Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: Children of Time

Title: Children of Time
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Pages: 600
ISBN: 9781447273301
Publisher: Tor
Published: 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age—a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare. Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time weaves a fascinating tale of truly epic scope. Spanning the depths of time there are two very distinct storylines at play. The first follows the last remnants of humanity on board the colony ship Gilgamesh as they trace the ruins of their long lost ancestors in search of a world where they can start anew. The second follows the newly uplifted inhabitants of Kern’s World, a terraformed planet, as they shape a future for themselves.

Time is the most powerful force at work in the novel and it is used to tremendous effect. For the humans on board the Gilgamesh it results in entropy and decay. As their ship deteriorates and the cryonics keeping them alive slowly break down there is a growing desperation and urgency to find a new world to call home. This fractures their shipboard society leading to conflict and turmoil. For the non-human inhabitants of Kern’s World the passage of time means the opposite – an endless future of opportunity and discovery as they grow not only in intelligence but also in technological aptitude. Soon they are the ones reaching for the stars in wonder.

When these two societies finally collide the inevitable conflict has all the hallmarks of a desperate last stand that will have you on the edge of your seat. The conclusion is powerful, satisfying and unexpected. Perfect in so many ways, it simply blew me away and left a warm afterglow for days afterward.

The world-building is wonderfully intricate and imaginative. Tchaikovsky manages to take our phobias and allow us to see them in an entirely different light. Throughout the novel my sympathies quickly shifted to the uplifted spiders. As each generation grew more and more fascinating I grew increasingly attached to them and their society. By the end I was firmly rooting for the space spiders to kick some human ass.

To say that I loved Children of Time would be a huge understatement. It had everything I love in a space opera: epic scope, staggering timelines, advanced technology, alien creatures and most importantly a huge sense of wonder. The only issue I had was with the pacing. Towards the middle there are some events on the Gilgamesh that didn’t much interest me at all, and could have easily been condensed into a more compact form. While Adrian Tchaikovsky might be better known for his fantasy work Children of Time proves he is also a deft hand when it comes to science fiction and easily ranks him among the best science fiction authors I’ve read. It’s no wonder that this won the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award. Truly a remarkable story with startling, awe-inspiring implications and an intricately woven narrative. Definitely not to be missed!

While this was a standalone novel it left me craving more. Near the end I kept putting off reading the final chapters because I wanted it to last longer. I would absolutely love to see more of this universe. Hopefully we’ll get to see a sequel someday. I’ll be all over it like a jumping spider stalking prey...

The Verdict:
Children of Time is an astounding space opera that will have you re-evaluate your allegiance to humanity. It’s fascinating and terrifying in equal measure with a truly fantastic ending. Space spiders have never been more captivating. You have to read this!

The Rating: 9 (Excellent!)

Monday, May 22, 2017

New Arrivals: More Books

While I haven't been reading all that much the last couple of weeks that hasn't stopped me from buying more books. You can never have too many books right?

Tracer and Zero-G by Rob Boffard
The Fireman by Joe Hill
Hawk Queen by David Gemmell

The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I'm not sure when I'll read these, but I WILL read them!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cover Reveal: Forbidden Suns

Orbit has just unveiled the cover for Forbidden Suns, the third and final book in D. Nolan Clark's Silence trilogy. I loved Forsaken Skies and will definitely try to get my hands on the rest of the series as soon as the final book is released in October.

FORBIDDEN SUNS by D. Nolan Clark
ISBN: 9780356507552
Release date: 19 October 2017
Pre-order a copy from The Book Depository

In the cold of space, the fire of revenge still burns.

Aleister Lanoe has been on a mission since before he can remember. Honing his skills as a fighter pilot and commander through three centuries of constant warfare, he has never met a foe he cannot best.

But now he faces a mission which may be his last: take vengeance on the alien race who has coldly and systematically erased all the sentient life in its path.

In all his years at war, the stakes have never been higher.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Favourite SFF Cover Art

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but we all know that the first thing that draws you to a book is the cover. Striking cover art can often sway my book buying decisions. If a book has a beautiful cover I'm far more likely to grab a physical copy (even if I already own the ebook copy). I'm a sucker for beautiful cover art.

So here, in no particular order, is a tiny sample of covers I love.

I absolutely adore all the covers Jon Sullivan did for Neal Asher's novels. Quite honestly this entire post could consist only of his cover art...

When Jon Sullivan stopped doing the artwork for Neal Asher's books I thought all was lost, but the cover Adam Burns did for the US edition of Infinity Engine restored my hope. Stunning and dynamic in equal measure. I hope he gets to do more covers for Asher's work.

On the fantasy front I really enjoy the covers for Fran Wilde's Bone Universe series by Tommy Arnold. This is how I imagined the look and feel of the world when I read the book and his covers manages to capture it perfectly.

I have to give huge kudos to South African cover artist Joey Hi-fi. His work is simply incredible (especially coming from a country where Acacia trees on covers are viewed as the height of cover art). His cover for Broken Monsters is superb.

And lastly a very honourable mention must go to the absolutely distinctive artwork of Chris Foss. His art adorns many classic science fiction novels and for some reason I really enjoy his style.

I could go on and on, but to prevent this post from morphing into an infinite gallery of awesome covers I love I'd better stop here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

On My Radar: Wrath

Today sees the publication of Wrath, the final installment in the Faithful and the Fallen quartet by John Gwynne. The series has been compared to the likes of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and by all accounts it seems to live up to that potential and then some! The big difference is that this series is now complete, which means I can unreservedly jump into this fantasy world knowing that there won't be a lengthy wait to see how everything turns out. I can't wait to get my hands on this series.

WRATH by John Gwynne
ISBN: 9781447259701
Release date: 4 May 2017
Order a copy

It’s time to brave the final battle

King Nathair has seized the fortress at Drassil, and now possesses three of the Seven Treasures. And with Calidus and Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the rest. They will allow him to open a portal to the Otherworld – so Asroth and his demon-horde can break into the Banished Lands and finally become flesh.

Meanwhile Corban has been captured by the Jotun, warrior giants who ride enormous bears into battle. His warband scattered, Corban must make new allies to survive. But can he bond with competing factions of warlike giants? Somehow he must, to counter the threat Nathair represents. His life hangs in the balance – and with it, the fate of the Banished Lands. Truth, courage and loyalty will be tested as never before.

Monday, May 1, 2017

New Arrivals: The Awesome Edition

These past couple of weeks have been hectic at work and for some reason I just couldn't focus on reading. My brain decided it wanted to be a hyperactive, depraved book butterfly on a sugar high, flitting from one book to the next, but not able to settle on one for more than a few minutes. I've started more than 5 books, but none of them managed to keep my attention.

However, that didn't keep me from ordering more books...


Our local publishers/distributors are absolutely amazing and they were kind enough to send me some more review copies.

First up from Pan Macmillan SA:

Infinity Engine by Neal Asher - I've already read and reviewed this and it exceeded all my expectations. A stunning conclusion to the Transformation trilogy. Highly recommended.
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi - One of my most anticipated new releases of the year. I will hopefully get to this very soon.
Skull Sworn by Brian Staveley - An author I've been meaning to try for ages. This is a standalone novel which promises to be a good entry point to his work.

Jonathan Ball Publishers sent me:

The Weight of the World by Tom Toner - This is the second book in a series, so I will first have to track down and read the first before I can get to this one.
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds - A novella by one of my favourite authors. I really loved this. It's astounding how a 200 page novella can contain a fully developed space opera and pack so many themes into such a small package.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

BBC Radio 4's Dramatisation of Voyage

BBC Radio 4 has once again outdone themselves with a brilliant dramatisation of Stephen Baxter's Voyage. In this alternative history of the US space programme we get a glimpse of the future that we never had, but might very well have transpired if history turned out just slightly differently.

The dramatisation brings the events to vibrant life and really makes you yearn for the future that might have been.

The five episodes (roughly 30 minutes each) are available for a limited time, so be sure to check them out. They are definitely well worth a listen!

Listen to the episodes via BBC's iPlayer.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Underrated SFF Novels

In the run-up to the BooktubeSFF Awards there are a bunch of interesting weekly topics, the BooktubeSFF Babbles, to get the SFF community at large discussing all things science fiction and fantasy.

Here are some of my favorite underrated SFF novels. These are the novels that don't quite get the attention I think they deserve.

Prador Moon by Neal Asher
This was my first introduction to Neal Asher's work and the brilliant Polity universe he created. I'm a lifelong fan. Full review.

The Polity Collective is the pinnacle of space-faring civilization. Academic and insightful, its dominion stretches from Earth Central into the unfathomable reaches of the galactic void. But when the Polity finally encounters alien life in the form of massive, hostile, crab-like carnivores known as the Prador, there can be only one outcome — total warfare! Starships clash, planets fall, and space stations are overrun, but for Jebel Krong and Moria Salem, two unlikely heroes trapped at the center of the action, this war is far more than a mere clash of cultures, far more than technology versus brute force... this war is personal.

Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds
One of the best uses of time dilation I've come across in a SF novel which sets the stage for a human colony stranded far away from the home they knew having to face the challenge of establishing a functioning society and surviving with limited resources. A great character-driven story with strong female protagonists. Truly epic in scope.

2057. Bella Lind and the crew of her nuclear powered ship, the Rockhopper, push ice. They mine comets. But when Janus, one of Saturn's ice moons, inexplicably leaves its natural orbit and heads out of the solar system at high speed, Bella is ordered to shadow it for the few vital days before it falls forever out of reach.

In accepting this mission she sets her ship and her crew on a collision course with destiny-for Janus has many surprises in store, and not all of them are welcome...

The Precipice by Ben Bova
A great hard science fiction novel. What stood out was the realistic use of science and that he absolutely gets the vastness of space in the asteroid belt right. Full review.

Once, Dan Randolph was one of the richest men on Earth. Now the planet is spiraling into environmental disaster, with floods and earthquakes destroying the lives of millions.

Randolph knows the energy and natural resources of space can save Earth's economy, but the price may be the loss of the only thing he has left - the company he founded, Astro Manufacturing. The Asteroid Wars have begun.

Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds
Yes, Reynolds makes the list twice. If you like human space exploration you'll love this. With one of the best introductions I adored this optimistic view of humanity's future in space. Full review.

One hundred and fifty years from now, in a world where Africa is the dominant technological and economic power, and where crime, war, disease and poverty have been banished to history, Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey's family, the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans. After the death of Eunice, Geoffrey's grandmother, erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur, something awkward has come to light on the Moon, and Geoffrey is tasked - well, blackmailed, really - to go up there and make sure the family's name stays suitably unblemished. But little does Geoffrey realise - or anyone else in the family, for that matter - what he's about to unravel.

Poison City by Paul Crilley
Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel this is a pure twisted reading delight. Featuring an alcoholic spirit guide in the form of a talking dog this is one kickass read! Full review.

The name's Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things - finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I'm going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone's mother than a cop. Don't let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he's a mean drunk.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review: Infinity Engine

Title: Infinity Engine
Author: Neal Asher
Pages: 464
ISBN: 9781597808897
Series: Transformation #3
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Published: 21 March 2017
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Opera
Source: eARC from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository (US edition)
The Book Depository (UK edition)

In the outskirts of space, and the far corners of the Polity, complex dealings are in play. Several forces continue to pursue the deadly and enigmatic Penny Royal, none more dangerous than the Brockle, a psychopathic forensics AI and criminal who has escaped the Polity's confinements and is upgrading itself in anticipation of a deadly showdown, becoming ever more powerful and intelligent. Aboard Factory Station Room 101, the behemoth war factory that birthed Penny Royal, groups of humans, alien prador, and AI war drones grapple for control. The stability of the ship is complicated by the arrival of a gabbleduck known as the Weaver, the last living member of the ancient and powerful Atheter alien race. What would an Atheter want with the complicated dealings of Penny Royal? Are the Polity and prador forces playing right into the dark AI's hand, or is it the other way around? Set pieces align in the final book of Neal Asher's action-packed Transformation trilogy, pointing to a showdown on the cusp of the Layden's Sink black hole, inside of which lies a powerful secret, one that could destroy the entire Polity.

Infinity Engine is the final installment in the Transformation trilogy and what a conclusion it is. Wow! Just wow! I ended up reading this till well past midnight and my mind is still left reeling from the experience. In the best possible way.

Watching Penny Royal's intricate machinations unfold is like trying to assemble an ever-evolving 4D puzzle while blindfolded with one hand tied behind your back. Up until the last third of the novel you are never quite sure whether Penny Royal is a force for good or evil. It's only when all the set pieces are moved into place for a tense, breathtaking showdown that you discover the true brilliance of what the AI is attempting to do.
"This was about redemption, about forgiveness, about a need to be understood"
The process of transformation is finally brought to completion, not only for Penny Royal but also for all the characters that crossed its path; for some in the most unexpected ways. The end result is a universe irrevocably altered, transformed into something new with far-reaching implications that will leave you reeling under their impact. Neal Asher has absolutely outdone himself!

The Verdict:
Infinity Engine is a stunning conclusion to the Transformation series. It has all the hallmarks of a Neal Asher novel - devastating technology, massive space battles and stellar destruction on the grandest of scales, but it's also a far more intimate story of growth, redemption and forging your own identity. There are a lot of intricate layers at play in the superbly woven narrative; the myriad transformations will leave you both satisfied and utterly intrigued with the implications for the Polity universe at large. A mind-blowingly brilliant read!

The Rating: 8/10 (Great!)

Thanks to Bri from Night Shade Books for the review copy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review: Forsaken Skies

Title: Forsaken Skies
Author: D. Nolan Clark
Pages: 570
ISBN: 9780356507477
Series: The Silence #1
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 6 September 2016
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Opera
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

After centuries of devastating interplanetary civil war, mankind has found a time of relative peace.

That peace is shattered when an unknown armada emerges from the depths of space, targeting an isolated colony planet. As the colonists plead for help, the politicians and bureaucrats look away. But battle-scarred Commander Aleister Lanoe will not abandon thousands of innocents to their fate.

What would you get if you cross Top Gun with Firefly? I imagine the end result is bound to be something like the brilliant Forsaken Skies by D. Nolan Clarke. A motley crew of pilots are called back into action by their old commander to defend a colony on the outskirts of civilization against attacks by a mysterious foe. The interstellar corporations in charge just don’t care about the colony or their backwater planet; its economic value is negligible and protecting the lives of the colonists just doesn’t make economic sense. Profit comes first. Always. Commander Lanoe and his crew are their only hope, but even they might not be up to the task.

From the very first page Forsaken Skies just draws you in with an action-packed narrative that keeps growing in scope as the tangled webs are sculpted into a cohesive whole. The characters are engaging, if not particularly likeable and they all come with their own particular brand of baggage. Lenoe is a grizzled, world-weary veteran tired of life and war. Auster Maggs is a cocky conman trying to live up to his father’s illustrious military legacy while working every angle to enrich himself. Thom is a lost teenager whose world has been turned upside down after learning the truth of his existence. He tries desperately to find a place in the universe while coming to grips with the aftermath of his actions. Ehta lives with a trauma so severe she has lost her ability to fly, the very thing that defined her life. And lastly there is Tannis Valk a former foe of Lanoe’s who suffered severe burns during the previous war while fighting on the losing side.

The tension steadily builds as the true nature of the enemy is slowly revealed culminating in a nail-biting space battle where the severely outnumbered squadron of pilots battle against seemingly insurmountable odds. The ending is heart-wrenching with enough twists along the way to keep you on your toes. As the first novel in a series Forsaken Skies works very well to prepare the groundwork for some fascinating things to come while still providing enough closure to make it a satisfying read on its own.

While I didn’t care all that much about Lenoe I adored Tannis Valk and his arc was definitely the most interesting, but saying anything more would be venturing into the realm of spoilers. Suffice it to say that I can’t wait to discover more. At times Forsaken Skies does suffer from some pacing issues, but it’s still a solid start to a gripping space opera that completely drew me in. If the series manages to build on the groundwork already established we are definitely in for a treat!

The Verdict:
Forsaken Skies is a compelling space opera where you can get completely swept up in the story for hours on end. While it might not offer anything particularly revolutionary it is still a damn good read with loads of promise for what is still to come. After turning the last page I was left in the warm afterglow of a good story well told. And who can ask for more than that? Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8/10 (Great!)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

Monday, March 13, 2017

New Arrivals: A Small Haul

While technically still part of my February book buying binge these only arrived earlier this month. Most of the books are part of different series I'm busy collecting.

I finally have all the books in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, although these newer editions don't quite match the first four I own and I'm not very fond of the "Soon to be a major picture" bit on the covers. I also picked up Neal Asher's War Factory. The original plan was to give it a quick re-read before Infinity War goes on sale, but the timing didn't quite work out.

Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools was on sale so I had to pick it up. Not quite sure what it's about, but I'll find out. Eventually.

And lastly there's The Lazarus War: Origins by Jamie Sawyer. I really enjoyed the first book in the series and had to pick up the second and third book. Unfortunately I ended up ordering the US edition of Origins by mistake which came in the weirdest format I've ever seen. It's the width of a MMPB, but much higher; some weird B-format/MMPB hybrid that doesn't quite fit into either category. At least the content is still the same!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Review: The Stars Are Legion

Title: The Stars Are Legion
Author: Kameron Hurley
Pages: 396
ISBN: 9780857666611
Publisher: Angry Robot
Published: 2017
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Opera
Source: Purchased

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is travelling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution. As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion. Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation - the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan's new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion's gravity well to the very belly of the world. Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion's destruction - and its possible salvation.

The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley is space opera unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Set on, living organic world-ships, the novel is gross, unsettling, unrelenting and utterly glorious. It deals with life in all of its messy glory. Power lies in flesh, the very lifeblood of the Legion is its people who are used, discarded and recycled in an endless cycle of birth and rebirth where every scrap of meat needs to be retained in order to sustain the closed system. But the decaying world-ships are dying; their fate rests in the hands of Zan, a woman who wakes without memory. Thrust into this unfamiliar world, she has to uncover the truth and the path to salvation for both herself and the Legion as a whole.

Told in the first person from the alternating viewpoints of two main characters Zan and Jayd the story manages to pull you in from the start. For the first third of the novel everything is a bewildering confusion as, like the main protagonist, you are thrust into a completely unfamiliar world while slowly being fed bits of information; information that might be less than trustworthy.
“How awful to lose your knowledge of your world, but to lose knowledge of the universe? The loss overwhelms me.” (p 104)
As Zan slowly uncovers parts of her memory the confusion subsides and the pieces slowly slot into place revealing the truly fascinating world-building on display. The worlds of the Legion are complex, many layered things, both in physical structure and in the social and political machinations at play.

While I enjoyed Zan as a character one of the secondary characters, Casimar, just stole the show. I loved her snark and stubborn worldview which provided some much needed comic relief in an unforgiving world.

The plot ends up being a fairly straightforward story of love, betrayal and revenge, but it’s the journey and the far-reaching revelations imparted along the way that ends up being the most important thing. The powerful message that women control their own bodies and have the right to decide their own destiny is the message our society so desperately needs, especially now.
“What is freedom?” Arankadash says. “It is control of the body, and its issue, and one’s place in the world.” (p 318).
“When you understand what the world is, you have two choices: Become part of that world and perpetuate that system forever and ever, unto the next generation. Or fight it, and break it, and build something new." (p 215)
The ending does not provide all the answers, but it’s a satisfying conclusion that leaves you with a smattering of hope for a far better future. I would gladly read more novels set in this universe, but as a standalone novel it works really well. Kameron Hurley has certainly dealt a deathblow to the notion that females are the weaker sex. These lesbians in space are totally badass!

While I thoroughly enjoyed The Stars are Legion there is one thing that bugs me – the magical restoration of one of Zan’s companions after suffering a near fatal accident. The only explanation given is that a jinni saved her. It doesn’t really make much sense and seems to be a contrived deus ex machina solution in an otherwise intricately plotted story.

The Verdict:
The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley is space opera unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Set on, living organic world-ships, the novel is gross, unsettling, unrelenting and utterly glorious. It carries a strong social message and deals a deathblow to the notion that females are the weaker sex. These women are brutal, devious and totally badass. Be warned though, this is definitely not a tale for the squeamish.

The Rating: 7.5 / 10 (Very good!)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cover Reveal: The Best Horror of the Year Volume Nine

Behold the absolutely creeptastic cover for The Best Horror of the Year Volume Nine edited by Ellen Datlow.

edited by Ellen Datlow

ISBN: 9781510716667
Release date: 20 June 2017
Pre-order a copy

With each passing year, science, technology, and the march of time shine light into the craggy corners of the universe, making the fears of an earlier generation seem quaint. But this light creates its own shadows. The Best Horror of the Year chronicles these shifting shadows. It is a catalog of terror, fear, and unpleasantness as articulated by today’s most challenging and exciting writers.

Table of contents:
  • Nesters - Siobhan Carroll
  • The Oestridae - Robert Levy
  • The Process is a Process All its Own - Peter Straub
  • The Bad Hour - Christopher Golden
  • Red Rabbit - Steve Rasnic Tem
  • It’s All the Same Road in the End - Brian Hodge
  • Fury - DB Waters
  • Grave Goods - Gemma Files
  • Between Dry Ribs - Gregory Norman Bossert
  • The Days of Our Lives - Adam LG Nevill
  • House of Wonders - C.E Ward
  • The Numbers - Christopher Burns
  • Bright Crown of Joy - Livia Llewellyn
  • The Beautiful Thing We Will Become - Kristi DeMeester
  • Wish You Were Here - Nadia Bulkin
  • Ragman Rebecca - Lloyd
  • What’s Out There? - Gary McMahon
  • No Matter Which Way We Turned - Brian Evenson
  • The Castellmarch Man - Ray Cluley
  • The Ice Beneath Us - Steve Duffy
  • On These Blackened Shores of Time -  Brian Hodge

Friday, February 24, 2017

New Arrivals: More glorious books!

This past week has definitely been a week for the books in more ways than one. It has been a tough week at work. Each time I felt at my lowest, as if by magic, I would receive these parcels laden with books. We all know that it's impossible to be sad when there are new books to be read.

The first two parcels to arrive contained two orders I had placed at some local online stores.


I was also fortunate enough to receive not one, but two parcels filled with review copies.

First up from Pan Macmillan SA I received a copy of The Bear and the Serpent by Adrian Tchaikovsky and Fierce Gods by Col Buchanan. Since these are later books in a series I first need to track down the rest before I will be able to review them.

And the amazing folks at Jonathan Ball Publishers ended my week off with this glorious collection of books. I walked around the entire day with a huge grin on my face.

The titles included are Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson, The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington, The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks and Chaos Mage by Stephen Aryan.

Now one question remains - what do I read first?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Title: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 507
ISBN: 9780141042374
Publisher: Hodder
Published: 3 November 2015
Genre: Short Stories / Horror
Source: Purchased

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Stephen King delivers a collection of thrilling stories, introducing each one with a fascinating piece on when, where or how he came to write it. There is a treasure here for every reader: a man who keeps reliving exactly the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again; a columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries; a poignant tale about the end of the human race and a firework competition between neighbours which reaches an explosive climax. And, exclusive to this paperback edition (and the eBook from 6 September), a brand new story 'Cookie Jar'. 'I made them especially for you,' says King. 'Feel free to examine them, but please be careful. The best of them have teeth.'

Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King is a great collection of short stories by a master of the craft. The stories range from creepy, poignant, to the unsettling and bizarre, but always with a twist or unexpected turn along the way. I loved how engaging and utterly vibrant the characters in each story were. King has the ability to bring his characters to life in just a couple of sentences, to make you care for them before their inevitable fate takes its toll. What sets this collection apart is the fact that each story is accompanied by commentary sharing the inspiration behind the story; an interesting, intimate look behind the curtain to see how our nightmares are made.

I loved all the stories in the collection. The standout stories for me were Mile 81, Bad Little Kid, Morality, Ur, Herman Woulk is Still Alive, The Little Green God of Agony and Obits. My undisputed favourite was the story that rounds out the collection, Summer Thunder, a story chronicling the last days after a nuclear holocaust. Considering recent world events it hits far too close to home and might be a terrifying prophetic glimpse into our future if things continue to deteriorate.

If you are new to Stephen King's work this would be a perfect starting point. Constant Readers might have come across most of the previously published works before, but they are all well worth revisiting. The 21 stories collected in Bazaar of Bad Dreams are terrific, haunting delights that will stay with you long after you turn that last page.

It's been two weeks since I finished reading Bazaar of Bad Dreams and I still find myself thinking about the somewhat strangely titled Herman Woulk is Still Alive. I think this might be due to the brilliant juxtaposition used in the heartbreaking story - the two aged poets enjoying the twilight years of their life versus the sharp contrast of the young mothers left hopeless, trapped by their circumstance and falling into a pit of despair so deep that it ultimately leads to devastating tragedy. I guess that earns it the runner-up spot for favourite story in the collection.

The Verdict:
The stories collected in Bazaar of Bad Dreams are terrific, haunting delights that will stay with you long after you turn that last page. This is a perfect read for those dark nights where you come to realise that the monster might be the one hiding under the covers... Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8 (Great!)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cover Reveal: Infinity Engine

I've been holding on to these since last year when they were first unveiled, but with the release date now only a month away it's finally time to showcase them again.  I'm a huge fan of Neal Asher's work and the covers for his novels are always something special.

The covers for Infinity Engine,  the conclusion to the Transformation trilogy, is no exception. This time round the folks at Night Shade Books have pulled out all the stops for the US edition that simply blows their UK counterpart out of the water.  The artwork by Adam Burn is absolutely stunning. I think he might have just dethroned Jon Sullivan as my favourite cover artist.

US edition. Cover art by Adam Burn.

UK edition. Cover art by Steve Stone.

ISBN US edition: 9781597808897
ISBN UK edition: 9780230750753
Release date: 21 March 2017 (US) / 23 March 2017 (UK)

In the outskirts of space, and the far corners of the Polity, complex dealings are in play.

Several forces continue to pursue the deadly and enigmatic Penny Royal, none more dangerous than the Brockle, a psychopathic forensics AI and criminal who has escaped the Polity’s confinements and is upgrading itself in anticipation of a deadly showdown, becoming ever more powerful and intelligent.

Aboard Factory Station Room 101, the behemoth war factory that birthed Penny Royal, groups of humans, alien prador, and AI war drones grapple for control. The stability of the ship is complicated by the arrival of a gabbleduck known as the Weaver, the last living member of the ancient and powerful Atheter alien race.

What would an Atheter want with the complicated dealings of Penny Royal? Are the Polity and prador forces playing right into the dark AI’s hand, or is it the other way around? Set pieces align in the final book of Neal Asher’s action-packed Transformation trilogy, pointing to a showdown on the cusp of the Layden’s Sink black hole, inside of which lies a powerful secret, one that could destroy the entire Polity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cover Reveal: Forgotten Worlds

I absolutely loved Forsaken Skies the first novel in the Silence series by D. Nolan Clark (which reminds me that I actually still need to write that long overdue review). Orbit has revealed the cover for the second novel in the series, Forgotten Worlds and it looks great. I can't wait to get my hands on this one!

Release date: 20 April 2017
ISBN: 9780356507507

The battle is over. But the war has only just begun.

Aleister Lanoe has won a stunning victory against the alien armada that threatened Niraya, but it's not enough to satisfy his desire for vengeance. He won't rest until he's located the armada's homeworld and reduced it to ashes.

Yet his personal vendetta will have to wait. Lanoe now faces a desperate race against time, and the merciless Centrocor corporation, if he's to secure the Earth's future - and discover the truth he seeks.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

BBC Radio 4's Adaptation of Isaac Asimov's I, Robot

BBC Radio 4 has some truly brilliant adaptations of Isaac Asimov's I, Robot. The five dramatised stories chronicle the rise of robotics in the 21st century, told through the eyes of the enigmatic lawyer Stevie Byerley.

The episodes are:
Robbie - As a child, Stevie Byerley is raised by Robbie, a robotic childminder, because her parents are too busy working. The powerful bond she forms with the robot is unbreakable. Their relationship will change the course of Stevie's life.
Reason - After two years recovering from a devastating car crash, Stevie returns to work as a Legal Psychologist. Her first case is to try and reason with a robot that has developed religious delusions and a Messiah complex
Little Lost Robot - The Three Laws of Robotics are sacred because they define the limits of artificial intelligence, tamper with them at your peril. But Stevie finds that's exactly what's happened on a space station where a rogue robot has been reprogrammed and is now AWOL.
Liar - Stevie is urgently summoned to an advanced research lab in Siberia, where a robot has developed the ability to read human minds.
The Evitable Conflict - Stevie enjoys a meteoric rise to political power. Then in a final showdown with her oldest friend Quinn, she reveals the secret that has shaped her life and changed the course of civilisation forever.

They manage to bring the world of Asimov's short stories to vibrant life and at 15 minutes each, they fit into even the busiest schedule. The episodes are available for a limited time, so be sure to listen to them while you can. Trust me you definitely don't want to miss this!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New Arrivals: The Bulk Edition

Over the last month I've purchased loads of books. Buying books has become like comfort eating, only with glorious bookish packages arriving every other day.  I live for that excitement, which is perhaps not the best thing especially for someone who has already run out of shelf space...

Behold. Books, glorious books!

Now to find the time to read them all...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Cover Reveal: All Systems Red & Killing Gravity

I recently stumbled across the covers for two novellas coming out in May and they immediately caught my eye. These are definitely going to be titles worth checking out.

ALL SYSTEMS RED by Martha Wells
Release date: 2 May 2017
ISBN: ISBN: 9780765397522

A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red, a tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that blends HBO's Westworld with Iain M. Banks' Culture books

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Release date: 9 May 2017
ISBN: ISBN: 9780765395085

Mars Xi can kill you with her mind, but she'll need more than psychic powers to save her in Killing Gravity, the thrilling science fiction space adventure debut by Corey J. White.

Before she escaped in a bloody coup, MEPHISTO transformed Mariam Xi into a deadly voidwitch. Their training left her with terrifying capabilities, a fierce sense of independence, a deficit of trust, and an experimental pet named Seven. She’s spent her life on the run, but the boogeymen from her past are catching up with her. An encounter with a bounty hunter has left her hanging helpless in a dying spaceship, dependent on the mercy of strangers.

Penned in on all sides, Mariam chases rumors to find the one who sold her out. To discover the truth and defeat her pursuers, she’ll have to stare into the abyss and find the secrets of her past, her future, and her terrifying potential.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: The Ward

Title: The Ward
Author: S.L. Grey
Pages: 294
ISBN: 9780857895868
Series: Downside #2
Publisher: Corvus
Published: 2012
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Source: Purchased

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Lisa is a plastic surgery addict with severe self-esteem issues. The only hospital that will let her go under the knife is New Hope: a grimy, grey-walled facility dubbed 'No Hope' by its patients.

Farrell is a celebrity photographer. His last memory is a fight with his fashion-model girlfriend and now he's woken up in No Hope, alone. Needle marks criss-cross his arms. A sinister nurse keeps tampering with his drip. And he's woken up blind...

Panicked and disorientated, Farrell persuades Lisa to help him escape, but the hospital's dimly lit corridors only take them deeper underground - into a twisted mirror world staffed by dead-eyed nurses and doped-up orderlies. Down here, in the Modification Ward, Lisa can finally have the face she wants...but at a price that will haunt them both forever.

S.L. Grey’s The Ward preys on our innate fear of infirmity, of being helpless, vulnerable and mortal. What could be worse than waking up in a hospital with no idea how you got there or why you are even there? From the start you get the feeling that something is off about the state of things in New Hope, the hospital where our two main characters, Farrell and Lisa, find themselves and it’s not just because they are in a public hospital with all the overcrowding, lack of resources and apathetic, overworked staff that entails. Someone or something sinister is roaming the halls at night tampering with patients. It soon becomes clear that the hospital isn’t safe. When the unlikely duo try to escape from New Hope they find themselves trapped in the Wards of Downside, a twisted reflection of our own world where horrific experiences are the norm and everything has a price...

At its heart The Ward is a very human-driven horror. The most horrific thing is not the machinations of Downside, but how far the characters are willing to go in order to satisfy their own desires. The ending provides for some gleeful satisfaction as one of the characters get exactly what they deserve. A primo read indeed!

The Verdict:
The Ward is a creepy, unsettling take on the health system and our own obsession with vanity. While it never quite scared me, I found the narrative unsettling and thought-provoking in equal measure. The real impact of the novel is what the twisted world of Downside says about our own. One thing is certain – I’ll never look at hospitals in quite the same way. This is a primo read with some uniquely South African touches thrown in. Definitely recommended!

The Rating: 7.5/10 (Very good)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cover Reveal: Horizon

The cover for the final installment of Fran Wilde's Bone Universe series, Horizon, has been unveiled and it is simply gorgeous! Artist Tommy Arnold really outdid himself.

The covers for the series have really come a long way from that first, quite generic cover for Updraft, which didn't quite manage to capture the feel of the series. The updated covers really does the series much better justice and this fits in brilliantly.

Horizon will be released on 26 September 2017.

Read my review of Updraft, the first novel in the series (it includes the original cover art.)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Shoot For The Moon

At first glance the short film Shoot for the Moon seems whimsical and funny, but its poignant message about space exploration is now more relevant than ever. Let's hope we will never lose our passion and capability for space exploration.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Review: Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing

Title: Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing
Author: Lauren Beukes
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781616962401
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Published: 29 November 2016
Genre: Short Stories
Source: eARC copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

A Punk Lolita fighter-pilot rescues Tokyo from a marauding art installation. Corporate recruits harvest poisonous plants on an inhospitable planet. An inquisitive adolescent ghost disrupts the life of a young architect. Product loyalty is addictive when the brand gets under the skin.

Award-winning Cape Town author and journalist Lauren Beukes (Zoo City, Moxyland, Broken Monsters) spares no targets in this edgy and satiric collection. Ranging from Johannesburg across the galaxy, Beukes is a fierce, captivating presence all across the literary landscape.

Slipping: Stories, Essays & Other Writing collects just over a decade’s worth of short fiction by Lauren Beukes. The 21 short stories and 5 non-fiction essays collected here showcases both her growing talent as author and her keen ability to transform the mundane trappings of the everyday into something unsettling, extraordinary and thought-provoking. Her fiction manages to deal with real issues in unusual and disconcerting ways; Beukes is not afraid to shine a light into the darkness we wilfully try to ignore in order to expose the hard truths hidden in the nooks and crannies of our daily lives. The themes she tackles covers the gamut of modern life - exploitation, the effect of social media on our lives, identity, relationships, censorship and social injustice.

The first story/poem in the collection, Muse, sets the tone of what is to come. In just 65 words Beukes manages to perfectly capture the essence of what it is like to be a writer (or any creative pursuit). Where everything you produce takes a bit of your lifeblood with it into the greater world.
The gloves arrived in the mail in a box lined with tissue paper.
There was no return address.
They were elbow-length. Lace-up. Finest suede.
Muse-skin, the attached note said.
These will get you unblocked, the note said.
It was only when she put them on and sat down to write
That she realized there were fishhooks in the fingertips
That drew blood with every keystroke.
My favourite story in the collection is undoubtedly the title story, Slipping. Competitive athletics is used as a test bed for experimental human augmentations. For the athletes recruited from underprivileged backgrounds it is a chance of a lifetime provided they are willing to push themselves to breaking point. The exploitation of the athletes hidden behind a facade of helpful promoters and concerned doctors is unnerving. Pearl doesn’t quite release that they don’t care as much for her as for the tech she embodies.
“Tomislav twists off the valves on either side, unplugs her stomach and eases it out of her. He sets it in a sterile biobox and connects it to a blood flow. By the time he turns back, she is already spooling up the accordion twist of artificial intestine, like a magician pulling ribbons from his palm. It smells of lab-mod bacteria, with the faintest whiff of feces.”
Other highlights from the collection included:
The Green: Unskilled workers are used as disposable labour to harvest an alien biome. A tautly written science fiction story filled with strange alien life. Dark and gritty with an ending to die for.
Smileys: A protection racket takes an unexpected turn. A beautifully nuanced description of life in post-apartheid South Africa with a keen eye for all the social issues at play.
My Insect Skin: A completely harrowing tale of loss. It will tear your heart to shreds.
Easy Touch: The tables are turned on a 419 scammer. Deservedly so.
Dear Mariana: An obsessed stalker leaves a farewell note to her ex. A simple premise executed expertly to send chills down your spine. Utterly disturbing in the best way possible.
Unaccounted: A chilling take on the treatment of prisoners of war. If the prisoner is an alien do they deserve human rights? Who is accountable for their treatment?
Dial Tone: A sad tale about the lonely desperation of someone trying so desperately to connect.
And lastly there is Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs: A completely bonkers otaku adventure that is an insane homage to anime and Japanese culture. Bizarre and fun!

The inclusion of five non-fiction essays/articles were a rare treat. I’m far more familiar with Lauren Beukes’ fiction so it was interesting to see her more journalistic side. It’s clear that her time as journalist shaped her in many ways, providing her with both the keen observer’s eye and the story ideas that makes her such an accomplished fiction writer.

There are two essays that stood out. All the Pretty Corpses deals with the murder of a family friend and the total failure of the justice system. This tragic incident is what sparked the idea for The Shining Girls – “At least in fiction, unlike real life, you can get justice.” On Beauty: A Letter to My Fiver-Year-Old Daughter ends the collection on a hopeful note with a lesson we should all live by: “Real beauty is engaging with the world. It’s the courage to face up to it, every day. It’s figuring out who you are and what you believe in and standing by that. It’s giving a damn.

The Verdict:
Slipping is a stunning, diverse collection of genre-spanning short fiction by one of South Africa’s best speculative fiction authors. The stories are gritty, disconcerting and thought-provoking. These are stories with impact; stories that will make you think and alter your perspectives. Stories that will make you sit up and take notice. While this might be a slim volume it packs one heck of a punch! If you are a fan of Lauren Beukes then this is an absolute must have.

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...