the Little Red Reviewer

Latchkey, by Nicole Kornher-Stace

publishes July 10th 2018

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (thank you Mythic Delirium!)

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Reading the second book in a series first is like getting to have dessert first.  More than likely the worldbuilding is already done, the characters know what they are about, the author has a clearer idea of where the story is going and what should happen. You might feel a little lost, and your mileage will certainly vary.  But then when you do go back and read the first book, you’ll feel like a psychic, because you’ll know all sorts of details the characters don’t know!

 

Suffice to say, the first thing I did after I finished Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Latchkey was order the first book in the series, Archivist Wasp.

 

Latchkey is part post-apocalyptic, part mythology, part ghost story, and and all perspective shift, told through the lens of  Kornher-Stace’s mastery of prose and evocatively transportive language. This is the kind of sharp vibrant prose that would translate beautifully to an anime or a movie.  Highly recommended for fans of Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities series, fans of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, and anyone who enjoys a gorgeously told story about horrible things that should never have happened.

 

With metaphors that shouldn’t make sense but do, a poetry on the weight of stories that became legend that became religion, and a world where a hypervigilant 6th sense itch is the only thing that will save your life, nothing in Latchkey stays merely on the page. When Isabel was afraid, I was afraid. When she couldn’t breathe, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. When she is about to drop dead of exhaustion, I felt tired and fatigued. She never lost hope, so I didn’t either.  When I say this was an exhausting read, I mean that as the highest form of praise.

 

Latchkey takes place a few years after the events of Korner-Stace’s 2015 award winning Archivist Wasp.  Isabel and the other ex-upstarts are still getting used to the fact that they won’t have to kill their friends to survive, that they won’t ever again have to live a life of violence and fear.  The old tradition of the archivists has come to an end, even if the PTSD is still at the surface.  Isabel and the other girls need to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. In the meantime, they’ll still care for the Catchkeep Shrine, still say the words of their goddess, still have hope that the townspeople of Sweetwater can come to trust them.

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Acadie by Dave Hutchinson

published September 2017

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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Acadie, by Davie Hutchinson, is a surprise package, and I mean that literally.

 

A tiny little novella, sexy space opera cover art, strangely generic back cover copy that seems to describe a story far too large to fit into this tiny book. It feels like something doesn’t quite add up. Of course I needed to learn this book’s secrets!

 

Your immediate enjoyment of Acadie will depend 100% on how you feel about the main character, Duke. Told in first person, if you enjoy Duke’s narrative voice, you will love the story. If you find Duke annoying, you should keep reading anyway.   I liked Duke’s narrative voice right out of the gate – he’s sarcastic, he’s a not scientist surrounded by mad scientists, and he’s resigned to the fact that he can’t avoid meetings forever.

 

With a strong narrative voice, a post-scarcity community,  humorous snark, and truly genius ending, Acadie will scratch your Iain M. Banks itch. Fan of Steven Brust’s Agyar? In a way, this book will scratch that itch too.

 

Duke is the ad-hoc President of a sort-of secret Colony.  A few hundred years ago, a famous geneticists got in all sorts of trouble for doing all sorts of stuff, because she could. Instead of turning herself in, she and her disciples stole a colony ship, and set off for the stars where they’d be safe to continue their generic experiments. The colony has been living quite happily ever since, breeding new Kids with fancy genetics, and recruiting norms with specific skill sets from home space as needed.  Duke is one of those norms, and he was chosen to run the joint because of his management background and his abhorrence for authoritarian leadership.

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Artificial Condition, a Murderbot Diaries book, by Martha Wells

published May 8th 2018

where I got it: Purchased new

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If you’re not on the Murderbot bandwagon, start here. You’re welcome.

 

Also, I fucking love novellas. Running 80 – 200 pages, I can read the whole thing in a day or two, magically feeling like the world’s fastest reader. Recently, I’ve been needing to read a book twice before writing the review. So anyway.

 

I finished a reread of Martha Wells’ Artificial Condition same day my husband brought the video game Detroit: Become Human home.  Both stories deal with ‘bots who are designed to look human, sound human, move like a human, and sorta kinda act like a human.  Both stories deal with ‘bots who must obey human commands. Even when the commands are stupid. Going against your programming (responding to something in a human way) requires you to hack your own software, break yourself, doom yourself to being reprogrammed, or all of the above.

 

My experience with Detroit: Become Human consists of watching my husband play it for an hour or two, it’s a super high tech choose your own adventure story – to obey your asshole human owner but endanger the little girl, turn to page 8. To punch your asshole human owner and save the little girl, turn to page 12.  Every choice you make as you are playing the ‘bot immediately and directly affects the story, and you can replay scenes over and over again to see how your different choices will affect your character’s future. It’s way cool!

 

In Artificial Condition, Murderbot  is afraid of just about everything. Afraid of being caught and having a human tell it all the awful things it did. Afraid of being near humans and hurting them. Afraid of someone else figuring out it’s afraid.  All Murderbot wants is to be left alone, where it can’t hurt anyone, and where no one can hurt it. Murderbot has vague, half memories of murdering a bunch of idiot humans. But only half memories. Did everything happen in the order it remembers? Did it happen at all? Is Murderbot maybe not the vicious killing machine it thinks it is?  Murderbot needs to know what really happened.

 

Murderbot teams up with ART (ok, so maybe “teaming up” isn’t exactly how that goes? If I was more specific it would wreck everything) to get back to where it all began. I did get a chuckle out of Murderbot’s and ART’s conversations – these are both fancy pants AIs, so they aren’t exactly speaking out loud, it’s a silent room full of conversation. We’re actually nearly there in real life.

But Murderbot needs a way onto the industrial station where it became a killing machine, and the easiest quickest way to do that is to get an employment contract.  To do that, Murderbot will need to talk to. . . people. And act like a . . . real person.

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Hello friends!  Not only am I a book nerd, but I also run with a crowd of typewriter nerds!  This casual group of Michigan typewriter collectors and fans meets a handful a times a year to play with different typewriters, share tips for maintenance and repair, drool over each other’s machines,  welcome new faces, and enjoy each other’s company.

 

Last Saturday we had a Type-In at New Holland Brewing’s Knickerbocker restaurant in Grand Rapids, MI.   The reason I didn’t get a ton of photos?  I was enjoying amazing beer, their great menu, and the wonderful ambience of the restaurant. If you’ve never had New Holland  Beer, I highly recommend, and if you’re in the Grand Rapids area, their brewpub is all around fantastic.  They let us take over a fantastic well lit space, and as always at our Type-Ins, anyone who is floating around is welcome to type on the typewriters and see what these mechanical marvels are all about.  We had a whole group of 20-somethings and their parents stop by, the parents had fond memories of learning to type in school, and their children were asking where the backspace was.

This was one of our most successful Type-Ins, lots of new faces, a huge variety of machines of different eras and colors, and a number of international machines. Along with my little black Remette, I took some fun pattered scrapbooking paper to put through the machines. I’ve been having fun recently, seeing what kinds of different materials will go through the machines (it’s like Will It Blend? but not),  I’ve done wrapping paper, magazine advertisements, maybe I’ll do aluminum foil or parchment paper next?

this square piece of paper was just begging to be put into the machine on a diagonal!

 

To check out more photos, and more detailed information about this even, head over to my friend Bill’s site for part 1 and part 2.   While I was chugging beer, he was taking all the good photos. Bill is a true typewriter aficionado!

 

Here are some more pictures I took.

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Good Guys, by Steven Brust

published March 6th 2018

where I got it: Purchased new

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What can you do with magic?  Pretty much anything you can do without it, except magic makes things much easier, and much faster.  Students at the Foundation learn chemistry, molecular biology, and physics. They need to know how everything in the natural world works, so they can learn how to properly manipulate it for the results they want.  The applied science of magic is a lot of knowledge, even more practice, and boat ton of will power.

 

Steven Brust’s newest stand alone novel, Good Guys, is Dresden Files meets Columbo, meets a study in the glory that is non-verbal communication.  Donovan Longfellow heads up the American field team for the Spanish Foundation, a secret society staffed by magicians, sorcerers, recruiters, researchers, and assorted administrative staff. As the story opens, Donovan is breaking in his new field specialist, Marci. Fresh out of training, and still thinking she can have a healthy relationship while working for The Foundation, Marci is bright eyed and bushy-tailed, reminding me a little of Gwen from Torchwood. The team is rounded out by Susan the acrobatic ninja, and yep, the three of them are the entire American field team for the Spanish Foundation – saving the world by day, and often working  2nd jobs on the side to make ends meet.  They might be saving the world, and the Foundation offers pretty good health insurance, but the hourly wage sucks.

 

The novel opens with a murder committed by magical means.  Donovan’s team is put on the case, and as the murders stack up, the killings become more and more gruesome. None of the people who are murdered were particularly nice people. Someone is trying to send a message, but what are they trying to say, and why?   The Foundation tends to frown on people using magic for selfish or violent reasons, so why should they care that a bunch of assholes are getting knocked off? Other than the fact that he’s getting paid for it, why should Donovan care?

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The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

Release Date: June 12th 2018

Where I got it: Received a review copy from the publisher (Thanks Tachyon!)

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How do you crew a ship whose mission will take hundreds or thousands of years? Let’s see, you could do a sleeper ship, a generation ship, for something a little more unusual you could go the route of Marina Lostetter’s Noumenon or David Brin’s Existence. Those options will surely cover you for a few hundred or maybe a thousand years.  But what if the ship’s mission is even longer than that? What if we’re talking more like a million or more years?

 

The mission of the Eriophora is building a gate system through the galaxy. As the gate system grows, the outbound growth of mankind will surely follow. Sunday and many of her crewmates are forever hopeful that something almost human will come out of the next gate they build.  They are forever hopeful that their ship will finally receive a radio message that it’s time to come home. It’s been sixty million years, and they are still waiting for that message. No wonder the crew forms a music appreciation club, it’s not like there is much of anything else to do.  Yes, you read that correctly, they’ve been hurtling through the galaxy, awake for only a few days out of every few hundred or thousand, for sixty million years.

 

The solution sounded so simple, once upon a time.  Raise a bunch of children to feel special, to feel chosen. Train them together, let them watch their AI grow and learn.  Raise them to know the ship is their home, and everything they do, they do for the future and the betterment of mankind, and that being awake for 3 days out of every few hundred years is a completely normal thing.  Trust the AI to keep them in line and convince them that it’s totally normal that in millions of years no one has invited them to come back home.

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well, new to me!  Some of these are hot off the presses, some of them are reprints, one is so new I can’t talk about it until release day, and I’m surrounded by so many things I want to read RIGHTNOW that I don’t know where to start!

 

Hot off the presses and imma talk all about it:

The May issue of Apex Magazine is out, and it is a doozy! Garbage photo I know, but this jam packed TOC includes fiction from Nisi Shawl, Matthew Sanborn Smith, Rich Larson, Cherie Priest, and more. Lots of ghost stories, horror stories, and this one from Larson – you will never use social media again. Fantastic interview with the cover artist, who also did the beautiful cover art for Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew.  So, anyway, read this magazine.

Yes, yes! Apex is currently available in print!  A reader can purchase a print version of the magazine for (what in my opinion is) a reasonable price, but for a publisher, print is expensive.  The magazine needs a certain number of print subscribers to continue producing a print magazine. And we’re not there yet.  If you like the idea of a print mag, join me in putting your money where your mouth is.

ok, stepping off soapbox.

Lotus Blue was recommended to me by my friend Alex, she and I need to swap book rec’s more often!   And of course I had to get a copy of Beholder’s Eye after this happened!   This is an older series that was recently reprinted.

I’m also reading a new release that comes out on Tuesday. Can’t talk about it because my friendly bookseller probably wasn’t supposed to sell it to me early.  But, nothing says I can’t publish a review of it on Tuesday or Wednesday!

Is the suspense killing you?

 

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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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