Archive for reviews

The Birthgrave, by Tanith Lee

Posted in Books, Reviews, SF, Uncategorized with tags , on December 4, 2015 by davidnm2009

The Birthgrave is a challenging work; if it were published today, it would definitely be considered dark fantasy. However, it is also thought-provoking and poses some hard-to-answer questions about the topics of collective guilt and innocence – just how responsible are we for the sins of those who are like us?

For its time of publication, in the mid ’70s, it was also rather subversive. You see, at its heart, The Birthgrave is a journey of self-discovery, and it has the singular conceit that a woman’s experience is valid and worth considering. Even in today’s SFF, that can be regrettably-rare.

For purposes of trigger warnings, etc., I’m filing this review under “choose not to warn”. Frankly, given the state of the world of The Birthgrave, TWs are probably redundant. I’m also going to change the usual review structure and have a singular “commentary” section, as the “liked/problematic” contrast doesn’t really work in this context. Be aware that the needle will be over on the “problematic” side of the dial a lot during this review.

So, without further digression, here’s the review…

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Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor

Posted in Books, Reviews with tags , , on November 27, 2015 by davidnm2009

Let’s face it, Africa is a topic that a lot of SF writers really don’t handle too well – particularly those of a Slushy Puppy inclination. So this is one of the reasons why Lagoon is such a welcome breath of fresh air.

Lagoon is a novel of alien contact, taking place against the backdrop provided by the city of Lagos, Nigeria. But it’s much more than that. It’s also a novel about contemporary Africa, and the challenges and choices faced by the people who live there.

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Omega, by Jack McDevitt

Posted in Books, Reviews, SF with tags on November 18, 2015 by davidnm2009

Time for another review. Omega is the fourth book in the sequence started by Engines of God; I’m sad to say that it’s also the last that’s at all rewarding to read. It’s a work that contains some interesting ideas, and also some very frustrating ones.

My review is under the cut; because of the basic premise of Omega, it contains spoilers for Engines. There’s arguably one in the title(!), so proceed with this in mind…

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Gleam, by Tom Fletcher

Posted in Books, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 17, 2015 by davidnm2009

I have a soft spot for post-industrial urban wastelands. It’s why I enjoy roaming the Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3, or why some of my favourite bits of the Mass Effect series are the ones on Tuchanka. It’s also why I found Lud to be the most vivid and immediate of the places visited in the Dark Tower saga. I also like ontological mysteries – you know, those sorts of stories where you either wake up somewhere strange or where you have a bizarre world whose origin and nature are a puzzle.

So it’s no wonder that this book caught my eye.

The titular Gleam is a vast, half-ruined urban wasteland, emerging from a swamp. It’s located somewhere else – the night sky isn’t ours, containing two moons and a globular cluster-like formation referred to as ‘the Battle’. Whether that somewhere else is another planet or another universe entirely is unclear. However the inhabitants of Gleam are (mostly) human. The elite of Gleam live within a structure called the Pyramid, which is located right at the centre of the wasteland. The surrounding area is known as the Discard. Life in the Pyramid is secure, but regimented to the extreme. Life in the Discard is freer, but dangerous.

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Extinction Game, by Gary Gibson

Posted in Books, Reviews, SF with tags , on November 17, 2015 by davidnm2009

This book surprised me. I’d read Gibson’s Shoal trilogy, and vaguely enjoyed them, but hadn’t been hugely struck on them.

Extinction Game, however, was a book that instantly got under my skin.

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Red Plenty, by Francis Spufford

Posted in Books, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags on November 17, 2015 by davidnm2009

I’ve been reading a book that doesn’t sound like it would be interesting, but is actually absolutely fascinating. It’s Francis Spufford’s ‘Red Plenty’. It’s sort of half-novel, half-documentary (factual non-fiction?), about economics and central planning in the Soviet Union.

As I said, it doesn’t sound like it would be interesting, but actually, it really is. I can highly recommend it. Except there was one thing that blindsided me…

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