What if?

Unholy LandUnholy Land by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tirosh goes back to his home in Africa, an alternative Palestine bordering Uganda. Which could have happened. Alternative history, what-might-have-beens, detective novel, hints of an autobiography and choices we make or that are taken from us.

I am really struggling with writing a review. I am not even sure if I liked this or how much. It certainly is ambitious and has lots of potential and plot bunnies that ran off into the great beyond. And the author has won awards and gets many excellent reviews.

It‘s just that this indeed very interesting story does not really go anywhere meaningful for me. Perhaps I just like plot-driven stories too much. Or this just went over my head. I don‘t know. I finished the book two nights ago and still haven‘t made up my mind.

I wish the alternate timelines would have been explored more. All these hints and then we are left dangling. Nur‘s story was a bit of a non-event. Tirosh‘s story took off in an interesting direction, developed little over the middle of the book and was sort of meh at the end. Really disliked Bloom as a person, although he was the most complex character.

I think it‘s going to be 4 stars just to honor the inventiveness and intended scope of the plot.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

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Not so Hidden Figures

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first glance a story about the apocalypse—a meteor strikes Earth in the 1950s with devastating longterm effects. At second glance this is more an exploration of discrimination against women and persons of colour in that time in the US. And an exploration of the Space Race, this time not against the Russians, but against the end of the world.

A quarter into the book I wasn’t sure, if I liked the book or the main protagonist. Well written, a bit too linear and straight forward for me in this instance and maybe a little bit boring. Good beginning, but seemingly fairly flat story telling. And I just wanted to smack Elma around the head on many occasions. But I guess she is a product of her time, although she wants more. I couldn‘t really see the Elma of the short story in this.

Surprisingly, not a lot of tension at first. Yes, the Earth is about to end, eventually. But that didn‘t really drive the plot forward a lot. Character driven stories are not really my favourite books, and if they are, I want more character development than this. The plot sort of ambled along in a more or less predictable fashion. I had expected something different, after reading the Hugo Award winning novelette Lady Astronaut of Mars.

Nonetheless, it is a well told story with a lot of food for thought and the last chapter was just fabulous. I almost cried. Elma‘s love for flying and space shines through and the writing is very imaginative and poetic at times.

So a well-deserved 4 stars, despite what I wrote above. I didn‘t love it enough for the five star treatment. I will maybe read the next book, because Space! Right? perhaps I‘ll have talked myself into 5 stars soon, if I keep thinking about the book some more.

I recommend reading this article for further inspiration:

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Lost in time

The City of Shifting Waters (Valérian, #1)The City of Shifting Waters by Pierre Christin

My first time with Valerian and Laureline. 3D chess, holy Star Trek! Originally published in 1976. Has a pretty old-fashioned and, dare I say it, cartoonish look to it. But then it is about 40 years old. Laureline is mostly in the sidelines, with a supporting role and the whole shebang is a little sexist, but considering the comic’s age I can live with that.

My free Kindle edition (kindle unlimited/amazon prime reading) from 2010 does not have the best resolution, the speech bubbles are a little out of focus.

The artwork grew on me pretty quickly. Guys in 70s hippy clothing, what’s not to like. Good story, too. Pretty chatty for a comic, though, with a lot of text. Sometimes overly crowded with speech bubbles.

I liked the artwork, colouring and plot. Aged fairly well, although it doesn’t have any of the flashiness and visual depth of modern comics. I would recommend this to friends and maybe even get another volume. I have not watched the movie yet, but I might do so now.

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On the backs of hippos…

River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Feral hippos in Louisiana, mercenaries and an almost-recommendation by Ilona Andrews, what’s not to like?

Classic caper. Ocean’s Eleven comes to mind. Gather your fellow gender fluid characters and go against the bad guy, Western-style and on the back of hippos…

Other than that pretty flat and predictable, no great surprises. If you are looking for a light in-between read, this is entertaining enough. I might even pick up the sequel at some point.

2017 MacHalo Challenge: Western

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