Meeting something scary in dark caves…

Beneath the Dark Ice (Alex Hunter, #1)
by Greig Beck

Milfic, Antarctica, caves, darkness, something scary in those caves, people mysteriously disappearing without a trace. A search-and-rescue party is sent with some scientists and some badass soldiers. You get the picture. Pure brain candy/pulp fiction. Speed, action and a high and regular body count.

I don‘t know if a bullet lodged in the brain could really lead to the skills described here. Sounds a bit too fantastical. Anyway, suspending disbelief.

I could have done without the stereotypic cookie-cutter bad guy and the crazy scientist, but unfortunately these characters are regulars in these pulp-fiction horror/milfic novels. I am also wondering about some other things happening in the book, but mentioning them would be too spoilerish. 

If you are a fan of Center-of-the-Earth stories, caving and creature features, this is a fun choice. For what it was, it was an entertaining read. 🦑🦑🦑🦑 for this one!

Anarchists meet demons

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion (Danielle Cain #1)
by Margaret Killjoy

So, the title has a lamb and a lion and the cover has a deer. What‘s up with that, you ask? I had no idea, but the cover reminded me of The Only Good Indians (my review).

Highlights of the book blurb: “… a queer punk rock traveller, … best friend’s mysterious and sudden suicide, … utopian town of Freedom, Iowa. … town’s residents summoned a protector spirit to serve as their judge and executioner. … a blood-red, three-antlered deer—turn on its summoners. … save the town—or get out alive.“

Ok, then… I liked the story, although the supernatural element was not explored much. There is the summoned deer, the zombie animals and mentioning of some magic, but not much introspection into any of them. The creepiness was there, but it was pretty bloodless. Some poetry.

In terms of world building I got more out of the representation of the squatters and anarchists. I am not sure if this story truly knew what it wanted to be about. However, I would probably pick up the sequel, if it came my way.

3.5 heartless birds, rounded down for now. 

Locus Award Nominee for Best Novella (2018), Shirley Jackson Award Nominee for Best Novella (2018)

Currently reading…

Thistlefoot
by GennaRose Nethercott

I am about halfway with my Netgalley. I like it, but it‘s not a super fast read.

In the tradition of modern fairytales like American Gods and Spinning Silver comes a sweeping epic rich in Eastern European folklore–a debut novel about the ancestral hauntings that stalk us, and the uncanny power of story.

Anybody interested in Eastern European folklore has probably come across Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged hut before. My last encounter was when watching The Witcher. So colour me intrigued, when I read about the Yaga siblings, their inheritance of a house with chicken legs and a road trip. I had to go along.

The siblings come across as amicable characters, when they are introduced—a wood-working sister and her trickster-like brother. The Longshadow Man though is creepy right off the bat.

After starting this book and reading the first chapters, I spent some time reading up on Baba Yaga and looking at various images of her chicken-legged hut.

Author‘s website: https://www.gennarosenethercott.com

And her Traveling Poetry Emporium: https://travelingpoetryemporium.mystrikingly.com/#the-traveling-poetry — What a fun idea!

Children of Memory (Children of Time, #3)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author), Mel Hudson (Narrator)

I am about 60% into the audiobook.

I am not sure if I really understood Parts I and II, there were some pretty confusing bits to it. But by Part III the narrative started to come together and paint a picture. The corvids are a truly wacky addition to this ever growing zoo of uplifted craziness.

A linear timeline. Back and forth and in parallel. Parts of the story are revealed in retrospect. Nicely done.

And one of Tchaikovsky‘s recurring themes: otherness, being something else and trying to bridge the gap. We have our humans, Humans, octopuses and spiders, artificial intelligence and more. And struggle and hate and wanting to help. And terraforming.

I enjoy the audio narration by Mel Hudson.

Also planned for December:

Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures, audio, narrated by Stephen Fry, #2 of his Greek Mythology books.
Even Though I Knew the End, Netgalley audio

And once I am done with Thistlefoot, I will return to Ship of Destiny.

Horror in the Arctic Circle

The Nox
by Joe WhiteCatriona Ward

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

“2045, the Arctic Circle. A crew of six aboard the research vessel, The Nox, embark upon a voyage through the melting ice and Arctic dark in search of the last of the polar bears. The mission represents a ray of hope in a world ravaged by climate change, but it quickly becomes clear that some on board are in search of more than bears….

Isolation and the disorientation of 24/7 darkness soon have the group losing their grip on reality – accidents, nightmares, or hauntings – no one can be sure, but the voyage seems cursed. For Professor Clara Fitzgerald, the mission quickly turns from conservation to survival as she realises that danger lurks not only out on the ice, but on The Nox itself.

The Nox is a nightmare fuelled SciFi thriller that asks how far is too far to save the world.“

From the blurb

A full-cast audiobook production of slightly under 4 hours of listening time. 

I was underwhelmed. The captain mumbled a lot and was hard to understand, quite a few sound effects where hard to puzzle out, there was too much unnecessary music. The overacting of the voice actors was not my thing either.

The story had potential, but was not developed in a meaningful way in those 4 hours. There were some good ideas, but nothing much was made of any of them. It was unsatisfactory. 

Nice cover though. Meh.

Aliens, rinse and repeat…

Alien: Sea of Sorrows (Canonical Alien trilogy, #2)
by James A. Moore (Author), Dirk MaggsJohn Chancer (Narrator), Stockard Channing (Narrator), Walles Hamonde (Narrator), Laurel Lefkow (Narrator)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Very confusing intro and prelude. Had to check that I had picked up the correct book, aka the sequel to Alien: Out of the Shadows. Anyway, once the story starts with chapter one, we are in a plot very similar to that of the second Alien movie. The main character (barely) Decker is a descendant of Ellen Ripley.
He is sent to a planet to recover a Xenomorph. Settlers have been lost. The ship is staffed with marines/mercenaries and he is a consultant. They go down into a mine, some of them get snatched, the others try to recover them, there is a malfunctioning escalator… it‘s a bit like painting by colours… it‘s all very predictable, down to figuring out who the „synthetic“ is this time around. No big surprises and it doesn’t add anything new to this universe. It was ok, but you don‘t miss anything if you skip this.

The full-cast audiobook dramatization was well done, although the action with all the background noises was often unintelligible, aka you needed a lot of imagination to figure out what was going on.

My preview of the previous audiobook set in this franchise/series is here.

Apocalypse, horror, adventure and vampires

Impact Winter
by Travis Beacham

Earth was hit by a comet and the world went dark. In the darkness, vampires rose. This story is about a group of human survivors, battling to stay alive.

“A story of apocalypse, horror, and adventure, Impact Winter is a wholly original new saga created just for Audible with immersive 3D audio (featuring a brilliant British cast) that dares you to pop in your earbuds and listen in the dark. Venture into an eternally sunless world of swords and crossbows; primal hunters and shape-shifters; leaders and lovers. Hear how a brave few fight to survive the impact winter.“

Entertaining, a little creepy and too short to really explore this world to its fullest. Nothing Earth-shattering, but I liked the characters and the story in general. Good, if you are looking for a shorter audio, that isn‘t too taxing. The cast did a good job.

Culling that TBR pile…


This year I ventured into re-reading Anne Rice‘s Vampire Chronicles and mabye venturing further along into unread titles. So I read Interview with the Vampire in February and gave it 4 stars. The Vampire Lestat in April was another 4 stars, The Queen of the Damned in June still managed to garner 3.5 stars from me. Then came The Body Thief in September and I bounced off it hard…

I took a long, hard look at the next two books in the series, already sitting on my bookshelf. Took a breather, looked again. Read the blurbs… Meh.

They would be the first two books in the series that I haven‘t read yet. Anyway, the blurbs do not grab me and reviews of Memnoch The Devil by my reading buddies were not good. So, I am calling it. Done! Off into my give-away basket…

Memnoch the Devil (The Vampire Chronicles, #5)
by Anne Rice

In the fifth Vampire Chronicle, Lestat is searching for Dora, the beautiful and charismatic mortal daughter of a drug lord. Dora has moved Lestat like no other mortal ever has, and he cannot get her out of his visions. At the same time, he is increasingly aware that the Devil knows who he is and wants something from him. While torn between his vampire world and his passion for Dora, Lestat is sucked in by Memnoch, who claims to be the Devil himself. Memnoch presents Lestat with unimagined opportunities: to witness creation, to visit purgatory, to be treated like a prophet. Lestat faces a choice between the Devil or God. Whom does he believe in? Who does he serve? What are the elements of religious belief? Lestat finds himself caught in a whirlpool of the ultimate choice.

The Vampire Armand (The Vampire Chronicles, #6)
by Anne Rice

In this installment of The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice summons up dazzling worlds to bring us the story of Armand — eternally young, with the face of a Botticelli angel. We travel with Armand across the centuries to the Kiev Rus of his boyhood — a ruined city under Mongol dominion — and to ancient Constantinople, where Tartar raiders sell him into slavery. And in a magnificent palazzo in the Venice of the Renaissance we see him emotionally and intellectually in thrall to the great vampire Marius, who masquerades among humankind as a mysterious, reclusive painter and who will bestow upon Armand the gift of vampiric blood.
As the novel races to its climax, moving through scenes of luxury and elegance, of ambush, fire, and devil worship, to nineteenth-century Paris and today’s New Orleans, we see its eternally vulnerable and romantic hero forced to choose between his twilight immortality and the salvation of his immortal soul.

Haunted House at the bottom of the ocean

From Below
by Darcy Coates

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Divers find a wreck very deep down and want to solve the puzzle of why this cruise liner disappeared many decades ago. My Spooktober pick. I expected something pretty fast with a high body count of gruesome deaths and maybe some deepsea monster. However, this is a ghost story… mostly… with a very slow build-up. The main narrative is interspersed with short chapters going back to 1928, telling of the last few days of the Arcadia before she sinks.

A haunted-house story at the bottom of the sea, with the added claustrophobia of being far down, with a lot of water overhead, a limited amount of breathable air, unreliable team members and no fast rescue when something goes wrong. It all turns pretty creepy eventually.

Character and plot development were decent, despite the slow build-up it was a pretty quick and entertaining read. I looked up the author and she seems to write a large amount of haunted-house horror stories. It that is your jam, she might be your author!

PS: as a recreational diver with an advanced open water certification I had to suspend disbelief a few times. But for a light horror read it was ok and not so far off the mark that I was put off.

Inside out

Eversion
by Alastair Reynolds

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In the 1800s, a sailing ship crashes off the coast of Norway. In the 1900s, a Zepellin explores an icy canyon in Antarctica. In the far future, a spaceship sets out for an alien artifact. Each excursion goes horribly wrong. And on every journey, Dr. Silas Coade is the physician, but only Silas seems to realize that these events keep repeating themselves. And it’s up to him to figure out why and how. And how to stop it all from happening again.

From the book blurb

I read the book blurb, took a good look at the cover (blue version) and googled Eversion, which led me to watch animations of what sphere eversion could look like. Other than I tried to stay away from spoilers (this is me, going over my review again, shortening and „de-spoilering“ it…).

The story is quite odd, actually. It feels a bit like those idle games for smart phones, where you have to destroy your current evolution of the game in order to progress to the next level. Silas keeps figuring things out slowly and a little further with each progressive step of the plot. It‘s a neat way to create suspense. 

I am surprised that this book hasn‘t been shelved as horror. I found it quite claustrophobic and not a little creepy. It has been tagged as Space Opera though, which I don‘t think applies. Gothic steampunk time-travel space-exploration mystery?

I would have liked to connect more deeply with Silas on his journey of (self-)discovery. His ethical dilemma was well-done, but could have been… just more? Funny, I never thought I would turn into a reader wanting more character development.

Very good audio narration.

What I have read so far by Reynolds, I liked. I am going about it quite haphazardly though. Perhaps I should have a closer look at his back catalogue and make an attempt at a more coordinated reading experience. 

Read so far by Reynolds, both 5-star reads:
The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1)
Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon’s Children, #1)

On my shelf, to be read:
Permafrost
Revenger (Revenger, #1) 

August Wrap-Up

August 2022: …stop it for a moment… August already, goodness me, wasn‘t it just January?

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders #1) ★★★★★ paper, I unexpectedly really liked this. Took me 4 weeks to read it, but the characters and the world really came to life! Enjoying the sequel so far. Seamless continuation.
– Soul Taken (Mercy Thompson #13) ★★★★¾ ebook, entertaining brain candy with werewolves, vampires and fae. Maybe getting a little tired now, Ms Briggs?
– Inheritor (Foreigner #3) ★★★★☆ Audio, my second try and this time I had fun. Yay!
Precursor (Foreigner #4) ★★★★½ audio, Atevi in space! Even better!
When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (Singing Hills #2) ★★★★☆ ebook, our cleric Chih has to narrate themself out of a prickly situation with three tigers.
– The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Engineer‘s Thumb / The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor ★★★☆☆

Ongoing short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six: 
– TEXTBOOKS IN THE ATTIC by S.B. Divya — climate change has flooded towns, antibiotics are rare for those less privileged. A mother searches for a way to save her son. ★★★★★ More on tor.com: https://www.tor.com/author/s-b-divya/
– SEEDING THE MOUNTAIN by M. L. Clark — I am definitely not a fan of sentences running pages long, stuffed full of superfluous adverbs and adjectives. Hard pass. ★☆☆☆☆
– KNOCK, KNOCK SAID THE SHIP by Rati Mehrotra — Deenu works on a trading ship with a slightly disturbed AI. When the ship is attacked, she has to decide where her loyalties lie. ★★★★★
– STILL YOU LINGER, LIKE SOOT IN THE AIR by Matthew Kressel — Gil is a priest of Muu, a alien intelligence, who has „abilities that seem to defy known physical laws of nature.” In other words, Muu is a god. Gil lost his pupil and lover and struggles to come to terms with his loss and his entrapment by Muu. ★★★★☆ Can be read for free here: https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi…

Comics:
– All Out War Part 2 ★★★★☆ The Walking Dead 21, eComic, StoryGraph #1 October
– The Walking Dead: All Out War AP Edition ★★★★☆ Done in raw pencils, without the ink. I like it a lot, it shows the artist‘s skill much better.
– Redlands Vol. 1, eComic, DNF after the first 2 issues (54 pages). Witches take over a town of misogynistic racists. Didn‘t like it.

Currently reading:
– The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders #2), ebook. Going slowly, as I keep reading shorter stuff in between. This will take me most of September for sure.

Ongoing:
The Tale of the Body Thief (Vampire Chronicles #4), paper, on hold, not enjoying it.
– How the Earth Works, audio, it‘s so-so. Sometimes very good, then again a bit slow and drawn out. It‘s lectures though, not a coherent book, which might be the problem.
– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry: #3) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the rest. Long book is long.

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– For All Mankind, S3, Eps. 4-10, completed ★★★★★ Mars!
– The Sea Beast, animation ★★★★★ Excellent swashbuckling adventure with sea monsters. So much fun!
– Prey (Predator) ★★★★☆ 
– The Sandman, S1, Eps 1-5 ★★★☆☆ I massively disliked episode 5, not sure I‘ll continue. Not really my cup of tea.
– Morbius ★★★☆☆ No big surprises, pretty predictable. Made me discover Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars though, which I love.
– Westworld, S1 ★★★★☆ Slow start, but developed nicely. Might continue, if I can get S2 at a reduced price.
– She-Hulk, Attorney at Law, S1, Eps 1+2, ongoing. Fun so far.