Waiting on: Mother of Eden

Can’t remember what kind of noise I made when I first found out Chris Beckett was going back to the world of Dark Eden, but he is!    Dark Eden was a very harsh – and I guess very dark – read, but so good.  It’s going to be a long wait for “Spring 2015” when Mother of Eden is scheduled for release.   (Actually – the UK release appears to be Nov 6th, 2014, but on Beckett’s site, this has been revised to spring 2015. Ack!)

The blurb doesn’t really let on how interesting this is in the Eden setting.

“We speak of a mother’s love, but we forget her power. Power over life. Power to give and to withhold.”
Generations after the breakup of the human family of Eden. the Johnfolk emphasise knowledge and innovation, the Davidfolk tradition and cohesion. But both have built hierarchical societies sustained by violence and dominated by men – and both claim to be the favoured children of a long-dead woman from Earth that all Eden knows as Gela, the mother of them all.

When Starlight Brooking meets a handsome and powerful man from across Worldpool, she believes he will offer an outlet for her ambition and energy. But she has no idea that she will be a stand-in for Gela herself, and wear Gela’s ring on her own finger.

And she has no idea either of the enemies she will make, no inkling that a time will come when she, like John Redlantern, will choose to kill.

This is just not a book I’ll expect you to enjoy without reading the predecessor Dark Eden first – so go do that, if you want some grimdark speculative fiction fitting somewhere between Lord of the flies and, uh, any space colonization tale.  (But read the relevant blurbs first so you’ll know if there’s a relevant trigger warning for you, because I can imagine there are people who would prefer to be warned away from this.)

Read-a-thon: 1st status update

I didn’t forget – this week is read-a-thon week.  In a typical turn of events, I managed to stumble on a book that turned out not to be quite the fast read I imagined it would be, so, uh, that’s sad.    Also I don’t know if I get to count graphic novels, but I’ll tell you I’ve read them, in any case.

Monday

  • Last half of The girl with all the gifts, approximately 200 pages
  • Started on The wordy shipmates and almost promptly fell asleep (oops!), approximately 40 pages
  • Graphic novel: Amulet vol. 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse (224 pages, but in actual text, maybe something like 30?)

Total: 240 pages ( + however you count a graphic novel)

 

Tuesday

Sluggish!

  • A little bit more of The wordy shipmates (approximately 60 pages)
  • First chunk of The word for world is forest (approximately 70 pages)
  • Tiny start on Sandman slim (approximately 30 pages)

Total: 160 pages

Week total: 400 pages

I always get myself stuck in a slowread for things like this, of course.  In this case, it’s not that Sarah Vowell’s book about the puritans (with scattered bits of American history from that time until current) is uninteresting – I like it a lot,  am kind of amused that a lot of the names are names I feel acquainted with from reading Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque cycle, and it’s going to be fun to finish it – but it turns out to be a less-than-perfect sleepy bedside read.  Thus, I started biting into Sandman slim, which immediately appears to be a mix of Harry Dresden and the 90s film The Crow.  

Today I plan to finish The word for world is forest, which is very short,  and, uh, I don’t know.  Might start on The empathy exams because of a buddy-read.  Might force more puritans into my day, unless I decide it can wait for next week.  Probably will read the third volume of the graphic novel Saga, because Saga is all good things, and I picked it up from the library yesterday.  (I live next to my city’s only library department I care about, which is strange and fortunate – it houses most of, possibly all of, the city library’s graphic novel collection.)

There’s also some study stuff I might have to attend to, but everyone knows that only increases the chance of becoming completely captivated by reading. That is the law.

Teaser: Amulet

When I was less than three years old I more or less taught myself ot read, because my parents didn’t want to read comics out loud to me (for which my current self does not blame them).  To some people, this explains a lot,  as it means my early brain-shaping and language training was aided by Lucky Luke, Asterix and Obelix, Elf Quest, and Donald Duck.   (I must add, all of these were translated into my language in a peculiar oldtimey vocabulary, thus, if I talk to people, I’m often told I “sound like uncle Scrooge”.)

Anyway, comics, graphic novels, I’ve always loved them.  Strange how I don’t read more of them. (I’m looking for recs to get into the Marvel universe, by the way. Iron Man?  Ultimate Avengers?)  One of my absolute favourites, though, is Jeff Smith’s Bone.

I love Bone so much, I’ve had to buy the omnibus edition three times, having strangely lost or moved away from previous copies.   Bone is categorized as “children’s fantasy”,  and that is, without a doubt, my favourite graphic novel genre.

So I was out of my mind with joy when I found Kazu Kabuishi’s Amulet.    My tuesday teaser is a crappy photo from this morning (it’s hard to hold a camera with one hand and try to wiggle shiny pages so they don’t reflect too much lamp light… while refusing to get out of the chair for the sake of a better picture.)

001

Unlike Bone (at the time I first read it, anyway) this has colours.  Beautiful, beautiful colours.   Not only is the artwork spectacular, but it depicts all of my favourite graphic novel things; animal characters, talking trees, a vast array of super cool robots, epic adventure, sinister forces, creepy mean guys, mystery quests, everything.

My problem now is – I got volumes 1 and 2 from the library, but volume 3 is mysteriously absent from the catalogue.  They have the rest of the books, but not the third one.  This is TERRIBLE.  I can’t just buy a third in a series without buying the whole thing.  Which I’d like to do, obviously, but I’m trying to show, uh, what’s it called, restraint? Responsible economical decision making?  Oh, screw that.

Hugo awards!

I was pleased to see Ann Leckie running off with the Hugo award for best novel – while I enjoyed a couple of the other nominated books, Ancillary Justice was simply the only real contender, as I saw it.   Best novella went to Equoid by Charles Stross, a story about unicorns set in the Laundry universe which means of course I like it.

Best “related work” went to Kameron Hurley’s We have always fought: Challenging the women, cattle, and slaves narrative.  I hadn’t read this – but now I have, since the link was in my morning blog feed, and I’m linking it because I find it wonderfully worthwhile.  Go, read!

(Kameron Hurley is an unknown to me, except I remember her God’s war being a Hugo novel nominee a while back. I’m afraid I dismissed it because something-something, but my interest is now thoroughly stirred.)

Apocalypse cow, by Michael Logan

Apocalypse cow Book Cover Apocalypse cow
Michael Logan
Horror, humor, fantasy
St Martin's Griffin
First published May 2012
paperback
352

So if you go to the shop and pick up a zombie story brownie mix and look at the list of ingredients, you might find it looks something like this:

  • Evil scientists (produced in a facility which also handles MAD scientists)
  • Mean government
  • Terrifying virus
  • Outbreak event
  • Gore
  • Generic character mass

MIX IN:   Victims and infection vector.   Bake for 30 minutes and read with appropriate level of expectations.

You get home and you realise you forgot to bring a couple of pints of required mix-ins, but you're sure you have something in the back of the cupboard.  Oh, yes, there it is.  It's not the human type, but it'll probably do just fine.  It's not like you haven't substituted milk with orange juice before. Right?  Well - anyway...

The book is called Apocalypse cow.   There's really nothing a review can do to spoil it.  I think you know very, very well what you're in for.

Once I'd looked at the book because of the cover, I noticed it had a Terry Pratchett recommendation on it, which was enough to add it to my to-read list.   Where it stayed for a couple of years until I wiped the dust off it and had a look inside.

Terry is employed at the abattoir, which is fine, he thinks, except for the smell.  He doesn't much mind the work, except this one cow, well, it's acting a bit weird, isn't it?   Lesley is a less-than-mediocre journalist failing spectacularly at living up to her famous journalist father's reputation, and she really needs a story, but not as much as she needs a smoke.   Geldof has his name from a pair of somewhat unfortunate hippie parents who will not acknowledge his allergy to hemp clothing.  He's also not quite as fond of lentils as he ought to be, given the vegan diet imposed on him.  As he is of course a victim to any bullies who come along, sometimes he'll do things to appease them.  Like go out at night to tip some cows.

It's a bit of a shock to find that these cows are not particularly tippable at all.  In fact, they seem to have entirely different things in mind.  Things not all that compatible with bovine teeth, mind you.

So.  You know.   You know where this is headed.  The story is told knowing that you know it, because anything else would be ridiculous in a bad way. As it is, it's ridiculous in an entertaining way.   I might give this to someone who is loudly so over the zombie thing.  (I like a good zombie story, myself - but that doesn't mean I had the patience to read more than about 5 volumes of The walking dead,  and I can stand the tv series even less. That's not what I'm talking about when I say good zombie story.)

According to the quote, the book made Terry Pratchett snort with laughter -  I'll admit there was no snorting on my part,  and a somewhat disappointing lack of proper giggles, but it was, well, okay.  You're not offensive or terrible if you happen to forget to bring anything spectacular to the party,  you're just... not spectacular.

The Martian chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

The Martian chronicles Book Cover The Martian chronicles
Ray Bradbury
Science fiction fantasy, Classics
Brilliance Audio
originally published in 1950
audiobook
298

First: This is not about The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, but instead about The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury narrated by Scott Brick.  See, there's a difference.  Choosing an audiobook version is to add a new, potentially fatal element to the experience of the material.  This is one of those cases where it had unfortunate ill effect, as I don't care for Scott Brick's dramatization, and if ever a narrator begged for the "play at higher speed"-option in my audio app, it's this one.  After a couple of hours at normal speed (1x) I was about to lose my mind with the glacial way of it and went through the rest at 1.5x.

Probably, this was only exacerbated by the nature of the writing: Bradbury's stories may also be described as, well, slow.   This book is not a novel, but a collection of connected short stories and texts,  starting at humans' first contact with aliens on Mars,  taking us through colonization efforts and a Martian community life, populated by nuclear families, very much set in the time the stories were originally published.

Here's a thing about me as a reader: I often have a hard time with older genre 'classics'.  I don't mean Frankenstein or the works of Jules Verne etc,   but more specifically stuff from the more immediate pre-1980s decades.  Why anyone would recommend Bradbury, Asimov or Heinlein to new readers, to sell them on the genre, is beyond me.  They have their good points, but I'd suggest leaving them for when you're already a genre reader and have developed an interest in the history and context of it.  To me, there are so many very good contemporary books in science fiction, and a lot of them come without the awkward politics and gender issues and racism I find so jarring in older reads.  In short: Yes, history is important,  no, older is not better.

Okay.  Finally: I'm not a Bradbury fan.  Maybe I would have been if I read his stories when I was younger, so they would have been tucked in between Narnia and Journey to the centre of the Earth and all that.   That wasn't the case, though, and my repeated forays into his books as an adult have left me somewhat unenthusiastic,  for reasons related to the previous paragraph.

"But he's such a fantastic storyteller!", people say. "It's all so beautiful and lyrical!"

Beautiful and lyrical makes me think of Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer, Bacigalupi, other names I can't think of right now because that would be too convenient - well, anyway.  I am a reader who finds more beauty in Philip K. Dick, I suppose.

I like the idea of the Martian Chronicles. Some of the dialogue involving Father Peregrine was great.  Other good moments may have simply been forgotten once I got past the story where the last woman on Mars has the audacity to be anything less than beautiful.  Even though she of course stayed at a beauty parlor.

By that time, between my headphones, I had pretty much become this:
grumpycatNO

 

Thank you for all the expressive cats, internet. Without you, I would have had to put feelings into words.

I'm willing to consider the thought that this was a case of  "wrong book, bad timing", but, given past reading experiences, it's probably more a case of wrong reader.

 

 

Waiting on: The village effect

Susan Pinker’s The village effect: Why face-to-face contact matters is published on September 4th, and I found out about it through one of Steven Pinker’s tweets.

I’m interested because I eyeroll so hard when anyone harps on about how looking at gadgets and screens is ruining everything, eeeverythiing.   I’m pretty sure the book deals with the topic on a different level than the tabloid write-ups about “parent checks facebook, misses offspring’s first public embarrassment” et cetera, though.  I really would like to know some stuff about… this… stuff.  (If there is a self-checkout line at the store I will always choose it, and if something can be done through a form instead of a phone call, that’s what I’ll do – but this doesn’t mean the topic of face-to-face interaction isn’t interesting.)

Sixty years ago the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote ‘hell is other people’. Now, new evidence shows us that he was utterly wrong. Beginning from the first moments of life and at every age and stage, close contact with other people – and especially with women – affects how we think, whom we trust, and where we invest our money. Our social ties powerfully influence our sense of life satisfaction, our cognitive skills, and how resistant we are to infections and chronic disease. While information about diet, exercise, and new classes of drugs were the life-changing breakthroughs of the past decades, the new evidence is that social bonds – the people we know and care about-are just as critical to our survival.

The Village Effect tells the story of the ways face-to-face human contact changes our minds, literally. Drawing on the latest discoveries in social cognition, social networks and neuroscience, salted with profiles of real people and their relationships, Susan Pinker explains why we are driven to trust other people and form lifelong bonds, and why we ignore these connections at our peril.

Uncanny!

I just threw some money at the kickstarter for a new SFF magazine called Uncanny.  It looks awesome. Look at it!

…But I probably shouldn’t have. I mean, I have several kindle subscriptions to cool things (Asimov’s, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine) – and… the thing is, I very rarely actually take the time to read them. It’s awful and I feel a bit guilty about it, it’s just the same problem I have with podcasts – there are a lot of good things out there, but I just have a hard time making myself choose a magazine – or a podcast – over a novel.  I’m working on changing this, though!

Teaser: Apocalypse cow

I think the title alone is a good enough reason to be reading this – but I probably bought it because of Terry Pratchett’s recommendation on the cover.

 

The man in the suit rearranged his features – he was probably aiming for sympathy but achieved constipation – before saying, ‘I’m afraid all of your colleagues passed away in the stampede.’

He patted Terry’s shoulder, bare above the robe, and drew his fingertips lightly across the skin, exhaling softly as he did so. Another wave of nausea gripped Terry and he leaned over the bed to retch dryly.  When his stomach had once again realized it was empty, Terry flopped back onto the pillow.

‘There wasn’t a stampede’, he said, hoarsely.  ‘Those cows just went for us. Biting, stamping, ripping. They meant to kill us.’

Tell me this wasn’t more or less the first thing you envisioned the first time you heard the words “Mad cow disease”. I know I’ve been dreaming of apocalyptic cows since the nineties, anyway. (And tried to scratch that itch with the movie Black sheep, but that didn’t turn out all that well.)   Michael Logan’s Apocalypse cow won the Terry Pratchett prize, which is a prize too few people talk about, and I have to look up a complete list of nominees and winners, because it sounds so great.

 

Read-a-thon

I’m declaring my intentions to participate in the Bout of books read-a-thon 11, August 18th-24th.

Here’s the officiBout of Booksal blurb:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

So, there. The number of books I read in a week varies, depending on sleepiness levels, complexity and size of books, and, uh, random events – but I’d estimate an average of 2-4, so I’ll aim for 5+ for the read-a-thon.  I don’t have a plan for what to read, but I do have a few light series starters lying around, which should be excellent for this.  (And that week is a week I’m supposed to do some other stuff, which probably makes it double exellent for reading a ton – because books are more magnetic when there are other tasks to ignore while reading them.)