Tag Archives: #Friendship

Wells, Martha; The Serpent Sea (Raksura II)(2013)

All countries/societies/cultures/etc. have their own rules and regulations (written and unwritten) that must be followed to avoid being ostracized. Small communities, in particular, have a difficult time with newcomers, because those newcomers shake up their beliefs about right and wrong. Aspies are often life-long newcomers to the places they are born. We cross invisible lines and are called socially deficient. When Moon came to the Indigo Cloud Court he knew only what Shade had told him of their ways.

Moon had been consort to Jade, sister queen of the Indigo Cloud Court, for eleven days and nobody had tried to kill him yet. He thought it was going well so far.

As much as the world of the Court confuses Moon, Moon confuses the Arbora (cannot fly) and Aeriat (can fly).

Moon caught hold of the railing and slung himself up to crouch on it. He said, “Tell the others.” He leapt away from the boat, shifted to Raksuran form in midair and caught the wind.

Consorts are raised to be timid creatures and do not learn to fight. Generally, they are obedient and do not raise their voices. Moon, who takes the lead, changes form in mid-air and joins in hunting for and guarding the Court, is a person who will not accept Raksura strictures. Through his example, he shows others that changes aren’t necessarily a bad thing and that there are options to traditional patterns. In return, the Court shows Moon that living forever in a place can be a good thing. Unfortunately, Moon’s past leaves him expecting to be kicked out of the Indigo Cloud Court.

What is left of the Indigo Cloud Court, after the Fell have decimated them, travel onboard the two wind-ships, the Valendera and the Indara, to their ancestral lands, the Reaches, to find a Mother Tree to live in. Moon’s experience with living in trees has not left him wanting more.

The multiple layers of branches reached up like giants’ arms, and the trunk was enourmous, wider around than the base of the ruined step pyramid that had formed the old Indigo Cloud colony. from the lower part of the trunk, greenery platforms extendet out, multiple levels of them, some more than five hundred paces across. A waterfall fell out of a knothole nearly big enough to sail the Valendera through, plunged down to collect in a pool on one of the platforms, then fell to the next, and the next, until it disappeared into the shadows below.

In Serpent Sea Martha Wells has given us a mystery, a moving island, and an arrogant neighbor. Everything I have to say about Serpent Sea is positive. I love the way Wells blends major and minor tones. The text winds its way through dangers and peace creating a symphony of words that fits my taste and, with ease, draws me through the story. Once again, Moon is the only POV. Seeing through those eyes shows me a complex world and interesting characters. Like Nobent. Talk about excellent predator. And the moving island. Oozing darkness and goo. Not a human society in sight.


My review of The Cloud Roads

Lee & Miller; Agent of Change (1988)

Predictions about how future technology might look when one is bound by the limitations of current technology or the imagination of engineers is one of the things that makes reading science fiction fun.  Agent of Change was written in 1988 and I noticed a few technological doodahs that we have surpassed. Val Con’s camouflage method is not one of those areas.

The man who was not Terrence O’Grady had come quietly.

And that, Sam insisted, was clear proof. Terry had never done anything quietly in his life if there was a way to get a fight out of it.

Pete, walking at Sam’s left behind the prisoner, wasn’t so sure. To all appearances, the man they had taken was Terrence O’Grady. He had the curly, sandy hair, the pug nose, and the archaic blackframed glasses over pale blue eyes, and he walked with a limp of the left leg, which the dossier said was a souvenir of an accident way back when he’d been mining in the Belt of Terado.

Val Con yos’Phelium is a deep-undercover agent sent to accomplish “impossible” assassinations. Before becoming a spy, he had been first-in scout, i.e. front-line explorer. When he became a spy, an enhancer was imbedded into his brain. All spies were inserted with similar enhancers. In Agent of Change he discovers most of its down-sides and gets to show off its benefits.

The alley twisted once more and widened into bright spaciousness, showing him a loading dock and five well-armed persons protected behind shipping containers and handtrucks. Before the dock a red-haired woman held a gun to the throat to a Terran, using his body as a shield between herself and the five others.

“Please guys,” the hostage yelled hoarsely. “I’ll give you my share-I swear it! Just do like she -”

One of those behind the containers shifted; the hostage stiffened with a throttled gasp, and the woman dropped him, diving for the scant cover of a wooden crate. Pellets splintered it, and she rolled away, the fleeing hostage forgotten, as one of the five rose for a clear shot.

Miri Robertson had been a sergeant with a mercenary group. After leaving the group, she hired on with Sire Baldwin as a body guard on a three-month contract. Sire Baldwin had not been upfront about what Miri might need to protect him from, i.e. he was on the run from the interplanetary mob called Juntavas. Unknowingly (obviously), Miri and the rest of his staff were caught in Baldwin’s double cross. As a result Miri was on the run from vengeful Juventas with a bounty on her head. The above fight is between Miri and one of the many groups out to cash in that bounty. It is this fight that brings Val Con and Miri together and leaves them sticking together until they manage to outfox those who have it in for either of them.

Rapt, Edger came into the lobby, kin trailing after. Here, he noted, the sound of the sirens was not so shrill; the rich counter-harmony of the singers faded to a primal growl over which the solitary, singlenoted song of the building soared triumphant, nearly incandescant.

And there were other textures herein encountered, doubtless meant as a frame to the piece: the softness of the carpeting beneath his feet; the clearness of the colors; the harshness of the light reflected from the framed glass surfaces. Edger stepped deeper into the experience, opening his comprehension to the wholeness of this piece of art.

Patiently, his Clan members waited.

Edger is a member of the T’Carais, a people who live centuries, even millenia. He is not yet considered adult in spite of being 900 human years old. As they grow, the T’Carais shed their old shells and grow new ones. Edger is on his Twelfth Shell. The name in his visas reads: Twelfth Shell Fifth Hatched Knife clan of Middle River’s Spring Spawn of Farmer Greentrees of the Spear-makers Den, The Edger. T’Carais names show others who they belong to, their positions, their age and important phases during their lives and, therefore, might take hours to say. Due to his interests Edger acts as ambassador/market researcher and is multi-lingual. T’Carais are social animals, much like humans, and there are several other T’Carais travelling with Edger in a Clutch spaceship. Edger is in Agent of Change because Val Con was once adopted by him as clan-brother, and he helps Val Con and Miri because that is what brothers do.

Both Miri and Val Con are essential to the story. Neither plays second fiddle to the other, and neither is a stranger to violence.  Given their roles in life, that is only to be expected. I really enjoyed how gender was played out in the story. Even today’s authors (either gender) tend to fall into stereotypical traps. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have not and I wish more authors would follow their example. In addition, the author pair, try to not make fun of cultural cultural differences, something that might be tempting with a species such as the T’Carais. However, one does not mess with the T’Carais. They have me smiling with, rather than at, differences between Terran, Liad and T’Carais. All three are baffled at times by what the others do, but all of them seem genuinely interested in learning from each other. Val Con and Miri carry mental baggage from their pasts.  Sometimes that gets in the way of them, but not of the plot.

Agent of Change exceeded my expectations. I understand why the Liaden universe has become popular.


Reviews:

Clement, J.A.; The Locket; 2012/2017

Originally The Locket was one of the short stories in the Christmas Lites II anthology edited by Amy Eye.

The Locket takes us back to a time before On Dark Shores begins. A Scarlock before war, poverty and desperate choices visits the life of Nereia. It is also a tale about Yule and family.

“Is it true that I don’t have to go to bed till midnight, Mama?” Nereia cut into her memories, coming away from the window to sit next to her mother. “Papa said that if you said yes, I could stay up and see the actual Yule ceremony this year. May I, Mama? I’d really like to, may I?”

The Locket is a sweet story that had me thinking about all the things I am grateful for and how they have both changed and stayed the same through my life. It also had me re-visiting my thinking on the excuses leaders make for going to war with other people.

I’m not sure my review is completely neutral as I was one of the betas for the 2016 edition of The Locket.


The Locket is available at Amazon UK, Amazon US, Smashwords


My reviews of

  1. On Dark Shores 0: Songs of the Ice Lord
  2. On Dark Shores 1: The Lady
  3. On Dark Shores 2: The Other Nereia
  4. On Dark Shores parallel: The Black-Eyed Susan

De Pierres, Marianne; Peacemaker 1 (2014)

The Peacemaker series begins with the novel 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.  Most of her childhood has been spent with her father in Birrumen Park. He taught her to not trust anyone, least of all those closest to her, and to love the park as much as he did. 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”. Owners of the park are forced to 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 our ecological foot-prints.

Benny, Virgin’s horse, and the Park both ground Virgin when the chaos of the city 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, she was supposed to pick up her new partner, Marshall Nate Sixpence, but made it too late to make a good first impression. Then, her imaginary friend from her childhood reappears, a large wedge-tailed eagle called Aquila. Virgin is certain she is going insane because she is the only one who sees Aquila. Except she isn’t. Turns out 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. Therein lies the mystery. 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 be. She is the kind of person who does not want to be a burden to the people she 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, 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

Goody, Heide & Grant, Iain; Clovenhoof I (2012)

Heide Goody & Iain Grant‘s collaboration began with Clovenhoof. They enjoyed it enough to continue collaborating on at least eleven more stories. I adored Clovenhoof. If you enjoy British humour, this is a must. Life right now needed Clovenhoof. When my Asperger struggles to deal with what life hands me, laughs are precious. Clovenhoof was fall over funny and relevant. Probably relevant for any person who has had siblings, parent issues or have struggled to fit into their local cultures and bureaucracies.

“We’re a little disappointed,” said Saint Peter. “Let’s take the measure of suffering. This was very straightforward. All suffering should be graded as good or higher.”

“And we’re certainly getting those grades in a lot of the suffering that we deliver,” said Satan.

“A lot. Not all.”

“Yes, but it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect it for everything,” Satan argued. “We got some clients who simply enjoy it too much, and then there are those who lie about the experience because they can’t help themselves.”

… “You give me no choice but to recommend your immediate removal from the post.”

Poor Satan. The guy can never catch a break. First he gets thrown out of Heaven. His punishment for wanting to save God’s children was being master of Hell, a hellish job. Then, he gets thrown out of Hell for trying to meet the demands of the assessment board. Fired by uptight Michael and conniving St. Peter (helped by, hmmm, not telling). Where does he end up? Earth. England. Birmingham. Sutton Coldfield.

“Having restocked the shelves of the Thriller section with a newly arrived box of Deightons and Le Carrés and settled down for a mid-morning cup of tea, Ben heard a muffled roll of thunder, looked up and saw that a naked man had appeared on the pavement outside the shop.”

Ben Kitchen is one of our main characters, the owner of the aforesaid used book-store (Books ‘n’ Bobs). He lives in the same building as Mr. Jeremy Clovenhoof (Michael’s sense of humour), and is painfully shy towards women he might be interested in. The two of them coincidentally end up on the same floor of an apartment building in Boldmere. They live in flats 2a and 2b.

We also get to know Nerys from the third floor of the same building. She works at Helping Hand Job Agency. One of her clients turns out to be Jeremy. And what a client he is. Both she and Ben try to figure out where Jeremy is from and why he is such an odd person.

Satan has no concept of money, credit cards, bills, rent, making food, what to wear, social rules, how to find a job or any of the other hellish things we are expected to magically understand upon reaching adulthood. Add in the fact that Satan is an Alien, and as one might expect of The Devil in such a situation, he makes a mess of things – both in his life and in others. However, Satan is an OK guy. He knows he did his best in Hell and wants to get a second opinion from God. Michael and he have not been on good terms since the War in Heaven, so Clovenhoof is not about to trust any decision made by him and St. Peter. Getting that second opinion is not a simple matter when the opposition refuses to cooperate. Because he is an Alien, Satan sees the world without the prejudices we grow up with. He also does not have the same moral compass humans like to imagine they have. In many ways Satan makes me think of the experiences many Aspergers have in trying to connect with their surroundings. So many rules and regulations make no sense and “morals and empathy” are just words people use to persecute others.

The story moves between the new and unusual experiences Satan has on Earth and the reason Satan got kicked out of Hell (it might not be what you think it is). I have learned several vital things about English society. Good thing there are search engines:

  • Scrumpy Thunder
  • Lambrini
  • Crispy Pancakes

Reviews

Turner, Tej; Dinnusos Rises (2017)

I recommend reading The Janus Cycle before you continue with Dinnusos Rises. As the story moves along, we reconnect with the paranormal members of Sunset Haze: Patrick (violin+half-fey), Faye (flute+dream walker), Jack (acoustic guitar+half-fey), and Ellen/Jessica (voice+medium/ghost). Neal lets them practice in one of the club’s rooms in exchange for the occasional session downstairs. Their abilities draw people. We also reconnect with Tilly, Pandora and Frelia.Toward the end of The Janus Cycle, we read:

“… Janus was once this great place where nobody gave a fuck and you could just have fun, but then some bloody kids who don’t have a clue tried to steal your vibe.”…

“You just need to move on, he declared. “Look around you – this, what we have here tonight – isn’t it that feeling, that craziness you were looking for? You are Janus. Let those kids keep the empty shell. You can make a new one!” (The Janus Cycle, p. 217)

That place is, Dinnusos.

“… Victorian, with high ceilings and sash windows. It’s big, too. … If the main bar ever gets too rowdy and you fancy some quiet, there’s a whole labyrinth of rooms on the upper floors you can get lost in. One of the city’s old canal ways runs along the back of the building.” (Dinnusos, p. 14)

Neal and Tristan became a couple in The Janus Cycle.  Dinnusos is owned by Neal. His partner painted magical murals, on most of the walls of the club, that appear to have prophetic value for some of the main characters. You can find Dinnusos in Yesterville:

“A place of urban decay and broken streetlamps. Vagrants and outcasts. Faded signposts and overgrown gardens. Thrifty means and humble dreams.” (Dinnusos, p. 14)

Wilder Mann mit Wappenschild copper engraving by Martin Schongauer

Tej Turner has used the same writing style he used in The Janus Cycle. There is an overarching story with chapters that get told from a different point of view, allowing us to catch up with the life of the individual and keeps the story going at the same time. Taxus Baccus (TB) is an environmental organization led by Jardair, Jack’s wuduwāsa father (Turner plays with the Greek and Roman pantheons throughout the story). Until TB arrived at Jack’s house (a squat), Jack and his pet squirrel, Nuttles, lived on their own. Their lives go from quiet to chaotic in a matter of hours. TB travels from town to town addressing, in their own way, environmental issues each town struggles with. Tej Turner uses Taxus Baccus to address the fragility of our supposed right to free speech and the right to live our lives as we wish.

“It seems to me that this country is run by sociopaths with gloating expressions and oily hair. They wander around Westminster with their leather briefcases, selling off public assets to their pals from boarding school and members of their extended family who have vested interests. All the while, class war is waged through an ever-encroaching succession of draconian legislations. They will not rest until they have rounded up everyone into the rat race because they, by fortune of birth, are the big cats. The the more rats there are, the more they have to dig their paws into.” (Dinnusos, p 62)

Dinnusos Rising contends that it we, the general populace, make such methods possible through our complacency and docility. The percentage of people who turn up for various elections certainly seem to support that contention. Westminster uses various media to pimp their message to the public

“… the news channels and tabloids were doing their utmost to demonise us. Footage and photos were being carefully selected, and it seemed their cameras only had spare film for the more outrageous members f the movements … They never told the public why were were doing the things we were doing. They made us seem like rebels without a cause.” … (Dinnusos, p. 72)

Through The National Conciliation Act (NCA), Westminster intends to cement the corporatocracy we see strengthening its hooks into various governments around the world.

“Later on we will be interviewing MP, Mr. Ben Fitzgerald, to see if he can shed any light upon rumours Westminster is considering bringing in new legislation which will grant authorities more power to dismantle anti-social behaviour.” (Dinnusos, p. 92)

The NCA bans political demonstrations and movements like Taxus Baccata.  It would give Westminster the power to shut down any business charity or organisation which was perceived as having a “subversive agenda“. They could tighten restrictions on the internet. It would become illegal for employees to speak badly about the companies they work for and turn civil disobedience into a criminal – rather than civil – offence.

Pandora’s workplace, Fibertine Investment Bank (FIB), is a great example of a corporation that wants the NCA passed. FIB invests in corporations around the world and outwardly appear to be concerned about ethical corporation issues. They even have their own Ethical Practices Officer. However, when Pandora tries to bring ethical issues to the attention of her boss, Mr. Watts, he reminds her of FIB’s business motto:

“Business is blameless,” … there is no need to feel guilt, or worry about facing consequences. (Dinnusos, p. 92)

Corporatocracy is not the only topic Turner addresses. Friendship represented by Pandora and Frelia, Faye and Tilly, and Jack and Tilly is a complicated dance. Trust is betrayed, destructive and healthy decisions are made, and new beginnings are all part of the friendships in Dinnusos Rising. Turner also shows us individual experiences with self-harm, suicide ideation, drugs, abuse,  sexuality, and gender. We see how falling in love may affect other relationships. Again, Tilly is the one who meets most of the challenges. She is also the youngest of our characters.

Dinnusos Rises is well-edited, well written, has fleshed out characters, and presents current issues in a package filled with action and adventure. Both Dinnusos Rises and The Janus Cycle are excellent contributions to discussions about the above topics. Dinnusos Rises has my whole-hearted recommendation.

I was given an ARC copy to review.


My review of The Janus Cycle

Carlon, Lee: A God-Blasted Land (The Bastard Cadre I) (2016)

AGBL_Cover-Low-Res
Cover design by Lee Carlon

The Bastard Cadre, episodes 1-14 is the first book of this ongoing serial written by Lee Carlon. I am not used to continually changing stories, but find the concept fascinating. Carlon describes the way he works:

… one thing to note about this serialization is that unlike traditional serializations where the author is bound to the words that have been committed to the page, publishing online allows me to treat The Bastard Cadre as a continuous work in progress. Each episode is complete at the time of publication, but I do update the text from time to time. (peakcity)

Change can be daunting when you are an aspie. Part of that has to do with the accompanying anxiety. I have to go through mental gymnastics to keep anxiety’s influence on my opinion as limited as possible while reviewing The Bastard Cadre.

Newterra is on a world with two suns. Its geography is loosely based on Australia’s. Some of the inhabitants on Newterra might be descended from Earth humans. Others, not so much. Dragons, dualists, descendants and gods are in the last category, although, I’m arguing with myself about the gods. Newterra’s gods are not very old, they fight each other, hold separate territories and 20 years ago they Cleansed the world with a type of fire. The Cleansing took biological lives but not electrical ones. There are still plenty of AIs around. Vehicles can be picked up in almost any city and cleaning bots are still doing their jobs in the larger cities. We enter the world 20 years after the Cleansing and meet a world that has lost numbers and a great deal of understanding of technology.

Our main characters, Avril Ethanson, Ethan Godkind and Ranora fi’Intar, all seem to be human. Avril and Ranora are both young and have unusual abilities. Avril can affect electrical impulses. Ranora can read people and cards. Ethan is Avril’s foster-father and has held that role since soon after Avril was born. These three characters give us insight into how Newterra works and what its people are like. Clues to their importance and backgrounds are doled out during the telling of this story. This way of learning about places and people in a story is my preferred one.

Avril and Ethan are scavengers who salvage old tech and barter it for essentials. When we meet them, the past is about to catch up with Ethan. Life has a tendency to mess up our plans and put our procrastinations to shame. There was so much Ethan had planned on telling Avril to prepare him for what might happen. When they meet Beads, the finder, it is almost too late and Avril is in for some gigantic surprises that involve his heritage and potential future.

We learn little about Ranora’s background. She is a talented painter who brings the past to life. Bringing the past to life in her art is probably connected to her ability to read people and objects to uncover “secrets”. Ranora seems to be on her own when we meet her. Being alone in Newterra tends to shorten your life-expectancy. When a bounty-hunter gang shows up, Ranora uses her ability to claim a spot in it. We all make choices in our lives. Some mess life up for us while others bring unexpected gifts our way. Joining the gang was a choice that brought both mess and gift to Ranora, such as bringing her into contact with both Ethan and Avril.

The Bastard Cadre’s intended audience is young adult and older. From the get go we get an action-filled story about fate, betrayal, family and different ways of handling the world. The Bastard Cadre was given to me to review. Recommended.


Reviews:

  • Benjamin Spurlock
  • Leachim
  • N.E. White
  • N.N.
  • Rosie Writes

A God-Blasted Land can be found on Amazon