Monday, August 31, 2015

The Breath of War, by Aliette de Bodard

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, March 2014

Rechan is pregnant, near term, and separated from her breath-sibling by distance and the last remnants of a war. There are special challenges to bearing a child on the world of Voc, and her baby won't survive if her breath-sibling isn't there to attend her. But unlike most young women, when it came time to carve her breath-sibling, Rechan didn't carve a stoneman or stonewoman, out of a stone block brought into her community. She ran away into the mountains, the source of the lamsinh stone that is used to carve breath-siblings, and carved--something else.

Now Rechan needs to reach her breath-sibling in the mountains, before she goes into labor. It's not going to be easy.

We discover the world as Rechan travels through it, and through meeting the people she meets. And in the mountains, something wonderful is waiting.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

John Scalzi is Not a Very Popular Author and I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels, by Theophilus Pratt

Hymenaeus House, August 2015

If the title seems a little out there, there's a reason.

Theodore Beale, a.k.a. Vox Day, leader of the Rabid Puppies faction in the slate attacks on this year's Hugo Awards for science fiction and fantasy, has been a bit obsessed with John Scalzi. He also rants a good deal about "SJWs"--"social justice warriors," who according to him and his friends are destroying science fiction by liking things the Puppies don't. Recently, he's released a book, promised for at least two or three weeks beforehand, entitled SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police, under his his online name, Vox Day. You can find it on Amazon, no problem.

Or you can get this book instead. It's a lot more fun.

This is a parody, a total send-up of Vox Day's book. SJWs Always Lie has two chapters 5; John Scalzi is Not a Very Popular Author has three chapters 5! Bonus! Theo Pratt (a.k.a. Alexandra Erin) reveals the true evil of the dread John Scalzi as Vox Day never truly can. His deviousness! His SJWness! His obviously terrible $3.4 million, ten-year contract with the equally dread Tor!

You can purchase the Kindle edition here, or true fans of the absurd can listen to the audiobook, read by John Scalzi, here. Why did John Scalzi read the audiobook version? To raise money for a science fiction fandom charity, Con or Bust. Click the link for the audiobook, and you'll find more information about Con or Bust, the fundraising, and the other bonus coming from Scalzi: a song he's commissioning, about his noted Not Very Popularity.

Click one of the links; go have fun!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

When It Ends, He Catches Her, by Eugie Foster

Daily Science Fiction, September 2014

This is a story that would have been on the 2015 Hugo ballot but for the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies slating.

Aisa is a dancer, or former dancer, dancing on an empty stage in an abandoned, decaying theater. She's dancing one of her favorite leading roles, except that in the last dance number, she should be dancing with partner, who is not there. The final, triumphant leap must be omitted, because Balege is not there to catch her.

And then there is applause from an audience of one.

The time and place are not clear. What is clear is that this is a society in collapse. Many have died; many are starving. Aisa is hungry. But Balege is there now; he's got the death plague, but they dance again. And Balege prods her memory,

There's a quiet horror here, as we discover what the real conditions are. There's also a victory of love, in the face of it.


Goodnight Stars, by Annie Bellet

The End is Now, Broad Reach Publications, ISBN 9781497484375, September 2014

Goodnight Stars

Lucy Goodwin and friends are camping and watching an exceptionally impressive meteor shower when something goes wrong. Heidi has claimed the moon looks "lopsided." Lucy's boyfriend Jack, an Afghanistan veteran, gets a message that the reserves are being activated--and it's the last contact they have before their phones can't get a signal anymore.

They head for the nearest gas station in the Jeep, and there's still TV reception there. Something hit the far side of the Moon, and did major damage, producing a major fall of space rocks onto Earth. It will cause an impact winter, which might last years.

Lucy's mother was an engineer working at a base on the far side of the Moon.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard

Gollancz, ISBN 9781473212558, August 2015

In a Paris that isn't our Paris, Houses led (mostly) by Fallen angels rule the city, in uneasy peace and much quiet conflict. The oldest of these Houses, Silverspires, was founded by Morningstar, the first and oldest of the Fallen.

But Morningstar vanished without warning twenty years ago, and his last apprentice, Selene, has led Silverspires since then. She's not as hard and ruthless as Morningstar, and that may not be a strength. The House is having problems, and its allies are perhaps becoming unreliable.

Meanwhile, a new Fallen has just fallen to Earth, in a bad section of the city, and a few members of a gang reaches her just before Selene does. Selene wants the Fallen alive and in Silverspires' care and service; the gang wants to dismember her for the magical artifacts they can make from her breath, blood, skin, and bones.

One of the gang, going by the name Philippe, is his own kind of strange, neither Fallen, nor ordinary, mortal human with no magic but what he can steal from angels. He's not comfortable cutting pieces off the injured and not yet fully awake Fallen, but he knows that if he doesn't make himself useful to the gang willingly, they'd be just as happy to dismember him.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild, by Catherynne M. Valente

Part 1 Clarkesworld, January 2015
Part 2 Clarkesworld, March 2015

Violet Wild is a young girl living in the Purple Country, in a world where countries are actually different colors, and words can have wildly different meanings in different countries. Violet's Mummery is a clarinaut,who pilots a Clarinet to all the different countries, and so is often away, leaving Violet with Papo and his herds. Violet has a friend named Orchid Harm, and they are very fond of each other, and he gets eaten by time squirrels. Not long after, Violet discovers her Mummery is having an affair with the Ordinary Emperor.

So Violet sets out through the assorted color countries with her pet sorrow (apparently, in most places, an elephant), and has adventures and encounters with various forms of metaphor. In one country, money means sorrow, and Violet has to pay for her meal by reliving grief. In another, money means time, and the meal is paid for with a dead time squirrel.

Her ultimate destination is the Red Country, and it's an open question whether she'll get there alive.

This is an odd and challenging story, not to be read unless you can devote your full and complete attention to it. I'm not sure yet whether I liked it or not.

Summer at Hideaway Key, by Barbara Davis

DAW, ISBN 9780451474582, August 2015

Lily St. Claire's father has died, and he's left her a cottage in Florida that she never knew he own. It's a surprise that he owned it because it had long belonged to her aunt, her mother Caroline's sister Lily-Mae, who died a year earlier. Lily's back from Paris, before heading to a new job with a major fashion design house in Italy, but she's got a month before she'll start there. Curious and frustrated by her mother's long-standing hostility and silence about Lily-Mae, and puzzled about why Lily-Mae left the cottage to her father, who then left it to her, Lily heads off for Sand Pearl Cottage in Hideaway Key, Florida.

What she finds there are new friends, and old, disturbing revelations about her mother, her aunt, her father, and even herself.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Daddy's World, by Walter Jon Williams

Amazon Digital Services, January 2013

Jamie is a little boy growing up in a safe, perfect world. Fun things happen here, like new parts of the world appearing, with entertaining creatures like the Whirlikins, or when he's a little older, the Roman Forum and Coliseum--complete with Cicero, and chariot races. Jamie does have dim memories of being in a hospital, but that was a long time ago, when he was very  little. Magical things happen in this world.

But Jamie starts to notice some strange and disturbing things. His little sister, Becky, is now older than he is. There are other anomalies.

There's a quiet horror building here, and we feel deeply for Jamie, and for Becky.

Maybe not quite so much for Daddy, even though he has the best of intentions.

Science fiction with a well-done thread of horror. Recommended.

I received a free ebook of this story from the author.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Hugo Awards, and Some Thoughts Thereon

Up till now, I've only reviewed the Hugo nominees for this year, and not blogged about the controversy about the nominations. Those who have been following the Hugos this year, though, will be well aware of the Sad Puppies, the Rabid Puppies, and the general fannish reaction to both the fact of the slating, and the perceived poor quality of nearly everything on the slates. (Excluding the Best Dramatic Presentation nominees, both Short and Long Form.)

Last night was this year's Hugo Awards ceremony, and the results are in. The complete Hugo voting results and statistics are available here. Note that this is a PDF. What the detailed results reveal is in some cases heartbreaking. Good work was kept off the ballot. The much-admired Eugie Foster's excellent "When It Ends, He Catches Her," might have made the ballot for Best Short Story without the Puppies' slating, and as she is new deceased, she won't get another chance. Works the Puppies would presumably have loved, including Brad Torgersen's The Chaplain's War and Charles E. Gannon's Trial by Fire, weren't on the slates, and appear to have just missed nomination because of that. [CORRECTION: Gannon's book was on the Sad Puppies slate, while the Rabid Puppies slate dropped it and added Torgersen's book.  It seems likely, therefore, that absent the slating, neither would have made the ballot anyway.] The Puppies didn't even serve their own interests well--at least the Sad Puppies' stated interest of getting overlooked, more politically conservative writers on the Hugo ballot. The Rabid Puppies claim their goal was always to "burn down the Hugos," though that's not what they were claiming at first. The Best Novel winner, The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, made the ballot at all only because Marko Kloos declined his slate-driven nomination for Lines of Departure. The Best Novelette winner, Thomas Olde Heuvelt's "The Day the World Turned Upside Down," likewise made the ballot only because John C. Wright's "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" was disqualified due to prior publication.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah (author), Polly Stone (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, February 2015

There's a frame story that begins with an old woman, in the US in 1995, preparing to move into assisted living, and quietly remembering her long-ago memories from the war as she goes through her possessions.

At the beginning of World War II, French sisters Vianne Mauriac and Isabelle Rossignol are estranged from each other and from their father, Julian Rossignol. The family was strained when Julian returned from the Great War shell-shocked, and shattered when his wife, the girls' mother, died a few years later. Isabelle was four, Vianne was fourteen, and Vianne was grieving too much to be the emotional refuge her sister needed when their father sent them to live with a stranger in the family's country home in the village of Carriveau. When the war starts, Vianne is still living in that family home, with her husband Antoine, and their daughter Sophie. Isabelle, now eighteen, meanwhile, is getting herself kicked out of yet another school and sent back to her father, who does not want her to stay in their Paris apartment.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Play Dead (Allie Babcock Mystery #1), by Leslie O'Kane

NYLA, November 2013 (original publication January 1998)

Allie Babcock has recently moved from Chicago back to Boulder, and is starting up a dog training business. She's found living quarters sharing a home with a neurotic woman, Kaitlyn Wayne, who is happy to have Allie's cocker spaniel, Doppler, living with them, but not her German shepherd, Pavlov, so Pavlov is staying with Allie's mother, about an hour out of town. Allie and Doppler visit them on weekends.

She's also found office space shared with Russell Greene, an electrical engineer who is afraid of dogs but rather sweet on Allie despite that.

And Allie gets a chance to boost her business with an interview on the Tracy Truett radio show. It's too bad that the station staff has just been told that the radio station is being closed down. It's Tracy's last broadcast, and she's had time to get drunk. In the midst of all this chaos, one of the few calls Allie gets to take is from Beth Gleason. Her collie, Sage, isn't eating, and she thinks it's because he saw his former owner murdered--although the police think it was suicide.

Allie schedules a meeting with Beth and Sage, and she has no idea how exciting her life is about to get.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho

Ace, ISBN 9780425283370, September 2015

This is a roughly Regency-era romance, in an England where magic works, the Sorcerer Royal is an important figure, and the Society of Unnatural Philosophers is a major institution. I say "Regency era" because Cho wisely refrains from peopling this world with familiar, historic names, and it at least appears that this England has a reigning king, not a regency.

Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal, is laboring under a few handicaps. The first and most visible is that he is African, a manumitted slave that the previous Sorcerer Royal, Sir Stephen Wythe, purchased as an infant and raised as his adopted son. Not everyone in English society shares Sir Stephen and Lady Maria Wythe's open-mindedness. Compounding the problem is that Zacharias succeeded to the Sorcerer Royal's staff when Sir Stephen died late one night, with no witnesses other than Zacharias and his own familiar, the dragon Leofric.  And no one has seen Leofric since.

Murder used to be the traditional means of acceding to the position of Sorcerer Royal, though it has been considered beyond the pale for several centuries.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Middle of Somewhere, by Sonja Yoerg

NAL/Penguin, ISBN 9780451472144, September 2015

Liz Pemberton and her boyfriend, Dante Espinoza, are heading out to hike the John Muir Trail in its entirety. Dante doesn't have any previous backpacking experience, and is to easily and endlessly social that he's delaying their start. Liz, on the other hand, is a very experienced backpacker, and had originally intended to make this hike alone, for solitude and a chance to think.

At first, we have the impression that Dante is a lightweight and a possible mistake, that Liz drifted into the relationship after her early widowhood, and bracing herself for taking back control of her life. The reality is very different. Over the early days of the hike, we realize that Liz is carrying a burden of guilt, and is bracing herself to make a confession to Dante that she believes will certainly end their relationship--but not because she wants it over.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Great Silence, by Allora (author), Calzadilla (author) Ted Chiang (author)

E-Flux, May 2015

Evidence continues to mount that parrots, and perhaps certain other birds (crows? ravens?) are much, much smarter then we would expect, extrapolating from what we know about brain structure, brain size, and intelligence in mammals. Alex, Irene Pepperberg's African Grey research partner who died at the tragically young age of thirty, broke amazing ground in our understanding of what parrots are capable of.

Meanwhile, we're devoting time, attention, and resources to looking for non-human intelligence elsewhere in the universe. Anywhere else but on Earth.

Are we overlooking the obvious? And how would we recognize and communicate with non-human intelligence if we did find it?

There's no action in this story. It's pure concept, a fascinating look at the world and humans from the mind of a parrot.


Friday, August 14, 2015

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, by Zen Cho

Zen Cho, May 2012

Jade Yeo is a Malaysian Chinese young woman living in London in the 1920s. Having originally come for an education, she is now earning her living writing articles for the thriving British magazine market. Her best market is the Oriental Literary Review, edited by another foreigner, a Hindi named Ravi. Her latest sale to him is a review of a book by the very prominent and respected Sebastian Hardie--and it's not a positive review. She thinks it's lazy and perfunctory compared to his earlier books, and says so.

This leads to her receiving an invitation to a party at the Hardie house, and meeting the tall, dark, and handsome Hardie.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Monkey King, Faerie Queen, by Zen Cho

Kaleidotrope, Spring 2015

The Monkey King is a Trickster figure, and this is one of his adventures. In an attempt to impress an attractive young female monkey, he goes bouncing from cloud to cloud, and he's not getting his bounces quite good enough for his own standards. So he keeps going, trying to perfect his technique, and winds up bouncing off a cloud and landing on the ground in an unfamiliar place. This turns out to be near the Faerie Court, and the Faerie queen's minions lead him in, thinking he'll be very entertaining for her.

They're puzzled when the drugged wine doesn't have much effect on him, and from there things spiral out of control for the Faerie Court.

There's lots of entertainment here, but it's for the reader, not the Faerie queen.


A Promise of Forever, by Marilyn Pappano

Forever (Grand Central Publishing), ISBN 9781455561568

Avi Grant is a US Army sergeant home on leave after five years in Iraq and Afghanistan, is glad to have a month in Oklahoma before going to her new assignment. After years of war, she'll be an instructor at the Signal school in Georgia. And after twelve years in the service, she's only eight years from retirement.

She's also dealing with a load of grief, though, Too many friends and fellow soldiers died, including Col. George Sanderson. He inspired her military career and has been like a second father to her, and he was killed just three months ago. One of the things Avi has to do is visit George's widow, Patricia.

What she doesn't expect is to meet Patricia's son from her first marriage, Ben Noble. Ben is handsome, smart, a respected orthopedic surgeon, and has never really gotten over resenting George Sanderson because his mother left his father for George.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

An Evolutionary Myth, by BO-Young Kim (author), Gord Sellar (translator), Jihyun Park (translator)

Clarkesworld Magazine, May 2015

A prince whose uncle has usurped the throne is trying to keep his head down and not be a threat. It doesn't help much; eventually his uncle sends assassins after him, and he escapes only because his eunuch takes his clothes and dies in his place. He flees into the wilderness.

The fantasy element here is that people, animals, probably even plants change form. Not wholly voluntarily, but in response to stresses, strains, needs, wants, desires. Our prince has had cat's eyes since adolescence. He might or might not be on four feet when he flees the palace. In the woods, he chats with an ex-human tiger, and becomes, in time, a lizard-like creature.

And the king keeps hunting him, by chance during a deer hunt, and intentionally when he's taken up residence in a river.

There's an overall darkness of tone, and a great sense of pointlessness. The magic seems arbitrary. Overall, this just did not work for me.

Not recommended.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Two Weeks Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind, by Erica L. Satifka

Lightspeed Magazine, June 2015

This is a cute little story with an edge of quiet horror running through it.

Maddie is making her bucket list, things she wants to do in her physical body before she, along with her family and the rest of humanity, get uploaded to a transhuman existence in cyberspace, a.k.a. "the Sing." We get a touching and real sense of Maddie as a young teen learning who she is as a person. Some items are crossed off, presumably accomplished; others not. There's a touch of pathos in both.

And we get a sense that Maddie perhaps has her doubts about this whole uploading thing, but doesn't see a way around it.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lessons from Tara: Life Advice from the World's Most Brilliant Dog, by David Rosenfelt

St. Martin's, ISBN 9781250065766, July 2015

In the early  nineties, David Rosenfelt met Debbie Myers, and her golden retriever, Tara. He didn't know it, but the course of his life was set. Marriage. Dogs. Dog rescue. Eventually, a series of mystery novels in which the protagonist is also a dog rescuer.

This book is a collection of essays about the things he learned, from Tara, that first dog, and from all the others after, living with anywhere from twenty to forty dogs once they were fully involved in rescue.

They didn't plunge into rescue immediately. At first they lived happily with their one, beloved dog. Then Tara, like too many Goldens, developed cancer. After months of treatment, they had to admit defeat and have her euthanized.

For months they were dogless, not ready for another dog. Then, wanting dogs in their lives, but not ready to adopt, they started volunteering at a local shelter--and they discovered how desperate the need for rescue is. It took a while, but the Tara Foundation was born.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Influence Isolated, Make Peace, by John Chu

Lightspeed Magazine, June 2015

At some unspecified point in the not very distant future, Jake is a cyborg soldier at the end of a war. The peace treaty says the cyborgs are to be destroyed; the high command is open to saying they did and letting the small number of cyborgs disappear into the general population if they can convincingly demonstrate that they can disappear into the general population.

The problem is, they can't. Jake and his squadmates look human; they used to be human. But they're physically too perfectly fit, too strong, too fast, and because they have essentially constant access to the internet and any other electronic information sources, it's hard for them to act as if they have only a reasonable human knowledge of anything. Jake and the rest of the cyborgs are, realistically, either going to disappear, or try to, without authorization, or they are going to be destroyed.

Children of the Comet, by Donald Moffitt

Open Road Media, ISBN 9781497678460, October 2015 (original publication March 2015)

The story opens with Torris, a young man of a Neolithic-level tribe living in a giant tree on a comet in the Oort Cloud, about to undergo his tribe's rite of passage. I didn't initially find this encouraging; how many previous books have I read featuring humans in the far future reverted to primitivism in unlikely settings? It was well done, however, and I kept reading.

And that was a good thing, as I discovered the starship Time's Beginning, in orbit around a planet named Rebirth, in a distant galaxy. Joorn Gant, captain of Time's Beginning, and his friend Delbert Karn, the ship's leading astrophysicist, have dramatically different views of what Time's Beginning should do, once this latest human colony is firmly established. Two of the oldest members of the crew, among a dwindling number born on Earth before departure, Gant wants to lead the Homegoing faction back to Earth, where Sol, now a red giant, will be shrinking again, with Earth emerging from its photosphere, while Karn wants to lead his even smaller faction of hardcore astrophysicists on an expedition to the edge of the universe, where the earliest galaxies formed--the original intent of the ship's name, before this became an expedition to seed human colonies as widely as possible, to ensure the survival of the species.

The colonists would prefer neither of these expeditions to happen; they want to keep the ship and dismantle it for its resources, including its remaining habitats, which increase the survival odds of the new colony by providing additional secure living spaces while they terraform.

The colonists don't prevail.

Gant and Karn reach a bargain, to take the ship back to Earth, and leave the Homegoers with some of the habitats, while the scientists take the ship and the remaining habitats off on their voyage of scientific discovery.

It's not that simple, of course, and the conflicts of competing interests reaches to the Sol system, and encompasses even the comet dwellers and their trees. There's also the conflict between Torris's tribe and the tribe on their nearest cometary neighbor, currently approaching close enough that bride raids are imminent.

Both the ship culture and the cometary culture are interesting, and the characters are interesting and worth getting to know. There's also a solid plot that keeps moving. A completely enjoyable light read.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Folding Beijing, by Hao Jingfang (author), KenLiu (translator)

Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2015

The science fictional concept at the core of this story is very interesting. China is coping with the high population of Beijing, both in space demands and the need to keep people employed while technological progress makes workers less necessary, by "folding" the city. Literally. The same geographical territory is divided into three "spaces," with two of them folded up, collapsed, underground, with its residents cocooned and unaware at any given time. Five million, the richest, highest ranking, and/or most skilled, live in First Space.Twenty-five million, the middle class more or less, live in Second Space. Fifty million, the workers at the grubbiest, most physically demanding and distasteful jobs, live in Third Space.

Lao Dao is a sanitation worker, living in Third Space. He wants his little girl to go to a good kindergarten, and have a chance at a more prosperous life, but that takes money he doesn't have, and can't really save on his sanitation worker salary. So he takes an under-the-table job taking a message from a man in Second Space to a woman in First Space whom he is courting.

This is a fascinating exploration of some of the effects and ramifications of this organization of society. Lao Dao is likable, engaging, well-intentioned, and flawed. Those he encounters are likewise human, understandable, and imperfect.

I'll be interested to see more from Hao, if and when more is available.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Charmed and Strange, by Maggie Secara

Unsung Stories, July 2015

This is an odd little story.

Callista and Reynaldo are insubstantial energy beings. Callista, at least, used to be an ordinary human being, Reynaldo found her, and chose to introduce her to life as a collection of electrons. In the centuries since, they have alternated: one of them at a time can incorporate into physical form. Only one of them can; there's a catalyst that only one can use at a time.

They don't always agree on whose turn it is.

And they both crave unfamiliar experiences.

The character development here is compact and effective.

I'm not sure I enjoyed it, but it's interesting and different. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Midnight Hour, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Uncanny Magazine, July/August 2015

King Lennart and his queen have a problem. Mostly, twenty-three hours a day, the problem is the queen's, and the king's other advisers. The king is only sane and lucid one hour a day, from midnight to 1am.

Call the cause a curse, or call it a bargain with a witch, but It's the price for stopping a plague, and they have to live with the terms of the curse, or bargain, for seven years. Any violation of the terms will result in Lennart regaining his sanity early--and in the plague returning to kill their people. They've held out for five years, but now a foreign prince has arrived at court, on a mission to break the curse. It's not at all clear whether he doesn't understand the full consequences, or does, and is out to damage a rival kingdom.

But for the queen, and Lennart in his rational hour, it doesn't matter. The prince has to be stopped.

This starts off as a seemingly ordinary fairy tale setting with pseudomediavel court setting. Kowal, in the tight confines of a short story, builds the characters of the queen, the king, and their closest advisers and supporters. It's beautifully done.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Bright Lines, by Tanwi Nandini Islam

Penguin Books, ISBN 9780143123132, August 2015

This is a really engrossing immigrant family drama, parts of which feel very familiar, not that different from the experiences of my mother's family. Immigrant parents, American children, family left behind in the old country, old family issues that didn't disappear because they moved away.

The difference, of course, is that this family are Muslims from Bangladesh.

Anwar and Hashi Saleem have built a good life in Brooklyn, where they have raised their daughter Charu and their orphaned niece Ella--daughter of Hashi's brother and his wife, murdered by old enemies from the war years. Ella is in college now; Charu has just graduated high school and will start college in the fall. Anwar runs Anwar's Apothecary, selling herbal  health and beauty products which he makes himself. Hashi operates a beauty salon out of a portion of their house.

All four have a summer of discovery and upheaval ahead of them.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Soul Meaning (Seventeen #1), by A.D. Starling (author), Michael Bower (narrator)

AD Starrling, July 2015 (original publication February 2012)

Lucas Soul has a problem. There are people who are trying to kill him, and they've just succeeded--for the fifteenth time.

There are two immortal races, the Crovirs and the Bastians, who share Earth with humans. They were at war with each other for millennia, until an uneasy truce was reached at the time of the Black Death. But one thing is still absolutely taboo: intermarriage, or more specifically breeding, between Crovir and Bastian.

Lucas Soul is the son of a Crovir father and a Bastian mother. His mother and father were murdered when he was a small boy, and he was killed for the first time. For centuries they hunted him, and killed him another thirteen times.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Finches of Mars, by Brian W. Aldiss

Open Road Integrated Media, ISBN 9781504002134, August 2015 (original publication 2012)

This is not an easy book.

Humans have established a colony on Mars. It's driven and funded by an international consortium of universities--the United Universities, or UU. The colony consists of six towers, of which the West, Chinese, and Sud-Am towers figure most prominently in the story. The colonists have been chosen for atheism and emotional stability. It's not altogether clear that they succeeded on the second point. Among the odd choices made is that the colonists get assigned computer-generated names, meaning nothing, to symbolize having cut their ties to Earth. It's as if they've established a sixties commune, more than a colony on Mars, in some respects.

The big problem haunting the colonists is that, ten years in, they've had a long series of miscarriages and stillbirths and horribly deformed babies that didn't live even five minutes, but no successful live births. The colony seems doomed.