the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for August 2018

The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks

published in 1984

where I got it: purchased used








You’ve read some Iain M. Banks then?  Some Culture novels? The “.M” means you’re reading his science fiction.  Without that middle initial, you’re holding a contemporary fiction novel in your hands.


The Wasp Factory may not be science fiction (or anything even approaching a Culture novel), but oh is it so very Iain Banks.  He throws you in the deep end on page one, leaves you on your own to figure out the local slang terms, populates the book with characters who are as confident in their actions as they are secretive about their motives, and then flips everything inside out for the climactic reveal.  Yup, this is definitely a Banks novel!


At less than two hundred pages,  you’d think this book would be a fast read. And it is, sort of. It’s easy to read, the vocabulary isn’t difficult, and I have no complaints on the pacing.  But it is not an easy book to read. The Wasp Factory is solid violence, nastiness, sociopathic tendencies, animal abuse, and cold blooded murder.


This is a novel in which a child commits premeditated murder three times before the age of eleven, and doesn’t feel the slightest remorse.


Oh, you’re thinking grimark? I think Frank Cauldhame could give even Jorg a run for his money.  That is not a compliment. If A Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies had an ultraviolent psychopathic younger brother they didn’t want anyone to know about, The Wasp Factory is that brother.

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As of the writing of this blog post, The Apex Publications “Do Not Go Quietly” Kickstarter is just shy of 70% funded, with 15 days to go.  Jason and Lesley have let me annoy them with e-mails and tweets and Q&A’s.  I have to admit, I am fascinated not only by this particular kickstarter project, but by the behind the scenes of crowdfunding in general.  This is the fourth (fifth? I’ve lost count) Kickstarter that Apex has done, so crowdfunding projects must be fun!


Well past the 50% funded mark, the DNGQ project is now open to unsolicited submissions, through Sept 19th. They are looking for stories of Resistance. Of Revolution. Of standing up and demanding to have your space, your say, your right to be. Even if it means pissing people off.


Looking for some inspirational music? On the DNGQ blog is a Playlist of Resistance with more suggestions and music links in the comments.


But you came here to hear what Jason and Lesley have to say about resistance, voting, this anthology, and kickstarter, right?   Onward!


Andrea:  You’ve got voting information on the Do Not Go Quietly Blog. Um, why?

Jason: Lesley and I aren’t violent people. We certainly appreciate the sentiment behind punching neo-Nazis, but we don’t want to endorse any action that would see someone be harmed (particularly those who aren’t neo-Nazis). The simplest and most pain free way to resist in a democracy is to vote the assholes out. We want you to use your power to cast a ballot for those who are not racist, who does not suffer xenophobia, and discriminates against religion.

Lesley: Jason’s right. The best way to fight back and to resist is to be knowledgeable of what is going on in politics. So many people seem to feel like their vote doesn’t matter, like they can’t make a change by going, but that isn’t true. I would encourage everyone to pay attention. Know who your representatives are and what they stand for. If they don’t represent your beliefs or are actively trying to take away the rights of people they’re supposed to be representing, VOTE THEM OUT. The fastest way to get the attention of people in power is to take that power away when they abuse it.

Andrea: I am LOVING this cover art by Marcela Bolívar! What else can you tell us about her? Will she be creating any more artwork for this project?

. Read the rest of this entry »

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

available Aug 21 in US, Aug 23 in UK

where I got it:  Received ARC from Jo Fletcher Books

This review is part of a BlogBlast hosted by Jo Fletcher Books.  Find Foundryside reviews and more by searching on twitter with:








Robert Jackson Bennett books are always hard for me to describe. I end up just squeeing about “and then this happened, and there’s this character who is so cool, and don’t let me forget to tell you about this thing that happened, and you are gonna love this one scene so much, and I didn’t expect that other thing to be laugh out loud funny but it was, and I wanna know more about  . . .” My mind is going faster than my mouth, and I’m so busy trying to list everything that’s awesome that I can’t even finish a sentence or coherently describe what it is that makes his books so remarkable.


But I think I finally figured it out: Bennett connects all the dots. He takes what could have been a narrowly focused story, and some characters who are just trying to live their lives and do their thing, and he puts them in a world that has history and politics, and consequences.  He writes characters who deal with the same crap I deal with, they are living through the same frustrating stuff that I read about in the news every day: the cost of cheap goods, capitalism, colonialism, PTSD, marginalism, the difference between the haves and the have nots, etc.  His characters and their frustrations are relatable, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I get their motivations, because in their place, I’d probably do the same thing and have the same frustrations.


If you’ve ever read a Robert Jackson Bennett book before, you know the characters are going to be top notch and the plot is going to be the perfect balance of tightly paced and non-stop.  And if this is going to be your first Robert Jackson Bennett? You are in for a treat, as his work just keeps getting better and better. Foundryside is part N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, part Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora,  and part the Wachowski brother’s The Matrix.


The lyrics to “broken” by Lovely the Band feel very Foundryside #NotASpoiler

I was thrilled to see that Foundryside is the first of the Founders Trilogy, because while the novel functions perfectly well as a self contained story, there is so much more I want to know about Gregor, about Berenice, and I’m sure Gregor’s mother has a rivetingly creepy backstory.  And don’t even get me started on how much I want to know about Clef’s backstory! And I really hope Sancia is finally able to take a bath without it literally killing her.


I’m gonna skip all the How Fun The Story Was, and the How Much I Loved the Characters (omg, CLEF!!!), and skip right to the thing in Foundryside that completely blew my mind wide open: The magic system.  And not only the magic system, but the implications of how this  magic system works.


Lemme explain as best I can without spoiling anything. Get comfy, because this is gonna take a while. But first: do you like science? Do you like engineering?  (are you wondering why I am asking science-fictiony STEM-y questions in a fantasy novel review?) If you answered yes, you are gonna love this!

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You like anthologies of all original fiction, yes?

You think Kickstarter is cool, Yes?

Oh, are you going to love this!

My most excellent friends at Apex Book Company, Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner, have launched their Kickstarter for a new anthology of original fiction about resistance and revolution. Called “Do Not Go Quietly”, the anthology is already nearly 50% funded!


This is an all or nothing deal, which means when the funding is reached, the anthology happens with a table of contents that includes Seanan McGuire, Catherynne M. Valente, Rebecca Roanhorse, Sheree Renee Thomas, A. Merc Rustad, Maurice Broaddus, Cassandra Khaw, Laird Barron, Karin Lowachee, Rich Larson, Fran Wilde, and more.  For those of you keeping count,  I’ve just listed authors who have won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, Prix Aurora, Mythopeoic, Andre Norton,  and Shirley Jackson awards, and I’ve not even gotten through the entire Table of Contents yet.


Click here to visit the Do Not Go Quietly Kickstarter page to learn more about the project and all the amazing authors who are involved so far. Even if you have no intention of supporting this project, click on the link anyways, just to watch the kick ass video.


Lesley and Jason were kind enough to take me behind the scenes of this project, and if I’m really lucky, they’ll let me ask them another set of questions! What questions do you have?  Leave ’em in the comments, maybe you’ll see the answer posted later this month!

Not interested in kickstarter, but interested in some of the essays that are being published around this anthology? No problem, there is a Do Not Go Quietly Blog with everything you’re looking for, including information on voting.



Andrea: What made you decide to create this anthology? I imagine it took a while to get this group of authors together, explain to them what you were doing. Had you already been working on this for a while before you started the Kickstarter?

Lesley: Jason and I have known that we wanted to edit another anthology together, but coming up with just the right theme took a while. After the last presidential election we saw a lot of people we care about feeling scared and unsure about the world around them. Things … have not gotten better since then. That’s where the initial inspiration for Do Not Go Quietly came from. We want to put together an anthology that will energize people, that will lift them up and encourage them to stand up for their rights and fight back against those trying to take them away.


Coming up with the list of contributors who we would solicit stories from wasn’t as hard as you might think! Separately, Jason and I made lists of authors we felt would be a good fit – authors we know are not only amazing writers, but who we felt would have a unique voice and standpoint on the theme. Resistance, revolution. This isn’t a single-sided issue. There are a lot things going on not only here in the United States, but around the world. We aren’t looking to put together an anthology that only represents one issue or one viewpoint. Resistance is complex and nuanced, and we’re hoping that once the anthology is complete, it will be represent that complexity.


So we started with two lists and then put them together so we had one GIGANTIC list of fantastic writers we would love to have on board. From there we had to narrow it down, try to put together a mix that was diverse in viewpoints and voice, but that would fit well together to become a cohesive whole. After that, we sent out invites, explaining the project. Not everyone we approached said yes, but I’m incredibly proud of the list of contributors we have onboard for the project.


Andrea: What are some of the stretch goals in the kickstarter? I heard a rumor that there are . . . patches?


Lesley: There are patches! But you don’t have to wait for the stretch goals to get one! We’re sending out “I Will Not Go Quietly” patches to every backer who backs at the $15 trade paperback level and above! I know, I’m awfully excited about patches, but I’m a Girl Scout leader! Patches go along with a lot of things that I do. So that was one of the very first things that I wanted to make sure we got when coming up with goodies to pack into the reward tiers.

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Not much to say except YAY new books!

Also, sorry the blog has been quiet lately.  Lots of day jobbery happening (don’t worry all good stuff, just a LOT of it), not enough reading/writing happening.  such is life.


so let’s take a few minutes to celebrate some new goodies!


Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett drops on Aug 21st.  I’ll have a review up in a few days, so until then all I can say is holy shit is this book good! And well, I wrote a very Andrea review. You’ll see.


Some lovely ARCs that recently arrived from Tachyon:

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale is approximately a gazillion fairy tale retellings from the master of story, Jane Yolen. I am not entire sure what Lavie Tidhar’s Unholy Land is, but it looks very interesting.


And believe it or not I’ve been trying to read some non-fiction lately too!

So far, How to Create a Mind is over my head, but what I am understanding out of it, I am enjoying. the mistake I’m making is trying to read this entire book at once. it is short, but very, very dense. I need to take it one chapter at a time, and reread the chapter over and over again until I understand it.

Never Split the Difference is the easiest business book I’ve ever read. Chris Voss was the FBI’s lead hostage negotiator. Take those skills, and negotiate at work! with your kids! with your kids teachers!  the book mostly talks about empathy and active listening.  Surprisingly compelling read.


what have you been reading lately?



Nexhuman by Francesco Verso

Publishing date Aug 14th, 2018 (click here to pre-order)

Where I got it: Received copy for review from Apex Books*











#sorrynotsorry, I’m going to give you a spoiler right out of the gate:


Nexhuman will offer you enough ideas and discussion topics and thought experiments to keep you busy for the next ten years. In fact, an entire Convention programming track could be built just around the questions and ideas in this book.


What Nexhuman does not offer is concrete answers to any of the questions that are brought up.


It’s something you should know before you pick up this book: If you are the kind of reader who wants a book to ask questions and then cleanly answer them, Nexhuman will be one confusing and disappointing read.  On the flip side, if you enjoy science fiction books that ask questions about how society works, why humans act the way they do, why we make the decisions we make, how obsession and fear and passion work, a book that invites you to pull your own thoughts apart and examine them, and oh  yeah, if you love beautiful prose that doesn’t rely on snark to get a point across, Nexhuman could be the best book you read this year. Interested in how any of this came about? Francesco Verso recently published a short essay in Apex Magazine about the origins of the novel.


Another spoiler: Nexhuman does not at all read like your typical popular American-style science fiction novel. What I mean by that is there is no snarky language for the sake of being snarky or shocky,  no sexy cinematic scenes, the language is often raw and blunt, and the characters don’t really care if you like, agree with, relate to, or sympathize with them. I mean no disrespect to science fiction when I say that Nexhuman reads like literature.


Most of the novel takes place in or around a dump that overflows with consumer goods. For me, this novel was a connecting keystone for works such as Battle Angel Alita, Wall-E, John Scalzi’s Lock In, Ferrett Steinmetz’s The Uploaded, David Brin’s Kiln People, and other stories that touch on hyperconsumerism and leaving our fleshbodies behind for one reason or another.


Peter and his family make their living by clawing through the trash to find bits and pieces that can be resold, recycled, reused. Many household items are 5th, 6th, nth hand. Having something that is brand new is a status symbol, but also a symbol of flagrant waste.  Even Peter’s prosthetic limbs are made of whatever he can find in the dump. If he wants a better arm or a better leg, he better hit the jackpot of finding outdated robot or android parts in the dump. I spent 80% of the book wondering if he was born with a birth defect, or if there had been an accident or infection that led to his amputations. Peter doesn’t like to talk about, and when I found how what had happened to him,  not only did I realize why he hates to talk about it, but everything in the beginning of the book suddenly made a ton more sense!


Ok, so what the hell is this book about?  On the edge of the dump is a commercial district. Teenage Peter has a puppy-dog crush on a young woman named Alba who works at the travel agency. He watches her from afar, he shyly says hello to her when she comes to unlock the business in the morning.   He begins to view himself as her protector. She politely engages in conversation with him, asks him how his day is going, says hello. Alba is the first person in his life who has ever shown him the slightest bit of unconditional kindness, so it’s no wonder his crush turns into infatuation.


Is it before or after Peter’s brother’s gang attacks Alba and tears her body apart at the seams that Peter realizes she is a Nexhuman?

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FTC Stuff

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.