the Little Red Reviewer

gleam tom fletcherGleam, by Tom Fletcher

UK Publish date: Sept 4 2014

US Publish date: March 5 2015

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Jo Fletcher books!)

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In the center of a never ending plain of machinery, abandoned factories, destroyed buildings, swamps, snails, and desperation lies the Pyramid.  And within the Pyramid lies civilization.  Alan grew up in the Pyramid, but he wasn’t born there.  He still burns with the pain and hatred of watching Pyramidders kill his family and destroy the village in which they lived.  His life was spared that day, and he was taken to live in the Pyramid, to be educated and trained, and eventually take up a station, to get married, and to have a child of his own.  But Alan never forgot what happened to him.  Forced to watch his son be indoctrinated into the beliefs of the Pyramid, Alan begins to educate the boy on what life is really like outside, out in the discard.  But the Pyramid will not suffer opinions and beliefs other than their own, Alan’s family is terrorized and he is banished, to survive if he can, back in the discard.

 

At a breakneck pace, Tom Fletcher zips us through Alan’s failing marriage and the challenges of being married to a born Pyramidder, and how he’ll do anything to see his son once he’s been kicked out of the Pyramid. He bribes guards with drugs and information, and hopes one day to rescue his son and wife from the lies and brainwashing of the Pyramid. But rescue them to what?  He knows his wife wouldn’t want to life in the Discard, no matter how safe parts of it is, so what is he rescuing them from, and where would he take them if he was successful?

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ursula vernon diggerDigger, Vol 1, by Ursula Vernon

published:  this volume was published in 2012, but the webcomic has been going since 2005.

where I got it:  purchased new

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When I peruse the graphic novel section of my local comic shop, I’m not interested in 99% of what I see.  I walk by, and very little of it catches my eye. No offense superheroes and dark noir, but you’re just not my thing. Could be that local comic book owner guy is really into superhero stuff, and not so much into other stuff. Different strokes for different folks.

 

Lucky for me, I ran into a copy of Ursula Vernon’s Digger Vol 1 at a Half Price Books store.   Having no idea what the story was about, and not quite sure what the critter on the front cover was (She’s a wombat, by the way), I bought the graphic novel because Ursula Vernon’s name was on it.

 

A few quick items of business before I getting into the nitty gritty:  It won the Hugo (and multiple other awards) for a reason, and I really gotta introduce local comic shop owner guy to this series.  Graphic novels that don’t look that interesting got you down? Digger is the cure.

 

it's Digger!

it’s Digger!

First off, Digger isn’t a what, Digger is a she. She’s a wombat, and she does what wombats naturally do: She digs and burrows and explores.  She’s also intensely pragmatic and practical.  When a pocket of bad air causes her to tunnel through someone’s floor and into a space that is decidedly not home, she decided to explore. Because how else is she going to find her way home? Perhaps whoever she meets can help her find her way home.  She quickly meets a Statue of Ganesh who can talk, a Hyena like creature whose name has been eaten, a shadowchild who doesn’t know what he/she is, a helpful librarian, the Ganesh statue’s overly enthusiastic guard, and a prophetic snail.  The story almost has an Alice in Wonderland feeling, except this Alice is a practical, no-nonsense engineer Wombat.

 

Actual Wombat

Actual Wombat

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god emperor of duneGod Emperor of Dune, by Frank Herbert

published in 1981

where I got it:  have owned this paperback since high school.

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If you read only Dune, and never felt the interest to read further, that’s okay.  If you read the first three books in the series, and never felt the need to read further, that’s okay too.  It’s especially okay because God Emperor of Dune is completely different from the earlier books in the series.   If you’re expecting more intrigue, more adventures of Paul Atreides, more of running an empire and getting rid of the damned Harkonnens, you’re in for a surprise, that’s for sure. (by the way, click to read my reviews of Dune: Messiah, and Children of Dune)

 

At the end of Children of Dune, nine year old Leto Atreides, heir to the empire, goes into the desert and starts covering his body with sandtrout, the small flat pre-worm creatures that fold themselves around pockets of water. The sandtrout bond with his skin and his body, creating a second skin of sort. He knows he is becoming something new and different, something that will change the face of humanity forever, the only something that can save humanity from the brink of extinction.

 

God Emperor of Dune takes place thirtyfive hundred years later.

 

Thirty five hundred years. think about that for a minute – where humanity was thirtyfive hundred years ago, how our culture has changed, how everything has changed. Now, imagine that nothing has changed over thirtyfive hundred years, that things have purposely and deliberately been held in  a state of stagnation.

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I don’t always share dog videos, but when I do, I prefer the share the hilarious ones.

 

Dear Kitten and Sad Cat Diaries is pretty funny too.

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Over the weekend of Sept 27/28 Elizabeth Campbell and I attended Context 27 in Columbus Oh.  Maybe you’ve seen some of my teaser photos? Every convention has a personality, and Context’s personality is “mellow and inviting”. This is my second year attending Context, and two years in a row it’s been the most welcoming convention I’ve attended. I recognized a lot of people from last year, so it felt like a reunion with plenty of hugs in hallways and Omgosh Hi!’s.

 

But it isn’t easy to walk into a hotel full of strangers. To help break the ice, Elizabeth had the genius idea of picking up a pack of “Hello my name is” stickers and a pack of markers. For people we knew well, we gave them obnoxious or non sequitur name tags. For example, I quickly had stickers that said “Sober Andrea” and “I don’t know how to use my phone”, and “on vacation”. For people we didn’t know, I’d ask them what they’d like on their name tag.  Context was the perfect amount of people for this kind of game, more than a few hundred people and I don’t think it would have worked. Next year, we should pick up half a dozen packs and give them to different people, so by the end of the weekend everyone gets at least one sticker.

By Saturday night I was covered in stickers.

By Saturday night I was covered in stickers.

 

The programming at Context is designed for writers. There are workshops you can sign up for, readings, panels, games, and the famous Friday Night Flash Fiction Contest, along with the requisite dealer room, consuite and nighttime parties.  What was I, a non-writer, doing at a writers convention you ask? Well, I had such a fantastic time last year that I had to go back… and would you believe that writers like book reviewers?  This was also a big first for me: being on panels.  Would anyone show up for my panels? Would my co-panelists be cool? What if I was a crappy moderator? quick answers are yes, yes, and I did fine.

First time moderating a panel? Might as well do it while cosplaying Sabetha Belacoros.

First time moderating a panel? Might as well do it while cosplaying Sabetha Belacoros.

It was probably easier because the quantity of people to serve was smaller, but this consuite was fantastic. Snacks, soda, coffee, more snacks, breakfast, dinner, sandwiches, dessert. Sushi even showed up a few times. The dealer room was small but well curated. No items were repeated, so no one was completing with anyone else, which was nice. There were shiny new books from the big publishers, more shiny new books from small presses, steampunk jewelry and accessories, used books, Star Wars items, and more. Two of my favorite small presses, Apex and Alliteration Ink were right near the front, so I barely made my way to the back of the room. I’m sure there was a lot back there I never saw.

 

Autograph sessions were done in a unique way. Instead of having one large mass autograph session, two or three authors at a time would spend a scheduled hour in the dealer room, answering questions and chatting and autographing books.  I had some books I wanted signed, and never managed to be in the dealer room at the right time, so luckily I was able to catch up with people later.  Personally, I think I prefer the larger mass autograph sessions.

 

With the majority of the programming being on Saturday, Elizabeth and I spent most of Friday browsing Columbus area bookstores, schmoozing with friends in the dealer room, and hanging out in the bar. Much pumpkin beer was had. Then we went to some panels!

 

Ready to hear more than you ever wanted to know about all the panels I jammed into one weekend?

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Last weekend I was at Context in Columbus OH.  This small-ish SF/F convention is so casual and fun that it felt like a relaxicon.  Columbus is also a fantastic city to visit, with bookstores on nearly every corner, beautiful college campuses, historic neighborhoods, and a highway system that actually makes sense. While you are being so very patient to hear about my adventures, here are some photos to whet your appetite.

 

Warning: large photo files ahead.

Is that a panelist packet? why yes, yes it is!

Is that a panelist packet? why yes, yes it is!

pumpkin beer in a pumpkin glass.

pumpkin beer in a pumpkin glass.

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best of all poss worldsThe Best of All Possible Worlds, by Karen Lord

published in 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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When I was a kid, I’d Ooh and Aah over the ladies dresses at the department store. My Mom very quickly figured out that I preferred the more simple styles, what she called “elegant”. No ruffles, no bows, none of that foofy stuff. It was explained to me that the more elegant dresses were more expensive because there was nothing (like a ruffle) to hide the flaws under, so a more skilled person had to make the dress. If there is a most perfectly, stylishly elegant dress in the universe, The Best of All Possible Worlds is the book version of that dress. Elegance, humor, and confidence, simplicity.  No where for the flaws to hide, and Lord writes with a confidence that says what you may see as a flaw is a design element, meant to draw your eye.

 

On Cyngus Beta, it’s fun to make fun of the Sadiri. After all, the Sadiri have a major superiority complex. Let me back up just a tiny bit.  Cygnus Beta is an open colony planet. Anyone can show up and ask for a homesteading. The citizens would never describe it as such, but it’s a last resort. You go to Cygnus Beta if you have nowhere else to go. You build a house, you start a farm, maybe the remnants of where ever you came from start a village, and you are left alone to live as you wish. It becomes your home, and you become fiercely protective of it, happy to punch anyone who calls Cygnus Beta “a last resort” right in the face.

 

It’s not that the Sadiri have a superiority complex, it’s that everyone thinks they do. The Sadiri are not loud, or brash, or at all openly emotional. Their body language is subtle, their communication is private. Because of their silence and what appears to be disinterest in others, many cultures think the Sadiri are snobs.  It’s too bad that’s such an easy mistake to make. After the destruction of their home planet, the Sadiri find themselves enroute to Cygnus Beta.

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2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.