the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for September 2017

It was just last week that I interviewed Jon McGoran, author of the new YA novel Spliced.  What lovely timing to be hosting a guest review of Spliced today!  My very good friend Kristin Centorcelli, enjoyed the hell out of Spliced. And I’ll bet her name sounds familiar to a lot of you . . .

** Edited to add – Jon McGoran is also over at John Scalzi’s Whatever blog today, talking about the Big Idea behind Sliced.  The interview, this review, the Big Idea at Whatever? Trifecta of Sliced goodness! **

Kristin Centorcelli ran My Bookish Ways, wrote and edited for SF Signal, and now reviews for Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and Criminal Element. She also hoards books and expects that, at some point, the hoard will collapse, and her body will be found under mountains of them. She’s ok with this.

 

Spliced, by Jon McGoran

available on Sept 29th, 2017

Guest reviewed by Kristin Centorcelli

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Full disclosure: I haven’t read a book by Jon McGoran that I didn’t like, and when I heard he was delving into YA territory, I was intrigued, and excited! My excitement was warranted, because he brings all of the environmentally conscious elements of his writing to the table, throws in some very cool science, and gives us a hell of a heroine in the process. Spliced takes place in and around Philadelphia, in what I’m guessing is the fairly near future: there are mail drones (and police drones) buzzing around, people live clustered together in cities, with the outer neighborhoods, dubbed “zurbs,” having crumbled under environmental onslaught. Think buckled sidewalks, swimming pools as hazards, and lots of greenery, except where coal wells have poisoned the land with their output. People do live in the zurbs, and some even thrive, growing their own food and using solar power, but for the most part, it’s considered a wild place, dangerous even.

 

But!

What you want to know about is splicing and chimeras, right? Splicing involves injecting non-human DNA into humans, creating strange/scary/beautiful results, aka chimeras. Our 16-year-old heroine, Jimi, wants nothing to do with splicing, but her best friend (and maybe more?) Del, shows her a new tat he got of an iguana, which comes as a surprise to Jimi, but she puts it aside as harmless rebellion, until Del goes missing after a confrontation with the police, who are generally not very tolerant of chimeras, and Del was hanging out with a group of them at the time. Jimi’s interference gets her in some trouble, and it also gets her sent to stay with her Aunt Trudy out in the zurbs. It sucks, but all Jimi can think about is finding Del. She’s worried that he’s gotten spliced, and her worries aren’t unfounded. In fact, the worst has happened, and Jimi must find a way to help Del before it’s too late.

 

In seeking to help Del, Jimi gets a helping hand by a chimera named Rex, and is introduced to his diverse group of friends. They’ve been squatting in the zurbs, and lead a hand to mouth existence. They already suffer from somewhat of an outsider status, but it’s made worse when legislation called the Genetic Heritage Act is signed into law, effectively declaring chimeras non-humans. It’s a disgusting piece of work, and it’s igniting violence all over the city, targeting the very people that Jimi has begun to call her friends.

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This review is part of the #GuardAgainstTheDark blog tour!  To learn more (and enter a give away!), click here.

 

Cover art by Matt Stawicki http://www.mattstawicki.com

To Guard Against the Dark (Reunification #3) by Julie Czerneda

publishes Oct 10th 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (Thanks DAW books!)

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Thesaurus.com has been no help whatsover. What’s that word for when a long series that you are emotionally invested in has come to a close, and while you’re sad it has ended, you’re happy because you can just pull the books off the shelf and visit the characters anytime you want?  I feel certain German, or perhaps Norwegian has a word for this.

 

To Guard Against the Dark has been 20 years in the making.  It was 1997 when Julie Czerneda published A Thousand Words for Stranger, the book that started it all.  The year I graduated high school was the year her novel A Thousand Words for Stranger came out, the year the world met a species that was in danger of breeding itself out of existence. Their lives a secret, their homeworld unknown, the Clan hid in plain sight, amassing fortunes and enemies.  Three trilogies and twenty years later, here we are.

 

Does that mean You need to read all eight books that came before this one to enjoy To Guard Against the Dark?  Certainly not. This is, however, book three in this particular trilogy, so you will want to read the two preceding books. You’ll be in good company, as I came to this series myself by starting at This Gulf of Time and Stars, which is the 1st book in this trilogy.  If right here, right now, is the first you have ever heard of this series, you are going to feel a little lost reading this review. It won’t help you newbies very much that there are a ton of intertwining plotlines in this climactic last novel and I am trying my hardest to avoid major spoilers.  But minor spoilers? Sorry, unavoidable. Continue at your own risk.

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Cover art by Matthew Stawicki www.mattstawicki.com

Why, hello fellow bloggers and book reviewers!   Please raise your hand if you’ve ever participated in a blog tour.  Keep your hand up if you’ve received an e-mail from me about a blog tour I’m putting together (last week, maybe?), or a scifi-month project, or some other “I came up with this great idea at 4am!” project I   have in mind that I’m asking/begging you to be a part of.  A couple of hands still in the air?  Some of you have even planned your own projects, inherited them, or played around with blogging community projects until you found the one that works best for you.

 

If you raised your hand, thought about raising your hand, or want to raise your hand sometime in the future, this amazing #allthefeels guest post from Julie Czerneda is for you.

#ImNotCryingYouAre

 

Also?  This is just the beginning!  Follow #GuardAgainstTheDark on twitter for all the blog tour goodness, while I sit back and relax. 😉

 

photo credit: Roger Czerneda www.photography.czerneda.com

Thanks For That!

This post is going up during my third official Tour d’Internet, aka that thing authors now do before a book comes out called a “Blog Tour.”

It’s work. A post, be it a short essay like this or an interview, takes time to write (and edit, and let sit for a day or more to be sure it’s good enough, and possibly be shared with a trusted few first to be SURE it’s good enough…etc.). It’s work—and time—for the blogger hosting it as well. There’s formatting, scheduling, emails to anxious authors (is it good enough?), not to mention what comes afterwards. Oh yes. It’s not just about the post. As Michelle Sagara informed me, with some urgency, shortly after my first few blog posts went up, “It’s all about the comments, you know. You need to be there and answer them.”

I did?

I did. And do. However, the presence of comments? Is because the bloggers take more of their time to invite people to come and see the post. They moderate. (I envision the horrors kept from the public commentary section.) Since this is a tour, they even share the blog posts of OTHER BLOGGERS.

Thanks for that, by the way.

It’s the part that makes me feel most at home. That sharing. That joy to be part of a wider event. It reminds me of conventions and fandom. It reminds me of the great community that exists in science fiction, fantasy, and I’m sure horror, though those people are Very Scary. (Not really, some of my dearest friends write horror and don’t at all expect me to read it. Thanks for that too.)

I hadn’t thought, during what becomes a wild and hilarious stint of odd, rarely sequential tasks to promote my new book—most often, by pure chance, at the worst time to be doing anything but writing the NEXT one, especially digressing on the internet—to find blog tours such a joy-filled, inspiring process. Yet it is, because of you. Those who read these things. Who comment. Yes, hopefully you’ll win something, but you’re reading this because you’re willing to give me some of your precious time and attention.

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In Jon McGoran‘s new novel Spliced, the newest bio-hacking trend is a dangerous form of permanent body modification. Who needs piercings or tattoos, when you can get animal genes spliced into your own body? This thrilling novel follows teenagers Jimi and Del as they fall deeper than they ever expected into the world of the spliced. The rich can afford legal and safe splices, other who want the procedure go to illegal back alley clinics.  And just imagine the political backlash!   Are these genetically modified people, known as chimeras, superhuman? or are they no longer human, and no longer deserving of human rights?

Paste Magazine named Spliced one of the ten best YA books in September, and Booklist calls Spliced“suspenseful and scary…timely [and] thought-provoking”.  Spliced hits bookstore shelves on Sept 29th, and the audio book, narrated by Sophie Amoss, comes out the same day.

Jon has been writing about food and sustainability for over twenty years, and when he’s not writing and publishing non-fiction and satire, he writes eco-thrillers to play with ideas about how all easily all our technological advances can go horribly wrong. Because, well, we’re only human after all. Jon was kind enough to let me pick his brain about Spliced, The Philadelphia Liars Club, his work in ecological sustainability, and more. And speaking of Philadelphia, if you live in that city you can attend the Launch Party for Spliced, Oct 6 at Parkway Central Library. Click here for more info.

Let’s get to the interview!


Little Red Reviewer:
Your new novel, Spliced, is a thriller that revolves around the trendiest underground body modification of having animal genes illegally spliced into humans. Why would someone want to have animal genes spliced into their DNA? Do I get a cat’s night vision, a rattlesnake’s venomous bite, the regeneration abilities of a starfish? Sell me on why someone would want to do this to themselves.

Jon McGoran: Even in the book, the science is still pretty new, and for the most part, the people doing the splices, the ‘genies,’ are amateurs, so you don’t always know what you are going to get. The effects are generally superficial, although sometimes profound. Some chimeras do pick up other traits from the animals they are spliced with, but it’s not like a super power.

As to the reason why someone would do it, that was one of the questions that I thought was most interesting when I first came up with the idea for the book. I knew people would do this, and I do believe they probably will if it becomes possible like it is in the book. There are all sorts of body modifications out there, from tattoos and piercings and gauges to some that are much more extreme and elaborate. So part of the reason would parallel why people get those modifications. But with something like this, there would be as many reasons to do it as there are people doing it. For some it is a fashion statement or a symbol of rebellion, for others it is solidarity with the Earth’s rapidly dwindling wildlife, especially the species that are endangered or extinct. And some look at what humans have done to the Earth, and at times to each other, and they want to make it clear, on some level, that they don’t agree with what humanity has become.

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xxxholic omnibus 1xxxHolic, omnibus #1

published in 2007 (I think?)

where I got it:  have owned it forever.

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I’ve been reading Manga on and off for probably ten years. I don’t mention manga much, because there are very few series I’ve liked enough to invest in.  One of the early reviews on this blog was for the first volume (or first few? I can’t tell) of xxxHolic, by CLAMP. The Manga section of Barnes and Noble is full of 3 volume omnibuses these days, but back in the old days, a three volume omnibus was an oddity. No one planned to make more than one of these monsters, so sometimes there wasn’t even a  number on the spine.  And speaking of “way back when”, xxxHolic has been floating around in one form or another since 2004 or there abouts.

 

I wrote a halfway decent review of this back in 2010, it’s nice to see I did a decent job of writing a plot based review!   It’s interesting to see what I got out of xxxHolic then, and what’s I’m getting out of it now. The surface stuff is always the easy stuff – Yuko’s hidden “shop”, the crossover plotlines and funny little jokes from other CLAMP works, the “monster of the week” episodic feel of these first three volumes, the gorgeous artwork.   If you’re used to American style graphic novels, Japanese manga, CLAMP works especially, may be a shock to you – everything is in black and white, there is far less dialog per page, motion is depicted very differently, and the human body is drawn differently than you might be used to.

are you the spacetime witch

Back in the day, I stalled out six or seven volumes into xxxHolic, I felt the story wasn’t really going anywhere.  At the time, seven volumes was a pretty big investment to make in a series if I wasn’t going to continue.  Yuko might be the space time witch who offers to help Watanuki get rid of his spirits problem, but I needed more than just urban fantasy slice of life.  I didn’t continue reading it, but my husband did, eventually trading in our single volumes for these hefty 3-volume omnibuses. And he let me know the story gets deeper, deadlier, and darker. So now I want to give it another try, because I like all of those things!  Watanuki might be getting dragged on Yuko’s errands, but it’s important later for him to have safely been exposed to all this urban fantasy type stuff. Even at the ghost story telling ceremony with Domeki, Watanuki might might not feel safe, but if Yuko is in the room she’ll never let anything permanent happen to him. Or at least I don’t think she’d let anything happen to him . . .

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I’m over at Apex Magazine today interviewing Kameron Hurley.   This is Apex Magazine‘s 100th issue!

https://www.apex-magazine.com/interview-with-author-kameron-hurley

 

While you’re over there, make sure you check out Hurley’s short story “Tumbledown”, and all the other wonderful content Apex Magazine has to offer.  Included in that wonderful content is my monthly interviews with featured authors!

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The Emperor and the Maula, by Robert Silverberg

available Sept 30th 2017

Where I got it: received advanced review copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

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Robert Silverberg’s The Emperor and The Maula is exactly what it says on the tin: this is a space opera version of the story of Scheherazade – in which a woman is sentenced to die at dawn and purchases another day of living by spinning a compelling tale for the emperor with dawn as her cue for a cliffhanger.

 

I love the idea of a space opera Scheherezade. Just think of how far an author could scale things up!  A number of years ago, there was a scifi anime made of The Count of Monte Cristo, with aliens, and travel to other planets, alien technologies and a very cool artistic style.  The writers took an earthly story and scaled it way the hell up, and it was brilliant.

 

What gives this wonderful little novella the “more” factor are its publishing history and the galactic scale a space opera environ allows. If you’re one of those readers who always skips introductions offered up by authors or their friends, make an exception for this one.  The history of this novella as seen through the logistics of the publishing industry is an adventure itself – rife with cliffhangers, cancelled publishing projects, word count requirements, adventures in selling the same story twice, concluding with the original novella being shoved in a file and forgotten about.   And now after twenty five years,  Silverberg fans can finally read The Emperor and the Maula in its nearly original form.  Funny, compelling, suspenseful, and given the space opera scale-up, this is exactly the kind of story an Earth woman might tell to an alien overlord on a planet far, far, away.

 

The Ansaaran Empire, benevolent ruling power of the known galaxy, brings culture and civilization to all planets.  Races living on backward planets are known as maulas, a word that translates to “barbarian”. If these people can ever find it in themselves to become cultured, perhaps one day, hundreds of years from now, they may be welcomed into the empire as citizens.

 

As an Earthling, Laylah is a maula and as such is forbidden from stepping foot on the sacred homeworld of the Ansaarans.   Knowing that the punishment is death, she travels far and wide, every year getting closer to her goal, and finally stepping off a starship and on to the sacred planet. Where she is summarily arrested. And then passed from one bureaucrat to another in a bureaucratic comedy of errors, as all of them know the punishment for her crime is death, but none of them want to be associated with the poor loser who will actually be responsible for someone’s execution.

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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.