The painful process of giving up what isn‘t yours

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– EXILE’S END by Carolyn Ives Gilman
“Exile’s End is a complex, sometimes uncomfortable examination of artifact repatriation and cultural appropriation. An artifact of indescribable and irreplaceable beauty created by an “extinct” culture has been the basis of another culture’s origin stories. The race who created the artifact has survived on a distant world and has sent a representative to reclaim it, throwing everything into question.“

I understand the conflict and tend to agree that artifacts belong to their origin countries. But I also can also relate to Rues argument.

“At some point, great art ceases to be bound to the culture that produced it. It transcends ethnicity and identity and becomes part of the patrimony of the human race.“

Or is that just a way of justification for the countries that took that art? „Hey, it‘s part of our heritage, too, now. So it‘s ok not to return it!“ Food for thought.

The culture of the Manhu destroying everything they own every three generations—not sure that would work in real life. It doesn‘t make sense to me to destroy everything and force your culture not to prosper.

The writing of the story itself was well done, I liked the characters, the plot held dramatic tension and I was emotionally engaged. I will look at other works by the author. ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here.

Tentacle wars

Black Tide
by K.C. JonesJohn Pirhalla (Narrator), Sophie Amoss (Narrator)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Beth is a mess, a self-proclaimed „car wreck“. She is a professional house-sitter, sampling other people‘s lives. This time around she also dog-sits Jake, a golden lab, and makes friends with her neighbour Mike. Well, she starts by stalking him with her camera and then…Hello to an alcohol-induced one-night stand! And then the world ends and they end up stuck in a car on a beach, surrounded by something scary…

My recent track record with horror is not great. Psychological horror is lost on me, I usually get bored. And slasher stuff turns me off. Creature features are the most fun. This isn‘t exactly that, but a little. Plus there is plenty of action right from the start. Creepy, scary, sci-fi horror fun. Alien invasion with a twist.

I quite liked the reason for this particular end of the world and wish that it had been explored more.

Unfortunately I did not like Beth. Whiny, sorry for herself and a general failure at life. Bent on making the stupidest choices possible. Mike is self-destructive in another way. Together they make a couple that is potentially quite inept at survival under apocalyptic circumstances. 

Don‘t expect deep character development.

The audiobook is told by two narrators, one female and one male, alternating between telling the story from the POVs of Beth or Mike. They do a good job although there is one voice towards the end that doesn‘t really work well for me.

Bottomline, I liked the claustrophobic plot, but disliked Beth quite a bit. Good action, fast plot. Let‘s say 4 of 5 ominous bowling balls for now, I might raise that once I‘ve pondered it a bit longer.

This black hole did not suck me in

They’re Not Like Us, Vol. 1: Black Holes for the Young
by Eric StephensonSimon Gane (Illustrator)

Rating: 1 out of 5.

DNF at 41 pages. Didn‘t like the artwork. The story didn‘t do anything for me, could not be bothered to continue for long or pick it up again after putting it down. It took too long to get interesting. Teens with psychic powers?

We all have advantages over one another, but what if you were capable of things most of us can only imagine? What would you do – and who would you be? A doctor? An athlete? A soldier? A hero? Everyone has to make a choice about how to use the abilities they’re born with… but they’re not like us. 

Fierce enough to fight wolves 

The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle, #1)
by Nghi Vo 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A servant tells the story of her empress to a non-binary cleric. Two linear timelines, novella. Much is hinted at, little is spelled out. Fantasy novella with hints of China and further north. 

“The abbey at Singing Hills would say that if a record cannot be perfect, it should at least be present. Better for it to exist than for it to be perfect and only in your mind.”

It‘s well written, but I never connected to any of the characters. Lyrical writing and good worldbuilding are important—I am a very plot-driven person. However, I need relatable characters. We never got much insight into their thoughts. On an emotional level I did not care what happened to any of them.

There was a lot of telling and very little showing, it was a pretty dry affair. By the end of the story I just shrugged and moved on. Pretty cover though.

I am the odd one out here in my usual reading circle, they all seem to have loved it.

Dewey‘s 2022 Reverse Readathon > Hour 14 (9am EST): Audiobooks

Do you like listening to audiobooks?

I struggled at first with audiobooks, because I kept nodding off, when sitting still and listening to them. I have to do something else, that doesn‘t engage my mind, while I listen. 

I still do more eye-reading, my average for audiobooks is one per month. I always listen to a sample first, it is very important for me that I like the narrator. I even have some favourites and I sometimes even pick a book purely based on who narrates it. Case in point: I am a Sherlock Holmes fan, but the deciding factor for picking up my current audio, Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection: it is narrated by Stephen Fry.

I read faster than a narrator usually reads out the books, so I tend to listen to audios at a speed of 1.5. 

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection
by Arthur Conan DoyleStephen Fry (Narrator)

I am reviewing this 72-hours monster in chunks, the first part you can read here. For this readathon I am currently making my way through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

I have listened to these stories today: A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes & Watson meet The Woman / The Adventure of the Red-Headed League / A Case of Identity / The Boscombe Valley Mystery / The Five Orange Pips / The Man with the Twisted Lip / The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle ★★★★☆

Some of these stories are more obscure or I have actually never read them. The stories span a good amount of years, in which Watson lives away from Holmes, happily married to Mary and running a doctor‘s practice. He very much leads a life of his own, but frequently accompanies his friend Holmes on his cases. This Holmes, the real one, is never as aloof, hurtful or downright dismissive of others.

There are many visuals know from the many screen adaptations though and sentences and remarks that have made their way into the shared consciousness of Holmes‘s fans.

More reviews to come, as I slowly progress through this audio.

Reverse Readathon! July 2022

Well hello there! Welcome to the July 2022 Reverse Readathon! What’s a RR you ask? Well it’s a Readathon that starts at 8pm Eastern time on Friday, …

Reverse Readathon! August 2022 (no, I don‘t know why it says August…)

Opening Survey! 

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? — Germany, hence the nutty starting time!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? — I will continue with my current read Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)
by Robin Hobb. I might mix it up with some comics, audio or a novella.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? — I don‘t usually snack and don‘t really stock up with snacks for readathons either.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! — I am so tempted right now to find my opening survey from last time for some copy-and-paste action…. I‘m German, I live close to Stuttgart, I predominantly read in English, mostly specfic with the odd mystery or romance thrown in. Non-fiction tends to be natural sciences.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? — sleep more, probably, due to the timing. I am not sure yet if I will use a timer at all. I will probably simply count my pages and minutes via StoryGraph. Here are my stats before the start of the readathon:

The Reverse Readathon starts in a little under an hour, at 2 AM CET, if I calculated that correctly. I wanted to stay up for the start at least, but I am tired. I won‘t last that long anymore. Also, I want to go to the farmer‘s market tomorrow morning or at least to the supermarket for some grocery shopping and don‘t want to get up so late.

I should get some reading done tomorrow evening—I‘ll be house- and dog-sitting all on my lonesome…

Bookhaul!

I started buying more paper books again. Second hand and only if they are cheaper than the kindle version, as I give them away again afterwards anyway. My favourite secondhand book dealer had a promotion, so I had a look at my want-to-read-list and came up with this…

Tad Williams was a recommendation by some of my reading buddies. Sansom and Hobb are the next books in ongoing series reads. And I‘ve been meaning to re-read Watership Down for a while now. It‘s been 30 years.

Another saga comes to an end… for now.

Saga #60
by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Fiona Staples (Illustrator), Fonographiks (Letterer)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Our found family keeps on ticking…

Happy times, joy and fun, before…. You guessed it…. Everything goes to sh*t.

Wow, what a sucker-punch. I am ugly-crying here! And we‘ll have to wait till January 2023 for the next story arc, dang it.

P.S.: next year I‘ll wait until all 6 issues have been released. The waiting between issues is not good for my health.

Water wars

We Stand On Guard
by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Steve Skroce (Illustrator)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Now this is fun, despite being a comic about war. Crazy idea, but these days anything seems possible, especially a war driven by the need for water.

“Set one hundred years in our future, WE STAND ON GUARD follows a heroic band of Canadian civilians turned freedom fighters who must defend their homeland from invasion by a technologically superior opponent… the United States of America.“

The art is pretty clean, but detailed. I like it.

Characters are believable. The usual clichées are covered, but it’s not too over the top.

There is graphic violence, people die in unpleasant ways. During the first few pages the father of the main character Amber is blown to pieces and we get to see the result.

2112 it all starts for our MC, at 5 years old, then we jump to 2124, when she meets that band of misfits fighting the attackers. In issue #2 we jump back to 2113, to a flashback, and so on… we are jumping back and forth, following two timelines. The past and beginning of this war and the present, with Amber fighting back. Well done. The following issues have the same structure, with both timelines slowly progressing forwards.

The past…

The present…

The action…

Excellent pencil sketches at the end. I really liked this, story as well. Shows me again, how much I like Vaughn‘s work.