the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Will McIntosh’ Category

Unbreakable by Will McIntosh

published June 27th, 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the author

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Celia makes it look easy, but she’s been training so long to break records that to her, all the training has begun to feel hum-drum.  She figured out the trick to conditioning her body years ago: all she has to do is suffer, and the hardest part of breaking a record is the unceasing boredom. Most minutes holding your breath under water, longest time being buried alive, most number of hours spent without sleeping, she’s done it all and she knows it’s 99% sitting around waiting.

 

She’s lived in Record City for as long as she can remember, and for nearly as long she’s lived with her adoptive parents and a few house mates. They eat together, train together, cheer each other on, and help each other recover. When the team breaks a challenging record, it’s cash rewards all around and better housing.  Losing out to another team means having to move to a dingier apartment with fewer windows.  It might sound weird to you and I, but to Celia this is what family and love and friendship means.  When you’re surrounded by people who live their lives the same way you do, there isn’t anything to tell you that this is all very weird.

 

Part Hunger Games, part Lost, and part other things I can’t mention because I don’t want to wreck the twist, Will McIntosh’s new novel Unbreakable will grab you by the neck and won’t let go. Longer than a novella, but shorter than a novel, McIntosh self published this very strange, ultra fast-paced, narrowly focused, and addictively readable novel.  It is currently available as an e-book or paperback on Amazon.

 

As a friend lies dying, Celia escapes Record City on a quest to find a life saving medicine she’s heard about on television. And what she finds are . . .  more walled cities full of single minded citizens who shush her every time she tries to ask questions.  Even in Record City, the rule was “follow the rules sand shut up”, and the TV and movie characters who inspire Celia to  be curious about the world were bound to get her into trouble eventually.

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When a book has the kind of effect on you that McIntosh’s Defenders had on me, it’s time for a reread!

 

Defenders by Will McIntosh

published in 2014,  read my original review here.

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What I remember most about the first time reading this book is that it scared the living crap out of me.  Not “omg, there’s a spider, someone kill it!” scared,  not “why did a fire truck just pull into my apartment parking lot” scared, but the kind of scared that made me want to hide in the back of the bedroom closet, cover myself with a blanket, and be so silent that nothing would even know I existed.

 

When people ask me about books that had a strong emotional impact on me, this book gets a mention.

 

The first time I read Defenders, I read the last chunk of it in one sitting in the middle of the night because I was afraid that if I put the book down all the main characters would die before I could pick the book back up.

 

I’ve been itching to re-read Defenders for over a year.  It’s so absorbing that it makes for an absolutely perfect escapist thriller. Near future, but so ridiculous that none of this stuff could ever happen. . .  right? I mean, right?

 

Actually, the only thing in this book that I see as not happening in the next 50 years is us making contact with an alien species. That’s how the book opens: contact with an alien species that lands in remote areas on Earth. The Luyten are telepathic, and can easily read the minds of any human within 8 miles. When we come up with plans to attack them, they can easily pull those plans out of the mind of anyone involved and nearby, so a counter attack is easy. The Luyten didn’t come here to exterminate us, but they don’t want to die either.  I’m reminded of something author Tade Thompson said when I interviewed him:

 

LRR: If Earth does experience first contact with an alien species, how do you think humanity will react?

TT: If we encounter intelligent life, blind panic and religious hysteria.

If we encounter flora or fauna, blind panic and religious hysteria.

Humans don’t handle the unknown well. Look at our history.”

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faller-novelFaller, by Will McIntosh

published October 2016

where I got it:  Accessed ARC via Netgalley

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If people had a chance to start fresh, to start again with no history, how could things in our world be different? With no memories, you have no guilt, no regrets, and no shame. You can truly start fresh.  And that would be great, right?

Although Faller follows two very intense and ultra fast paced story lines, you’ll have no problem keeping track of what’s happening in each plotline. One plotline follows brilliant scientist Peter Sandoval and his colleagues as they develop technologies, and the other follows a populace that has been afflicted with biographical amnesia.  People can remember how to use a can opener, how to use a gun, what a telephone is. But no one remembers what their name is, where they live, or who they are married to. And the telephones aren’t ringing anymore because there is no electricity.  Some people open wallets to find photos of assumed loved ones,  yet one man’s pockets are empty except for a photo of him and a beautiful woman, a plastic army guy with a parachute, and a drawing that makes no sense.

As in all his novels,  McIntosh has seeded a garden of abundant visuals, and as the story progresses, it’s as if the flowers are bursting into bloom.   The man who spent the morning fidgeting with a plastic army guy and a parachute ends up building a parachute and jumping off a building. But he doesn’t land on the road, in fact he doesn’t land at all. Known as Faller, he falls right off the edge of the world. While reading, I could see a visual novel unfolding in my mind, complete with shadowed faces and moments of clarity that last pages as people take the plunge towards the consequences of their decisions.

That man falls, and falls, and falls.  Until he reaches the next world.   When will he find what he’s looking for?  How fall will he need to fall?

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Is it just me, or did 2015 fly by in like two weeks? How did that even happen? It certainly was a crazy year – I started a new job, we moved into a bigger apartment, i learned a whole new definition of the work “workaholic”, I didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted.

Anyway, here is my annual “Best of the year” list, presented in no particular order, with links if you’d like to read my reviews.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, easily my favorite novel of 2015.

The Bone Swans of Amandale – by C.S.E Cooney, in her short story collection Bone Swans

The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin

Binti, by Nnedo Okorafor

Flex, by Ferrett Steinmetz

The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad

Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

Babel-17 by Samuel Delany

The Life of the World to Come, by Kage Baker

 

Honorable mentions for the year go to:

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett. I read it in 2015, but can’t actually talk about how freaking amazing it was until 2016. So I guess it’ll have to make my best of 2016 list.

and this stuff, which is omg, what I always wished ginger ale would taste like. Also? it’s alcoholic.

ginger ale

2015 was a crazy year, and I don’t mind that it’s over.  I’ll see everyone on January 1st for Vintage Science Fiction month!

ea_SoftApocalypseSoft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

published 2011

where I got it: purchased used

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I’m not sure if this is the most recent book I finished,  but this is the book that got me out of the funk I’ve been in lately. I’ve barely been able to concentrate on a book for more than 15 minutes for the last few months, and Soft Apocalypse gently took me by the hand, and led me to a quiet room where there was no e-mail or texts pinging, no phone ringing, and no deadlines I’d missed. As the story was giving me the escape I so desperately needed, it coyly whispered in my ear “I’m going to give you something to care about. And then I’m going to make you watch it die”.

Soft Apocalypse was an experience in enforced escapism. And it was devastating.

And I did so desperately need this experience of escape. This is the book that forced me to put my perspectives back where they belong. Well done Will McIntosh – with your story of a society in denial, you talked me off my own ledge. Well done indeed.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching Robin Hobb deconstruct a character beyond the point of  no return (Forest Mage, I’m looking at you), Soft Apocalypse feels a bit like that at times, with McIntosh putting his characters through increasingly harrowing and disturbing events. And since everyone in the book assumes things can’t get any worse, they keep living their lives as if next year, or maybe the year after, everything will start to turn around.  But it doesn’t.  Things just keep getting worse, but so slowly that from day to day people barely notice. Resources slowly become scarcer, people become more afraid of strangers, and the police threaten people more than they help them.

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2014 has been a pretty good year for me.  Personally, I’m damn impressed with how many of these books were actually published in 2014. As a bonus, there’s even a few novellas and short stories in here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2014!

Favorite Novels:

city_of_stairs-cover1

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) – that this book is on my list should surprise no one. And if you haven’t read it yet, seriously, get with the program. This is one of those amazing books that defies genre categorization, it just *is*.  To give you a big picture without spoiling anything, it’s about watching your worldview dissolve before your eyes, and understanding that games can be played with many sets of rules. Also? it’s simply fucking amazing.

gemsigns

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (2014) – This is probably the most important book I read in 2014. Remember when Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother took high school government classes by storm? I wish the same for this book.  Gemsigns touches on enforced marginalization, building (and breaking down) cultures of racism and classism and fear, and religiously and politically promoted hatred, and handles it in a blunt and emotional way. Also? fucking awesome. And for what it’s worth, I cried at the end.

vandermeer annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer  (2014) –  I’ve been a Vandermeer fan for a long, long time (yet somehow I can still eat mushrooms). Annihilation was strange, surreal, and seemed to be magnetically attuned to me. The words in the tunnel rang for me like a tuning fork. And there was just something about characters who don’t have names. I am a jerk, however, because I own but haven’t yet read the third book in the series.

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defendersDefenders by Will McIntosh

published May 13 2014

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

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Can my entire review just consist of “holy fuck this book completely shattered me”?  Because really, that’s all you need to know.  But a seven word review? boring!

 

It’s 2029 and our first contact with an alien species is an invasion. The Luyten look like giant six or seven legged starfish, and they fell from the sky.  We attacked them, they fought back. They seemed to always know where our troops were, what our plan was. The Luyten could read our minds. They knew every thought going through every human’s mind, our dreams, our fears, everything.

 

And they were winning.

 

Homeless, hungry, and freezing to death, Kai helps a Luyten who claims to be an unarmed and wounded scout. A tenuous trust grows, and the Luyten begs Kai to keep silent about it’s hiding spot. How is a starving teen supposed to say no to a human soldier who promises food and a warm bed?  The Luyten is captured and tortured.

 

But still, the Luyten were winning. There was nowhere we could hide, nothing we could hide from them. If a Luyten were within eight miles of a human, the entire Luyten population knew what that human was planning. We needed to come up with something, and fast.

 

Are you scared yet? You should be. And this is only the beginning.

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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.