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

The Arrival of Missives (2016) by Aliya Whiteley

“There are deep roots to May Day, stretching back through the centuries. I find I have a taste for power in all its forms, […] and what is more powerful than a Queen?” (p.76)

This is the second novella by Aliya Whiteley that I’ve read this year. The first one was her stunning story The Beauty (2014) which left me in awe of its invention, its beautiful prose, and its genuine strangeness. The Arrival of Missives is not quite as strange as The Beauty, but it is equally as fascinating once it draws you in.

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Set in a small village in England just after the First World War, this is the story of Shirley Fearn, the teenage daughter of a successful land-owning farmer. She attends the village school and has a crush on its teacher, the injured war veteran Mr. Tiller. Shirley dreams of escaping the traditional, sleepy village life and is exploring the possibility of training to become a teacher in a school in the next town. Continue reading

Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) by William Gibson

“The Angie stims were sealed in plastic. She took one at random, slit the wrapper with her thumbnail, slotted it, and put the trodes on. She wasn’t thinking; her hands seemed to know what to do, […]. One of them touched PLAY and she slid into the Angie-world, pure as any drug, slow saxophone and limo-glide through some European city, …” (p.143)

 

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Art by Daniel Brown.  Gollancz 2017 edition

The third book in William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy, Mona Lisa Overdrive continues the story of Angie Mitchell, one of the characters from the second book Count Zero. It is set a few years later than the events of the second Sprawl book. Angie is now a famous “simstim” star, and we join her post detox clinic in a beach house in Malibu.

“The doctors at the clinic had used chemical pliers to pry the addiction away from receptor sites in her brain.” (p.18)

 

As well as Angie’s story, the narrative follows three other plot threads. The first introduces Kumiko, the young daughter of a Japanese yakuza boss. The second thread features an artist known as Slick Henry who lives out in the sticks in a place called “Factory”. The remaining plotline focuses on Mona, a young prostitute who resembles simstim star Angie. As in the previous book, Gibson takes us on a journey through cyberspace as he skillfully weaves together the four narratives. Continue reading

All-Star Batman, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy (2017) by Scott Snyder & John Romita Jr.

“If you think I’m dying in a group hug, you can pick your favorite opening and shove that right–“

Scott Snyder returns to writing Batman in this first collection of the DC Rebirth title ‘All-Star Batman’. For the opening storyline, Snyder has chosen to focus on Two-Face, pitting Batman against the schizophrenic Harvey Dent for five action-packed issues. Accompanied by John Romita Jr.’s meaty artwork and Dean White’s soft pastel colors, Snyder lets rip with an exciting and violent Two-Face tale.

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Batman is on a mission to cure Harvey Dent of his homicidal tendencies, dragging him on a road trip out of Gotham and deep into the country. All he has to do is get Dent to the secret location of this “cure”, a location known only by the two of them. The problem is Two-Face has put a huge bounty on Batman’s head inviting anyone and everyone to take him down. This brings a large group of villains out of the woodwork including Killer Croc and the deadly KGBeast (remember him?). Continue reading

Batman Vol. 2: I Am Suicide (2017) by Tom King & Mikel Janin

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Batman needs to spring Psycho-Pirate from the island prison Santa Prisca. The problem is Bane is running the prison, making it almost impenetrable. To make an impossible mission possible, Batman puts together his own Suicide Squad comprising of Catwoman, the Ventriloquist, Bronze Tiger, and Punch and Jewelee. Considering Batman’s broken history with Bane, is this mission too suicidal even for him? Continue reading

Dreams Before the Start of Time (2017) by Anne Charnock

‘Dr. Christophe smiles. “It seems quiet to us, but it’s noisier for the foetuses. We record the mothers’ and fathers’ voices and feed the sound into the foetus flasks during gestation. We follow a natural daily rhythm—no voices during the night, just the sound of a parental heartbeat.”’ (Loc. 1110)

Anne Charnock’s latest novel, Dreams Before the Start of Time, begins in London in 2034. Two friends discover they are pregnant, one by choice, one by accident. The narrative follows the lives of these women and their offspring through successive generations. As the characters age, developments in technology allow for new ways of conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to babies. This includes such procedures as remote gestation in an artificial womb, natural gestation from carefully selected donor sperm, and genetic engineering as a way of preventing birth defects.

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Charnock asks questions about what such advanced and varied fertility techniques could mean to our conceptions of child-rearing, family, and identity. She focuses on the families rather than the technology, making this a character-driven, human story. The sci-fi is kept in the background; Charnock using it as a springboard to explore the effects such technology might have on people and society. Continue reading