Mightier than the Sword (2017) by K.J. Parker

“Speaking as a military man, I despise fighting against lunatics. I’ve done it once or twice, and it sets your teeth on edge. You can’t predict what they’ll do, …” (Loc 570)

 

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Cover by Vincent Chong

When the Empress is your aunt, you’ve got to do what she says, even if you don’t like it. K.J. Parker’s latest novella pits an unnamed narrator against “the Land and Sea Raiders”, a group of mysterious pirates who have been attacking the land’s monasteries. We are told a brief history of encounters with the raiders, but until now, no-one has been able to discover exactly who they are or where they’re from.

“Our first experience of them was seventy long, high-castled warships suddenly appearing off Vica Bay. The governor […] sent a message to their leader inviting him to lunch. He came, and brought some friends; it was sixty years before Vica was rebuilt,” (Loc 129)

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Way Down Dark (2015) by J.P. Smythe

“And then the lights go dim. Every day, fifteen hours they’re bright, then nine hours they’re dim. That’s how we know day from night; how we know it’s time to sleep. It’s also how the worst parts of the ship know to come alive.” (Loc 572)

 

The first part of J.P. Smythe’s Australia trilogy, Way Down Dark, tells the story of Chan, a teenage girl living on board a spaceship called “Australia”. The ship, we are told, left a dying Earth many years before and is searching for a new home for its large crew of “inhabitants”. Over time, the people on Australia have split into four separate groups: the Bells, the Pale Women, the Free People, and the Lows.

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Each group lives together in their own segregated zones on the ship. The Bells are descended from genetically engineered soldiers. The Pale Women are a religious group who keep themselves apart from the other groups. Chan is a member of the Free People, the most democratic of the groups; her mother is its leader.  The Lows are brutal fighters who care little for the rest of the crew, and are looking to expand by any means necessary. Continue reading

Providence: Act 1 (2017) by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

“Still casting around for ideas, I took another look at Leticia Wheatley’s crayon drawings. I confess that I hadn’t really paid them much attention beyond observing that they looked like the work of somebody who was mentally disturbed,” (p. 156)

 

Providence: Act 1 collects issues #1-4 of the twelve-issue Avatar comic book penned by Alan Moore with art by Jacen Burrows. Opening in New York during the summer of 1919, we experience the story through the eyes of Robert Black, a reporter for the New York Herald. Black sets out to explore a lead on a scandal concerning an infamous book, “Sous le Monde,” which allegedly sent some of its readers insane. His initial inquiries lead him to the apartment of one Doctor Alvarez, a local doctor with a strange health condition which forces him to keep his apartment permanently chilled. Continue reading

The Changeling (2017) by Victor LaValle

“This fairy tale begins in 1968 during a garbage strike.” (Loc 102)

 

9780812995947The Changeling is an adult fairy tale by American author Victor LaValle. Last year, I read his 2016 novella The Ballard of Black Tom, a reimagining of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Horror at Red Hook (1927). It was an impressive, very readable story which depicted the events of the original, infamously-racist Lovecraft tale from a different character’s perspective. LaValle’s 2009 novel Big Machine won the Shirley Jackson Award. He has also written a collection of short stories Slapboxing with Jesus (1999), and the novels The Ecstatic (2002) and The Devil in Silver (2012).

Recently married couple, Apollo Kagwa and Emma Valentine, lives in New York. Emma is a librarian and Apollo a used bookseller. After the birth of their son, Brian, life seems good as they both enjoy adapting to parenthood. LaValle takes his time setting the scene of this young couple’s life, revealing their characters in the tiny details: Emma’s difficulties with breastfeeding, and Apollo’s penchant for uploading blurry baby-pics onto Facebook. But after some unexplainable images start appearing on their smartphones, a staggering event takes place in their apartment turning Apollo and Emma’s’ world on its head. Continue reading

Doom Patrol Vol.1: Brick by Brick (2017) by Gerard Way & Nick Derington

“Engage neurotic pain amplifier! Bypass settings one through four and begin at “Disorienting Agony”!” (p.77)

 

31855861After first appearing in 1963, the Doom Patrol has undergone various interpretations by different writers and artists over the years. The most famous one is probably Grant Morrison’s run on the comic when he took over writing duties in 1989. He was joined by artist Richard Case. Morrison wrote 45 issues of Doom Patrol before leaving for pastures new.

I was a fan at the time and remember thinking this was unlike any comic I had read before. Morrison’s narrative dealt with surrealism, psychotherapy, chaos magick, sexual identity, disability, multiple personalities, and more. One of his storylines was about a painting that ate Paris, instigated by the Brotherhood of Dada – a group of super villains named after the avant-garde art movement. Who says comics are just for kids?… I’m listening… Continue reading

What the DNF?

 

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Oh no! The dreaded DNF. I feel like I’ve failed, especially considering the book and its authors. It’s been a while since this has happened. And it’s the first time this has occurred since I began reviewing books on this blog. I am ashamed to name the title, so I will give you a clue and leave it up to you to guess it.

This is a co-authored book written by two authors well known for their cyberpunk stories. Easy, right?.. What? You want another clue? Okay, it’s alleged that this book helped spread awareness of the term “steampunk.” That’s as far as I will go without naming and shaming. I was looking forward to reading this book as it has a reputation for being an important work in the genre of speculative fiction. It also has an enticing blurb which made me want to read it. Continue reading

Food of the Gods (Gods and Monsters) (2017) by Cassandra Khaw

“I used to wonder if death kills your sense of humour. It does.” (Loc 72)

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Rupert Wong, “cannibal chef,” prepares food for gods and ghouls. Sometimes he is the food. He used to be a triad and has a dark past he’s not proud of. These days, he’s just trying to make enough for him and his girlfriend to get by, as well as keep the right gods and monsters happy enough to keep him out of hell. That’s hell with a capital “D” or “Diyu”, the Chinese realm of the dead.

“The holy man didn’t tell me anything I wasn’t already expecting. He said I had an express pass to all Ten Courts of Hell. I would be there for a thousand years, if I was lucky.” (Loc 198)

In an effort to work off some of his bad karma, Rupert agrees to investigate the murder of the Dragon King of the South’s daughter. The only clue is a couple of feathers rumoured to have belonged to one of the Greek Furies. Press-ganged private investigator or chef to gods and monsters, Rupert Wong could be the hero we’ve all been waiting for. Continue reading