Monday, 31 August 2015

Summer Books Received, 2015

Summer's a pretty quiet time for review copies, which is great as it gives me time to get some of the backlog out of the way.  I didn't start that until August, unfortunately, but I'm well on my way to reading through these new releases.  Many thanks again to the publishers and authors who offer me books for review.  I recognize how privileged I am and only wish I had time to read everything.

Artemis Invaded by Jane Lindskold - I recently finished the first book in this series, Artemis Awakening, which I enjoyed more than I expected to (I thought it was going to be a straight up SF romance, which isn't my favourite subgenre, but the romance elements were very limited and the protagonists were well fleshed out and fun to read).  To avoid spoilers, I'm giving the synopsis for Artemis Awakening here.

The distant world Artemis is a pleasure planet created out of bare rock by a technologically advanced human empire that provided its richest citizens with a veritable Eden to play in. All tech was concealed and the animals (and the humans brought to live there) were bioengineered to help the guests enjoy their stay.but there was always the possibility of danger so that visitors could brag that they had "bested" the environment.
The Empire was shattered in a horrific war; centuries later humanity has lost much of the advanced technology and Artemis is a fable told to children. Until young archeologist Griffin Dane finds intriguing hints that send him on a quest to find the lost world. Stranded on Artemis after crashing his ship, he encounters the Huntress Adara and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Their journey with her will lead Dane to discover the planet's secrets.and perhaps provide a key to give unimagined power back to mankind.

Bots: Emergent Behavior by Nicole Taylor - I've already finished this book and my review of it will go up tomorrow.  It's the first of a 6 book series from the new Epic Press imprint.

A robotics genius, Edmond West has developed a plan to create the world's first Artificial Intelligence truly indistinguishable from a human being. His Bots will eradicate global slavery and allow humanity to channel its darkest impulses safely, harming only these soulless machines. His greatest success, however, may also be his undoing. He's finally created the perfect humanoid robot; perfectly intuitive, perfectly emotive… and perfectly unpredictable.

The Godforsaken by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro - I'm almost done this book and... wow.  It starts slow, but builds such a layer of dread that my shoulders keep tensing up when I read the book.  I'm so close to the end...

In the dark days of the Inquisition, a cursed Spanish prince must wrestle with the ravenous demon that lives inside him
At the height of Europe’s bloody 16th century, as Spain suffers under the iron cruelty of the Inquisition, a different sort of horror plagues the royal house of King Alonzo. A witch’s curse directed at the heartless liege has borne bitter fruit, damning the innocent offspring of el rey. The brooding and sensitive son and heir to the throne, Don Rolon, wanders the great halls of the ancestral home carrying the weight of his unloving father’s crimes in his bones and blood. Torn between his deeply felt religious beliefs and a gnawing hunger, he must somehow deal with a looming threat far more powerful than his murderously jealous brother and the manipulations of a corrupt and self-serving officer of a malevolent church. For when the full moon rises, Don Rolon will be forced to surrender to his unholy needs as the beast within him is unleashed once more.

Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein - This book sounds pretty interesting.  John Sandford is a well known thriller writer, trying his hand at science fiction for the first time.  Ctein is a photographer with degrees from Caltech in English and physics.

The year is 2066. A Caltech intern inadvertently notices an anomaly from a space telescope—something is approaching Saturn, and decelerating. Space objects don’t decelerate. Spaceships do.
A flurry of top-level government meetings produces the inescapable conclusion: Whatever built that ship is at least one hundred years ahead in hard and soft technology, and whoever can get their hands on it exclusively and bring it back will have an advantage so large, no other nation can compete. A conclusion the Chinese definitely agree with when they find out.
The race is on, and an remarkable adventure begins—an epic tale of courage, treachery, resourcefulness, secrets, surprises, and astonishing human and technological discovery, as the members of a hastily thrown-together crew find their strength and wits tested against adversaries both of this earth and beyond. What happens is nothing like you expect—and everything you could want from one of the world’s greatest masters of suspense.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Shout-Out: Way Down Dark by James Smythe

There's one truth on Australia.

You fight or you die.

Usually both.

Imagine a nightmare from which there is no escape.

Seventeen-year-old Chan's ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one.

This is a hell where no one can hide.

The only life that Chan's ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.

This is a ship of death, of murderers and cults and gangs.

But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness - a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.

This is Australia.

Seventeen-year-old Chan, fiercely independent and self-sufficient, keeps her head down and lives quietly, careful not to draw attention to herself amidst the violence and disorder. Until the day she makes an extraordinary discovery - a way to return the Australia to Earth. But doing so would bring her to the attention of the fanatics and the murderers who control life aboard the ship, putting her and everyone she loves in terrible danger.

And a safe return to Earth is by no means certain.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Video: Our Greatest Adventure

I really enjoyed The Martian by Andy Weir, and can't wait for the film to hit theatres in October. Though I know the story, I'm trying to avoid the trailers because I want as much of the movie to be a 'surprise' as possible (for a story I've read).

But this background video of the Ares mission on "Star Talk" by Neil deGrasse Tyson is awesome.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Saints Lives: Saint Theodore (of Amasea/Tyro)

Restored jamb statue
from Laon Cathedral
His feast day is November 9th and he is a patron of lost things.

The following account comes from The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine, translated by William Granger Ryan (volume II). Princeton University Press, 1995. pp 291. 

Saint Theodore was a Roman soldier serving in the city of Marmanites during the reign of Diocletian and Maximian.  Theodore refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, claiming that he was a soldier in the service of his God and of his Son Jesus Christ.  The judge asked if it was possible to know the son of his god, he said yes and was given time to prepare to offer his sacrifice.

Theodore used the time to enter the temple of the Mother of the Gods at night and set fire to it, burning it to the ground.  A witness accused him and he was put in jail.

Temple on fire, detail of Laon Cathedral
jamb statue
Martyrdom of St Theodore as depicted on
a pillar at Chartres Cathedral (N. transept)

While in prison he was visited by “a throng of men in white robes”, even though the doors were all locked.  The guards saw this and ran away in fear.

When he was asked again to sacrifice, he said no.  The judge then had him hung from a limb and his flanks torn with iron hooks so that his ribs were exposed.  When asked if he’d rather be on Earth or with Christ, he said with Christ.  So they lit a fire under him and though the fire didn’t burn his body, he expired there.

A sweet odour spread from his body and a voice was heard that said, “Come, my beloved, enter into the joy of your Lord!” as the heavens opened to receive him.  This happened in AD 287.


Interestingly, his story is fairly different when looked up on Wikipedia and religious websites.  His death date is later (AD 306, under Emperor Galerius) and the location Amasea in modern Turkey.  The church he’s said to have burned is that of Cybele, who was the local mother-goddess, so that’s consistent.

He’s called Theodore of Amasea (for the place) or Theodore Tyro (also spelled Tyron, Tiron and Tiro) as ‘tiro’ is a classical Latin word that describes a soldier who has recently enlisted.  He is therefore also known as Theodore the Recruit.  His story and that of the slightly later Saint Theodore Stratelates are now considered to relate to the same person.

The Orthodox Church in America website also recounts a further story, that 50 years after Saint Theodore's death, the Emperor Julian ordered the commander of Constantinople to sprinkle all the food in the marketplace with blood offered to idols during the first week of Great Lent.  Saint Theodore appeared in a dream to Archbishop Eudoxius and told him to warn the people to only eat cooked wheat with honey and not buy anything from the market.

Because of this miracle, the Orthodox Church celebrates him on the first Saturday of Great Lent.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Open Road Media publishes ebooks by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro & Lynn Hightower

From the promotional email:

Known for her riveting horror, science fiction, and supernatural novels, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is the first woman to be named a Living Legend by the International Horror Guild and is one of only two women ever to be named as Grand Master of the World Horror Convention. On September 1, ebook editions of six of her works will be published for the first time, including The Godforsaken. A dark tale of a 16th century Spanish prince cursed as a werewolf, the chilling novel is set in the bloody days of the Spanish Inquisition.
The Godforsaken
Sins of Omission
Time of the Fourth Horesman

Lynn S. Hightower’s Elaki series, a near-future police procedural set in a world where an alien race has descended on Earth, will be on sale as ebooks on September 29. Beginning in Alien Blues, Detective David Silver is teamed up with String, an alien of the Elaki race, to solve a string of murders. First published in 1991, this series fuses procedurals with science fiction, imagining a world where humans and aliens can coexist.
Alien Blues
Alien Eyes
Alien Heat
Alien Rites

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Video: Boss B*tches of History

The Wisecrack channel on youtube has been expanding out from its Thug Notes and 8-Bit Philosophy videos.  One of their new offerings (with only 2 episodes so far) is Boss B*tches of History. Definitely NSFW (with swearing + sex talk), it's a fun look at some of the bad a$$ women of the past.  The brains behind the segment (as well as the presenters) are Sovereign Syre and Ela Darling.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Book Review: Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold

Pros: great characters, interesting story

Cons: romantic elements, though minor, feel awkward at times

When Griffin Dane locates the planet he believes to be the ancient pleasure planet Artemis, his intention is to study it and return to his home world and bask in the glory of his historic discovery.  So when his ship crashes, stranding him there, he’s eager to find his way back to the stars. 

He’s rescued from the wreckage by the Huntress Adara and her demiurge puma companion Sand Shadow, with whom she’s psychically linked.  They guide Griffin first to their village and then to a major city with relics left by the Seegnur, the people who made the planet and altered the inhabitants to be the perfect servants.  There they meet with the Old One Who Is Young, a man who has studied the technology of the Seegnur for decades.  

But Griffin’s arrival has awakened something.  And things with the Old One aren’t what they seem.

I loved Adara and Sand Shadow.  It’s great to see a self-confidant young woman who gives and accepts help as the situation requires.  She knows her skills and when the location changes and her abilities are less in demand, finds something she can do to help that will use her skills.  By the same token, it was great to see Griffin fumbling on this ‘primitive’ world, accepting menial tasks as the only ones he’s qualified to do, and not complaining about it.  I really liked Terrell as well.  It was interesting how the three protagonists strengths and weaknesses complemented each other, and how the characters worked together.

The story begins sort of quest like, but there’s a series of overlapping mysteries when they get to Spirit Bay, which were quite interesting to read.  It was also interesting learning more of the Seegnur and how they modified things (via the social rather than scientific changes.  You don’t learn the science behind the genetic modifications but you learn about the different social strata and some of the abilities of people who were adapted for specified jobs).

There were minor romantic elements in the book.  The opening led me to believe that these would have a stronger impact on the story, so I was pretty happy to discover they didn’t.  There were some awkward conversations where the characters were honest about their feelings (or lack thereof), which I appreciated (the honesty, if not necessarily the awkwardness).  Some of the elements seemed a tad heavy handed, like Adara noticing Griffin’s eye colour in the middle of a life or death situation, which also struck me as being out of place. But on the whole I found the characters’ openness refreshing and the elements indicate that a romance may form as the series goes on.

The world-building is understated, but interesting.  Since the planet was specifically designed it still works on a feudal style system.  As with the romance, there are underlying elements but they only pop up from time to time.

It was an interesting read.

Book two, Artemis Invaded, is now out in hardcover from TOR.