the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

Coming this summer from Apex Books is MARS GIRLS, a YA adventure set on everyone’s favorite red planet.  Written by award winning author Mary Turzillo, Mars Girls follows the frantic and frenetic adventures of Nanoannie and Kapera.  Both girls understand the dangers of living on Mars, but still, life isn’t easy when you’re just a couple of Mars Girls!    Click here to preview the first chapter of the book.

What others are saying about Mars Girls:

“Mary Turzillo has crafted an extraordinary tale of teenaged adventure on a harsh planet. Heroines Nanoannie and Kapera use bravery and ingenuity to survive on a vividly imagined future Mars.”
—Brenda Cooper, author of Edge of Dark

“Mars Girls delivers real-feeling characters in a fast-moving, exciting space adventure.”
—Kij Johnson, author of The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

“Great fun! A rollicking adventure across a uniquely imagined Martian landscape.”
—S Andrew Swann, author of Dragon Princess

 

And what would a blog tour be without a giveaway? Make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to get entered in the give away for a free e-book of Mars Girls.   Mary Turzillo and Nanoannie and Kapera have been blog touring all over the blogosphere, head on over to these other posts to read reviews, interviews, and more!

 

Blue Book Balloon reviewed Mars Girls

Interview and give away at Dab of Darkness

The Journey to Mars Girls guest post at The Grimdark Files

Review at Rapture in Books

Review at Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews

Interview and give away at Books, Bones, and Buffy

10 Bad Habits reviewed Mars Girls

Unlikely Friends Driven Together by Disaster, a guest post and giveaway at Ardent Attachments

Would You Go To Mars? Guest post at I Smell Sheep

Religions on Mars, according to Mary Turzillo Guest post at Skiffy and Fanty Show

Women Write About Comics interviews Mary Turzillo, the original Mars Girl

Why I Wrote Mars Girls guest post at Frank Errington’s Blog

Frank Errington reviewed Mars Girls

Wow, that’s quite a trip around the blogosphere!

The tour ends here, at Little Red Reviewer, with an interview with Mary Turzillo.  This may be the end of the blog tour, but it’s just the beginning of Nanoannie and Kapera’s adventures out in the wild.  If this book looks like something you or someone you know would enjoy, head over to Apex Books or Amazon to order yourself a copy.

About Mary Turzillo:

Mary Turzillo’s 1999 Nebula-winner,”Mars Is no Place for Children” and her Analog novel, AN OLD-FASHIONED MARTIAN GIRL, are read on the International Space Station. Her poetry collection, LOVERS & KILLERS, won the 2013 Elgin Award. She has been a finalist on the British Science Fiction Association, Pushcart, Stoker, Dwarf Stars and Rhysling ballots. SWEET POISON, her Dark Renaissance collaboration with Marge Simon, was a Stoker finalist and won the 2015 Elgin Award. She’s working on a novel, A MARS CAT & HIS BOY, and another collaboration with Marge Simon, SATAN’S SWEETHEARTS. Her novel MARS GIRLS is forthcoming from Apex. She lives in Ohio, with her scientist-writer husband, Geoffrey Landis, both of whom fence internationally.

 

Let’s get to the interview!

 

Andrea Johnson: Who was your favorite character to develop and write in Mars Girls?

Mary Turzillo: It’s hard to choose. Nanoannie is a more complicated character than she at first seems, since her desires and enthusiasms are so conflicted. She wants adventure, but now that it’s happening, she’s rather it had more designer suit-liners and fantasy boyfriends, and fewer slightly burned hands, slimy kidnappers, and unwanted real-life lovers. She seems all surface, but despite her silliness, she has backbone.

But I’m also rather fond of Cayce. He’s such a player. In fact, I like him so much that I gave him a cousin by the same name in an upcoming novel, except the cousin is younger and a rather nice guy.

AJ:  Without giving any spoilers, can you tell us which scene was the most fun to write? Which scene was the most difficult to write?

MT: It’s hard to talk about scenes very farther into the novel with out giving out spoilers, but here goes. Out of context I’m not giving too much away.

I enjoyed writing everything in the novel. If I didn’t enjoy a particular scene, it meant I’d just have to ditch it, because if I didn’t like it, how could I expect the reader to enjoy it? But my favorite was, curiously, Kapera doing her EVA. I researched space-walks thoroughly, and I even have a mug from Kennedy Space Center of the cooling radiators on the International Space Station. I wanted to show her courage and ingenuity and the fact that she persisted.

The hardest passage to write was Marcus’s account of what really happened at Smythe Pharm, because the plot had gotten pretty complicated by that time. I also had to get inside Marcus’s mind. I’m writing about him in another novel, a prequel to this one, and he’s an interesting, tortured soul with a strange background. He’s been a criminal and also a devoted family man. This is all background, but it had to be subtext.

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Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

published in 2016

Where I got it: purchased new

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What’s your opinion on getting thrown in the deep end, buried in terminology, and a world that’s never fully explained? If you answered “I’m good with that”, you’ll enjoy Ninefox Gambit.  If that sentence made you quiver in your seat a little, then maybe this book isn’t for you.  And I’ll admit, I struggled through the first 50 pages or so – the language was gorgeous, almost musical,  with animal, insect, and bird signifiers telling me something. I had no idea what was going on, or what the signifiers were supposed to tell me, but it sure was pretty.   So started the book again, from the beginning, forcing myself to pay close attention to the political maneuverings, unique military terminology, cultural slang, and calendrical heresy.

 

Calendrical Heresy, that’s one I should explain, isn’t it?  But doesn’t that phrase sound delicious on your tongue? Say it out loud with me: Calendrical heresy. It tastes like apricots and caramel, and looks like leaves falling on a calm pond.   A militaristic society built on mathematics and belief, the technology of the Hexarchate depends on everyone following the same calendar, and observing the same holidays and observances all at the same time. If you are doing something against the calendar, you are heretical, and after the military catches you, you’ll be re-educated. No government wants disruptors, right?   Is it math that makes the technology work? Religious observations and belief? Spirituality? Some pretty deep stuff.

 

The novel is broken up into three discreet acts. The first act involves Kel Cheris is “partnered” with the digitized ghost of a famous military general.  General Shuos Jedao never lost a battle, but he also slaughtered his own soldiers.  He’s suicidal, depressed, angry as fuck, and now bonded to Cheris’s brain.  Lucky her.  One of the Hexarchate’s most important fortresses, The Fortress of Scattered Needles, has fallen to heresy.   Jedao was known for breaking all the rules, and Cheris is known for following all orders to the letter thanks to her unbreakable Formation Instinct, so they make an interesting pair.

 

I should explain Formation Instinct a little? Simply put, it’s brainwashing.

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Acceptance (Southern Reach #3) by Jeff Vandermeer

published in 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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The Southern Reach series came out in 2014, and I didn’t even need to wait for the series to be completed as all three books were published in the same calendar year.  So what the hell took me so long to finish reading it? None of these books are very long, and I wouldn’t describe any of them as difficult reads. So what gives?   A couple of things.

 

  • I didn’t want the series to be over
  • After reading the 2nd book in the series, Authority, I was a little intimidated to continue. Ok, A lot intimidated, because I really struggled with Authority.  (Which has led to me being a little intimidated to read Vandermeer’s newest book, Borne, which yes, I know is completely silly.)

 

Why did Authority intimidate me? I talked a good talk when I reviewed that book, but I struggled to read it and I had no idea what was going on.  Jeez, now I know how Control felt.  He’s been hired to do a job, and walks into this Kafka-esque tapestry of the WTFery that he’s supposed to summarize in reports to his superiors.  He can’t look like a fool to his employers, of course. Even worse, this is a government research agency.  If this is anything like actual R & D, the paychecks stop if you don’t produce results. Any kind of results. As an employee of the South Reach agency you’ve got to justify your existence, right?

 

So anyway, the mistake that I made was reading Authority as a standalone.  What finally worked for me was to binge read all three books, literally picking up the next book 10 minutes after finishing the previous one.  Authority and Acceptance worked very well when I read them as one longer novel.  I highly suggest reading these 3 books as one long novel to anyone who is interested in this series.

 

After all of that rambling, let’s talk about Acceptance, yes?  Sure.  But there are going to be spoilers for the entire series from this point forward.  And more rambling.

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I am out of  bookshelves, and there are now stacks of books next to the shelves, stacks that grow taller by the week and are threatening to fall over. I may have to start hiding books under the bed. There is a book cull in my future, that is for sure.

So of course I couldn’t help myself, and bought some more books!

At book club last week, instead of having the whole group read the same book, the club’s organizer put a stack of Hugo award winning authors on the table and told us each to pick something that looked interesting.  I grabbed The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Leguin. I may have read this when I was a kid? But if I did I was too young to understand it.

Over the weekend, I went to one of Michigan’s largest used bookstores (not the largest, but it’s pretty big!!) with a friend, and although I wanted to buy everything, I came home with just a few items. And yes, I got lost in the bookstore.

from the non-fiction rooms

Maximum City is about Mumbai, and the Carl Sagan book is, I’m not 100% sure what it covers but it is sure to be enlightening.  I hope that while I read it I hear Sagan’s comforting voice.

 

And now for the scifi!

Connie Willis is one of those authors I keep meaning to read more from, as I recommend her Doomsday Book novel to anyone who will listen.  I’ve been meaning to read Blackout forever. As for Venus on the Halfshell, I’ve been a Vonnegut since high school. If the book is as entertaining as the opening biographical sketch of Trout, you’ll be hearing me laughing from miles away. For those of you not familiar with Kilgore Trout, I’ll just leave this here.

 

Happy Reading!

The Engineer Reconditioned by Neal Asher

published 2006 (or maybe 2008?)

where I got it: purchased used

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I’ve not read a ton by Neal Asher, but everything I’ve read I’ve enjoyed.   Asher enjoys having a go at religion, writing incomprehensible aliens who see humans as delicious snacks,  AIs who are smart enough to lie to their human wards, a biological explanations for immortality, over the top biological adaptations, and a galaxy with ancient alien technology and ruins.  That’s like, all my favorite scifi things!  If you’re interested in hard scifi, space opera, large scale universes, really alien aliens,  I highly recommend Neal Asher.

 

I didn’t realize The Engineer Reconditioned was a short story collection until I started reading it. The collection includes ten or so stories of various lengths from Asher’s interconnected Polity plot lines. If you’ve never read any Asher,  this is a great place to start, because whatever stories you liked the best there are a bunch of novels where those characters and situations will show up.  The collection includes stories of Jain tech, gross-out biological action on planet Spatterjay, stories of the mysterious Owner, and a few stories that are just fun romps through alien environs and dumb humans who may make tasty snacks.  Click here for a timeline and how all the Polity books work together.

 

The first and longest story, “The Engineer”, is what I came here for, and I wasn’t surprised that this ended up being my favorite story in the collection.  Two scientists, Chapra and Abaron, are aboard an exploration vessel and they come across an egg floating in space. Abaron teases Chapra about her obsession with old movies, especially a certain movie starring face huggers and chest bursting scenes.  They bring the egg inside the ship to investigate, and see if they can wake up the comatose creature inside.  Herein lies some excellent hard scifi – how to determine the creature’s natural habitat? What if air that humans can breathe poisons the creature? How to determine what to feed it? How to communicate with it?   The creature wakes up, and Abaron and Chapra are able to give it an environment in which it can survive, and food that it can metabolize. Living mostly under water, the creature starts building things and communicates its needs to the scientists by leaving different items on the pier.  After a while the scientists realize their AI has insulated them from the outside world as a protective measure. “The Engineer” was a fantastic story with great pacing, smart dialog, and some truly excellent science. Not to mention a few laugh out loud Alien jokes!

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Gods and Pawns by Kage Baker

published in 2007

where I got it: purchased used

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I’ve been trying (and not always succeeding) to read Kage Baker’s Company books in the order of publication.   Which meant next up was Gods and Pawns, which was  published in 2007.   The series starts with In The Garden of Iden, a novel that completely broke my heart into a billion little pieces. Then came Sky Coyote, in which I fell a little bit in love with Joseph even though he is a complete asshole. Or at least, I thought he was an asshole until I met Porfirio, now that guy is a piece of work.  The Company books get darker and darker the further you read in the series, and yet Baker’s writing style is full of humor and wit, so you’re laughing at the same time.  With all the research that went into these novels and short stories much of her work reads a little bit like Tim Powers, that of course these crazy things didn’t happen . . . but no one can prove that they didn’t….

 

Gods and Pawns is a collection of short stories that take place in the Company world. Similar to her collection In The Company of Thieves, these mostly light-hearted short stories are excellent entry points into Baker’s Company world.

 

What is The Company? In the future, time travel is discovered. However, you can only travel backwards in time, and recorded history can not be changed. The owner(?) of The Company sends operatives back in time, where they take in orphaned children and turn the children into immortal cyborgs who are now employees of The Company.  For the cyborgs, it’s a post-scarcity life – they never need to worry about money, or a job, or a roof over their heads. The job security is great because they are immortal. But what are they working towards? What is the point of finding and then hiding all the valuable paintings and manuscripts and gems in the world for some future you may never see? Is this a good gig? Is it slavery?  What’s the retirement policy like?

 

I have condensed and vastly oversimplified Baker’s amazingly complex world. If you enjoy long running space opera series with fantastic writing, time paraxodes (paradoxii?) horrible secrets, lots of dark humor, all written by an author who is a genius at playing the long game, this is a great series for you.  If you’re not sure if that is something you’d like, the short stories are a great place to start.  For more information, and possibly epic spoilers, checkout the Company reread that Stefan Raets did at Tor.com last year.

 

While I was disappointed that Mendoza doesn’t star in a larger portion of the stories in Gods and Pawns, I was happy to see my favorite side character, Lewis, get the spotlight.

 

Surprising nobody, my favorite short story in Gods and Pawns is the Lewis/Mendoza story, “To The Land Beyond the Sunset”, in which our two immortal operatives act as mortal guests of a family of supposed gods.  Mendoza is excited about the rare plants she finds on their property, and Lewis is trying to figure out how exactly these people are related to each other, and why they seem so ignorant. There’s also the whisperings in the walls of a secret family member who keeps getting moved around the villa so the “visiting mortals” can’t see him. There’s the expected humor in this story, Mendoza and Lewis are immortal, and do have what could be construed as godly power. And this lonesome family appears to be underfed, ill-informed, living in a ramshackle villa, and not godly at all.  Everyone is playing a role, it seems.  Mendoza’s first discovery makes me hope these people die a horrible death for what they are doing. The next discovery makes me feel so terribly sorry for them.

I always imagine Lewis looking like Cyril from Archer.

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You’ve all read Robert Sawyer (right?).  The WWW series, the Hominids series, Flashforward,  Mindscan, Frameshift,  about a 20 other novels, and his newest novel is Quantum Night.

Sawyer won his first Prix Aurora award in 1991 and has been going strong ever since.  His books are accessible and easy on the eyes. He writes the kind of near future scifi thrillers that are perfect for your friends who don’t want something too weird.

Head over the Apex Magazine website to read my interview with Robert Sawyer, where we mostly talk about Quantum Night, but also talk about getting characters (and readers!) excited about science,  what baseball has to do with writing hard science fiction, what BattleStar Galactica has to do with psychology, and the reason why your surgeon might have pretty crappy bedside manner.

I am very proud of this interview. Mr. Sawyer and I spoke on the phone for about 40 minutes, and then I muppetflailed around the house for about a week. I took time out from the muppetflailing to transcribe the interview. If you enjoy reading the interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it, please leave a comment over at the Apex site, so they know you enjoyed it too.

 

Also? If you like Jeff Vandermeer, you should read “How Lovely Is The Silence of Growing Things”, also in this issue of Apex.


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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.