“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.
Photography by Andrew Mccoll; Cover design by Pat Naoum
There are some seriously messed up people in this world and many of them hide behind the cover the religion of Purity gives them. Like many religions most of the grunts seem to want to believe the propaganda while the higher-ups are in it for other reasons. Propaganda is difficult to fight and more and more people fall under the spell Purity casts. Lithuania’s border guards now test people passing into Lithuania for genetic tinkering.
When we last left Sophia, unfriendlies came to visit. Enclave begins with Hal’s side of the attack. He is not, at all, happy with Sophia and her people and is set on destroying them. Except things aren’t really going his way lately. The cavalry arrives to save most of Sophia’s crew.
Olesya brings Sophia and her gang with her back to the enclave in Russia. Lithuania is too dangerous for any person with tagged genes. When she gets back to Kaliningrad she discovers that Illarion is leaving her as acting commander of the enclave. Things aren’t really going his way either. Then, to top it all, Olesya discovers they have a mole in their midst. It might be fair to say that things aren’t really going very well for any of our players, except for Purity. Or are they?
Finding the time and money for Hélio to figure out the kill-switch is not going to be easy. Especially when things keep blowing up in their faces.
As with the rest of the Episodes that Farrugia has published, Exclave is “size novella”. And like the rest of the Episodes of the Helix serial, Exclave uses a typical serial ending, ie a cliff-hanger. Farrugia continues the pace of the previous stories. He keeps writing believable make-believe stuff. If I got into as many fights as Sophia, Olesya and their crews do, I know I would want some Regen added to my genes. Enclave is well-edited and well-written. Recommended.
I know Farrugia had to crowd-fund to get Enclave up and running, and that might also happen for the rest of the episodes. I know I would rather help fund quality work, like Farrugia’s technothrillers, than some of the weird stuff I have tried to read.
As the bus-doors squealed shut, she fantasized about stealing the rainbow-striped balloon and drifting away to wherever the wind blew. Maybe to wherever her father was.
Victim mentality is difficult to let go. A person gets so wrapped up in what has been that they forget the future does not have to look the same. There are choices. However, getting to that point when one’s self-image seems shot to pieces and one’s position as underdog appears set in stone, is nigh to impossible.
Dee is 17 years old and considered an odd-ball. She is taller than most, has unusual hair and a scarred back. Her position on the social status totem pole is low. Laura, her only, and now ex-, friend, left her for a higher place. Predatory kids consider her easy bait.
“Don’t feed the wolves. Never feed the wolves.”
To top it all Dee thinks she is probably insane. She hears and sees stuff that the other kids apparently do not. Take Danny’s broken pencil:
Every tooth mark incised the instrument with Danny’s belief in magic – belief in gods who used magic.
And, the pencil…… It glowed and floated.
Her way out of victim mentality and hiding from the wolves slowly begins when the Vasquez brothers go after Danny. Dee ends up with dog shit in her hair, but facing her fears is slowly becoming possible.
Dee has a strange collection. A broken pencil, broken key-chain, broken glasses, broken lighter, broken needle and broken guitar pick probably do not seem like much to most of us. But Dee senses that these objects represent something more, and the only person with whom Dee dares talk about what she sees and hears is her grand-father. He is also the person who reveals who her father is, a man called River who turned up and disappeared right before his eyes. As it turns out, Dee’s heritage becomes essential to her survival. One day, a guy disappears with her collection. Dee desperately wants her things back but has no idea how to go about that.
Then, she sees a speaking glow bug that calls itself Nid. A a deal is made. Nid’s freedom pays for travelling to the place where the box has gone and making sure Dee gets back, safe and sound, to her family.
Yates has done a great job on her new world. Crescent is both similar and dissimilar to our own world. Society is highly stratified into different Breeds. At top are the “Leaders” and near the bottom are “Stealers”. Guess which one Dee belongs to. The right to naming and defining is a right we fight wars over. Stealers are a perfect example of what happens when the powers that be use their power to re-name. Stealers used to be called “Scouts”.
A scout is a person who seeks information about the unknown, one who goes in front, one who acts as a buffer for those behind while a stealer is a person who takes what does not belong to them. Instead of being part of a team, Stealers are now enslaved by those who can afford to own them. Propaganda has it that the only thing Stealers do well is run from trouble and steal your things. Propaganda also has it that as long as people fulfil the duties Leaders claim each breed must, all needs will be taken care of. As Stealer shows, propaganda in Crescent is as true as propaganda anywhere.
Some of the foreshadowing is obvious and trendy. For instance, Dee and Hunter. If two people meet, and that meeting is hostile, it is likely they will become lovers. Yates copies what has been urban fantasy fashion for a few years by throwing in a competitor for the main character’s affections.
Dee follows in the tradition of mystery parent giving the child great powers. Then something happens and those powers become immense. Although Dee does use her unexpected powers to get out of sticky situations, Yates usually manages to avoid the trap of overdoing it. Yates also writes Dee as a believable confused and surprised young woman in a confusing and surprising situation. Moving to a new culture is difficult. Language, traditions and presentation in Crescent are different to the ones of her own home town somewhere in the US.
Stealer is the first book in a Young Adult trilogy. It is 292 pages. Yates tells a story full of action and adventure with interesting characters, both the main- and the side-characters. I could identify with some of them. Crescent is a fun world with solutions I do think I have seen before. I really liked Stealer and definitely recommend it.
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.
Some authors write horror too well for my own good. In the case of Mr. Black, this happened before the end of chapter 6. I could not go on. Not since beginning to read Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill have I been this frightened. The time before that was when I was 15 and tried to read Dracula. So, no very often.
It wasn’t the demon dogs who did it for me. They were just gross and gross can be fun, or at least interesting. But good old Elder God, Nyarlathotep, did me in.
Too bad, really, as Mr. Black’s writing was excellent. But, alas, so is my imagination.
The Red Right Hand was given to me to review by Tor Books
Wild Magic is the first book in The Immortals four book series. It can be read alone or with the other three. The setting is in Tortall. In the world of Tortall and its neighboring countries, magic is called the Gift.
Daine is our main character. She is 13-years-old and an orphan. Daine has an unusual ability to communicate with animals. In spite of this, her gift does not show the hallmarks of the Gift. It turns out that her magic is a more dangerous, unpredictable and unusual magic, Wild Magic. In fact, Daine seems to be brimming with it.
Daine’s father is unknown (unknown to her). Before her mother managed to get around to telling Daine who he was, bandits killed her and Daine’s grandda and tried to burn down the homestead. At the time, Daine and Cloud (her pony) were away helping a breech-birth lambing.
“Coming out of their place, I couldn’t see anything anywhere but fog, couldn’t smell, couldn’t hear. I was clear to our village before I knew.
“They hit around dawn. The mill was burned, the miller dead. They took the wheelwright’s oldest girl and the headman’s wife. Really, they mighta passed my house by, Ma having the Gift, but they remembered she was pretty too, see.
“They fought—all of them. Ma, Grandda, dogs, ponies, horses—even the stupid chickens. Even Ma’s geese. Not the rabbits. They left. Well, they never fight, and you can’t ask them to go against their nature. But the rest fought. They killed some of the bandits.
“The bandits went crazy. They killed everything on the farm and didn’t carry any of it away, Mammoth told me. Mammoth was my boss dog. He said they was too cared of animals who fought like that.
“Mammoth told me what happened, and died.
“So we buried them, me and Cloud, every last one of our family. Cloud’s dam and sire, her brothers are in those graves.
“I straightened up the house, what was left. The raiders had tried to burn it, but only the upper story and the roof were gone. Ma had a bunch of charms against fire in the kitchen, so most of the downstairs was saved.
“It was two days before anyone came to see. After Ma helped them birth their children, nursed when they was sick. Two days! She could’ve been alive and hurt all that time! If the bandits had passed us by, Ma would have been at the village with medicines and bandages, making me and Grandda help.
Daine brought what she could from her home and left. Onua is the first person we know about who encounters Daine’s unusual ability to converse with animals. It turns out Daine is also unusually good with the bow and arrow. Way better than natural ability would make her. But Daine does not acknowledge that her abilities have anything to do with magic. That would mean confronting an episode we do not find out about until we are well into the story.
The second person Daine meets after Onua, is Numair, shape-shifter and magician. He is the one who spots the degree of her magic and identifies it. Numair is also the person who helps Daine understand that she must learn to control her magic. Otherwise Daine might end up unintentionally killing herself or others. So Daine battens down and does her best to stuff information into her head while at the same time ending up as Onua’s assistant. Turns out Onua is head hostler of the horses that the Riders use. Riders are semi-cavalry who go out in small groups to route out bandits and try to keep Tortall out of trouble.
Strange creatures attack Tortallians. Immortals seem to have escaped the God’s dimension that magicians had imprisoned them in 400 years previously. They are back and making sure people know it. Some of the Immortals are cruel beings, some are indifferent and some are helpful. Like people everywhere, I suppose.
Daine and her friends are attacked by the scarier versions of the Immortals. These creatures are difficult, but not impossible, to kill. Daine faces many difficult choices during Wild Magic. Some of them involve placing others in danger and understanding the meaning of free will. Other choices involve killing other intelligent creature. Not a simple matter for a 13-year old girl.
Daine also has to face pirates and the royalty of Tortall. For those who have read The Lioness series, you know that they can be a bit unusual. For Daine, who has grown up in a hierarchical and patriarchal society, Tortall royalty comes as a shock. But face them, she must. We meet characters from The Lioness series (another great children/young adult series that Pierce has written. The Immortals falls into the same age category.
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.