Ack-Ack Macaque (2012) by Gareth L. Powell

I want to start this review with the book’s synopsis because it is a cracker!

 

‘In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque’. The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he’s starting to doubt everything, including his own existence. A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins encircle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. Meanwhile, in Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run. And all the while, the doomsday clock ticks towards Armageddon.’

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Ack-Ack Macaque was the joint winner of the 2013 BSFA Best Novel Award along with Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. It is British author Gareth L. Powell’s third novel and is a much-expanded version of his 2007 Interzone reader’s poll-winning short story of the same name. Powell has since penned two highly-rated sequels: Hive Monkey (2014) and Macaque Attack (2015). His latest novel is Embers of War (2018), a space opera which has also been garnering very positive reviews. Continue reading

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Lovecraft Unbound (2009) Edited by Ellen Datlow

“Something was there.”
Bishop said nothing. He lifted the magazine again, but his eyes were still.
“Something was down there,” Garner said.
“The Crevasse” by Dale Bailey & Nathan Ballingrud

Lovecraft Unbound is a collection of twenty short stories inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s weird fiction. In her introduction, Ellen Datlow writes that she was looking for stories that were “subtly Lovecraftian” rather than the more obvious “pastiches” that make up a lot of Lovecraft-themed anthologies:

I asked for stories inspired—thematically and possibly—by plot points in Lovecraft’s mythos. What I wanted was variety: in tone, setting, point of view, time.

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This volume includes stories by Laird Barron, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Lavie Tidhar, Michael Chabon, Joyce Carrol Oates, Michael Cisco, Michael Shea and more. Out of the twenty, the following six stories stood out for me: Continue reading

Bearly a Lady (2017) by Cassandra Khaw

Last year I read and reviewed Cassandra Khaw’s Hammers on Bone and Rupert Wong novellas. Both works really impressed me, putting Khaw on my must-read author list. Bearly a Lady was released in July 2017 and I bought it on release day – the first time I’ve done so with a new book for quite a while. Unfortunately, my tbr pile and lifeTM have delayed my reading of it until this month.

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Bearly a Lady is a very funny story about modern relationships. It’s set in present-day London and introduces us to Zelda, a young woman working for a fashion magazine. She shares a flat with her roommate Zora. But these two twenty-somethings are no ordinary flat mates; Zelda is a werebear and Zora a vampire. Continue reading

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 Dispossessed (1974) by Ursula K. Le Guin

‘Time did not pass. There was no time. He was time: he only. He was the river, the arrow, the stone.’ (p.9)

 

Winner of the Nebula, Hugo and Locus awards for Best Novel, The Dispossessed is a book that demands reading. I first read it some years ago, but for some reason it left me cold. I think I got a bit lost in its many themes as Le Guin explores the ways in which an anarchist utopian society might be made to work. The level of detail in her world building as she constructs this society is very impressive, but it could put some readers off. At times, it reads more like a work of anthropology than a “science fiction” novel. Continue reading

End of the World Blues (2006) by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

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End of the World Blues opens in a Tokyo subway station where a young woman, Nijie, is stashing a suitcase full of money into a coin-locker. It then jumps to Roppongi Hills, a popular drinking area in Japan’s capital where Kit Nouveau owns and runs a bar with his wife, Yoshi. Kit’s bar, ‘Pirate Mary’s’, is frequented by a mix of regular drinkers, art students, foreigners, and bosozoku bikers. One night, Kit is walking back to his bar when a stranger attempts to rob him. As the robbery looks to be turning deadly, a good samaritan’s sudden and shocking intervention turns Kit’s world on its head.

Kit stared drunkenly at the man’s Colt automatic, then at his own watch. ‘Okay,’ said Kit, ‘it’s yours.’
This was not the response his mugger had been expecting.  (p.27)

Continue reading

Project TBR Kill 2018

book-piles

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