Occupy Me (2016) by Tricia Sullivan

“I leaned into HD. My body folded like a paper airplane and I went down as a shaft, shedding importune photons like confetti. He got closer and closer. Every beat of my heart was dedicated to this one thing. Fly like an arrow. Fly. Every breath. Every impulse to muscle and every thought. My teeth sang in the wind.” (p.25)

 

31423509Tricia Sullivan won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1999 for her novel Dreaming in Smoke. She has written nine SF and three Fantasy books, but I’d wager you haven’t heard of her. (Although I would be happy to be mistaken.) I recently read a fascinating speech she gave at Stranimondi 2016 about the difficulty of attaining recognition as a female SF writer. Here is a link to that speech. Occupy Me (2016) is her latest book. I picked it up on impulse because I liked the sound of what I read on the back cover.

The story opens with a page of instructions for using a “HD waveform launcher” with a warning about its “internal gravity”. We are not told what it is or even what it does, just how to switch “from scan mode to launch mode.” (p.1) The narrative voice then switches to the second-person with the narrator telling “you” how a “briefcase turned up in your life.” (p.2) The problem is “you” don’t have any recollection of where this briefcase has come from. And for some reason you are afraid to open it. But at the last minute you pick it up and take it with you. Continue reading

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Broken Monsters (2014) by Lauren Beukes

“Kids can’t cope with the darkness, supposedly, but how else are we supposed to wrestle with it? How else are we supposed to prepare for this moment when you have to open the door not knowing what’s behind it?” (p.250)

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Lauren Beukes is a South African writer who was recommended to me when I was compiling a list of essential books to read by female authors. Three of her works were suggested by blogger friends: Moxyland (2008), Zoo City (2010), and Broken Monsters (2014). She also wrote the 2013 time-travel thriller The Shining Girls, which I have heard very good things about. After reading Broken Monsters, I’m keen to read more of her writing.

Broken Monsters is a serial-killer thriller with supernatural undertones set in modern Detroit. Detective Gabi Versado leads the search for a killer after the mutilated body of a young boy is found on the street. On the wall beside the body is a simple chalk drawing of a door. As the hunt for the killer continues, the author takes us on a tour of some of the darker places of this struggling city, introducing a group of characters who initially seem unrelated. Continue reading

A Scanner Darkly (1977) by Philip K. Dick

“What an undercover narcotics agent fears most is not that he will be shot or beaten up but that he will be slipped a great hit of some psychedelic that will roll an endless horror feature film in his head for the remainder of his life, …” (p.67)

f557780b0201df09d8eedd04357421f2I can’t seem to focus on writing this review because of the tiny bugs crawling all over the keyboard. Each time I brush them off, they return in greater numbers. Jerry says he can’t see them but that doesn’t mean they’re not there, right in front of me, blocking out the screen now. Jesus, they’re all over my hands Jerry, help me get them off. Whaddya mean there’s nothing there? Wait a minute, are you recording this? What?.. No, I know you don’t have a camera but I swear I can hear something that sounds just like a video camera’s lens adjusting its focus. No, I’m not being paranoid. I can feel it zooming in on me right now. I’m what?.. You think I’m talking too much? Talking or thinking? Shit, I need a couple of tabs to calm me down. Do you have any, Jerry? Please man, I’ll spot you a couple back when I get some. When?.. Friday. I promise, man. Yeah, I know what I said last time but…


A Scanner Darkly
won the BSFA Best Novel Award in 1978. It is a story set in a (then) future 1994 which focuses on surveillance, recreational drug use, addiction and withdrawal. The main character is Bob Arctor, an undercover narcotics agent who is sharing a house with a couple of users. The drug of choice is “Substance D” or “Death”. Arctor is searching for a lead to the supplier(s) of the drug. Continue reading

Retrospective for Year One – Oct. 2015 to Nov. 2016

 
It’s been a year since I started reviewing books on this blog, so I thought I would write a retrospective post to celebrate. It all began with Richard Matheson’s 1971 horror novel Hell House which I chose to read for Neil Gaiman’s All Hallow’s Read. His idea was to gift a scary book to a friend for Halloween:

 

“I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.

I propose that stories by authors like John Bellairs and Stephen King and Arthur Machen and Ramsey Campbell and M R James and Lisa Tuttle and Peter Straub and Daphne Du Maurier and Clive Barker and a hundred hundred others change hands — new books or old or second-hand, beloved books or unknown. Give someone a scary book for Hallowe’en. Make their flesh creep…”

-Neil Gaiman, Blog Post “A Modest Proposal (That Doesn’t Actually Involve Eating Anyone)”, Saturday October 23rd 2010.

Continue reading