Pritchard asked me to review her story about a potential future.
At some point in the future the huge division between rich and poor became the excuse revolutionists needed. As with all revolutions, all that had changed was who was in power. From the descriptions in the book we are in a fairly small Monarchy. Citizens are divided between seven sectors. The central one is the capitol city. The other six sectors produce what the population needs to survive, including members of the military. The military is made up of the oldest children of people in six of the sectors. Constance is one such youth. These youth are sent to the capitol the year they turn 16.
Once there, the group of teens first go through an induction week that is supposed to break them. After that, they are given whatever job society (Lex) thinks they qualify for. Once Constance has been inducted into the Brigadiers, she must follow orders (just as we would expect of any soldier). There is romance and all of the other relationships we often find in young adult stories.
Monarchy is not a finished product. It did have potential. With more editing and a couple of beta-reads it would have been fun. Basic stuff like getting “pallet”, “palette” and “palate” right.
I Dreamt of Trees is an amazing first novel. Mr. Decruyenaere has managed that difficult feat of listening to his editors and written tightness and tension into his story. Words flow from one to another drawing me into a dreary and terrible future inhabited by people who are all too believable.
The USS McAdam seems to have been built with every contingency in mind except the humans inhabiting it and the Squelchers. But for the most part it is the humans who are its main problem and also the main theme of the story. We enter the USS McAdam centuries after its launching from a place only guessed at by the general population.
“to think that anyone on the ship actually knew its true origins was just ridiculous; too many centuries had passed since the ship had launched; too many computer malfunctions, human errors, and political shenanigans had transpired for any real proof of Earth to remain.”
The society on the MSS McAdam seems to have been half-way decent during the Prologue. Thirty-five years after the appearance of the Squelchers, life has changed for the entire population of the vessel.
A crisis is a wonderful thing for power-hungry people. What was once unthinkable becomes doable by manipulating a fearful population into wanting to destroy the new “THEM” by any means possible. Even if that entails becoming a strictly stratified and segregated population (“one must make sacrifices”). The “have-nots” are stuck on the Rim-side of a ship-wide sewage moat while the “haves” get to live on the Core-side. Understandably, Core-dwellers will do what is required to remain on their side of the moat.
Core-dwellers are the people the High Command (and true rulers after the revolution) deemed desirable. The High Command tell their puppets, the Council, what attitudes need to be enforced through propaganda and terror. Like many of our own revolutions here on earth, life seldom becomes better for any but the very few. But while life may be terror-laden for Core-dwellers, it is infinitely better than what Rim-dweller endure.
What new regimes need are heroes and “Them”. In this case the major “Them” is obvious. Squelchers are bizarre aliens who zap people into their spaceships when their beams get through the shields of the MSS McAdam. Our new heroes are the Flashers and the Boosterettes.
Flasher Jason Crawford is our main character and seventeen years old. His level of aggression is at a height that is either drug-induced or bred into him. For some reason anger and aggression are seen as a positive qualities for the Flashers (along with youth and short and slender bodies). Everything about Jason screams aggression. His language reveals both his lack of ability to control his temper but also the extremely homophobic and misogynistic nature of his society.
A young girl’s greatest goal is to be able to work in privilege suites as a Boosterette. I strongly doubt dream and reality line up for these young girls. Medical staff are assigned to take care of what is left once the Flashers have “released the pressure”. Thankfully, Mr. Decruyenaere never shows us what goes on in the privilege suites.
Life is going to be full of surprises for young Jason and most of those surprises will shock him. I loved the ending. It was perfect.
Cover art by David Palumbo Cover design by Rebecca Silvers Interior layout and design by Ross E. Lockhart
God’s War, huh. On Religious Tolerance you will find recent religious conflicts around the world. I counted 25. While most of those wars are across religious lines, some of them (Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia) are, like the 3000 year long World War on Umayma, about interpretations of a faith. As far as we can tell, the people on Umayma had the same origins and values upon leaving Earth. If a time ever comes when humans are able to terraform and populate another planet, war will probably ensue as soon as people manage to settle down. Humans do seem to like their wars.
Terraforming (or engineering) a planet would be a long and complicated process. The time span required and the amount of genetic tinkering needed for humans to be able to live on a far flung planet has to be staggering. While every person needs some degree of engineering in some fashion to survive, there are inhabitants of Umayma who have changed more than others.
Bugs and their magicians are two. Something in their genetic make-up makes certain people able to communicate with bugs. Talking to bugs could be useful here on Earth. On Umayma, bug-talking is vital to existence as bugs are used in most arenas of life. From food, to fuel, to engines, to clothing, to lighting, and so the list goes on. Magicians are not equal. One of our main characters, Rhys, is less equal in the area of bug-control than others.
Shape-shifters is the other strange product of tinkering (possibly). There is a legend that they are a product of the union of Angels and humans. Hurley doesn’t tell us that shape-shifters have been made by genetic engineers, so my understanding is just a guess.
“The war still raged along the ever-changing border with Chenja. Nyx started up her storefront with the dancer and tech in Punjai, a border city at the heart of the bounty-hunting business. While she was in prison, Punjai had been swallowed by the Chenja for six months, the “liberated” by a couple of brillian Nesheenian magicians and an elite terrorist-removal unit. All of the city’s prayer wheels were burned and the old street signs were put back up. There had been air raids and rationing and a couple of more poisoned waterworks, but, as ever, the war was just life, just how things clicked along – one exhausting burst and bloated body at a time.”
Three thousand years of constant killing has to do something to a population and the environment. Umayma is certainly no paradise with areas of it contaminated by biological bombs, human disease carriers and the drafting of men to the front lines. Nasheen and Chenja have solved the dearth of male genetic availability in two different ways. In Nasheen they rely on artificial insemination and breeding tanks for new generations. In Chenja they use a more traditional method of one male to many females to get the job done. Rhys is from Chenja.
Nyx is the goddess of night, the daughter of Chaos, and also the name of our main character. Our Nyx is unpredictable, loyal to those she cares about, principled and passionate. However, values created by people in times of peace or the powerful are not hers. I truly adore Nyx. Hurley portrays her strength and vulnerability in a manner that I can believe and that appeals to me. Definitely my favorite character of the story, and maybe my all-time favorite character.
Rasheeda (shape-shifter) is one loony bird. Holy cow, that woman has sanity issues. No wonder Nyx is wary of her. Bel dames might be sanctioned by the queen, but some of them do messy wet-work with lust and gusto. Creepy lady.
Madlands is in many ways similar to the underbelly of Los Angeles (and any city with major power players) of today. Identrope is the creator and most powerful person of this dystopian version of Los Angeles. K.W.’s version is considered cyberpunk, and that may be true. At least it would seem that way as the net of the city is explained in greater detail in a section of the story.
This explanatory section is the only downside of Madlands. During it Mr. Jeter fell from dystopia into teacher’s voice. The setting itself was a dream about a teacher/student situation, and preaching might be considered relevant in such an environment. But it felt out of place to me.
Strangely enough, and wonderfully fitting to the story of Madlands, the most powerful person in Los Angeles (downtown) today is supposed to be Tim Leiweke of the Anschutz Entertainment Group.
Entertainment is what Identrope does to boost his opinion of himself and to gather worshipers in a city you may enter but can not leave. It’s not that anyone tries to hold you back from leaving. What high Identrope exudes keeps you staying until the side-effects of his miasma of madness kills you.
We hear a lot about Identrope, but he makes few appearances. I suppose that is as it should be when part of his power lies in what he has to offer in the way of highs and entertainment. Our main character is Identrope’s deputy, Trayne.
Part of Madland’s appeal has been brought about by Trayne. It seems the US is a little low on entertainment. Trayne started a dancing group and for some reason that group made people want to listen to whatever invitations Identrope made on television and follow through on them by donating money and traveling to LA to be near their god.
Surreal is one sensation I felt while reading the story. Madlands also came through as a great piece on power. Clearly, the people who had power wanted more (even Trayne) and those who were without were disposable tools on the way there. One of those power structures happened to be the KKK. I have to admit that I was not aware of the influence the KKK had (and possibly) have in Southern California. Power is such a lure and few use it appropriately (for the best of as many as possible). I have trouble understanding why people hunger for more and more power. Madlands shows us a place where there are people who apparently never get enough of it.
The main question in The Seraphim Sequence seems to be “who is really on Sophia’s side” in her battle against the Fifth Column. She trusts five people. These are Jay, Damian, Nasira and Benito. Her hero is Freeman, the leader of the Akhana. Anyone else is questionable in her mind, although there are a couple who seem to grow on her. Feeling as though you are able to trust as many as five people, considering Sophia’s background, is actually pretty good.
A group of psychopaths deciding the way the world is run doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me. At one point in the story Jay even feels as though he is in a Dan Brown story to which Damien responds “Please don’t make this any worse than it has to be,”. Jay does his best to keep the fighting off them, but a Farrugia novel will not leave its characters in peace. I can only hope that the main characters survive Mr. Farrugia’s clever pen.
Sophia is still dealing with her guilt regarding the 400 million women she inadvertently caused to die horrific deaths. Therein lies the difference between Sophia and the pscyhopaths, like Cecilia and Denton, that have been and are in charge. One has regrets and one does not. On one point, I will give the psychopaths their due. One of them states that being relieved of feelings of guilt would make Sophia more efficient. That is true. Guilt does slow a person down. It makes us rethink our options and try to find less destructive ones – for the people we wish to save. Destruction for the other side should be as complete as possible. Maybe we are all psychopaths to one degree or another.
There is a lot of action and plenty of fun weapons that aren’t too terribly different to what is available today. The weapons that do deviate are within the realm of possibility – at least they are to my non-weapon knowledgeable mind.
I generally do some research before writing about a book. When the blurb began:
“What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf turned out to be the same person?”
I went off on one of my curiosity sprees. Roald Dahl has a wonderful version of Little Red Riding Hood (below) that resembles the version of Little Red Riding Hood that Jordan Summers writes about.
Red has three Riding Hoods that are eaten by the big bad wolf while their grandmothers are left alone. Our Were-theme is discovered in the first chapter when the murderer describes being wracked with the pain of being ripped apart and put back together again. Then he mauls and eats his murder victim. Summers’ description of the mauling and eating is just as descriptive as her description later on in the novel of sex and its prelude – pretty explicit.
The mystery part of Red is pretty straight-forward. As a reader I know everything long before Red and Morgan do. When Renee Forrester, Lisa Salomon and Moira Collins turn up dead, I draw conclusions faster than the couple-to-be. Embroiled as they are in the action and full of fear of being discovered, fear of the other not liking them, fear of the other person liking them, and being horny to the degree that the two of them are probably slows them down.
Red is full of the non-existent, exterminated Others. These people were supposed to have been wiped out. Instead they are turning up all over the place. Some of them do not even know that they are an Other. Discovering what they are might just mean the difference between life and death for themselves and others.
We are all Others of some sort. It isn’t my Asperger side that defines me as an Other but rather the Beast in me that might rear its head at some point in my life. We sure see a lot of the Beast types in the world without needing to genetically tinker one into us.
As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma’s door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, “May I come in?”
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
“He’s going to eat me up!” she cried.
And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, “That’s not enough!
I haven’t yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!”
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
“I’ve got to have a second helping!”
Then added with a frightful leer,
“I’m therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.”
He quickly put on Grandma’s clothes,
(Of course he hadn’t eaten those).
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma’s chair.
In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,
“What great big ears you have, Grandma.”
“All the better to hear you with,” the Wolf replied.
“What great big eyes you have, Grandma.”
said Little Red Riding Hood.
“All the better to see you with,” the Wolf replied.
He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I’m going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma
She’s going to taste like caviar.
Then Little Red Riding Hood said, “But Grandma,
what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.”
“That’s wrong!” cried Wolf. “Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway.”
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She wimps a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, “Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.”
The Man in Black – The Woman in White shows us what the earth could be like in almost 200 years if we keep on letting it go to pieces and allow money to rule the world.
Stross presents us with a world without hope, a dark story of loss, poverty, inequality and disinformation. The town of Present, Nebraska thinks the world works in one way, and it seems they have been intentionally kept in that belief. Maintaining this status quo is the will of the people who hold power to change the lives of the citizens of Present for the better.
One of the tools the powers that be uses to keep the people of Present in Present is lack of education and information. Another tool seems to be to allow companies to move in and “encourage” farmers to sell their land and water-rights.
Stross encourages me to question my own beliefs of right and wrong. Exactly who is the culprit and why do I consider that person to be a culprit?
Poor young Kyle, living in circumstances that quite a few young people live in today. Desertification, water shortage and hunger are all parts of the lives of young and old in certain places of the world. There, too, tools such as the ones used against Present, Nebraska are utilised. The Man in Black – The Woman in White speaks of a world that already exists for many and will probably exist for many more in the years to come.
Stross doesn’t give us a solution or an answer to the problem. I appreciate that. Having an open ending allows me as a reader to look around and see if an answer exists at all.