Tag Archives: Slavery

Lisle, H. (2014). Born from Fire. One More Word Books.

“The Truth of We”

“We speak the Truth, and the Truth speaks Us,
We live by the covenants, We abide by the Words.

That none may laugh until All can laugh,
That All sleep on dirt until none sleep on dirt.

Dirt is Our birthright. Hardship is Our glory.
Hardship strengthens Us. Hunger feeds Us.

The Known is All. The new is Willful.
Welcome Pain. Pain is Knowledge. We are WE.

Self is selfish. One is none.
All are All. We are We.

Each flesh belongs to All.
Each thought belongs to All.

Children are duty. All tend All.
Duty is life. Life is dying. Dying is duty.
We die for Duty. We are WE.

Within Each hides Evil. Be All, not Each.
In Aloneness is Willfulness. We will never be Alone.

We share, We do not own.
Property is an abomination.

Beauty is property. Property is crime.
Passion is property. Property is crime.

Love is property. We out love and lovers.
Secrets are property. We out secrets and secret-keepers.

All is Sharing. Sharing is Duty.
We serve Sharing. We are WE.

We speak the Truth, and the Truth speaks Us.
We live by the covenants, We abide by the Words.
The Will of All is all of Will. We are WE.” (Kindle Loc 307-339)

Since 1991 Lisle has published all kinds of writing from writing classes, short stories, poetry, novels (sci-fi & fantasy) and co-written material. I own many of the stories and have enjoyed the ones I have read, including Born From Fire.

Born From Fire is a 102 pages long science fiction novella. It is episode 1 of the Chronicles of Longview serial (i.e. not stand-alone). Its title suits the story well and has both a literal and figurative meaning. Born From Fire does not seem to have a particular age group in mind. There is no recognizable swearing, some violence and no sex. 

DOWN THE DARKNESS, down the line of standing cells, three words rippled urgently and under breath. “Death Circus here!”

In the dark, this criminal had waited long and longer for death to come. This criminal could not lie down, could not sit down—its captors had made certain its cell, and the cells of the others like it, permitted only standing.

With its bandaged knees pressed into one corner, its spine jammed into the other, this criminal drifted in that lightless place, never certain whether it was waking or dreaming. When it ate, it ate maggots. When it dreamed of eating, it dreamed of maggots. When it pissed or shit, it pissed or shit down its legs. When it dreamed, it dreamed of the same. (Kindle loc 37-44)

“It” or We-39R is a member of a People’s Home of Truth and Fairness (PHTF) settlement. These settlements are owned by the PHTF franchise and run by Speakers for We. As long as leaders of the various planets in the Longview universe do not execute their citizens, they may do as they wish with their people. PHTF franchises are the worst places to live for everyone but Speakers. We-39R earned the death penalty for Willfulness. However his death was delayed since executions must be carried out by Death Circuses, i.e. space ships travelling from collection point to collection point buying Class A (at least 30%) and Class B (at least 10%) prisoners.

The Longview is the biggest and most expensive Death Circus. It has the best salaries, the most extensive training for its crew and even offers investment incentives. More Class B prisoners are bought by them than by other circuses and it sells the fewest prisoners, yet it makes more money than any other Death Circus. 

Crew members begin as Provisional Crew Three Green. Once a person is hired on, they become Crew Three Green and advance up through Crews Two and One. Each crew is colour-graded from Green to Blue to Silver to Gold.

Born from Fire is told from three points of view, i.e. We-39R, Kagen (Crew Three Gold) and Melie’s (Crew Two Gold). The first half of the novella switches between We-39R and Kagen, the second switches between Kagen and Melie. Lisle handles the transitions well. The greatest differences lie between We-39R and the other two, however I do not think I could mistake Kagen for Melie (or vice versa). Since we see so much less from Melie’s perspective, she is less well-defined than the other two. All three are easy to sympathize with and their worldviews and reactions are believable. Our antagonist is less easily spotted. There is Mash, of course, but he is not the main one. That spot goes to the meta-entity that the Pact Worlds make up.

Freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences is a theme that runs through the entire serial. Anything that might lead to the slave conditions of the PHTF worlds is seen as something to fight against. At the end of my Kindle copy Lisle explains how she built a model of The Longview on Minecraft before writing about it. I appreciate her geekiness and as a reader I get to enjoy her dedication to detail when she takes us through parts of the ship. Both the world-building and plot are interesting, well written, detailed and dark. I liked Born From Fire and recommend it.

Hogarth, Mica; Earthrise (Mortal Instruments I); Studio MCAH; 2013

 

“Great,” Reese said, losing what little energy she had. She imagined it bleeding into the ground beneath her tailbone and shoulders. “You were supposed to be in a jail cell we could get you out of for money, not underground in a place pirates hide people they want to make disappear.”

The Eldritch canted his head, hair hissing against one shoulder. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll send you a bill,” Reese said, trying to get a hand under herself so she could sit up.

(Earthrise, p. 29)

Brin, David; Kiln People (2002)

As with many of his novels, David Brin’s Kiln People is an excellent science fiction story about a highly possible future. David Brin seems to keep himself up-to-date on neurological research and extends that information into alternatives we might well encounter if humans do not destroy themselves (also highly probable) before such technology becomes possible.

Racism is a huge part of the short lives of dittos in Kiln People. Dittos are clones, made of nano-clay, who live only 24 hours. A person’s  consciousness is copied into them and all of their experiences may be copied back into your consciousness again – as long as it is done within 24 hours after their birth. At that time, dittos turn into a kind of sludge. The color the ditto equals its value and abilities. Prices go from the cheapest Orange dittos, that are generally used for manual labor where independent thinking or sensing is seldom required, to the most expensive Platinum ones, that are like a better version of their Archie (original). Dittos are have varying degrees of independent thinking but must always be obedient to their Archie’s commands. They can be forced to do anything you can possibly imagine. Dittos are made to fight each other to the death, to be sex-slaves, to dig in the mines or to be substitute private detectives. Their sensory system can be hyper-sensitive or practically non-existent depending on exactly what you want them to experience, which leaves a lot of room for shitty owners to make their ditto’s life a living hell. While an Archie may do anything to a ditto they meet, instant destruction follows if a ditto harms an Archie. Even though people are allowed to make their dittos do anything, only wealthy people get away with “real” criminal activities. So, just like today. No matter how nice their owner is, dittos are still at the bottom of the social ladder. Albert Morris is a fairly decent owner.

“… I figure if you make a creature, you’re responsible for it. That ditto wanted to matter. He fought like hell to continue. And now he’s part of me, like several hundred others that made it home for inloading, ever since the first time I used a kiln, at sixteen.”

“… The copier sifts your organic brain to engrave the Standing Wave onto a fresh template made of special clay, ripening in the kiln. Soon a new ditto departs into the world to perform errands while you have breakfast. No need even to tell it what to do.

It already knows.

It’s you.”

Albert is the main character. As a private investigator he uses dittoes to go where he does not want to go. In fact, with enough money, he would never have to leave his home. Depending on the case, Albert uses different colored dittos. In Kiln People, Albert uses Ebony (huge processing abilities), Greys (used as representatives) and Greens (used for his dirty work).

Albert has two missions in life. One is to reveal the identity of Beta. Beta and Albert have a long history of killing each other (i.e. their dittos), and Albert really wants to know who is behind his arch-nemesis’ alias. Being as good a private detective as possible is his second mission. Corporate espionage and digging up dirt on  competitors is something private investigators continue to do in the future.

“Ugh. What put me in this mood? Could it be Ritu’s news? A reminder that real death still lurks for us all?

Well, shrug it off! Life’s still the same as it was in the old days.

Sometimes you’re the grasshopper.

Sometimes you are the ant.”

Albert gets hired by incomprehensibly wealthy Aeneas Kaolin, co-inventor of dittos and owner of Universal Kilns, to look into the disappearance of Kaolin’s long-time friend, Yosil Maharal. When Maharal turns up dead in what seems to be a car accident, Albert wonders if it might be something more.

One thing I really liked about Kiln People was the way Brin told the stories of Albert’s dittos in Albert’s voice. At one point, there were four Alberts at the same time. None of them knew what was going on with any of the others because they had not been reintegrated into their Archie. Brin’s world-building happened through the eyes and ears of the various Alberts. What they learned, we learned.

I would not have wanted to live in such a society. I find ours challenging enough. It was an interesting society, though, and one I think most people would embrace. No room for Aspies though. Genetic tinkering had become common enough that our worst ailments were eradicated. That, I wouldn’t mind. Just as I think of today’s society, some of the political choices of the society of Kiln People did not make sense. At least the fanatics behaved predictably.

Towards the end, I felt preached at. I don’t mind crazy men’s ranting, but this felt more like Brin telling, not showing. I also enjoyed Brin’s sense of humour.

“Albert? Is that you in there?”Illusion or not, I couldn’t refuse her anything. Though lacking a body – or any other means to make sound – I somehow gathered strength to mouth four words.

“… just … a … fax … ma’am …”

In conclusion, I think I can safely say that there is plenty of action, no romance, much social commentary, humour, and some preaching. I liked it.


Reviews:


Translations:

  • Audible: Read by Andy Caploe; Brilliance Audio, 2016
  • Bulgarian: Килн хора; Translated by Венцислав Божилов; Бард, 2002; Goodreads
  • English (British): Kil’n People; London, Orbit, 2002; Review
  • French: Le Peuple d’argile; Translated by Thierry Arson; Presses de la Cité, 2004; Review
  • German: Copy; Translated by Andreas Brandhorst; Heyne, 2005
  • Hebrew:  אנשי הכבשן; Translated by Ṿered Ṭokhṭerman; מודן הוצאה לאור, 2004; Review
  • Hungarian: Dettó; Translated by Haklik Norbert; Budapest, Metropolis Media, 2009; Reviews
  • Japanese: キルン・ピープル; Translated by 酒井昭伸 (Sakai Akinobu);  ハヤカワ文庫 (Hayakawa bunko) SF1628, 2007; Cover art: 加藤直之 (Katou Naoyuki); Review
  • Russian: Глина; Translated by С. Самуйлов; АСТ: Люкс, 2005 г; Cover art: SharksDen и Д. Бернса; Reviews
  • Spanish: Gente de Barro; Translated by Rafael Marín Trechera; Nova, 2003; Review

Jensen, Megg: Anathema (Cloud Prophet I) (2011)

Keeping slaves is generally not something people openly admit  today. Many countries continue this practice and my contention is that most states participate in this tradition while closing our minds and eyes to that fact. Traditionally, people have become slaves either through being conquered by another nation, power-hunger or through criminal acts.

Sometimes being conquered happens via false promises. Such is the case with the Serenian island in Anathema. Serenians were lured by promises of help from the Malborn. Once the Malborn were in force on the island, it took ten years for them to eradicate opposition. Criminals were those who would not obey the three “rules” Malborn leaders had set as a condition of harmony between the two people. “Trust, adore and obey” was what the Malborn required from the Serenians. Once you were deemed a criminal you would either be killed or enslaved along with your entire family. Add to that their military prowess, and the Malborn were bound to win.

Reychel remembers nothing but slavery. At fifteen slaves were branded with their master’s mark. This mark and their shaved heads clearly divided slaves from the rest of the population and it also make it extremely difficult for successful escapes to happen. Kandek, her master, is about to lose two of his slaves, one of whom is Reychel. The other is Ivy, Reychel’s best friend. First out is Ivy.  Fortunately for Reychel, her turn comes soon after. Her escape was public and unusual.

When slavery is all a person has known all sorts of things about being a free person had to be learned. There was a whole network set up to help escaped slaves deal with their new status. Blending in was vital. Both of them also had to come to terms with Reychel having magic powers of some sort. Ivy already knew about hers. Her ability to calm others, even to the point of forcing them to do things, becomes an important element of the story. Learning Reychel’s ability is also essential. The reader knows this long before Reychel does.

Another discovery Reychel ends up making is the value of her friendship with Ivy. Why did Ivy want her rescued, and why is Ivy acting so strange now that they are out of slave quarters? Sometimes people have different opinions of what friendship is and what friends are for.

Usually, slaves weren’t worth enough for a master to mount a search for too long. That was the case with Ivy. Reychel, however, was the exception to the rule. Kandek will not give up. If not for the friendship of one of the militia both girls would have been caught within the first weeks. There is a love interest with Marc, the militia guard. Another discovery about Ivy is the result of that interest.

Ivy is a fun character. Reychel is in line with a young adult hero type. So is Marc. All three are important to the story and the action-filled adventure Megg Jensen gives us.

Recommended.


Reviews:


Anathema can be found at Amazon

Gee, Emily: The Sentinel Mage (Cursed Kingdoms I) (2011)

Jáume was in his father’s barn when the curse broke free of its dormancy on the easternmost rim of the Seven Kingdoms.

The story of the Sentinel Mage begins with Jáume, eight years old. Ancient magic turns his father into a monster and the boy has to flee to save his life. Reading up on orphaned children showed me that homeless, orphaned pre-teens looking to survive are more common than I thought. That type of homelessness made Jáume’s tale more believable. Where a lot of children would have died from helplessness, Jáume is crafty and cunning. Sometimes he is not proud of what he has to do to live, but he still does them. Choices we seem to be left with, may not be real choices after all. Do or die?

Magic, like the terrible curse, is the reason witches were hunted until thought extinct on the mainland. But complete extinction of a genetic trait when prophecy is around would never be possible for a fantasy trilogy. In life the complete extinction of a genetic trait seems unlikely. Eventually it might turn up again. In the Sentinel Mage that is even more so the case, as Prince Harkeld is about to discover.

Every prophecy needs its tool and these tools are people who vary from the young and innocent to the old and unwilling. Prince Harkeld starts off with power, wealth and a sense of entitlement. He is 22 years old when he meets the feared witches at his father’s court in Osgaard. King Esgar has called him to meet the diplomatic convoy from Rosny in the Allied Lands. When Prince Harkeld hears what the witches (or “mages” as they prefer) have to say about his destiny and his background he is shocked. It turns out the blood of monsters is in him and he needs to choose between honor and his father’s approval. Fortunately for Prince Harkeld, he choses honor. He is not aware of the personal consequences of doing what his father wishes.

Monsters or not, Harkeld is stuck with the mages (or witches as he curses them). A solution to his distrust is found by the mages. However, this solution requires distraction and a certain amount of naivete on Harkeld’s side. Perhaps the mages figure he is distraught enough that he will not discover the discrepancies that occur when Justen appears.

I understood why Harkeld would act like the distrustful, arrogant and annoying person that he was with the mages. His background, the suddenness of his leaving and the shock of his discovery along with the constant fear of discovery and being on the run would all play a part in leaving him a somewhat unlikable person. I’m not certain I cared much for the mages either. They were dishonest toward Harkeld and very open about the possibility of needing only his hands and blood for the fulfillment of the prophecy. Only as a last resort, of course ….

In leaving the castle behind he also leaves his beloved younger sister and two younger brothers behind. Princess Brigitta wants to come with him but Harkeld feels she will be safer with her father. Hmmmm. Time will show. But Harkeld worries. And with cause. Princess Brigitta and her two helpers, armsman Karel and handmaid Yasma were all that were left to protect her brothers, six-year old Rutgar and four-year old Lukas. But eighteen-year old Brigitta is about to encounter her own set of terrible problems leaving her with little will or ability to look after her brothers. She is also all that stands between Yasma and constant abuse. Being a bondservant in Osgaard equates to slavery and terror. At least with the Princess Yasma had escaped daily rape and beatings.

Gee’s writing is what drove the story on. There were some hiccups but for the main part she kept me caught in her words. Recommended.


Reviews:


The Sentinel Mage is available at Amazon, Amazon UK, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository

Rust, Angelika: Once a Rat (Istonnia III) (2014)

once-a-rat - Angelika Rust

Angelika Rust displays one of my favorite traits in an author. She evolves and improves over time. Once a Rat shows just how far Rust has come in her writing. The only thing she continues to do that annoys me is to overuse the word “whom”.

“It’s worse than I thought,” she groaned, rolling onto her back. “It isn’t innocence, it’s honor. You’re the son of a rich bastard of a trader and a madwoman. Whom, for fire’s sake did you inherit your honor from?”

Honor is a strange concept. For one thing, honor varies from person to person. There does seem to be a common denominator across nations, namely that to be considered honorable, one must keep promises/oaths made. Nivvo seems to have honor as an in-born character trait. Such a trait makes Nivvo perfect for some roles but disqualifies him when breaking promises might be needed. There are several high-status professions, in real life and in Istonnia, involving deception and deceit, that Nivvo could not fill.

In Once a Rat Nivvo is sent on a joint mission for the Regent and Underlord of Istonnia in the hopes that Istonnia might be saved from more fighting. Being the kind of story that Once a Rat is, the likelihood of Nivvo surviving that mission is in doubt. But Nivvo accepts that as his duty. Part of that duty has to do with his promises to obey Vicco, but Nivvo also seems to feel that his relationship with the Regent obliges him to serve Istonnia as best he can.

Part of his mission terrifies him. Practical experience of slavery turns out to be completely different from the theoretical understanding of its nature.

“…, he knew they’d come back to haunt him for the rest of his life … a child, little more than a toddler, on his hands and knees, and a soldier stomping on the tiny fingers till they broke with a sickening crunch … a woman his own age, tears streaming from her closed eyes as a slave handler cut her clothes away to reveal her body to a customer … a man hugging the pole he was tied to, screaming relentlessly as a lash opened up gash after gash on his already scarred back …”

Slavery, the objectification of people taken to extremes. The real world still embraces slavery and most of us are quietly complicit in letting it carry on. Nivvo’s mission is to get to the person trying to work against slavery in Baredi and help that person succeed. But the odds are against the abolitionists.

There are some very angry people left in Istonnia. Choosing to smother his loved ones in protectiveness happens to be one of Nivvo’s greatest failings. Even Vilores is kept in the dark. Shame on Nivvo and his father for breaking that law once again.

While Nivvo is gone Cambrosi is having fun trying to stay alive. Fedoro is helping him. Someone in his organization is trying to overthrow the Underlord. If it works, then Istonnia seems doomed to enter what might become a civil war.

Plenty of action, some violence, some sex – neither very explicit.

Definitely recommended.


Once a Rat available at Amazon US

Flynn, Sabrina: A Thread in the Tangle (Legends of Fyrsta I) (2013)

Cover 1 by Nele Diel / Cover 2 by ???
Cover 1 by Nele Diel / Cover 2 by ???

A Thread in the Tangle can be read by itself. Although the ending was abrupt and clearly meant as a cliff-hanger, the dilemma of the story was resolved.

“No, absolutely not,” Sotaen said shaking his head. “The nymphling is worth far too much. You’re nothing but a barbarian. How do I know you won’t sell her yourself, or take her for yourself when she come of age? Your fondness for women and debts are well known in my court.”

Isiilde is the nymphling Emperor Sotaen and Wise One Oenghus are talking about. Nymphlings are coveted by men, raped by men and forcibly married away to the highest bidder.

Our own world is not much different from the world of Fyrsta in that regard. Selling women into marriage is still a common practice. Slavery is a condition millions of people suffer through today as well. Having to live with the knowledge that your life is not your own and that at any time anything can happen to you if your owner wills it so must be gruesome. Slaves of old have shared their experiences with the world.

At four Isiilde doesn’t quite realize what it entails to be considered an object in the world of wealth. But she will learn.

Thankfully, her allies are powerful and devoted. Oenghus has reasons of his own for protecting Isiilde so fiercely. Her other ally is also a Wise One and the Archlord of the Isle all in one person. Marsais allows the two to live on the Isle under the protection of the Wise Ones until Isiilde comes of age.

Marsais and Oenghus are old friends. They both stand against the Void and the terrors it can unleash. Now their mission is to make Isiilde’s life as good as it can be until it is time for the bidding to begin. A Thread in the Tangle is full of humor and welcome relief from what lies in the future. Isiilde’s less than stellar ability to focus on anything for more than 5 seconds at a time gets her into trouble time and again. Good thing she is Marsais’ apprentice.

Being a nymph is a challenge in the world Isiilde is born into. Where once upon a time they had been revered for their connection with nature, they were now seen as sex-toys for the wealthy. Once the Guardians had defined them as less than sentient, it was a free-for all with regard to sexual abuse. When Isiilde learns of that history from the MUCH older Marsais she is angry.

I found the idea of a tooth fetish funny. What a cool creature Flynn introduced into her story along with that fetish.

A Thread in the Tangle fit me. There were some hiccups, but I see that other reviewers have addressed those. Flynn managed to combine humor, tension, sadness and magic into a world that I stayed in all night to finish.


Reviews by:


A Thread in the Tangle on Smashwords

A Thread in the Tangle on Amazon

A Thread in the Tangle on Barnes & Noble


Various on deviantart.com: Silverbeam / Birgit Engelhardt / Lileya / i-a-grafix / Bohemian resources / Cathy E. Child / Starraven
Various on deviantart.com: Silverbeam / Birgit Engelhardt / Lileya / i-a-grafix / Bohemian resources / Cathy E. Child / Starraven