Thursday 24 February 2022

Shout-Out: Artifact Space by Miles Cameron

Out in the darkness of space, something is targeting the Greatships. With their vast cargo holds and a crew that could fill a city, the Greatships are the lifeblood of human occupied space, transporting an unimaginable volume - and value - of goods from City, the greatest human orbital, all the way to Tradepoint at the other, to trade for xenoglas with an unknowable alien species.

It has always been Marca Nbaro's dream to achieve the near-impossible: escape her upbringing and venture into space.

All it took, to make her way onto the crew of the Greatship Athens was thousands of hours in simulators, dedication, and pawning or selling every scrap of her old life in order to forge a new one. But though she's made her way onboard with faked papers, leaving her old life - and scandals - behind isn't so easy.

She may have just combined all the dangers of her former life, with all the perils of the new . . .

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Video: Introduction to Islamicate Occult Sciences

 I've been learning more about other religions lately, and how they view various magical practices (both those on the religious side, as well as the occult side) and stumbled across this video by Filip Holm at Let's Talk Religion. This is the first in a series of videos on magic in the Islamicate world over the centuries (in the 'shocktober' playlist). He's got videos on other religions too, which I may check out once I'm done with this series.

Tuesday 15 February 2022

Book Review: Mickey7 by Edward Ashton

Pros: great premise, interesting characters


Mickey Barnes is the expendable for the Niflheim beachhead colony, which means if there’s a dangerous job, he’s the one doing it. So it’s not surprising that when his seventh iteration falls into a deep hole he’s left for dead. Unfortunately when he makes it back to base a new copy of himself is sleeping in his bed. Multiples are the biggest taboo, so the Mickeys must hide what they are even as trouble is brewing with the planet’s indigenous lifeforms.

This book was a lot of fun to read. It’s quick paced and engaging, with Mickey7 including important incidents from his past while narrating the events of the present.

I went from thinking of Mickey7 as a decent guy, then kind of a jerk, then back to being a decent guy. Some of his history paints him in a bad light though it seems dying multiple times has improved his character somewhat. I really liked Nasha and thought their relationship was great.

The book poses some interesting ethical questions without delving too deeply into them or dwelling on them for long. It’s mostly a lighthearted read.

The world-building was great. There was a lot more explanation about the larger universe than I expected, with Mickey explaining things about life on his homeworld, Midgard, and some of the other colonies (successful & failed).

The ending ties together all the various narratives Mickey throws at you. I especially loved how his study of history gave him insight into how to think of the native species.

If you like easygoing, sometimes humorous, sometimes serious SF, give this a go.

Thursday 10 February 2022

Shout-Out: Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and Zelda Knight

Coming November 2022

From an award-winning team of editors comes an anthology of thirty-two original stories showcasing the breadth of fantasy and science fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora.

A group of cabinet ministers query a supercomputer containing the minds of the country's ancestors. A child robot on a dying planet uncovers signs of fragile new life. A descendent of a rain goddess inherits her grandmother's ability to change her appearance-and perhaps the world.

Created in the legacy of the seminal, award-winning anthology series Dark Matter, Africa Risen celebrates the vibrancy, diversity, and reach of African and Afro-Diasporic SFF and reaffirms that Africa is not rising-it's already here.

Table of Contents
  • “Introduction” by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and Zelda Knight
  • “The Blue House” by Dilman Dila
  • “March Magic” by WC Dunlap
  • “IRL” by Steven Barnes
  • “The Deification of Igodo” by Joshua Omenga
  • “Mami Wataworks” by Russell Nichols
  • “Rear Mirror” by Nuzo Onoh
  • “Door Crashers” by Franka Zeph
  • “Lady Rainbow” by Yvette Lisa Ndlovu
  • “A Dream of Electric Mothers” by Wole Talabi
  • “Simbi” by Sandra Jackson-Opoku
  • “Housewarming for a Lion Goddess” by Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga
  • “A Knight in Tunisia” by Alex Jennings
  • “The Devil Is Us” by Mirette Bahgat
  • “Cloud Mine” by Timi Odueso
  • “Ruler of the Rear Guard” by Maurice Broaddus
  • “Peeling Time (Deluxe Edition)” by Tlotlo Tsamaase
  • “The Sugar Mill” by Tobias S. Buckell
  • “The Carving of War” by Somto Ihezue Onyedikachi
  • “Ghost Ship” by Tananarive Due
  • “Liquid Twilight” by Ytasha L. Womack
  • “Once Upon a Time in 1967” by Oyedotun Damilola
  • “A Girl Crawls in a Dark Corner” by Alexis Brooks de Vita
  • “The Lady of the Yellow-Painted Library” by Tobi Ogundiran
  • “When the Mami Wata Met a Demon” by Moustapha Mbacké Diop
  • “The Papermakers” by Akua Lezli Hope
  • “A Soul of Small Places” by Mame Bougouma Diene and Woppa Diallo
  • “Air to Shape Lungs” by Shingai Njeri Kagunda
  • “Hanfo Driver” by Ada Nnadi
  • “Exiles of Witchery” by Ivana Akotowaa Ofori
  • “The Taloned Beast” by Chinelo Onwualu
  • “Star Watchers” by Danian Darrell Jerry
  • “Biscuit and Milk” by Dare Segun Falowo

Tuesday 8 February 2022

Shout-Out: Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

This first book in a feminist space opera duology follows seven resistance fighters who will free the galaxy from the ruthless Tholosian Empire--or die trying.

When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy's most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire's voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.

Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.

When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire's inner workings.

Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy. If they can't, millions may die.

Tuesday 1 February 2022

Book Review: A Guide to Medieval Gardens: Gardens in the Age of Chivalry by Michael Brown

Pros: lots of photographs, interesting information

Cons: superficial, some chapters could have used more depth

This is a general guide on medieval gardens, specifically in England, that consists of 13 chapters, a conclusion and a quick listing of medieval gardens in England that can be visited. The chapters are all fairly short and to the point. They are: Evidence of Medieval Gardens, Influences of European Medieval Gardens, Monastic and Sacred Gardens, Secular Gardens, Medieval Garden Features, Water in the Garden, Parks and Pleasure Parks, The Plants of the Medieval Garden, The Medieval Gardener, The Gardener’s Tools and Equipment, Cultivation Techniques, The Medieval Gardening Year and Making your own Medieval Garden.

The first few chapters give background on how we know what little we know, and what types of gardens were grown. I enjoyed the later chapters more as they got more specific regarding the types of plants you could find and going over individual tools that gardeners used.

I wished some of the sections were fleshed out more. It felt like just as you got into a topic and wanted to know more of the deeper details the chapter ended. I can understand that there’s limited information but the author worked on medieval gardens at the Prebendal Manor and I would have enjoyed hearing more about things he learned from practical experience trying out medieval tools and techniques. For example, the chapter on making your own medieval garden simply mentions having a water source and gives some general advice. There’s no sample layout with ideas of what plants fit well together. I’d have loved to see a few photos from the gardens he maintained, including what he chose to grow where).

There is a good number of colour photographs illustrating what the author is discussing. I enjoyed the mix of the author’s photos and images from medieval sources, misericords and manuscripts. Not every tool got an image, and in some cases, like the spud, I would have appreciated a photo to better understand the tool as I’ve never heard of it before and the description left me somewhat unsure of what it looked like.

If you’re new to medieval gardens this is an excellent primer that goes over the basics and then some. If you’ve read a couple of books on the topic already, some of the later chapters may still hold useful information for you.