Tag Archives: Environment

De Pierres, Marianne; Peacemaker 1 (2014)

The Peacemaker series begins with Peacemaker. Peacemaker also has a first installment of the webcomic edition on De Pierres website. De Pierres has called her Peacemaker stories cowpunk, meaning they are Australian Westerns (yes there is such a thing) with possible aliens/paranormal creatures, technologically enhanced humans and animals and an environmentally challenged country. Australia has gone from having its current 500 national parks to only one, Birrumen Park. There was still an outback while Virgin’s father was alive. He started a park lobby because he saw the direction real estate developers were dragging the country in. Now, Birrumen lies, as the last of its sort, in the heart of a supercity and is surrounded by a road, The Park Esplanada. Noise, people and buildings drench the outside of the park.

Peacemaker is told by Virgin. She is our main character.  She was pretty much raised in the park by her father. He taught her to not trust anyone, least of all those closest to her, and he passed on his love for the park to her. Virgin is passionate about keeping the Park out of the hands of real estate developers. As long as the tourists keep coming, the Park still has a chance.

… the company scientists deemed it too environmentally fragile to handle the impact of permanent residents. Tourists did enough damage.

And we had to have tourists.

The Park saved Australia’s tourism industry and tourists save the Park. My daughter just did her BA dissertation on eco-tourism. Many places depend on tourists to stay alive, but tourists bring their own set of problems that aren’t compatible with keeping a place “untouched”. Inhabitants make concessions like the Wild West theme of Birrumen. The future we see in Peacemaker is a likely one. Humans don’t have the intelligence to control our population growth or ecological foot-prints.

Benny, Virgin’s horse, and the Park both ground Virgin when the chaos of outside becomes too much. Both are filled with technology. Benny has been augmented with recording equipment, and endurance and cognitive enhancers. All of his augmentations send information back to Totes, the park tech, and then on to the company storage and processing centre. Birrumen has all sorts of measuring equipment to make sure the park is left as undisturbed as possible. An electromagnetic field above the park keeps unwanted people out and the view in.

No human is supposed to be in the park after dark. One evening Virgin forgets her phone inside and has to go back in.

Even though I’d been ranger here for a few years, I was suddenly a little nervous. The sand and rock and palms that I knew so well during the day had taken on an eerie quality.

The company didn’t like us “on board” (their expression for being in the park) after dark – something to do with insurance. I always pushed that directive to the limit because I like to see the sunset. …

As I bent to fumble with the pump, I felt my phone underfoot. Then another sound attracted my attention – muffled voices from the other side of the semicircle of palms that skirted the Interchange area.

Voices? Impossible! I was the last person out of the south-east sector every day. Park scanners and satellite imaging confirmed it, as well as my own visual sweep.

I picked up my phone and crept towards the sound, my boots silent on the sand. There were two of them, arguing, but I couldn’t get a handle on the thread. …

A strangled cry got me running toward them, hauling my pistol free from my holster. …

But the pair had fallen down onto the sand.

I flicked my phone light on and shone it at them. Only one person was there. Blood trickled from a small, deep wound on his neck.

Impossible! There were two! …

Weirdness arrives in the form of a crow. Virgin is attacked and wounded but manages to escape. On top of that, Virgin is late in picking up her new partner, Marshall Nate Sixpence. Then her imaginary friend from her childhood reappears, a large wedge-tailed eagle called Aquila. Virgin thinks she is going insane because she is the only one who sees her. Except she isn’t. Nate can also see imaginary friends. Hmmm. Maybe they aren’t as imaginary as Virgin thinks. Nathan calls them disincarnates.

Her life is turned on its head. She goes from routine to chaos, from safety to one life-threatening situation after the other. Some constants remain. What is going on? Virgin’s investigative journalist friend, Caro, helps Virgin many times. Her boss, Bull Hunt, Superintendent of Park Ecology, remains on her side even when the police go after her. He used to be friends with her father and has continued to take care of her.

In some ways Virgin is a loner. She certainly thinks of herself as one, but tends to gather friends because of the way she treats people. Blunt but tries to protect the weak. Some of those friends are interesting cases. Totes, the park tech, is one such. Even though he bugs her apartment, Virgin keeps him on because she believes he is on her side. Chef Dabrowski feeds her and is as much of a surrogate parent as she will let him. She is the kind of person who does not want to be a burden to the people loves, yet does her best to help the very same people. Her personality appeals to my Asperger.

This is my favorite De Pierres series thus far. Her writing is compelling and the story asks interesting questions, is fun, full of action, full of interesting characters and has a great female lead. Plus it’s in Australian English. So, a definite yes from me.


Reviews:


Winner Aurealis Award– Best Science Fiction Novel, 2014


Peacemaker can be found at:

Buy at Amazon.com

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Buy at Amazon.com UK

Buy from Barnes and Noble

Buy from Barnes and Noble Canada

Buy from Barnes and Noble (UK)

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Buy from The Book Depository

Buy from Fishpond

Miéville, China: Railsea (2012)

“Well, no one knows,” Caldera said, “but they’ve got a sense of the possibilities. What do they say where you come from? Streggeye, you said? What do you think? Were the rails put down by gods?” Her questions came faster. Were they extruded from the ground? Were they writing in heavenly script, that people unknowingly recited as they travelled? Were the rails produced by as-yet-not-understood natural processes? Some radicals said there were no gods at all. Were the rails spit up by the interactions of rock, heat, cold, pressure & dirt? Did humans, big-brained monkeys, think up ways to use them when the rails emerged, to stay safe from the deadly dirt? Was that how trains got thought up? Was the world an infinity of rails down as well as around, seams of them through layers of earth & salvage, down to the core? Down to hell? Sometimes storms gusted off topsoil & uncovered iron below. The most excavation-gung-ho salvors claimed to have found some tracks yards underground. What about Heaven? What was in Heaven? Where was it? (Railsea, p. 181)

Certain subjects will probably interest me until I die. The lengths to which we go to justify our beliefs and avoid being wrong is one of them. We cling so hard to our philosophies that we end up with mechanised arms, like Captain Naphi, or send our navys out to get hold of two children, the way Maniniki did.

Realizing that my childhood faith was not based on facts, had an immense effect on my ability to handle the thought of being wrong. Debating an issue is now merely fun. No longer do I see other people’s beliefs as something to be feared. Some of the lies I told myself are no longer necessary.

Lying to ourselves, even if we are not aware of lying, holds us firmly in our socially accepted places. Sham Yes ap Shoorap is a brave kid. He often needs to be prompted; but by asking himself difficult questions, he manages to defy conventions and seeks answers. Answers are sometimes only found in dangerous waters, and the metaphoric waters of the railsea are indeed dangerous. The Railsea seethes with life wanting to devour anything and anyone in their paths. One has the choice between being eaten by giant burrowing owls, giant moldywarpes, giant earwigs, giant naked mole rats, giant turtles, blood rabbits, tundra worms and so on. Being on the moletrain was one thing. Going from that to his handcart was quite another.

The Railsea‘s culture is post-apocalyptic. A huge war between rail-barons and other big corporations has caused environmental damage that has lasted long enough for cute creatures to mutate into threats for humans. The heavens are only seen as a smog cover containing angels. Yes, angels. And quite scary ones, too. Scientific knowledge has more or less died along with anything resembling healthy ecology for humans. Yet people keep on messing up the ground even more, especially when greed prompts justification. Greed is a fairly common motivator for destroying our habitat in today’s world. I suppose it always has been. I admit that my own attempts at being an environmentally responsible person are inconsistent, yet I keep on trying. George Carlin has a fitting commentary on the effect humans have on the Earth. Railsea seems a fitting vision of it getting revenge.

While Railsea is indeed a young adult story, it is also very much an adult story.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Railsea can be found at Amazon


Translations:

Helgadóttir, Margrét: The Stars Seem So Far Away (2015)

Cover artist: Sarah Ann Langton
Cover artist: Sarah Ann Langton

I am glad Ms. Helgadóttir asked me to review her book, The Stars Seem So Far Away. Its completion left me feeling weepy and I have been trying to figure out why that is.

How much loss can we endure before we decide that death is for us? I have never truly been alone. Somewhere, within my ability to contact them, have been people I have cared about. I am 50 and both my parents and all of my siblings are still fairly intact. My husband and my children are close, both geographically and emotionally, to me. In each of Ms. Helgadóttir’s stories we meet people who have, or think they have, lost all who they cared about.

When we meet Aida, she is in her early teens and on her way to becoming all alone once again. Her father and mother had died and her brother had disappeared during the plague. Another caretaker turned up, but he is also dying. We meet her grief and her decision to try to survive.

Could I keep from losing a sense of decency in my interactions with other humans in a world where those I encountered were likely to kill me? Nora did and her choice makes all the difference in a world where survival is, at best, a chancy thing. I loved her handling of the piracy situation that arose.

How do you reintroduce yourself to humanity if you have been alone for years? Bjørg has had to manage on her own with her isbos as her only company for some time. Her living conditions have been far superior to those of the other characters. Yet her mission, as set by her father and the Commander, has been traumatizing for her. Somehow she has muddled through it all. Finally, she is unable to do her “duty” yet another time, and that brings the soldiers of Svalbard into her life. Going from a solitary life to one filled with people (even if there are only four others) changes everything for her.

Loss of parents, siblings, children and friends are all losses that our characters experience. Loss of home and safety in a world where the only surviving animal seems to be human is another factor that adds to their burdens. Most plants are gone and the environment makes life difficult, or impossible, in most of today’s temperate zones. Ms. Helgadóttir’s future is entirely believable.

Tying her short stories together in the manner that she has was well done. Her prose is lovely and her portrayal of the Nordic is well done.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Stars Seem So Far Away available at Amazon here (UK) and here (US)


A copy was given to me by the author


Svalbard Global Seed Vault

2013: Melting Sea Ice Keeps Hungry Polar Bears on Land

Jay, Stacey: Dead on the Delta (Annabelle Lee I) (2011)

Dead on the Delta - Stacey Jay
Cover art by Elena Dudina; Cover design by Lisa Litwack

Annabelle Lee is a mess. Her PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) started while she was recovering bodies after Hurricane Katrina. At that time her intake of alcohol increased. Then, while Annabelle was holding her, her sister died from an allergic reaction to fairy bites. At this time Annabelle discovered she was immune to fairy venom. Survivor’s guilt hit her hard (with a lot of help from her parents) and substance abuse became a reality. Like all addicts, Annabelle is having trouble admitting that addiction is a fact.

PTSD stinks. I have had to work my way through my share of it and have known plenty of people who fight its insidious web. While it gets better with time and the right kind of therapy (and often medication), PTSD never quite goes away. Every once in a while a memory clobbers my gut, and I find myself having to work my way through it again. Annabelle has a lot of memories and pictures stuck in her mind and new ones are added to it due to her immunity.

Being immune to fairy bites means that Annabelle functions as a CSI at body sites. Non-immune people have to put on an iron protective suit so they won’t get bitten by the fairies. That takes time and suits are limited in how well they protect a person. So immune people are used for difficult and time sensitive jobs. Bodies and the hot and humid swamps of Louisiana do not go well together. Children’s bodies are no exception. Self-medication becomes a must for survival for Annabelle. So does figuring out why on earth Grace’s body was dumped outside the protective iron fence around Donaldsonville.

Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay was a fascinating read about serious issues. Immensely serious. Dead on the Delta was also a fun mystery with plenty of mayhem occurring on its pages. Annabelle Lee was a delight. Her compatriots were as eccentric as she, and her non-compatriots were just as fascinating. If the real Donaldsonville is filled with people like the ones in Dead on the Delta, it must be an interesting place to live.


Reviews:


Dead on the Delta available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound


Cryptome (2005) Recovery crews after Hurricane Katrina (Warning: Graphic pictures)

Morgan, Clayton: The Inquest of Incest

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse

Singer, Merill (2010) Environmental Health in Donaldsonville, Louisiana; John Harvey Lowery Foundation

Augustin, KS: Collateral Damage (2013)

collateral damage
Cover art by Sandal Press

Collateral Damage is an erotic space opera short-story with little emphasis on the realities of space and more on the story between the two characters Meyal and Waryd. The only realistic bit about the Science Fiction lies in the state of the Earth. So, your reason for getting this story would have to be to see what develops between Meyal and Waryd and the story of how big corporations might treat their employees.

Do I believe a large corporation might kill its employee to get out of financial obligations? Hell, yes!!! If there is one thing I have come to realize, it is that the leadership of big corporations will sometimes be so concerned with the financial status of their shareholders and possible deniability that the sky is the limit when it comes to potential nefarious deeds.

Meyal and Waryd both seem like people who want to take care of their families and earn a bunch of money in the doing. Not being supposed to know about the other person and definitely not being allowed to communicate with each other probably only adds spice to their romantic relationship.

The ending of the story leaves me understanding that there is more to come in the future. According to Augustin’s web-site, Collateral Damage could be said to be the origin story of her other work. Collateral Damage was a pretty good story.


Reviews:


Collateral Damage

  • ISBN: 978-0-9873174-3-8
  • ASIN: B00B0NOYGW

Heppe, Matt: Eternal Knight (2011)

Eternal Knight
Cover by Ken Hendrix

Matt Heppe has a couple of places you can reach him. One is his blog and the other is on facebook.

Hadde and the rest of her village, Long Meadow, live within the area of “The Wasting”. The Wasting is a mysterious condition that seems to afflict all life – plants and animals. For some reason the world is wasting away, leaving the land barren. While out hunting one day Hadde and her two companions discover an impending raid upon their village. They manage to send warning and thwart the invaders. One of the invaders has silver eyes that fade to black upon death.

Map Eternal Knight
Map by Steve Sanford

Hadde struggles with the village’s decision to slaughter their horses for food, and she goes hunting in hopes of finding food. A stag turns up that she follows. Hadde is led to a spot in the forest where the Wasting has somehow not taken hold. In this living space Hadde finds a gold pendant that bears the symbol of the goddess Helna.

All this sends Hedda to Salador for help for her village, whether it be temporal or magical. Along she brings Belor and their horses. Tragedy and adventure awaits.

Life is filled with difficult choices and tragedy. Pain seems to be part and parcel of life. Hedda is about to experience a lot of pain. Some of that pain is due to choices she makes while some of the pain is due to the choices of others. How she deals with death, violence, betrayal, friendship and love shows the kind of person she is. Like all of us Hedda is neither good nor bad but a combination of both. Finding her place in the world and discovering who and what she is creates dangers for her but also opportunities and growth.

I liked Hedda. She seemed so normal in an epic fantasy sort of way.

Eternal Knight seems to be targeted at anyone from young adult age and up.


Reviews:


  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1461009839
  • ISBN-13: 978-1461009832
  • ISBN: 9781452428444
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.8 x 9.2 inches

Warburton, Carole Thayne: Poaching Daisies (2013)

Cover design by Amy Orton at Walnut Springs Press

Poaching Daisies is set in the small tourist town of Silver Gate about one mile outside of Yellowstone park.

Carole Warburton’s love of nature shines through her writing in this mystery about Penny, the ranger, who finds herself in a great deal of danger when she stumbles upon a dead bear (and because she will not leave well enough alone).

Penny’s aunt Iris is the epitomy of the fanatical environmental conservationist. Keeping the eco-system of Yellowstone intact is of prime importance to her and she makes herself quite unpopular with those whose beliefs are not as fervent as her own.

What we have here is a regular old who-dun-it mystery. Yellowstone park is presented in all its glory and makes this reader want to visit it.