Too strange, world and writing need work

Of a Strange World Made (Colony of Edge #1)
by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Off to a rocky start with not very smooth writing. Set on a colony world, we meet Ash, busy getting drunk in a bar/cantina of some sort, talking to friends about a wager. She is some sort of lab technician/scientist, working on the terraforming effort for their planet. Sorry for being vague, the story is vague…

The colony has strict laws concerning birth control and she is pulled into helping a woman giving birth to an unsanctioned baby. The baby appears strange. That is how far I got, before I put the novella down for the first time—about a third into the story. The idea is not a bad one, but the writing is not convincing. Scenes are not properly thought out, it‘s very sketchy.

For example: what is strange about the baby, why does it look wrong? Right after the birth, she has to leave mother and child to keep them safe. She does not come back to check on them, after the situation prompting her to leave has passed. Wouldn‘t it be normal to return as soon as possible to ensure the safety and health of mother and child? And if she can‘t return for some reason, why not? 

When she does return the next day, the baby lies apart from the mother, alive and breathing in an atmosphere, that requires adults to wear rebreathers. She doesn’t question that and doesn’t check on the child, just briefly talks to the mother. Again, no indication is given, why the baby is a „wretched thing“. She asks the mother, if she is ok and leaves again. BTW, her mother is a midwife. Even without that, I would check on the baby. Wouldn‘t you?

I read on a little further. The mother tells the story of how the baby came to be, in a style that doesn‘t mesh with the first third of the story. And then there are details that are factually wrong.

“Predators were born into action, Ash realized. Old movies of wildlife showed the creatures up and moving almost as soon as they were born.“

Wolves are born deaf and blind. It‘s the other way around actually. The hunted are up and running right away, to avoid getting eaten.

On top of all that Ash sounds like a teenager. I assume she is supposed to be a grown woman, but I can‘t tell, as it‘s not mentioned. I gave up in the middle and heavily skimmed through the rest. The ending was not bad and offers a promising opening for the sequel. Which I will not read.

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

If at first you don‘t succeed, try again…

The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Molly Southbourne, #1)
by Tade Thompson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Weird. Disturbing. Creepy. Off-putting. Slightly disgusting in parts. It‘s like a train wreck—pretty horrible, but I couldn‘t look away. This novella made me feel uncomfortable. I am still trying to put my fingers on the reason why. The blood? The constant murders? The horribleness of the mollys? Strangely enough, I am tempted to read the sequel. 

If you read the blurb, you already know that every time Molly bleeds, a „molly“ is created. And the mollys are always off somehow, eventually intent on killing her. So she kills them first. Around that concept the story of her life to a certain point is told. How she grew up and learned about the mollys, how her parents taught her to deal with them, her road to understanding about herself and the mollys and why some of them seem to be different than others…

I didn‘t like Molly. She was too dispassionate for my taste. But I guess with her history that was to be expected. It‘s tragic and whatever passion and positive emotions she experienced lead to revelations that would be spoilers. I really liked her parents, though. Especially her mother.

The writing is very good. I was totally immersed in the story, the characters and Molly‘s world. I am looking forward now to another offering lingering on my TBR shelf: Rosewater(same author, different world, not related to Molly, won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Nommo Award and was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award).

This read is part of my attempt to clear my TBR pile of owned books and my #ReadBIPOC2021 challenge (entry for June).

Magical Egypt

A Dead Djinn in Cairo (Dead Djinn, #0.5)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Egypt, Cairo, Djinn, ghuls, sorcerers, magic, airships, gas light, aerial trams… steampunk plus electricity. An investigator looks into the suspicious death of a djinn and follows traces through a magical Cairo.

“Fatma was born into the world al-Jahiz left behind: a world transformed by magic and the supernatural. […] Egypt now sat as one of the great powers, and Cairo was its beating heart.“

https://www.tor.com/2016/05/18/a-dead-djinn-in-cairo/

The setting of this story made me home-sick for Cairo! Or whatever you call it for a city I lived in for six years… 

This was fun! Plot driven, not much character development — not an easy task anyway for such a short novelette — although I did like Fatma. Good action scenes and sleuthing, interesting setting. Potential for a lot more. Onwards to the next two stories/novelettes, in preparation for reading Clark’s first full-length novel next month.

Snarky bot is back

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6)
by Martha Wells

Rating: 5 out of 5.

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

Muderbot is back in novella length. Snark and sarcasm abound. I felt a bit meh about the full-length novel, so I am very happy that my favourite ‘bot has returned to form. There wasn‘t anything particularly new, just another crazy day, tracking down a murderer and making sure one’s humans don‘t come to harm. All the stars.

PS: This is set before Network Effect.

Fiction By Authors of Color #ReadPOC2021

Ok, my March #ReadPOC challenge was a total fail, aka I didn‘t get to it… what can I say, I was overbooked and struggling a bit to concentrate on my reading commitments. The March prompt was „A Work of Fiction“ and after some deliberation I picked David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa.

Nigerian God-Punk – a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

New attempt in April! I hope… which brings along the April prompt: Written by a Queer or Trans Author of Color.

And to my surprise, I found two books on the suggested reading lists, that ring a bell:

1) Dawn (Lilith’s Brood, #1) by Octavia E. Butler — this one is on my kindle-unlimited want-to-read list. I will try to read it in April. After the above and all the other stuff. I am an optimist.

In a world devastated by nuclear war with humanity on the edge of extinction, aliens finally make contact. They rescue those humans they can, keeping most survivors in suspended animation and begin the slow process of rehabilitating the planet.

2) The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate, #1) by J.Y. Yang — read in January 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is fantasy novella with a strong chinese flavour. The author identifies as non-binary and the main characters as well, at least until they reach their teenage years…

“Sonami had just turned fifteen, yet still wore the genderfree tunic of a child, their hair cropped to a small square at the top of their head and gathered into a bun.“

It is strange at first, then becomes normal and when eventually gendered pronouns crop up, they seem just as strange. Well done! I wasn‘t sure I would like this, because my track record with fantasy has been poor in the past few years. But once the story picked up speed, I found it hard to put down. The writing and plot were also a lot more accessible than I had expected. I really need to read the companion novellas. Plan B, if I shouldn‘t feel like Octavia Butler or want to read something shorter!

Author‘s website with info about the whole Tensorate series is here

Main Challenge page: https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2020/1…

Fiction By Authors of Color #ReadPOC2021

New month, new choices… The March prompt is „A Work of Fiction“. These books are on my want-to-read shelf and fit the prompt, in no particular order:

Do you have a preference, which book you want me to read and review? Raise of hands, please! 🤚

UPDATE:

  1. David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa, UF — 2 votes (1 here, 1 offsite)
  2. Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi, Fantasy/SF — 1 vote

Challenge: https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2020/1…

January: Bloodchild — Becoming — https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2020/1…
February: The Story of Human Language — https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2021/0…

TopTenTuesday – Top Ten Books Published Before I was Born

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

This Week’s Topic: Books Written Before I Was Born

Oh boy. That will be some seriously old tomes! Let‘s see… As usual, I‘ll skip those books I posted here before.

Der kleine Wassermann (The Little Water Sprite), published in 1956
by Otfried Preußler,  Winnie Gayler (Illustrator) 

My favourite Otfried Preußler book as a child, loved it even more than „The Little Witch“. Loved it, loved, loved it! My fascination with books set under water obviously started early. Maybe this book is why? Huh, never thought of that before!

Die kleine Hexe (The Little Witch), published in 1957
by Otfried Preußler

How I loved this book as a child! I read it over and over and over again! Great stuff.

Now to some grown-up stuff… no particular order!

Orlando, published in 1928
by Virginia Woolf

I read this twice, first as a teenager and then again in 2008, as a gropwn-up. It’s a strange book. I fluctuated between being in love with the writing and being bored. Great idea. I liked the movie adaptation with Tilda Swinton, it captures the feel of the book pretty well. And I definitely understood the book much better the second time around. As a teenager I was mostly confused by the mysterious sex change.

King Rat (Asia Saga, #4), published in 1962
by James Clavell

I read this a very long time ago, so my memory is very, very faint. I remember one scene, where the protagonist is hunting rats underneath his prison hut. The rest is pretty much gone. Maybe it’s time for a re-read. I can‘t remember if I read Tai-Pan, but I most definitely read Shogun, several times…

Dracula, published in 1897
by Bram Stoker

I read this For the first time in my late teens, probably. That is when my lifelong obsession with vampires started. This should be required reading for any vampire fan. Followed by mandatory watching of all of Christoper Lee’s Dracula impersonations, rounded off by Gary Oldman as the famous count.

The creepiness of this book has stayed with me through the years. The description of Dracula’s look—his hairy palms where always especially off-putting—the weirdness of his brides, the atmospheric setting….

Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family, published 1901
by Thomas Mann

A trip down memory lane. When I started German Lit in highschool, our teacher gave us this scary list of books we had to read or else. This was on it and the size of it made it scarier still. I read this in the late 80s, so memories are very dim. But to this day I remember how great this book was, how I loved to read about the lives of some of these characters. I never touched this book again and I don’t think I ever will. I am too scared I wouldn’t like it anymore and I don’t want to destroy my feel-good-vibe.

Der Tod in Venedig, published in 1911
by Thomas Mann

This novella is not an easy text for casual reading. I had to slow down my usual speed a lot to understand what I was reading. And to give justice to the beautiful language. Ultimately, this novel was a mixture of beautiful language and boredom. Since this novella is one of Mann’s most important works, I would say that the issue is mine! The subject of the novella was also way outside of my comfort zone. Aschenbach’s obsessive fascination with the boy Tazio was of no value to me. I was uncomfortable with the sexual undertones. From now on I will always see Thomas Mann as a tragic person. I didn’t really like this one.

Der Untertan, published in 1918
by Heinrich Mann

“Man of Straw” is a sharp indictment of the Wilhelmine regime and a chilling warning against the joint elevation of militarism and commercial values.

From the English book blurb

This is Thomas Mann‘s older brother. I fully expected to be bored silly, but I ended up liking it. Very good writing — in German. Can‘t say anything about the translation.

Brave New World, published in 1932
by Aldous Huxley

I read this about 30 years ago, give or take. I struggled with understanding it and remember that I found it hard to get into it. But I liked the concept of the story and ultimately liked the book quite a bit. I think it should be recommended reading for anybody interested in SF that predicts how our society could develop in the not to far away future. Especially nowadays, with the advances being made in cloning, I think this book gains even more importance.

Nackt unter Wölfen, published in 1958
by Bruno Apitz

I read this as a teenager, working my way through my parent’s bookshelf. A pretty gruesome read, when you are that age. Apitz was a prisoner in Buchenwald himself and the story is inspired by a child that was hidden there by the prisoners, so I would assume it has a fair bit of authenticity.

So, that‘s it for this Top Ten Tuesday. I am surprised that I found this many books that I liked (Mostly).

Another doomed tower…

Tower of Mud and Straw
by Yaroslav Barsukov

Rating: 2 out of 5.

“Minister Shea Ashcroft refuses the queen’s order to gas a crowd of protesters. After riots cripple the capital, he’s exiled to Owenbeg, a duchy bordering the kingdom of Duma, to oversee the construction of the biggest anti-airship tower in history. Shea doesn’t want the task, but sees it as the only way to reclaim his life.“

We start our trip on an airship. And we come in contact with advanced, „other“ technology. It doesn‘t really fit the bill for Steampunk, but is reminiscent of it at first.

The prologue was very clunky and hard to get into, heavy on adverbs. Luckily, once the main narrative started, the story telling got a lot smoother. However, part two started just as clunky as part one. 

I had a hard time picturing the settings. The prose was very flowery, but not as descriptive as I would’ve liked. The language was very modern despite the fantasy setting, which is unusual and did not sit particularly well with me. I also felt as if I was missing part of the story or a prequel.

The author packed a lot into 200 pages. I didn‘t mind that so much. I actually think he could have done a more thorough job with the world building, even in such a short book / novella. The pacing felt off for me as well. Telling so much of the backstory in paragraphs alternating with the present storyline so far towards the ending did not flow well. 

The idea was intriguing, but I never really got immersed in the storytelling or connected with the characters. I did not like the style and skimmed the last part of the story. Sorry, this wasn‘t for me. Pretty cover though! Maybe I have to try and re-read this another time, when I am more in the mood for such a meandering style.

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


Can be found and read online and for free here:

Tower of Mud and Straw I: The Duchy

Tower of Mud and Straw II: The Adversary

Tower of Mud and Straw III: The Tulips

Tower of Mud and Straw IV: The Tower


Ghosts in the machine

The Furthest Station (Peter Grant, #5.5)
by Ben Aaronovitch (Goodreads Author),  Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Narrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Furthest Station (Peter Grant, #5.5)
by Ben Aaronovitch (Goodreads Author),  Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Narrator) 

Ghosts on the Metropolitan Line. I wasn‘t all that interested in this novella, I mainly got it to listen to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. Kobna delivered, but so did Ben Aaronovitch and Peter Grant. 

There was humour, there was non-plussed Peter and creepy Molly, curious Abigail and suave Nigthingale. The story was good, if not terribly exciting or overly suspenseful. I had a few laughs and enjoyed the ride.