An accident of stars, by Foz Meadows

An accident of stars Book Cover An accident of stars
The manifold worlds #1
Foz Meadows
Angry Robot
August 2 2016

When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war.

There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex'Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.

Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.

Can one girl - an accidental worldwalker - really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?

Sometimes I see books described as portal fantasy, and it just seems... insufficient. Not inaccurate, but in cases like this one, it's like trying to describe a beach by using adjectives that only apply to a couple of pebbles in the sand.  An accident of stars is a lot more than a magic wardrobe.

My mind kept jumping to Kameron Hurley's Mirror Empire world, for quite obvious reasons: A certain amount of war gore, diverse cast in nonstandard social constellations, and, y'know, many worlds.  The world of Kena is overall a slightly less harrowing place than what you'll get from a Hurley book, though. For now.

It all begins in Australia, which is already something like an alternate universe (to me, anyway - I live in the snowy and comparatively spiderless part of the world). Saffron is dealing with high school life and an annoying boys will be boys-response to the harassment she suffers.  And then, out of nowhere, comes a foreign woman who wasn't supposed to get involved.

And Saffron most certainly wasn't supposed to follow the woman once she left.

Follow her into another world, in fact.   Oops.

In this new and unknown world, Saffron's exposed to real and undeniable physical trauma, leaving a mark that'll follow her back to her own world - making it impossible to doubt or deny that it really happened.  I like this a lot, because I always want the other-world to be a real thing, and not just maybe-probably-likely a daydream or metaphor for personal growth.  Saffron gets to have a real experience, and that feels important, to me.  To my mind, it moves the world of Kena far away from inevitable-comparison Narnia.

The storytelling is a little halting at times, but I hardly noticed it while reading, because the text successfully hooked me and had me well immersed. This is a paragraph I began writing out of a sort of "I know and acknowledge these complaints about the book"-mindset, and now I'm stopping myself, because, um, actually? I liked this story. That's all.


I hope it won't be a long wait for the next book.

Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, by S.D. Perry, Markus Pansegrau, John R. Mullaney

Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report Book Cover Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report
S.D. Perry, Markus Pansegrau, John R. Mullaney
science fiction, reference, coffee table
Insight Editions
April 26 2016

This book is for people like me.  People who are up for rewatching any of the Alien films at pretty much any hour at all. Repeatedly.  People who understand other people's complaints about Prometheus and agree, sort of - but love it anyway.

So, yeah, Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report is for the fans. The already very established, very devoted fans.  For us, it's a cool coffee table kind of book. For other people, it's probably a bit weird, the way it's always weird to deal with someone enthusiastically yelling about stuff you don't think needs yelling about.

(Hey, look, I say "coffee table book", but I have to tell you, I read a digital copy of this and actually don't know what the physical copy is like.  I've heard it's beautiful, and hopefully I'll grab one for myself someday. But, yeah, I haven't actually seen the big paper thing.)

Now - don't expect much in the way of new content, because, aside from glorious and hitherto unseen artwork, there's really not any new story in here. Instead, there's detailed photos of spaceships and weapons,  flavour texts acting as summaries of each of the films, more W-Y texts stating the definite intent to capture an alien alive. For, you know, reasons.   There are blueprints and sketch drawings,  and details of various observed forms and life stages of the xenomorph.  Oh, and stuff about other W-Y technology - like the androids, of course, and stuff like the thing David uses in Prometheus to peek in on other people's dreams.  (Where's the side-story about that nifty thing, huh?)

I think you know whether or not you want to have this book.  (Hint: Have you rewatched Aliens twice so far this year alone? You want it, you want it so much.)