

Original Fiction

And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices  by Margaret Ronald 5*

Great story, it really started the issue with a bang. It’s hard to talk about this story without spoiling it but basically it’s the story of a scientist who discovered an alien transmission and managed to understand them. However, after a while, she realized that she was witnessing the end of the alien and that the whole scientific community was helpless because the alien were more than 400 light years away.

Thsi story was a great reflexion on how hearing and witnessing the death of a new civilization could affect the whole humanity on both a global and personal level. It was extremely well-written, it was heartbreacking but it still managed to have a really optimistic ending. 

Things with Beard by Sam J. Miller 5*

I am a huge fan of Sam Miller. So far, I read four of his stories and they all were incredible  and I can’t wait for his debut-novel, The Art of Starving coming out in 2017 from HarperCollins. Needless to say, when I saw that one of his stories was in this issue, I was pumped.

And it did not disappoint. This story is set in the eighties in the midst of the AIDS pendemic. Our main character, MacReady is possessed by an hungry alien which forces him to have sexual relationship with men. Here the alien could be seen as a metaphor of people who are afraid of assuming their sexual preferences and feel like monsters. Not only this story was incredibly touching, it was thought-provocking and had some really interesting lines about racism whichnow remind me a lot of The Devil In America by Kai Ashante Wilson that I read yesterday.

I especially liked how the story ended and as always with Miller’s fiction, I don’t really have anything bad to say about it.

 

.identity by E. Catherine Tobler 1*

This story is about an AI that is attacked by a virus and loose some pieces of memory.

I don’t have much to say about this story, it was very meh. For me, it didn’t have a plot or any new ideas to add to science fiction. I completely skimmed the second half because of how boring but oh well, it’s extremely rare to enjoy every story in a magazine or an athology so that’s okay.

 

The Snow of Jinyang by Zhang Ran  DNF


I usually like the chineses translated featured in Clarkesworld but the translation felt too obvious and really made it hard to focus on this story because the whole thing sounded almost cartoonish. Also, this story was based on Chinese history and it was hard too understand for a Chinese history noob like me so I just decided to DNF it.

 

Reprints

The Promise of God by Michael Flynn 2,5*

This story wasn’t terrible but it’s a fairly forgettable one. The premise is interesting,  the main character is a person without morale which means that he has no concept of either good or bad and needs a guardian to check on him. The ending was powerful but otherwise, I didn’t especially cared about the story.

Pathways by Nancy Kress 4.5*

This story follows a character that suffers from a really rare syndrom that will make her crazy. Her only way to escape from this fate is to participate to a new research. It was really short but it was full of ideas and the pacing was perfect. At first, the writing style was a bit hard to get into but after two or three pages, I was completely hooked!

 

It’s hard to pick a favorite story out of the three I really loved but, if you had to read only one story in this whole issue, I would probably recommend And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices  by Margaret Ronald. You can read (or listen to) it for free here. 😀

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

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Publisher’s description

Since leaving his homeland, the earthbound demigod Demane has been labeled a sorcerer. With his ancestors’ artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight.

The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive.

The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive.”

 

I first read this novella back at the end of May and I really enjoyed it, it was a solid four stars however, everytime I wanted to write my review of it, I couldn’t do it. I can’t really explain why but I couldn’t express my feelings about it in a clear way. Anyway, I decided that I wouldn’t review it and that would be it.

However, I found myself thinking more and more about it. So much so actually, that I reread it about a month after I first read it. I am glad to say that my rating didn’t change, it’s still a solid four stars (4.5 even) and now I have a little bit more things to say about it.

This novel is extremely short (about 200 pages) and it has received a lot of critical attention when it first came out back in September 2015 but also a good amount of negative reviews from my friends on Goodreads. Of course, when everyone seems to dislike a book, I want to read it because I am noisy and I want to know why.

Well, I am glad I gave it a try because, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps has good chances to end up on my list of Favorite Reads of the Year, it’s not perfect but it has some pretty awesome ideas and themes.

This book is a blend of science fiction and fantasy. It follows the story of Demane, a demigod whose impressive healing abilities made him famous as a sorcerer. He works in a caravane lead by the Captain, his lover and another demigod whose “voice is like a song”. Both of them must protects the caravan guards and merchants from a wizard haunting the Wildeeps, a forest full of ancient creatures.

The plot is very simple and actually quite thin. However, for me, it’s not the main focus of the book; the relationships, the themes, the prose and the structure of the novel were the main reasons I enjoyed this so much. If you are looking for the next Game of Thrones, this book is not for you. (One blurb on the back of the book compares it to GoT and really, I don’t know if the person who wrote that actually read the book, both books are in the fantasy genre, but that’s all ).

The character of Demane is incredible. He felt like a real person and I could empatize with him during the entirety of the book. He does make mistakes but they’re all understandable and overall, he just tries his best. I really enjoyed his interactions with the other characters and especially the ones with his aunt and the Captain.

This book is the definition of diverse and it doesn’t feel like it is trying to be if you know what I mean. Yes, it features two black gay male characters and women in places of power but it always feels “normal” like it should be.

This book isn’t perfect, as I said, the plot is pretty thin, the structure is a bit weird (lots of switch from present to past even in action scenes which can be a tad unsettling especially at first) and the worldbuilding is confusing. It’s there but hard to get a grasp of and I wouldn’t mind another book (or novella) set in the same world to learn a bit more about it.

However, even if it was a bit confusing, it was a submersive read, gorgeous and complex, brutal yet enchanting.

I would highly recommended to everyone because, even if you don’t enjoy it, it probably won’t leave you unmarked.

★★★★ 1/2

 

“The deeply secretive cannot grasp that protecting your secret too fiercely exposes it.”