Review: Swimming to Tokyo by Brenda St. John Brown

SwimmingToTokyoPublished by: Spencer Hill
ISBN: 1939392349
ISBN 13: 9781939392343
Published: December 2014
Pages: 315
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

Zosia has had her world fall apart around her more than once. First it was her mother’s death – cancer – and now it’s her father’s work transfer – they’re off to Tokyo (well, Yokohama to be exact.) She’s 19 and high school is over, soon she’ll be off to university. It’s a time of change.

To make matters interesting there’s the hot guy, Finn, who the whole school was interested in back in their high school days. Zosia sees him around once or twice but puts thoughts of him behind her now that she’s off to Tokyo for the summer – until he turns up in Tokyo, too. It’s been three years since her mother passed and her father has started seeing another woman, someone from work. It turns out this ‘someone’ is Finn’s mother. So he’s come to Tokyo for the summer also.

There’s more than there initially seemed to this hot guy; he’s been in juvie, he has father issues, he has trust issues, and probably a dozen other bits of luggage. Even his mother warns Zosia off him and her father agrees; he doesn’t want to see Zosia hurt. Good luck; most people would agree just how impossible it is to not fall into a relationship when everything seems to draw you into one.

This book would fall in the New Adult genre, which means drama and a turning point in life. Will Zosia and Finn still be the people they were at the end of this particular summer?

The characters within this are well developed and interesting, however neither didn’t manage to grab me entirely – I didn’t overly care for their wellbeing (as awful as that sounds!) For plot purposes they seemed willing to jump in without really thinking or talking things through, even though it was quite obvious they were hurt from things in their past, and would probably hurt each other along the way also. They’re great characters, don’t get me wrong – I just personally didn’t find them likeable. I did love to see Zosia’s heritage play such a part in her story though – diversity!

I also loved their dialogue – it felt real, and I loved their snark and sarcasm as they try to protect themselves (in a prickly way!) from what they’re falling into.

The plot jumps a little, and it was used well. Many novels these days account for each damn day, whereas this book skips the actual move itself from the US to Japan, and it managed to show the passing of time well.

The Tokyo aspects of this novel were fairly decent. Having been there many times before I would have liked to see the actual feel of the place shown more. We get a few descriptions of how humid and busy it is, their attempts at trying the food, a few Japanese words thrown in and such, but it didn’t transport me to the place as well as, say, ‘Out by Natsuo Kirino’ did.

Overall this is a decent novel. It’s well written, it’s steady and reliable, I think I was expecting to love this much more than I resulted in (probably because my expectations were so high! I was so desperate for another excellent novel that captures Tokyo), and I was hoping for a book that has that unexplainable zing to it. I need to put that aside, because overall, this is a great novel.

Review: Solaris Rising 3 edited by Ian Whates

SolarisRising3Published by: Rebellion
ISBN: 178108209X
ISBN 13: 9781781082096
Published: August 2014
Pages: 448
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Publisher Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

Following the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Solaris Rising 2, and before that Solaris Rising 1 and 1.5, we have an anthology of stories that take us to the outer reaches of the universe.

The anthology starts off with one of the most readable introductions I’ve seen in big anthologies – generally I skim over them, but this, Whates takes the time to explain how he first came across each other and how they caught his attention, which I found quite interesting.

When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Pahayal finds a body near her home, and is surprised to see it’s not a corpse, rather, a woman, who is thankful to have been taken back to Pahayal’s home and looked after. Etiesse is a soldier, and there is a war raging. In this tale, we see an emotional story of friendship and cultures. This is a slow and steady, well written in a poetical sense, start to the anthology.

The Goblin Hunter” by Chris Beckett

Split between two sets of characters, we see a family of locals who hunt out the indigenous goblin-like creatures that project thoughts you don’t want to hear directly into your head. We also see a work unit of police-like people who have been transferred to the planet to look after the indigenous, for they keep turning up killed.

The characters in this one fairly bounce off the page. I wish it were longer – I appreciate why it ends without everything fixed and justice served on the disgusting acts we’re told of – the poor girl – but goodness did I want justice for her!

Homo Floresiensis” by Ken Liu

Ken Liu is always excellent, isn’t he? This shows two scientists a bit out of their field, but on the verge of discovery so great it demands they throw aside any other commitments they may have and take a chance. And it pays off. It leads to some difficult questions though, around morals and rights and whether this discovery belongs to science or if it needs protecting. We’re left with an open ending, in a way – we’re not quite sure what the answer or result is, but it leaves you hoping that it all turned out okay – if that’s at all possible.

A Taste for Murder” by Julie E. Czerneda

Denny Rashid Martin is a police officer, was a street cop last week, and is now at a homicide desk, having to attend funerals to work cases. In this we get to see what could happen when body modification gets a little out of control – something I just got a taste of in Nexus by Ramez Naam. The reveal in this one makes it memorable.

Double Blind” by Tony Ballantyne

A drug trial that becomes more and more mysterious, and then deadly as it goes on. A seemingly simple tale that may have more to it that I failed to grasp (and I see other reviewers wonder the same thing), or this could simply be all there is to it. Quite effectively written, but I was waiting for another twist or end result.

The Mashup” by Sean Williams

An invasion story – a guy leaves a party, but doubles back to ask the DJ what a particular song was. A small black hovering device is pointed out to him, and how there seems to be one for every human. As he tries to get home he notices more and more of them – and now soon there’s a new little device for every little device itself, a different colour and size and everything, until there’s a whole line of the colour spectrum from large (what I imagine to be fist sized) to small (speck of powder, only seen when it’s moving.) The MC makes the only decision left to him by the end of the piece.

The Frost on Jade Buds” by Aliette de Bodard

The need to grieve is a topic I’m reading a lot of, at the moment, what with Helen Macdonald’s ‘H is For Hawk’ novel. War seems to play a common theme in this anthology also. The tech in this one was interesting – I always love reading what tech the future can hold. The search made it a little slow to read, but also gave it depth.

Popular Images from the First Manned Mission to Enceladus” by Alex Dally MacFarlane

This one I didn’t really ‘get’. I didn’t care for the characters, and it seemed it was trying to do something with the structure that didn’t quite work out or went right over my head.

Red Lights, and Rain” by Gareth L. Powell

A vampire story that took me a little by surprise – and then the time travel element took that to another level. I really enjoyed this one, though I’m always a bit disbelieving when an innocent bystander is relied upon to take out the apparently lethal baddie. Sure, they had the line in that he would certainly be hunted down by the baddie now that he tried to kill him, but if so, why then leave him alone for any number of seconds? That came more as a thought after reading it though – throughout, while you’re reading it, it’s a strong piece with a good ending that has good suspense throughout.

They Swim Through Sunset Seas” by Laura Lam

The reason I requested this anthology was for this author, and I wasn’t let down. What I love about Lam’s writing, especially in her short stories, is how beautifully they’re written – you can really imagine the scenes as she describes the colours and makes it all sound so wonderful. Or even the parts where she’s describing something fairly gross – you see it all vividly.

As far as the story goes, we have one underwater researcher writing to another whom she used to work with before he made a fatal error in their work. She’s alone now in the research facility, and will be for ten standard days until a shuttle arrives – if she lasts that long. Suspense builds in this short as the creature they’re there to study becomes more and more angry at being enclosed rather than free, and more determined to break out.

A slightly morbid ending, but also a fitting one.

Faith Without Teeth” by Ian Watson

Easily one of the best shorts in the anthology. Shows the absurdity of communism, written in a dry, confident manner with excellent use of language that would make any topic or plot or characters a joy to read.

Thing and Sick” by Adam Roberts

This is an isolated character study – forcing together two people who aren’t similar at all, and in this, discover more about themselves and each other than they would have otherwise. One pretentious, and the other the one the reader is supposed to identify with (reads Dune, etc). Set in 1986, it gives us an idea of their technology and communication (ie. lacking) as they spend their hours looking for alien life.

Quite well written, certainly makes you glad for peace and quiet. Excellent closing line, so this is one of the stronger pieces in the anthology also.

The Sullen Engines” by George Zebrowski

Sadly after such a run of good pieces, this one fell rather flat for me. June wants to rid the world of cars and all they represent. She succeeds in a point towards this goal, but on from this, the story isn’t engaging or thought-provoking.

Dark Harvest” by Cat Sparks

An army on a foreign planet are having some difficulties. Though they contact base, no one comes – not to collect the body bags, so not for anything – they’re losing hope. This is a startling story, as one can expect from Sparks, and it delivers with a punch.

Fift and Shria” by Benjamin Rosenbaum

An excellent piece of work that deals elgantly and intelligently with gender and what really makes up a person – if you can inhabit different bodies, how vital is the gender of that body in to making you, you? The depth of the building that went into creating this short shows eloquently with what’s explored and delivered. Another of the stronger pieces in this anthology.

The Howl” by Ian R. MacLeod & Martin Sketchley

A change at Singapore and then Dubai and then on to London? That seems to be flying there from Australia! In this deeply personal story, a daughter speaks to a man estranged from their family after the death of her mother. This is what carries the story, rather than the SF elements, which is a little disappointing when you think of the point of the anthology, but it’s still an engaging short by its own merits regardless.

The Science of Chance” by Nina Allan

A child is found at a station with only a first name, and no mention or information on parents. She has a purse, but it only contains a newspaper clipping of a fire in a children’s home 30 years beforehand. Left in the care of the police, it’s just another mystery for them to solve.

The child hardly speaks, and that’s what makes it spooky, really, as well as wondering when the speculative fiction elements will come into play. This is well written, and once of the more memorable pieces in the anthology.

Endless” by Rachel Swirsky

This is the perfect finisher to the anthology, a story told of fire that’s continuous, time and time again. Is there anything more alive than the feeling of pain? It contains interesting thought and musings as one can expect from Swirsky, and is a strong finisher for the anthology. Good SF, good characters, good ideas to leave the reader with.

~

Overall this is a strong anthology, with nearly all the pieces very readable, and all different from each other that have been balanced well. It’s also good to see a mix of names, inviting newer names like Laura Lam to take part to help spread their excellent work. It’s also good to see a balance of people from around the globe – it’s always fun to see a few Aussie names included!

I highly recommend this anthology, and thank Rebellion for offering me a copy to review.

Review: Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett

GoldenBoysPublished by: Penguin Australia
ISBN 13: 9781926428611
Published: August 2014
Pages: 224
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

‘Golden Boys’ by Sonya Hartnett is an utterly engaging novel of a new family moving into a close-knit neighbourhood, who are from a higher socioeconomic group, and hence, stick out, becoming both a draw to the rest of the children from the street, as well as the envy of them all.

Colt and Bastian Jensen have all the toys children could wish for, and soon have an above-ground pool, as well. Their father, Rex Jensen, lavishes them with gifts, and is pushy and extreme about the other neighbourhood children taking part – everyone is welcome, at all times, and he’ll offer tea and party pies and be very polite at all times.

The neighbourhood kids all have their issues. We have the large, rough bully, who hates everything at all times but also wants to keep everything for himself – especially things that aren’t his.

We have a small, hopeless child who has absent parents, and currently lives with grandparents who don’t care or notice where he is – so he spends his nights cycling around, enjoying the stars.

Then we also have a family of many children, a rough loveless mother, and a drunk abusive father. The eldest daughter of the family turns to Rex for advice and attention, finding a father figure in her life that she can talk to. Her siblings however quickly learn to avoid the man, who seems odd in the way children can pick up – a tendency to pat their shoulder unnecessarily, and then there’s the creepy way he helps them dry off after a dip in the pool…

In an utterly truthful novel, Hartnett has managed to perfectly capture how children interact with each other and the adults around them, and how a child can brush off a creep’s intent with a shrug and a knowing ‘he’s a creep’ statement, matter of fact.

This is a novel that is at times brutal, and at all times engaging – it’s hard to put down, and painful in its shortness. We’re left with an open ending, as things are just a natural slice of their life – we see no justice for any of the terrible crimes we read, nor do we see any ending to them. We’re left to believe that in an sadly realistic way – life must just carry on.

Books Upcoming: Atlantia by Ally Condie

AtlantiaAtlantia by Ally Condie

Release Date: October 2014

Dutton Juvenile

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

~

Atlantia’ by Ally Condie (author of the Matched and Yearbook trilogy) is currently up on NetGalley as a sneak peak – the first 42 pages.

Written in first person, we meet twins Bay and Rio (though her name, as narrator, we don’t learn until page 23 unless you read the synopsis). The introduction is written beautifully, describing the world they’re in, quickly giving the impression they live below in the ocean, from how it describes the colours – how they would be colours of flowers from Above, but Below are the colours of coral.

We find the twins as part of a ceremony, one that involves two bowls; one filled with salt water, and the other filled with dirt brought down from Above. We find that the twins are quite alone – no other siblings, and both parents have died young, though they have an Aunt Maire still alive.

During the ceremony, it seems that whenever young people come of age, they pick one bowl or the other. Since the divide, the air Above became polluted and people can no longer survive long lives in such conditions. Still, some must live Above so those Below can survive, and those who choose to live Above shall be rewarded in the afterlife. They also get to see the stars, feel the sun, touch a tree, and walk for miles without coming to the edge of the world as you know it.

We then see Fen Cardiff making his choice – to sacrifice himself to the Above. We’ll probably see more of him somehow, as he’s introduced as handsome and charismatic, with dangerous, laughing eyes.

We’re also offered an interesting tidbit as the main character, still unnamed at this point, goes to speak.

‘I close my eyes and will myself to speak in the right tone – the flat, false one my mother always insisted that I use, the one that hides the curse and gift that is my real voice.’

We then see Rio choose to remain Below as she has promised her sister, even though she craves to be able to go Above. And then see Bay betray her sister, choosing to go Above, and we know that Rio can’t change her mind now that she has chosen first officially during the ceremony, and we see Rio use her true voice in her shock and anguish, which turns those around her in shock. We still don’t know what that voice could mean.

And this is how chapter one ends.

The sneak peak continues on, though I won’t continue to recount it here. I love the idea of their markets selling pure air and spices such as cinnamon and saffron. We learn how their world Below is built, and get a sense for how big the underwater civilisation is. We also learn what Rio means earlier regarding the curse and gift of her voice.

Overall, even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Matched series, I’ll certainly be looking out for this book as soon as it comes out, and hope to get my hands on an ARC if I could be so lucky!

Haul & News – 17 May 2014

HnN

I’ve decided that each weekend shall be the time I take to discuss books I’ve received to review and/or books I’ve bought the week before, and any news that particular caught my interest.

Books Received:

  • Coin Heist by Elisa Ludwig (review) from Adaptive Books on NetGalley
  • Reach for Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan (review) from Solaris on NetGalley
  • Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan (review) from Hachette Australia
  • The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2 edited by Gordon Van Gelder (review) from Tachyon Publications on NetGalley
  • Buzz Books 2014: Young Adult by Publishers Lunch (review) from NetGalley

Coin Heist caught my attention mainly because of the cover, but the blurb sealed the deal:

The last place you’d expect to find a team of criminals is at a prestigious Philadelphia prep school. But on a class trip to the U.S. Mint – which prints a million new coins every 30 minutes – an overlooked security flaw becomes far too tempting for a small group of students to ignore. 

Unfortunately my reading has been a bit slow lately. I want to read this! Other things are currently in the way and I’m struggling to find the time to read. Last weekend I was away giving judges talks and on the plane I read 22 issues of various comics rather than any novels. Sigh.

Reach for Infinity is an anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan – any of his I tend to pick up without second though, as they’re all pretty decent. The contents are as follows:

  • “Break My Fall”, Greg Egan
  • “The Dust Queen”, Aliette de Bodard
  • “The Fifth Dragon”, Ian McDonald
  • “Kheldyu”, Karl Schroeder
  • “Report Concerning The Presence of Seahorses On Mars”, Pat Cadigan
  • “Hiraeth: a tragedy in four acts”, Karen Lord
  • “Amicae Aeternum”, Ellen Klages
  • “Trademark Bugs: A Legal History”, Adam Roberts
  • “Attitude”, Linda Nagata
  • “Invisible Planets”, Hannu Rajaniemi
  • “Wilder Still, the Stars”, Kathleen Ann Goonan
  • “The Entire Immense Superstructure’: An Installation”, Ken Macleod
  • “In Babelsberg”, Alastair Reynolds
  • “Hotshot”, Peter Watts

As usual, I’ll try to review each story individually, as well as the anthology as a whole.

Thief’s Magic is a book I didn’t request to review, but very thankful to receive. I’ve read most of Trudi’s work, and like the sound of this new series. Trudi’s work is usually quick to read and hard to put down, incredibly engaging and a full world you really feel you can step into and disappear within, so it’ll be a good book for the weekend!

Tachyon’s The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Volume 2, edited by Gordon Van Gelder was a book very kindly offered to me by the publisher via the NetGalley widget (my first offer via NG!)  I haven’t read an anthology put together by Van Gelder yet, so I’ll be interested to see how this balances. I’m really looking forward to it! I’m reading so many anthologies lately.

  • “The Third Level” by Jack Finney
  • “Fondly Fahrenheit” by Alfred Bester
  • “The Cosmic Charge Account” by C. M. Kornbluth
  • “The Anything Box” by Zenna Henderson
  • “The Prize of Peril” by Robert Sheckley
  • “—All You Zombies—” by Robert A. Heinlein
  • “Green Magic” by Jack Vance
  • “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” by Roger Zelazny
  • “Narrow Valley” by R. A. Lafferty
  • “Sundance” by Robert Silverberg
  • “Attack of the Giant Baby” by Kit Reed
  • “The Hundredth Dove” by Jane Yolen
  • “Jeffty Is Five” by Harlan Ellison
  • “Salvador” by Lucius Shepard
  • “The Aliens Who Knew, I mean, Everything” by George Alec Effinger
  • “Rat” by J. P. Kelly
  • “The Friendship Light” by Gene Wolfe
  • “The Bone Woman” by Charles de Lint
  • “The Lincoln Train” by Maureen McHugh
  • “Maneki Neko” by Bruce Sterling
  • “Winemaster” by Robert Reed
  • “Suicide Coast” by M. John Harrison
  • “Have Not Have” by Geoff Ryman
  • “The People of Sand & Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • “Echo” by Liz Hand
  • “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” by Stephen King
  • “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu

Buzz Books 2014: Young Adult contains substantial pre-publication excerpts from more than 20 forthcoming young adult and middle grade books. This one contains excepts from Garth Nix, Scott Westerfeld, Julie Kagawa and 18 others. It’ll be interesting! Though probably also aggravating, because you’ll want to read on, but won’t be able to.

Links of Notice

  • So it seems that Orbit will not be providing full copies of their Hugo-nominated novels in the Hugo Packet, which has recently become the norm. They’ll be providing extended excerpts instead.
  • As usual, John Scalzi has a fairly well-rounded blog post of thoughts on this.
  • The authors involved (Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire), Ann Leckie, Charles Stross) have released a statement regarding this as well.

Cover Reveals:

A Darker Shade final for Irene

A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V. E. Schwab

Expected publication: February 2015 by Tor.

Tor.com have posted about how the cover was decided, showing a collection of other version they went through before deciding on this one.

From V.E. Schwab, the critically acclaimed author of Vicious, comes a new universe of daring adventure, thrilling power, and parallel Londons, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic.

Kell is one of the last Travellers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands. There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London…but no one speaks of that now.Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.

Mirrorempire

 The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley.

Expected publication: September 2014 by Angry Robot.

 

Blog Post by author: Finding joy when writing becomes work.  

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin.

As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.