Dying Earth, part III

Dying Earths: Sixteen Stories from the Ends of Times
by Sue Burke and others…

Finished on New Year‘s Day! And I actually backdated the finishing date to the 31st of December, so I can start the new year with a clean cut. It might throw off my statistics a little — I already wrote my yearly wrap-up, it will go online on Friday or thereabouts. But I am not fussed enough to update that post. Or rather, I am working on letting go of my OCD. It makes me a little twitchy, but I‘ll cope… 😆

Ok, back to the last few stories of this anthology:

TELLTALE by Matthew Hughes ★★★☆☆ Fantasy
“Raffalon’s world had become monochrome: the thief stood on a shingle beach of gray stones, lapped by a gray sea beneath a gray sky.“
The author likes to use plenty of adjectives. Add to that a stilted prose, presumably to give a „fantasy“ feel. Ugh. The writing became more fluent after the first paragraphs. The story had the feel of a fairytale and had absolutely nothing to do with a dyeing Earth. It was ok.

THE MEAT PLAINS by Jeremy Megargee ★★½☆☆ SF
“Humans are a mass now, a great hideous stretch of fleshy plains spanning from one end of the globe to the other.“
Ugh, this was absurd and really disgusting. 

THE MIDWIVES by Jude Reid ★★★½☆ SF
Earth dies, some chose ones leave. This is the story of the descendants of those left behind.

THE SNOWS OF ADALON by Scott J. Couturier ★★★☆☆ Fantasy/SF
“Clouded over by perpetual white-gray miasma, wroth with terminal frost and cold, the planet is muffled in a cloak of blizzards.“
A blend of Fantasy and SF, with a sorcerer and his daughter stuck on a planet that was plunged into eternal winter. Salvation might be an escape capsule and the planet‘s moon.

ALONE IN IMALONE by Christopher Stanley ★★★★☆ Apocalyptic
Amusing little story about a guy trying to get onto one of the shuttles leaving Earth, before it blows up. 

CONVERTIR Andrew by Leon Hudson ★★★★★ Fantasy?
“When even something so evident as the changing of the climate becomes a matter of faith, to be accepted or rejected at the whim of the individual… in what sense is there a settled material reality at all?”
We start at the compound of a religious cult, but end up debating the perception of reality, fake news and the willful ignorance of facts that seems to be so abundant right now. Pretty wacky, but good.

This last story led me to an online SF magazine: https://mythaxis.co.uk

What I liked about this anthology:
It reminded me that I like Sue Burke. She is probably the main reason why I got this a while back. I met some new authors.

What I did not like about this anthology:
Considering the name of this anthology, I expected stories of the apocalypse. Dyeing Earth. Right? In quite a few of these stories the presence of Earth was incidental and we could have been anywhere. And even the apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic setting seemed to be more of an afterthought or something in the sidelines. It was not a focal point. The title also incorporated „Ends of Time“, but it still feels a little like the book topic was missed. Still, mostly enjoyable.

Link to the review of the first set of stories.

Link to the second set of story reviews.

Dying Earth…

Dying Earths: Sixteen Stories from the Ends of Times
by Sue Burke and others…

Ongoing. I will update as I go along…

THE TYRANNY OF BEAUTY by P.J. Richards ★★★☆☆ Fantasy
“When the Ways first appeared they felt like our salvation, an escape from the desolation we had created. They were the dream that had tempted humans for generations.“
The Ways to Fairyland or the Otherworld open and release the Host. The view into the Ways might be paradisal, but is a really scary place. Not what I expected in an anthology of a dying Earth, but interesting.

Interview with the author about another short story with a similar theme: https://mtmisery.com/2019/01/04/neon-…

THE CULT OF MOTHER-SUN by James Maxstadt ★★★☆☆ SF
A movie director from the future travels back to Earth to make a documentary about the birthplace of humanity. A little light and silly.

IN THE WEEDS by Sue Burke ★★★★☆ Climate fic / SF
Climate change has destroyed Earth as we know it. Weeds grow well, plants adapt. Great extrapolation of potential evolutionary steps of our plantlife. I wish this one had been longer.

Recommended reading by Sue Burke: Semiosis (my review)
Interview with the author about Semiosis: https://www.blackgate.com/2018/02/21/…

GOOD MOTHER by Lena Ng ★★½☆☆ Allegory
Gaia, the Mother of Earth, gives and gives and we take and take and in our entitlement give nothing back. The author wacks us over the head with what we are doing to Earth. A bit pointless.

TWILIGHT AT THE BASEBALL GROUND by George Alan Bradley ★★★★½  Alternate history
The US after a nuclear attack. Set after Star Wars (1977) and before the collapse of the Soviet Union. One boy and his parents in a bunker. Depressing, but well written. Not quite sure what to make of the ending.

Dyeing Earth, next part of reviews is here.

The SF anthology that kept on giving…

… is finally finished! I started in February and read the final story last night.

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

Last, but not least:

– HOW QUINI THE SQUID MISPLACED HIS KLOBUČAR by Rich Larson

“A dark, fast-moving novelette about a high-tech heist in future Spain, planned by a professional thief interested in revenge more than money. The object in question is in the hands of a dangerous crime lord.“

I liked that this was set in Barcelona, it helped my relate to the story, as I‘ve been there several times. I liked the virtual reality aspect of the heist and the transgender part. ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here. There a several other stories by the author on Tor

This was a good anthology with very few unsatisfactory stories. But I am glad that I am finally done.

Battling kudzu…

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

RHIZOME, BY STARLIGHT by Fran Wilde
Our MC lives on her own in an apocalyptic world, on a mountaintop surrounded by water and made of glas (a skyscraper?) where a presumably genetically enhanced and malicious kudzu is encroaching on her greenhouse. She is fighting for her life. Stay or leave? For more you have to read the story. ★★★★½

Interview with the author about her story:

„I was drawn to the idea of not just surviving but thriving post-event and how that might look for someone who had an inherited disability. My main character is part of a group that has been left behind because of their disabilities and asked to guard a seed warehouse. She’s descended from the original people who were left behind.“

This story was published as part of another anthology as well:

Rebuilding Tomorrow
by Tsana Dolichva (Editor), Fran Wilde (Contributor) and other authors

What if the apocalypse isn’t the end of the world? An anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive, it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost. In this follow-up to Defying Doomsday, disabled and chronically ill protagonists build new worlds from the remains of the old…new perspectives on life after the apocalypse. (Book description)

Simulations, dark secrets, nanites, loss and hope

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– SALVAGE by Andy Dudak
Humans have spread across many planets. Their observation of the universe endangered its existence. I know too little of quantum physics to understand the logic behind this concept. Anyway, aliens appeared and turned humans into statues, to prevent them from destroying the universe. Inside of these statues humans still live their simulated lives. Our MC is one of the few humans that have survived this event. She goes around and interacts with these statues to give them a choice—continue the simulation, move to a different, more pleasing simulation or end their existence. This could have been the content of the story, but our MC is stopped by other humans, as what she does is apparently not quite legal and the story goes on another quite different tangent from there. I struggled. It took me unusually long to finish this story and it didn‘t really satisfy me. The MC has a dark secret herself, which is hinted at, but not resolved in a meaningful way. The main issue is probably that I didn‘t really get the point of this story.

– THE LONG TAIL by Aliette de Bodard
“A story about memory and war and transfers of memories between shifts (and statistics!).“
After a war involving nanites, salvaging a wreck and looking for a cure. Short, but able to engage me and to emphasize with the main character. ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here.

Thanks to NetGalley I have The Red Scholar’s Wake by Aliette de Bodard on my TBR pile.

Xích Si: bot maker, data analyst, mother, scavenger. But those days are over now-her ship has just been captured by the Red Banner pirate fleet, famous for their double-dealing and cruelty. Xích Si expects to be tortured to death-only for the pirates’ enigmatic leader, Rice Fish, to arrive with a different and shocking proposition: an arranged marriage between Xích Si and herself.

Blurb of The Red Scholar’s Wake

Arranged marriage, one of my favourite romance tropes… Looking forward to this one! I liked what I have read by Bodard until now.

Avatars, aliens, robots and climate change

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– ELSEWHERE by James S.A. Corey
A daughter visits her dying father with the help of an avatar. The story tells us why she can’t be by his side in person. I liked this one. Emotional, relatable. ★★★★½

– THIS WORLD IS MADE FOR MONSTERS by M. Rickert
Aliens visit a small village, a yearly festival ensues to celebrate the occasion. Low key, looking at the effects on the village. Fairly odd, I am missing a highlight, it didn‘t really engage me. ★★★☆☆

– FAIRY TALES FOR ROBOTS by Sofia Samatar
A fairytale collection for a soon to awaken robot, giving purpose, potential and warnings. I didn’t care for the story. At 10.000+ words too long, very unemotional, only telling without showing. ★★☆☆☆ 

Can be read for free here.

– THE TRANSLATOR, AT LOW TIDE by Vajra Chandrasekera
Another climate-change/end-of-civilisation story, presumably set in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Lyrical, sad and a little horrific. The translator nears the end of his life and reflects. 
2021 FINALIST: THEODORE A. STURGEON MEMORIAL AWARD. ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here.

Being in more world than one…

ILLUSTRATION: ELENA LACEY; GETTY IMAGES

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

BEYOND THESE STARS OTHER TRIBULATIONS OF LOVE by Usman T. Malik

Bari has to look after his mother, but he is also off into space and needs a way to be in both places at once. Interesting idea, although I wonder if this split consciousness would be possible, considering time dilation and distance. How would that work technically, besides probably making you loose your grip on reality fast?

Maybe a bit short to do the idea justice. ★★★☆☆

Can be read for free here.

I liked his The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn.

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik

“a work of speculative fiction that explores Indian subcontinental folklore and Islamic metaphysics”

This short story was nominated for a Nebula award and won the 2016 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella. And rightly so. Beautifully written, very poetic and dreamlike. Old east meets new west in a story that could have come out of 1001 Arabic nights. Or maybe not, the settings in Pakistan feel too real. Fascinating take on Jinns, memories, consciousness and relationships. ★★★★☆

Available here.

Author’s website: www.usmanmalik.org

September 2022 Wrap-up

My first two weeks of September I spent with hideous headaches and nausea. I finally went to see my doctor and she leaned towards what I has suspected already: my new night brace was too tight and made my bruxism worse. Not wearing the brace at night obviously didn‘t help. I had my brace redone, got pretty heavy pain medication for my headache and aching teeth and face. The right side of my face still hurts, but I‘m doing some exercises and I hope that I can stop with the pain killers soon. I am supposed to get manual therapy for my jaw muscles, neck and shoulders, but none of the local therapists have free slots until January. Oh well. We have a great manual therapist at work who did some work on my neck and stuck me under an infrared lamp. That helped a lot.

I was on a conference in Bremen for four days and my Corona App turned dark red for all of those days. Fabulous. So far I feel fine, disregarding my other pain…

Despite feeling pretty crap for most of September, I still managed to get some reading done…

Sword Dance ★★★¾☆ ebook, m/m romance and mystery in a greco-roman fantasy world.
– Eversion ★★★★¼ audio, Gothic steampunk time-travel space-exploration mystery.
– Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy #6) ★★★★☆ ebook, another one with Catalina.
– The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders #2) ★★★★★ ebook, great continuation of Ship of Magic
– Defender (Foreigner #5) ★★★★½ audio, blast-off!
– The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ★★★½☆ audio, finally finished this one. Some known stories, like The Speckled Band, some more obscure ones as well.
– The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy #5.1) ★★★★☆, short, online, set after Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy #5)
– The Tale of the Body Thief (Vampire Chronicles #4), DNF at 45% in August. Finally decided to dump it.
– The Girl Beneath the Sea (Underwater Investigation Unit #1) ★★★¼☆ audio, police diver with treasure-hunter dad chases down drug traffickers in South Florida.

Short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six: (ongoing)
– TUNNELS by Eleanor Arnason. This was a pretty wacky story. Lydia is in a pickle and needs to rescue herself… I loved the alien and the world was definitely interesting. Hoot hoot hoot! ★★★★½ For free here: https://www.asimovs.com/assets/1/6/Tu…
– TEST 4 ECHO by Peter Watts. AI and illegal propagation? ★★★★☆ For free here: https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi…
– UMA by Ken Liu. Our hero uses an avatar to save some people… This one was fun! ★★★★★ For free here: https://web.archive.org/web/202009251…

Comics:
– Lunatic (Moon Knight 2016-2017) by Jeff Lemire ★★★★★ eComic. Wacky! Loved it.
– The Bottom (Moon Knight 2006, Vol. 1) by Charlie Huston ★★★★★ eComic. Much darker and grimmer, a lot of blood and gore…

Currently reading:
– Midnight Sun (Moon Knight 2006, Vol. 2) by Charlie Huston, eComic

Carry-over:
– How the Earth Works, audio
– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– She-Hulk, Attorney at Law, S1, Eps 3-5 ★★★☆☆ it‘s ok, I don‘t feel compelled to continue.
– The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, S1, Eps 3-4 ★★★½☆ nicely done, but leaving me untouched so far. Meh.
– Jurassic World Dominion ★★½☆☆ Oh my, what were they thinking? The plot was a mess and so much stuff was regurgitated.
– Day Shift ★★★☆☆ vampire action comedy with Jamie Foxx, entertaining enough.

AIs underwater and Avatars in trees…

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

TEST 4 ECHO by Peter Watts

Six days before the money ran out, Enceladus kicked Medusa right in the ass.

Onboard thermistors registered a sudden spike—80°, 90°, 120°—before the seabed jumped and something slammed the probe from the side. A momentary flash. An ocean impossibly boiling. A rocky seabed, tilting as if some angry giant had kicked over a table.

Beginning of the story

You can tell that Watts is a zoologist and marine-mammal biologist. I really have to get back to reading all his stuff, although it usually does a number on my brain. I have to confess that I only have a vague idea of what happened in this story, but it was good regardless. AI and illegal propagation? ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here

UMA by Ken Liu

“A Utility Maintenance Avatar is vaguely humanoid, but only about three feet tall fully stretched out and no more than fifty pounds in weight.“

Our hero piggy-backs one of those to save some people… This one was fun! Very fluently written, it really pulled you in right away. ★★★★★

Can be read for free here — please follow the link to look at the illustration accompanying the story. I love it. A small part of it is shared at the top. Initially I had it uploaded fully here as well, but I was unsure how the illustrator feels about sharing, I couldn‘t see any info about it. So I took it down again. .

I really enjoyed all of Ken Liu‘s short stories so far, much more than the one novel I tried to read, The Grace of KIngs.

Hidden Legacy, another sister has been squared away…

Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy, #6)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Nevada first trained me in investigative work, she taught me to trust my instincts. If it didn’t look right, it probably wasn’t. If the hair on the back of your neck stood up, you needed to get the hell out of there. She taught Arabella the same thing. My younger sister called it listening to the lizard brain. I trusted my lizard brain. It kept me breathing.“

Classic Ilona Andrews. Things go downhill fast in inventive ways and graphic detail. It all gets going with a gruesome murder and an attack on the Warden‘s house. Oh, and the family moves into a new home that sounds a bit like Disneyland. 

Lots of magic, action, weapons, blood, exploding hardware and magic users gone bad.

Catalina still feels and sounds like Nevada. Sadly, the characters in IAs books have become pretty interchangeable and all seem to be the same person. Alessandro is pretty one-dimensional. Mom and Grandma Frieda sadly don’t get a lot of page-time. 

I am guessing that the next book will be about Arabella and her love interest. Considering the last chapter and epilogue, that‘s where I am putting my money.

And yes, despite my complaints I will very likely get the next book. I read this fast, it was very entertaining.

I wonder if we will meet Jadwiga again in the next book?

Playlist:
A Fistful of Dollars Theme (Ennio Morricone)
Triumphal March from Aida (Giuseppe Verdi)

And I just saw that I missed a 12-page short story….

The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy, #5.1)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Apparently I should have read this straight after Emerald Blaze. Set directly afterwards, bonus short story from Arabella‘s point of view.

The birth of Nevada‘s and Mad Rogan‘s baby, short and fun.

Free online at the authors’ website: https://ilona-andrews.com/the-cool-aunt/

Here is my review of Emerald Blaze.