the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

necessary evil coverNecessary Evil by Ian Tregillis

published in 2013

Where i got it: from a friend




Necessary Evil is the final book in Tregillis’s Milkweed series, and this book takes place immediately after the gut punch cliffhanger ending of the second book in the series, The Coldest War. So, I really can’t talk in any detail about Necessary Evil without giving epic spoilers for the entire series.  #sorrynotsorry


Before I get to the spoilers, let’s go back in a time a little bit. Back in 2013, I read the first book in the series, Bitter Seeds.  It was one of the darkest books I’d ever read.  When I finished it, I thought to myself that this Tregillis guy is a damn awesome writer, but I don’t know if I can read anymore of his stuff.  A year went by. And suddenly, all I could think about was this series – what happened to the characters?  So I finally read the second book. And it was even darker and more soul wrenching than the first one. And when I finished it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lonely Gretel is, that maybe she was a victim, that she’s a horrible human being and I hate her, but she is lonely and a victim.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how how Raybould Marsh got to this point in his life, where his wife barely talks to him and their son is, well . . .  not even going to go there because then I have to thinking about why his son is the way he is.   Like the earlier books in the series,  Necessary Evil was an utterly engrossing page turner.

I just now described Necessary Evil to my husband with “it’s about the psychology of redemption and every page is  like a punch to the nuts and you just want to die on every page”. He laughed, a little.


While I was reading Necessary Evil, a line from my review of Bitter Seeds kept popping back into my head:


“When the cost gets too high you are supposed to know it’s time to stop.”




Over the course of the series, Will and Marsh realized the cost was far too high for what they were getting from the Eidolons. But when you work for people to whom money is no object, how do you get them to stop spending?  By becoming the enemy.


And with that,  it’s epic spoiler time.

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Erica L. Satifka has been steadily writing short fiction for over ten years, with stories appearing in Clarkesworld, Fireside, Lightspeed, Ember Journal, Daily Science Fiction, Shimmer, Nature, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere.    Her debut novel, Stay Crazy, comes out this week from Apex Publications.  You can learn more about Erica at her website, and be sure to say hi over on twitter, where she is @ericasatifka. If you find yourself in Portland Oregon, you can sign up for her SciFi/Fantasy writing classes!

stay-crazy-coverWorking in a big box store, and just home from an institution, is Emmeline just going crazy all over again when the frozen food starts talking to her? Are her friends dying from natural causes, or is something darker happening?  How can Em save her friends and family, and save her sanity at the same time?

“Had Philip K. Dick lived through riot grrrl and the collapse of the America’s industrial economy, STAY CRAZY would be his memoir. Erica Satifka is a prophet.”
—Nick Mamatas, author of SENSATION and I AM PROVIDENCE.


“Stay Crazy is dark and intense sci-fi with a twist, in turns disturbing, amusing, and enlightening. It’s not a book that fits into tidy genre boxes, so kudos to Apex for publishing a book that is that complicated—and good.”
—Beth Cato, Nebula Award-nominated author of DEEP ROOTS


(and can I just say how much I dig this cover art? it’s got a neat graphic novel feel, and Emmeline looks like a normal human woman!)

Erica was kind enough to let me pick her brain on this novel’s creation, binge reading Philip K. Dick, writing neuro-atypical characters, fiction that defies categorization, teaching speculative fiction writing, and more.


Little Red Reviewer: Em is a unique heroine. Just out of an institution, she’s got her own mental health issues to deal with, but she’s also got to save her friends and co-workers from an evil entity. What can you tell us about how you developed Emmeline’s character?


Erika Satifka: Em didn’t have schizophrenia in the first imagining of the book, I don’t think. Her base personality is loosely based on me: angry, bitter, sarcastic as hell. The idea to give her schizophrenia came when I realized that it would add another layer of unreality to the story, which was already dealing with multiple layers of reality. After that, the story clicked in a way it didn’t before, and I started reading a lot of memoirs written by people with schizophrenia to get into the character’s voice (I had still not written a word of the novel at this point).
One thing I noticed when I wrote the first version of the book is that there really aren’t very many positive portrayals in the media of people with schizophrenia. In 2016, there still aren’t that many. So while I hate calling my own writing unique because I’m not a special snowflake, at least when it comes to this one thing, it kind of is. If Stay Crazy can fight against stigma in some small way, then it will have been worth writing.


LRR: Where did your ideas for Stay Crazy stem from?


ES: After college graduation, I was working in a well-known big-box store that shall not be named, bored out of my mind. And when my mind wanders (which it does on a more or less constant basis) I make up stories. I’d also discovered the writing of Philip K. Dick a few months before that and was tearing through at least two of his books per week, because rationing is for chumps. All of this combined into one giant mega-story that I worked on in my mind over the few months I worked there and for quite a while after.

Erica Sat

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joanna russWe Who Are About To . . .  by Joanna Russ

published 1975

where I got it: purchased used





You read the book, or saw the movie of Andy Weir’s The Martian, right?  It’s a story about hope, about survival, about sciencing the shit out of every resource at your disposal. Because when it comes down to it, Mark Watney really doesn’t want to die.


And a lot of “stranded on a deserted island” (ok, deserted planet) stories are like that.  Our instinct is to survive.  To make shelter, to find water, to figure out what to eat, to try to get rescued.


But what if you were stranded somewhere, and you were pretty sure you weren’t going to get rescued? What if you had no resources? What if there weren’t any experts among the survivors? What if surviving was a pipe dream?


In Joanna Russ’s We Who Are About To,  an escape pod full of  survivors lands on an uncolonized planet. Off the beaten path, nowhere near a beacon, and with little to no resources, can they survive? None amongst them is a scientist, biologist, doctor, or specialist in anything, really. They’ve got  a few weeks of food and a water recycler. They don’t even know where they are.


Some of the more ambitious in the group decide their small group  might as well start colonizing the planet. After all, this place is going to be mapped anyways, eventually, right? And to start a colony, they need more people. Which means they need to start having babies, and all the adult women in the group should be willing to be impregnated by the men. This particular scene was so blunt that I laughed out loud.  Most of the novel is this blunt.

(warning: SPOILERS ahead)

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We’re all always talking about the first science fiction book we read,  or scifi movies we liked as a kid.  For me,  my love of science fiction was born directly from a childhood fascination with all things science.


For me, science and science fiction have always gone hand in hand. If you’re going to go explore the stars, it helps to have an understanding or at least an appreciation of astronomy and physics, right?  Science Fiction is the stories of everything that science makes possible. And with science, everything is possible. My love of science fiction was born through my fascination with Science.  Science made everything possible, science fiction stories are where all those cool things happened.


I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit.  My mom would take me to the Cranbrook Science Museum. It was perfect for elementary and middle school aged me – youth friendly exhibits on geology, holograms, physics, astronomy, optical illusions, and more. I’m sure there was grown-up stuff too, but I was a kid, so I went to the kid stuff.I have a vivid memory of being 11 or 12 years old, and getting to go to one of their astronomy events where you could look through the telescope and see the rings of saturn. And I saw the rings, and I felt like I could touch them.  The science of refraction and lenses showed me the rings of Saturn, and in the science fiction stories I was reading, people went to the rings of Saturn.  I was looking at something right out of a science fiction story!  And if the rings of Saturn were attainable through a chunk of glass, couldn’t anything in a science fiction story be attainable, eventually?

Cranbrook Institute of Science. where it all began.

Cranbrook Institute of Science. where it all began.

Around this same time in my life, I was a huge Star Trek the Next Generation viewer.  Dad and I had a standing date to watch the new episodes.  We didn’t have cable TV, so anything new on TV was cool, and getting to hang out with my Dad was extra cool. On that TV show,  science (or at least TV science and technobabble) was applied.  They were doing the things that I only saw through a telescope.  They were doing science (and plenty of other stuff), and science was something that could take you to new amazing worlds.


Come on. I was eleven years old.  Any planet they visited on ST:TNG was amazing to me. I didn’t care that it was all tv technobabble and none of the science actually added up. They were taking all the cool science stuff from the museum I went to, and applying it to do really cool things.
Science Fiction is full of hope that one day we will be able to attain what is unattainable today. And  applied science  is what will one day make science fiction a reality.

time-salvager-book-coverTime Salvager, by Wesley Chu

published 2015

where I got it: purchased new







I do like me some time travel books. And a time travel story where objects and people are brought into other times, and you have to go. . . . back to the future?  Great Scott, sign me up! Seriously though,  I’m a sucker for a good time travel.  That movie Looper? It made no sense and all, and I loved it.   So, it makes sense that Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager would be right up my alley.  The gist of the plot is in a few hundred years, Earth is in shambles. Chronmen go into the past to get resources, batteries, energy sources, valuable minerals, just about anything that’s worth anything.  ChronoCom uses the time travel technology to give Earth a few more years of existence. Anyone who can afford to left Earth long ago to live on a colony elsewhere.


Chronman James Griffin-Mars self medicates his way through too many dangerous missions. He’s left too many ghosts behind, too many people he couldn’t save, too many people he had to let die, because the history books said they died. You can’t rewrite history, you can’t change the future, everyone knows that.  When James brings a woman back into the future, he breaks every law of time travel, and he seals his own fate as a traitor to everything he thought he believed in.


Cinematic action sequences and high octane pacing,  this sounds pretty intense, right?

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darwins radio bearDarwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear

published 1999

where I got it: purchased used





I talked about this book a little while ago, about how it worked so damn well. I finished the novel shortly after posting that blog post, it just took me forever to write the actual review!


Pregnant women are losing their babies.  All across the globe, women are miscarrying at staggering rates, some so early in their pregnancies they didn’t even know they were expecting.  When I first read the back cover of Darwin’s Radio, my first thought was “terrible pregnancies? Is this a book about something like Zika?”  Of course it isn’t. Darwin’s Radio was written in 1999, and it won the 2000 Nebula and Endeavor awards.


At first, it’s assumed it’s a virus of some sort that is causing the miscarriages.  CDC Investigator Christopher Dicken is used to travelling the globe, seeing the worst viruses in action.  But this doesn’t act like any virus he’s ever seen.   Meanwhile, molecular biologist Kaye Lang has published a handful of papers on ancient retroviruses found in the human genome, papers that push her to the fringe of academia. Not exactly viruses, these are genetic markers that go into action when triggered. But triggered to do what? And triggered by what?   At the same time, discredited archaeologist Mitch Rafelson has been doing his own secret research, except he doesn’t yet understand what he sees in the mummies in an ice cave.


When Lang is brought in to consult on a mass grave, the wheels start turning in her head, because what she’s seeing doesn’t make sense. Why would a village murder the pregnant wives? And why did the same thing happen 40 years ago? And why are there current reports of mass violence against pregnant women and women who recently miscarriage? This is not how civilized modern civilization acts!


This isn’t a super fast paced book, or an action thriller,  but the speed and intensity comes into play with how fast their ideas and theories take shape, and how fast that information can be shared with others who can put it to good use. Bear fully fleshes out the three main characters Kaye, Christopher, and Mitch, introducing other supportive characters as needed, and educates the reader about genetics and biology through conversation between characters instead of through infodumping.  Bear writes in a way that makes complicated science and biology accessible to any reader. You can go into this book with zero knowledge of genetics, biology, and how diseases work, and come out of it with just enough knowledge to be a bit dangerous.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a science heavy, hard science fiction thriller. But Bear also subtly deals with grief, scientific academia, mob mentalities, and what we talk about when we talk about evolution.

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The next book in Julie Czerneda’s Reunification trilogy, The Gate to Future’s Past, is coming out in September, and I’m super excited to reveal the cover art and talk more about the series all day today.  What’s the gist of the Clan Chronicles, and the newest trilogy in this career spanning series?  I’m glad you asked!


The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future with interstellar travel where the Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #WhoAreTheClan.

And what will be the fate of all.


With stunning cover art by Matt Stawicki, the artwork brings together an epic story told over the course of nearly twenty years.

Julie chatted with Matt Stawicki about incorporating earlier artwork, capturing Sira’s emotions, and more.    Let’s see what they said!

scroll artwork

Ta da! Here it is. The wonderful work of Matthew Stawicki, revealed at last. I’ve been waiting to share this cover with you for the better part of a year, for it was complete well before the book.

Pardon? you say. How can that be?

Remember the bricks? This image was one of them, firmly in my mind since I started writing This Gulf of Time and Stars.

Book #2, Sira, meeting her destiny. Triumphant!
Or is she?

That’s the magic of an image like this. Knowledge morphs impact, grants new meaning and alters perspective. What you think you see now, before reading The Gate to Futures Past, will change once you have.

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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.