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

Wrapping up that challenge…

I don‘t think I will adding anything else to this challenge, so here is a round-up of the #ReadBIPOC2021 challenge. I finally turned to some books that had lingered much too long on my TBR already and discovered something new as well. Definitely a good challenge

Reading Writers of Color 2021

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JanuaryBloodchild — Becoming — https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2020/1…

My first Octavia Butler and it was good. Butler voices her surprise in the afterword, that readers see this as a story of slavery. But are we looking at symbiosis or at a parasitic relationship? Is it really consent in a situation, where your personal rights have been curtailed and there are no equal rights? I think not. Interesting. And worth reading. 

I also enjoyed the audiobook narrated by Michelle Obama. I watched a short documentary with her about the Becoming booktour as well. Obviously she has a lot of important things to say about empowerment, education, equal rights—you name it—, but my primary interest really was to get to know her a little better and look behind the facade. Reading about the banana yellow car of her husband, for example. Or about going to couple‘s counseling. And I enjoyed the ride quite a bit, up until the part where she and her husband embarked on their presidential campaign. 

FebruaryThe Story of Human Language  — https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2021/0…
It was interesting, even with some bits in between that dragged a bit. The accompanying pdf was open most of the time, while I listened to the lectures. Good enough to consider further offerings by The Great Courses.

MarchDavid Mogo, Godhunter — https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2021/0…
One of the 5-star reads of 2021. Let‘s call it Godpunk. Gods have rained down on Lagos, the capital of Nigeria. We enter the story some time later, into the dystopian society that has developed here in the aftermath. David Mogo, our 1st person narrator, is a demi-god working as an illegal godhunter. This is really 3 novellas stuck together. I learned a lot about Nigeria and Lagos, looking up something or other frequently.

AprilDawn — Elatsoe — https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2021/0…

My second visit with Octavia E. Butler. I liked Bloodchild, but Dawn didn‘t work for me. Struggling with consent issues again. The book hasn‘t aged well. The plot felt too simplistic, there was no real suspense, no great twists or massive surprises.

Elatsoe came recommended by a friend. Yes, it‘s Young Adult, not my favourite genre. But it looked interesting. Author and female main character are Lipan Apache. And while I didn‘t bite my nails, the story was not bad and the writing was good. Essentially it‘s UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. My favourite gadget: instant teleportation via fae ring.

JuneA Dead Djinn in Cairo — The Haunting of Tram Car 015 — A Master of Djinn — The Murders of Molly Southbourne — Farmhand, Vol. 1: Reap What Was Sown — Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices #1 — https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2021/0…

The month of by P. Djèlí Clark. Great stuff. Egypt, Cairo, Djinns, ghuls, sorcerers, magic, airships, gas light, aerial trams… steampunk plus electricity. A fun universe.

Molly Southbourne was weird, disturbing, creepy. Slightly disgusting in parts. It was like a train wreck—pretty horrible, but I couldn‘t look away. The writing is very good though. I was totally immersed in the story, the characters and Molly‘s world.

Both comics were good, if not Earth shattering..

JulyDominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora — https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2021/0…
Reading this anthology took a while. It is a very strong anthology. Even the stories that didn‘t fully grab me gave me plenty to think about. Recommended! 

AugustRosewater — https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2021/0…
My second Tade Thompson of the year. An alien lands on Earth, burrows into the ground and presents as a illuminated dome. A shanty town develops around it. Eventually there is a opening through which something escapes and heals people. A city called Rosewater springs up around the alien dome, benefitting from these regular healings. We follow Kaaro, a „sensitive“, in the employ of some shady secret agency. I can appreciate the inventive world building, but the rest was a slog. The whole thing felt pretty pointless to me and I actively disliked Kaaro.

OctoberWas weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen – non-fiction — https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2021/0…
Alice Hasters is a German journalist, writing about institutionalized racism in Germany, drawing from her own experiences growing up in Cologne. I don‘t think this book has been translated into English. The title would be: What white people don’t want to hear about racism (but should know). I liked the book. Hasters writes well, narrates well, gives good examples and presents her arguments objectively. The book doesn‘t delve deeply into the topic and is surprisingly non-critical. Quiet a short piece, a bit on the shallow side. A good starting point.

Sorry for not linking it all properly, I felt a bit lazy… Anyway, good challenge, I enjoyed taking part and had fun researching books for the various prompts. I found a few authors that I plan to pick up again.

Did you take part in any entertaining challenges this year? Which challenges are you planning to takle next year?

The Master was less fun than the Acolytes

A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn Universe, #1)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fatma, Siti and Hamed are back. Promising start with likable characters, but a very slow plot. It took me two weeks to make it a third into the story, with several days of not wanting to pick it up. I thought it was me and was disappointed that this wasn‘t a fun rollercoaster ride, sweeping me along. I almost abandoned it, but instead skimmed through the denser passages in the middle to make some progress. Less filler would have been good. 

For example the convention in the middle with all those dignitaries served no real purpose. It added to the complexity of the world, but it did not really bring the plot forward or could have happened as a shorter scene. Maybe Clark had another short story/novelette in his hand and blew it up to novel length by expanding the word count, without actually adding significantly to the story?

I did like the development of Siti a lot. Fatma felt a little more one-dimensional than previously and Hamed and Onsi sadly where only small side characters. Nonetheless it was fun to encounter them again.

I liked the last part of the book, so if I disregard the middle, this was a good book. The Djinn are complex, multi-faceted and definitely not one-dimensional. It‘s nice that even the bad guys have personalities and are not just victims of circumstance. Still, this book was nowhere nearly as good and entertaining as the prequel stories.

You can definitely read this as a stand-alone novel, but for more enjoyment I recommend to first read the two novelettes and the short story that came before this:

Dead Djinn in Cairo: Goodreads review | WordPress review

The Angel of Khan el Khalili: Goodreads review | WordPress review

The Haunting of Tram Car 015: Goodreads review | WordPress review

+*+*+
This is part of my #ReadBIPOC2021 challenge (entry for June).

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

First Line Friday — Space, Egypt and New York…

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab your nearest book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.


I have three buddy reads planned for June.

The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin

I’LL MAKE MY REPORT AS IF I TOLD A STORY, FOR I WAS taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.

First line

I started this four days ago and have managed the first three chapters, which brought me to page 53. It’s not doing much for me so far. I spent yesterday reading fanfiction rather than continuing this.

The writing is good, but the style is not engaging me. It‘s probably also not quite what I was expecting. I read the blurb and thought „genderless society, lots of commentary and exploration about their personal interactions and divergence compared to our society“, but so far I only met guys talking politics. And the main character, who I thought was an ambassador, comes across as someone mostly not really interested in what is going on. Odd.

Ok, maybe I should have expected something slow and not obvious, considering that this was first published in 1969. So far this reminds me of Foreigner, which was also a book of only middling success for me. I will read something else and then return to this later this month.

Next up, I guess, is this:

One Last Stop (Kindle Edition)
by Casey McQuiston

SEEKING YOUNG SINGLE ROOMMATE FOR 3BR APARTMENT UPSTAIRS, 6TH FLOOR. $700/MO. MUST BE QUEER & TRANS FRIENDLY. MUST NOT BE AFRAID OF FIRE OR DOGS. NO LIBRAS, WE ALREADY HAVE ONE. CALL NIKO.

Header above chapter 1

I just read the first two pages and this sounds like a much better read for my long weekend, sitting on my balcony with a cold glass of white wine… it also fits well into this LGBTQ+ and Pride Month.

Last but not least I will read:

A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn, #1)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Fatma blinked at the tirade. Of all the djinn these two had to go and wake up, it had to be a bigot.

From the teaser posted at the beginning

Oh, this will be fun! I just had a peek at the first page and then had to forcibly remove myself from the book a page or two later, to finish this post. Promising! And not looking good for Ursula Le Guin…

Perilous public transport

The Haunting of Tram Car 015
by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The third novelette set in Clark‘s alternate Cairo of 1912, full of Djinn, ghuls and mechanized angels. I was looking forward to meeting Fatma from A Dead Djinn in Cairo again. Instead we are introduced to Agent Hamed of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, his new sidekick, rookie Onsi and a haunted tram car…

My favourite scene was the moment when they arrive at the top of Ramses Station and get a view of airships, various dirigibles and those tram lines criss-crossing the sky above Cairo. Great visual. The scenery in general is a great mix of the old Cairo and Clark‘s imagined steampunk city anyway.

The investigative story is a good one, too. Although it slacks off somewhat in the middle. Still good, but the beginning and build-up were stronger storytelling than the climax of it all.

Good characterizations, also for the supporting characters. There is some gender ambiguity there as well and a sentient automata, so plenty of material to expand upon in the upcoming book. I wonder if we will meet some of them again in A Master of Djinn?

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.