Monday, 31 October 2016

Books Received in October 2016


Many thanks as always to the publishers and authors who send me books. This is what I received this month:

Toru: Wayfarer Returns by Stephanie Sorensen - I'm part way through this and enjoying it so far.

Revolutionary young samurai with dirigibles take on Commodore Perry and his Black Ships in this alternate history steampunk technofantasy set in 1850s samurai-era Japan. In Japan of 1852, the peace imposed by the Tokugawa Shoguns has lasted 250 years. Peace has turned to stagnation, however, as the commoners grow impoverished and their lords restless. Swords rust. Martial values decay. Foreign barbarians circle the island nation’s closed borders like vultures, growing ever more demanding. Toru, a shipwrecked young fisherman rescued by American traders and taken to America, defies the Shogun’s ban on returning to Japan, determined to save his homeland from foreign invasion. Can he rouse his countrymen in time? Or will the cruel Shogun carry out his vow to execute all who set foot in Japan after traveling abroad? Armed only with his will, a few books, dirigible plans and dangerous ideas, Toru must transform the Emperor’s realm before the Black Ships come. Toru: Wayfarer Returns is an alternate history steampunk technofantasy set in 1850s samurai-era Japan and is the first book in the Sakura Steam Series, an alternate history of the tumultuous period from the opening of Japan in 1853 to the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Readers who enjoy steampunk alternate histories more typically set in Victorian England or the American Wild West may enjoy this steampunk story made fresh by the Japanese samurai setting, as well as readers who enjoy historical fiction set in Japan.

Shame written by Lovern Kindzierski and illustrated by John Bolton - This is a mature graphic novel told through photorealistic watercolours. Review tomorrow.

Collecting all three books in this acclaimed trilogy for the first time. When the purest woman on earth allows herself one selfish thought, it is enough to conceive the most evil woman the world has ever seen. The classic fantasy of good versus evil, mother versus daughter, as Virtue gets the daughter she wished for, Shame, and has to deal with the consequences of releasing this powerful woman to a world ill prepared for her campaign of evil. Also includes the first 10 pages of the first book in the Tales of Hope trilogy, John Bolton's original pencil layouts for the books, an interview with both Lovern and John about the trilogy, and additional background material.

Willful Child: Wrath of Betty by Steven Erikson - This is the second Willful Child novel. I have to admit, I tried the first one and found the humour too low brow for my tastes.

From New York Times bestselling author Steven Erikson comes Willful Child: Wrath of Betty, a new Science Fiction novel of devil-may-care, near calamitous, and downright chaotic adventures through the infinite vastness of interstellar space. These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F.Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the...

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child.

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen series has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an Science Fiction novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.
The Dreaming Hunt by Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin - The second book in a fantasy adventure series.

In Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin's The Sleeping King our intrepid adventurers found the imprisoned echo of a long lost king on the Dream Plane. He told them how to wake him in the mortal realm: find his lost regalia--crown, ring, sword, shield, and bow--and rejoin them with his sleeping body.
In The Dreaming Hunt, the heroes begin their quest. But they've caught the attention of powerful forces determined to stop them. Worse, their visit to the Dream Plane has unleashed chaos, and the fight is spilling over into the mortal realm.
They frantically outrun old enemies and pick up new ones: imperial hunters, a secret cabal of mages, a criminal league, and a changeling army. Are they just pawns in larger political dramas, or are they crystallizing into the nucleus of a rebellion? Can they find the regalia necessary to wake the Sleeping King before they are utterly destroyed?

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Shout-Out: Faller by Will McIntosh

Day One: No one can remember anything - who they are, family and friends, or even how to read. Reality has fragmented and Earth consists of an islands of rock floating in an endless sky. Food, water, electricity-gone, except for what people can find, and they can't find much.
Faller's pockets contain tantalizing clues: a photo of himself and a woman he can't remember, a toy solider with a parachute, and a mysterious map drawn in blood. With only these materials as a guide, he makes a leap of faith from the edge of the world to find the woman and set things right.

He encounters other floating islands, impossible replicas of himself and others, and learns that one man hates him enough to take revenge for actions Faller can't even remember.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Physical Gestures

I'm currently reading Toru: Wayfarer Returns by Stephanie Sorensen. The protagonist of the book, Toru, grew up in Japan, spent 2 years in the US, and has just returned home. It's set during Japan's period of isolation from the rest of the world, so returning comes with a death sentence.

Anyway, in one scene the protagonist shrugged, even though he knew the gesture wouldn't mean anything to the Japanese people around him. It was a gesture that had become ingrained in him during his time in the US, so ingrained that he did it without thinking.

Gestures are integral to communication. So much so, that we often don't realize we're doing them. We pick them up from those around us. I remember bowing when talking on the phone in Japanese. It was so normal to see people doing it that I unconsciously started copying others and did it myself.

In another scene in the book, someone nods 'no'. I like that the author is aware that gestures change from place to place (both within and without countries).

Gestures are often left out of books because while they're so common, they're not things we consciously think about. And yet, it adds a sense of reality, of connection, and of added communication when characters in a book make gestures.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Shout-Out: Altered Starscape by Ian Douglas

2162. Thirty-eight years after first contact, Lord Commander Grayson St. Clair leads the Tellus Ad Astra on an unprecedented expedition to the Galactic Core, carrying more than a million scientists, diplomats, soldiers, and AIs. Despite his reservations about their alien hosts, St. Clair is deeply committed to his people—especially after they're sucked into a black hole and spat out four billion years in the future.

Civilizations have risen and fallen. The Andromeda Galaxy is drifting into the Milky Way. And Earth is most certainly a distant memory. All that matters now is survival. But as the ship's Marines search for allies amid ancient ruins and strange new planetary structures, St. Clair must wrap his mind around an enemy capable of harnessing a weapon of incomprehensible power: space itself.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Video: DIY miniature fairy garden kits

Yesterday I went on pinterest and stumbled across a picture of a miniature dollhouse room built inside a metal lamp. A friend of mine wants to make a dollhouse one day, so I sent her the link. As it didn't credit the maker, I tried a google search image on it and fell down the rabbit hole of do it yourself miniature dollhouse kits.

Now, I'm interested in very small scale miniatures (see my egg dioramas and my book sculpture). I didn't think there were kits designed for the scale I prefer. And while the videos below show kits that are a little bit larger, I can't wait to try one of them! I can only imagine the skills I'll learn, building the tiny furniture myself, making the plants using the provided materials, using beads to make all sorts of foods, flowers, lamps, etc.

So, why post this on my SF blog? Two reasons:
1. They're so darn cute, and sometimes having a related hobby is helpful (I want to make a witch's workshop, but other fantasy - and even SF - scenarios can be done too).

2. As much fun as trying to figure stuff out by yourself can be, it's always good to see how others do things. With these kits, I'll learn skills I won't otherwise learn. Seeing videos is great (now that I know they exist), but there's no substitute for actually doing something yourself. Writing is a solitary endeavour, but you can learn a lot by reading books by others. Books on craft, but also books you love and books you hate. What does the author do to pull you into the story? How do they handle dialogue? What does another author do that makes you want to throw the book across the room? How do you avoid doing those things? Analyzing other authors' works can help you improve your own.

Here are two videos on making a fairy garden kit. Welcome to the rabbit hole.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Book Review: Cumulus by Eliot Peper

Pros: plausible future, interesting characters, fast paced

Cons: ending 

In the near future, Cumulus controls much of the world’s technology. It’s founder, Huian Li, wants to extend her company’s reach but is frustrated when an important acquisition falls through. Graham Chandler used to work for the Agency until its never ending bureaucracy drove him out. He’s spent the past few years working his way through the ranks of Cumulus and now he’s making himself indispensable to Huian. Soon she’ll be his puppet and he’ll run Cumulus.

Lilly Miyamoto’s first love is film photography but she’s tired of pimping out her life, photographing Greenie weddings, barely able to afford her place in the slums. Two unexpected encounters give her the chance to make her photography mean so much more.

The book isn’t set too far in the future, but the internet has progressed and more things have been automated (cars, for example) and co-ordinated. The rich can afford the better private services of Cumulus, while state operated programs flounder due to reduced budgets. This has created an even larger socio-economic gap between the rich and the poor than currently exists. Graham’s soliloquies about past jobs in foreign countries and how he’s noticed the gap growing at home are quite interesting.

The main players were all fun to read about. They had layers to who they were, with ambitions, faults, habits, etc. I really liked Lilly’s gumption given her unfortunate circumstances.

The book is fast paced with short chapters creating a sense of tension as the story jumps between viewpoints.

I really enjoyed the book right up until the ending, when it all fell apart. Suddenly Graham’s motivation is lacking in a way that makes no sense. And while there’s a sense that the events of the book will have a huge impact on the players, some last minute decisions seemed odd considering what was about to happen. I’ll go into more detail in the spoiler section.

On the whole it was a fun, quick read. I just wish the author had spent more time considering the ending.


Problems I had with the ending:
1) I’m supposed to believe that Graham, who has constant thoughts about socio-political inequality decided to work for the largest tech company in the world - spending years getting to where he needed to be in order to start controlling it from behind the scenes - and had no idea what he wanted to do with the company? I’d assumed he had some plan for fixing the problems he always complained about. He’s simply too meticulous for me to believe he put in so much effort with no end goal in mind.

2) Huian plans to preempt Graham’s leak by leaking the information herself. Does that include the sex tapes he made using Cumulus’s spyware (including his blackmail files)? How about all the private financial, employment, and medical records of her employees? Because that’s all stuff he set up to release. And I doubt anyone will be thrilled to learn about the depth of information Cumulus can access and how lax their security protocols are with regards to the privacy of their customers. I can only imagine how many people would want to cancel their Cumulus service because of this leak.

3) Despite the very obvious legal trouble Huian is about to be in (she even mentions this) and her recent decisions ordering the execution of his lover, Frederick decides Huian should be on the advisory committee overseeing the implementation of bringing Cumulus to the poor. Now, assuming the privacy concerns of #2 don’t make people decide they’re better off without Cumulus recording all their private moments, how is she divorced enough from the company to be part of an independent council? She’d obviously side with the company and what the next CEO thinks is best.

4) Following on #3, how does removing a corrupt mayor help if pretty much everyone in politics and on the police force is equally corrupt? From what the book said, everyone worked with Frederick. And the problem with electing someone who isn’t corrupt is that you’re stuck voting for one of the people running for office, and how do voters know who is and isn’t corrupt?

5) Frederick states at the end of the book that he wants to retire and his organization will survive his leaving. If he had so little control of his operation, how has he not been replaced by someone with more ambition? I’m also a little concerned that the author set up the head of a criminal organization as the sole example of a great leader (following a phrase used just prior to this scene).

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Shout-Out: Exploded View by Sam McPheeters

It’s 2050, and LAPD Detective Terri Pastuzka has drawn the short straw with her first assignment of the new decade. Someone has executed one of the city’s countless immigrants, and no one (besides the usual besieged advocacy groups) seems to much care. Even Terri herself is already looking ahead to her next case before an unexpected development reveals there’s far more to this corpse than meets the eye.

And a lot already meets the eye. In a city immersed in augmented reality, the LAPD have their own superior network of high-tech eyewear—PanOpts, the ultimate panopticon—allowing Terri instant access to files and suspects and literal insertion into the crime scene using security footage captured from every angle the day the murder occurred. What started as a single homicide turns into a string of unsolved murders that tie together in frightening ways, leading Terri down a rabbit hole through Los Angeles’s conflicting realities—augmented and virtual, fantastically rumored and harrowingly true—towards an impossible conclusion.

Exploded View is the story of a city frozen in crisis, haunted by hardship and overwhelmed by refugees, where technology gives everyday citizens the power to digitally reshape news in real time, and where hard video evidence is impotent against the sheer, unrelenting power of belief. After all, when anyone can forge their own version of the truth, what use is any other reality?

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Video: Harry Potter and the Translator's Nightmare

This video by Vox explains how J.K. Rowling didn't give any advice to translators for the Harry Potter books (as the books were published by different publishers in different countries), and how - thanks to a lot of plays on words, puzzles, and made up words - translators had to get creative when translating the books.  I find it interesting that the Chinese version had end notes explaining cultural aspects (much like the English version of Cixin Liu's Three-Body Problem).

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Book Review: The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson

Pros: interesting plot, mostly fast paced, new aliens species

Cons: confusing opening, slow beginning

Memor technology allows humans to colonize several worlds. The Network Intelligence Office has been trying to catch Terl Plenko, leader of the Movement terrorist group. Plenko has been encouraging the colonies to leave the Union, using violent methods. The death of Plenko’s mate during an NIO mission on the Ribon colony puts investigative partners Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos on Plenko’s trail. His top henchmen (or maybe one of his alias’s) have potentially been seen on the vacation planet of Temonus, and Dave sends Alan there. Split up, they each learn that there’s a conspiracy going on, that they can’t trust the NIO, and that Plenko is more than he seems.

The book is narrated in alternating chapters by Dave Crowell, in first person, and Alan Brindos, in third person. While it makes it clear when you’re with the different protagonists, it took me several minutes of hunting through the text to figure out who the first narrator was (since he was “I” in the text) and properly understand what was going on. At the same time a lot of new terms are thrown at the reader, including a fair amount of tech terms, which didn’t help. Once I knew who the narrators were, I reread the first few chapters again to make sure I didn’t miss any clues with regards to the plot.

The first few chapters are quite slow as there’s a lot of exposition going on. After that, the narrative structure of quickly passing back and forth between the protagonists creates tension and interest, and the rest of the book was a rush of trying to figure out the mystery.

The mystery was very interesting. There are a lot of great twists and turns. So much happened that I could not have guessed in advance, which kept me on my toes, wondering how this was all going to end.

I enjoyed reading about both Alan and Dave. They’re proper noir PIs - thinking fast and cleverly inserting themselves where they need to be to get the information they want, though in the story they’ve contracted with the NIO and so have advanced resources. The supporting cast was varied and interesting, including several women and Helks (another alien race). I thought both Dorie and Jennifer were well written and intriguing.

While there weren’t many alien races, the Helks and Memors were kind of interesting. You learn more about the Helks, who are giant like humanoids.

If you like noir science fiction, this book has a great mystery and is a relatively quick read.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Honey Kvas Monastyrskiy

I’ve wanted to try mead for several year, despite the fact that I don’t like the taste of alcohol. I was able to try mulled wine in France, which to my surprise I really liked, and keep hoping that mead - another traditional medieval drink - will work for me.

The problem, of course, is few people make mead.

Going through the drinks section of my local grocery store I came across this:

Honey Kvas Monastyrskiy

For some reason, I got it into my head that this would be like mead.  It references honey - mead is made by fermenting honey - and it said ‘monastery’, and mead was traditionally made in monasteries.

So I bought it.

And it tastes pretty good! It’s got a bit of a malt flavour, but with a hint of honey. It’s sweet, but not overly so. I found the flavour complex and pleasant. It's also carbonated, which I liked. My husband had a hard time even sniffing the glass. I forced him to try a sip and that was enough for him! 

Looking it up online. Wikipedia had this to say:

Kvass is a traditional Slavic and Baltic fermented beverage commonly made from black or regular rye bread. The colour of the bread used contributes to the colour of the resulting drink. It is classified as a non-alcoholic drink by Russian standards, as the alcohol content from fermentation is typically low (0.5–1.0%). It may be flavoured with fruits such as strawberries and raisins, or with herbs such as mint.

Apparently, Kvass is easy to brew, requiring little more than bread and yeast, so it has a history as a drink for peasants.

Why do I mention this on my blog? World-building. What people eat and drink has a lot to say about their social class, wealth, local produce, etc. Everything is interconnected. Similarly, though a lot of fantasy characters travel a lot it’s rare for them to try new foods, new drinks, new spices, etc. People become habituated to their local diet, so when introduced to new tastes, they generally comment on it. Is their usual diet spicy or bland? Do they have a variety of spices to pick from (meaning they’re rich or live in a country that grows the spices) or are they dependent on herbs they can grow or collect themselves?

I live in a city with an increasingly diverse population, so my local grocery store has started stocking more varied foods. I love it, as it gives me the chance to learn more about the world - and what people eat and drink - without having to travel to those places (not that I’d be adverse to going most places, but time and money aren’t infinite).

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Open Road Launches New Online Community: The Portalist

I've checked out the site and there are a lot of interesting list and other articles.  Here's the press release: 


New York, NY, October 13, 2016—Open Road Integrated Media, a digital publisher and multimedia content company, announced today the launch of The Portalist—a new online community for fans of science fiction, fantasy, and genre-related pop culture news.

Heading up the new site as Senior Editor is Carolyn Cox, a writer and editor with extensive experience working in fandom and genre news. Prior to joining Open Road, Cox was an editor at the prominent pop culture news site The Mary Sue. Acting as strategic advisor to The Portalist is renowned science fiction and fantasy editor Betsy Mitchell, who spent ten years as VP and Editor-in-Chief of Random House’s Del Rey Books.

The Portalist will cover science fiction and fantasy as it exists across all mediums of entertainment and culture—from film and TV to video games, books, and comics, both past and present—but with the added focus on making the fan experience a positive one.

“The Portalist celebrates the great science fiction and fantasy that gets lost in the din, and shines a spotlight on the stuff we love. We’ll also explore pressing developments in tech, conservation, and space exploration, all from an optimistic and inclusive viewpoint. We celebrate science and imagination equally, and value possibilities and positivity,” Cox said.

“There’s a lot of anger in science fiction and fantasy right now,” she added. “Some of that anger is a necessary response to how women, people of color, and other marginalized groups are often misrepresented or left out of the narrative in geek media; but much of it is from fans who feel the fiction they love is ‘overrun’ by progressive values. In the midst of these cultural debates, inclusive, innovative media is sometimes overlooked. On the road to greater representation, it’s important to pause and celebrate the progress we’ve made.”                 

Open Road developed The Portalist after seeing extraordinary success with The Lineup, another content vertical focused on true crime, horror, and the bizarre. Launched in November of 2015, The Lineup now boasts more than 2 million unique users a month, with 130,000 newsletter subscribers and 260,000 Facebook fans.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016 Publishing open to Fantasy Submissions

Submissions open today, October 12th and will stay open for 3 months.

From their website:

... Starting October 12, Lee Harris and Carl Engle-Laird will be reading and evaluating original novellas submitted by hopeful authors to You can find full guidelines here, and we highly recommend you read the guidelines before submitting. We will be open for three months, beginning on October 12th around 9:00 AM EDT (UTC-4:00) and ending on January 12th around 9:00 AM EST (UTC-5:00). We may extend this period depending on how many submissions we receive over the course of the open period.
Until the end of this open period, will only be considering novellas of between 20,000 and 40,000 words that fit the epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, high fantasy, or quest fantasy genres, whether set on Earth or on an original fantasy world. However, we will only be considering novellas that inhabit worlds that are not modeled on European cultures. We are seeking worlds that take their influences from African, Asian, indigenous American, or Pacific cultures, or any diasporic culture from one of those sources. To qualify, novellas should center the experiences of characters from non-European-inspired cultures.
Both Lee Harris and Carl Engle-Laird actively request submissions from writers from underrepresented populations. This includes, but is not limited to, writers of any race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, class and physical or mental ability. We believe that good science fiction and fantasy reflects the incredible diversity and potential of the human species, and hope our catalog will reflect that.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Book Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Pros: several vampire species, unique setting, great characters

Cons: antagonist upsets his own plans

Atl is a Tlahuihpochtli, a vampire descended from those that served in the Aztec temple in Mexico city in ages past.  Now she’s the last of her clan, hiding in the city from a rival vampire drug lord’s son.  Domingo is a trash picker who stumbles across Atl one evening.  Entranced by her beauty, he accompanies her home.

If you’re looking for something different with regards to vampires - vicious, brutal, vampires - then this book is for you.  In this world, humans discovered vampires were real in the 1960s, but not just Bram Stoker’s style of vampires.  The glossary at the end of the book goes over the different types, though only three types show up in the book.

I really liked Atl, and while I thought Domingo was naive, I couldn’t help mimicking his belief that Atl was a ‘good’ vampire, despite the mounting evidence against this idea.  I did face a crisis of “am I supposed to be rooting for her?” half way through the novel, something I come against when there are no obvious heroes.  Atl is a type of vampire I’ve never heard of, and found fascinating.  She’s strong willed and learns fast. 

Another character I really liked was Ana, a detective who’s faced vampires before and uses her skills to track Atl down.  I loved her grit and determination to make a better life for herself and her daughter.  She’s the character I ended up rooting for the most.

Nick, as the antagonist, was great.  He’s flawed in many ways, not least is that his stupidity and desire to punish Atl upset his own side’s plans.  But he’s a great traditional vampire - terrifying in his disregard for human life, even as he’s constrained in his actions by his father’s human henchman.

Mexico city was a unique setting that was a pleasure to read about.  It’s nice to see books branching out into new locations.

The ending gets pretty brutal, and while one character’s ending left me somewhat unhappy, it was an appropriate and satisfying ending for the book as a whole.

Out October 25th

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Shout-Out: Take Us To Your Chief: And Other Stories by Drew Hayden Taylor

A forgotten Haudenosaunee social song beams into the cosmos like a homing beacon for interstellar visitors. A computer learns to feel sadness and grief from the history of atrocities committed against First Nations. A young Native man discovers the secret to time travel in ancient petroglyphs. Drawing inspiration from science fiction legends like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury, Drew Hayden Taylor frames classic science-fiction tropes in an Aboriginal perspective.
The nine stories in this collection span all traditional topics of science fiction--from peaceful aliens to hostile invaders; from space travel to time travel; from government conspiracies to connections across generations. Yet Taylor's First Nations perspective draws fresh parallels, likening the cultural implications of alien contact to those of the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, or highlighting the impossibility of remaining a "good Native" in such an unnatural situation as a space mission.
Infused with Native stories and variously mysterious, magical and humorous, Take Us to Your Chief is the perfect mesh of nostalgically 1950s-esque science fiction with modern First Nations discourse.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Shout-Out: Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer --- before they kill again.
It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.
At least, Marie Shea had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died: from illness once and from injury once. Maria's vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn't the only one to die recently...

Note: This was supposed to be out in October, but Amazon and other bookstore listings have been updated to show a January 31st, 2017 release date. Which sucks, as this book sounds amazing and I was hoping to read it soon.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Video: Shena Tschofen on the Roue Cyr

I was thinking about Peru when I watched this video of Shena Tschofen, who specializes in the cyr wheel (roue cyr) and graduated from the National Circus School in Montreal in 2016.

Shena Tschofen - Roue Cyr (Cyr Wheel) from Shena Tschofen on Vimeo.

I thought, wouldn't it be cool to have something like this done in a fantasy/sf film (or book, but you'd definitely get more out of it in a film) as a form of worship or celebration. Imagine, a group of initiates competing against each other in order to win a prize: the chance to be sacrificed to their god(s).

That's where Peru comes in. One of the cities I visited has a famous preserved skeleton, Juanita, a teenaged girl, who was sacrificed to the volcano in the 1400s.

Remembering, of course, that people are products of their upbringing and culture, Juanita probably went to her fate willingly, taught that it was an honour.

This has been done a few times in SFF, the video game Broken Age had maidens competing for the honour of being sacrifices to a monster. One of the characters in Unwind by Neal Shusterman, was a tithe, the tenth child who was raised to be 'unwound' and went gladly.

But it might make a cool short story twist, to have people compete for an honour, with the audience not knowing what the prize actually is.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Book Review: Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa

Pros: engaging story, feisty protagonist

Cons: fairly predictable, created swear words are more distracting than useful

For Parents: non-graphic gun and knife violence, torture scenes, some kissing, fake swearing

Eden is a closed world created when humanity was on the brink of destruction to save at least a few people until the ruined world was again fit for habitation. Rowan is a second child, illegal in Eden. Hidden by her family, she’s finally going to get a new identity and eye implants that will let her become a part of society. But she’ll also have to leave her family - and never return or see them again. In a fit of anger, she climbs the walls of her family home and escapes to the outside world, for a few hours of freedom. What happens during those hours creates rippling consequences that haunt the days that follow.

If you’ve read a lot of dystopian YA none of this will be particularly new to you. The story runs in fairly predictable ways. The characters are generally what makes these books different and Rowan is a wonderful protagonist. She’s willful and determined, scared when out of her depth but able to push past her fear. She causes a few of her own problems, so it’s a good thing she’s resilient. Making her bi, or at least uncertain about her sexuality (without making a big deal out of it) was wonderfully refreshing. I liked both Lark and Lachlan as supporting characters, though Lark’s got my vote if the story develops more of a romance in later books.

The story is quick and engaging. The world is well constructed. I thought it clever that there’s a fair amount of pre-Eden history but no Eden history. It gives the author options for the following books and I’m curious what he’ll do.

I found the created swear words rather distracting and unnecessary. Instead of coming off as expletives, they confused me and bumped me out of the narrative.

There’s a fair bit of violence including two torture scenes. Nothing is particularly graphic, and most of the violence has either a detached sense to it or is accompanied by the protagonist questioning the need for it and how the world should be better than this. There are a few kisses, but no other sexual content.

While this isn’t highly original, it is a fun, quick read that will have you turning pages. It’s set-up for a series, and leaves you interested in the world and what’s going to happen next to the characters.