Review of Octavia E. Butler’s Novel “Parable of the Sower” (2000)

sower

Cover art for the novel “Parable of the Sower”

“THERE ISN’T A PAGE IN THIS VIVID AND FRIGHTENING STORY THAT FAILS TO GRIP THE READER”.

— SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

GRIPPING…POIGNANT…SUCCEEDS ON MULTIPLE LEVELS

— NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

This highly acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel of hope and terror from award-winning author Octavia E. Butler “pairs well with 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale” (John Green, New York Times)–now with a new foreword by N. K. Jemisin.

I’ve heard the name Octavia E. Butler for some time now, and have been meaning to read one or more of her books. She has an interesting background and is generally considered one of the most important science fiction authors of her generation, particularly as a woman of color. Sadly, she passed away in 2006, although the cause is attributed either to a stroke or a head injury acquired during a fall.

Here’s more about her:

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Book Review: “SS-GB” (1978) by Len Deighton

Cover art for the 1978 novel “SS-GB”

Disclosure: I checked the hardback copy of this novel out from the public library.

Just finished Len Deighton’s 1978 alternative history novel SS-GB: Nazi-Occupied Britain 1941. I recall reading it decades ago, but remembered almost none of the content.

This isn’t actually science fiction, just a sort of “What if Nazi Germany won World War 2 and occupied Great Britain?” The tale centers around Scotland Yard Inspector Douglas Archer, a well-educated man who is fluent in German and works with the SS who have headed up Britain’s police agencies. He seems to get along with his superiors, unlike his partner, Sgt Detective Harry Woods, and many other of the nation’s beleaguered citizens, who chafe at the occupation.

While investigating was started out as a murder, Archer is plunged into a world of political intrigue, conspiracy, and assassination. It only gets worse when SS Standertenfuhrer Huth arrives from Berlin to supervise the investigation. Only then, does he learn the Germany’s secret atomic weapons development project is headquartered in Britain, and the dead man was a nuclear scientist. He also falls into a plot to free the King of England from imprisonment and clandestinely transport him to America, which has remained carefully neutral during the war.

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Book Review of “Reviver”

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Promotional cover image of Seth Patrick’s 2013 novel “Reviver.” Note: Not the original cover or title.

I probably wouldn’t even have read Seth Patrick’s novel Reviver (2013), but I noticed on the back cover a small review by SF author Neal Asher. I’m familiar with Asher’s work and even share the Table of Contents with him in a recent SciFi anthology, so naturally I was intrigued.

A few weeks back, I was at the local branch of my little public library, and although I was already reading two books, found myself stuck there with my books and my beloved laptop still at home. So I started wandering the stacks. This library is small enough not to differentiate between general fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, so they are all intermixed. I was randomly strolling through, occasionally picking up and reading the summaries of various novels, when I happened upon “Reviver” and noticed Asher’s name on the back cover. I figured, what the heck.

This is Seth Patrick’s very first novel, and I can only imagine he went through quite a few iterations before he arrived at the final product I consumed. It was a terrific mix of horror, mystery, and a hint of speculative fiction. I know there are purists who detest that sort of thing, but I never was one for the extreme blood, guts, and gore of modern horror. Yes, there is graphic imagery in the novel, but nothing I couldn’t handle, and the psychological horror totally hooked me.

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Amélie Wen Zhao’s Fantasy Novel “Blood Heir” Available November 2019!

blood heir

Cover art for the novel “Blood Heir” by Amélie Wen Zhao

If you read my February blog post “Blood Heir” and Social Justice (or is it vengeance) which echoed many other voices on the web, you’ll recall how author Amélie Wen Zhao was bullied on social media to pull her book Blood Heir from publication over what Slate.com author Aja Hoggatt called accusations of racism and being “anti-black”.

Tablet Magazine called her detractors a twitter mob composed of what’s been referred to as “YA Twitter:”

an online community composed of authors, editors, agents, reviewers, and readers that appears to skew significantly older than the actual readership for the popular genre of young adult fiction, which is roughly half teens and half adults.

The Tablet article goes on to say:

As Kat Rosenfield, a Tablet writer who is herself a published YA author, wrote in a deeply entertaining Vulture feature on The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter, in the summer of 2017, “Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons—sometimes before anybody’s even read them.”

Even though the author defended herself and explained the cultural context (her own) that inspired her novel, she was dragged through the virtual gutters and intimidated into indefinitely delaying the release of her book. She’s an excellent example of having apologized when, objectively, she really didn’t do anything wrong except cross paths with the YA twitter “powers that be.”

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Amélie Wen Zhao, “Blood Heir,” and Social Justice (or is it vengeance)

blood heir

Cover art for the novel “Blood Heir” by Amélie Wen Zhao

I’ve held off about commenting on Amélie Wen Zhao controversial book Blood Heir, since it seemed that more than enough online pundits were weighing in, both for and against the book. Also, I didn’t really understand what the problem was all about. Yes, it had something to do with slavery, but what did Zhao actually write that at least some people found so offensive?

However, as a matter of good conscience, I felt I should look into the matter and see what it was supposed to be all about. To that end, I decided to seek the answer from one of the most liberal information outlets I could find, Slate.com. It doesn’t get much more leftist than Slate. Writer Aja Hoggatt wrote an article called An Author Canceled Her Own YA Novel Over Accusations of Racism. But Is It Really Anti-Black? published January 31, 2019. I found the write-up really even-handed, especially given Slate’s obvious leftist perspective.

First off, here’s the summary of the book I found at Amazon:

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Book Review: Contest

contest

Cover art for Matthew Reilly’s novel “Contest.”

Sometime last summer, I wrote a short piece of fiction on this blog, and one of the comments made about it was that it was vaguely reminiscent of Matthew Reilly’s novel Contest.

Intrigued, I discovered that my local public library system had a copy, so I checked it out and started reading (however, I forgot to write a review until now).

Actually, the novel was originally self-published in 1996 when Reilly was age 19. Then Cate Paterson, a commissioning editor from Pan Macmillan, found a copy of in a bookstore and subsequently signed Reilly to a two-book deal. Apparently, Reilly had success with later novels as well.

Reilly is an Australian, but he chose to set his tale in New York City, specifically the main branch of the New York City Public Library (which was featured at the beginning of the 1984 film Ghostbusters), and his main characters are New York natives, which is where he starts to get into trouble.

Actually, I liked the book, but he introduced plot holes big enough for me to walk through, and he occasionally called things like the trunk of a car “the boot,” not keeping it straight in his mind that the people thinking these thoughts were American.

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Book Review: “The Man in the High Castle

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Cover image for the novel “The Man in the High Castle” by Philip K. Dick

My son Michael and I were talking about the television series The Man in the High Castle, which is based on the 1962 novel of the same name authored by the late Philip K. Dick. I’ve never seen the television show (and probably never will), but I did recall reading the novel sometime back in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, that’s all I remembered about it. Curious, I decided to check a copy of the book out of my local public library and re-read it.

The novel is set in the year it was published and postulates what the United States would have been like if the Axis powers had won World War Two thanks to the Nazis having developed the atomic bomb first.

The US is divided into three zones, with the Nazis in control of the East, the Japanese in control of the West, and a sort of DMZ existing across the Rocky Mountain States.

The “Man in the High Castle” refers to the author of a controversial novel called “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy” written by the mysterious Hawthorne Abendsen. It postulates what the world would have been like if the Allies had won the war. The book is tolerated in the West, but the Nazis have made it illegal in the East and there are rumors that there’s an ongoing attempt to assassinate the book’s writer. Thus Abendsen is said to live in a fortress (“High Castle”) in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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Epilogue: The Dragon’s Library

gerliliam

© James Pyles

“Dragons roared and children picked up musical instruments and played. Many alighted to the ground to dance, and the singers clung to tree branches like birds. It was a moment of grandeur and promise. But as bright as it was in the city of Vovin, the city of dragons and children, a dark night was coming.

“The end.”

The ancient dragon Gerliliam reclined in his favorite chair in front of the fireplace in his library, and slowly closed the book he had been reading.

“What do you mean ‘the end,’ Gerliliam? That can’t be the end. What about the Grey God? How are the kids supposed to get home? Does that mean the demons are going to come for us, too?” The excitable and feisty sparrow hopped annoyingly back and forth from one of the dragon’s shoulders to the other. In ages past the dragon would have simply swatted him with one of his wings, but then, that was ages past.

“Excuse me, but I think he’s right. You can’t stop reading now. There’s so much more to tell.” Mr. Covingham, a brightly colored garter snake, was comfortably curled on a pillow set on the floor, not too close to the fireplace, but not too far, either.

“But that’s what it says, my friends, ‘the end.’ That rather means there is no more to read.”

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Last Stand

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© Sue Vincent

“Archers! At the ready!” Petran gave the command to his meager squad of elven soldiers as they formed a perimeter around the five Davidson children and the magician Raibyr. Nine-year-old Taylor was at the center with his siblings when he remembered he also had his bow and arrows.

The wind was frigid and fierce, which fortunately made the attacking Beelzebub horde uncertain in the air, but would also make accuracy with the bow extremely difficult.

The sense of the warrior Azzorh within Taylor came over him, and he nocked his first arrow.

The bat-winged demons were in as tight a formation as possible given the storm that was tracking toward the party from the west; a massive cloud of swollen, sickly green flies whose home was sewage, and whose taste was for blood.

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A Not Entirely Objective Book Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale”

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Promotional image for Hulu’s television series “The Handmaid’s Tale

I just finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and I can tell you it’s not a book you review without doing a bit of research. Of course I knew that going in.

I’ve been peripherally aware of both Atwood’s novel and the television series on Hulu but didn’t give either much attention. Then I read a few stories about this year’s Women’s March and noticed in the news photos amid women dressed in vagina hats and full-body vagina costumes, there were groups who wore the red and white wardrobe of the handmaids (I assume the protestors’ inspiration was more the TV series than the book but I have nothing with which to back that opinion).

Since the Women’s March largely is a protest against the administration of President Donald Trump, I became curious as to the connection (I already knew what the vagina costumes were all about).

Fortunately, my local public library system had a copy, so I reserved it and when it arrived at the designated branch, I eagerly began reading. I’m going to break down this review into sections both to make it more readable and to keep things straight in my head. It’s not that I found the book itself so complex, but there are wider social implications to consider.

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