Swimming through Space under the Roof of the World…

Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 200, May 2023 

6220 words, 20 pages, short story.

A story told by a tentacled and shelled mollusk. They are in Space and above them is the roof of the world. There is a disturbance. I was pretty convinced what or where this space and the roof really are—I was not quite right. Interesting and well written. 
4/5 🐙🦑🐙🦑 

“Scog hung in space, close enough to the Roof of the World so she could faintly hear her pulses echoing back from its jagged hardness. Coming back from everything in the area, those pulses told her of almost everything around her out to past the distance where it could be dangerous.“

Can be read for free here.

I have never read anything by Turtledove before. A gazillion of his books are included in my Audible subscription and the Internet mostly recommends to start with In the Balance. I added it to my Audible pile, which is starting to develop massive proportions. I am not too keen though, neither World War II nor Alternate History are high on my preferred reading list.

Also available by Turtledove for free on Clarkesworld: The Yorkshire Mammoth (7370 words)

Dewey’s — Relay Sprint 1 — April 22

For the week leading into our readathon we’ll be doing a series of 2 day ’sprints‘ For each one, pick your TBR and see how many books/pages/hours you…April 2023 Reading Relay

Relay Sprint 1 – April 22-23

Currently reading:
Dogs of War, ebook — I finished this one last night, read 79 pages yesterday (Saturday).
Swordheart, audio — listened for 1 hour 27 minutes yesterday.
Fables Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers, e-comic — read 56 pages of this yesterday.

I started Ocean Grave by Matt Serafini this morning. It‘s a creature feature and from Kindle Unlimited. With the purchase of my new Kindle I got a free three month subscription. And this time I really want to make a dent in my KU want-to-read list.

That looks like a giant turtle on that cover, right?

On their honeymoon in Madagascar, a young couple are drawn into the hunt for lost treasure. Their search grabs the attention of a bloodthirsty pirate who intends to seize the riches for himself. The seedy government agents on his trail have their own reasons for wanting it too. And they’re all in the path of a creature long thought extinct. A creature that has turned the world’s third largest ocean into a hunting ground. A creature that is about to turn their dreams of fortune and glory into a nightmare from which there’s no escaping.

Book blurb

I‘ve only read 22 pages so far. I met the bride and the pirate and in the prologue there was a Hollywood actress on a motorboat/yacht, finding her travel companions drifting in bits and pieces in the red water surrounding the boat.

Carly Grayson woke and at once remembered she was on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Her heart drummed so hard the bed sheets did little jumping jacks over her chest.

First paragraph of the prologue

That‘s the Hollywood actress, waking up with an anxiety attack… 🤷‍♀️ And the pirate:

Maxamed Abir Kaahin stepped off the twin-engine plane in Algeria and had not a moment to reflect on the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea as it lapped against the golden dunes beyond the slim strip of runway.

First line of the first chapter

Starting on chapter 3 now, I hope it starts getting more interesting soon. So far it‘s still set-up.

(PS: I added this to the First Line Friday Link-up)

Deep sea not of this Earth…

The Sea in the Sky
by Jackson Musker

This feels a bit like a primer on deep sea diving at first. Despite that there was very little science in this science fiction. There was a lot of character chatter that could have taken place in any kind of novel. Then there is some drama, obviously. I have to confess that I did not care. The voice acting did not convince me. I considered a DNF, but the last three chapters turned up with something interesting after all.

I was disappointed that the sound effects did not include more atmospheric sounds, aka the sounds of the ship diving through the ocean, wind, ice, etc. Instead there was this meditation music soundtrack. And for parts with more tension, the tempo of that soundtrack just sped up. Less Zen-music and more planetary background noises would have been nice.

Bottomline, nice idea, the plot was not a bad one after all. But the execution did not really grab me. It was ok. Right now I would not get anything else in this world or from this author on Amazon Originals. Probably.

This is the first book I finished in 2023. I joined an Alphabet Challenge on StoryGraph—not so much to motivate me to read more, but as a decision helper to pick my next read from my TBR shelf. I will start with my physical bookshelf and if I don‘t find a matching letter there, move on to my ebook shelf. And if I still don‘t have a matching letter, I will count my physical books and let a random number generator pick for me. That‘s the plan, anyway. For now the letter S is ticked off!

And besides tracking the origin countries of my read authors, I will also take a note of the book settings and publishing years. I don‘t think StoryGraph does that… The start looks like this:

book location / setting (Location)

Outer Solar System
Enceladus (moon, Saturn) — 1

book published in… (Year)
2020 — 1

Anachronistic climate fic — the last days of the British Empire…

The Drowned World
by J.G. BallardWill Self (Introducer), James Boswell (Illustrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A look at the near future after an astronomical disaster, leading to a large-scale climate change and flooding of the world.

Very reflective, with great imagery and an interesting take on mental regression, brought on by nature returning to an earlier geological age. From my edition‘s introduction: “haunting tale of de-evolution amid the fetid swamps and submarine cities of a second Triassic Age…“

I liked the first half, aka the setting of the scene, but the later part felt a bit…. too slow and esoteric? 

Probably visionary at the time of publication, parts of this novella have not aged well. During the first three chapters I kept wondering how the details of this story would have looked like, if it had been written now instead of 60 years ago.

The way the black characters were depicted is problematic from today‘s point of view, with a pretty casual racism. And the only female character was stuck in the last century instead of 200 years in the future, reduced to her looks. Add some dinner jackets and this felt very much like the last days of the British Empire. I wonder if Ballard could not have come up with something less stereotypical and a more futuristic setting. All the technology, for example the diving equipment and the ships, definitely felt like the middle of the 20th century.

I liked the relationship between the three central characters, what little there was, but was also bored through wide stretches of this read. Finishing this was pure stubbornness.

Apparently a retelling of Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness. Which I have not read, so I can‘t say how it compares.

Haunted House at the bottom of the ocean

From Below
by Darcy Coates

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Divers find a wreck very deep down and want to solve the puzzle of why this cruise liner disappeared many decades ago. My Spooktober pick. I expected something pretty fast with a high body count of gruesome deaths and maybe some deepsea monster. However, this is a ghost story… mostly… with a very slow build-up. The main narrative is interspersed with short chapters going back to 1928, telling of the last few days of the Arcadia before she sinks.

A haunted-house story at the bottom of the sea, with the added claustrophobia of being far down, with a lot of water overhead, a limited amount of breathable air, unreliable team members and no fast rescue when something goes wrong. It all turns pretty creepy eventually.

Character and plot development were decent, despite the slow build-up it was a pretty quick and entertaining read. I looked up the author and she seems to write a large amount of haunted-house horror stories. It that is your jam, she might be your author!

PS: as a recreational diver with an advanced open water certification I had to suspend disbelief a few times. But for a light horror read it was ok and not so far off the mark that I was put off.

Sloan McPherson, Pirate Cop.

The Girl Beneath the Sea (Underwater Investigation Unit, #1)
by Andrew Mayne (Author), Susannah Jones (Narrator)

New to me author that I picked up because of the glowing reviews of a goddreads friend, along the lines of „guilty pleasure“. My usual brain candy is romance or creature feature horrors, but why not! Added bonus: the main character, aka the titular girl beneath the sea, is a scuba-diving police officer in South Florida, dipping underwater for fornsic reasons. I love all things underwater.

Ok, so she goes diving and finds a corpse that has practically been murdered and tossed in the water while our MC was down there. Her dad is a treasure hunter and her uncle is in jail for drug trafficking, so naturally she comes under suspicion right away. To save herself and solve the case, she has to team up with the police officer that arrested her uncle and wrecked her youth. What else could go wrong?

Nothing special, but entertaining enough for a long trip by train. I might even be tempted to pick up the next one in the series.

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.

Top Ten Tuesday — Adjective In the Title

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.


This week‘s topic / March 22: Books With an Adjective In the Title

Tricky topic. Lets see what I can did up on my shelf. For variety‘s sake I‘ll start with the books I added to my shelves last and work backwards…

Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings — my latest NetGalley addition: Two Ships. One Chance To Save The Future. Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space

The Art of Cursive Penmanship: A Personal Handwriting Program for Adults by Michael R. Sull — A practice guide to improve one‘s handwriting. We start with a discourse on the history and technicalities of handwriting. There is instructions on the correct sitting posture, how to place the paper, how to use your writing implement, on fountain pens and so on. Chapter 5 is the beginning of the practical part. That‘s roughly where I am right now. Haven‘t started with the exercises yet…

Ancestral Night (White Space, #1) by Elizabeth Bear — not quite sure why I added this one to my stack: A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from multi award-winning author Elizabeth Bear.

Dying Earths: Sixteen Stories from the Ends of Times by Sue Burke and others — sounds depressing, but I want to read Sue Burke‘s story: The writers and contributors to the little corner of the web called SFFWorld.com have brought together a collection of stories about a dying Earth. 

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes — this was a buddy read that I skipped. Everybody really liked it, so I got it after all: 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.

An Easy Job by Carrie Vaughn — short story, read it already… Carrie Vaughn is worth mentioning again.

The Black Coast (The God-King Chronicles, #1) by Mike Brooks — another buddy read that I skipped and my reading buddies all loved it: When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home . . .

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim — I like the original fairytale and the cover is pretty, so I couldn‘t resist: Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control.

Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds — two novelettes set in Revelation Space. And the blurb of one of them is something aquatic. I had to get it: In the seas of Turquoise live the Pattern Jugglers, the amorphous, aquatic organisms capable of preserving the memories of any human swimmer who joins their collective consciousness. Naqi Okpik devoted her life to studying these creatures—and paid a high price for swimming among them. 

Digital Divide (Rachel Peng, #1) by K.B. Spangler — not quite sure why I picked this one. Genre bender with cyborgs: Rachel Peng misses the Army. Her old life in Criminal Investigation Command hadn’t been easy, but she had enjoyed it. Now, as the first cyborg liaison to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police, Rachel is usually either bored senseless or is fighting off harassment from her coworkers.

Yes, not 100% certain that those are all adjectives… *shrugs*

What interesting reads have you added to your shelves recently?

Top Ten Tuesday—the ten best books of 2021

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.


This week‘s topic / December 28: Best Books I Read In 2021

These books haven‘t necessarily been released in 2021, that‘s just when I read them… I left out all of my re-reads of Dragonriders of Pern, The Expanse, The Imperial Radch, etc. etc.:

Rovers by Richard Lange — A horror book with a different take on vampires. Of Mice and Men with vampires and a biker gang. 

Shards of Earth (The Final Architects Trilogy, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky — Space opera with a touch of The Expanse and Babylon 5, with a great ensemble cast on a scrappy scavenger ship, fighting against the odds and pretty much everything else. The proverbial underdogs against the universe.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir — Mark Watney in space! And he sciences the sh*t out of his situation… so, yes, very much reminiscent of The Martian. And then some. I loved it and could barely put it down. So much fun! 

The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1) by Alastair Reynolds — On the surface this comes along as a police procedural in a SF setting. Dreyfus is a cop with a strong moral code of right and wrong, committed to justice. My first association was Miller from The Expanse, with a bit of Blade Runner and minus any projectile weapons. Space opera, ultimately, with the many and very varied habitats of the Glitter Band, artificial intelligences, body modifications, uplifted mammals, many political systems, states of being and an elaborate polling system — fascinating! 

David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — 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. An old wizard with dubious morals sends David Mogo off to catch two high gods, Taiwo and Kehinde. David is in need of money to fix his roof, so off he goes, despite his misgivings about this wizard. Obviously things don’t go as expected. 

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6) by Martha Wells — Muderbot is back in novella length. Snark and sarcasm abound. Just another crazy day, tracking down a murderer and making sure one’s humans don‘t come to harm. All the stars.

Leviathan Falls (The Expanse #9) by James S.A. Corey — A well done ending to the series. I did not expect it to go into the direction it did, so that was satisfying. It ends bittersweet, with some sadness, but also hope.

Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4) by C.J. Sansom — Historically pretty sound, as far as I can tell. Very homogenous. Full of suspense towards the end, could not put it down anymore. The murders are gruesome and reminiscent of a famous 90s movie. With the context of Henry VIII, his dissolution of the monasteries and the religious upheaval of that time it works well.

Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega, #6) by Patricia Briggs — The FBI shows up at the doorstep of Anna and Charles and asks for help. A village in the mountains has disappeared and something potentially evil lurks in the woods.

The Whale Library by Zidrou,  Judith Vanistendael — Pretty watercolours, a mature story about a whale who contains a large library, a postman delivering sea mail, his wife and a smattering of sailors, pirates, fish, sea turtles, octopi and more…

Besides this one I also read some very good more traditional graphic novels. But that probably needs another entry…

Pretty story about books, love and life…

The Whale Library
by Zidrou,  Judith Vanistendael (Illustrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

We learn to tell stories 
for the same reason we learn to swim. 
To keep from drowning. 
So let me tell you the story 
of a good friend of mine: 
a whale like no other. 
Behind her smile was hidden 
the world’s largest undersea library…

From the back flap

If you know me, you know that I love all things underwater and ocean. Plus a friend reviewed this and mentioned watercolours. So this was a no-brainer. 

Pretty watercolours, a mature story about a whale who contains a large library, a postman delivering sea mail, his wife and a smattering of sailors, pirates, fish, sea turtles, octopi and more…

I loved the parts with our narrator, the postman, and his pregnant wife. Lovely and humorous. 

About the love of books and other things. Poetic, funny, mellow, tragic and sad. No, it‘s not a sad ending per se. I was smiling, while I was fighting some tears…

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