Specfic mash-up, Tchaikovsky style…

Elder Race
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Tchaikovsky, the writing machine. And you never know what comes next. This time it‘s a story told from two very different POVs in a sword-and-sorcery-setting, with a touch of SF and creepy (for me) horror elements. Slightly spoilerish review.

The fantasy is a post-colonial society that devolved and lost all technology and the SF part is the view of a technologically advanced observer, who ends up in the position of a sorcerer, because he can‘t stick to that Prime Directive and keeps getting involved..

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

– Arthur C. Clarke.

Very nicely illustrated in this novella! I really enjoyed the differences in understanding of the opposing characters or rather their misunderstandings. 

This entered horror territory about 70% into the story. And nobody tagged it as such, so I was pretty unprepared and it was creepy. Tchaikovsky gave me some very vivid imagery of „wrongness“. Reminds me of a recent horror discussion I had with some reading buddies, about what makes a tale horror for some and not for others. This here reminded me of something, maybe Dreamcatcher

On top of all that our observer/magician is on a journey of self-discovery, where he ultimately has to decide, where he belongs and in what capacity.

“How much worse to think yourself wise, and still be as ignorant as one who knew themselves a fool?“

From the novella

The Wheel of Time and other adaptations

I am re-blogging someone else‘s post about the current WoT adaptation for TV, because I am lazy and the post sums it up very nicely. I have know of it for a while, but watched a trailer only yesterday. I was impressed that they cast Rosamund Pike as Moraine and I will definitely check this out.

I never made it past book 4 of the series, but maybe the adaptation will re-kindle my interest enough to give the book series another try.

Though the point of this is not to convince you to undertake the reading of this series, but to prepare you for Amazon’s adaptation of it into a …

The Wheel of Time for Non-Book Readers

There are some good movie and TV adaptation going around at the moment.

I recently watched Villeneuve‘s Dune in the cinema and liked it quite a bit. I won‘t go into any details, there are way too many spoilers too freely available on the internet already. Suffice to say, it is very well done, great photography, good actors in a much better age range than in the silly (but loved) 80s movie. Would you believe that after having read the novel at least four times, it only dawned on me now that Caladan is supposed to be Scotland? Aka Caledonia? *head desk*

Another one I just started: Foundation. My goodreads friends kept talking about it and I decided to finally make use of my free year of Apple TV+ (came with my new iPhone!). I watched the first episode last night. Not ideal on my iPad, so I just bought a USB-C-to-HDMI-cable to try and display it on my TV. Fingers crossed. Anyway, Foundation! Never read the books by Asimov, my reading history of the SF classics is severely lacking. Liked it! I adore Jared Harris and Lee Pace is nicely evil. Very diverse cast, great costumes and make-up, good CGI, etc. I will continue.

Not an book-to-screen adaptation, as far as I am aware, but as I was kicking about on Apple TV anyways, I checked it out: Infiltration with Sam Neill. I get a very strong War of the Worlds vibe. Glacially slow plot, I barely made it through the first episode. But I will definitely watch the 2nd episode, it will hopefully pick up some speed…

Whilst looking at all that, I decided to finally cancel my Disney+ subscription. I initially got it to watch WandaVision, which was a lot of fun. I then re-watched all Star Wars movies and filled in the gaps. I binged on a lot of documentaries. And I watched Loki. There is a lot of other Marvel stuff there, that I haven‘t seen yet. I love the Avenger movies, but I don‘t have the need to watch a gazillion spin-offs. This is just turning into a crazy money-making machine (or even more than it already was). So, I am done with Marvel for the time being, at least on the screen. Anyway, Disney+ raising the subscription price was the last drop, so to speak. I am not watching it enough to make it worthwhile paying the higher fee.

What are you watching?

Blast from the past

An old review from 2017:

Substrate Phantoms
by Jessica Reisman

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The space station Termagenti—hub of commerce, culture, and civilization—may be haunted. Dangerous power surges, inexplicable energy manifestations, and strange accidents plague the station.

From the blurb

I am not sure what to make of this book. I liked it, unexpectedly, as it was off to a slow start. It was poetic in parts. Interesting ideas. A fascinating first contact story. It made me feel sad for long stretches. Confused in the beginning. Slow build-up, slow paced, with a twist at the ending that I saw coming, but that worked well.

The beginning was a little difficult to get into. I had to come to grips with the unusual vocabulary and odd grammar. It was a good way to impress the otherness of the setting to me. Hard SciFi, I guess. I liked Termagenti station, but even more so the setting down on Ash, with it’s landscapes, memorable characters and the amazement of the station-born characters at encountering nature.

I liked the idea of the other characters taking up residence inside of Jhinsei. I wish the author had played around with that more. Maybe the book had felt more solid for me, if the author had explored that more deeply. But even so, lots to think about. I am sure this book is going to stay with me for some time.

World building with a lot of potential. I think I would like to pick up a sequel, to find out where the story takes the central characters.

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

A relic goes on a trip

Relic
by Alan Dean Foster

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ruslan is the sole survivor of the human race. Aliens finally make contact, when it‘s seemingly too late for humanity. They save Ruslan and want to recreate what was lost. He strikes a deal with them—find the origin planet of his race, Earth, and he will assist them in their venture.

Very typically Alan Dean Foster, creating imaginative, non-humanoid aliens and having a human main character who finds himself in unusual circumstances on some strange planet.

Reading a third of the novel, I hadn‘t encountered anything new or different. Besides that the characters were pretty wooden and everything had a very old-fashioned feel. This could have been one of Foster‘s novels of the 80s, setting as well as tone. Nothing terribly exciting had happened up to that point. I skimmed through most of the middle of this novel and dove in again towards the end. It was mildly interesting, but I am glad I didn‘t invest more time to read this properly.

Humans driving themselves to extinction, Ruslan as the sole survivor, the idea of an alien race wanting to resurrect humans and to recreate human society—this reminded me of Dawn. Not a huge success with me either. But actually from the 80s and a lot more thought provoking than this novel from 2018.

Monthly wrap-up

My October 2021:

– Ancillary Mercy ★★★★★ audio, Imperial Radch #3, re-read. I really liked this. Not sure what I did during the first read, but I definitely did not pay attention, because I barely remembered any of this. Great fun, I loved all the AIs and their dynamics. And Translator Zaiat was precious.
We Have Always Been Here ★★★★☆ ebook, colony ship (is it?), AI, a litte horror, mystery, dystopia.
– Was weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen ★★★★☆ audio, about institutionalized racism in Germany and the experiences of a black woman growing up in Cologne. Not bad, a bit on the shallow side. Very readable.
– Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora★★★★☆ ebook, #ReadBIPOC2021, TBR pile, Netgalley. This is a very strong anthology. Even the stories that didn‘t fully grab me gave me plenty to think about. Recommended! 
– Dark Path ★★★☆☆ ebook, TBR pile, mystery fluff. Buddhist forensic pathologist solves a case in Florida.

Short stories:
– The Lottery ★★★★☆ online. Famous story by Shirley Jackson from 1948.
– You Can Make a Dinosaur, but You Can’t Help Me, Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018 ★★★★☆ online. About a trans man and his Jurassic Park-inventing dad.
– You Perfect, Broken Thing, Uncanny Magazine Issue 32: January/February 2020★★★★☆ online. Dystopia? Winning a race to stay alive…

Poetry:
– Uncanny Magazine Issue 41: July/August 2021 ★★★★☆ online, I read three of the four poems, about Japan and sacrifice, Beowulf and Madame Curie, here: https://uncannymagazine.com/issues/un…
– What to expect from the Hadron Collider as a college roommate, Uncanny Magazine Issue 16: May/June 2017 ★★★★☆ online, pretty amusing poem.
– A tenjō kudari (“ceiling hanger” yōkai) defends her theft, Uncanny Magazine Issue 32: January/February 2020 ★★★★☆ online, a spectre gets her revenge.

Currently reading:
– Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paperback, TBR pile
– The Resurrectionists, ebook, Netgalley, TBR pile

Abandoned reread:
– BR zombie Persepolis Rising, audio, Expanse #7, re-read
– BR zombie Tiamat’s Wrath, audio, Expanse #8, re-read

Movies & TV watched:
– No Time to Die ★★★★★, last 007 with Craig, cinema.
– Smoking Aces ★★¾☆☆, action thriller comedy with lots of blood, pretty pointless. 

Finally finished that anthology…

Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora
by Zelda Knight (Editor),  Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki,  Nicole Givens Kurtz,  Dilman Dila,  Eugen Bacon,  Nuzo Onoh,  Marian Denise Moore,  Dare Segun Falowo,  Rafeeat Aliyu,  Suyi Davies Okungbowa,  Odida Nyabundi

This is a very strong anthology. Even the stories that didn‘t fully grab me gave me plenty to think about. Recommended!

Trickin by Nicole Givens Kurtz

An old god rises up each fall to test his subjects. A Halloween story with a supernatural twist. It was ok. ★★★☆☆

Red_Bati by Dilman Dila

Dilman Dila is a Ugandan writer and film maker. The story is about a robot facing an existential crisis. Is he a human inside of a pet robot? Does he have a spirit? What is his purpose?

This felt a bit like a physics lecture, with a side dish of techno-babble. However, if Murderbot ever wants to adopt a pet, this could be the ideal dog for it. Nice plot, although the ending is a bit abrupt—I think this could make an interesting novella. I liked it. ★★★★☆

A Maji Maji Chronichle by Eugene Bacon

Eugen Bacon is an African Australian computer scientist (born in Tanzania) and author of spec fic.

A magician and his son time-travel to Ngoni country and try to change the course of history. Very wordy, wanting to create atmosphere. I didn‘t like the first few pages, but as the story picked up momentum, I liked it better. It covers the usual ethical ground of time travel stories. It is worth reading up on the Ngoni before reading the story, it helps with the background. The author is pretty sparse with filling in any details. ★★★½☆

“Early in the 20th century, the Ngoni were a fierce ethnic group, distant cousins to King Shaka of the Zulu kingdom. Way before the scramble and partition of Africa, ethnic groups had dispersed across the continent, and this particular Ngoni group set habitat in what later became known as German East Africa. In defiance to harsh methods of forced labour imposed upon them by colonialists, the Ngoni took up arms in what is historically documented as The Maji Maji Rising. Maji is a Swahili word for water. Belief holds that a witchdoctor gave warriors a magic potion that would turn German bullets to water.“

More about the Maji Maji rebellion here. Story can be read for free here.

The Unclean by Nuzo Onoh

Nuzo Onoh is a British-Nigerian writer. She is a pioneer of the African horror subgenre. More about that here.

The main character Desdemona tells her story. About her horrible marriage and what it leads her to do… Names matter, so all kinds of alarms went off in my head, when I read her name and that of her sister.

“Desee’s quest will force her to make some terrible choices, and with the diabolical help of a powerful witch-doctor, embark on a harrowing journey that will end in deadly consequences, culminating in a trial by ordeal underneath the infamous Tree of Truth.“

Very good, but turns pretty strange and disgusting towards the end. Not for the squeamish. Set in Nigeria, around the time of Nigeria‘s independence. Quite a prolific country in terms of writing, it seems—I keep bumping into authors from that country—and learned about the Igbo and about fetishism. ★★★★½

A Mastery of German by Marian Denise Moore

I couldn‘t find much about the author, but think she might be from Louisiana and is a computer analyst and poet. And this story is a finalist of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award 2021.

A near-future story about memories and passing them on in a genetic procedure. The technology is not explained or shown and the ethical implications are mentioned, but not elaborated on much. But it would probably need a novel to explore all that. I liked it. The main character was relatable, the writing was very readable. ★★★★☆

Convergence in Chorus Architecture by Dare Segun Falowo

Another Nigerian author. More about them and their work in this article / interview.
And a short bio and links to some stories here.

Mythology, Nigerian gods, dreams. Didn‘t captivate me. ★★¾☆☆

Emily by Marian Denise Moore

A snippet with possibilities.

To Say Nothing of Lost Figurines by Rafeeat Aliyu

Another Nigerian author. The title immediately made me think of To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. That book has been on my want-to-read list for ages, but so far I haven’t gotten round to it yet. I can‘t tell if it was a plot bunny for this story, which is a magical portal fantasy. Amusing tone, bit of a caper/heist story. Needs more… ★★★★☆

Sleep Papa, Sleep by Suyi Okungbowa Davies

And another Nigerian author. I liked his David Mogo Godhunter. This story is pretty gruesome, but excellently written. We are talking body parts, corpses and violence. Well crafted tale with no loose ends. ★★★★★

The Satellite Charmer by Mame Bougouma Diene

A Franco-Senegalese-American author. I found quite a few interesting articles written by him. Dark Moons Rising on a Starless Night, his collection of four novelettes, is mentioned several times.

This story is probably the longest in this anthology. And it is odd. Set in a near future, where Chinese corporations mine African land via satellite. We are told the life story of Ibrahima in several jumps. He is an odd and fairly unlikable guy with an unusual connection to those satellites. Interesting concept, but I didn‘t like the story particularly much. Still, I learned something about the Caliphate, which was new to me. ★★¾☆☆

Here is a free online story by the author, that is very, very similar to this one here, if you want to get an impression of his writing.

Clanfall: Death of Kings by Odida Nyabundi

I had a hard time tracking down the auther, but eventually found this story, with the same beginning as the prologue of Clanfall:

“Fisi Wahoo basked in the rapturous applause of the crowd. It seemed like the whole population of New Machakos had turned up for his coronation. Fisi! Fisi! Fisi! They chanted.“

https://awacho.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/what-goes-around/

I think we are looking at a story by an author from Kenya. Good, pretty puzzling at first, set in the far future, in what used to be Kenya, with bionically enhanced, conscious and intelligent animals (I think?), where humanity has disappeared long ago. It would have been nice to have gotten some visuals on the characters. There are a lot of claws, cannons, armour and various augmentations, but we never get to see what the protagonists actually look like.

Society is ruled by feudal clans. War and conflict seem to be the favoured state of being. I liked the characters and the writing. However, this was not a coherent story and it leaves the reader in the middle of things, just when the story starts to get interesting. 

If the author ever decides to make a novella or novel out of this, with a proper plot, I would like to read it. ★★★½☆

Thresher of Men by Michael Boatman

Boatman is a US American actor or novelist, writing in the splatterpunk horror genre. Sounds gory, right? I had to look it up. And holy crap, that was gruesome. Rape, gore, lots of blood. Well written though. ★★★★☆

Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon by Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald

Another Nigerian author, with a finalist for the 2020 Nebula Awards for Best Novella and a bunch of other awards for this and other stories. Content warning: attempted rape, nonconsensual sex and suicide.

The discrimination of women in parts of the story irritated me too much to truly enjoy it. That part of the story was intentional, but women were still just weak victims throughout, determined by men and the female MC, Imade, was ultimately at fault because she didn‘t know her place and didn‘t do as she was told. This didn‘t sit right with me. That‘s just me though, plenty of others liked this a lot.

The action scenes were good, the post-apocalyptic world building was good, even if I didn‘t buy the premise of the nuclear war. So this was a mixed bag for me. I might pick up the author again. ★★★☆☆


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

Dewey‘s

So, I went to bed around the halfway point of the event. At which point I had finally finished Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora. Review to come! Here I am, catching up with the various posts from Dewey‘s that I slept through…

Mid Event Survey 

1. What are you reading right now? — the same two books I started with.

2. How many books have you read so far? — see above. At some point I distanced myself from the notion that reading is about how many pages I read and how fast I am. It doesn‘t make me a cooler or worthier reader, when I read 200 books a year or whatever the figure is.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? — I finally finished Dominion and I am looking forward to listening to more of Rovers by Richard Lange. Not sure yet, what print edition or ebook I will pick up next.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? — I made dinner, received some texts, etc. I will go to bed now and when I wake up, I will be busy with life first. Can‘t be helped. It is unlikely that I will get much reading done in the second half of the readathon.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? — no big surprises.

What’s your relationship to the spooky and scary? Not your for (which is perfectly fine)? Your lifeblood (which is perfectly fine)? Somewhere in between (also perfectly fine)?

I often find horror boring. I need a good plot with some suspense and good characters. Or, if I read something really bad, for example Meg by Steve Alten, it needs to at least be funny (even unintentionally) to hold my interest. And if the books sounds really creepy and disturbing, I will simply not read it! Why torture myself?

Ok, off to write that last review for Domninion and then to deal with life.


Death of Kings

Clanfall: Death of Kings by Odida Nyabundi

I had a hard time tracking down the auther, but eventually found this story, with the same beginning as the prologue of Clanfall:

“Fisi Wahoo basked in the rapturous applause of the crowd. It seemed like the whole population of New Machakos had turned up for his coronation. Fisi! Fisi! Fisi! They chanted.“

https://awacho.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/what-goes-around/

I think we are looking at a story by an author from Kenya. Good, pretty puzzling at first, set in the far future, in what used to be Kenya, with bionically enhanced, conscious and intelligent animals (I think?), where humanity has disappeared long ago. It would have been nice to have gotten some visuals on the characters. There are a lot of claws, cannons, armour and various augmentations, but we never get to see what the protagonists actually look like.

Society is ruled by feudal clans. War and conflict seem to be the favoured state of being. I liked the characters and the writing. However, this was not a coherent story and it leaves the reader in the middle of things, just when the story starts to get interesting. The above quoted story actually happens after the events of the story in this anthology, despite having the same starting paragraphs.

If the author ever decides to make a novella or novel out of this, with a proper plot, I would like to read it. ★★★½☆


I will post updates whenever I finish another story.

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

Currently Reading…

I am still working my way through Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora. The current story, Clanfall: Death of Kings by Odida Nyabundi, is good, pretty puzzling, set in a very far away in time Kenya with bionically enhanced, conscious and intelligent animals (I think), where humanity has ceased to exists…

I have about an hour left in the kindle and would like to finish the book today. However, Life! Going on a business trip next week, starting off tomorrows afternoon. Busy doing stuff in preparation, trying to keep myself from procrastinating too much. Failing so far.

Anyhow, I started the morning by looking for an audiobook—something I can listen to whilst folding laundry etc. Ended up (or rather started) with Rovers (Audible Audio) by Richard Lange, a horror book with a different take on vampires. Of Mice and Men with vampires and biker gangs? The audio sounds good so far.

He hasn’t been outside during the day in more than seventy-five years. Seventy-five years since he’s felt the sun on his face, seventy-five years since he’s lain under a tree and run his fingers over leaf shadows flitting across a patch of warm grass, seventy-five years since he’s squinted through his lashes to pin a cawing raven against the noon glare. For the past three-quarters of a century he’s lived by night, in the ebon hours when monsters hunt and good folk keep to their houses. Since he turned, every dawn’s been a death sentence, every sunbeam a white-hot razor. That’s why he’s overjoyed whenever he dreams his only dream, when he finds himself walking that road under the blazing sun, under a few wisps of cloud unraveling across the sky. A bounding jackrabbit kicks up dust. A breeze brings a whiff of sage. He comes upon an empty pop can and gives it a kick. Light and warmth worm their way into the coldest, darkest thickets inside him, and if he never woke again, he’d be fine. This would be enough—the road, the sky, the sun—forever.

From the first page

And just for the heck of it, I just signed up for Dewey‘s October readathon, starting in about 90 minutes. Not that I have the time or intention to read for 24 hours straight, because real life…. Anyway….