Europe in Winter (2016) by Dave Hutchinson

Imagine a train line which grew out of a pocket universe and spread across a fractured Europe. Now imagine this “Line” being its own state with borders and so on. Are you still with me?

‘The Line had been decades in the building. It had originally aspired to being a straight line drawn across Europe and Asia, […] Geography and simple pragmatism meant that this was never achievable,’

 

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Background

The third book in Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe series, Europe in Winter continues the adventures of Rudi, ‘the former chef-turned-spy.’ It begins with a deadly terrorist attack on a train and ends with a staggering “sleight of hand” at a major international airport. In between, the author takes us on a snaking journey around Eastern Europe as we meet a motley cast of characters who could be working for any side. Confused yet? You will be! Continue reading

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Dawn (1987) by Octavia E. Butler

“Your people contain incredible potential, but they die without using much of it.”

 

Dawn is the first book in Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy. It was nominated for the 1988 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. I read her 1979 classic Kindred a couple of years ago and it totally blew me away. (You can find my review here.) I was so impressed with Butler’s storytelling that I wanted to read anything and everything written by her. I regret it has taken me this long to get around to this novel because it is a riveting and powerful story, one which I couldn’t put down.

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Cover Art by John Jude Palencar

One of my aims with this blog is to write spoiler-free reviews. With this book, I am going to have to reveal some of the main plot details but I won’t go beyond the published synopsis. Unfortunately, the synopsis reveals important events which occur at the beginning of the story. If you would rather not know these details then stop reading now. Continue reading

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980) by Douglas Adams

DON’T PANIC

This is the sequel to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I originally read the first four books in this “trilogy” when I was a teenager. (I haven’t read book five Mostly Harmless yet, but it’s on its way to me as I type this.) I’ve seen the BBC TV adaptation as well as the 2005 movie version; I enjoyed them both. I decided to re-read this book because I wanted some “light” reading. I remembered the comedy and general bonkers-ness of this series and approached it from that perspective. What surprised me on this re-read was how profound it is, as well as how moving in places.

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Pan Books 1981 Cover Art by Chris Moore

The story picks up where Hitchhiker’s leaves off. Aboard the stolen spaceship ‘Heart of Gold’, Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian and Marvin the paranoid android are about to have a Vogon encounter of the worst kind. Resistance will no doubt be useless. But their ship has powerful defenses, so everything should be fine, right? Well, theoretically yes, except Arthur has tied up 99% of the ship computer’s processing power with his request for a cup of tea. Continue reading

Oh, to Be a Blobel! (1964) by Philip K. Dick

“Pete, I can’t go on. I’ve got a gelatinous blob for a child.” (p.11)

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First published in the February 1964 issue of Galaxy magazine, Oh, to Be a Blobel! is a satirical short story about interplanetary war veteran George Munster. The Blobels, large amoeba-like aliens, arrived from another star system prompting the Human-Blobel War.

“I fought three years in that war, […] I hated the Blobels and I volunteered; I was only nineteen.” (p.1)

George became a spy, which required him to be medically altered into the jelly-like Blobel form. The problem was, when he returned from the war he was unable to fully relinquish this ‘repellent form.’ Despite his doctor’s best efforts, every twelve hours George reverts to a Blobel. Continue reading

Project TBR Kill 2018

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The dreaded TBR pile. Can it be stopped? Can it be killed? Can it ever be read to the end?

Aren’t you curious about other readers’ TBR piles? I know I am. I’d love to hear about yours!

How many times have you decided that “enough is enough, this year I’m going to substantially reduce my tower of unread books”? Then how far did you get? Okay, you read 3 or 4 TBR books each month. Good for you! But you also bought 3 or 4 new books each month, returning the tower to its full height. Because you just couldn’t resist that “special offer” or “deal of the week,” right? I know because it’s been happening to me since February 2016 when I got my first Kindle.

I propose a “name-them-and-shame-them TBR Reading Challenge” starting this year. If we all post our lists, we might feel more inclined to dig into our respective piles. We can cheer each other on or start buddy-reads of books we have in common. Then, post a review and link it to our TBR list, effectively crossing it out as we go. What do you think? Who’s with me? C’mon! We can DO this! Continue reading

The Thing Itself (2015) by Adam Roberts

How to begin to review this book?

‘Start here: how do we know there’s anything out there?’
‘What – in space?’
‘No: outside our own brains. […] We see things, and think we’re seeing things out there. We hear things, likewise. […] But maybe all that is a lie.’ (p.18)

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The Thing Itself is a science fiction thriller about two men working for SETI on an Antarctic research base in the 1980s. It tells the fascinating story of what happens to them one long south-polar night, and the repercussions of this event. It does this through the intertextual lens of Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, the Fermi Paradox, a dash of James Joyce, some H.G. Wells, a sliver of John Carpenter, and more. (A lot more references than I was able to pick out on a first reading.) Continue reading

Austral (2017) by Paul McAuley

“If the planet had been run by a world government able to ruthlessly mobilize people and resources, global warming and climate change might have been reversed.” (Loc 3156)

 

In the very near future, global warming is a fact. Rising sea levels have changed the map of the world. Coastal cities have been lost to the water, but in some places new land has been uncovered. Much of Antarctica’s ice has melted revealing this untouched land, which quickly becomes both habitable and exploitable. The cold temperatures make it a challenging place to live for most people unless they are born a “husky”.

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Austral Morales Ferrado is a child of the new Antarctic nation. She is also a “husky,” an “edited person” whose genes have been “customized” to withstand the severe cold of Antarctica. She is working as a corrections officer in an Antarctic labour camp when we first meet her. But she’s looking for a way out. When an unexpected and dangerous opportunity presents itself, Austral must decide whether to risk everything to take it. Continue reading