the Little Red Reviewer

regeneration_tpboRegeneration (®evolution, book 3) by Stephanie Saulter

published on Aug 6, 2015

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

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Ya’ll already know i’m a huge fan of Stephanie Saulter’s ®evolution series.  She pulls no punches, allows no escape from the way she portrays the “us vs them” attitude and keeps you from looking away for even one second.  If you’re looking for a political thrillers with modern relevance, you could do a lot worse than her debut novel, Gemsigns, the first in her ®evolution trilogy. I’ve tried to keep this review spoiler free, so for those of you who are just joining us, go check out my review of Gemsigns and Binary (in fact, after reading my review of Binary, take a nice close look at the blurbs on Regeneration).

 

Regeneration takes  place about ten years after Binary, and life in London is finally halfway decent for the gem population. They’ve integrated into society, norm families are (mostly) no longer afraid to let their children go to school with Gem children, Gem-run businesses are thriving. It’s almost as if the strife of the last 50 years never happened. Almost, but not quite.  The old guard doesn’t forget, and the new generation doesn’t quite understand what makes their parents so damn nervous.

 

The first novel in the series, Gemsigns, was a political powder-keg that revolved around a civil rights movement. It was followed by Binary, in which a society at large makes it’s first attempts to break down the barriers between “us” and “them’.  Regeneration is the next step in the process: Acceptance as a complete shift of the status quo, and how people react to it.  This novel doesn’t focus on the politics anywhere near as much as the previous two books in the series,  yet I couldn’t help but draw parallels to recent political issues that have made real life headlines. It’s scary how close these books come to reality.

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Twelve-Kings-of-Sharakhai-final-sm2

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Bradley Beaulieu, author of the Lays of Anuskaya (The Winds of Khalakovo, The Straits of Galahesh, and The Flames of Shadem Khoreh) is about to release a brand new epic fantasy novel called Twelve Kings in Sharakhai.  The first in a new trilogy, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai follows the story of Çeda, a young woman who flaunts the laws of immortal kings and finds herself drawn towards the secrets of her own origins. A sprawling, complex story in a vibrant and richly drawn world, the new novel hits bookstore shelves on Sept 1st. Click here for a preview.

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Brad was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the new series. Also, I’ve got not one, but two copies of this book to give away to two lucky readers! See the fine print at the bottom of this blog post for details.

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Let’s get to the interview!
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Little Red Reviewer: This is the second time you’ve written of ships that don’t sail on the water. In your Lays of Anuskaya trilogy, the multi-masted ships sail the winds. And in Twelve Kings, the ships sail the dunes of this desert land. It’s even possible to surf over the dunes. For this non-ocean environment, what  made you decide that ships with sails should be the primary method of long distance travel?

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Bradley Beaulieu: What made me decide on ships? Well, when it comes down to it, I just love ‘em. I’ve taken several sailing tours on tall ships on Lake Michigan, a few out of Milwaukee harbor and once out of Navy Pier in Chicago. I think it’s such a cool time in our history, the age of sail, being trapped in such a tight community for weeks or months at a time, then stopping in a new, unexplored land, then hopping back to go back to the place you know. I’ve got a very romantic view of it, I’ll admit.

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And, well, I also just wanted to weird the world up a bit. I wanted some unique aspects to the great desert in which Sharakhai sits. I wanted there to be a unique flavor to the commerce of the world, how people communicated over long distances, and so on. It’s essentially the same reason I did it in The Lays of Anuskaya, though the specific incarnations of ship travel, as you mentioned, are different. It’s been a lot of fun exploring this aspect of the world. (And I’ve yet to have a really rousing ship-to-ship battle, but believe me, that’s coming!)

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LRR: I love the world of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. This is a desert culture, so staying protected from the sands and winds is a big deal, as is ensuring water and food supplies, and the clothing and activities of the characters reflect this. The terminology has an Arabic feel, with characters wearing turbans, thawbs, and hijabs, and visiting the bazaar. Can you tell us about the research you did the ensure the terminology and contextual activities matched the world and culture you built within the novel?

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Traitor-Baru-498x750The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson

publishes on Sept 15, 2015

Where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Tor!)

read an excerpt, here!

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A hundred pages in, and I knew The Traitor Baru Cormorant would be a game-changer.  I can tell you right now this is my favorite book of 2015. I don’t even have the words to explain how this story affected me and what it did to me.   If you have ever taken my advice in the past to read a book, this is the time to take it again. The Traitor Baru Cormorant? Read it.

 

In this hard-to-believe-it’s-a debut novel, Dickinson responds to every single epic fantasy trope with “it’s more complicated than that”, and then he shows you why those complications are needed, and that every fantasy you’ve ever read leading up until right now has been sorely deficient in exploring complications. Culture, ambition, politics, conquest, morals, colonization, loyalty, rebellion, romance. Shouldn’t they be more complicated than your standard fantasy novel make them out to be? Yes, yes they should. Because they are.

 

It is not words that Dickinson uses to weave Baru’s story, but scalpel sharp razor blades. As Baru says, it’s not what the Empire does to you, it’s what the Empire makes you do to yourself.  No one will make you read this book, just as no one made Baru do anything. No one will make you slowly carve out your own heart and hold it still beating in your hands, looking for yourself in it’s glistening reflection, just as no one forced Baru to do the things she did (she doesn’t cut her own heart out, by the way, or at least not exactly). She made her choices, as will you. As you turn the pages, as you take Baru and her life into your own, you will do it to yourself, you will let those razors that masquerade as words cut you deep, again and again. And just like Baru, you won’t notice the pain until it’s too late.

 

When the Empire of Masks came to Baru’s homeland of Taranoke, she was but a child. While she was attending the shiny new school opened by the empire, her family saw what was happening around them. As Baru learned all the types of punishable sins and another definition of family, her entire culture was becoming unsanitary, illegal, and unacceptable under the eye of the empire. Everything she loved, everything that made her who she was, could not exist under the new rules.  Authoritarian? Sure. But the empire brought literacy, trade, new medicines, technology and protection from pirates. To be under the Empire of Masks was to be safe and protected, but also to assimilate completely, to keep children from ever knowing the culture of their parents.

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apex-world-sf-volume-4I’ve been following the Apex Book of World SF series for a while, and was thrilled when the fourth volume was announced.  The series had previously been edited by Lavie Tidhar, and now the editing reins have been passed to Mahvesh Murad. A new editor can mean a new direction, and a new style. No matter the direction, readers are guaranteed a mind bending taste of speculative fiction from around the world, including stories from Spain, Sweden, Kenya, Uganda, Taiwan, Japan, India, Israel, Greece, Iceland, Pakistan, Philippines, Czech Republic and more. The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 hits bookstore shelves and e-readers on August 25th. Wanna pre-order? Click here to order direct from Apex Publications*.

If you’re looking to read beyond your geographic horizon, this anthology series is a great place to start. And yes, it’s an anthology series, but it’s not a series. You can start anywhere.

Mahvesh Murad was kind enough to give me a behind the scenes look into her editing process for this new volume.  And then we got on some tangents, and talked about radio, her new podcast Midnight in Karachi, and her Dragonlance reread over at tor.com. After the interview, I’ve got some links to reviews to previous volumes in the World SF series so you can see what others (including me) thought of this anthology.

let’s get to the interview!

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Little Red Reviewer: Tell us a little about the behind the scenes selection process for this anthology. Were there open submissions? Did you solicit stories from authors you already knew? What if you wanted to purchase a story that didn’t yet have an English translation?

Mahvesh Murad: The Apex Book of World SF is primarily a reprint anthology so we looked at work already published in various anthologies or online all over the world. There weren’t open submissions as such, no, but we did reach out to editors we knew who had worked on or curated stories from writers outside of the US/UK mainstream to see if they had stories we could look at. There were some stories I knew I wanted as soon as we started because I’d read them recently and they had left their mark, so we reached out directly to those writers, specifically about certain stories.

We have a few translations in this volume but none were translated for the anthology. If a story didn’t have an English translation, chances are I wouldn’t be able to read it so wouldn’t know if I wanted it or not:). It would be fantastic for this anthology to grow to a point where we can commission translations though!

LRR: What are some of your favorite stories from the new anthology?

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the adjacentThe Adjacent, by Christopher Priest

published 2013

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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I enjoyed reading The Adjacent, and I’d be lying if I said a large portion of the book didn’t have me on the edge of my seat. But still, I can’t tell you what this book is about. That’s not because i don’t want to spoil things for you, it’s because I simply have no idea what the book was about.

 

I borrowed this book from a friend, who described it as “a mental mind f*ck””, which is as apt a description as any.  The few sentences on the back of the book mention two characters who have similar names but otherwise shouldn’t have anything in common, and a physicist who discovers a weaponizable secret. How is all this might be related is an understandable and expected question.

 

The story opens with photographer Tibor Trent, recently returned to England after his wife Melanie was killed in the Anatolian field hospital they both worked in.  This near-future England isn’t anything you or I would recognize. Much of the land is burnt to slag, the face of the ruling government isn’t what most people would expect, and Tibor is kept oddly isolated, often guarded or greeted by people who refuse to speak to him. It’s not so much post-apocalyptic as it is post shock-and-awe. Tibor is waiting for his debriefing appointment, to explain to someone the enemy weapon that killed his wife, that left nothing behind but a blackened perfect triangle.

 

Elsewhen, stage magician Tommy Trent is on his way to the Western Front. What could the muddied trenches possibly need a stage entertainer for?  When Tommy learns of the true reason he’s been called to the front, he realizes he’s in far too deep. Told in first person, Tommy tells the reader he is a professional misleader. He also gives an early and helpful definition of how adjacency is applied to the art of stage magic:

 

“The magician places two objects close to each other, or connects them in some way, but one is made to be more interesting (or intriguing, or amusing) to the audience. It might have an odd ot suggestive shape, or it appears to have something inside it, or it suddenly starts doing something the magician seems not to have noticed. The actual set-up is unimportant – what matters most is that the audience, however briefly, should become interested and look away in the wrong direction”

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falling in lovewith hominidsFalling In Love With Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

published Aug 11, 2015

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Tachyon!)

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Showcasing fiction from as far back as 2002, Falling in Love With Hominids is a vast and varied collection of Nalo Hopkinson’s short fiction. With a feeling of a retrospective art collection, the stories are everything from straight up science fiction to literary fiction to escapades of pure frolicsome imagination.  For an author you’ve never read before, short fiction might be the best way to get a taste of their fiction, to see if this is someone you want to make a 300 page investment in.  I also enjoy the reading freedom of single author collections. I can jump around in the table of contents, and guilt-free read the collection cover to cover in any order I please (I do this with all anthologies, actually. Even though I know editors put the TOC in a particular order for particular reasons).

also? Just look at that gorgeous cover art. Just look at it!

Hopkinson opens each story with a few sentences about where the idea for the story came from, and in a few cases a single sentence that acts more as a subtitle.  There is a lot of literary fiction in Falling in Love with Hominids, even a Shakespeare homage.  But my tastes lean towards the easier to digest, so my favorites included the  imaginative flights of fancy, the flirtations with science fiction, the fairy tale retellings.   And that’s probably the best thing about this collection: no matter what your particular tastes are, Hopkinson has probably written it.

The flights of fancy I keep mentioning include “Emily Breakfast”, the story of a farmer with a flying cat and  three fire-breathing chickens named Lunch, Dinner, and Emily Breakfast; and “Herbal”, in which an elephant suddenly appears in a woman’s high-rise apartment and when an elephant is suddenly thundering through your tiny apartment, what can you do?
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Up In The Air and The Devil Wears Prada are basically the same movie, and they aren’t what you think they’re about.

 

I adore Anna Kendrick, and I’ve seen Up in the Air about 10 times. I laugh at all the travel scenes, because I’ve been there done that (and the St Louis airport has some surprisingly nice restaurants). Up In the Air is a good, but not great movie. And with The Devil Wears Prada who can say no to an all-star cast of Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, and Emily Blunt? So these are obviously two really fun movies for me. These two movies are supposed to coming of age stories about young women who chase a dream career and blah blah blah . . .

 

Coming of age story? Yeah, well, they aren’t about that at all.  Imma gonna spoil the plots for you, okay? Both movies have nearly identical plots, that among other things, are pretty predictable. So I don’t feel like I’m actually spoiling anything important here.

 

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Anna Kendrick in Up In The Air

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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.