Tag Archives: Slavery

Brin, David; Kiln People (2002)

Racism is a huge part of the short lives of the dittos in Kiln People. Dittos are clones, made of nano-clay, who live only 24 hours. Nano-clay’s sensory system can be hyper-sensitive or practically non-existent. A ditto may be forced to do anything you ever imagined doing or have done to you. At least if you have enough money. Your consciousness is copied onto their clay-flesh. Any time up until 24 hours after birth, all memories can be copied back into you again. Dittos are programmed for obedience and varying degrees of independent thinking. Some owners, like Albert Morris, are fairly decent. Others are shitty as hell.

“… 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.”

The color the ditto equals its value and abilities. Orange dittos are  cheapest and used for manual labor that does not require much thinking or sensing. Platinum dittos are the most expensive, and only people like Kaolin can afford them. On this case, Albert can afford an ebony one. Ebony dittos have processing abilities that are far ahead of Albert’s. Greys are the ones Albert sends out to represent him. He uses green dittos to do the dirty work a detective sometimes needs to do. Sensory input is lower for greens but processing is probably about the same as for its archie/rig/owner.

Dittos are at the bottom of the social ladder. Instant destruction follows if they harm a “real” human. A flesh and blood human can do anything to a ditto they meet. At most they will be fined. 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 clothes are paper. Albert Morris is a private detective with two missions in life. One is to reveal the identity of Beta. Beta and Albert have a long history of killing each other (their dittos), and Albert really wants to know who is behind his arch-nemesis. Albert’s other mission is to be as good a private detective as possible.

In this future world, where we get to lay any ethical pretensions on the shelf, being a private detective seems unnecessary. But there is always a need for diggers into people’s lives. In this future, wealth buys you out of trouble as easily as it does now.

“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 stinking rich Aeneas Kaolin, co-inventor of dittos and owner of Universal Kilns, to look into the disappearance of Kaolin’s long-time friend, Yosil Maharal. 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 Brin’s writing style was how he told the stories of Albert’s dittos in Albert’s voice. 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 able to get in touch with each other. The green one had turned into a Frankie. I liked its independent streak. Its ability to disobey.

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 if we had. Much of Kiln People‘s society did not make sense. Population control is one. Why so many people? At least the fanatics were pretty the same as always.

Towards the end, I felt preached at. I don’t mind crazy men’s ranting, but this felt more like Brin was trying to get a message across. A lost cause in me.

“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 …”

Plenty of action, no romance, social commentary, humor, some preaching. Recommended.


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

Gimpel, Ann: Earth’s Blood (Earth Reclaimed II) (2014)

Artist: Kelly Shorten Interior book design: Cera Smith Editor: Angela Kelly Line editor: Jenny Rarden
Artist: Kelly Shorten
Interior book design: Cera Smith
Editor: Angela Kelly
Line editor: Jenny Rarden

First of all I am going to talk about going off on tangents. My thing is words – Autism is part of me. That means that sometimes the sound of a word in my head or the way it feels in my mouth sets me off on a chase. One of the words in Earth’s Blood that set me off was Lemurian. The Lemurians are also called the Old Ones and are hated by both the Celtic gods, of which Fionn is one, and Aislinn. But the name Lemurian. It keeps on going round and round in my head. Part of it has to do with lemurs. Lemurs are soooo cute/adorable/sweet (maybe not) and all of those adjectives that we give animals that look like them. The other part was when I started looking for things to do with Lemurian on the net. Wow, there is actually a whole belief system centered around the concept (see links below). People are fascinating.

Sometimes when I read a novel one of the characters begins to annoy me. Once I realise what is happening I stop and ask myself why. This time it was Aislinn’s way of handling her situation that got to me. I was getting more and more frustrated with her until I finally stopped and looked at what it was I was projecting. Surprise, surprise. Thinking is problematic to my imagined self.

One of the things that bothered me was all of the sex between Aislinn and Fionn. This is coming from the woman who claims that she wishes there was as much sex (vanilla kind) in novels as there is action. In Earth’s Blood there is. But it bothered me and here is why: Conditioning. My child-hood religion is very orthodox. Sex is no exception to the rule. That in itself makes the whole concept of reading about it – even when it is as well written as Ms. Gimpel writes it – problematic. Oatmeal has a really great poster on the subject. It is funny and incredibly sad at the same time.

My other problem with descriptive sex was my childhood. I was sexually abused by some of my relatives and that scarred me and made sex less than fun for a long, long time (my poor husband). Once I realised what was going on in my head and emotions I could let go of the pain. Sex is good for me now. I got so turned on by some of the scenes that I dragged my husband upstairs and had some adult playtime.

The other thing that annoyed me was how volatile Aislinn was. Once again I had to stop myself from reacting and instead looked at what on earth was causing such a strong emotion in me. One of the things going on between Aislinn and Fionn was a whole lot of insecurity about their relationship from Aislinn’s side. No wonder, considering how it all came about and all of the challenges thrown their way (an understatement if there ever was one). I looked at my own insecurities when it comes to people and especially my husband. Being an autist is a challenge when it comes to a relationship – both for me and my non-autistic husband. My husband is the kind that shows his love through action and not through words. For me that is incredibly cryptic. My thinking muscles are severely challenged when trying to interpret what is going on in our relationship. We have been together 25 years, so I ought to have caught on by now, but you know – some people are just slow.

The other thing that caught me was what happened when Aislinn discovered she was pregnant and the following abortion. The myth about pregnant women being volatile is no myth. Sometimes our hormones take over completely and there isn’t much we can do about it. Add to that the new relationship between Aislinn and Finn and Aislinn just beginning to open her sealed chest of grief over her many losses in life thus far – and my feelings about Aislinn changed.

Is there action in Earth’s Blood. I realise that the above might have made you think otherwise, but there is plenty of action. Plenty, plenty, plenty. And like the sex it is detailed but not explicit (if that makes sense). The dark gods (another concept that sent me off on a tangent) and the old ones used to fight each other. But in their craving for control over the earth they have pooled their resources for the time being. Power is such a seductive thing and power is what both the Old Ones and the Dark Gods want. Power over the people and power to consume the earth’s resources.

By destroying anything to do with technology they have handicapped humans. And by killing off people without magic they have reduced the population and the potential number of people who could rise up against them. These are the creatures the Celtic gods and Aislinn and their bond animals have to fight. But when one of those Celtic gods is a dragon there is hope. Especially when that dragon does what she does best and goes off on a mission of rescue. I like Dewi. She is a cranky, self-important, stubborn, independent and insecure dragon who is terribly lonely as the only dragon left on earth. I believe she is my favorite character.

Anyways, Earth’s Blood affected me and helped me realise something about myself. That is probably one of the more important things an author can achieve. My imaginary hat off to Ann Gimpel.

I have to add one comment here. If you are one of those who struggles with talking to your teenagers about sexuality, I recommend letting them read this series. There is a lot of action and a whole lot of wholesome and fun sex in it. Sexuality is shown as something fragile in new relationships while also showing how turned on by each other people are at the beginning of a relationship.


I’ve reviewed an ARC copy, so Earth’s Blood is not out on the market yet. For a description:


My review of Earth’s Requiem


Lemuria/Lemurians (not connected to the Lemurians of the novel but I got off on a tangent.):

Reine, S.M.: Dire Blood (The Descent V) (2012)

Dire Blood
Cover art S.M. Reine
I’ve had some strange and terrible things happen in my life. Most people have. I grew up in a home with parents who had managed to stray from the original paths their lives might have taken. Instead they changed what they had grown up with into a new type of family life. But the consequences of the lives they had grown up with were there. And let me tell you, their growing up years were extremely difficult. But they changed the script of their lives.

Maybe this is why I prefer Elise over James. Elise continually tries to change what life throws at her into something that will keep the balance between different types of people. James, on the other hand, is driven by his ambition. Both grew up with challenges, although Elise’s seem much more extreme than James’ challenges.

When James was a kid it became apparent that his talent for magic was extreme. At nine years old he taught three girls who were older than he. He thirsted for more knowledge of magic. Conquering magic became his goal in life, no matter what he might end up sacrificing to get there. Sadly, he was good at everything he tried his hand at. I say sadly because in James’ case all of his success turned out to give him a skewed sense of morality (at least it seems that way to me). That affects his relationship with Elise and just about every other person he meets. To him demons are dirty, filthy, evil creatures who deserve only death. Humans are the important breed to him, the ones he needs to protect.

James’ coven has been under the rulership of the angel Metaraon for years and years and years.

Metatron: (Metatetron, Merraton, Metaraon) A great angel honored as the angel of presence, chief of ministering angels, chancellor of heaven, and whom maintained the world.

<

p>The coven has provided Metaraon with girls who are taken to a garden to be with Adam (or Him / God). While James was young Metaraon came to the coven to take away a young girl (Ariane). Metaraon’s ultimate goal was to create “The Godslayer” (yes, you are catching on now, huh? ;= ). Ariane was matched with Isaac Kavenagh in order to create a baby. Ariane became Isaac’s apsis so the two of them would be bound to each other. When Ariane was 16 and Isaac 20 years old Elise was born. And who is Elise supposed to be????

One of Ariane’s co-students was Hannah Pritchard. Hannah later became involved with James and she and James had a son – Nathaniel. If you remember, James found out about Nathaniel in Damnation Marked. James now discovers that Hannah has kept the knowledge of their son from James because of the kind of person James is. That’s got to hurt. James is the god of rationalisation and so manages to keep on finding justification for his actions and ways. Some of the choices he makes bring him and Hannah into great danger. Danger from which Elise is going to have to save them.

As you discovered at the end of Damnation Marked, Elise survived her death. She was changed into a demon of the kind that Yatam and Yatai were. For a kopis that had to suck. All of a sudden she has become what she has fought against her whole life (ever since she was able to hold a falchion). Part of that change has brought confusing urges and a look into other people that she isn’t understanding. So, she is confused, angry and worried.

When Nathaniel turns up, what does she do? Well, in true Elise style she drops everything and goes off to help James. Anthony has stuck with her through thick and thin, but this time he says no thanks and leaves Elise and Nathaniel to the job. And what a job this is turning out to be. Throughout Dire Blood I am reminded of why I like Elise so much (and now Nathaniel as well). Sure, she is a mess, her life has turned up-side-down and she has no idea what is happening to her. So what. Life has to go on and a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. If that means saving James with his magically talented son coming along, then that is what she will do.

Action. Is there action in Dire Blood. Oh, yes. Plenty of that. I had fun with both the action and the background information on our main characters. As usual I loved S.M. Reine’s writing. She does an excellent job with this kind of fantasy.


Review:


  • File Size: 482 KB
  • Print Length: 428 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Red Iris Books (December 23, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00ASDEHLM

Source: Angelology


My review of:

  1. Death’s Hand
  2. The Darkest Gate
  3. Dark Union
  4. Damnation Marked