First Line Friday — gearing up towards warfare

Oh my goodness, it‘s the weekend. Hallelujah. Long week was long and gave me a headache. Going for a long walk with a friend and her dog tomorrow, no plans for Sunday. Well, I need to do some laundry and my kitchen floor really needs some attention…. Back to the main topic, reading! I used to do a meme with posting first lines of books. At some point it was discontinued or I lost track. This one here looks the same at first glance. Maybe it is? Anyway…

First Line Friday is a weekly linkup hosted at Reading is My Superpower. To participate, share the first line of a book of your choice, add the link to the linkup on the host’s page, and check out what others are reading and sharing!

I started a new book this week. I haven‘t gotten far yet, as it was a busy week and I was out for dinner twice as well. I decided to finally start working on my Adrian Tchaikovsky backlog….

Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt, #1)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

It feels very much like epic fantasy, but it also has steampunk elements, which messes with my head. People are either like ants or like beetles, one of them has features of a mantis. The bad guys are wasp-like, with wings…. I‘ve only read the first chapter, so I barely scratched the surface. Here is the first sentence:

After Stenwold picked up the telescope for the ninth time, Marius said, ‘You will know first from the sound.’

Not a bad first line. We jump straight into the action and there is build-up straight away. What will I know from the sound? What sound? A telescope in Fantasy? Nine times, something is up, obviously…. Good one! I hope it keeps going like that, because my secondhand paperback is over 600 pages with relatively small print.

In other news, The StoryGraph has added a streak tracker. And as I am slightly OCD about my pages & minutes tracking, I was allover this like white on rice… Sadly the new feature only starts tracking from the new year, otherwise I would have had a really nice streak from the start. My tracking was spotless in 2021 and 2022. Anyway, it‘s opt-in and the standard setting is 1 page or 1 minute per 1 day. I checked January and February and as this is my year of chilling and mood reading, I only changed the setting to 5 pages or 5 minutes…

Let‘s see if I can manage the full year!

Am I truly a sentient being? And does it matter?

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The unmissable follow-up to the highly acclaimed Children of Time and Children of Ruin.

The beginning was a bit confusing. Once the narrative started to come together and paint a picture, this was fun. The corvids are a truly wacky addition to this ever growing zoo of uplifted craziness.

The (not quite) linear timeline goes back and forth and happens simultaneously. Parts of the story are revealed in retrospect. Or are they? What a cool idea. I got very suspicious of the plot eventually, but the ultimate outcome did take me by surprise and was very depressing and then uplifting.

One of Tchaikovsky‘s recurring themes: otherness, being something else and trying to bridge the gap, first contact. We have our humans, Humans, octopuses and spiders, artificial intelligence and more. And struggle and hate and wanting to help. And terraforming. And sentience and how it is defined. Very good. I hope there will be another novel in this universe, picking up where this one left off.

I enjoyed the audio narration by Mel Hudson.

Adrian Tchaikovsky: From Star to Star

I grew up reading science fiction, and I wanted to write a science fiction book as well as all of this fantasy stuff. I decided I would do a science fiction book and then go back to the fantasy because that’s the bread and butter. I guess I had this crazy idea, ‘I’m going to write a book about giant spiders in outer space.’ I think it was basically just luck that the publisher at Pan Macmillan said, ‘We better just humor him and let him do this weird spider book and get it out of his system, and then we can go back to the swords and things.’

Thank you, Pan Macmillan!

Currently reading…

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:

And her Traveling Poetry Emporium: — 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.

And the void is staring back at you…

Eyes of the Void (The Final Architecture, #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author), Sophie Aldred (Narrator)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The sequel and middle book. I really liked Shards of Earth, it was one of my favourites of last year and a great adventure yarn of a misfit crew and found family. Ambitious space opera. 

I struggled to stay focused though. So many characters, ships, planets, alien races and concepts. And there seems to be so much filler and endless talking. I think picking the audiobook was the wrong choice in this case. 

The audiobook narration is well done, if slightly over the top and a little grating at times. The complex and very dense story had me constantly struggling to keep everybody and everything straight. My mind kept wandering off, waiting for some action and plot progression.

So, great concept, world building, plot and well-fleshed out, likeable characters, but the execution of this story just didn‘t captivate me. I had to make an effort to make it to the end, it was a slog. I would pick up another book in the series though, when it is published, to get closure on all those unresolved plotlines.

My next audiobook is:

Dead Silence (Audiobook) by S.A. Barnes

Titanic meets The Shining in S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, a SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn’t yet ended.

From the book blurb

They only eat people sometimes

Ogres by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s always idyllic in the village until the landlord comes to call. Because the landlord is an Ogre. And Ogres rule the world, with their size and strength and appetites. It’s always been that way. It’s the natural order of the world. And they only eat people sometimes.

From the book blurb

The POV of this novella is very smartly done. We experience everything from the eyes of a main character that has a very narrow field of vision and knowledge of the world he lives in. So we also know very little at first of this seemingly pastoral and feudal world of humans in a society governed by ogres. We take every step of discovery with him. And it’s quite a stunning list of discoveries for him. Very little of what he believes to be true turns out to be real. 

I missed emotional expressions. The inner landscape of our main character was laid out in a pretty sterile fashion. I made no real connection to him and found it hard to like or emphasize with him, even during the truly horrible events of his life. Nothing seemed to have a real impact on him. However, the story as such was a very smart one.

The final head twister is a real bummer. Nicely done, Mr. Tchaikovsky!

PS: 2nd person narrative, ugh. I am not a fan of that. But I got over it.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher or author through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.

The Architects may be back. And they’re still angry.

Shards of Earth (The Final Architects, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky is one of my favourite books of 2021. You can read my review here. An excellent piece of space opera with great world building and a nicely imagined ensemble cast, that reminded me a little of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

The Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author of Children of Time brings us an extraordinary new space opera about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all.

I listened to the the audiobook, narrated by Sophie Aldred. It‘s worth getting, she is good. She also narrated his Doors of Eden, another book with very imaginative world building.

I think that fans of the author know by now that the man is a writing machine. I was very happy to discover that part 2 of this trilogy, Eyes of the Void (The Final Architecture Book 2), will already be published at the end of April. I hope there will be an audio again, with the same narrator.

Mentioning Small, Angry Planet obviously reminds me again, that I still want to continue with that series. Maybe I‘ll manage to get to A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers in 2022…

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

More Tchaikovsky…

Shards of Earth (The Final Architects, #1)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky,  Sophie Aldred (Narrator)

I started reading this as an ebook, but then switched to the Audible version, after realizing that I do like and know the audiobook narrator, Sophie Aldred. So far, so good!

The Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author of Children of Time brings us an extraordinary new space opera about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all.

The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery . . .

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

When I read the name of the MC, all I could think was… Idris Elba! Full review to come. I am about 30% in and already love the crew of this salvage vessel. Obviously, things go to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly, as they tend to go in this kind of story!

Good introduction here: Shards of Earth review: A rip-roaring space opera with a psychic twist

Don‘t read it, if you want to go into the book completely spoiler free!

And there is a good author interview here. It was really interesting to read about his working day and writing process. I actually skipped the parts where he talks about this book, as I was afraid to spoiler myself too much.

Sophie Aldred also narrated his The Doors of Eden, which I did not love, but liked enough to read a sequel, if one should materialize. Looks unlikely though.

One of my reading buddies mentioned that Shards reminds him of the books by Peter F. Hamilton. My success rate with Hamilton is pretty checkered, from DNF to loving them. Maybe worth another try..

We are trekking across the universe…

Children of Ruin (Children of Time #2)Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In case you wonder over the course of this book, the word octopus has three possible plurals:
Plural 1: the octopuses
Plural 2: the octopi
Plural 3: the octopodes

This book is just so funny, with the jumping spiders and those wacky, overemotional octopi…

I struggled a bit with the latter part of the book. It was hard to follow by audio (aka I kept getting distracted and missed bits and pieces). Maybe (definitely) it was me, audio still sometimes stumps me and my scatter brain wanders off. I might have to read the actual words at some point or listen again.

The world building was fabulous and even more complex than the first book. All the details of the various societies, the development over the ages, the historical context, the shift between various timelines, I loved it.

Excellent ideas, how an alien, tentacled, multi-brained species could evolve and function. In all its chaotic glory.

Language and communication can be so fascinating!

Great characterisations. The audio narration was top notch. Kern was so well done.

I wonder what dog-sized spiders in spacesuits look like?

“We’re going on an adventure!“
(Sorry, Justine, had to quote that as well!)

5 starfish-thingies

View all my reviews