A.M. Dellamonica's The Color of Paradox

Sunday, November 30, 2014 0

This Sunday's Short is another sci-fi story for Sci-Fi November -- A. M. Dellamonica's The Color of Paradox, published via Tor.com.

In this story, we read the experiences of one time traveler in a series of many, sent back in time to Seattle in the 1920s to delay the end of the world (during WWII, I think). The story is full of little references to important events of the later war and Seattle's involvement in some of them (as the child of a Boeing employee, I definitely enjoyed the snippets involving that company!). 

And honestly? I love the character Willie-- the take-no-nonesense time travel agent who has sacrificed so much to help save the world and now help her fellow time travel agents recover from the journey to the past. The narrator (Jules/Julie) is sexist and cocky, but he makes an interesting transformation through-out the story that makes him tolerable. I'd love to see a longer story surrounding these two characters (or at least Willie!), as this short seemed just a glimpse of what would be possible to explore in the telling of their stories.

Favorite line:
But something was wrong with the color of the future, seven weeks out. Seattle, below, the sky above, even the air around me . . . it was all splashed with color I’d never seen before. Everything was off the accepted painter’s wheel of red, blue, yellow.
Rating: 4/5.

Any thoughts on this story or any of the other sci-fi short stories reviewed this month for Sci-Fi November? Leave them in the comments! 

The Wicked + The Divine

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 0
Disclaimer: I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

First things first: I am a graphic novel newbie. I started reading Saga about a year ago, and I'll occasionally pick up a title that has been getting positive reviews to browse. The Wicked + The Divine has been getting buzz, so when I saw the opportunity to review the first volume via NetGalley I took it!

The Wicked + The Divine: Faust Volume

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead... Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you're immortal, doesn't mean you're going to live forever.

The premise of this series is that 12 gods are made incarnate in teenagers. These 12 gods live for adoration... and then they die, within two years. The first volume collects issues 1-5 of the comic and tells the story of Luci / Lucifer and one of her fans as Luci is framed for murder (or was she?). And so begins the story of what would happen if hormonal teenagers were made into gods.

The art and coloring for this series is truly gorgeous. Each of the covers featured in the collection (and showing one of the gods or goddesses) is stunning. The storyline itself is interesting at parts and a little overplayed at others (but I think that is partly because nuance does not an interesting graphic novel make). I loved the gender-bending on the gods and goddesses. I didn't love the way we are introduced to the main character when she has already fallen for all the gods and therefore isn't as easy to relate to.

Overall, I think this series definitely has a ton of potential. It is packed with a ton of mythology and beautiful artwork. I'll definitely pick up the rest of the series as it comes out.

Favorite line:  We don't get to change anything, we get to change you, and then you choose what to do with it. - Baal

Rating 4/5.

Chris Evan's Of Bone and Thunder

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 0
Disclaimer: I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans

I read a lot fantasy outside what is considered the norm. It is not that I have anything against medieval Europe (or Lord of the Rings), but I enjoy the way authors have managed to mash up fantasy tropes with many different times in human history. So, when I saw Of Bone and Thunder pitched as fantasy in a Vietnam-War era, I was definitely interested.

And in that regard, the book did not disappoint. I am not a historian (far from it!), but I recognized a few pivotal Vietnam War scenes remade in this story of the Kingdom's war in Luitox. The story may have been fantastic (dwarves and dragons and elven people, oh my!), but it discusses very human issues of racism, drugs, authority, disenchantment, guerrilla warfare, and more.

One major element of the book is the multiple points of view. While these viewpoints will seem all over the map at first (a new mage, a commander of the dragonriders, a few perspectives within a ground unit of soldiers), they do eventually connect in a satisfying way.

Occasionally the remaking of the war into a fantasy setting just didn't work for me. The whole storyline of the giant catapults being dragged around in the jungle took me out of the story every time. And I was definitely annoyed that one of the only females in the story ended up being there only to sleep around with the soldiers.

Overall, I would recommend this story to someone who enjoys remaking history to explore history's lessons.  This story isn't a fantasy that tells just one epic tale. It is a story of stories, with fantastical elements, that explores the gritty reality of war.

Favorite line:
"It isn't about the valley," Vorley said. "Maybe Weel thinks it is, but he's wrong. It's about you and me and Jawn and that shield leader Carny and everyone else. The criers can tell the people back in the Kingdom we're fighting for ideals and philosophies at odd sounding places on a map, but what we're fight for is each other. Our sacrifice out here isn't for this valley --it's for them."
Rating 3/5

Sunday Short: Carrie Vaughn's The Best We Can

Sunday, November 23, 2014 0
This Sunday's short is another sci-fi short story for Sci-Fi November -- Carrie Vaughn's The Best We Can, published via Tor.com.
First contact was supposed to change the course of human history. But it turns out, you still have to go to work the next morning.
It is no secret that I love the short story format and the science fiction genre at this point, right? I love the variety and diversity of ideas and viewpoints. This story had a unique viewpoint (the science academic) that I can relate to as a former (disgruntled) graduate student.

The main character has made a discovery -- an unidentified object in our solar system. She was the first to grasp the significance of the image, and she has become something of a crusader to get started a project of studying the object closer / bringing it back despite all the hopeless (and depressingly accurate) bureaucracy holding up any effort. Because identifying an object from another civilization would be a really big deal for humanity, right?

I loved this story even if it was more than a little depressing. I loved this story because it actually tells a pretty accurate tale of the current field of research at large.

So much of science fiction is optimistic views of scientific communities working together to bring about the greater good for all. And honestly? Science is a lot like that. Scientists love their science and most want to do something to impact the future in a positive way. But scientists are humans, too. Scientists have a sense of ownership over their day to day work that can be borderline obsessive / possessive. Science, in the present day incarnation, does involve a battle with other scientists for a finite amount of resources. And it is fun to have a story that depicts that all pretty accurately with a fair amount of well written prose about how wonderful it would be to actually find proof of other intelligent life outside Earth.

So, this week's story doesn't feature mythical creatures or fancy new technology -- but I like to mix my sci-fi up on occasion. I love that sci-fi short stories give me (and others) the opportunity to explore both far away future technology and it's implications in addition to modern day issues. And I happen to love an ambiguous ending such as what we are left with here (even though I know many -- such as my husband -- aren't!).

Favorite line: 
Essentially, there are two positions on the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence and whether we might ever make contact, and they both come down to the odds. The first says that we’re here, humanity is intelligent, flinging out broadcasts and training dozens of telescopes outward hoping for the least little sign, and the universe is so immeasurably vast that given the odds, the billions of stars and galaxies and planets out there, we can’t possibly be the only intelligent species doing these things. The second position says that the odds of life coming into being on any given planet, of that life persisting long enough to evolve, then to evolve intelligence, and then being interested in the same things we are—the odds of all those things falling into place are so immeasurably slim, we may very well be the only ones here. 
Is the universe half full or half empty? All we could ever do to solve the riddle was wait. So I waited and was rewarded for my optimism.
Rating: 4.5/5

Any thoughts on The Best We Can? Read any good sci-fi short stories you'd recommend to others this month for Sci-Fi November? Leave a comment below!

Sci-Fi November: Interview with Tobias Buckell

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 0

As an awesome Sci-Fi November feature, today I am happy and honored to feature my interview with Tobias Buckell, the sci-fi author of the novels Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, Sly Mongoose, Halo ®: The Code Protocol, and Arctic Rising!

Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling author born in the Caribbean. He grew up in Grenada and spent time in the British and US Virgin Islands, which influence much of his work.
His novels and over 50 stories have been translated into 17 different languages. His work has been nominated for awards like the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author. 
He currently lives in Bluffton, Ohio with his wife, twin daughters, and a pair of dogs. He can be found online at www.TobiasBuckell.com

What inspires you to write science fiction? What excites you about the genre?

I've always loved science fiction’s boundless imagination. There’s a lot of room in the field for me to pursue whatever excites me. When I started reading it, my mind was always blown by these big ideas, this imagination, the daydreaming. Thinking about what the future might be like. Or other worlds. It took me to places far away from my humble and strained childhood.

Now I get the entire universe to play with as a writer, including time and space. What if is a question I get to ask every day. And whether I want to experiment with different styles, or kinds of stories, there is room for it. It gives me tremendous freedom as a creator.

Who are some of your influences?

They range extremely wildly, from John D. MacDonald’s Florida mysteries, to oral folk tales I heard growing up, and to the science fiction books that left a big impact on me as a kid. Arthur C. Clarke was a favorite well known writer, but Cordwainer Smith is one of my favorite lesser known authors. The cyberpunk writers of the 80s got me started writing, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling featured people from the Caribbean in their books and that convinced me there was room in the genre for me to write the stories I had in mind.

You wrote in the foreword for the anthology Diverse Energies that you 'wanted to see all the sides of families in your stories about the future... the whole human race'. Do you think that sci-fi fiction is moving toward a more diversity/inclusive space or exclusivity?

The field has come a long way since I first joined it. But it still has a long way to go to represent the demographics of a rapidly changing US, or just to reflect the world at large, which is the field we all stand on. Western culture at large struggles with inclusive space and diversity, and a lot of the genre’s struggles mirror that back. I see similar struggles in many other genres to bring diversity to it, so I think it’s a society-wide thing. In our genre, we are getting more voices, but I’d like to see many more.

Do you have any recommendations for someone new to sci-fi?

Sample widely! It’s a genre like any other else, with a wide range of authors and books, not everything will be to your taste, but I’m betting something will be. I usually recommend a friend just read a number of first chapters, and if you find yourself still reading, you’ve found a book! A lot of people are intimidated by the ‘science’ in the name of the genre. That’s just a reference to where some of our original artists found, and still find, inspiration. But that doesn’t mean you need to have a science degree to read it anymore than you need a degree in couple’s counseling to read a good romance, or be a detective to read a mystery; a good writer can bring the reader along and get them up to speed on the way.

What are you working on right now? Any projects you want to highlight in particular?

My current projects are still under wraps, sadly, but I’m still doing some promotion for my most recent novel, Hurricane Fever. It’s a thriller set in the near future in the Caribbean. It was a tremendous amount of fun to write, including a research trip to Barbados to see the ruins of an experiment to launch satellites into orbit using a massive cannon.

A big thank you again to the author for taking the time to answer my questions!  Readers -- have comments or thoughts on the interview?  Leave them in the comments below!!

Sunday Shorts: Tobias Buckell's Toy Planes & The Found Girl

Sunday, November 16, 2014 0

Sci-Fi November continues! I'm excited to note that this week, I'll be posting an interview with sci-fi author Tobias Buckell! 

To start the week off right, this Sunday I am going to highlight two of his short stories - Nature's Toy Planes & Clarkesworld's The Found Girl (co-authored with David Klecha).
Toy Planes was published as part of Nature magazine's Futures series. In this story, we follow a Caribbean rocket pilot preparing for his first flight. The story deftly discusses racial identity, thoughts on what someone might owe their hometown, and questions of whether basic science research is worth it. And I loved it. 
My favorite part of the story was the sense of wonder in exploring the awesome that is space. Buckell conveys it beautifully in my favorite quote: 
We weren't even the first, but we were the first island.
The countdown finished, my stomach lurched, and I saw palm trees slide by the portholes to my right. I reached back and patted the package, the hammered-together toy, and smiled.
In The Found Girl, we learn about a world wherein technology has advanced to a point where humans can fully integrate their consciousness with machinery and one another. The adults that fully integrate into a community are said to have transcended, and humankind has reaped the benefits of advanced thinking/computing. The story is told from the perspective of a girl, Melissa, who has been left behind after her mother died. She lives in an orphanage run by a group of transcended called collectively The Street. 

This story was a little tough to get into at first, because it is told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator in the young girl Melissa. Her mother seems to have been pretty superstitious, and we read of Melissa's beliefs of demons such as Llorona roaming the streets outside the safe confines of The Street. I was actually delighted when I realized what was happening (explained slowly through Melissa's discussions with The Street), and I love when science fiction can truly delight me. My only disappointment is that the story felt rushed at times; the plot could have easily been fit into the novella or novel format. I wanted to hear more about Melissa's world.

Favorite line: 
Technology got faster. Better. And then technology started designing technology. Evolving. What used to take a lifetime took a decade, then years. And then last year, months. Weeks. Days.

People transcended. Became other things. Many other things. Some were still here. Some had left. Some were different. 
Some stayed the same. The Found Children had been left behind.
Ratings: 4/5 Toy Planes, 4.5/5 The Found Girl

Any thoughts on either of these short stories? Read anything lately that delighted you? Leave a comment below! And don't forget to check back later this week for the interview with Tobias Buckell. 

Sci-Fi November: Weeks 1 & 2 - my favorite posts so far!

Friday, November 14, 2014 1

I'm back from the sunny and sandy shores of my vacation to Maui! It was a great time to refuel my energy tank, and I am ready to blast off with new and fun things planned for the blog. (And I have some grand plans a-coming!)

Most importantly --  I'm still catching up with all the awesome that has gone around with Sci-Fi November so far, but a few of my favorite posts on other blogs so far: 

Oh The Books: Blogger Panel #1 - Defining Sci-Fi: I am loving these blogger panels -- it is great to get a variety of opinions on the questions posed! 

Rinn Reads: Blogger Panel #2 – Scientific Knowledge: Do you think science knowledge is necessary to enjoy sci fi? 

Oh The Books: Get Your Sci-Fi On: I love love love the bingo card! I'm going to try and see how many I can complete via short stories / novels / tv / movies this month and update with a post at the end!

Worlds In Ink: Blind Book Challenge: Can you figure out any of the books based on the clues? I'm going to be puzzling on some all month long, me thinks! 

Annie Jackson Books: The Genre Divide: I loved what she had to argue against a division in sci-fi/fantasy:
 If the explainable and the numinous exist side by side, however, it’s a scary world… and an efficient one; beautiful and understood and wild all at the same time.
Upcoming posts to look forward to from me: two Sunday Shorts this weekend + an interview with the author Tobias Buckell next week! I'm also still planning some reviews and other sci-fi fun, so stay tuned! 

Have you been following Sci-Fi November (via twitter #RRSciFiMonth)? Any great posts to share that caught your eye? Leave a comment below! 

Sunday Short: Seanan McGuire's Each to Each

Sunday, November 2, 2014 4

Welcome to all who might be stopping by via Sci-Fi November! One of the regular features of my blog is the Sunday Short, where I highlight great short stories / novellas available online. You can check out the past stories featured on my Sunday Short page.

This week's short is a science fiction from Lightspeed Magazine -- Seanan McGuire's Each to Each.

Originally published in Lightspeed. Art by Li Grabenstetter.
Each to Each blends science fiction with mermaids. Yes, mermaids... and bad ass military mermaids, at that. And it is incredible! In the world that McGuire creates here, mankind has decided to explore the depths of our seas in search of resources and space. The US navy has started all female crews of submarine bases that survey underwater areas. These bases are all female because women are smaller / get along better with one another in tight spaces, and the government has asked these women to be modified genetically / anatomically to better survey / protect the US's interests underwater.

While the basic premise is pretty awesome, I was surprised at how rich this short story really was! Not all mermaids are alike; some are modified to be like sharks, others jellyfish, others eels. McGuire creates a culture within the mermaids that is eerie and not entirely human-like; the narrator points out that no one has ever chosen to be modified back after service. Overall, Each to Each does what sci-fi I love does -- it uses a plausible science fiction to present a plausible future that challenges my expectations.

Rating: 5/5. Favorite line: 
The Navy claims they’re turning these women into better soldiers. From where I hang suspended in the sea, my lungs filled with saltwater like amniotic fluid, these women are becoming better myths.
Have any thoughts on this story? Any recent great sci-fi short reads you'd suggest for the group? Leave them in the comments below! 

Next week, I'll be taking a break -- it is vacation time for me with my family. I had hoped to maybe have something more lined up before I left, but alas -- work and life conspired against my best laid plans! I'll be back for double Sunday Shorts on November 15, though. 

Sci-Fi November Intro

Saturday, November 1, 2014 2

After a few months of anticipation, the month of science fiction is finally upon us! Sci-Fi November is hosted this year by Rinn Reads & Oh, the Books -- the official website tracking everything can be found here. Essentially, Sci-Fi November is a month long event celebrating the awesome genre of science fiction. There are over 80 blogs participating this year, and it is going to be amazing!

I've been a fan of science fiction since discovering Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series oh-so many years ago. I was captivated by the world created (also -- dragons!), and then I found other wonderful worlds by other sci-fi authors.

Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.  
- Rod Sterling

I have a bachelors degree in bioengineering and a masters in human genetics, so I love when I read a new story take on the biological sciences. Outside of reading, I tend to watch an embarrassing amount sci-fi TV (Doctor Who / Fringe / Orphan Black / Defiance ... etc) and movies. And I am so excited to share in my favorite genre with others this month!

One thing to note: I will be on vacation for my sister's wedding this week and next. I have awesome stuff scheduled, but I wont be checking + responding to comments regularly.
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