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 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.
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, and made master of Hell for wanting to save God’s children. 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 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.
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).
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.
I have learned several vital things about English society. Good thing there are search engines:
Bacchanalia (Bakkheia) scene on sarcophagus (210-220)
Satyr playing the aulos. Creusa Painter. ca. 400–390 BC.
Dionysus and Satyr by Karadin
Cover art by Alison Buck
I recommend reading The Janus Cycle before you continue with Dinnusos Rises. Dinnusos continues some of the stories from it. 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)
“… 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)
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)
Dinnusos is owned by Neal. Neal and Tristan became a couple in The Janus Cycle. Tristan is a painter and he has painted murals on most of Dinnusos’ walls, murals that magically change during the story behaving as prophetic tools.
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.
Tej Turner has used the same writing style he used in The Janus Cycle. Each chapter is told from a different person’s point of view. That lets us 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, 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 agree with 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, 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, is a great example of a corporation that wants the NCA voted through. 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 subject. 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 the most 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 in discussions about the above topics. Dinnusos Rises has my whole-hearted recommendation.
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.
The Awakening should appeal to people who are into interesting magic systems and worlds. Ren Crown’s world is the one we inhabit (Layer one). A suppression spell has been cast on our layer keeping people from remembering anything to do with real magic. At some point the Magic community had decided to split the mundane world from anything to do with magic. Unauthorized magic is immediately discovered and investigated.
The Awakening begins with a death. Florence (Ren) Cross and her brother Christian are breaking into the garage of the girl Christian is asking for a school dance. Just weeks are left of the school-year. Christian had been acting peculiarly a few weeks. This evening he keeps on rubbing his wrists. Even Ren had been feeling an itch under her skin and feels an urge to create her own paint.
Outside, the weather is acting strangely. As soon as the two leave the garage lightning begins a thunder-less dance. Christian is having cramps and sparks fall off his fingertips.
“A weird wave of electricity surged through my fingers where they touched him. I snatched my hand back, staring at the digits. The charged feeling dissipated within me, but increased in the air around us, swirling and darkening. I tentatively touched his arm again, and the energy shot into me once more. It was like focused euphoria.”
In the magic community Christian and Ren are what the call “ferals”. Ferals are children with innate magic who grow up outside of the influence of the magic world. While they are supposed to be protected by magic laws, having unregistered magic-users available is a dream come true for scruple-less magic users. Christian’s awakening works on them as bees to pollen. These magic-users have the tools to drain all magic from a person, killing them. And so Christian dies and we meet grief.
At this point, Ren is still not aware of her own magic. Her awakening happens a little later, in her classroom under the eyes of their new art-teacher, Mr. Verisetti. What was supposed to be a dangerous yet happy event, is instead one of anger, tears and fear.
Zoelle writes about Ren’s grief in a manner that I think could help those who, themselves, are grieving or affected by the choices of others who are grieving. A consequence of a loved one dying may, sometimes, be that we, intentionally or unintentionally, make stupid and/or dangerous choices. Ren does and is not exempt from their consequences. Nor are her surroundings. Zoelle does not preach or judge. She just shows.
Not everything in the story is about Ren and her sorrow. There are strifes in the magic community that she and we find out about as we go. The magic school has students from all over the wizard community. Without preconceptions about this new world she is entering, not knowing who belongs to which family, the class system (highly stratified community) or what is possible, Ren finds herself stepping across divides that were thought unbreachable.
Without Christian about, Ren discovers that people want to be her friend. She is highly suspicious of some motives, but accepts any person with the same level of nerd/geek as herself.
Until she accomplishes her goal, Ren’s greatest fear is that others discover she is feral. Once her goal is over and done with, Ren wants to get the hell out of an incredibly dangerous place. Who knows. Maybe she will.
It was the cover that lured me in. Sometimes I am lucky and the cover actually presages the contents.
Dominic Green‘s Ant & Cleo series is as well-written and ridiculous as only British humor can be. These two young (12 years old) people go through experiences that are disconnected to reality as we prefer to believe it. Unless, of course, Britain, Russia (USSR) and the US have actually managed to get colonies into space. I suppose it is possible?
First, Antony and Cleopatra, the main characters. Their characters have little to do with the portrayal by Shakespeare but more in common with the originals. Ant seems to be bluff, passionate and a little simple-minded (and highly underestimated by Cleo), while Cleo is fairly intelligent and practical.
It all begins with a trip to the woods with Ant’s father. Forests are great places for adventure, though I doubt many people get to go into space with an alien from Lalande 21185. Strangely enough, this alien looks like a human:
“The new man looked tired and thin, and had a haircut that suggested he spent a lot of his time in prison. He was wearing neither a suit nor combat fatigues, but a pair of Levi’s which still had the label dangling from the back of them, and a maroon T shirt. The T shirt had aliens in flying saucers on it, along with the words SPACE RASTA.”
Mr. Green throws Ant & Cleo into situations that keep them wondering about the things they have learned in school. The spaceship they leave Earth in is their first clue to their ignorance. “Made in Britain by Hawker Siddeley Aviation” seems a bit far-fetched to them. But that is what the maker’s plate says.
Then they meet Americans (US) in space. What a parody of every prejudice non-US citizens have had of them. White-supremacy, a confederate flag and deep southern accents along with names like Billy-Bob, Billy-Hank and Wayne-Bob. A whole sleuth of movies go through my memories as I write this. The funniest thing about these stereotypes is that Hollywood is the worst perpetrator of the image (and early James Bond). Their new compatriots join them on that planet. Glenn Bob and Truman make an odd couple. One very curious and the other diligent in carrying out assigned jobs.
After the US, Ant & Cleo get to meet members of the Soviet Union. Yes. In space the USSR still rules and feelings between the US and Russians continue to be very cold (I guess a bit like today). Here, too, accents and behavior copies movie and television stereotypes. Mr. Green nails these stereotypes.
“Glorious Soviet Yutopia does not kyill wyomen and chyildren”
OMG, non-russians speaking English with Russian accents drive me crazy. Finally, Ant & Cleo get to meet and talk with the British. Their poor kidnapper has been unconscious ever since their spaceship broke Earth’s orbit, so they do not know who he is and where he is from. He is British. Here again, Green nails every stereotype. These are the British who shake their head and carry on with the job even when they are severely wounded, wring sweat out of their long underwear to make water and express strong feelings by saying things like “Golly”, “Gosh” and “Bally good”.
Nothing is realistic. Well, except that quite a lot of it is. Tension between countries, secretive and lying governments and people who try to follow the propaganda they have been brought up are all things Green portrays as is. Propaganda, my goodness, what a great examples of propaganda and the brainwashing citizens are put through and accept.
I enjoyed this book immensely and think it would be appropriate for people from around 10 years old and up. Adults might have to explain some of the references, but with the I-net available to many, they might not.