Book Review: The Fifth Season

fifth

Cover image of NK Jemisin’s 2015 Hugo Award winning novel “The Fifth Season

“Jemisin is now a pillar of speculative fiction, breathtakingly imaginative and narratively bold.”―Entertainment Weekly

“Intricate and extraordinary.”―The New York Times

“[The Fifth Season is] an ambitious book, with a shifting point of view, and a protagonist whose full complexity doesn’t become apparent till toward the end of the novel. … Jemisin’s work itself is part of a slow but definite change in sci-fi and fantasy.”―Guardian

“Astounding… Jemisin maintains a gripping voice and an emotional core that not only carries the story through its complicated setting, but sets things up for even more staggering revelations to come.”―NPR Books

“Jemisin’s graceful prose and gritty setting provide the perfect backdrop for this fascinating tale of determined characters fighting to save a doomed world.”―Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“A must-buy…breaks uncharted ground.”―Library Journal (starred review)

“Jemisin might just be the best world builder out there right now…. [She] is a master at what she does.”―RT Book Reviews (Top Pick!)

“Wait! What? Sure, it’s an interesting story, but… –Me

I’ve read most Hugo nominated and award-winning novels from 1988 back to 1958, when the Hugos first came into existence, but recently, I decided for the sake of fairness, I should consume more recent popular SF/F novels and stories to see how cultural perception is changing the landscape of speculative fiction. The fact that N.K. Jemisin is a three-time Hugo award winner wasn’t lost on me, particularly after having read her latest controversial historic Hugo Award acceptance speech.

Fortunately, The Fifth Season (2015), the first book in “The Broken Earth” series, was available through my local public library system. Given its obvious “hype,” I was hoping for something spectacular and afraid that it wouldn’t be.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Minor Goddess

goddess

Photo credit: UnexpectedTales

“Well, it’s about damn time.” She was more provocative than beautiful, though her piercing brown eyes, dark chestnut-colored hair, and burgundy-painted lips were definitely alluring. She was leaning over her tucked in legs, the skirt of her short, deep, Prussian blue dress hiked up, revealing ample, pale-skinned thighs and just a little more besides…and she was barefoot. Her expression was expectant with a dash of mischievousness.

Since my divorce, I’d been living in a flat on the third floor of a converted Victorian in Boise’s counter-culture North End. Having parked my car around back, I was walking up the front steps, a sack of groceries from the Co-Op balanced in my right arm, while thumbing through my keys with my left.

“I beg your pardon?” I paused on the ancient concrete steps, a cold January breeze blowing from the north chilling me. I thought I wouldn’t be out very long and so only put on a light jacket, and now I was shivering.

Continue reading

Being Published in the anthology “Magical Reality”

magical reality

Announcement of the “Magical Reality” anthology from Pixie Forest Publishing

Sunday morning, I woke up to some wonderful news. Actually, when I saw the email from Pixie Forest Publishing with the title, “Decision for The Dragon’s Family,” I was prepared for another disappointment at being once again being rejected. Then I read this:

Thank you for submitting your short story “The Dragon’s Family” to Pixie Forest Publishing’s modern fantasy anthology. We really appreciate you letting us consider your story. After much consideration, we have decided we would love to include your story in our anthology.

I was still swilling coffee and trying to wake up, but at that moment, I could have been dancing on air.

Later, I found out that there had been 62 submissions to the “Magical Reality” anthology, and only 11 stories had been picked, including mine, “The Dragon’s Family.”

Continue reading

Book Review: Knight Training (The Steam Knight Book 1)

knight

Cover art for Jon Del Arroz’s novella “Knight Training”

Yesterday, I finished reading Jon Del Arroz’s short story Knight Training, a small steampunk piece that’s part of his For Steam and Country universe. I won’t post these first few paragraphs at Amazon, but I feel it necessary, given the criticism I receive every time I mention Mr. Del Arroz on this blog, to say something about him, or at least how some folks perceive him.

About a year ago, another author, Jim C. Hines, wrote a scathing criticism of Del Arroz that he titled Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing. I was doing some research on Del Arroz via Google and came across the missive (and it’s the only reason I became aware of Mr. Hines and his writing since he otherwise was not on my radar). If all this is true, it makes Del Arroz a pretty terrible person.

On the other hand, Del Arroz’s fellow writer Richard Paolinelli says he’s a pretty good guy. I like Richard and have no reason to doubt his word, but I must admit, I see two sides to a man who calls himself “The Leading Hispanic Voice in Science Fiction.”

Continue reading

Dreaming on Such a Winter’s Day

zebra unwinding

Image credit: Zulkarnain Ismail

William Blake knew he was in trouble when he saw the zebra unraveling like a ball of twine, especially since there shouldn’t be any free roaming zebras in the high desert southeast of Boise.

“Get a grip, get a grip, get a grip,” he muttered to himself, pressing his hands on each side of his head. The vision wouldn’t go away, but neither did the zebra seem to mind its condition.

“Of all days, why did it have to happen today?” Every New Year’s morning, the forty-eight-year-old electrical designer took a walk in the open fields south of his home, symbolically welcoming a year of new hope. “But I have to be at Edna’s in an hour for breakfast. I can’t go like this.”

The zebra moved on but then the clouds started turning themselves inside out, swirling and shifting from white to silver, then to magenta and turquoise. The grass around his ankles and then all across the field. writhed like serpents and rubbed against his legs like affectionate house cats, while the trees in the distance grew and expanded to Pellucidar-like proportions. Then the sky became granite and the ground turned to vapor, but neither did the atmosphere collapse upon him, nor did he fall through the mist.

Continue reading

A Hero in Harare

movies

Sterkinekor Lusaka Arcades Centre in Lusaka, Zambia – found at afrotourism.com

“I want to meet this Miles Morales,” twelve-year-old Miriro murmured spontaneously as he and his eleven-year-old sister Anesu did their maths homework at the kitchen table, warm afternoon sunlight streaming in the western window.

“What are you talking about,” she replied in irritation. “He doesn’t even exist. He’s a cartoon.”

“Uncle Tongai took me and my mates to see Spider-Verse over the weekend. The movie said anyone could wear the mask and be Spider-Man.” He was grinning, his mind completely diverted from his textbook.

“You’re daft. This isn’t Brooklyn, America. It’s Harare, Zimbabwe. Just because black Americans look like us doesn’t mean we’re all the same. Our lives are different.”

“Anybody can be a hero, Anesu.”

“Be a hero and finish your studies before Mama comes back from the market and we both get in trouble.”

But it was too late. Miriro was already thinking about his new costume.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps location/image as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Harare, Zimbabwe.

Yesterday, I saw the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) with my son and my nine-year-old grandson. I subsequently published my review online and obviously still have the movie on my mind.

One of the things I’ve been considering, both with this movie, and especially with the Marvel Studios film Black Panther (2018) is that in the African nations, culturally, black people have widely varying cultures compared to African-American audiences, so the differing populations may not have as much in common with each other as people in the U.S. might imagine.

Having said that, the central message of “Spider-Verse” is that anybody can wear the mask. It was meant as a commentary about how historically, superheroes have been white, but it doesn’t automatically have to be that way. Any kid, no matter who they are, can be a hero.

I decided to put a spin on the message and say that any kid anywhere in the world also can aspire to be more than who they are, mask or no mask, even a twelve-year-old boy living in Harare.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Book Review of “The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack: A Burton and Swinburne Adventure”

jack

Cover image for Mark Hodder’s 2010 novel The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

Some months ago at work, a friend of mine and I got to talking about steampunk as a sub-genre of science fiction, and, long story short, he recently lent me his copy of Mark Hodder’s 2010 novel The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack: A Burton and Swinburne Adventure.

Basically, Hodder takes real places (London specifically) and actual historical figures, such as Sir Richard Burton, poet Algernon Swinburne, Charles Darwin (yes, that Charles Darwin), and Florence Nightingale, and transforms them into bizarre, distorted, “steampunkish” versions of themselves in a much larger than life adventure set against a highly improbable background.

The result is an amazing romp that could never have happened (time travel notwithstanding) but is nevertheless, is a lot of fun.

Recently, I said that I’d be making a concerted effort to read more recently produced science fiction novels and stories as defined by those having been published within the last ten years or so. Mr. Hodder’s novel certainly qualifies, so here we go.

Continue reading

Eira’s Lover

trees and snow

Photo credit booklikes.com – Image found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

Aging widower Shannon Hart remembered the sound of the crackling of burning logs in the fireplace at home in the middle of a dark, quiet night as he stared across the low, rolling hills, watching fog freeze onto the widely spaced pine trees, a faint, unending dawn resting on the eastern horizon. Three weeks ago, his youngest grandson Drew came up here to perform the solitary winter solstice ceremony at the family’s wilderness wickiup. He was due back late last week but never returned.

The twelve clans all sent volunteers ready to search for him, but Shannon respectfully declined, and as a clan head, it was his prerogative. The secrets of the wickiup had been jealously guarded for untold generations. Even his own clan, the Tromsø, didn’t know what was hidden in the sacred acres owned by the Harts.

The eighty-year-old had been worried, and even tried to dissuade Drew from performing the ritual that the old man normally observed, but the twenty-eight year old had become a father earlier in the month. He claimed the right of a single boon from the clan elder as a birth gift, and Shannon had no choice but to grant it.

Continue reading

Summer Reflection

reflection

© Sue Vincent

Twenty-nine year old Melanie Snyder stood sobbing at the shore of the lake where her Grandpa’s ashes had been scattered two years ago. She purposely had one hand inside her coat touching something precious she was wearing around her neck. The first rays of the April sun were just now creeping over the eastern horizon illuminating reflections of thin clouds, a pale azure sky, and the gnarled, barren tree under which he had taught her how to fish when she was five.

“I’m sorry I…” sobs shook her slender frame which was enveloped in the dark blue pea coat that sheltered her from the cold. “I’m sorry I didn’t visit…didn’t call that last year. I was so afraid of what I’d see…of what the cancer had done to…”

Long blond hair being slightly fluttered by the breeze, Melanie lowered both arms to her sides and clenched her fists in resolve, determined to finish her confession.

“You were always my hero, always strong, brave, kind. After Mom and Dad divorced, I could talk to you about anything, how I felt, how mad I was. You always understood. I thought you’d live forever, that you would never leave me.”

Continue reading

The Chiromancer

palm

A diagram of the palm of the hand from Magnus Hundt’s Antropologium de hominis dignitate (1501) – Found at Wiktionary

For the first time in her career, petite, forty-five year old Sheryl Valdez regretted being a chiromancer. Like the Prophet Joseph from the Bible, she had correctly interpreted a person’s future, but instead of being made a dominant ruler, she was on the run, at the moment, trying to blend in with the other evening commuters on the BART train approaching San Francisco International. Her only hope would be to grab the first available flight out of the country and then try to disappear.

“I want to know how my trial is going to go next week.”

His name was Rico Nguyen and he had been accused of being the financial manager behind the Hình Su gang, which was notorious for the flood of home invasions and mass transit robberies the Bay Area had suffered for the past two years.

“I’ve been wrestling with whether I should try to fight this in court or just get out of the country. No one else has been able to give me any input that helps me figure it out.”

He was effusive and thanked her repeatedly for the uninterrupted hour-long session, which was far more time than she needed.

Continue reading