August 2013


A stand-alone science fiction book.

Publication year: 1997
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: WMG Publishing

The story starts with Justin Schafer. He’s a xenopsychiatrist sent to Bountiful which is a human colony on very hot planet. The planet has also aliens who are called the Dancers. Now it seems that the Dancers are killing human children. The maturation cycle is quite different for the Dancers; in order for their children to become adults, the child’s heart, hands, and lungs have to be removed. New ones grow back and the child becomes an adult. Six human children had been found mutilated in just such a fashion. Justin had made a grievous error in his previous case and an alien race was exterminated because of him. Now, he’s afraid of making more mistakes but determined to do better.

Bountiful’s authorities want Justin to quickly rubber stamp their decision that the aliens are the killers. Then the Dancers would most likely be exterminated. However, Justin investigates things more thoroughly and finds the disturbing truth: the children were killed by other human children. He has no choice but to inform off-planet authorities who quickly take the kids away. The authorities on the nearby Lina Base are curiously hostile towards the kids and want to sentence them quickly. Justin thinks that the Dancers have influenced the kids and so they should be investigated more thoroughly and possibly the new Alien Influences Act could be invoked. But the authorities want the kids quickly out of sight.

I guess I should admit upfront that the subject matter made me uncomfortable: child abuse. The kids on Bountiful had so difficult lives that they turned to aliens in order to escape it. Most of the abuse seems to be neglect, to the point that the kids didn’t even know basic human biology, but there were indications of physical and mental abuse, as well. It seemed that at least some of the adults on Bountiful knew about it and covered it up. And the way the children were treated before the trial seems abusive to me, also. The story also deals with how kids deal with abuse and how they try to survive it.

The second half of the book focuses on one of the kids when he’s grown up and has to face Bountiful once again. We also get additional POV characters.

The book has lots of point-of-view characters, both adults and children. None of them are good or bad, but humans with different goals and interests. I think this is always Rusch’s strong point: very human characters. However, some of them are seen only briefly, just long enough to see their part of the plot but not long enough to develop a connection with them. The exceptions are Justin and one of the kids.

The story is very focused. We don’t see much about the world outside the characters. The Dancers aren’t the only aliens humans have met and we meet one other alien in the story. Otherwise, we don’t know much about the planets and the organizations on them. I was fascinated with the concept of the Alien Influences Act but we don’t know much about that, either.

The Dancers were also interesting. In addition to having a completely different maturation cycle from humans, they apparently had no concept of past. They simply didn’t remember. This, of course, made them very different from humans and makes it quite difficult to even have a culture. Sadly, they also called their children the Useless ones and they were kept in pens to wait for the time when they could be matured to adults through the cutting ceremony. They also seem to be telepathic and the human children managed to develop their own telepathy, but only between themselves.

Overall, this was an interesting read. At times it felt a little disjointed, like two novellas brought together because a lot of time goes by about halfway through the book and the characters change.

The second book in the Oswald Bastable trilogy.

Publication year: 1974
Format: print
Page count: 193
Publisher: Titan Books

The second book in the series starts with a short introduction where Moorcock supposedly finds his grandfather’s notes. His grandfather, also called Michael Moorcock, went to China to look for Bastable whom he met in the first book. The elder Moorcock’s adventures in China take up about 50 pages.

The rest of the rather short book is divided into two books, “the World in Anarchy” and “the Battle for Washington”. Bastable really wants to return to his own time and world, and so he stows away on a ship and returns to Teku Benga where his journey through time started. He manages to stumble onto another journey through time. At first, he thinks he has returned to his own world, but to his horror he soon finds out that this is not the case.

For a short time, this new alternate world was an utopia. Manuel O’Bean, an inventor from Chile, single-handedly ended poverty from the world because he invented and built a lot of different machines to help people. He also invented powerful energy sources so that the people of the world aren’t suffering because the machines can’t run. However, when the next generation grew up, they weren’t simply content to live with enough food and education, but wanted to control their own fates, in other words, they wanted to be part of governments. So, wars started, inside countries and between them. By the time Bastable arrives, most of Europe has been bombed to ground and diseases have also destroyed the population. The USA is in a similar state. The Western world has essentially been destroyed. The biggest powers left are the Australaasian-Japanese Federation and the Ashanti Empire in Africa. The Ashanti Empire is led by General Cicero Hood who wants to dominate over all white people because of what they have done to the blacks in the past.

Bastable meets a submarine captain who invites him to live on the high seas. However, even their days as privateers are soon over and they seek employment from one of the few neutral countries, Bantustan, which is lead by President Mahatma Gandhi who wants to show the world an example on how people can live in peace even during such an horrible time.

Much like the first book in the series, the narrator tells us a lot of things instead of showing them. The start of Bastable’s narration is pretty much several pages of infodump about the history of this world and later, we are also told about various other histories, diseases and such. To be fair, a lot of the things said in the infodumps are so horrible that I probably wouldn’t have been able to stomach a thousand page book about war, especially about biological warfare. Otherwise, the plot moves along quickly.

Even though several people tell Bastable that England is a wasteland, he wants to see for himself and finds out that things are pretty horrible. Many have died of diseases and the survivors are often disfigured. They have apparently forgotten their backgrounds completely and live in small groups which hunt each other. And in the USA white people have turned against the blacks and made them slaves again. The only decent place in this world seems to be Bantustan.

The book shows us extreme racism and what Europe could look like after a devastating war which borders on Apocalypse. The usual power politics are turned on their ear: most of the whites are savages living in the ruins of cities (and even those who aren’t literally savages are abusing other people cruelly) while the blacks, led by General Hood, are the civilized and sophisticated people and Gandhi seems to be the only decent man left in the world. Bastable himself is an honorable British gentleman who is trying to survive in this world. At first, he automatically sides with the whites but he learns quickly that things are often different from what he assumes. Moorcock’s grandfather is a pretty elitist, which I assume is quite fitting for apparently well-to-do British white man in the beginning of 1900s.

Some of the characters are familiar from the previous book. Korzeniowski (Joseph Conrad) was an airship captain in Warlord of the Air but here he’s much younger and a submarine captain. (Apparently the word submarine hasn’t been invented yet, so Moorcock uses underwater boats.) Una Persson is also a returning character and apparently Moorcock uses her in other books, too. He also uses several famous people here: Mahatma Gandhi, P. J. Kennedy, and Herbert Hoover are easy to spot. Al Capone is also in a couple of scenes although in my version his name was Caponi. Moorcock also briefly thinks about sending Bastable’s manuscript to H. G. Wells.

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten Favorite Secondary Characters .

There are a lot of secondary characters whom I love and I tend to continue with series which have quirky cast of characters. It’s really hard to choose just one from such a cast but here goes:

1, Luidaeg the sea witch from Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye series
She’s always cranky, but with a very good reason.

2, Sethra Lavode from Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series
She’s the most powerful sorceress in her world and also a vampire and quite a mysterious figure.

3, Ky Tung from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series
Tung is an old mercenary.

4, Dunworthy from Connie Willis’ to Say Nothing of the Dog
I love the cast of this book! Poor hard working Dunworthy tries his best to keep his part of the university working.

5, Nobby Nobbs by Terry Pratchett
Prachett has lots of very enjoyable characters and it’s hard to pick just one but Nobbs’ subplot in Jingo was great.

6, Jack Robinson by Kerry Greenwood
A hard working cop in Melbourne who happily can count of Phryne to help him.

7, Joseph by Kage Baker
One of the immortals in this series.

8, Pirate captain Phaelan Benares by Lisa Shearin
Shearin has also a great cast of characters but I have a soft spot of (fictional) pirates.

9, Commander Zala by A Lee Martinez
A fierce Venusian warrior who is forced to protect her greatest enemy.

10, Iskierka by Naomi Novik
One of the dragons in the series, she’s perhaps them most aggressive of them.

Carl at the Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the eighth R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, or R.I.P. VIII. I’ve joined in a couple of time and had great fun, so I’m joining this time, too.


Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above. That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.

As time has wound on I’ve honed this event down to two simple rules:

1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.

As I do each and every year, there are multiple levels of participation (Perils) that allow you to be a part of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril without adding the burden of another commitment to your already busy lives. There is even a one book only option for those who feel that this sort of reading is not their cup of tea (or who have many other commitments) but want to participate all the same.

R.I.P. VIII officially runs from September 1st through October 31st. But lets go ahead and break the rules. Lets start today!!!

I will be joining

Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

Reading pool:
I have quite a few mystery books in my TBR:
I have a lot of Kerry Greenwood’s books.
I realized that I own three Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise books and I don’t remember anything about them, so it’s definitely a time for a reread.
I also have some new to me authors:
Laurie King, Carol Goodman, Paul Christopher, Jeffrey Deaver, and Donna Leon

Read:
1, Christopher Golden: Spike & Dru: Pretty Maids all in a row
2, Kerry Greenwood: Earthly Delights
3, Kerry Greenwood: Dead Man’s Chest
4, Jefferey Deaver: The Bone Collector
5, Donna Leon: Death at La Fenice
6, Kerry Greenwood: Heavenly Pleasures
7, Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Running Time: 9 hrs and 25 minutes

Detective Morgan Holiday and her long-time partner Henry Zimmerman are called to see a body. It turns out that the man was shot in a high-powered rifle. Morgan and Henry interview the people who found the body and everyone around the crime scene but they don’t have many clues. Morgan is an experienced detective. Henry is retiring and she’s given a new partner, who looks down on her. Morgan is not happy about it because she has more than enough problems in her personal life: her mother suffers from Alzheimer’s and Morgan couldn’t take care of her full-time, so her mother is now in a home. Morgan visits her every Sunday but her mother doesn’t even recognize her anymore and waits for her son to visit. He lives in Chicago and only stops by a couple of time a year. Morgan is divorced and is struggling to find her own sexuality.

Lois Burnett and Sophie Long are in their late sixties, early seventies and looking forward to their quiet retirement days. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned. Lois’ adopted daughter is a drug addict and she has stolen the money they had saved earlier in their lives. Even though Ruby is now in jail, the women didn’t get their money back. When Sophie is in a car accident, it becomes clear quickly that their pensions just aren’t going to be enough. They decide to do a few sniper jobs in order to pay their bills and even get a little bit of extra. However, they decide that all of the clients have to be strangers and the victims will have to be scum, and not decent people. They would question the would-be clients and research the would-be victims themselves. They stick to the latter rule; their victims are pedophiles and stalkers. But they break the first rule pretty quickly.

Sophie is a former Catholic school teacher and Lois is a former nurse. Lois was in Vietnam and learned how to shoot there. She lived through rather traumatic experiences there and brought with her an orphan Vietnamese girl whom she adopted.

I really enjoyed this book. In addition to Lois, Sophie, and Morgan, there are a couple of other POV characters. One of them is Lois and Sophie’s client Celia Morning who finds out that a pedophile has moved into her neighborhood. I think Miller made a great choice by showing us what a menace the man is and why someone would want to pay to kill him.

I actually felt that Lois and Sophie’s part of the book was the most lighthearted because of the silly secondary characters and the somewhat absurd premise. Celia’s part was quite horrifying, especially when we started to find out what the man was doing, and Morgan’s part was depressing and grim because of her mother. Morgan’s mother manages to escape the facility and comes to Morgan, asking after Morgan’s dead father.

The book has a few delightful secondary characters, such as middle-aged Myrtle whose girlfriend has left her for a former Playboy model. Myrtle is grief stricken but determined to get another girlfriend. The characters feel like individuals and real people.

The books asks questions about the modern justice system where sometimes the guilty are better protected than the innocent. Who can and should choose who lives and who dies?

I’m a member of Audible and I love audiobooks so this is very exciting news:


Audible acquires audio rights to more than 100 works by award-winning and nominated authors in multiple genres

August 21, 2013 — Book View Café (BVC), the author-run publishing company, today announced an agreement with Audible, Inc., the world’s largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word content. The worldwide English-language audio rights deal, which includes a substantial part of BVC’s rapidly growing catalog, will make more than 100 works of romance, science-fiction, fantasy, young adult, mystery, as well as nonfiction titles available as audiobooks to a global readership. Book View Café’s impressive line-up of author-members includes Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick award winners and New York Times bestsellers.

“Having our titles available at Audible is further evidence of the momentum Book View Café has gained in the past year,” says Pati Nagle, BVC president. “In that period we’ve launched our new online bookstore, signed distribution agreements that are getting our ebooks into libraries and online booksellers worldwide, published 113 works, taken on six new members, and seen our first New York Times ebook bestseller for a BVC original.” She adds, “It’s a huge win for BVC, enabling us to outsource our audiobook services and give our authors immediate access to a vibrant and growing market segment.”

BVC’s business development manager Chris Dolley agrees. “This is the first of more such deals,” he says. “We look forward to making other titles we acquire available at Audible going forward. We want all of our authors to benefit from more exposure to Audible’s engaged and increasingly significant audience of book lovers. ”

“We are delighted to add titles from this strong group of Book View Café authors to the Audible catalog,” said Audible EVP and Publisher Beth Anderson. “Our members, who download an average of 18 books a year, will especially welcome this increased selection among many of their favorite genres.”

About Audible

Audible, Inc., an Amazon.com, Inc. subsidiary (NASDAQ:AMZN), is the leading provider of premium digital spoken audio information and entertainment on the Internet, offering customers a new way to enhance and enrich their lives every day. Audible’s mission is to establish literate listening as a core tool for anyone seeking to be more productive, better informed, or more thoughtfully entertained. Audible content comprises more than 150,000 audio programs from content providers that include leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers, and business information providers. Audible is also the preeminent provider of spoken-word audio products for Apple’s iTunes® Store.

About Book View Café

Book View Café is an author-owned cooperative of over forty professional writers, publishing in a variety of genres including fantasy, romance, mystery, and science fiction. In 2008, BVC launched a website, bookviewcafe.com, initially offering free fiction and gradually moving to selling ebooks of members’ backlist titles, then original titles. The cooperative has gained a reputation for producing high-quality ebooks, and is now moving into print editions. Book View Café may be found online at http://www.bookviewcafe.com.

For more information about BVC, please contact Sue Lange at media.relations@bookviewcafe.com

A stand-alone science fiction novel.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Page count: 319
Publisher: TOR

In 2009 a group of scientists are trying to create the Higgs boson particle for the first time in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Instead, something unexpected happens: every person on Earth blacks out and their consciousness is propelled forward twenty-one years. Unfortunately, that also means that many people are killed or injured when nobody pilots planes or cars but the machines continue on their paths. Some break their necks by simply falling down stairs.

Doctor Lloyd Simcoe is in charge of the experiment which apparently caused the Flashforward. He wants to tell the world that he is responsible, in a way, but his boss is initially against that. Simcoe’s personal life has been turned upside down by his Flashforward: he’s engaged to a wonderful woman whom he loves, Michiko, but in the vision, he saw himself married to another woman. Simcoe believes future is as set in stone as the past, otherwise how could anyone have seen a coherent future? Also, he has to believe that life is predetermined, otherwise he would be personally responsible for all the deaths and the guilt could crush him.

Simcoe’s young partner, Theo Procopides, didn’t see a vision and at first isn’t worried about it. However, he and Michiko put together a website where people can record their Flashforwards and they realize that all of the visions are from the same day and form a coherent picture of the future. With shock, Theo realizes that he will be shot just a day before and he becomes obsessed with trying to find a way to prevent it.

Other people received different visions and interpret them differently. Some see them as immutable future while others see the visions as a warning to change their ways. The characters discuss free will and determination which is the central question of the book.

Most of the characters are scientists at CERN and for the most part they are very analytical about the whole thing. However, there are a couple of things which I wondered almost from the start and which are never answered. Such as, if the people in the future have already lived through the flashforward and know it’s coming, why didn’t they give advice or money tips to themselves? This is even asked in the book but no answer is given. Apparently everything is so wonderful in the future, nobody needs advice?

Also, the chaos which the Flashforward caused is only described minimally and I felt that the characters’ feeling were somewhat muted. Michiko’s daughter dies during the Flashforward but she’s back to work on the next day which I find more than a little cold. Theo’s family doesn’t seem to care that he will be murdered. The focus is on philosophical questions, not on the characters. Yet, I found the premise so fascinating that I read it in just a few days.

The premise is fascinating and I loved the TV-show but the book focuses on different things. The book was written in 1999 and the prediction made about 2009 were, er, interesting. As a translator, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Sawyer predicted that bookstores in 2009 would have automatically translated books in them for print-on-demand printing…

Collects Fantastic Four issues 503-508.

Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Howard Porter, Norm Rapmund

In the previous collection, Unthinkable, the FF banished Doctor Doom into Hell, literally. However, this left Doom’s country Latveria in a bad place. Doom has ruled the country for decades ruthlessly; while he took care of the people, they were like pets to him. The countries surrounding Latveria also want to conquer, er, annex, it.

Reed decides that the situation is his fault. He takes the team to Latveria and at first they simply protect the Latverians from outside threats. However, the team gets to find out the hard way that Doom has been telling his people that the FF are the real threat. Reed decides that the team has to stay and help the Latverians become really free and democratic. The other members aren’t too sure about some of it. Of course, they are happy to destroy Doom’s arsenal of weapons and the Doombots but they aren’t so happy about trying to control an entire country. And Reed seems to be become more and more self-absorbed. The UN aren’t too happy about this, also, and they send out Colonel Fury to lead their troops against the FF.

This was pretty intense story and addresses somewhat the problems of having superheroes (who supposedly defend individual freedoms) in the same world where tyrants rule countries. Also, the FF have lots of internal conflict which is always interesting to see. The story shows off the characters’ different personalities well and I think all of the FF are in character here. And Reed is still treating the others like children, no matter how much he protests this in his letter.

At first the Latverians clearly hate the FF. They think that the FF will set themselves up as the new tyrants and even throw rocks at them. However, their opinions changed completely during this storyline. I think that’s a bit too quick but I guess happened because of the limits of the story arc. The ending changed the FF in lots of interesting ways but some of them were reversed quickly rather than let the FF stay changed.

The third book in the Psi Corps series.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Page count: 257
Publisher: Boxtree

The book starts several years after the end of the B5 series. Bester is now a hunted criminal and the Psi Corps has been terminated but is has been replaced by somewhat similar organizations, one for hunting down the telepathic war criminals and one which seems to work with Earth police organizations. Bester has nothing but contempt for them.

The Psionic Monitoring Commission has sent several people after Bester, but Bester has trained most of them and is able to evade them. However, Bestar has been running for years around the galaxy and comes to the conclusion that it would be easier to hide on Earth, among billions of humans. So, he returns to Paris and promptly finds a small hotel owner who is in trouble with a local gang. At first Bester doesn’t care one whit about the hotel owner, Louise, and just wants to mess with the gang members and ends up helping Louise. However, he accepts Louise’s invitation to stay at the hotel and finds himself falling in love… with a mundane woman. Bester hides in the hotel using a false identity and ends up writing scathing book reviews for a local paper.

Meanwhile, Garibaldi is using his (or rather his wife’s) company’s great wealth trying to track down Bester. At first it looks like he isn’t going to succeed but then he gets information that Bester has a rare disease which only affects telepaths.

Frankly, I found this to be a disappointing ending to the series and to Bester. He has loathed and killed mundanes all of his life so I found it very hard to believe that he would fall in love with a mundane woman, no matter how saintly she might be. And most of the book is about their life together which, unfortunately, wasn’t exciting. Also, we’re only give a few small hints about the Telepath war which is very frustrating. On the other hand, I think Garibaldi and his obsession with Bester was handled very well.

Police detective Girard is a major character in the book and I think he was well portrayed considering the small page count. However, he’s not a B5 character and so I wasn’t interested in him. I think this was my major problem with the book: not enough B5.

The second book in the fantasy series.

Publication year: 2009
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Carol Monda
Running Time: 11 hrs and 50 minutes

The kingdom of Lorindar and the merfolk have had friendly relationship for a long time. Lorindar’s Queen Beatrice takes her new daughter-in-law, Princess Danielle, also known as Cinderella, to the annual meeting with the merfolk, called undine. They are accompanied by masterful swordswoman Talia (also known as the Sleeping Beauty) and Snow (Snow White) who is a sorceress and uses mirror magic.

The undine tribe’s king has died and his daughter Lirea attacks the ship demanding that Queen Bea should return her sister. The crew and the three princess leap to the Queen’s defense. But in the middle of fighting, Lirea stabs the Queen and steals her soul with the magical knife. Lirea and her tribe flees and the princesses try to save the Queen’s life. Back in Lorindar, the royal healer says that the Queen will last only a couple of weeks without her soul. It turns out that the Queen does have Lirea’s sister, Lannadae, but only because the Queen wanted to protect Lannadea from her sister.

In order to heal the Queen, the magic users need Lirea’s knife. The best bet to finding Lirea is her sister. Lannadea is eager to help the Queen, but she’s somewhat timid after being shut into an underground cave for a year. However, Lannadea knows where her grandmother Morvean is. Morvean has made the knife so she could be really helpful. The three princesses and Lannadea sail on a quest to find Lirea. Lorindar’s other ships are defending the country against undine attacks and Danielle’s husband Armand leads the fleet.

I enjoyed this book as much as the previous one even though this book darker in tone. All of the three princesses have been abused in the past and carry the scars. Danielle was forced to work by her stepmother and step sisters, and she still feels like a maid, not a princess. She cleans when she’s nervous. Snow was abused by her mother who wanted to make Snow a great sorceress and a vessel for her spirit when her own body started to age. Snow always compares her skills to her mother’s skills and flirts with any handsome man to cover her real feelings. Poor Talia hates fairies and has a very hard time trusting anyone. This time we got a point-of-view from all of the three women and also from Lirea. She is the Little Mermaid familiar from fairy tales but her tale is also a very dark one.

I really enjoyed Hephyra. She’s the captain of the ship where our trio spends most of their time. She’s a dryad and when the elven queen cut down her tree, it was made into a ship, Philippa. She’s very sexual and has a bit different sexual mores than humans. She also wants to be independent but that’s not possible. The ship has been enchanted so that Hephyra has to obey Queen Bea and Hefira resents that. Hephyra is the unquestioned captain of her ship and not shy about telling her opinions.

The plot feels perhaps a bit slow at time but frankly I enjoyed the characters so much that I didn’t care.

The undine have a different culture than any of the humans because of their physiology. They hibernate during the winter and also have a separate mating season. The royals emit a scent in the water and control their underling with that scent. Many of the undine also believe that they don’t have souls and are jealous of humans because of that. Some humans also think of the undine as animals.

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