Jimmy Vik is one of the best deep-space miners the Company has, but it’s a tough gig, and Jimmy’s no spring chicken. So when he finds a hidden pocket of gold ore nestled deep in shaft 57, a world of possibilities springs to mind. But failing to report a cache of precious metal carries a death sentence, and getting it off-station isn’t a job for one man. Soon Jimmy finds himself in cahoots with a two-bit con man, forced to manipulate his ex-lover/current supervisor, and dodging a lethal assassin from a major crime syndicate, all in the hopes of starting a better life.
Shea is spot-on with character development, and the premise of Off Rock isn’t bad, yet both succumb to the incredibly slow pacing of the story. Nothing of note really starts happening until well past the half-way mark. And even though we’re being transported to the centuries-away future of 2778, there’s a strangely anachronistic and less-than-sci-fi feel to certain elements of the story, such as gold still being a rare enough metal to kill for. Where are the dimensional crystals or quantum titanium? Where are the cool gadgets? In short, where’s the futurism in this sci-fi story?
After delighting growing fans with a classic ghost story in Heart-Shaped Box and a tale of terrifying horror in NOS4A2, in his latest tome, weighing in at 768 pages, Joe Hill presents his world on the edge of apocalypse. No one really knows how or where it started, but wildfires are tearing through the country and they’re being cause by people. Now, when I say “people,” I literally mean people are bursting into flame and starting these fires.
Doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton, but everyone else refers to it as Dragonscale. It’s a highly contagious spore, and you know you’ve got it when you find these lustrous black and gold bands on your body. It’s unknown what happens in between getting the scale and spontaneously combusting, but there are a lot of people burning up, and society is starting to fall apart. There are roving gangs looking to put an end to anyone with the Dragonscale, to prevent it spreading further. Meanwhile, the government says it’s working on a cure, but really has no idea what it’s doing. Things escalate and continue to get worse and worse.
Our story focuses on Harper Grayson, a talented and compassionate nurse who cares greatly for others and is working her butt off with the current crisis. Her husband, Jacob, barely sees her and doesn’t really get why she’s trying to save all these people with Dragonscale. When Harper contracts the spore, he goes off the deep end mentally, and it turns into a very different relationship. Harper doesn’t need convincing and tries to get the heck out of dodge, but Jacob has other plans. Harper makes it out of the house, but the maniac formerly known as her husband, is after her. That’s when the tall drink of water with a British accent known as The Fireman comes to save the day.
Harper joins a commune where they have apparently mastered the power of Dragonscale. By joining together and singing, they are able to control the incendiary ferocity of the disease and keep themselves alive and well. But, in any group fighting to survive, tensions are strained, and stress is at an all-time high and things turn into a kind of Lord of the Flies situation. But there is a rumor that has become legend of an island off the coast of Maine where they are taking in people with Dragonscale, where they can live a nice, normal life without prejudice or persecution.
The Fireman is a wonderfully original tale that takes a few elements like plague and fire and churns them into a compelling story. As with all stories of an apocalyptic nature, it is ultimately about the choices and decisions that people make to survive. Hill’s characters are varied and interesting and definitely give the novel and realistic feel. The middle of the book lags a little and, overall, could have had some pages editorially excised, as the downturn of the commune gets pretty predicable and uninspiring. But the last third of the book is nonstop action, and, even though Joe Hill seems to suffer from his dad’s problem of executing a good ending for the book, The Fireman is a fun escape from you mundane life into a world of fire and fighting and people who give a damn.
The Midnight Land: Part One: The Flight
The Midnight Land: The Flight by E. P. Clark is an impressive debut novel in scope and talent. Part one in a fantasy series influenced heavily by Russia and its lore, The Midnight Land: The Flight follows the journey of Slava, the Empress’s younger sister. Gifted with clairvoyance and the ability to see into people hearts and reveal their true nature, she is both powerful and powerless. Suffocating under the Kremlin’s brew of toxic emotions when offered a chance to join an expedition off to map out the Midnight Lands to the far north she takes it and begins to grow into her own. Still, out in the wilderness, she will have more to contend with than just the cold.
I really enjoyed The Midnight Land: The Flight by E. P. Clark it’s an original, and ambitious fantasy, perfectly executed. It starts off slow, but not ploddingly so, and Clark does enough to grab your interest and hold it from the very first line. She sets it in a matriarchal culture, but does it in a way that really brings to light some of the embedded aspects of our own male-centric culture while peppering it with a range of strong and assertive female characters.
Slava herself is quieter, used to life in the Kremlin and living in the shadow of her sister, but she almost seems to go through a coming of age arc, as she gets stronger in her magic and more confident in herself. I often thought she was younger than she actually was until the story progressed further. A great story that part epic saga, part fairy tale and part fantasy, The Midnight Land: The Flight and one that I can’t wait to read more of.
Dreams of Distant Shores
World Fantasy Award-winning author, Patricia A. McKillip, shines in this collection of tales. Dreams of Distant Shores compiles never before released short stories that exemplify her lyrical style and poet’s ear for storytelling.
From a goddess imbued in the statue of a mermaid, to a young artist’s possession by his muse, these powerful stories are seductive and strange, a combination that makes for stories like no other. Monsters, witches, magic, and death coexist and intermingle with the everyday, with artists, sailors, and waitresses. Part fairy tale, part lucid dreams, these tales are elegant, beautiful, and heartbreakingly vivid. Reading one is like everything wonderful about a Patricia McKillip novel distilled into concise, precise bites.
Elegant and absorbing, her work never reads as stiff or formal, as some fantasy stories can lean toward, and the language, while beautiful, never loses the reader, but instead remains both lyrical and deeply visceral. There is nothing quite like the experience of reading a Patricia McKillip novel. Fans of her work will not be disappointed in this collection, and likewise new readers will find themselves enchanted.
The Children of Darkness
In this case, you really cant judge a book by its cover. The Children of Darkness is not at all the post-apocalyptic tale that you might expect, based on the cover or the title. It is, in actuality, a delightful sci-fi/fantasy story about three kids trying to find themselves and achieve their potential through understanding their history and, consequently, the history of the world. While not categorized as a YA novel, I think it should be. There is probably more meat here that kids on the cusp of adulthood would find nourishing than more mature readers (although its not an unwelcome trip down memory lane).
Orah (the smart girl), Nathaniel (the strapping leader), and Thomas (the nimble artist) unwittingly embark upon a life-changing journey to find the truth after each has a teaching encounter with the vicars of the Temple of Light. In this post-post-post-modern world with little-to-no technology, defined castes, and isolation between communities, the Temple of Light controls all life functionsfrom how many children may be born to what citizens may think. These three kids bumble into a treasure hunt that will finally lead them to the truth about the darkness.
Litwack has created a gem that incorporates some of the best of the genre: Orah will likely remind many readers of J.K. Rowlings Hermoine (Harry Potter). Elements of the story arch are classic, but will seem particularly familiar to readers of Terry Goodkind (The Wizards First Rule). And while Litwack uses typical archetypes, his characters approach conflict in some ways that diverge from expectation while also providing enough of the familiar, tried and true not to disappoint.
The pacing of The Children of Darkness drags in places; all of the inner dialogue and story setup may not be appealing to every reader, and so you may feel a niggling desire to skip a few pages to get back into the action. But, in general, there is careful craftsmanship at play that endeavors to provide enough description without becoming bogged in unnecessary detailswhich could easily happen as Litwack creates an in-between world that is not quite medieval, but not modern either.
There are also seems to be a bit of a struggle with light and darkness not just in the themes but in the presentation as well; there is a tension in the novel that Im not sure is intentional. Litwack seems to want to convey the darkness of humanity but seems timid in just how much to describe, how dark to go. The story hovers in an uncomfortable realm that suggests horrors, but never truly shows them. There is order, but a sinister element bubbles just under the surface; however, Litwack never really allows us to look at it. Never giving into the grotesque or graphic for graphics sake, Litwacks restrained pen seems to be the balance to contemporary sci-fi productions (Mad Max: Road to Fury , Dredd ). There is something about the seemingly inevitable direction of the story that wants some moment of violence, something explosive in the pot that the three young adults stir.
If it is Litwacks project to complicate the notions of good and evil, he succeeds. In unexpected ways, he shows the fallibility and potential of human beings as a race and as individuals to effect changeperhaps neither for good nor ill. There is much to unpack here and a great deal worth expecting in the sequel.
A good read if you check your expectations at the door.
The Light Who Shines
During the 1600s, the first Vampire was created, bringing about extreme chaos and the beginning of the Red Ages.
Over two thousand years later, Bluebell Kildare, homicide inspector for the Supernatural Investigation Bureau, is faced with solving the murder of a boy found naked, tortured, and beaten near a bar. She is able to examine the emotions and feelings left over in the area, as well as of those near her through the use of her sixth sense; she is Gifted, and very good at her job. By closing her other senses off, she can focus in on the many emotions that permeate the area, so as to center her attention in on evidence and clues that others may miss.
Sadly, despite Blues passion for her job, and the other Daylight Vampires who ensure the safety of the people around them, not everyone during this time is so understanding of sharing the world with people who have come to be so different from themselves. Extremist groups, such as the Dilectus Deo, are constantly protesting the very existence of the Gifted humans among them and the Daylight Vampires that protect them from the dangerous Dark Vampires — beings who have fallen prey to their more base natures and given up their ability to roam in daylight after killing in bloodlust. It is a dangerous world, and it takes only the best and bravest to search after criminals who would do harm to others.
Fortunately, Blue is not only a talented investigator, but she also counts on the help of her boss, Jack Tanner or as she prefers to think of him, quite possibly the sexiest man alive. He exudes danger in a quiet, stealthy sort of way. I often think I should be frightened of him quite possibly because hes a very old and incredibly strong Vampire. But I cant seem to muster any fear, even when hes in an obvious rage. That only makes me question my sanity. Its a complicated and strained relationship but the clear and palpable tension between them only makes watching them work together all the more enjoyable.
In The Light Who Shines, Lilo Abernathy has created an amazing and fantastic world in which normal humans, Gifted humans, Daylight and Dark Vampires must coexist despite the magical dangers, intolerance, and greed that run rampant on a day-to-day basis. The mystery of the tortured boy is the driving force behind this intriguing novel. As clues are discovered, witnesses questioned, and tips followed from one place to another, it becomes progressively more disturbing to get closer to the person responsible for such a heinous crime. Yet, the more we learn about Blue and her commitment to fight for those who have been victimized by this bigoted society, the more we realize she is just the investigator needed to get to the bottom of these kinds of transgressions. She proves to be not only fully dedicated to her job despite any dangers that come her way including her own safety and surprisingly strong-willed for someone whos most prominent gift is the ability to sense emotions. Still, it is her imperfections and limitations that make her an even more likable character we can all relate to especially when it comes to her weakness for Jack.
As the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly evident that there is much more at stake than meets the eye. The torture and death of this young boy leads Blue down a path of unprecedented self-discovery and a much larger role she must play not only at the Supernatural Investigation Bureau, but the world. Furthermore, it brings her and Jack much closer than theyve ever been. The Light Who Shines is a fast-paced, extraordinary, and provocative tale of high stakes and deep losses that demands to be read!