Short Fiction Sunday: March Highlights

Here are the stories I loved the most in March! You can read all of them online so, if some of them look intriguing to you, give them a try! 😉

 

Clarkesworld #148

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The January issue of Clarkesworld was amazing and it was hard to make a selection of my favorite stories! Since I enjoyed all the stories, I’ll briefly mention the ones that didn’t make “the cut” . Lavie Tidhar’s Venus in Bloom is fantastic little story set in the Central Station universe. It’s beautiful, the prose is elegant and it left me in tears. One’s Burden Again by Natalia Theodoridou is about making hard decisions and how breaking habits can be hard, sad and yet, liberating. It’s weird but I think everyone can relate to it in some ways. Ray Nayler’s Fire in the Bones follows a robot uprising and how the creations can be inspired by their creators.

All the stories were fantastic but here are the four stories that I loved the most!

The Ghosts of Ganymede by Derek Kunsken

Last year, I read and loved Kunsken’s debut novel The Quantum Magician. It’s a heist story set in space, it’s a very clever book that both manages to be a lot of fun and complex! Because of that, I was excited to see he had a story in Clarkesworld, if I’m not mistaken, it’s his first appearance in this magazine. 

It follows the exiled survivors of a nuclear conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. They both decided to move to Ganymede to mine helium 3 but, when they land on the planet, they realize that it is already inhabited by strange and alien ghosts. To survive, they’ll have to work past their cultural differences and find ways to build a new life on Ganymede.

It’s a great story, it discussed how wars change our perceptions of each other and how you sometimes have to make hard decisions in order to live and build a new life. I highly recommend this story!

You can read it here

 

Eater of Worlds by Jamie Wahls

An ancient sentient weapon seek to destroy a planet but things don’t go as planned when some parts of the weapon realize that they don’t want to destroy things anymore.

First of all, I never read a story build around a sentient weapon at war with itself and I loved how unique it was. However, what I loved the most about the story was the conclusion! I just wish it had been longer because a few elements could have been developed a bit more but, overall, I really liked the story! 

You can read it here.

 

Left to Take the Lead by Marissa Linguen

After the destruction of her home-world, a young woman decides to work on a farm to pay off her debt. She has been is waiting for her uncle to regain the custody of her siblings for years, however, one day she realizes that if she really wants to see her family again, she should start taking care of things herself.

I loved how it discussed the fact that, a lot of time, we are the solution to our own problems. Holly’s emotional journey throughout the story was fascinating and I could see a lot of myself in her. Holly’s culture was also very interesting, she has a unique sense of family and it was fascinating to see what she thought of Earth.

You can read the story here.

 

They Have All One Breath by Karl Bunker

What would happen if AIs solved all of humanity’s problems?

It started with the end of all wars, and of all of crimes. However, it didn’t stop there, the AIs decided to control who was stable, educated, wealthy enough to be allowed to have children. 

This story is about how humans would react to this intervention, would they be able to give up a part of themselves for the greater good? It was very interesting, I especially loved to see what people’s perceptions of the AIs actions changed the more it affected them directly. 

You can read the story here.

 

Apex Magazine #116

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The Pulse of Memory by Beth Dawkins 

Set on a generationship, The Pulse of Memory follows a teenager as he completes a strange ritual. He has to eat a fish containing the memories of an elder who passed away. The memory he’ll absorb will define the tasks he’ll have to complete on the ship. However, the protagonist secretly eat more than one fish in the hope of finding the memories of his grandmother. The story follows him as he starts to lose himself in the memories of others.

The writing was superb and I loved how it discussed how some people deal with loss. I would love to read a full length novel set in this world!

You can read this story here.

 

What story sounds the most intriguing to you? Have you read any good short stories this month? 😀

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Book Review: The Dollmaker by Nina Allan

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Genre: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism

Publisher: riverrun

Length: 416 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: April 4th 2019

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive but graceful, unique, and with surprising depths. Perhaps that’s why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine.

Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped, and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England, he reads the fairy tales of Ewa Chaplin–potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice–to break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.

A love story of two very real, unusual people, The Dollmaker is also a novel rich with wonders: Andrew’s quest and Bramber’s letters unspool around the dark fables that give our familiar world an uncanny edge. It is this touch of magic that, like the blink of a doll’s eyes, tricks our own.

Book Review

   The Dollmaker is a book composed of many stories. The main narrative follows Andrew, a man fascinated by dolls. His fascination started when he was eight years old and bullied because of his height. Something about their smallness and imperfections allowed him to accept how he was perceived by other people. However, what just started as a hobbie became his life when people started to buy his own creations: his monstrous yet fascinating troll dolls. Composed of parts taken from other broken dolls, they are Andrew’s tiny Frankenstein monsters.

While reading a specialized magazine, he stumbles upon an ad written by Bramber Winters, a woman looking for information on Ewa Chaplin, a famous dollmaker. Andrew doesn’t know a lot about Chaplin but he’s immediately captivated by the ad. They soon start exchanging letters and Andrew quickly realizes than he is in love with Bramber. Once he realizes that, he knows he has to meet her. However, Andrew knows two things  about Bramber: she loves dolls and she has been living in West Edge House, a former mental hospital for twenty years.

   The Dollmaker follows Andrew’s journey as he crosses the country to meet the woman he’s obsessed with. During his travel, he decides to give Ewa Chaplin’s collection of short stories a try since they are so important to Bramber.  However, as soon as he starts reading the strange and eerie stories, he realizes the odd similarities between them and his own life.

As I mentioned, this book has a very interesting structure, some sections are narrated by Andrew, other are fragments from Bramber’s letters or stories written by Ewa Chaplin. I loved the short stories which isn’t surprising since I love Nina Allan’s short fiction. Her prose is superb and very atmospheric. The Chaplin stories all had the same eerie quality, beautiful writing and fascinating themes. Dwarves, dolls and monsters are at the center of those five stories and they were without a doubt what I loved the most in The Dollmaker.

I was also fascinated by Bramber’s letters, I loved learning about her and slowly discovering why she wanted to stay at West Edge House. Her story is very interesting  and her letters were written in a sort of stream of consciousness style that allowed me to really understand her. I wish Allan’s had included some of Andrew’s letters. It would have been a great way to see how he portrayed himself to Bramber. Since we only get Bramber’s perspective, I could only guess from her answers.

The rest of the book was narrated from Andrew’s perspective, he’s not a particularly nice but the world never gave him any reason to be. His unhealthy fascination for broken dolls and for Bramber was pretty creepy but, in a bizarre way, I could understand why he acted the way he did.

Bramber and Andrew are both very odd characters, they seem to be living outside of time. Except for a few mentions of technology, this story could be set decades ago: both characters use letters to communicate and Andrew’s journey to Bramber takes days because he stops in several cities.

It’s an emotional and delicate story written in an unconventional way. It is an immersive experience for sure but it is very slow-paced. It’s a quiet character-driven story about two people trying to forget parts of their childhood. Some parts are fantastical and the stories lean on the horror side however, I wouldn’t call this book fantasy or horror. If I had to categorize it, I’d say it’s a literary fiction book with magical realism elements. If you like your books action-packed with a lot of speculative elements, The Dollmaker isn’t the book you’re looking for. However, if you want to read a slow and quiet story about two complex characters, I would highly recommend!

 

Four stars.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Netgalley and riverrun. All opinions are my own.

 

April New Releases I’m intrigued about

Here’s my list of April anticipated releases! As always, this list is a just a small(ish) selection,  I haven’t mentioned all the books I’m intrigued about and I’m sure I missed a number of great ones. However, I love gushing about shiny new books and I thought it would be a great opportunity to do so.  It’s not a TBR by any means though I really want to read those!

I don’t know how but, last month, I managed to completely miss the release of a book I was highly anticipating. I saw it on Goodreads a few days ago, and my first thought was “What? This book is out??”. I’m talking about Luna: Moon Rising by Ian MacDonald, the third and final book in his Luna trilogy. Am I the only who didn’t know this was out? :O I completely missed its release!

I know it was a March release but I needed to talk about this book. Anyway here are the titles coming out this month I’m excited about!

SCIENCE FICTION

 

 

Finder —Suzanne Palmer (April 2, DAW)

Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder.

His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia’s Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He’ll slip in, decode the ship’s compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand.

Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a gas-giant-harvesting colony called Cernee. But Fergus’ arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger’s enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly–and inconveniently–invested in the lives of the locals.

It doesn’t help that a dangerous alien species thought mythical prove unsettlingly real, and their ominous triangle ships keep following Fergus around.

 

I read a few of Suzanne Palmer stories and I liked them all so I was very excited when I first heard about this book. I haven’t read any reviews yet but it’s about a con man, in space, with aliens, so, of course I’m intrigued!

 

Perihelion Summer —Greg Egan (April 16, Tor.com Publishing)

Greg Egan’s Perihelion Summer is a story of people struggling to adapt to a suddenly alien environment, and the friendships and alliances they forge as they try to find their way in a world where the old maps have lost their meaning.

Taraxippus is coming: a black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system.

Matt and his friends are taking no chances. They board a mobile aquaculture rig, the Mandjet, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. As Taraxippus draws nearer, new observations throw the original predictions for its trajectory into doubt, and by the time it leaves the solar system, the conditions of life across the globe will be changed forever.

 

I always want to read Tor.com novellas, I pre-order most of them but, for some reasons, I always forget about them and they pile up on my Kindle. So yeah, I also pre-ordered this one but I hope I’ll be able to read it sooner rather than later!

 

 

Atlas Alone (Planetfall #4)—Emma Newman (April 16, Ace)

Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who ordered the nuclear strike that destroyed the world. She’s trying to find those responsible, and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone. 
A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time. A man she discovers was one of those responsible for the death of millions on Earth. 
Disturbed, but thinking it must be a coincidence, Dee pulls back from gaming and continues the hunt for information. But when she finds out the true plans for the future colony, she realizes that to save what is left of humanity, she may have to do something that risks losing her own.

 

I finished Before Mars a few weeks ago and I really liked it! I wasn’t a huge fan of After Atlas, I found the world very interesting but it was pretty forgettable, however, I enjoyed Before Mars so much that I’m very excited for Atlas Alone. I still need read Planetfall someday though.

 

 

Waste Tide—Chen Qiufan (Translated by Ken Liu) (April 30, Tor Books)

Mimi is a ‘waste girl’, a member of the lowest caste on Silicon Isle.

Located off China’s southeastern coast, Silicon Isle is the global capital for electronic waste recycling, where thousands like Mimi toil day and night, hoping one day they too will enjoy the wealth they’ve created for their employers, the three clans who have ruled the isle for generations.

Luo Jincheng is the head of one of these clans, a role passed down from his father and grandfather before him. As the government enforces tighter restrictions, Luo in turn tightens the reins on the waste workers in his employ. Ruthlessness is his means of survival.

Scott Brandle has come to Silicon Isle representing TerraGreen Recycling, an American corporation that stands to earn ungodly sums if they can reach a deal to modernize the island’s recycling process.

Chen Kaizong, a Chinese American, travels to Silicon Isle as Scott’s interpreter. There, Kaizong is hoping to find his heritage, but finds more questions instead. The home he longs for may not exist.

As these forces collide, a dark futuristic virus is unleashed on the island, and war erupts between the rich and the poor; between Chinese tradition and American ambition; between humanity’s past and its future.

 

I’ve read a few of Chen Qiufan’s stories in Clarkesworld and I loved them all. I also love climate fiction stories so this book sounds right up my alley!

 

FANTASY

 

The DollmakerNina Allan (April 4, riverrun)

Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive but graceful, unique, and with surprising depths. Perhaps that’s why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine.

Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped, and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England, he reads the fairy tales of Ewa Chaplin–potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice–to break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.

A love story of two very real, unusual people, The Dollmaker is also a novel rich with wonders: Andrew’s quest and Bramber’s letters unspool around the dark fables that give our familiar world an uncanny edge. It is this touch of magic that, like the blink of a doll’s eyes, tricks our own.

 

Putting this book in the fantasy section is probably a bit of a stretch, it has horror and magical realism elements but it’s not really a fantasy book. I’m putting it here for simplicity reasons but it should deserve its own Weird Horrorish Literary Fiction category.

I’ve received an ARC of this book and I already read it so expect a review in a few days! I love Nina Allan’s writing, her prose is fantastic and she has a great sense of atmosphere. 

 

Ragged Alice—Gareth L. Powell (April 23, Tor.com Publishing)

In Gareth L. Powell’s Ragged Alice a detective in a small Welsh town can literally see the evil in people’s souls.

Orphaned at an early age, DCI Holly Craig grew up in the small Welsh coastal town of Pontyrhudd. As soon as she was old enough, she ran away to London and joined the police. Now, fifteen years later, she’s back in her old hometown to investigate what seems at first to be a simple hit-and-run, but which soon escalates into something far deadlier and unexpectedly personal—something that will take all of her peculiar talents to solve.

 

I am currently reading Embers of War and I’m loving it! It has all the elements I love in space opera, the world is cool, it has sentient ships, fascinating characters and it’s a whole lot of fun. Since I have a thing for Tor.com novellas and I’m really enjoying his novel, I preordered this one as well. It sounds like a very interesting mystery with fantasy and horror elements.

 

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Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2)Rebecca Roanhorse (April 23, Saga Press)

It’s been four weeks since the bloody showdown at Black Mesa, and Maggie Hoskie, Diné monster hunter, is trying to make the best of things. Only her latest bounty hunt has gone sideways, she’s lost her only friend, Kai Arviso, and she’s somehow found herself responsible for a girl with a strange clan power.

Then the Goodacre twins show up at Maggie’s door with the news that Kai and the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, have fallen in with a mysterious cult, led by a figure out of Navajo legend called the White Locust. The Goodacres are convinced that Kai’s a true believer, but Maggie suspects there’s more to Kai’s new faith than meets the eye. She vows to track down the White Locust, then rescue Kai and make things right between them.

Her search leads her beyond the Walls of Dinétah and straight into the horrors of the Big Water world outside. With the aid of a motley collection of allies, Maggie must battle body harvesters, newborn casino gods and, ultimately, the White Locust himself. But the cult leader is nothing like she suspected, and Kai might not need rescuing after all. When the full scope of the White Locust’s plans are revealed, Maggie’s burgeoning trust in her friends, and herself, will be pushed to the breaking point, and not everyone will survive.

 

I read and very much enjoyed Trail of Lightning at the beginning of the year so I cannot wait to read the sequel. I want more Maggie and Kai in my life and I want it now!  And also, Trail of Lightning is a Hugo nominee, I didn’t expect to see it nominated but I’m glad it is! 😀

 

What are some of your most anticipated releases of April?

March Wrap-Up & April Reading Plans

Well March was a very busy month! As usual, the back-to-college transition was a bit hard for my sleepy brain but I think I’m okay now! 

Even if the month was busy, I’m still happy with how it went. I moved, I started a new  semester, made some new friends (since 99% of my friends are doing their internships at the other side of France), joined a student organization and started searching for my own internship. Of course, I did all of that plus all the normal college work and blogging as often as I managed to! All in all, it was a pretty productive month!


Books Read in March

  • Before Mars by Emma Newman ★★★★
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson ★★★★★
  • Clarkesworld  #148 edited by Neil Clarke ★★★★1/2
  • The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson ★★★1/2      (review to come)
  • Apex Magazine January 2019 edited by Jason Sizemore ★★★★
  • Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell ★★★★1/2     (review to come)

Reviews Posted

Favorite Reads

 

I enjoyed all those works for very different reasons. The Traitor Baru Cormorant was a re-read, I loved it when I first read it back in 2015 and I loved it even more the second time around. Seth Dickinson’s writing is delightful, I found myself reading and re-reading some sentences and paragraphs just because I loved how they were written. I read this book with Imiryl (go check her blog, it’s awesome!) and it was my first buddy read ever! Since I was so busy, it took me quite a long time to read but I loved every second of it. I’m might update my old review of this book but I’m afraid to read it again. I don’t know why but I hate re-reading my old reviews. It’s probably because I always spot the mistakes I made and completely missed at the time.

Anyway, I also loved the January issue of Clarkesworld, all the stories were great and I’ll discuss my favorites at length in my next Short Fiction Sunday!

As for my third fave, it’s without a doubt Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell! I loved that book, I couldn’t put it down. I know I’m very late to the party but, yeah, I agree with everyone, it’s great!

DNF

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Okay, I can hear you freak out. I’m not dropping this because it’s bad, it’s not. However, I picked this up on audio and I cannot do audiobooks for novels, I just can’t. I always fall asleep after two minutes and then, when I wake up because of the noise in my ears, I’m completely lost. If I try to go back to where I was before falling asleep, I never manage to find the exact spot and I have to listen to the same parts over an over again. If I don’t try to find where I was before, I skip sections of the story and I’m lost.. So yeah, audiobooks aren’t my thing;  I’ll give this book another shot when I’ll be able to read it with my eyes!

Currently Reading & Tentative TBR

I’m currently reading New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl and I’m enjoying it a lot so far, I just have a couple of stories left so I should finish it pretty soon. I’m also reading the January/February issue of Uncanny and so far, it’s very “meh”, I read three stories and a couple of poems and I found them underwhelming… We’ll see if the rest of the stories are a bit more interesting or not.

Anyway, here are the other titles I would like to read in April!

  • String City by Graham Edwards
  • Clarkesworld #149
  • Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson
  • Time Was by Ian MacDonald
  • Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett
  • Interzone #279
  • Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

I think this list is pretty doable since a lot of titles are on the shorter side, but we’ll see!

 

How was your month of March? What’s your favorite read of the month? 😀