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I was disconnected again last night; still on an hour's wait plus for a call back, but fortunately it connected again about half an hour ago.  Definitely Iinet's prob, which I seriously hope they can fix sooooon and that I don't get another major drop out.  Needed to go out anyway, despite another hot day, to buy a new phone cable - wasn't causing the problem but very old and mouse-chomped, so preemptive maintenance - and hit the library to stop me buying more ebooks.  I'm also waiting for a book to come in from Book Depository.  It's called One Year Later, sequel to One Second Later by William Forstchen; one of the best 'emp attack destroys civilisation" books I ever read.  He's coauthored books with Newt Gingrich, who provided the foreword for the first novel.

I've mostly been on rereads so far this year, all 10 days of it, except for Joshua Guess's This Broken Veil, a zombie apoc with real characters!  I reread Simon Scarrow's Under the Eagle, which may possibly have been before New Year, and then the Timerider series by his brother Alex, who also borrows Simon's Roman military characters for one of those books :-)  It had been sufficiently long that I couldn't quite recall the ending of the Timerider series, so they could stand a reread.  So today, new books:  J.D. Robb's Apprentice in Death and a thing called The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello, which seems to feature Rasputin and also a modern day threat from a buried source of the 1918 flu in Antarctica.  Being a thriller and not an apocalypse novel, I can predict that the reawoken virus won't destroy the world, but one can hope :-)

This being summer; Perth is hot and crowded, particularly with children, since they haven't been safely locked up yet, so I headed home soon as I finished the cable shopping and library and rations gathering.

Good news; read a post by Mark Sheppard yesterday announcing that Supernatural had been renewed for a 13th season. 
For possible Supernatural season 12 spoilers )
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This book, released in 2015,  is absolutely beautiful; both for its story, the quality of the writing and its physical appearance, which goes very nicely with the contents; a backdrop of desert browns and oranges against the silver lettering of the title and the young woman in long 1880s-style skirts approaching across the landscape.

 It is alternate history and myth woven together, creating a fascinating world I would rather like to live in.  If I had to categorise it, probably I would call it coming of age.  The focus on a teenaged protagonist and the clear, easy reading language, make it suitable for young people as well as for adults.

Isobel was indentured as a baby, to a being whom his people call “the boss” and whom outsiders call “the devil.”  He runs a saloon in the town of Flood, and from it, the land called the Territory.  If people want to stay within this land he claims west of the Missisippi, they must make a bargain with him.  At the beginning of the story, Isobel is about to turn sixteen and it is her time to make the deal.

In true coming of age style, the protagonist must learn and grow in order to become strong enough for their destiny;  in this case, Isobel’s agreement to work for her boss as his ‘Left Hand’.  She leaves the town and takes to the road, mentored by a rider called Gabriel, who has made his own bargain with the devil. 

The present story about powerful magical threats to the Territory is engrossing enough, making it clear that whoever and whatever the boss really is, he’s not omnipotent.  I found the backstory just as intriguing and spent a lot of time wondering about him and his people, particularly Marie, who works as his “Right Hand” within the town of Flood.  Neither of them are exactly human but I couldn’t place them securely in any mythos.  This devil is true to his word and protective of his people, and the word is he runs the only honest gaming tables in the West.

Nor could I be sure just when in time – and being an alternate world, perhaps this was intentional – the story takes place.  The intruding Spanish monks who show up make me think 1700s, but the scenario of the wild west and the settlers protected by the boss’s riders, who seem a blend of the law, messengers and magical aid, seem to suggest later on.  My knowledge of early American history is admittedly a bit patchy and strongly influenced by works such as Deadwood and Paint Your Wagon

The story of Silver on the Road is fairly slow moving and the reader is mostly limited to what Isobel discovers, and her thoughts about those discoveries, with some story devoted to Gabriel, though his own mystery remains, and so does that of the boss, with only small glimpses of what they may possibly be.  This is only the first book in a trilogy.  Some reviews I read criticised the book’s pace but I had no problem with it;  I wanted to remain within the world.  I can most definitely recommend it to any reader, whether they’re into fantasy specifically or not.

 

 

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Two books I need to review, sitting on my desk:

Rachel Caine's Paper And Fire, second in the Great Library series. For anybody still outraged about the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria, an alternate world where it survived and comes to rule the world.  I found it in the huge Brisbane Dymocks store, which was packed with shoppers that Sunday.  I had meant to check out the various other bookshops in Brisbane, particularly Pulp Fiction, but they were closed.

Also a book I picked up almost by accident at Stefen's Books, since the two I had been considering were not in the shop. Silver on the Road, by Laura Anne Gilman; another alternate world/magic exists story which is rather hard to classify, taking place in what the book's characters call the Devil's West.  The Devil himself runs a saloon, well, what else would he do in the American old west, or a version of it?  Perfect place to make bargains with his people.  Isobel has been living under his roof since she was a small child.  Now, at sixteen, it is time for her to choose her bargain.

 Anyway, I want to think about these two a bit more before I write a proper review, but they were very enjoyable.  Silver is quite possibly the better book.

In a week's time I go on leave and will then have time to consider books and do some proper writing, though I'm still going with the Nano novel, which did not get completed or even up to 50,000 words in November, but I sort of suspected that might happen.  November and December are killer months in the gulag.  I'm tired with the sort of weariness that has built up over the year and doesn't fade with a couple of days off.  People keep asking what I'm doing for Christmas, but since I will have been on leave only one day when that rolls around, the answer is still nothing.  

My mother is going to visit my brother and his family and presumably they'll do the whole Christmas thing.  Me, I'll wait till New Year's and the party I'll be heading to then.  That's the real celebration.
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This series is both books and television.  I encountered it backwards, as in the series appeared on Netflix and had enough decent recommendations for me to take a look.  It was very confusing at the start, because a lot happens in a short time and the action flips between three sets of characters on Earth, on Ceres Station and in space on a succession of ships. [And no, I will not try to say that last bit aloud].

A few episodes in I discovered the books and in short order became hooked.  In my opinion, this is very good science fiction, with believable science (at least to me).  It is character driven but with a fascinating universe around them.  There is the ancient story of war and politics between Earthborn, Marsborn and Belters, the people who have lived and worked for generations in the asteroid belts.  There are intriguing characters.  Humans have evolved to some degree.  There is no longer any sort of fuss made about what relationships people choose to have.  But they still pick fights with one another about real estate and business interests, and they still talk about "them" and "us."  

Read more... )

Bookstuff

Oct. 5th, 2016 03:48 pm
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My last read was an ebook called After The Cure by Deirdre Gould, which I grabbed because it was a free zombie apocalypse book that looked readable. If they're free or very cheap, I'll often give them a go just because I need something to read on the train. A lot of the time one finds out very quickly just why it's that cheap. This one was a hell of a surprise. It was good. It was also unusual for the genre. It doesn't jump you into the apoc with a group of survivors banging away with superior firepower.

This book starts off with a cure for the virus, bringing those zombies who are still intact back to being people. Severely traumatised/PTSD/mentally ill people with a high suicide rate, beginning with the first person the Cure teams tried to help. And then they find out who was responsible, a Dr Pazzo, now in the custody of the authorities and about to stand trial. The POV characters are his lawyer and a court appointed psychiatrist, who was one of those immune to the virus.

There's a community within the City, which doesn't have a name. It's the last city in the world, so possibly it doesn't need one. This community is a mix of immunes and cured, two groups who sometimes don't get on that well. Now, a legal drama with zombies grabbed me right off, but it's even better than that. Pazzo says there's another virus he developed, one for which there would be no cure.

Any more would be spoilerish, but the book is much more hopeful than the usual offering in this genre. It's a detective story starring the psychiatrist, Dr Nella Rider and the lawyer, Frank Courtlen, and also a love story crossing the lines of immune (who are supposed to only have children with one another) and cured, who aren't supposed to even go there.

On a practical side, some of the formatting was annoying, such as the intrusive titling for the chapters, which seemed to be there just to tell you what the chapter was about, i.e. The Cure. The Prison. Meeting Robert Pazzo. I would have been happy just to have the text. This was well written and no grammatical errors sprang out at me. There are some graphically described incidents, mostly involving what the Cured characters did when they were zombified, but not over the top.

There are more books in the series and I suspect these aren't free, but that's okay. I think it was clever of the author to provide the first book for free, to hook people in, because in my case it's going to work. If I manage to get things published online, I think I'll probably try that also.

Bookstuff

Oct. 5th, 2016 03:22 pm
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This year I've been blogging on LJ about what I've been reading, since January 1. I haven't done full book reviews for all of them because I get lazy, or sometimes the book really isn't worth it. Now I'm going to share here.

Last read was an ebook called After The Cure by Deirdre Gould, which I grabbed because it was a free zombie apocalypse book that looked readable. If they're free or very cheap, I'll often give them a go just because I need something to read on the train. A lot of the time one finds out very quickly just why it's that cheap. This one was a hell of a surprise. It was good. It was also unusual for the genre. It doesn't jump you into the apocalypse with a group of survivors banging away with superior firepower.  Seriously, I've learned a lot about weapons from this genre which is useful when playing RPGs.

This book starts off with a cure for the virus, bringing those zombies who are still intact back to being people. Severely traumatised/PTSD/mentally ill people with a high suicide rate, beginning with the first person the Cure teams tried to help. And then they find out who was responsible, a Dr Pazzo, now in the custody of the authorities and about to stand trial. The POV characters are his lawyer and a court appointed psychiatrist, who was one of those immune to the virus.

There's a community within the City, which doesn't have a name. It's the last city in the world, so possibly it doesn't need one. This community is a mix of immunes and cured, two groups who sometimes don't get on that well. Now, a legal drama with zombies grabbed me right off, but it's even better than that. Pazzo says there's another virus he developed, one for which there would be no cure.

Any more would be spoilerish, but the book is much more hopeful than the usual offering in this genre. It's a detective story starring the psychiatrist, Dr Nella Rider and the lawyer, Frank Courtlen, and also a love story crossing the lines of immune (who are supposed to only have children with one another) and cured, who aren't supposed to even go there.

On a practical side, some of the formatting was annoying, such as the intrusive titling for the chapters, which seemed to be there just to tell you what the chapter was about, i.e. The Cure. The Prison. Meeting Robert Pazzo. I would have been happy just to have the text. This was well written and no grammatical errors sprang out at me. There are some graphically described incidents, mostly involving what the Cured characters did when they were zombified, but not over the top.

There are more books in the series and I suspect these aren't free, but that's okay.  I think it was clever of the author to provide the first book for free, to hook people in, because in my case it's going to work.  If I manage to get things published online, I think I'll probably try that also.



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Place holding book notes: Last read, Working Stiff by Rachel Caine. All the undertaker jokes you never wanted, in a rather entertaining urban fantasy/horror story featuring Evil Corporation and a way to bring people back from death, which involves the need to keep taking Evil Corporation's medicine in order not to decompose.

I've also got a one book "to be read list." Well, two, since this is The Dagger's Path, number 2 of Glenda Larke's series beginning with The Lascar's Dagger, and it's been so long that I've decided to reread number 1 first. At the moment I'm reading Vernor Vinge's Children of the Sky, a sequel I only knew existed when I saw it, to A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) and A Deepness in the Sky (1999). Given those dates, it's probably fair enough that I'd stopped looking for another one.

This is a long weekend coming up with no plans except to keep going with current gardening project and my exercise efforts, so I may well get the reading done. I'm feeling whatever is the opposite to adventurous and far-ranging at the moment. I had an encounter with a prat on the train this morning and while I could certainly have managed things better myself, it's left me in an edgy "maybe I'll just stay home for the rest of my life" kind of mood.

This particularly chilly and wet winter seems to have been going on for awhile now and Perth has gotten out of the habit of them.

On a more cheerful note, thanks to a huge map of the world which has appeared at work, I now know where Finland [Helsinki is the site of the 2017 Worldcon] is. I knew vaguely, but not to any degree of certainty. I've also read about Helsinki, its tourist attractions and its weather, which in the northern hemisphere August [summer] is warmer than what we have right now [winter/spring], but not by much. If I make it there for Worldcon, I think I'll take my winter jacket. I've also been checking out costs of flights and accommodation. The flight cost isn't too bad and that Finnair airline looks remarkably pleasant, for a 12 hour trip in a tin can. There's a 5 hour trip in a Qantas tin can to Singapore before that. I'm now debating just how many nights I can afford to stay in Helsinki. It won't be a hugely long holiday, but at least the days will have a lot more daylight than I'm used to.
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This is an interview with my friend and fellow writer, Sue Bursztynski. She wrote a much better intro than I did, so I am going to outright plagarise what she said in my following paragraph:

Every two years some members of the Australian SF community run something called the SF Snapshot, asking authors about their writing. Each one is different, with only two questions in common across the interviews. I've answered one or two of these in the past. but this year nobody invited me, or my guest, Sue Bursztynski, so after I mentioned it on Livejournal, Sue suggested we do our own unofficial Snapshot.

Sue and I have been friends since we met around 1985 – either at the Melbourne Worldcon that year or one of the media cons which followed. We were then devoted Star Trek fans and committed all the relevant follies, such as dressing up and writing fanfiction, but remained friends as we moved ahead into our own writing and being published.

Sue Bursztynski is a Melbourne writer of fantasy, science fiction and children’s books, specialising in a combination of the above. She works as a teacher/librarian for her day job, which provides both subjects and audience for her work. Often underestimated in the field, she has been quietly producing work that fascinates both children and adults.

Sue sold her first book, Monsters and Creatures of the Night, in 1993, and Potions and Pulsars (1995 ) a Notable Book in the Children’s Book Council Awards. Another book, Starwalkers: Explorers of the Unknown, for Omnibus (1998), was nominated for the NSW Premier’s History Award.

Her work in print at the moment includes Australians Behaving Badly (2009), an Australian True Crime Book, It's True, Your Cat Could Be a Spy (2006) and her Young Adult novel, Wolfborn (2010), which Sue describes below in this interview.

* * *

How does writing for children tie in with your job as a school librarian?

Well, it means I work with my audience, for one thing. It means I have some idea of what the kids are reading and enjoying. I could never have written Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly, for example, if I hadn't known that kids, bless them, just love stories that are gruesome and true.

I also had a good response from the kids to my YA novel, Wolfborn. When it was being edited, I showed them the manuscript - in full to one student, in bits to others - and acknowledged their help at the back of the book. It was a fun way to get the Year 8 students to work at their history; it was set in my own universe, but it was, after all, set in a world not unlike the Middle Ages they were studying. (The girl who read the full MS loved it and wouldn't give it back, so somewhere in the collection of a young student teacher in Melbourne there is the original MS of my novel!). And then I had book launches both for CrimeTime and Wolfborn in my own library, something most writers can't do.

What short fiction or other work have you published recently?

Most recently, I've had a story in Rich And Rare, a children's anthology published by Ford Street. It was called "The Boy To Beat Them All" and was historical fiction with bushrangers in it, based on a true story of a young boy who saw the robbery at Eugowra Rocks in the 1860s, through a hole in his hat! The bushrangers took a couple of carts to block the road and made everyone stand with hats pulled over their faces so they wouldn't be witnesses, only his hat had a hole in it. He wrote about it as an old man in 1935.

What is your favourite YA or children’s book or author?

Goodness, that's a hard one! I read so much, wearing my librarian hat, how could I say? But we do have some wonderful children's and YA writers here in Australia, even in Melbourne. I think I could quite happily read only Australian books for the rest of my life. Off the top of my head, Gabrielle Wang(author of lovely, gentle children's fantasies), Kate Forsyth, Kate Constable, Sophie Masson, Carole Wilkinson, Anna Ciddor, Michael Pryor... Michael's Laws Of Magic series are delightful steampunk with a hero who's definitely a cousin to Miles Vorkosigan in personality!

A lot of YA is read by adults as well as teens; do you have any thoughts on why that is?

Easy! It's because YA and children's books are the last refuge of story. You can publish entire dreary novels about divorce for adults, as long as they're "beautiful writing". No teen or child would let you get away with that. If you start a children's book with a divorce it had damn well better be an excuse for the hero/heroine to be sent away somewhere amazing to have adventures, without parents to interfere.

And adults want some of that. It's not for nothing you see so many adults with their noses in a Harry Potter book. Of course, there are those who are too embarrassed to be seen with one that has the original cover...

Which author, living or dead, would you like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Depends. Assuming the person actually doesn't mind my chatter, perhaps Terry Pratchett. I've heard him speak and I think he'd be really interesting to talk to. And again, it's assuming I haven't gone all fan-girl and sat there like a stunned mullet. It has happened to me with the likes of Susan Cooper and Lois McMaster Bujold.

What Australian work have you read recently and loved?

Plenty! But off the top of my head, The Family With Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor, Cloudwish by Fiona Wood and Soon by Morris Gleitzman. The last-mentioned are the deserving winners of this year's Children's Book Council Awards. Soon is the latest in a series about Felix, a Jewish boy we first met in Once, running from the Nazis. In this one, the war is over, but terrible things are still happening to people in post-war Poland. It's just as well we learned three books ago that Felix survives and comes to Australia, where he has a loving family and becomes a much-admired doctor! Cloudwish is set in Melbourne and tells the story of a bright young Asian girl whose family came here by boat, and who is on a scholarship at a private school. It's gentle, funny and sad all at once and a love letter to Melbourne. The Anna Ciddor novel is inspired by the life of her grandmother as a Jewish child in Poland in the 1920s. It's just about the family's preparation for a wedding, but the author took a huge chance on losing her writer profile to spend five years researching, writing and trying to sell it. I love it! So do a lot of others, if the sales figures are any indication.

What's your writing process?

It depends on what I'm writing. For non fiction, I research. A lot. Sometimes more than the item would seem to require. For example, when School Magazine asked for an article about forensics, about which I knew very little at the time, I read books and newspapers, articles about famous events in the history of forensics, watched documentaries, before I even started - yes, it was just an article and I was paid only a couple of hundred dollars for it, but I wanted to get it right. After writing my draft, I consulted a forensic scientist to whom I was introduced by a crime novelist friend. And the research didn't go to waste, because soon afterwards I was commissioned to write Crime Time: Australians behaving badly.

Fiction-wise, I often write a first draft with only basic knowledge, but research as I go along and never have the cheek to submit anything till I believe I have it right. For Wolfborn, I read a lot of books about mediaeval daily life, the role of women, etc. I even looked up everything I could about the effect of multiple moons on a planet like ours. My world had three moons and I wanted it to be believable. "It's fantasy!" is no excuse for getting the laws of physics wrong. By the way, I asked a few knowledgeable folk, who didn't know, so I kept it vague.

“Vague” would be the last word you could use to describe you, Sue! Thanks very much for letting me interview you, especially for a blog called Apocalypse With Rats, and please forgive the lack of proper links in this article.

I did try to put proper links to the books in, but if I wait till I get it right, Sue will be waiting until next year. If you type those book titles in and Sue's name, you'll find them, I promise!

My own interview with Sue can be found here at her blog,
The Great Raven;

http://suebursztynski.blogspot.com.au/
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Here are some notes on books. Haven't felt like posting book blog lately, but still want to keep track of the reads, of which there have been some quite a few e-books and some from the library. Some rereads which I haven't bothered noting down. With long running ebook series, I find I have to reread some of them to remember what I need to for the latest.

The Killing Line - James N. Cook.

Zombie apocalypse series, book number 7. Interesting in that it tries to cover the development of a new society from the survivors who learned to deal with the undead, including a fairly well thought out barter system for trade. Downside is rather too much time spent describing military manoeuvres and guns.

Hell's Children - John L. Monk.

Pandemic scenario, killing everyone over 15. Viewpoint character is a 14-year-old boy trained by his survivalist parents, so you essentially get preppers and guns, only with teenagers and younger kids. The background is so nondescript I can't even remember where it's supposed to take place and the characters I was even partway interested in get killed off.

Telepath - Janet Edwards.

The start of a new YA series by the author of the Earth Girl series, which I enjoyed more than this one. This society has everyone on Earth living in giant underground 'hives' as in big enough to hold the population of a small nation. Characters get 'imprinted' at 18 with the knowledge necessary to perform work chosen for them. It was hard to tell whether one was supposed to approve of this society or not; it was a bit creepy to me, but the viewpoint character doesn't rebel from it. Being a telepath is so rare there are only five in her Hive, so the job has huge prestige, but again, no free choice. She's a sort of psi cop for her Hive and has to battle against another Hive's attempt to steal her for themselves.

The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick

I don't know how I never got around to reading this before now. Very good, but I found the ending rather vague and perplexing. Characters circle around one another without much interaction; there's an estranged husband and wife whom I kept expecting to meet up and they never do. The I Ching seems to be a character in its own right, an omniscient one. I have to think about this some more. It's one of the earliest alternate world stories I know, published in 1962, where Germany and Japan won WWII, but now Germany seems to be eyeing off its old comrade in arms. Also, everyone is reading and talking about a strange book describing an impossible world where the Axis powers lost the war.
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I haven't posted a book blog entry for awhile, mostly because I've been on rereads on my Kindle, to decide whether or not I really want book seven in James Cook's zombie apocalypse series beginning with No Easy Hope. That first one was pretty good, focusing on a guy who has a survivalist nut friend, but when the books moved more into super military mode, they became less interesting to me, so I'll leave the new book until I'm desperate for something readable. The best point about the series was that it doesn't knock humanity down to the stone age, exactly; but they need to revamp their model of civilisation and adjust to the fact that people aren't apex predators anymore.

Another thing I do is read a lot of samples, i.e. first couple of chapters of the Kindle books, to decide if I want any of them, and so far they haven't grabbed me enough. On Friday, again got actual books from the library and have got through one of them, a truly bone chilling re-invention of Peter Pan, from the POV of Wendy, who is at first enthralled by Peter (she's 16 in this book, set in 1911 London/Neverland) but then begins to realise that Neverland is, under the bright surface, a nightmare from which she can't wake up. The book is called Wendy Darling, by Colleen Oakes. It's YA, very well written and ends on a cliffhanger which is most frustrating as I don't think book 2 is out yet.

Now I've started reading the second book in my loot, Demon Road, by Derek Landy, another YA featuring another 16-year-old girl who has discovered that her parents are, well, demons and that they have plans for her which don't exactly involve her graduating from high school and getting a life... Loved the book's blurb which said:

For anyone who ever thought their parents were monsters . . .

Beyond that, not too much happening. I've done everything I need to around here for the weekend; may go for a walk around soon if the weather permits. It's been windy with a bit of rain. I'm doing the recluse thing at the moment; haven't been out at all this weekend.

Wait, rethink. Had one shoe on and noticed it had begun hailing. White stuff falling from the sky!
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The nail biting question: Does Australia have a government yet after voting last Saturday?
Well, no.

They're still counting.

For ONCE, everybody is anxiously waiting for Western Australia to finish rather than declaring it on the day before our polling places have even closed! [Time difference; two to three hours depending on whether those who have daylight saving are having it].
Ha. Ha. Suffer, Eastern States :-)

This does not, of course, include any of my personal friends who live there. Seriously, though, it's a good feeling to matter for once, whether on a personal or political level. Looks like the Liberals will get back in, but will need to negotiate a lot more than they thought they would. This is the very situation they called the double dissolution to avoid. They called it potential chaos, but all it means is, well, you'll have to talk to people to get things done. Talk and listen.

Since then, I've worked in the gulag two days; gotten another good review, but 16 words average short of a pay rise. I kid you not. Work provided a lunch on Wednesday to thank us for all the overtime and then an afternoon tea for something else, that just happened to fall on the same day for our office. I was not rostered to work but had a couple of things to do in town, so I arrived, ate lunch and chatted, went off to get a haircut and buy some groceries, came back for afternoon tea, visited the library and went home.

I'm having a bit of a rest, so took Thursday as well - they didn't ask me anyway - and today had mostly a pyjama day. Did a bit of gardening, mostly pruning, and a guerrilla gardening venture, i.e. removing a likely-looking plant from the overgrown vacant block on the corner and adding it to my front garden. Surrounding gardeners have pretty well picked it clean of the good stuff, though I think there are still poppies growing on the mounds of soil; I just don't know where until they flower again. I did score a small rosebush last summer.

I went up the road to collect my new passport from the Post Office and on the way started chatting to a lady in her front garden. Wow. All I said was, "Working hard?" after "Hello," and half an hour later I know a whole lot more about the history of this suburb, plus the personal adventures of her family and neighbours (g). I thought people like Carla were made up. Seriously, she was great and I love history, so it was fascinating to hear about her neighbours, such as the woman with a cow, who took the cow up the street to pasture every day, some 60 years ago. Bassendean was half bush then, plus fields and market gardens, and Carla seemed to know where all of them had been, within the area we could see. I kind of wish we still had all those animals around here, and the gardens. There are still some market gardens about, but not like it was.

A brief book blog note: Last read, Devoted in Death, book 41 of J.D. Robb's Death series. One of the better ones, involving two thrill killers who channel Romeo and Juliet. The book used the gambit of revealing who they were at the beginning, and then followed the police investigation. Very intriguing and full of the usual quirky black humour, such as Eve Dallas wanting to charge somebody for "Driving while stupid."

Also read, Jo Walton's My Real Children, which has made me want to go read more by this author, except it seemed to be the only one the library had. It was compared to the movie Sliding Doors, where one choice creates two very different worlds, both for the character and for, well, the world. It was slow and rather depressing to start with, dwelling on the limitations placed on the viewpoint character by her gender, society and era, but became fascinating. It made me lose sleep. I may even get myself a copy to keep.
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Last book I read was a zombie novel with the best title ever, by Sarah Lyons Fleming. Zombie apocalypse, efforts of survivors to make it through. I’ve got a few more of Fleming’s books and they’re not bad, well written, although in present tense which I don’t enjoy reading that much. The other books follow a related group of characters doing the traditional thing of bugging out from New York City to the imagined haven in the woods.

This series follows those who don’t make it out before the authorities blow all the bridges linking Manhattan with the rest of the city. These include one of the viewpoint characters, Sylvie, who is a difficult, psychologically-damaged person with trust issues. All this *before* the end of the world comes along. Even so, she manages to start playing a word-a-day game with another character, Eric, who likes Sylvie in spite of her best efforts. The first one to use the word in unforced conversation that day wins a point.

One day the word is “mordacious.” Here are its two definitions:

adjective formal
1. denoting or using biting sarcasm or invective.

2. (of a person or animal) given to biting.

Both the characters score a point that day. The word is just too perfect, and the game becomes a sort of running joke amidst the quite real dangers and emotional suffering which the group endures. This is also one of the few zombie books to address the question for all of us who take some sort of medication to keep our brains in order: What do we do when the pills run out?!

For a zombie novel; lightweight, almost zombie chick lit, but enjoyable nonetheless.
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Latest read: Joshua Guess's latest zombie book. Unlike many in the field, these are good; decent characterisation, spelling, grammar and plot - all the important stuff. This was Exodus in Black, number five of The Fall series. My main beef with these books is they're too short, around 70,000 words, I think. Still novels, but I can get through one of them in a day if I'm keen and have no social life, which is sometimes the case.

Today's a chilly winter day in Perth [stop laughing, [livejournal.com profile] gillpolack] and I've devoted it mostly to getting the house in order and the laundry done, so I don't run out of underwear and socks, which are also the important stuff. Food shop done also. My pet rats are still asleep but will soon begin demanding dinner to stave off immediate starvation. I've been reading a lot of stuff online, general friends info, and also about Brexit, which seems to be on everyone's minds.

I didn't see that coming, not until the vote was almost counted. Though I was at work and supposedly out of contact doing court transcription, we had one team member working from home and feeding us info via the chat function, supposedly so we could discuss the job. That wasn't the fastest audio transcription I ever did and in fact I had to banish myself from the chat due to inability to focus on both jobs. Our informant is an expat with dual citizenship, and he reckoned Britain was going to become a tiny, isolated country with no friends, or words to that effect, since by that stage the Leave vote had its nose across the line.

I knew basically what the European Union is, but until I looked hadn't been aware that its history dates back to just after WWII, which I guess was a good time for countries to decide it might help if they developed closer links with one another. I admit I have no real idea of how things will change now, except that I'm sure a lot of people are going to be very confused for a long time.

Tomorrow I'll be getting out of the house to meet up with a few friends. One is about to go overseas and has promised not to cry (g). I'm trying to be a bit more proactive with socialising, as I have to do because I live on my own. At the moment the goal is one event (meeting a friend/friends or going to something) once a week. Friends I have tried to socialise with and failed because schedules, I would still like to catch up but I'm worried about being a nuisance if I ask again. My confidence re people actually wanting to see me is not so good.

For instance, I put my details into a friending meme someone ran on one of the Supernatural LJs, but although everyone else there was chatting, no one friended me and I got too worried to push things. So I decided to leave that LJ. There were a lot of photos and gifs, but nobody who actually wanted to chat, far as I can tell. So I will keep looking. And thank you to folk from previous memes who are still with me! I'm now wondering whether I actually want to follow season 12 as closely as I have the previous seasons, and whether I will just wait until Netflix picks it up and not worry if I get spoilered. Basically so long as Crowley, King of Hell, is doing all right, I'm happy :-)


* Subject is, of course, a Supernatural quote, which I also have on a T-shirt
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Number 2 in the series beginning with The Painted Man which I've found out is called The Warded Man in the US, which explained my confusion when I first located Peter Brett's books in the library.

This one goes into the history of the characters' enemies, a desert culture based strongly on Arab tribal customs. From this comes the leader Jardir [who has a list of names] whom I thought of as a basically decent person brought up in a complete shit of a culture. He and Arlen are both treated as the Deliverer (from the demons) but the difference is Jardir believes it. Think the madness of Daesh/Islamic State, maybe a few centuries on with demons in the mix. Even the supposedly superior warrior caste gets a rotten deal, since all they do is fight demons on the city walls and generally die young.

Arlen, Leesha, Rojer and the rest come back into the story later on - it's a big book - and then the fates of all of them come together. Sort of. This is only book 2 and there are more to come. The library has book 4 but not book 3, which they are in the process of acquiring, so I'm guessing somebody walked off with it. But definitely a good story and one I'll continue reading when I get the chance.
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Most of my journal has been book blog for awhile. Is this okay? Would readers like to read more angst? :-) Writer stuff? Rat news? Geez, my life really is endless excitement.

This book is a Book Three, finally appearing in the library long after I had read One and Two: Stone Spring and Bronze Summer which are alternate world novels where the divergence is caused by humans building a huge wall in Paleolithic times to hold back the sea which would have drowned a huge area of land once called Doggerlands, that linked Britain with the European land mass. Our world, in short. But there will be some spoilers, sorry, it's hard to avoid if you're going to properly describe a book.

It's a climate change novel with very different societies and humans, where human activity has not held back the ice age which should have returned, or not by much. The great society of Northland, which changed the world by not being drowned, is now in trouble which none of its scholars and engineers can halt. But maybe they can understand...and survive.

The characters seem less important than the world; they move through it and they cause great changes, but they seem oddly remote from one another. This seems to be a common thread with Baxter's characters, or so I have read, that they often show distinctly autistic traits. This was very strong with the original wall-builder, Ana, who was shown as regarding her fellow tribesfolk as simply pawns she could move around to get the result she wanted, i.e. the survival of everyone.

In Iron Winter, a Northlands mother is forced to put her son into the Carthaginian army, to battle the Hittites who have had to move their entire nation due to the advancing "long winter." When they reunite after years and she explains that this had been the price of her own and his sister's survival, the response is a shrugging, "I thought it must have been something like that." The best character, IMO, is the old Northland scholar who, with his Inuit sidekick Avatak, travels this very alternate world of the 1300s and gradually maps out what is happening and how the entire human race will have to change to survive it. I couldn't help seeing him in my mind as a sort of medieval David Attenborough. It was hard to really care about any of the characters, but the Iron Winter itself was compelling.
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I read about this book in Joshua Guess's blog/book Living With the Dead and I can see why it would come to mind if you were living in the zombie apocalypse. I don't read much fantasy, but thought this one was very good indeed.

It's a future world where "demons" arise from the ground every night and humans have to barricade themselves behind magical wards or signs which the demons cannot cross. This severely limits what people can do and this civilisation is barely surviving in a medieval stage. Three children are born into this world; Arlen, who learns it is possible to fight the demons, Leesha the healer-apprentice, and Rojer, who lost his family to demons. Human settlements are tenuously linked by the Messengers, who risk their lives to keep them going. There's hints that this demon world arose out of our own, which is described as a time when the demons had been defeated and people forgot about them, but I'm not sure. The author may be using what I call templates, i.e. there's a civilisation based on Middle Eastern culture, this one is based on Europe and so on.

Don't want to spoil it for anyone, so I won't give any more details, except I'm off to the library to borrow the sequel today. :-)
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I have the feeling I've read this book before, quite a long time ago, which is certainly possible as it was written in 2001. I'm more in the mood to appreciate it now. It's a zombie novel written before the huge flood in the last few years, and quite distinct from most of them. It is British. Very British.

Autumn features one firearm in the entire book, known as "the rifle." That's all we need to know because any gun, presumably in this case a hunting rifle, would be able to take out a human being with a headshot, zombied or otherwise.

It also features a random selection of very ordinary Britons, upon whom the zompoc falls without warning, except that a lot of people are off sick from work on the day everything falls apart. There's Michael, a midlevel computer geek whose boss makes him go and talk to unappreciative high school students, Emma, a medical student and Carl, a maintenance guy. He's the only one with a family to lose among these three, which is crucial for later developments in the story. They're all doing their not-too-exciting thing on this day. In this, the book is certainly like most other zombie novels.

This got a bit long so the rest of the review is in here. )
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This book is YA, probably fine for reasonably literate children from around 10 or so through teens, but also readable for an adult. It's very well and clearly written. On one level, Dragonlands is a fantasy novel where a civilization that has domesticated various kinds of dragons tries to take over the territory of another people. These people take slaves as just another valuable commodity for trade, which is how the main character comes into play. She’s a child from a primitive village who finds herself in the wrong place at about the worst possible time.

This is an alternate world to ours, a world where a small population of dinosaurs and pterosaurs survived in sub-Saharan Africa. When people came from Britain to colonise Africa, they domesticated the “dragons’ they found and created a new mythology based on the Dragon as god. The society of the Dragonlords is medieval in nature and there is a lot of ignorance about different races, leading to the belief that golden skinned people with epicanthic folds to their eyes are really elves who can do magic.

Although the young slave girl Zuri experiences some terrible events, the book faces these without dwelling on elements which would not be suitable for young readers. There are several strands of the story, each showing the point of view of characters crucial to events. The first is Zuri herself. The second is the Dragonlords King, and also his identical twin brother, who is in the uneviable position of being born second. That close to being King! It’s got to hurt. The third strand is the samurai Dhan, who has come seeking his son, taken as a slave by the Dragonlords.

These strands come together when the Dragonlord army moves across northern Europe and holds the town of Cavalis , where Zuri is now a slave attached to a scriptorium, to siege. I felt the pace of the story really picked up here, where for perfectly logical reasons, a small group of teenagers are the only people with a chance to get through the siege for help. I’ve read so many YA stories where it doesn’t really make sense that the POV teenager is somehow the “chosen” one with special powers no one else possesses.

Magic, in the real world, is literacy, and here this is a rare talent indeed. Zuri can read and write because her trader grandfather taught her and this power will be what saves her. It also leads to my favourite line in the book:

"He [Brother Dantius, Zuri’s supervisor] says people who love books never have any
money."

So true. Painful, but true! While the story does have a definite ending, there are enough loose threads to be woven into another book. I hope that happens.
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I bought this book at Swancon 41 and am glad to report it more of a success than the last such that I reviewed. It's hard sf, which seems unusual these days, or maybe just unusual to do well. It's a very nice looking first edition hardcopy published in 1998. This date surprised me when I looked, because its subjects of terraforming from the POV of the alien planet, and human overpopulation extending beyond Earth, seem very up to date with the concerns of today.

The "Children Star" is Prokaryon, one such world, where a religious group is trying to fit in with the world rather than changing it. They do so by changing the humans who will live there, a difficult and painful process that takes best in young children. Children they retrieve as orphans from the most hideously overpopulated and now disease-ridden world which humans occupy. They then find themselves up against big business which wants to simply "boil off the planet," bring humans in en masse and make heaps of money. The only thing which will stop them is finding intelligent life on Prokaryon. But life there is so different that intelligence will be very hard to recognise.

This book is one of a series, which I hadn't realised, but although I could tell there were other stories, I was able to follow it pretty well, considering my biology knowledge is fairly minimal, so I can report that the author is well able to convey the concepts to a less knowledgeable readership. People I talked to about the book usually knew at least one of its prequels, A Door Into Ocean and Daughter of Elysium, which I think I will need to go and read. I had read the author's other novel, The Wall Around Eden which is unrelated.

The planet and its ecosystem are characters in themselves. I didn't find the humans that compelling as characters, though they are well drawn. There's one 'hermit scientist' character from the ocean world, whom I think I would probably understand better if I had read that book. Brother Rod, the only human adult in the Spirit Caller colony, is the most interesting, along with 'jum, the last child he brings in from the dying world of L'Li. 'jum shows distinctly Aspergers-like characteristics that make her the best equipped to find the answers the group needs.

Along with wide definitions of intelligence in organic life, the author also deals with the fascinating concept of machine sentience. Technology now enables extremely advanced machines to be built, some of which have been able to achieve actual sentience, which automatically gives them full rights as citizens. This can be decidedly inconvenient, such as when a computerised skinsuit manages sentience and decides it would rather go home than continue on to the job it had been sent to do. And of course, creates new crime, as humans try to limit the possibility that a machine will become aware, thus keeping them in 'slavery.'

The Children Star isn't an easy read but well worth the time.
rattfan: (Frog World!)
This is a free ebook, and readable enough for me to get through all of it. I was attracted by the theme of the pandemic wiping out most of humanity. What can I say? This would be a much nicer planet with fewer humans.

There’s the theme of the few who survive, which is fairly cliched. There is also the story line of the aliens who travelled here millenia ago as an advance guard for their species. They’re doing all this; the plague and the clean up – hence the name – to prepare Earth for their people. The survivors are going to be collared and tamed as “drones” to do the scut work.

There was rather too much telling instead of showing, in the form of one of the aliens’ memories and thoughts. She’s starting to have second thoughts about genocide. Another alien has gone completely rogue and is protecting his own small group of humans. The rest of them are in hunt down and destroy mode.

I see there are more books in the series, and these you have to pay for. I’m not sure that this book was enough of a hook for me to bother, although it was well written for a self-published work.
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