“But here, away from the great centres of population, where the Circle Sea meets the desert, there is a line of cold blue fire. Flames as chilly as the slopes of Hell roar towards the sky. Ghostly light flickers across the desert.
The pyramids in the ancient valley of the Djel are flaring their power into the night.
The energy streaming up from their paracosmic peaks may, in chapters to come, illuminate many mysteries: why tortoises hate philosophy, why too much religion is bad for goats, and what it is that handmaidens actually do.”
As the Discworld unfolds, the stories become more poignant. Yes, gags, plays on words, and downright bizarreness are plentiful. Except, this isn’t why Pratchett remains one of my alltime favourite authors. Real world people and events (even historical) are. Pyramids is sort of about Egyptian history, all boy boarding schools (particularly final examinations), family, coming…
Sometimes getting to know the author is as fun as getting to know the characters. Farrugia is probably as adrenaline addicted as Sophia but, thankfully, seems a ways off Denton’s brand of crazy. He is also funny as hell and a great writer.
This odd group of animals I belong to, seems hell-bent on destroying itself in one way or another. Often, I wonder who profits from the unrest going on. Seeing behind propaganda, to the Dentons, Hals and Sievers of this world, takes time and effort. What Farrugia manages to get across in Anomaly is how little the pawns, even at the level of Illarion, know. Just because two parties kill each-other, doesn’t mean they oppose each other. Unlike many of the real-world conspiracies I hear/read, Farrugia’s conspiracy thriller shows us a believable chess-game where the consequences to the players are small, but to their pawns, well.
Purity is clearly one of the pawns being played. We got an inkling of that in Interceptor. Anomaly‘s use of Hal, Denton and DC pushes me to think in one direction. Farrugia is probably just messing with my mind. Cults are terrifying creatures. Especially political cults. Nazism was one. We see another one tear its way through Europe, triggered by the 70-year-long battle between USA and Russia that is, at this part of the “game”, destroying the Middle-East. Purity has reached the point of the mob. “Burn the witches” is a chant at one of their rallies. Farrugia paints the mindlessness, hysterical anger, fear and violence present in such a mob perfectly.
We get to know Marina better. I find myself curious about her. “Will this hurt?” she asked. And it did. It takes a special kind of training to acquire the mind-set of the researchers in the various Columns, training most people would pass.
Eastern Europe is clearly in trouble and the only ones who might save it are Sophia and Olesya’s people. But only if the two groups cooperate. Both feel the need to talk but are afraid to trust the other. They know that no matter what they choose, the likelihood of their groups getting out intact is nil. However, both are the kind of leader who wants to get as much of her team out alive and as well as possible.
What on earth are Intron’s goals? They aren’t what Hélio says. Why are Fifth Column’s implants turning up in such strange people? Who are training these new, indestructible operatives? What is DC up to? How are Purity identifying the mutants? Can paranoia be taken too far?
As usual, I had fun. Lots of action, lots of conspiracy and one hell of a mystery. Definitely recommended.
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.
I had read one other story in the Amelia Peabody series before I read The Ape Who Guards the Balance (The Ape). The Ape occurs before my previous read. As each story solves its mystery, that was not a problem. Nor did I have difficulty jumping into the overarching story of the Emerson family.
Elizabeth Peters writes about the adventures of the Emerson family and their friends, servants and enemies. The family consists of Amelia Peabody Emerson (matriarch) and Radcliffe Emerson (patriarch). Both Amelia and Radcliffe have been with the series from the beginning. Walter (Ramses) is their son and Nefret their ward. In The Ape we also have Lia, the daughter of Radcliffe’s brother and sister-in-law and their ward, David. All six travel to Egypt for the 1906-07 excavation season.
Their adventures begin before leaving England. A mysterious man appears at a suffragette picket that Amalie and Ramses attend. This man later turns up in connection with a break-in and hauls away a large collection of Egyptian antiques. Shortly after, the stranger also seems to be involved in a kidnapping attempt of Amalie. The entire family suspects an old “enemy”, Sethos.
Once they arrive in Egypt, Ramses and David go on an adventure including a stolen papyrus, mysterious strangers and a blackmailing Nefret. The Professor is livid when he finds out what the threesome has done. But he is also intrigued. Then a mysterious bearded man turns up in Egypt as well, and it is not Sethos.
The Emerson family is egalitarian for the time it is written for (and for many families and places today). Nefret has just finished her clinical practice and Peters show us what a feat that was for a woman:
“Acquiring that training had been a struggle in itself. Over the violent objections of its (male) medical faculty, the University of London had, finally, opened its degrees to women, but the major universities continued to deny them, and the difficulty of obtaining clinical practice was almost as great as it had been a century earlier. Nefret had managed it, though, with the help of the dedicated ladies who had founded a woman’s medical college in London and forced some of the hospitals to admit women students to the wards and dissecting rooms.”
Lately, I have begun wondering whether I read male and female leads differently. Many of the comments on The Ape seem to be consistent with comments on strong women both in fiction and real life. A woman as strong as Amelia Peabody will be dissed for being strong but not perfect. In The Ape she certainly shows that she is far from perfect. Her own bias surprised her when David and Lia announced their engagement. She and Emerson are peas of a pod when it comes to stubbornness and a sense that their opinion is the only correct one, even if that opinion changes later on. Both see the other as emotional, adorable and hot. The words used to describe these qualities are different for each of them, further cementing both the standards of the time and the continued power language has today. We do get a taste of what it would be like if language was equal for both men and women in this thought from Amelia:
“… it was time for me to take charge of the discussion, which had degenerated into a series of emotional exchanges. This is often the case when men carry on a conversation.”
Gender is far from the only topic discussed in The Ape. Racism and classicism are very much present in the Victorian English who come to Egypt to loot the graves of ancient rulers and take their loot back to England. Peters points out the difference in the handling of this loot. Sometimes graves were completely vandalized by so-called archaeologists. Others, at least, tried to maintain both loot and their chambers as intact as possible. The Emersons’ are of the last category.
Issues and mystery are both weaved together in an enchanting story in the Agathaian (Agatha Christie) style. I definitely recommend The Ape Who Guards the Balance.
“So, let me get this straight, I pay 10% to you guys until I die, whenever that is, and after I die I’m resurrected in paradise, where I can live forever, free of charge?”
The salesman smiled. “Yes, that about covers it. You can join the program at any one of our weekly guidance meetings.”
Here’s the catch, Steve thought. “Meetings?”
“There’s a meeting you will need to attend every week, for an hour, maybe more some weeks.” Steve had visions of a clinic, some kind of brain scan to save a new backup copy for the promised virtual paradise. “Sounds reasonable.”
Having grown up Mormon, I found The Pitch a delight. The delight part of my reaction might have to do with my distance to my childhood religion. Or perhaps not. I have always enjoyed stories that poke fun at the way I think. Adriaan Brae’s satirical short-story of only 5 pages faces the issue of religious claims in a lighthearted and well-written manner.
Throughout Nyx’s exile, she didn’t think much about all the men and women she’d beheaded, or the mullahs she’d pissed off, or the mines she’d planted, or the battles she’d lost. She thought about the ring. A bad left hook. Poor footwork. Blood in her eyes. Hornets on the mat. Because everything that happens after you climb out of a boxing ring, one-half of your face ballooning into a waxy blue-black parody of death while you spit bile and blood and some fleshy bit of somebody’s ear on the mat, slowly losing sight in one leaky eye, dragging your shattered, roach-bitten leg behind you … is easy. Routine. Just another day breathing. (p. 2)
My copy of Daughter of Witches is the revised version. Daughter of Witches is Patricia C. Wrede’s second story.
Bond servants in Chaldon were servants with only one right: a half-day off every three weeks. Their masters could, in all other respects, treat their bond servants as they would. Ranira, our main character, is one such bond servant. She was bonded for nine years because her parents had been judged and killed for being witches. When we meet her, she has two more years of her bond to serve. She is somewhere in her teens.
When strangers come to Lykken’s inn at Festival time, they ignore the danger they place themselves in. Being foreigners in Drinn at Mid-Winter festival is enough to get you arrested. Hosting foreigners is also enough to get you arrested and sentenced as bond servant. In fact, all of your employees and family are placed in bond service for not having reported your crime. Earlier in the story, Ranira unintentionally offended the priest that is her “arresting officer”. It turns out she offended The High Priest of Chaldon. Her sentence is his way of getting revenge.
“For three days more I will be seated in the place of honor in the Temple, next to the High Priest, while he teaches the people the new rites and leads them in the old ones. Then the High Priest himself will perform the wedding ceremony. And consummate it. Publicly,” she added as an afterthought. She stared resolutely at the door of the cell. She was determined to finish, to make them understand, so that they would leave her to whatever little peace and sanity she could find and cling to. “When he is finished, the god will take me. For two days, Chaldon will walk in my body and speak with my voice, and there will be nothing left of me at all. On the last day of the Festival, when both moons are full and Chaldon has accepted the other sacrifices, the nine High Masters will kill me as well.”
Through history human sacrifice is not uncommon: Aztec, Japan, Serbia, Hawaii, India and Rome are only some places where ritualized human killings were/are practiced. Religion seems to make human sacrifice acceptable to the general populace once propaganda becomes common belief. But I wonder if religion is the only area of sacrifice in human society. What about the squandering of young lives in the fights we have with each other to enforce our own points of view? Or the death penalty?
Anyways. Ranira is not too happy about her future fate. Nor are the strangers once they realize what is going to happen to Ranira. What is about to happen to them as well. Although their fate is probably not the privilege of sacrifice to the god Chaldon, they will likely end up as sacrifices to Drinn’s version of justice. Getting away would seem hopeless yet highly desirable for all of them. Ranira and the strangers now set off on what are narrow escapes, much use of magic and new friendships.