Jul 31, 2012

Hobbit goes to three movies

I am an unabashed Tolkien fan (sure he has problems) but Lord of the rings was the first book in which I formed a strong attachment to characters way back 30 years ago.

I loved the movies sans Bombadil.

And I am pretty sure that Jackson knows what he is doing stretching the Hobbit to a trilogy. Pretty sure.

Here’s the news release:

In a note posted to Facebook this morning (in the U.S.) Peter Jackson confirmed there will be a third film in the “Hobbit” series:

So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of “The Hobbit” films, I’d like to announce that two films will become three.

TheOneRing.net has confirmed with two independent sources that the third “Hobbit,” film will not follow the schedule of traditional December releases for Middle-earth movies and will hit audiences in Summer of 2014. [Read More]

and here’s the latest production diary

 

What are your thoughts? Crass commercialism? Or do we love Uncle Peter?


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Jul 30, 2012

Coode Street - Episode 110

The gents are back after a short break.

79552_logoThe Ramble on about  Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312  which I reviewed here.  They also discuss:

  • Science Fiction set within our Solar System,
  • World Fantasy Award Lifetime Achievement recipients Alan Garner and George R.R. Martin,
  • The Readercon harassment fallout

As per usual download or play via the player below:


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A Community Message–Surveillance

It appears that the government and certain interested parties are attempting to push through changes to surveillance laws.  Being a student of History and Australian Intelligence efforts I'd be very concerned if this comes to fruition.

Watch the video and perhaps sign the petition.

eBook Review– Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

MilkHoney_FNLCover

Shades of Milk and Honey is the first in a series of Regency Era novels with magic.  Kowal’s debut novel, it was nominated for the 2010 Nebula1 Best Novel category. 

Kowal is no newcomer to awards, she also received the Campbell Award2 for Best New Writer in 2008 and received Hugo3 nominations for her short work, including talking out the Hugo with her short, For want of a Nail.

So what do you get when you mix a talented speculative fiction writer with the Regency Period?  Shades of Milk and Honey been likened to Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or Austen with magic. 

While that gives you an idea of the type of book it is, it does define the novel in terms of other works. While I understand the need for catchy marketing, it does not do justice to the work itself.

So in answering my own question, what do you get? A delight.  Now I will admit that I am a fan of Austen and works set from the Regency era on to the Victorian.

The Tale

Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a version of Regency England where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.
Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right–and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own. [source]

Kowal, like the director of a good Austen dramatization strikes the right chord in presenting regency mores and dialogue without trying to mimic Austen’s style exactly.  It prevents the work coming across as a pastiche and makes entry into the regency world a little easier for the less dedicated regency reader. 

Some examples will illustrate:

The Ellsworths of Long Parkmead had the regard of their neighbours in every respect. The Honourable Charles Ellsworth, though a second son, through the generosity of his father had been entrusted with an estate in the neighbourhood of Dorchester. It was well appointed and used only enough glamour to enhance its natural grace, without overlaying so much illusion as to be tasteless. His only regret, for the estate was a fine one, was that it was entailed, and as he had only two daughters, his elder brother’s son stood next in line to inherit it. Knowing that, he took pains to set aside some of his income each annum for the provision of his daughters. –  Shades of Milk and Honey

and

The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex. Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park, in the centre of their property, where, for many generations, they had lived in so respectable a manner as to engage the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance. The late owner of this estate was a single man, who lived to a very advanced age, and who for many years of his life, had a constant companion and housekeeper in his sister. But her death, which happened ten years before his own, produced a great alteration in his home; for to supply her loss, he invited and received into his house the family of his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood, the legal inheritor of the Norland estate, and the person to whom he intended to bequeath it. In the society of his nephew and niece, and their children, the old Gentleman's days were comfortably spent. His attachment to them all increased. The constant attention of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dashwood to his wishes, which proceeded not merely from interest, but from goodness of heart, gave him every degree of solid comfort which his age could receive; and the cheerfulness of the children added a relish to his existence. – Sense and Sensibility

Kowal gives you all the things that you love about Austen, the banter, the mores, the misunderstandings and then she seamlessly adds magic or Glamour,as it is called.

A subtly woven magic

So well is Glamour woven into the story, so well is its practice and place within regency society portrayed, that instead of jarring the reader as some might find with works such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it flows and enhances the various tropes of regency romance.

Jane took the folds between her fingers and thinned them to a gossamer weight which she could barely feel. When she stretched them out, they spanned the corner in a fine web. Once she anchored the folds to the corner, the glamour settled into the room, vanishing from view. The gentle scent of honeysuckle filled the air, as if from a sprig of flowers. It took so little effort that she barely felt light-headed.

Glamour (the creation of illusion for artistic or cosmetic effect) is integral to the novel without seeming so and I think that is Kowal’s greatest achievement with the book.

For those readers out there who think “Pah! romance who needs it” .  Well Shades does have romance, but there’s action, duels for honour and really… everyone needs a little romance.  I found myself sitting on the edge of the seat unable to put the book down, in much the same way that once I start watching Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle) I lose 6 hours of my life.

There are characters who remind us somewhat of our Austen favourites, Mrs Ellsworth shares some characteristics with Mrs Bennett, especially her nervous disposition.  This is handled well though and I see it as somewhat of a polite allusion to Austen.

I would recommend the book to fans of Austen as I think Kowal has captured the drama and feel perfectly.  For fans of speculative fiction Glamour is a perfect example of a thoroughly thought through and implemented magic system that doesn’t have roots in Tolkien or Dungeons and Dragons.

Adding value 

In an era where some authors think it is a good idea to put Zombies into Austen or to cut explicit sex scenes into Bronte.  It is refreshing and inspiring to have a talented author add something of worth to the genre.

My only disappointment with this book was that it ended and for some reason I have yet to discern, the sequel Glamour in Glass is not available for sale as an ebook in Australia4 .

I have had to order the hardback, and I can’t tell you how much it vexes me to know have a broken set- one ebook and one hardback. Vexes me, I say. 

My poor nerves.

Thank you Miss Kowal, you keep writing them and I'll keep buying them, in whatever format I can.


1. The Nebula Award is given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), for the best science fiction/fantasy fiction published in the United States during the previous year. [source]

2. The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is an award given annually to the best new writer whose first professional work of science fiction or fantasy was published within the two previous calendar years.[source]

3. The Hugo Awards are a set of awards given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year[source].

4. Neither does it appear that Shades is available as an ebook anymore


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Jul 28, 2012

Book Review–Salvage by Jason Nahrung

nahrungsalvage

Salvage is a novella by Jason Nahrung, published by Twelfth Planet Press.

A seaside gothic, I believe Jason called it, and Salvage does indeed fit that bill. 

It’s a mixture of subtle interpersonal horror and romance, though there are moments of vigorous, overt horror as well. 

The Tale

I think it best to come to this tale with as little knowledge as possible.  I had guessed some of the overt horror elements before picking it up and while it didn’t ruin my enjoyment I would have liked to have come to it as “clean” as possible. The blurb should suffice:

Seeking to salvage their foundering marriage, Melanie and Richard retreat to an isolated beach house on a remote Queensland island.

Intrigued by a chance encounter with a stranger, Melanie begins to drift away from her husband and towards Helena, only to discover that Helena has her own demons, ageless and steeped in blood.

As Richard’s world and Helena’s collide, Melanie must choose which future she wants, before the dark tide pulls her under … forever.

What I‘ve read of Nahrung’s work previously has made me uncomfortable in that glorious sense that good writers of Horror or Dark Fantasy do.  He achieves this by focussing more on the horror or tragedy to be found in the space between people.  In the ever so ordinary break down of relationships, family and friendships.

 

Cutting close 

Salvage has  a subtle horror that cuts close to the bone.  For while we are unlikely to fall prey to werewolves or vampires (featuring in his early works), each of us has had the fortune of having built relationships and the misfortune of having them fail.

This horror in the every day is balanced with a careful, subtle crafting of the landscape.  Much like the watercolour by Dion Hamill that graces the cover, Nahrung does a wonderful job of layering subtleties from the first sentence.

The cabin emerged like a neglected mausoleum from the blue-velvet twilight, it’s bare timber walls bleached to the colour of old bone by the jeep’s headlights.

While Salvage is set on an island somewhere off the Queensland coast, Nahrung’s writing somehow manages to dull the Sunshine State’s weather, to cloud what should be an island paradise.

There’s some not so subtle eroticism as well; love, passion and death collide in a tale that offers you both a deft plucking of your heart strings and a churning of your insides.

Thanks for the discomfort Mr Nahrung.


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Jul 27, 2012

Tales from the Twitterverse

 

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Jul 23, 2012

eBook Review–Shattered: Broken Fairy Tales

shattered_sidebar

Shattered: Broken Fairy Tales is a collection of three fairy/folk tale retellings by Rabia Gale.

The difficulty in writing a retelling of a folk tale is that the core story has been pretty much told already. 

The author has a few choices, they can alter the tale, invert tropes, riff off in a slightly different direction and they can alter tone and play with style and language.

As long as the reader gets something new; a perspective or a connection with the tale not previously experienced then, despite the old material we will be happy.

I think Gale has preformed brilliantly in this short collection.  I think she’s achieved that balance of tweaking the tale or exploring other aspects of it. Gale gives us three very interesting tales, reimagined:

The Prince holds both her hands—once work-roughened and brown, now soft, supple and white—in a strong clasp. "Nothing will ever harm you again, my love. I vow it."

He is so serious, so sure. How she longs to believe him, believe in his love. She manages a smile. "While you are with me there is nothing to fear." Except for another woman with gold hair and blue eyes.

The other. Lily in Winter

 

The Most Beautiful Woman in the World is a riff off Snow White.  In this tale it is the Mirror that forms the centrepiece. Like a good folk tale there is wisdom to be gained, a philosophical conundrum to examine. The Most Beautiful Woman in the World says something important about perceptions of beauty and how destructive and unrealistic misguided perceptions can be. The cost of chasing beauty that is only skin deep is highlighted beautifully by Gale’s tone and characterisation.

Beauty, Unravelling is a twist on Beauty and the Beast with a suggestion that happily ever afters aren’t always the end result.  I detect Gale raising a cautionary note on our ability to deceive ourselves if our will is strong enough.  She highlights our tendency to project our wants and hopes on others and the disaster that can bring.

The final Lily in Winter asks a “what if” of the tale Cinderella. What if someone else fit the shoe.  A love gained by deception, will destroy itself seems to be the strongest wisdom imparted by this piece.

I return to the difficulty of retelling or re-crafting Fairy tales.  Its sounds deceptively easy The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, and Lily in Winter, however, strike me as not only some of the better retellings of their respective tales, but as some of the better short stories I have read in recent memory.

Keep your eyes out for Rabia Gale.

This ebook was provided by the author at no cost to me.


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Jul 22, 2012

eBook Review–Anomaly by Steven Savile and Jason Fischer

Anamoly

Anomaly is the second book in the “Viral” novella series that features the writing talents of Steven Savile with different up-and-comers from around the world.

Anomaly features Australian speculative fiction writer Jason Fischer.

The series is loosely linked, with events mentioned in one book, having an effect on the others.  Anomaly is the first in the series I have read.

Cool covers

I must say that this is one series where the cover sold me.  If it hadn’t been co-written by Jason I would have wanted to review it anyway, for some reason the cover just reached out to me.

So kudos to the cover artist.

The Lowdown

This novella is set in Africa- Dadaab, Kenya initially.  Felix Koehler is a disgraced epidemiologist on personal mission of penance. He is working in the largest refugee camp in the world, his predecessor murdered after having succumb to graft and corruption.

He fights the good fight, helping manage outbreaks of disease, monitoring and dispensing vaccinations.  Only, they aren’t working as they should, statistical analysis reveals shocking mortality rates and Felix begins to suspect something untoward is happening.

As Felix begins to put the pieces of a horrific puzzle together, so do the conspirators and what is one man’s life when you would happily kill hundreds or thousands?

This could have been a novel

and I think it would have received 4 stars or more from me.  Jason(who normally writes Science Fiction/ Horror) and Steven have turned out a very nice thriller. The equal in skill and tone of any of the good thriller writers out there today Eisler, Childs, or Finder.

They give us a gritty, well realised Dadaab:

Felix Koehler looked out through the scratched perspex, watching the bleak landscape roll past. Empty plains baked beneath the sun, and a pick-up loaded with twitchy gunmen drove ahead of the UNHCR bus.

This close to Somalia, aid workers were snatched, ransomed if they were lucky. Dead the moment something went wrong.

…..

The volunteers came to Kenya, and then they went home, but Felix Koehler stayed. As the bus passed through the gates and into the Ifo Refugee Camp, he braced himself for the familiar sights. A city of tents, rag domes and slum shacks littering the dustbowl landscape in the thousands. Tin ablution blocks, and here and there camp infrastructure, health posts and camp reception. The line-up for water stretched into the thousands, and people waited for up to two days to reach the head of the line.

and believable characters in Felix and Dr Valdez.  The pacing is a good  thriller writing, “always raising the stakes and moving the action on” style.

I was enthralled, invested in the characters and then… it was time to wrap it up.  The end felt rushed and all too easy.   I don’t know what sort of restraints Steven and Jason had to work under, but I think the story suffered for it in this instance.

Perhaps the story works better as part of the whole?

Still a worthwhile and entertaining read, but I wanted more of the characters and more of the story.

Anytime Jason and Steven want to write a full blown thriller I am in.

 

Note: This book was provided to me by the author at no cost.


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Galactic Suburbia Number 64

Galactic-Suburbia-CakeThe crew returns for another wonderful podcast. 

Aside from the usual goodness in Culture Consumed there was an interesting discussion on Gender bias on Wikipedia, case in point – apparently its quite rational and noteworthy to record Pokemon characters as artefacts of social history but not Kate Middleton’s dress.

Jason Nahrung’s Salvage gets a mention, reminding me that I need to do a review.

  So enough blather from me, check out the show notes here for links to articles.

Download

or play below:

 

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Jul 21, 2012

The Writer and The Critic Episode 21

PD*3141165perhaps current holder for the longest single  Australian Specfic Podcast coming in at a wonderful 02:16:53m.

Great if you do chores or mow the lawns while listening, like me

…I have a lot of lawn.

Anyway a number of things appear to contribute to the length of the podcast

  • Guest and rambler extraordinaire Jonathan Strahan of Coode Street (who I would happily listen to for 3 hours alone talking about Scifi)
  • Kirstyn and Mondy who I would happily listen for the same length of time because Kirstyn is genuinely and excitingly brilliant on gender and Mondy because he plays the wide eyed, innocent white male questioner perfectly
  • They decided to do three books, yes three.

I am sure they are throwing down a challenge with this cast.

The books were

  1. Galveston (Jonathan’s choice)
  2. The Drowning Girl
  3. Akata Witch

But enough of my prattle.

Download

or play below:


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Jul 17, 2012

Karen Miller bargains available at Booktopia

Karen Miller or K.E. Mills (whose book Wizard Undercover, I reviewed here) has a number of books on sale at Booktopia.

a-blight-of-mages

  • A Blight of Mages (A Kingmaker, Kingbreaker Novel) at $2.95
  • The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker : Book 1) at $2.95
  • Innocence Lost (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker : Book 2) at $2.95
  • The Prodigal Mage Fisherman's Children : Book One at $2.95
  • The Reluctant Mage Fisherman's Children : Book Two at $2.95

 

Click here for the reduced price deals.


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A slow start to the week

If you have noticed that things have been a little quieter than usual, I have started a 10 week contract as a teacher librarian, consequently I have been doing prep work.

besiegedThere’s a couple of reviews that I am working on but, they will likely wait until the weekend.  In the meantime here’s some news and links.

Rowena Cory Daniels informs us that Besieged has landed at her place (you should be able to order it from your friendly neighbourhood bookshop). 

Checkout Tabitha Darlings Bedroom Floor for all the  Dr Who’s rendered as time ladies. 

Here’s a concerning report on Readercon from Genevieve Valentine - a post about why codes of conduct a necessary for some (mainly men) who just don’t get it. 


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Jul 14, 2012

Book Review–Burn Mark by Laura Powell

burn_mark_mediumBurn Mark by Laura Powell is an exciting start to a new series that blends the paranormal, witches in this case, with espionage, crime and conspiracy. 

I am reminded of Kate Griffin’s Mathew Swift Series, in both tone and setting.  This isn’t the usual paranormal fare of tight-jeaned, tattoo flashing, sassy ‘insert flavour of the month paranormal here’ heroines.  No, Burn Mark is undeniably gritty, understated and British in the best sense of the word. 

Powell is a YA writer but Burn Mark, by virtue of her skill, transcends that categorisation(in much the same way as Paolo Baccigalupi does), it’s simply a good story, an intriguing backdrop and a well paced adventure.

The Tale

Burn Mark is set in an alternate history modern England.  Witches and witchcraft are real but the State registers and licences them, employing them in policing and espionage.  The British Inquisition is real too, although a somewhat tame and civilised version of its former self;at least on the surface.

Our protagonists are Glory- the streetwise chav who hopes and dreams of inheriting her mothers fae ability and Lucas Stearne - son of the Chief Prosecutor of the Inquisitorial Court. 

Lucas and Glory become unlikely allies in a race to uncover who is behind the spate of witch kind terrorist attacks. There’s a turf war and a national conspiracy - plenty of well paced intrigue and action to keep you reading.

It’s akin to the Krays meets Spooks plus Witches.

History Sprinkled

After an initial dose of back-grounding, Powell manages to weave in world building and setting nicely.

She has constructed a believable alternate history of witches, from John Dee to the Second World War.  History seems to have pretty much worked out the same, the Allies won, Witches are still burned and killed in third world countries (actually that part’s not actually alternate history, more’s the pity). Witchkind are excepted into public life by virtue of liberal attitudes and government programs.

All in all we get a sprinkling of witch related events that makes for a nicely flavoured story, and sets up current tensions.

Robust, goal driven characters

Glory, a chav is presented as a young woman with agency, she knows what she wants and isn’t going to end up being some gangster’s pram pusher. Staying true to that character she isn’t looking for a young, brooding, distant but ultimately redeemable lost soul of teen.  No she’s got priorities and finding a man isn’t one of them.

Lucas, too, has his vision of what he wants to be and despite the obstacles put in his way seems to roll resiliently with the punches.

On reflection, these strong characters  (the adults always seem less focussed or compromised) strongly push Burn Mark  as young adult tale. The teen protagonists and their actions direct the story.  Which isn’t to say that life’s realities are treated with kid gloves.  There’s witch burnings and murder, threats to kill and the well described “ducking” of suspected witches.

If you’re a fan of British crime or espionage drama I think you’ll enjoy this read and the rest that follow.

This book was provided to me by the publisher at no extra cost to myself


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Jul 11, 2012

eBook Review–The Light Heart of Stone(Book 1 of Promise of Stone Series) by Tor Roxburgh

heartofstone

The Light Heart of Stone by Tor Roxburgh is quite simply a beautifully wrought and original tale. It is a fresh and compelling read on a number of levels.

The Tale

Young Fox is an Indiginy daughter born in the Kelp province, in a land called The Stone Body.  The Indiginy tribes live under a treaty enforced by the descendants of a 1000 year old invading force. 

The colonising forces are split into houses named after their produce, with each house administering a province. These houses are lead by Compionarii, women who have “gravity” or the ability to make the land abundant even out of its natural cycles.

Fox is tested by one of the Companionarii and found to have talent. She is taken from her family and administered drugs to stunt the growth of her rockskin. -an Indiginy feature akin to a crystalline bark. Fox is to become a hopeful in the continued breeding of Companionarii talent and gravity in the house of Oak. 

The Comanionarii however, are failing, failing to pass on gravity or losing their gravity entirely.  Their harvests are slowly beginning to fail. Refugees flood the capital and the situation drives some within Companionarii culture to seek shocking solutions.

Meanwhile the Stone Body has ideas of its own. The treaty that has kept the colonisers in power and the Indiginy servile comes under threat as the land works its own magic.

A brush with our own history

I won’t say that this book could not have been written by anyone but an Australian, the story will hold a mirror up to a number of cultures with colonial roots.  There are, however, features of this novel that do seem to resonate with Australian Aboriginal concepts of land and their relationship with it.  There’s also somewhat of fleeting reminder of our more modern treatment of refugees.

Let me reassure you though, that at no time did I feel that I was being lectured to or preached at. At no time did I feel that I was being served a polemic in fictional clothing. 

I think it would be fair to say that Roxburgh’s knowledge and understanding of Australia’s indigenous history and culture has informed her fantasy and given the reader a chance to come at various issues and themes from a safe distance. Indeed it’s possible that some may not notice this feature at all due to Roxburgh’s excellent crafting.

Refreshing and original

While I am a fan of somewhat traditional, trope filled European epic fantasy, it is refreshing when someone pops up on your radar and gives you something new. Sure there are many elements within The Light Heart of Stone that will be familiar – the Houses tend to be named after common agricultural produce like Rice, Wheat, or Oak and the protagonist is known as Fox.  There are, however, Twist trees that devour animal flesh, Orange grasses that produce a narcotic effect, and Torchwood trees that burn the skin.

There are also nice little surprises like the Indiginy method of story telling and knowledge gathering called The Four Stories, which has anthropological verisimilitude.    The magic system also tends to be more folk story based, in the sense that it is lightly explained.  A far cry from the sort of magic a reader might find in the works of Rothfuss or Sanderson.

I liked the contrast between the Companionarii dual gendered god and the Stone Body, loosely comparable to Christianity versus Indigious beliefs, but certainly not an ‘insert thinly veiled Catholic Church here’. I also enjoyed the development of aphorisms ad blasphemies that hinted at earlier religious occurrences or histories.

There’s issues of ecological catastrophe and a mounting refugee problem which echo current political climates in a number of countries, but certainly in Australia.

The Light Heart of Stone abounds in strong female characters (good and evil) .  The Companionarii are matriarchal, the Indiginy more patriarchal but nowhere is this really a focus of attention.  In essence  we have a female positive tale but not at the expense of male characters or the male reader.

I don’t know the decision behind the decision to self publish The Light Heart of Stone.  Tor is a practised and traditionally well published writer of both Non-fiction and Fiction outside of the Fantasy Genre.  That experience shows in her work here.

I don’t want to make any predictions, but there is something special here and if your eager to experience something new, something that feels substantial then I can heartily recommend the book. I am frankly surprised that she hasn’t been snapped up by HarperCollins/Voyager.

This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost to myself.


awwc2012This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.

 

 


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Jul 9, 2012

Book Review–2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

2312

Publishers Weekly labelled 2312 a ‘A challenging, compelling masterpiece'.  While I think ‘masterpiece’ may be pre-empting its on-going cultural and historical relevance, 2312 is both challenging and compelling.

As the title suggests the novel is set 300 years from the future of its publication date.  With 2312 Robinson gives us what many “hard science” science fiction fans consider to be “real” science fiction - an idea or ideas explained, a future imagining to be marvelled at for its vision, its sense of hope and its scientific plausibility.

Historically, character and plot in this kind of work tended to be secondary, a feature which wouldn’t float with today’s audience who have come to expect more involved plots and well rounded characters.

Thankfully, Robinson gives us a little of everything; epic ideas(the future setting and cultures of our solar system), compelling characters and an intriguing mystery.

The Story

The nature of 2312 makes it difficult to sum up adequately in one or two enticing paragraphs.  Sketching the narrative for the reader will not give you a true glimpse of what Robinson has provided, for 2312 is as much about humanity and future history as it is about the central protagonist Swan Er Hong.

Swan is a long lived spacer of altered gender - by 2012 our concept of binary sex and gender has blossomed into a myriad of wonderful possibilities. Once a designer of Terrarium’s (a cross between a transport, culture capsule and bio-ark) she has settled on Mercury as a artist, with her mentor Alex.

Swan resides in the city of Terminator which is chased by the sunrise and pushed along on rails that swell and expand with the Sun’s rays.  Alex’s death is the first event in what grows to become solar system changing crisis - a mystery that Swan and former colleagues of her mentor must unravel before catastrophe strikes.

The Grand Tour

And so what proceeds is somewhat of a tour of the solar system as Swan and the others dig into this mystery.  From a failed Earth, with its flooded shorelines and billions of poor, to surfing in the rings of Saturn.

I was reminded very early on of a children's book called, The First Travel Guide to the Moon, in which the author outlines what the reader will be able to do when the moon is colonised. 

2312 manages to evoke a similar sense of wonder, albeit for an adult palate. The narrative is engaging and you come to love and be concerned for Swan and her friends. The mystery encourages the reader to postulate solutions themselves, to guess the perpetrator before the reveal.

All the while, however, Robison lays out the future for us to see and to be inspired by.  He does this through the narrative, by revealing aspects of characters, their histories and their work and by presenting Dos Passos-like 1 extracts and lists from unidentified sources, that act to further inform the reader of the “world” of 2312. Indeed sometimes they read like snippets of data culled from the radio waves but the collage works to build a sense of a wider “world” outside of the narrative.

A fine wine

This is the first Robinson that I have read and other commentators have remarked that this is Robinson doing what he does best.  I liked it and I felt pulled along by both the story and the setting at different times. 

It’s not a book that will set your heart racing, though the narrative holds its own.  It is however, the sort of book that should fire synapses in your imagination. 

Enjoy this like a quality wine- enjoy the look, feel and taste of 2312 .

This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.


1I am indebted to academic Gary K Wolfe for this term, which describes the interleaving of chapters of narrative, with fictional histories, extracts, artefacts, newspaper stories that act to generate a sense of a greater world separate but enclosing the narrative.  Brandon Sanderson used this to good effect in Alloy of Law.  For the origin of the term go here


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Jul 8, 2012

Galactic Suburbia Episode 63: 5 July 2012

Galactic-Suburbia-CakeAlex, Tansy and Alisa roll out another wonderful episode in which they examine the politics of female author portraits, the Felicia Day twitter fallout and the Hugo’s of course.

There’s some initial discussion on the fact that the mainstream media is catching up to the fact that Australian women have been successfully writing speculative fiction for some time.

Enjoy and remember to send feedback to galacticsuburbia@gmail.com

You can listen via the flash player below or go here to download


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eBook Release - The Secret Feminist Cabal - Helen Merrick | Wizard's Tower Books

Although Helen Merrick’s book, The Secret Feminist Cabal has been out for some time (it won a 2010 Atheling Award and was nominated for the 2010 Hugo’s).  This is the first time I have seen it promoted in ebook form (which makes it so much more tempting to buy- and I did) and it’s available at Wizard’s Tower Books, headed by the wonderful Cheryl Morgan1.

What is the Secret Feminist Cabal?

secret-feminist-cabal-cvr-lrThe Secret Feminist Cabal is an extended answer to the question Helen Merrick asks in her introduction: "why do I read feminist sf?" In this wide-ranging cultural history we are introduced to a multiplicity of sf feminisms as Merrick takes readers on a tour of the early days of sf fandom, tracks the upheavals of the 1950s and 1960s and the explosions of feminist sf in the 1970s, and contextualizes subsequent developments in feminist sf scholarship.

Her history is expansive and inclusive: it ranges from North America to the UK to Australia; it tells us about readers, fans, and academics as well as about writers, editors, and publishers; and it examines the often uneasy intersections of feminist theory and popular culture.

Merrick brings things up to date with considerations of feminist cyberfiction and feminist science and technology studies, and she concludes with an intriguing review of the Tiptree Award as it illuminates current debates in the feminist sf community. Broadly informed, theoretically astute, and often revisionary, The Secret Feminist Cabal is an indispensable social and cultural history of the girls who have been plugged into science fiction. [Source]

Published by Aqueduct Press books, it is available from Amazon, but I prefer not to deal with them if I can avoid it, besides you can purchase both formats ( mobi and epub ) from Wizard’s Tower DRM free.

If you are keen on the paperback version Booktopia has it for $21.90 and if you type the words FINALS in the appropriate coupon box in checkout (before midnight tonight) you can get free postage(not just on Helen’s book but on your whole order).


1. After a little more digging it seems that its probably been available through Aqueduct press for a while  in ebook form


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Jul 7, 2012

The Hobbit–Production Diary 7

December is not that far away.  Checkout the latest of the production diaries from Stone Studios New Zealand.


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Jul 6, 2012

Galactic Chat - Continuum 8

GCLogoSomewhere amongst working my butt off and migraineville the Galactic Chat team put up he recording of the Continuum 8 panel: Where Are All The Wonder Women?

The Panel features  Tansy Rayner Roberts (Galactic Chatter), Russell Blackford, Alice Clarke,  and Grant Watson.

 

Here is the panel description


Where Are All The Wonder Women?


There’s no shortage of female superheroes (or villains!) but few have attained the iconic status of, say, Wonder Woman. Why is this? Which characters deserve better? A discussion of female representation in comics.


This panel was recorded at Continuum 8, the National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, in Melbourne, on 10 June 2012. Reproduced with permission of those involved.

You can play direct from the player below or download from podbean here.

 


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Jul 5, 2012

Showtime eBooks from Twelfth Planet Press

showtimeYou may have noticed that its been a little quieter around here.  It’s been a combination of things.

    1. I have been busily preparing for next terms classes
    2. Have been alternating planning days and migraine days
    3. Been reading (yay!)

So hopefully things will settle down and I will regain some blogging mojo.

But you were here for the Twelfth Planet Press News.

Well, Narelle M Harris’ Showtime released in paperback form some time ago and reviewed by yours truly here is now available in epub and mobi format.

See here Showtime (epub), Showtime (mobi)

In other Twelfth Planet News Thoraiya Dyer’s forthcoming Twelve Planets book title has been announced – Asymmetry.  Go Thoriaya!


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Jul 3, 2012

Bloodstones TOC

blood-stones-webTiconderoga has announced the table of contents for their Bloodstones anthology edited by Amanda Pillar

  • Joanne Anderton, "Sanaa's Army"
  • Alan Baxter, "Cephalopoda Obsessia"
  • Jenny Blackford, "A Moveable Feast"
  • Vivian Caethe, "Skin"
  • MD Curelas, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"
  • Thoraiya Dyer, "Surviving Film"
  • Dirk Flinthart, "The Bull in Winter"
  • Stephanie Gunn, "The Skin of the World"
  • Richard Harland, "A Mother's Love"
  • Pete Kempshall, "Dead Inside"
  • Penny Love, "A Small Bad Thing"
  • Karen Maric, "Embracing the Invisible"
  • Christine Morgan, "Ferreau's Curse"
  • Nicole Murphy, "Euryale"
  • Jessica Otis, "And the Dead Shall be Raised Incorruptible"
  • Dan Rabarts, "The Bone Plate"
  • Erin Underwood, "The Foam Born"

There’s a good mix of well known writers and some that I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting.  There’s also a pretty good gender balance with just over half being female writers.

It’s due out in October of this year.


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Are you Besieged?

besiegedRowena Cory Daniell’s latest, Besieged , should be hitting the shelves right about now. 

Besieged (Book 1 of The Outcast Chronicles) is set in the same world as her earlier T’En trilogy.

For nearly 300 years the mystics have lived alongside the true-men, who barely tolerate them, until...

King Charald is cursed with a half-blood mystic son. Sorne is raised to be a weapon against the mystics. Desperate to win his father's respect, Sorne steals power to trigger visions. Unaware King Charald plans their downfall, the mystics are consumed by rivalry. Although physically stronger, the males' gifts are weaker than the females. Imoshen, the only female mystic to be raised by males, wants to end the feud. But the males resent her power and, even within her own sisterhood Imoshen's enemies believe she is addicted to the male gifts.

Sorne tries, but cannot win the respect of True-men. When he has a vision of half-bloods in danger he has to ask himself where his loyalty lies.

Convinced he can destroy the mystics, King Charald plans to lay siege to their island city. Will Imoshen win the trust of the mystic leaders and, if she does, will she believe the visions of a half-blood?

I interviewed Rowena here and have reviewed the first book of the King Rolen’s King Trilogy here. 

She’s one of the few writers I would recommend buying by name alone.  I am hard pressed to think of a fantasy writer that can write fast paced adventure fantasy as well as her.

Booktopia has Besieged on sale at about $10.50 plus postage.  And  they  do a deal where you can order the whole trilogy ( they will be released over the next few months) and pay only once for postage.


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