the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

Archivist Wasp, by Nicole Kornher-Stace

published May 2015

where I got it: purchased new

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She’s been told her whole life that she was chosen by the Goddess Catchkeep, that only she and the few like her had the ability to be Catchkeep’s avatar.

 

A ghost told her she’s famous in the underworld, that the dead speak of her skills, her knowledge, and her compassion.

 

When she gained the title of Archivist by poisoning the previous archivist, she took the name Wasp. Her true name has been buried deep.

 

It will take a journey to the underworld for Wasp to realize how much of her life is a lie.  More than just her true name has been buried deep. Under the shrine, under the town, under what passes for civilization are the lost and forgotten secrets of the dead.  The dead rarely speak, but they nearly always communicate, usually by physically attacking living people.

 

As the Archivist, Wasp is responsible for catching any ghosts found in the region, asking them a specific set of questions, keeping them if they are useful, and releasing them if they prove worthless. Violent ghosts are destroyed.  To guide her, she has the notes of the archivists who came before her, some notes are better than others, some archivists collected more knowledge than others. The life of an archivist is usually short and violent, this is not the kind of job you retire from.  There can only be one living Archivist at a time, so their knowledge dies with them.

 

I recently read the soon-to-be-released sequel to Archivist Wasp, Latchkey (July 10th, Mythic Delirium Books) so I’m reading these atmospheric and compelling books backwards. In a way, it’s neat, because I went into Archivist Wasp knowing things about the world that Wasp doesn’t know yet.  Latchkey actually had very little in the way of spoilers for the first book, so it was thrilling to watch Wasp as she learns how the harvesting knife works, and I finally got to see what really happened to the Catchkeep Priest.

 

As expected, Kohnher-Stace’s balanced prose in Archivist Wasp perfectly captures Wasp’s lonesome post-apocalytpic world, just as it exquisitely captures the inhumane violence of Wasp’s life as a temple upstart and then as an Archivist.  Imagine Hunger Games on steroids, where teenagers are viciously murdered in cold blood because there can be only one winner, now crank up the masochism and throw in some angry, hungry, and very confused ghosts.

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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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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?

 

What goodies have you recently acquired?

Hello friends!  Yesterday the “Esen the Web Shifter” party began with Who and What Esen Is,  the Big Idea behind her, how much fun Julie Czerneda had with writing the Web Shifter trilogy (and oh yeah, a big huge give away for the entire trilogy!), and more!

Today, I can finally talk about the gorgeous new cover art for Julie Czerneda’s newest Esen e-novella The Only Thing to Fear, and her forthcoming hardback Web Shifter novel that begins a new series, Search Image!  I’m too excited to talk straight, so I’m just going to let Julie Czerneda take over and talk about the most Esen cover art ever, Phil the bust,  nervous diplomats, and most exciting of all, a brand new Esen novel that starts a brand new series!   oh, there’s another give away too!!

 

Esen’s Here!

By Julie Czerneda

 

Cover Art by Matthew Stawicki, novella release date: Sept 4th

Esen has been featured on every cover, but until now, not as herself. Behold Esen-alit-Quar the Web-being in all her blue blobness, courtesy the talents of Matthew Stawicki!

My information for Matt was, to be honest, sparse. A blue teardrop. Not anthropomorphic. No cheerful chubby belly. No arms, face, toes, nose . . . he did it! Esen’s perfect. I love this cover. I love how she’s there, taking it all in — in this form, her senses aren’t ours. They are potent. You’ll see.

What’s inside The Only Thing to Fear? A special e-novella from DAW Books that resumes Esen’s adventures shortly after the end of Hidden in Sight. (You really should read that one, if you want to get the whole OOMPH, plus meet Busfish—and Changing Vision, because there are Ganthor in an art gallery. I can’t help myself, I love them all and want you to as well.)

In this e-novella, you meet a new character, Evan Gooseberry, diplomat-in-training. Evan’s working through his fear of almost everything, determined to make the universe a better place, but why do aliens have to have SPIDERLEGS? Poor Evan faces a crisis in his first posting and only Esen-alit-Quar can help save the day. During street theatre and glittersweat.

But wait . . . there’s more!

I’m delighted to share with you the spectacular cover for Esen’s new novel, new series, and first hardcover! Toss the Glitter!

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photo credit Roger Czerneda Photography

My friends,  it is my honor to be hosting Julie Czerneda today (and tomorrow!).  Julie’s science fiction starts with biology, asks a wild  biology “what if” question, and fills the answer with science, more science, humor, aliens, and fantastic characters.   Way back when, she wrote a science fiction trilogy featuring the shape shifter Esen.  Esen discovers humans, and well, erm, to tell you anymore would spoil the best parts!  This trilogy was recently lovingly reprinted in trade paperback, and there’s a new novella coming out this autumn, and OH YEAH a whole new Esen novel, also out this autumn!

Today and tomorrow feature Give aways!  Cover reveals! Behind the scenes! Inside jokes!  but before we get to all that goodness:

Julie on Amazon

Julie’s fan page on Facebook

About the author:

For over twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s written fantasy too, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Julie’s edited/co-edited numerous award-winning anthologies of SF/F, most recently SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase. Out this fall is an all-original anthology written by fans of her Clan Chronicles series: Tales from Plexis. Her finale to that series, To Guard Against the Dark, was released in 2017. This fall will also see the return of her most beloved character, Esen the webshifter, in Search Image.

 

 

 Esen’s Back!

by Julie Czerneda

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Fans of her Blobness! New-to-her Readers!

It gives me the biggest of grins to mark the return and perhaps introduce to you my favourite character of all, Esen-alit-Quar. Esen for short, Es in a hurry or between friends.

In honour of the occasion, we’re throwing a two day cover release party!  Thanks, Andrea! Thanks DAW Books!

Today, I’ll tell you a bit about Esen and why she’s so beloved. And fun. And remarkable.

Tomorrow, you’ll see, for the very first time, not one, but TWO NEW COVERS! Really, it’s almost too much fun. Nah. There’s never too much fun.

Here’s a sneak peek.

But wait, there’s more! GIVEAWAYS! Details below, but my thanks to DAW Books for not only keeping Esen’s stories in print, but in doing these gorgeous Trade Editions, released just last year! In stores all over.

Cover art by Luis Royo

 

So Who Is Esen? Or What?

Short answer? A blob of blue, shaped like a teardrop. Who happens to be a semi-immortal shapeshifter. Who has really good intentions…but is working on her life skills.

Writing Esen’s attempts to protect life in the universe–or at least keep it civil–makes me happy and always has. As it turned out, Esen made you happy too, dear readers. I’ve received more feedback and love from you for the Dear Little Blob than for all my other work combined.

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In no particular order, here are the new books that have come into my house recently. (and this doesn’t even the count the ratty used paperbacks I’ve purchased, the e-book of Mythic Delirium I bought, and other books that friends have let me borrow).  My love for books is happily out of control!

 

What looks good to you?

As they say, if you can read a Steven Brust book, do it.  Witty characters, meaningful snark, well crafted mysteries, subtle clues and references.  I zipped through his newest, Good Guys, last weekend.  Compulsively readable, I need to read it again before I write a review, as I’m sure I missed a ton of good stuff.

You ever wonder what’s really happening when your tummy rumbles? Want to know more than you ever wanted about poop? If you answered Yes to at least one of those questions, Gut is for you.  I was looking for a paperback copy of The Secret Language of Trees, and came across Gut instead (yeah, B&N has zero organization to their science books).  I like knowing how my insides work.

 

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace comes out in July, it is the sequel to her acclaimed novel Archivist Wasp. I’m a jerk, and never read the first book, but here’s hoping I can just dive right into the new one!

I think I kinda freaked out Jerry Gordon at ConFusion when he said he’d written a novel about David Koresh and I was like “who in their right mind would do that, holy shit  tell me more”.  I’ve been waiting for this ARC to show up in my mailbox ever since, and I started reading it, oh, about 5 minutes after I ripped it out of the envelope.  Breaking the World releases on April 19th, we’ll see if I can get the book finished and a review up before then.

 

In that same envelope with Breaking the World was the April issue of Apex Magazine. Yes, this is available in print now! Subscriptions are reasonable, and it is hella bragging rights for me to walk around with a magazine that I am in. so, yeah. the April issue has an essay from Jerry Gordon, talking all about the behind-the-scenes of Breaking the World. Guess I better come up with some way better interview questions for him. . .

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson is  for my local scifi bookclub. I’m about halfway through and kinda losing the thread. I dig the main character, but am having trouble getting invested in the plot. I think too much is being jammed into too few pages? Anyone read this? What did you think?

 

The Freeze-Frame Revolution comes out in June, and I meant to just read the first chapter or two to get a taste of it, and two days later I was done and wanted to read it again. Review is already in the works, but I figure I better wait till just a little closer to June before posting. Short version of the review? this book is very, very good. Way too much crammed into too few pages, and it works beautifully.  because, you know, Peter Watts.

Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders doesn’t come out till September, so I guess it should sit on the TBR pile (my entire living room is turning into a TBR pile) until the summer. Looks like a fast fun read, maybe sort of Cory Doctorow-ish?

 

One of Us comes out in July, I’m not sure what exactly this is, but the early critical reviews are basically “this book will break you”.

Apocalypse Nyx comes out in July,  so once I finish all the stuff I’ve been dipping my toes into, I better get this one read. June will be hear before you know it!

 

Phoresis by Greg Egan comes out at the end of April.  It’s Egan, so that means it is dense and hard scifi. I’ve dipped my toes into this one, read maybe half of it. There is lots of “let’s science the shit out of this”. What I really need to do is start it again, from the beginning, and take notes. Because, Egan.

Silver Spoon was a happy surprise at B&N. I loved the anime of this, and really, anything by Arakawa is going to be fantastic. I’m interested to see how faithful the anime was to her original manga. The story follows a city boy who doesn’t know what he wants to do for college, so he ends up at an agricultural school, and finds himself surrounded by new friends who grew up on farms. It’s a nice coming of age story.

 

 

well? what looks good to you?  if these books were floating around your house, what would you read first?

 

 

 


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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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