Archive for March, 2013

Humpty’s Bones

March 25, 2013 - 1:50 pm Comments Off on Humpty’s Bones

Between Two Thorns
Author: Emma Newman
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page count/size: 416pp
Release Date: 7 March 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

In this new Urban Fantasy, part one of the Split Worlds trilogy, we meet young Cathy, or Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, a woman who wants to escape the constraints of her faux Victorian existence in Aquae Sulis, the Nether mirror image city of Bath, a magical place in which the Fae co-exist with selected humans. Cathy has escaped and is living hidden in Manchester Mundanus (the real world) hiding out from her family. She is doing well until she is found by Lord Poppy, Lord of the Fae Court who insists she return to the Nether for her coming of age. He removes the charm from her that hides her from her family, so before you can blink, she is dragged back to Aquae Sulis by her brother Tom and informed by her father that she is to marry young William, a highly prised stud from the Iris family.

Whilst all of this is going on, Max, an Arbiter (magically-enhanced private detective/policeman), is investigating the disappearance of humans from Mundanus and the disappearance of Cathy’s uncle, a powerful politician in the world of the Nether.

It is when we enter the world of the Nether and Aquae Sulis that things really sparkle (though not in a horrible vampire/fairy way). Newman’s world building is exemplary, as is her characterisations. Max in particular with his ‘partner’ the gargoyle (I will say no more here) is great fun. As Cathy has to relearn her manners, there are plenty of moments to find humour.

I am not going to fill out this review with a mass of reasons why this book is so good. I’m just going to share this; I started reading and was enamoured. I read this on my kindle, and suddenly looked to see I was fifty percent in and wondered how I’d got there. I then looked and saw I was sevent-five percent in and got upset. Why? Because my journey through the Split Worlds was near an end and I was dissapointed. It has been a very long time since I have read a book that has enthralled me to the extent I become miserable at the thought of it ending. Well done Newman. I want more.

World War Z

March 16, 2013 - 3:45 pm No Comments

World War Z
Author: Max Brooks
Publisher: Gerlad Duuckworth & Co Ltd
Page count/size: 344pp
Release Date: 27 July 2007
Reviewer: Kate Middleton

It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. Then the cases started to multiply and what had looked like the stirrings of a criminal underclass, even the beginnings of a revolution, soon revealed itself to be much, much worse. Faced with a future of mindless, man-eating horror, humanity was forced to accept the logic of world government and face events that tested our sanity and our sense of reality. Based on extensive interviews with survivors and key players in the 10-year fight-back against the horde, World War Z brings the very finest traditions of American journalism to bear on what is surely the most incredible story in the history of civilisation.

Reading this book was much like reading an anthology, with the difference that it all ties in, some of the cases moved me, some made me laugh I really enjoyed how this book looked at lots of different angles and points of view. I’ve already recommended this book to friends.

VN Madeline Ashby

March 15, 2013 - 2:54 pm No Comments

vN: The First Machine Dynasty
Author: Madeline Ashby
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page count/size: 332pp
Release Date: 29 July 2012
Reviewer: Steve Jones

vNs are humanoid robots created by a religious sect to be companions for the unfortunate humans left behind after The Rapture which never happened. When the cult collapses in a storm of abuse allegations the vNs are left to survive in a mostly uncaring world. vN is derived from von Neumann machine as they can reproduce by iteration, which leads to a generational divide as each iteration is supposedly better than its predecessor. A “failsafe” disables vNs if they are violent to humans or even see a human get hurt.

Amy is the sole iteration of Charlotte who lives with her human husband Jack. Amy is kept small by her parents restricting her diet so that she grows at the same rate as organic children. This leaves Amy permanently hungry so, when her grandmother Portia attacks the school she attends and kills a human child, Amy kills Portia by eating her alive. This rouses human suspicions that the failsafe has been disabled in her entire clade of vNs. She is taken away in a big white van (labelled “Isaac’s Electronics”!) and escapes with Javier, a serial iterator (he constantly creates and abandons immature vNs).

This book takes a different take on the development of robots from the usual “Destroy all humans” and “Become more human” cliches where the robots are just a reflection of our own fears and desires. Jack’s attempts to raise Amy as a human child turn out to be well-meaning but seriously misguided. The vNs need to find their own answers to getting along with humans and their own kind.

There are a few flaws. Amy’s escape from the scientists who try to dismantle her seems too easy, and does not lead to the total human paranoia about killer robots I would expect. The back of the book lists four titles which sound like a series of books but instead describe the four sections of this book, while not matching the fourteen chapter headings. Maybe this book was written as four novellas which were combined into a single book.

All in all, vN is a thrilling adventure story with a well-developed cast of both humans and vNs, which challenges the meaning of being a person without ever being preachy about it.