the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for April 2018

Let me set the scene a little for you:   This past January, at ConFusion, Jerry says he has a novel coming out soon. And of course I say “oh?”

 

He tells me what the book is about.   He tells me the significance of the pre-order announcement and the significance of the book being released on April 19th (hey, that’s today!).  After that conversation, I couldn’t get the idea of this book out of my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about the research that must have gone into this book, what possessed him to write on this particular subject, how he went about writing a cult leader,  the power of faith and religion, and how law enforcement officers attacking civilians is nothing new.

 

I’ve been waiting for the book ever since.

 

Breaking The World is a fast paced alternate history thriller that takes place in Waco, Texas, in the summer of 1993.   Ringing any bells?  Does this photo look familiar?

(I swiped this photo from Jerry’s website)

 

Breaking the World asks the question “What if David Koresh was right, and the world really was ending?”

 

Jerry was kind enough to let me ask him all sorts of questions, most of which are a variation of “wait,  what?  but, how? and dude, why??”.   Because I really did want to know why would someone write a novel about the Branch Davidians.  Is it easier to research something like this now,  because more than 20 years have passed?  Did Jerry’s Google Search history get him on any no-fly lists?   I had a bazillion questions.  Like I said, Jerry is very kind.

 

Just joining us?  Click here to read my review of Breaking the Worldclick here to order the book directly from the publisher.  Click here to visit Jerry’s website.

 

Let’s get to the interview!  I promise, no (ok, only a few teeny) spoilers ahead! Not to mention insider info about the significance of names, social media to the rescue, the process of writing a non-believer who is stuck in a religious cult, how people have been reacting to this book, and that even when history is written by the victors, a darker truth is often hiding right beneath the surface.

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Little Red Reviewer: I was fourteen years old when “Waco” happened. Newsmedia was very different in 1993, and all I remember is seeing Koresh’s photo on TV, and lots of footage of burning buildings in the Texas sun. (CNN existed, we didn’t have cable TV) I may have been too young to understand, but more likely I just wasn’t paying attention and was too busy being a teenager to care. Fast forward 25 years, and we have multiple 24 hour news stations, tons of social media, and the ability to instantly put live videos online. If the Branch Davidian stand off happened in an age of smartphones and social media, would things have gone down differently? How might both sides use social media to their advantage? In any stand-off situation, do you think social media is a help, or a hindrance?


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Breaking the World, by Jerry Gordon

Release date:  April 19th 2018

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Apex*!!)

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In 1993 I was fourteen years old. I was excited about high school, excited about boys, was obsessed with the movie Jurassic Park,  I was finally old enough to listen to Nirvana and Aerosmith. We read The Odyssey in 9th grade, and I fell in love with mythology, epic stories, and oracles.  It was a good year to be fourteen. My parents watched the evening news religiously as I flitted in and out of the living room, disappointed that I couldn’t watch sitcoms or Star Trek because they were watching boring news.  I remember some guy’s photo being on TV a lot, aviator sunglasses, wavy brown hair. He just looked like some guy. I remember seeing footage of a flat landscape and a building that was on fire. I didn’t realize I should be paying attention.

 

The guy with the sunglasses was David Koresh, and the burning building was the Branch Davidian Church in Waco, Texas. What would become known as “Waco”, involved a 51 day standoff between the Branch Davidians and the FBI. Both sides were convinced they were right. Over 70 people were killed in the fire. And all I remember was some guy’s photo on TV.

 

Taking a cue from the alternate history author Tim Powers,  Jerry Gordon has to fit (nearly) everything that happens in Breaking the World  into the historical framework of what we think we know about the siege on the Branch Davidian Church, locked into the timeline of when and how the FBI surrounded and tear gassed the compound, to who escaped and how, to when the fire started, to how many people were inside the compound when it burned.  Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of “Waco”, Breaking the World was officially announced for pre-order on Feb 28th, and will be released on April 19th, lining up exactly with when the siege started and ended.

 

The novel is told from the point of view of Cyrus, a teenager who lives at the compound. Cyrus could care less about religion and god and the end of the world, he could freakin’ care less about David Koresh. But, since David is technically sorta Cyrus’s step dad, the two of them develop and civil relationship where they respect one another, to the point where David asks Cyrus’s advice on a number of occasions. David is softspoken, not always confident, uninterested in attention, and he cares deeply for the people who have come to his church. He believes the seals are beginning to break, and that he needs to keep his people safe.

 

Cyrus and his best friends, Marshal and Rachel, dream of running away together. Marshal grew up at the compound,  but Rachel is a recent arrival. Yeah, there’s plenty of novels in which a handful of fifteen year olds run away, but this isn’t that story. These kids have no money, no way to get to a train or bus station, they don’t know how to drive, they barely have access to a telephone. And remember when this takes place – cell phones weren’t a thing, plenty of adults did not have credit cards that their adventurous children could steal, and payphones were only helpful if you could actually get to one. Leaving Waco is going to have a stay a dream for Cyrus and his friends for a little while longer, because the siege begins in the first chapter of the book.   The three best friends are old enough to understand they may not live through this, and too young to be able to do much about it.

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In no particular order, here are the new books that have come into my house recently. (and this doesn’t even the count the ratty used paperbacks I’ve purchased, the e-book of Mythic Delirium I bought, and other books that friends have let me borrow).  My love for books is happily out of control!

 

What looks good to you?

As they say, if you can read a Steven Brust book, do it.  Witty characters, meaningful snark, well crafted mysteries, subtle clues and references.  I zipped through his newest, Good Guys, last weekend.  Compulsively readable, I need to read it again before I write a review, as I’m sure I missed a ton of good stuff.

You ever wonder what’s really happening when your tummy rumbles? Want to know more than you ever wanted about poop? If you answered Yes to at least one of those questions, Gut is for you.  I was looking for a paperback copy of The Secret Language of Trees, and came across Gut instead (yeah, B&N has zero organization to their science books).  I like knowing how my insides work.

 

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace comes out in July, it is the sequel to her acclaimed novel Archivist Wasp. I’m a jerk, and never read the first book, but here’s hoping I can just dive right into the new one!

I think I kinda freaked out Jerry Gordon at ConFusion when he said he’d written a novel about David Koresh and I was like “who in their right mind would do that, holy shit  tell me more”.  I’ve been waiting for this ARC to show up in my mailbox ever since, and I started reading it, oh, about 5 minutes after I ripped it out of the envelope.  Breaking the World releases on April 19th, we’ll see if I can get the book finished and a review up before then.

 

In that same envelope with Breaking the World was the April issue of Apex Magazine. Yes, this is available in print now! Subscriptions are reasonable, and it is hella bragging rights for me to walk around with a magazine that I am in. so, yeah. the April issue has an essay from Jerry Gordon, talking all about the behind-the-scenes of Breaking the World. Guess I better come up with some way better interview questions for him. . .

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson is  for my local scifi bookclub. I’m about halfway through and kinda losing the thread. I dig the main character, but am having trouble getting invested in the plot. I think too much is being jammed into too few pages? Anyone read this? What did you think?

 

The Freeze-Frame Revolution comes out in June, and I meant to just read the first chapter or two to get a taste of it, and two days later I was done and wanted to read it again. Review is already in the works, but I figure I better wait till just a little closer to June before posting. Short version of the review? this book is very, very good. Way too much crammed into too few pages, and it works beautifully.  because, you know, Peter Watts.

Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders doesn’t come out till September, so I guess it should sit on the TBR pile (my entire living room is turning into a TBR pile) until the summer. Looks like a fast fun read, maybe sort of Cory Doctorow-ish?

 

One of Us comes out in July, I’m not sure what exactly this is, but the early critical reviews are basically “this book will break you”.

Apocalypse Nyx comes out in July,  so once I finish all the stuff I’ve been dipping my toes into, I better get this one read. June will be hear before you know it!

 

Phoresis by Greg Egan comes out at the end of April.  It’s Egan, so that means it is dense and hard scifi. I’ve dipped my toes into this one, read maybe half of it. There is lots of “let’s science the shit out of this”. What I really need to do is start it again, from the beginning, and take notes. Because, Egan.

Silver Spoon was a happy surprise at B&N. I loved the anime of this, and really, anything by Arakawa is going to be fantastic. I’m interested to see how faithful the anime was to her original manga. The story follows a city boy who doesn’t know what he wants to do for college, so he ends up at an agricultural school, and finds himself surrounded by new friends who grew up on farms. It’s a nice coming of age story.

 

 

well? what looks good to you?  if these books were floating around your house, what would you read first?

 

 

 

Immortal Clay, by Michael Warren Lucas

published in 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the author (Thanks Michael!!)

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What if you woke up one day, and you remembered everything about your life, but you knew without a shadow of a doubt that you weren’t you anymore? That you were something else?

 

While you’re chewing on that, lemme give you some backstory, and then we’ll circle back to this whole “you’re you but you’re not” thing.

 

30-some years ago, a movie called The Thing bombed at the box office.  The cosmic horror movie that was ahead of its time was based on a 1930s novella by John W Campbell Jr. called “Who Goes There?”.  The plot of the novella and the movie adaptation follow American researchers at an Antarctic research base who come across an alien being who can perfectly imitate any lifeform it comes across. Any tiny part of the alien creature acts independently and can imitate anything. There is practically no way to know if your friend has been “assimilated”. The alien will do anything to survive.  We sure are lucky the alien’s ship crash landed in Antarctica, and not, say, the American midwest, right?

 

The movie became a cult classic, spawning sequels, discussions of the alien’s point of view, discussions of how mistrust can spread in a small community, discussions of cosmic horror and how defenseless humans would be of a creature who can so perfectly imitate us after it destroys us.  Is the alien evil? Why would an alien creature understand or care about a human’s definition of evil? Do we blame a cat for killing a mouse?

 

At the end of the movie The Thing, it is assumed that the humans win and that the alien is either dead or will starve to death, and that the rest of humanity has been saved.

 

Assumed.

 

Michael Warren Lucas’s novel Immortal Clay knows what happens when we assume. The concept behind this book is that the researchers in Antarctica failed, the alien survived, the alien grew, the alien found civilization. The alien’s goal is survival. And it won.  Every living thing that it touched, it devoured and then duplicated. Within a few years, every living thing on Earth, every person, every bird, dog, blade of grass, fish, everything, was a duplicate of the alien creature. Kevin Holtzmann knows he isn’t himself anymore. He remembers everything about his life – how he tried (and failed) to save his wife and daughter from being assimilated, where his house is, his old job as a police detective, everything.  But he know he isn’t himself anymore, that he’s just a duplicate created by an impossible-to-understand alien.

 

What happens after the world ends? Actually, mostly the same stuff as before – going to the bar, mowing the lawn, petty shoplifting,  making sure teenagers have adult supervision – just at a slower pace. We’ve already lost, so what’s the hurry?

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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.
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