Thursday 30 July 2020

Shout-Out: Auxiliary: London 2039 by Jon Richter

The silicon revolution left Dremmler behind but a good detective is never obsolete.

London is quiet in 2039—thanks to the machines. People stay indoors, communicating through high-tech glasses and gorging on simulated reality while 3D printers and scuttling robots cater to their every whim. Mammoth corporations wage war for dominance in a world where human augmentation blurs the line between flesh and steel.

And at the center of it all lurks The Imagination Machine: the hyper-advanced, omnipresent AI that drives our cars, flies our planes, cooks our food, and plans our lives. Servile, patient, tireless … TIM has everything humanity requires. Everything except a soul.

Through this silicon jungle prowls Carl Dremmler, police detective—one of the few professions better suited to meat than machine. His latest case: a grisly murder seemingly perpetrated by the victim’s boyfriend. Dremmler’s boss wants a quick end to the case, but the tech-wary detective can’t help but believe the accused’s bizarre story: that his robotic arm committed the heinous crime, not him. An advanced prosthetic, controlled by a chip in his skull.

A chip controlled by TIM.

Dremmler smells blood: the seeds of a conspiracy that could burn London to ash unless he exposes the truth. His investigation pits him against desperate criminals, scheming businesswomen, deadly automatons—and the nightmares of his own past. And when Dremmler finds himself questioning even TIM’s inscrutable motives, he’s forced to stare into the blank soul of the machine.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Books Received in July, 2020

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster's Saga imprint for sending me the following:

Savage Legion by Matt Wallace - Sounds like my kind of fantasy.

They call them Savages. Brutal. Efficient. Expendable.
The empire relies on them. The Savages are the greatest weapon they ever developed. Culled from the streets of their cities, they take the ones no one will miss and throw them, by the thousands, at the empire’s enemies. If they live, they fight again. If they die, there are always more to take their place.
Evie is not a Savage. She’s a warrior with a mission: to find the man she once loved, the man who holds the key to exposing the secret of the Savage Legion and ending the mass conscription of the empire’s poor and wretched.
But to find him, she must become one of them, to be marked in her blood, to fight in their wars, and to find her purpose. Evie will die a Savage if she has to, but not before showing the world who she really is and what the Savage Legion can really do.

Live to Tell the Tale: Combat Tactics for Player Characters by Keith Ammann - This is a follow-up to Ammann's The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters. Though I know the principles, I've never actually played D&D.

In his first book, The Monsters Know What They’re Doing (based on his popular blog), Keith Ammann unleashed upon the D&D world a wave of clever, highly evolved monster tactics. Now it’s only fair that he gives players the tools they need to fight back…and prevail!
An introduction to combat tactics for fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons players, Live to Tell the Tale evens the score. It examines the fundamentals of D&D battles: combat roles, party composition, attacking combos, advantage and disadvantage, Stealth and Perception, and more…including the ever-important consideration of how to run away!
Don’t worry about creating a mathematically perfect character from square one. Survival isn’t about stats—it’s about behavior! With four turn-by-turn, roll-by-roll, blow-by-blow sample battles, Live to Tell the Tale breaks down how to make the best choices for your cherished characters so that they can survive their adventures, retire upon their accumulated riches, and tell stories about the old days that nobody will ever believe.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Book Review: The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Pros: interesting characters, quite scary and intense

Cons: uncomfortable race relations

Sixteen year old Immanuelle Moore is the daughter of a black man from the Outskirts, who burned on a pyre for having relations with her mother. Her mother was a white bride of the Prophet, who went mad after seeing her lover die. Raised as a good believer in the Holy Scriptures, she doesn’t understand why the Darkwood, home of the witches who once terrorized Bethel, calls to her so strongly. When she finally succumbs to that call, she unwittingly unleashes a series of curses on her home.

Immanuelle is a great protagonist, conflicted in her beliefs and desires. She’s strong willed and passionate. Her terror of the witches and determination to end the curses were palpable. I loved the slow burn romance with Ezra.

The world itself was terrifying for a liberal reader. Bethel is a closed community with very strict religious rules and no recourse against the hidden evils Immanuelle discovers taking place within the church: abuse of power - physical and sexual - and the subjugation of women.

The division between the villages of the ‘holy’ white congregation and the shanty towns on the Outskirts of the black former refugees was stark and left me feeling uncomfortable. I would have thought that with the conversion of the refugees, more intermingling would have occurred. The fact that Lilith, the head witch, was a black woman also left me feeling unsettled as it seems to continue this ‘black is evil, white is good’ theme, which is clearly undercut by the churches’ abuses on one hand but not really by anything on the other. Yes, Immanuelle fought against the witches, but as she was from the village and not the Outskirts it didn’t feel like she broke that aphorism. Nor does Vera, as it’s unclear if she ever practiced witchcraft or simply used protective sigils.

The horror elements are very terrifying. There’s a lot of blood and the story centres on events in womens’ lives that feature blood. The witches are evil and things get so grim I had to take breaks when reading this. Descriptions aren’t overly graphic, so though the imagery can be intense, it never feels gratuitous.

The writing is quite lyrical, which brings the world to life and really drives home the terror.

On the whole this is a fantastic story, provided you can handle a horror novel right now.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Video: Hildegard von Blingin'

Saw this recently and just had to share it. Hildegard von Blingin's youtube channel is pretty new but their song rewritings, turning modern pop songs into medieval lays, is awesome.

Friday 10 July 2020

StoryBundle's World SF 3 bundle

StoryBundle is doing their third World SF bundle. These are pay what you want ebooks (with a minimum payment of $15 if you want to unlock the bonus books) that are DRM free.

There are some interesting sounding titles in this offering. Click on the link above to see their site (where if you click on the covers you'll see a synopsis of each book).

Thursday 9 July 2020

Shout-Out: Only Love is Deathless by Sita Bethel

Sreka’s younger brother, Dobrina, is in love. The only problem is that the law forbids him from courting until Sreka is married. Sreka hires the local adventurer, Košmar, to marry him so Dobrina can wed his love.
Even if he has to sleep on the couch, instead of with the crown prince on their farce wedding bed, Košmar will get to live like a king for a year. And once Dobrina is married, Sreka will quietly divorce him and send him on his way with gold for his services.
Nothing says destined romance like a battle with a dragon, so Sreka and Košmar stage their first public encounter to fool the royal court. However, as fate would have it, the dragon that was supposed to be as fake as their love is real.

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Book Review: Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

Pros: lots of twists, great characters, interesting magic system


Three years have passed since the events at the Mountain. Orso, Berenice, Sancia and Gregor have created a library for scrivers in Foundryside. But after celebrating a major acquisition, Valeria, the hierophantic construct, warns them that Crasedes Magnus, first hierophant, is being reborn. The gang jumps into action, using their various skills to stop the most powerful entity in existence from enacting his plan.

This is a real rollercoaster of a read. There are so many twists as the group faces off against several powerful enemies. I was really shocked by some of things that happened.

The characters were great and felt fully developed. Berenice and Sancia have such a loving relationship. While it was unfortunate seeing Gregor’s pain, I appreciated that his unresolved trauma was dealt with.

The author continues to do interesting things with the unique magic system. I loved seeing the various ways twinning could be used.

This book didn’t wrap us as nicely as the previous one, nor does it end on a similar positive note. While it’s not exactly a cliffhanger, it will leave you wishing the third book in the series was already out.