I’ve just finished reading The n-Body Problem by Tony Burgess, published by Chizine Publications. It’s a deeply disturbing story, and I hope that Burgess is seeking professional help.
It took me a long time to get around to reading this book. It’s been on my to read pile for about a year. As I’ve mentioned recently, I’ve started doing most of my reading electronically. In fact, I actually read an ebook version of this, even though I have a paper copy on my desk.
Stealing Home (Kindle, Kobo) is the third book in the Steele Chronicles, published by Bundoran Press. The series started with Defining Diana, and following Steel Whispers, both of which I’ve previously reviewed. Through each of these books, I’ve found that the story becomes tighter, and more focused. While the stories can be read independently, the emotional punch of the third book is diminished if you haven’t read the earlier books.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I’ve read the latest novel by Robert J. Sawyer. Since Sawyer’s novel Hominids was the One Book, One Community reading selection in Waterloo Region several years ago, I’ve read all his books. Sawyer’s most recent novel, Red Planet Blues
, is the first of his books that I won’t be getting signed. Since I’ve started reading extensively on my eReader (a Kobo Glo), I’ve rarely felt the desire to read one of my paper books.
What can I say about Red Planet Blues? If you’ve read any of Sawyer’s work in the past, you know what you’re getting: a science fiction story with strong philosophical content. Moral questions are raised on the essence of consciousness and identity. What you don’t get in this book are dinosaurs, although fossils of another sort play an important role in the story.
Back at the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, I was scheduled to be on a Steampunk panel with Gail Carriger, who was unfortunately unable to attend the convention. It was still a blast, as I met Ann VanderMeer and Christopher J. Garcia (who is quite possibly insane, but in a very good way).
Recently, I read Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate novels, starting with Soulless. The novels are a mix of Victorian paranormal mystery fashion and romance. There are bustles and décolletage, vampires and werewolves, zeppelins and robotic octopi.
Karen Heuler’s collection of short stories, “The Inner City“, published by ChiZine, is a wonderfully bizarre set of stories. Reading the author’s biography, I learned that her dog is named Philip K. Dick, and I can see a Dickian obsession with a world out of joint, a phantom reality that hides something sinister in these stories.
The lead story, “FishWish”, is a great opening piece. Originally published in Weird Tales in 2011, it takes the standard three wishes tale in an unexpected direction, plumbing the depths of unfulfilled desires.
Also rather Dickian is “The Inner City”, from which the collection derives its name. A hidden power of distrust and chaos lies just beneath the surface of reality, directing the lives of others. Kind of reminiscent of The Adjustment Bureau, only with a much darker spin.
“Down on the Farm” touches on genetic manipulation, with a dark undercurrent. It’s a rather uncomfortable story, dipping into several unsavoury topics.
“The Escape Artist” explores the relationship with fear. Does one run from fear, or confront it? And if we face our fear, is it to overcome, or to welcome the cold embrace?
Perhaps less disturbing than some of the other stories, “The Large People” is a story with ecological concerns. Ecology tends to take a longer view on things.
“Creating Cow” has clear parallels with Frankenstein, but in this case, the creature has far fewer redeeming characteristics. I wouldn’t recommend reading this one right before lunch.
“The Difficulties of Evolution” is another little gem, which looks to our sense of humanity. The ending was quite appropriate.
There aren’t any duds in this collection, although some didn’t challenge my sense of reality as much as others. It’s a well constructed collection which follows a common theme. If you’re familiar with ChiZine, this should match your expectations.
Disclaimer: I received an advance eBook copy for review from ChiZine Publications.
Clementine isn’t the first Clockwork Century novel I’ve reviewed. I’ve been a fan of Cherie Priest since Boneshaker in 2009, and Dreadnought from 2010. I was browsing Amazon’s recommendations recently, and discovered that the Kindle edition of Clementine was under $3. It’s also available for Kobo.
Clementine is a novella. It’s shorter than your average novel, and has a relatively straightforward plot.
There are two main characters, Croggon Hainey, an airship pirate, and Maria “Belle” Boyd, a former Confederate spy turned Pinkerton agent.
Both plots converge rapidly, as they focus on the safety and recovery of a stolen airship, the Free Crow from Boneshaker, renamed Clementine, and its cargo.
While Clementine, unlike Boneshaker and Dreadnought, doesn’t have any zombies, there are other fantastical elements at play, including a super weapon with the power to destroy a city and end the decades long civil war. While the technology at play is different from the nuclear bombs which devastated Japan to end World War II, the intent is clearly the same.
The novella is fast paced, with large portions of the book occurring in airships. We get a strong sense of style in Clementine. It’s a fast paced world, with America in a long Civil War. In term of the Clockwork Century books, Clementine is not as isolated as Boneshaker, nor is it as integrated as Dreadnought. Clementine attempts to navigate in a mostly apolitical sphere. While Belle is a former Confederate spy, she works for the Pinkertons, under contract to the Union. It’s a grey area, just as her sympathies remain Confederate grey. We don’t really get to see much of the world in this book; we instead see snapshots of cities as the characters pass through. The world building depth is strongly hinted at, but not extensively explored in this novella.
As for Hainey? His motivation in the story is to reclaim the Free Crow, a symbol of his escape from slavery in the South. While his narrative isn’t quite as intriguing as is Belle’s, it complements her plot quite nicely. The two plots and viewpoint characters are well balanced. It’s dynamic, and enhances the fast plot progression. This addresses the problems with Boneshaker’s unbalanced viewpoint characters, while adding more complexity than the single protagonist in Dreadnought.
Perhaps the greatest weakness in the story is the shorter length. Clementine is half as long as either Boneshaker or Dreadnought. Cherie Priest’s writing is fast paced, leading me to read her books quickly. Sadly, this means that the book is over far too soon. This is balanced by the price of the ebook. Clementine is good value. There are also other novels released in the Clockwork Century series, which means that the story isn’t necessarily over yet.
I was first introduced to this anthology at Ad Astra, when Matt Moore read his story Delta Pi. After talking with a few other people online (Facebook? Twitter? Google Plus? I don’t really remember anymore…) about the book, I picked up a Kindle Edition.
Torn Realities is a Lovecraft inspired anthology, with a focus on how reality twists and tears, revealing something unknowable, something malevolent, which shifts all our frames of reference. In addition to Matt’s story, this anthology also includes Rawhead Rex, a story by Clive Barker. My other favourite stories in the anthology include Amsterdamned, and Hallowed Ground.
Delta Pi by Matt Moore
Delta Pi was the first story I turned to, as I was already familiar with the story. As I read it, my mind echoed the punctuated rhythms of Moore’s reading. Its energetic and passionate. If you ever get a chance to attend one of his readings, you should.
The story itself draws upon the fears some have expressed in recent years, that a high energy particle accelerator experiment could tear the Earth apart in some recreation of the Big Bang. Moore doesn’t focus on the science, but on the psychology of a researcher on the outside. Someone who accepts, nay, embraces the conclusions of a paper which other scientists have ignored as the ramblings of a madman.
I was recently browsing the shelves at my local library branch, when I noticed that the only book by Tim Powers on the shelf was On Stranger Tides. This was likely on the shelf due to one of my earlier recommendations: I had told the staff that the Pirates of the Caribbean film was loosely based on Powers’ novel. As I was checking out, I saw his most recent novel, Hide Me Among The Graves. This novel is a sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, although it doesn’t need any previous knowledge of the earlier book.
This latest novel takes place a generation after the events in The Stress of Her Regard: the poets Shelley, Byron and Keats are long dead, and the Nephilim, the pre-Adamite stone creatures with vampiric tendencies have been banished, along with their poetic gifts, when a new wave of poets unknowingly invite them back.
I’m not as familiar with the works of the Rossettis as I am with those of Byron, but once again, Powers works his magic, weaving a fictional secret tale with historical records, which in some ways seems to make more sense than the original records.
I recently finished reading Triggers, the latest novel by Canadian science fiction writer Robert J Sawyer. After the television adaptation of his novel Flashforward, there was an obvious desire to tap into a larger market of potential fans. Many of Sawyer’s earlier novels had elements of suspense, but none could ever truly be called a thriller. They have all been heavy on the philosophical issues, exploring ideas and thoughts on the meaning of humanity.
Triggers is the combination of this philosophy on the human condition, mixed with high stakes action. Sawyer manages this quite well. While Sawyer’s message is as positive as always, the comparison to Michael Crichton’s techno-thrillers is more relevant than ever.
I’m not really into the whole vampire craze. Zombies are more my style. I think I read some Anne Rice novels after Interview with a Vampire came out. The most interesting vampire literature which I’ve read would have to be The Stress of Her Regard, by Tim Powers. However, while at Ad Astra this year, I picked up a copy of Enter, Night by Michael Rowe.
Enter, Night is a much darker novel. It is grittier, more immediate. It evokes a primal response. Disquiet and fear. It makes me wish that tonight wasn’t garbage night, and that I didn’t have to step out into the forbidding darkness.
I think what makes Enter, Night so effective is the careful blend of the familiar with the unknown. Instead of a straight up vampire novel, it blends the vampire mythos with native legends of the wendigo. The setting of a small, remote northern Ontario town gives a sense of isolation, allowing the major characters to interact with stereotypical small town conservatism. While familiar, they aren’t the experiences of the reader, who is of course, intended to follow the returning urbanites. We are supposed to share their distaste at the ignorance, prejudice and hypocrisy in Parr’s Landing.
The theme of prejudice against the other, the fear of being different, is woven throughout the novel. Whether it is through issues of premarital sex and pregnancy, sexual orientation, or racial status, Rowe shows the pain of being different. Ironically, the true Other in the novel is a vampire, who unifies his victims. A sense of personal identity is important in the novel, and the loss of that personal individuality is crushing. This adds a much richer fabric for the story, and issues to talk about. Speculative fiction is a literature of ideas, and Rowe’s novel speaks on issues of importance.
It’s refreshing to read a vampire novel where all the traditional means of defense exist: stakes, sunlight, crosses and holy water. Churches as places of refuge, and the need for permission to enter a residence. This is another sign of the familiar, balanced by the addition of the wendigo myths. Further anchorage is provided through comics, such as the very real Tomb of Dracula series published in 1972 by Detective Comics. It roots the story in the familiar, framing our expectations.
The story has good characterization. The major characters are well fleshed out, and even minor characters have well defined motivations, often based on strong inner conflict.
After the main story, the book also contains an additional story, a historical narrative, explaining the origins of vampires in the area which became Parr’s Landing. It’s a document referenced in the main text, and provides an interesting view of history, especially regarding Canada’s colonization of the native tribes. It traces not just the history of the vampires, but also of the guilt that we should feel for the way we have treated others.
Enter, Night is clearly worthy of the Aurora nomination this year. Read it with a mind open to these ideas, but you might want to keep the lights on.