Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’
where I got it: borrowed from a friend
This is the sixth Laundry novel, but in a way, it’s the first of its kind (By the way, Start Here). Laundry novels have always starred Bob Howard, IT programmer turned computational demonologist. No matter how shitty his day is at work, he can usually come home to his wife Mo. She works for the Laundry too, and sometimes it’s her coming home from a crappy trip to be soothed by her well meaning husband. Bob might be an apprentice (and possibly heir) to The Eater of Souls, but Mo has him beat. You see, she is the handler for what is known as the Pale Violin. the “This violin kills demons” sticker on the violin case is no joke.
I rushed through The Rhesus Chart, the Laundry novel that comes right before this one. I really, really wanted to get to The Annihilation Score, because this book is told from Mo’s point of view. Yup. Barely any Bob in this baby, this novel is all Mo, all the time. Oh, and let’s not forget the semi-sentient violin that creeps into her dreams and wants to kill her husband. can’t forget that.
For those of you just joining us, Mo’s instrument is made of human bone, her fingers bleed when she plays it, and she can’t let it out of her sight because it gets very lonely, and very, very hungry. Remember Elric’s Arioch? You’re on the right track, just crank the demon eating darkness up to eleven. Mo calls her violin Lecter, and if you listen very closely, you can hear his whisper. He doesn’t want much from you, yet, but if you’d only listen to his voice ….
I had so much I wanted to stay about The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad that I couldn’t possibly jam it all into one blog post. Last week I talked about a few of my favorite stories in the anthology, and today I’m going to talk about a few more. With over 24 stories in the anthology, it was easy to have a very long list of favorites. I took the list of stories I really enjoyed, and cut it in half. Because I need to leave you something to discover on your own, don’t I?
Here are my thoughts on yet more of my favorites out of The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4.
Single Entry, by Celeste Rita Baker – Written in dialect, it was all I could do not to read this entire story out-loud. You can feel the energy of the carnival in the rhythm of the words, hear people singing and cheering. Dressed as the planet Earth, the protagonist is a single entry in the carnival. But where is the music coming from? How does their costume swell and shrink to fit through every door and fill every plaza? Momentarily so big people can see themselves and their homes on the planetary surface, the walking dancing planet loses steam and shrinks back down to human size. And then keeps shrinking. Just a beautiful story to read, it feels like a song whose time signature changes as time flows.
The Language of Knives by Haralambi Markov – I’m not sure how much I enjoyed reading this gory, grisly story, but i certainly won’t ever forget it. In a bakehouse, a loved one is prepared to be fed to the gods. His family strips his body, dries his bones, makes him into meal. A death rite combines with a coming of age rite, wrapped in a story of love both romantic and familial. That this story is really a love sonnet makes swallowing the subject matter a very strange experience.
Pepe by Tang Fei – Pepe and her brother are at an amusement park. But they aren’t real children. Created with springs inside, Pepe, her brother, and all their siblings were created to tell stories. But oh, the stories they tell! They were born many years ago, and in the time since, their siblings have been destroyed. Such a dichotomy in this story, Pepe and her brother are lightheartedly enjoying the amusement park, the rides, the lights, the laughter of children. But her brother dwells on their dark past, the memories of watching the other storytelling children pulled out of crowds and forced to talk, forced to expose their identities. Remember the movie AI: Artificial Intelligence? this story feels a little like that, but completely from the kids points of view. They never asked for this life, they were never given a choice. They were designed and programmed, and are now locked in a life they wouldn’t choose for themselves. But Pepe’s brother has one last choice to make, one last opportunity for freedom.
published in 2014
where I got it: purchased new
If this is the first you’ve ever heard of the Laundry, I advise starting at, or at least near, the beginning. Start at the beginning with The Atrocity Archives (book 1) and then pick up Jennifer Morgue (book 2), or read book 2 and then book 1, and then you can generally hop around a bit once you’ve gotten a feel for what the hell is going on. Fanatics will disagree, but I say yes, you can hop around in this series, and read the books as you come across them. Anyways, the premise is that Bob Howard, unassuming IT professional, saw something he shouldn’t’ve, and suddenly found himself working for a secret British Intelligence service known as The Laundry. When things go bump in the night, these are folks who bump back. And by “bump in the night”, I mean otherworldly horrors of the deep who see us as a snack, and by “bump back” I mean employ computational demonologists, zombies, and enslaved demons. It’s a good time, and you can’t tell your friends or neighbors what you do for a living, ever. Bob’s wife Mo is also employed by The Laundry, and she is responsible for one of their most powerful weapons – a violin that screams and kills. Hard to tell if she owns the violin or if the violin owns her. It gives her nightmares and makes her fingers bleed. I guess it comes down to what moves faster? The Laundry? Human stupidity? the hunger of Cthulhu? Or the planets and stars aligning in such a way that none of it will matter any more.
I have always loved the narrative voice of this series. Bob is sarcastic and smart, and the only color his humor comes in is black. When you know the end of the world is right around the corner, gallows humor is where it’s at. But where his wife Mo is concerned? Bob is a puddle of caring, heartfelt goo for her. It’s quite adorable, actually. Bob could read me the advertisements in the phone book, and I’d probably be happy. Actually, Bob really needs to read me the instructions of how to do my taxes. Because that would be fucking awesome.
To shift gears ever so slightly, all it takes is looking at formulas and certain mathematical equations in just the right way for something awful to happen. Maybe you let a demon through. Maybe you let it take a chomp out of your brain. Maybe the side effect is a scorching allergic reaction to sunlight, and gaining an addiction to human blood. It’s really too bad, as that’s exactly what happened to a bunch of code monkeys who work for a bank. With no one to guide them, what are these baby vampires to do?
where I got it: purchased new
A near future scifi thriller, Lock In has an engrossing and compelling start. I really loved the first few chapters of Lock In, really dug the world Scalzi built. Depending on how you look at it, he’s either being sneakishly subtle, or heavyhanded with his observations on how society in general treats anyone who is different from the norm, especially those with disabilities. The novel takes place some 20 years after Haden’s Syndrome has left its mark on humanity. A type of encephalitis, many victims of Haden’s suffer from “lock in”, completely aware and awake, but unable to move or communicate. Thanks to neural technology, people who live their lives locked in (known as Hadens) can remotely use robots, called Threeps, to somewhat experience normal life. Even better, is the option to use an Integrator, a person who will allow a Haden to use their body for a contracted time. For many Hadens, the only people who see their actual, physical bodies are their immediate family members and their home health care aides.
Chris Shane, poster boy for Haden’s and now all grown up, chose a horrible week to start his new job at the FBI. They aren’t quite sure what to do with him, and he’s been partnered with Agent Vann, who loves antagonizing the local cops even more than she enjoys self medicating. So, right off the bat we’ve got some interesting characters. Shane is trying to get out of the shadow of his famous father, Vann has a secretive history she tries to drink away, and they’ve got a really weird murder investigation on their hands.
published on Aug 6, 2015
where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Jo Fletcher Books!)
Ya’ll already know i’m a huge fan of Stephanie Saulter’s ®evolution series. She pulls no punches, allows no escape from the way she portrays the “us vs them” attitude and keeps you from looking away for even one second. If you’re looking for a political thrillers with modern relevance, you could do a lot worse than her debut novel, Gemsigns, the first in her ®evolution trilogy. I’ve tried to keep this review spoiler free, so for those of you who are just joining us, go check out my review of Gemsigns and Binary (in fact, after reading my review of Binary, take a nice close look at the blurbs on Regeneration).
Regeneration takes place about ten years after Binary, and life in London is finally halfway decent for the gem population. They’ve integrated into society, norm families are (mostly) no longer afraid to let their children go to school with Gem children, Gem-run businesses are thriving. It’s almost as if the strife of the last 50 years never happened. Almost, but not quite. The old guard doesn’t forget, and the new generation doesn’t quite understand what makes their parents so damn nervous.
The first novel in the series, Gemsigns, was a political powder-keg that revolved around a civil rights movement. It was followed by Binary, in which a society at large makes it’s first attempts to break down the barriers between “us” and “them’. Regeneration is the next step in the process: Acceptance as a complete shift of the status quo, and how people react to it. This novel doesn’t focus on the politics anywhere near as much as the previous two books in the series, yet I couldn’t help but draw parallels to recent political issues that have made real life headlines. It’s scary how close these books come to reality.
I’ve been following the Apex Book of World SF series for a while, and was thrilled when the fourth volume was announced. The series had previously been edited by Lavie Tidhar, and now the editing reins have been passed to Mahvesh Murad. A new editor can mean a new direction, and a new style. No matter the direction, readers are guaranteed a mind bending taste of speculative fiction from around the world, including stories from Spain, Sweden, Kenya, Uganda, Taiwan, Japan, India, Israel, Greece, Iceland, Pakistan, Philippines, Czech Republic and more. The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 hits bookstore shelves and e-readers on August 25th. Wanna pre-order? Click here to order direct from Apex Publications*.
If you’re looking to read beyond your geographic horizon, this anthology series is a great place to start. And yes, it’s an anthology series, but it’s not a series. You can start anywhere.
Mahvesh Murad was kind enough to give me a behind the scenes look into her editing process for this new volume. And then we got on some tangents, and talked about radio, her new podcast Midnight in Karachi, and her Dragonlance reread over at tor.com. After the interview, I’ve got some links to reviews to previous volumes in the World SF series so you can see what others (including me) thought of this anthology.
let’s get to the interview!
Little Red Reviewer: Tell us a little about the behind the scenes selection process for this anthology. Were there open submissions? Did you solicit stories from authors you already knew? What if you wanted to purchase a story that didn’t yet have an English translation?
Mahvesh Murad: The Apex Book of World SF is primarily a reprint anthology so we looked at work already published in various anthologies or online all over the world. There weren’t open submissions as such, no, but we did reach out to editors we knew who had worked on or curated stories from writers outside of the US/UK mainstream to see if they had stories we could look at. There were some stories I knew I wanted as soon as we started because I’d read them recently and they had left their mark, so we reached out directly to those writers, specifically about certain stories.
We have a few translations in this volume but none were translated for the anthology. If a story didn’t have an English translation, chances are I wouldn’t be able to read it so wouldn’t know if I wanted it or not:). It would be fantastic for this anthology to grow to a point where we can commission translations though!
LRR: What are some of your favorite stories from the new anthology?
published Aug 11, 2015
where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Tachyon!)
Showcasing fiction from as far back as 2002, Falling in Love With Hominids is a vast and varied collection of Nalo Hopkinson’s short fiction. With a feeling of a retrospective art collection, the stories are everything from straight up science fiction to literary fiction to escapades of pure frolicsome imagination. For an author you’ve never read before, short fiction might be the best way to get a taste of their fiction, to see if this is someone you want to make a 300 page investment in. I also enjoy the reading freedom of single author collections. I can jump around in the table of contents, and guilt-free read the collection cover to cover in any order I please (I do this with all anthologies, actually. Even though I know editors put the TOC in a particular order for particular reasons).
also? Just look at that gorgeous cover art. Just look at it!
Hopkinson opens each story with a few sentences about where the idea for the story came from, and in a few cases a single sentence that acts more as a subtitle. There is a lot of literary fiction in Falling in Love with Hominids, even a Shakespeare homage. But my tastes lean towards the easier to digest, so my favorites included the imaginative flights of fancy, the flirtations with science fiction, the fairy tale retellings. And that’s probably the best thing about this collection: no matter what your particular tastes are, Hopkinson has probably written it.
The flights of fancy I keep mentioning include “Emily Breakfast”, the story of a farmer with a flying cat and three fire-breathing chickens named Lunch, Dinner, and Emily Breakfast; and “Herbal”, in which an elephant suddenly appears in a woman’s high-rise apartment and when an elephant is suddenly thundering through your tiny apartment, what can you do?
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