September 29, 2016
Booking Through Thursday
Last week, the question was:
In real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. But how about books? Does where a book is set affect your reading choices? Are you more or less likely to read books set in places you know or love?
Yes and no. 🙂 I love and “know” Babylon 5 and the Enterprise-D, not to mention Chalion, Dragaera, Ankh-Morpok, and many others) and I’m likely to read novels set in them. But I’m less likely to read books set in Finland where I live.
In SF and fantasy I’m attracted to places which aren’t real and sometimes can’t be, (although I’m hoping we will get starships, large space stations, and settlements on other planets in the future).
But I also read historical mystery and there the setting, and time, definitely influce my choices. Most of all I enjoy ancient world: Rome, Greece, Egypt. I’d love to read about ancient China and Japan and India if anyone can recommend books from then.
I’d love to read more books set in Venice.
An off-shoot from last week’s question: Do you read books from places you DON’T know and haven’t been as a substitute for actually travelling there?
A little bit, yes. I’d love to travel to all those ancient sites (and Venice!) but don’t have the money. (Traveling to Venice is actually possible. It’s the staying which would cost a lot.)
September 28, 2016
The first book in an SF duology but can be read as a stand-alone. Part of the Women in Scifi storybundle I bought last year.
Publication year: 2004
Format: ebook, epub
Page count: 317
The Earth is crumbling under wars and environmental damage. Some people want to leave it. The Mira Corporation has built a ship which will take humans to an alien planet which should be able to sustain human life. Various groups have bought their way into the ship: a group of international scientists, a group of people who want to return to nature and are calling themselves Cheyenne (although they’re not Native Americans), a group of New Quakers who can’t stand the violence on Earth, a group of Chinese, a family of deposed Saudi royalty, and others. About 6 000 people. Jake Holman is the chairman of Mira Corporation and he’s going, too. The trip is one-way and most of the humans will be sleeping through it. While only seven years pass for the passengers, over seventy years pass on Earth before the ship reaches the planet dubbed Greentrees.
Only long range probes have inspected the planet, but the area where the humans will be going should be temperate. But when they get to the planet, a surprise is waiting for them: a small group of aliens. Humans have never met aliens anywhere so they’re very excited. However, the aliens live in small huts and don’t respond to the humans at all. But then, the humans find another group of seemingly the same alien species. But they attack humans. The surprises don’t stop there, either.
The story is told through the eyes of three people: Jake Holman, the CEO who is in charge of the expedition, Gail Culter, Jake’s second in command, and Dr. William Shipley, a medical doctor and the leader of the pacifist Quakers. All of them have their own problems. Jake is haunted by a dark secret in his past. He used to be a lawyer and is an excellent manipulator. Gail was born into a family of scientists but realized early that she had no interest in science. Instead, she’s an administrator and a no-nonsense type. She’s also a lesbian and her lover died before this trip. Shipley’s adult daughter hates him but has come along for the journey. Shipley is very worried about her but doesn’t know how to talk to her. Unfortunately, none of them were very appealing to me. They also don’t get much character development.
The best part of the book were the aliens. They were very interesting and different from usual aliens.
The various groups get along pretty well, mostly because they know that they have to rely on each other and no other help is coming. However, there are some conflicts, too, but they’re on the level of individuals instead of communities. I found this a bit strange at time, considering how different the various groups are.
The crew of the ship were Swiss mercenaries and they’re expected to act as police on the planet. They’re military and keep themselves away from the others. In fact, all of the characters are really only interested in their own specialty: Gail would even stop listening to other people when they talked about science stuff and she isn’t even interested in the aliens, the team’s main biologist is only interested in biological stuff, and physicist is only interested in ships etc.
The book has some science it in, mostly around space ship drives, but not too much. When the scientists start talking science the POV character either leaves or stops listening. This felt quite strange to me, especially when the survival of the person in question depended on the science but is a way to cut down science aspects for the reader.
This was a bit of mixed bag for me. I enjoyed a lot the exploration and aliens but there were some elements I didn’t like as much and none of the characters really appealed to me.
Crossfire doesn’t end in a cliffhanger. In fact, it can be read as a stand-alone but some things are left open.
September 25, 2016
Rowena Cory Daniells has written several great epic fantasy series which I’ve enjoyed a lot. Today she’s here to talk about her King Rolen’s King series and has exciting news:
As a writer, you never know when a small scrap of information will wedge itself in the vault of your mind and one day prove useful.
Back when I first left school I had a secondhand book shop. This was the perfect environment for an avid reader. In the days when the average novel was around 50,000 words I used to read a book in the morning, one in the afternoon and another after dinner. Reading at this rate meant there were days when I simply couldn’t find a book (even in a bookstore and even with very eclectic tastes).
Faced with this dilemma I would prowl the shelves looking for obscure interesting things. At the bottom of a shelf was a stack of dusty National Geographic magazines. Long before the days of the internet, this mag took the reader into homes and work places across the world. I’ve always been fascinated by people and how they live. I guess it is part of being a writer — that drive to understand why people do what they do. And then there were the photos. Unlike most writers I’m visually oriented so the photographs and illustrations in glorious colour fed that side of me.
Back in those days I devoured all the National Geographic magazines that made their way into my shop, including old black and white copies which I regarded as ‘time capsules’. What I didn’t realise was that my search for the obscure and interesting was laying down a rich groundwork for the books I would eventually write.
Sometimes a picture was enough to inspire me. This particular National Geographic cover struck chord with me.
I only ever saw it once and didn’t save the magazine but the feel of the photo remained with me and I used the boy’s style of clothing for the Utlanders in King Rolen’s Kin. (Turns out this was very appropriate since he was a Norwegian Lapp).
Because I couldn’t remember the year or month, I thought I would never find the image again. And I wouldn’t, if I hadn’t been wandering through a thrift store with my sister. (I love thrift stores, but that is another blog post). Sitting on the end of a rack, cover out, was this issue of National Geographic. And they were selling it for only one dollar. Naturally, I grabbed it and went over to the counter where I discovered all reading material was 50% off so I reclaimed a cherished image for only 50 cents. Made my day.
Then there were the first-hand accounts that I found particularly interesting. At the time I didn’t realise that this kind of research is called going to the primary source.
Back when I was a child I read an account of how a man and his two children were walking in a US national park when a snow storm came up suddenly. He built a snow cave and the children survived. In this case there were no photos and I had to research to find out about snow caves. But the idea that you could survive extreme conditions by building a snow cave stayed with me and I used it in King Rolens Kin. When the first book opens it is midwinter and Byren builds snow caves to camp while travelling.
Snow cave from Adventure Out
The King Rolen’s Kin series covers from midwinter to midsummer so it ranges from snow covered fields where Byren skates on canals and lakes to fetch help when his father’s kingdom is invaded, to the midsummer celebration when Byren hopes to reclaim the throne.
The KRK series has had a good run since it was first released with these beautiful illustrations by Clint Langley. I was surprised and delighted when my publisher contacted me to say they were going to re-release the KRK series to launch their Solaris Classics line.
These books have touched many readers who have reached out to me. And I think this is, in part, due to my fascination with the obscure and interesting. (Here’s what Mervi thought of the first book.)
Yes, I love fantasy. Yes, I love a rollicking tale. But I also love the obscure and interesting details that stick in your mind.
I hope the launch of the Solaris Classics line will enable King Rolen’s Kin to reach new readers.
The King’s Bastard on Kindle
The King’s Bastard Solaris Classic edition
September 24, 2016
A stand-alone time travel story.
Publication year: 2014
Running time: 12 hours and 8 minutes
Narrator: Peter Kenny
Harry August is born with the ability to live his life over and over. The first time he’s born, he doesn’t know it, of course. But when he’s born the second time, he thinks that he’s going mad and quickly kills himself in an insane asylum. The third time, he starts to sort of adjust to it.
Harry August is born on New Year’s Day 1919, in Leeds. He’s an illegitimate child, born of rape. His mother dies in the childbirth and he’s raised by foster parents. But he doesn’t know about his real mother until in later lives. He chooses different paths in different lives so he ends ups married to different people (the very few times he does get married), sometimes serving in the army and sometimes not. The chapters are rather brief and jump around to different lives. There’s not really a linear plot at all until near the end.
I enjoyed this book and the rambling style of jumping from event to event and from life to life but it’s certainly not to everyone’s taste. There are also some problems with how the time travel is presented. Because Harry isn’t the only one who does this. Yet, he and all the others seem to live different lives pretty much every time. Anyone who is interested in time travel probably knows what sort of hideous problems that would create. None of them are seen here. Also, the others seem to have gone through this loop many, many times before Harry is born which also seems, er, strange. You see, Harry at least claims to remember every life he’s ever lived. And for Harry time resets when he dies. However, the “loopers” don’t all die at the same time. So just what, or whose, reality are they living? I also really didn’t care for the multiple uses of torture.
So, I enjoyed this story as long I didn’t really think about the underlying assumptions or how things are supposed to work. Oh and the time travel aspect is never explained.
September 21, 2016
Technically the second book in the series, but doesn’t have any of the first book’s characters.
Publication year: 1995
Page count: 416
Vree and Bannon are sister and brother. They’re also the best assassins in the Havakeen Empire’s army. When the Emperor needs to get rid of rebel leaders or traitors, the generals send Vree and Bannon. But when they’re sent to kill rebelling Governor Aralt, something goes wrong. Vree discovers Bannon in an old man’s body – Aralt’s body. It seems impossible but Vree knows her brother. Aralt is dying and the only way to save Bannon’s spirit is for his consciousness to leap into Vree’s body. Vree allows it and together they agree to go after Bannon’s body which is now occupied by Aralt’s spirit. Unfortunately, that makes them deserters and if someone in the army realizes that Vree and Bannon have “deserted their duty”, assassins will be on their tail.
Meanwhile, two bards from Shkoder are invited guests in the capital. There are no bards in the Halvakeen and the nature spirits, the kigh, are alien to them. However, the two bards realize that kigh are terrified of being captured. The bards have no idea what is going on but investigate. Also, the youngest royal prince has a crush on one the bards, Karlene, and she tries to convince him that she isn’t the right person for him.
The book has an intriguing concept with Vree and Bannon in the same body. They’re always been close but quite soon this much closeness becomes too much. They’re both determined to get Bannon’s body back but soon they’re forced to work with the body stealer. Enemies forced to work together is a troupe I’ve always enjoyed and I really liked it here, too. However, I didn’t care for the romance aspect at all but it didn’t overwhelm the story. Also, there’s an incestuous vibe with the siblings and I didn’t care for that, either. Vree is apparently sexually attracted to her brother and Bannon wants to keep Vree dependent on her. So, not the healthiest relationship to begin with.
In this book, too, Huff uses a lot of quick point-of-view shifts but they weren’t as disorienting as in the first book. Karlene is a bard in her thirties: she’s inquisitive like all bards and determined to do her duty. We get to know the backstory of the body stealer and I suppose we should sympathize with him. But I don’t. Because he usually kills the spirit of the person whose body he takes over. He left Bannon alive only because his former body was poisoned and dying.
While Havakeen isn’t the same place culturally as Shkoder, bisexuality and same-sex partners are just as approved here as in the first book. Women in the army or as guards are also completely normal. They have several apparently competing religions but we’re not told much about them. Bannon and Vree follow the goddess of war, Jiir, but they aren’t ardent followers, more out of necessity.
Once again we have a lot of point-of-view characters. The actual bad guy is surprisingly sympathetic and at the same time chilling and creepy, which was great. He and Karlene were my favorites in this book.
The ending isn’t a cliffhanger but it leaves a lot of things open. I don’t have the next book, though.
September 18, 2016
A short story collection about… the end of the world.
Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook, epub
Page count: 252
Publisher: WMG publishing
As you might expect, these are pretty intense stories. All of them are emotional, one way or another. I’m actually not a huge fan of apocalypse stories, except for Terminator movies (and in them, it’s about avoiding the end of the world) but most of these I liked. Most of them are chilling stories, one way or another. When society’s rules break down, some people will only think of themselves but fortunately not all. Otherwise, humanity wouldn’t have evolved to have a society at all. This seems to be something that people are forgetting these days.
I think every story ends the world in a different way. I’m not entirely sure if I should enjoy the creativity or find it chilling.
The stories have been divided into several parts: just before the Apocalypse, the beginning of it, during it, surviving after it, and three stories which describe the whole thing.
Waiting for Apocalypse:
“String of Pearls” by Eric Kent Edstrom: The world has just heard that comets will strike the Earth and end human life. Lucas Piper and his girlfriend Vicki are among them. Lucas regrets not doing anything meaningful with his life. When they go to get more beer from the local small shop, they find out that the elderly shopkeeper has been murdered. Lucas decides to do something.
“The Shoes I Wore This Morning” by J. Daniel Sawyer: Lord Phineas Roxton Summerlee has just returned from an expedition where he and his small party were looking for a city of gold from the Amazons. The locals warned him away from it, but he didn’t listen.
The Beginning of the End
“The Dust Devil, the Riffraff, and the Big Orange Sunset” by Valerie Brook: Charlene Lynn Weaver is a patient on a psych ward. She and all the others have been locked up and nobody has come in the morning to care for them. Dust storms rage outside and the fine dust has filtrated inside so it’s not possible to leave the building. Charlene is one of the few people who know what’s really going on.
“Goin’ to the Chapel” by Rebecca M. Senese: In just three days, Marlee is going to get the perfect wedding she’s dreamed about since she was a little girl. Unfortunately, that’s the day when aliens invade Earth.
“With Wings the End” by Rob Vagle: The world is dying because people’s hearts are turning into blackbirds and flying away. The birds have mirrored bellies and fly in tight formation. Jeffrey wants to stay in his house, away from danger but his wife Laura wants to meet her friend whose heart is changing soon. On the way to the hospital, Laura also contracts the disease (or whatever it is) and Jeffrey brings her home to die.
Amidst the Apocalypse
“Cogs in the Machine” by Paul Eckheart: The Tickers have wiped out much of humanity but the survivors defend the remaining settlements. Tania wants to be part of Major Townsend’s village but she has a secret which might destroy her or save humanity.
“The Faerie Invasion” by Anthea Sharp: Ric Garcia is trying to protect his little sister from murderous fey folk who have invaded all of USA. But Angelina is sick and Ric doesn’t know what to do. Then the Wild Hunt come to their hiding place.
“Demon-touched” by Travis Heermann: Something infests or possesses humans. When they’re “ridden” (as it’s called) they do terrible things but don’t remember any of it afterwards. The narrator is a neuroscientist and one of the few who is still looking for a cause and a cure. But this time he awakes from “being ridden” in a cage with a shotgun in front of his face.
Survivors: Apocalypse came years ago but some survived it and have to continue living in a drastically changed world. This is perhaps my favorite setting for an Apocalypse story.
“Same Time Next Year” by M. E. Owen: 15 years ago something changed many people into Beasts. Still, Arlene’s family has a tradition to gather and celebrate their continued existence. But now they’re late and Arlene is worried for them.
“The Story That Has to Be Written” by Louisa Swann: A giant solar flare has wiped out a lot of humanity and made the whole planet much drier. The narrator, who is seven years old, her little brother, and father are still struggling to survive in a world where food is hard to come by because most of plant life can’t grow and most of the animals are gone.
“Tyrph Rights” by David Stier: USA is a wasteland thanks to genetic engineering gone wrong. Today, Devin and his new partner Rahel are going to try to get inside the Loop – the dangerous remains of the Sears Tower.
From start to finish:
“Paradox. Lost.” by Stefon Mears: The narrator has invented a time machine and it turns out to be a big mistake. Time travel doesn’t work like any of the theories.
“The Night of Brahma” by Leigh Saunders: Reina Varela Harrak can see the future but it hasn’t brought her happiness because only rarely have people believed what she has told them. Including her own family. Partly because they’re struggling to survive in the horrors of the Endless War.
“Three Degrees Above Zero” by Doug Dandridge: Scott Stafford was an astronomy teacher in Florida. Now, he might be the last man left alive on Earth because of a neutron star. The most science oriented story in this selection.
September 16, 2016
Collects CSI: Crime Investigation – Serial issues 1-5.
Writer: Max Allan Collins
Artist: Gabriel Rodriquez, Ashely Wood
Forensic Research, Plot Assist: Matthew V. Clemens
Publisher: Titan Books
Publishing year: 2004
This is a comics miniseries based on the original CSI TV-show. It uses most of the same techniques as the show and has the same characters: Gil Grissom, Catherine Willows, Nick Stoakes, Sara Sidle, Warrick Brown, and Captain Brass. Set in Las Vegas, the comic starts with philosophical musing about Vegas. Like in the show, the comic has two plots.
In the primary plot, someone is killing prostitutes and on the second grisly crime scene Gil realizes that the killer is imitating Jack the Ripper. Unfortunately, there’s a Ripper convention going on, so there’s no shortage of suspects. In the second plot, a young woman’s body is found in a dumpster behind the Majestic casino. Sara and Warren investigate that.
The comic focuses on the cases and the characters get no real chance to shine. The most humor is found on the scenes where Warrick and Sara have to go through garbage and compare the killers to human garbage. The Ripper con could have given a chance to interview several suspects but that’s not used. The con is mostly an excuse to show cleavage shots.
The art is ok. The murder flashbacks are painted in a different and startling style from the rest. The collection has also interviews from three actors on the show.
An ok read aimed, of course, for the fans.
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