Book Review: The Fifth Season

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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.

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Bookpunk

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© Sue Vincent

Eleven-year-old Keel watched his thirteen-year-old sister Alina from behind as she trudged down the alleyway. "C'mon. Don't wanna b late," she signaled.

The thin, waif-like boy, walking through January’s half-frozen muddy puddles in dirty, sandaled feet, dressed in over-sized khaki shorts with hems down to his shins, and a ratty green sweater made from an old Army blanket, heard her synthesized voice and simultaneously saw the text on his head’s up.

"Geek off. We've got time," was his caustic reply. He had slowed so he could look at Gemmi’s tagging, he was pretty sure it was her work, freshly painted on the old bricks. He was oblivious to the cold breeze from behind, blowing his matted, tortilla-colored hair with violet tips (all that was left of last November’s dye job) into his eyes.

"This is more important than your hotties for Gemmi." She impatiently grabbed his wrist, causing him to regard his sib for the first time that morning. She covered the holes in her thin, coffee-stained white tank top with a black leather vest, the one she ripped off from the dying multiplex in the burbs last month. There were just as many holes in her black yoga pants (she liked retro), and if he’d listen to her actual voice instead of what came through the interface, he’d have heard the faint, metallic click as numerous piercings colliding in her mouth when she spoke.

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Birth of a Science Fiction Horror Story

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Screenshot from Facebook

I’m currently creating a story for an open submissions at Zombie Pirate Publishing called “Full Metal Horror 2,” a sequel to last year’s anthology, which by the way is doing fabulously, both in seller’s rank and reviews at Amazon.

Anyway, I’m creating the tale more or less from scratch (it is very, very loosely based on a very brief tale I developed here not too long ago) and thus, I had to do a fair amount of research (and it’s not over yet).

The story morphed in my imagination as I thought of the “practicality” or the original concept, and it’s become a sort of a “Silent Running” / “Alien” / “The Martian” / “Passengers” meets The Donner Party / “Lord of the Flies” / Jeffrey Dahmer / Fagin … well, kind of.

I spent the better part of last Sunday designing an interstellar spaceship including its habitats, command core, ancillary spacecraft, even firearms and robots (still need to fine tune a bunch of things), plus looking up famous serial killers and cannibals.

Sounds pretty lurid.

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The Last Invader

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Exterior shot of the Suyash Cybercafe in Mumbai, India

Twenty-seven-year-old Alicia Vasquez rapidly manipulated the keyboard in front of her at the cybercafé in Mumbai, not far from Mahim Bay. She’d left Ranbir at a local cinema watching that superhero movie while she arranged for the two of them to join the next Chadar Trek. The fellow who’d died of a heart attack a week ago in Ladakh had put off most of the tourists, at least temporarily, so she was able to get a discount.

However, that man, wasn’t just a man, he was resistance, like her, and his death wasn’t accidental. Alicia would use Ranbir as a pawn, planting an electronic signature on him indicating he was the agent, not her. If the ancient alien machine hidden in the Tibb Cave detected the sign and attacked, she’d have time to plant the detonator, ending the ancient alien invader’s resurrection forever. Long live the human resistance.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 148.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Mumbai, India. Mumbai, formerly Bombay, has such a long and rich history, there are many stories that could be told. I looked up news items for Mumbai and came up with Dead trekker’s family urges caution from “The Times of India.” Apparently, a 35-year-old man participating in the Chadar Trek, a ten-day hike across a frozen river bed at extreme altitudes with temperatures reaching -35 degrees F, and with hazards such as oxygen deprivation, perished of a heart attack near Tibb Cave.

With no disrespect to him or his grieving family, I used this as the jumping off point for my wee tale of the potential revival of an ancient alien threat and the long-lived human resistance attempting to eradicate the last strongholds of the extraterrestrial machines.

Find out more about the trek at MountainIQ.com.

Oh, I used the Suyash Cyber Cafe as the scene for my story.

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

By the way, now that my first two short stories have been accepted for publication, I’ll probably have less time for many of these online challenges, as I’m redoubling my effort in creating tales to submit to anthologies and periodicals. I’ll still be around from time to time, though.

Out of the Ashes of Avalon

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Cover art for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel “The Mists of Avalon

I’m aware of the name Marion Zimmer Bradley because, if you read science fiction and fantasy at all, that name comes up quite a bit. That said, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t believe I’ve read any of her works, including her arguably best known novel The Mists of Avalon. Although rumors of her being a perpetrator of child sexual abuse in one manner or another have come into my awareness over the past year or two, I never paid much attention to them.

Then I found an interview published at Life Site News with Bradley’s daughter Moira Greyland titled INTERVIEW: Daughter of famed sci-fi author explains mother’s gay pedophile worldview published last May 2018, which discussed Greyland’s book The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon.

This is the book’s description at Amazon:

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Update on the “World War Four” Anthology

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Promotional image for Zombie Pirate Publishing’s “World War Four” anthology

Remember a few days ago when I announced that one of my short stories was going to be published in Zombie Pirate Publishing’s anthology World War Four? The accompanying graphic stated that there would be a “Special Guest” author’s work included in the project.

Late yesterday (in my time zone), Adam and Sam at ZPP posted a brief video on Facebook (it should play in a new window or tab when you click the link, even if you aren’t logged into Facebook) announcing the author.

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Being Published in the Anthology “World War Four”

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Promotional image for Zombie Pirate Publishing’s “World War Four” anthology

Fantastic news. On the heels of receiving an email saying that my first story was accepted for an anthology on Sunday morning, yesterday, I received the following:

Thanks for contributing to WORLD WAR FOUR. When we started Zombie Pirate Publishing in 2017, we could not have guessed at the enthusiastic support we would get from writers around the world. WORLD WAR FOUR received more than forty submissions. We thank you for your contribution.

We really enjoyed your submission Joey and would like to inform you it will be included in the publication released March 1st. Congratulations!

Yes, Adam Bennett and Sam M. Phillips at Zombie Pirate Publishing accepted my short story “Joey” for their World War Four (yes, you read that right) anthology, due to be published March 1, 2019.

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Hugo Award Winning Novels I Have Read

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

You might be wondering about why I’ve posted the lengthy lists of tabular data below.

Last summer and so on, when I was writing blog posts critical of the Hugo Awards, WorldCon, and a seeming lack of objectivity in how the Hugos are awarded, I learned a lot.

I’m not going to post a bunch of links to past blog missives, but I did learn that the Hugos were never meant to be particularly objective. Various works, including novels, are voted on by people who have paid to be at that year’s convention, people who are, for all appearances, very hard-core Science Fiction and Fantasy fans, and not necessarily the sort of person who might casually pick up a SciFi novel to read here and there (like most of us).

I also noted one of the criticisms leveled against SF author Robert Silverberg in the comments section at File 770 after Silverberg criticized NK Jemisin’s most recent Hugo Award acceptance speech, was that it was said Silverberg hadn’t read a SF novel in the past decade, like that’s a bad thing.

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Across the Hell Land

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Post apocalyptic art by Albert Goodwin, 1903 – a work in the public domain

Gray-haired, burnt-skinned Santos had forgotten the number of times he had appealed to the Glow for an end to his journey through the hell lands. He couldn’t fool himself with the placebo anymore, and so as he put out the campfire and slipped on his rucksack, the dull pain in his right knee became his rough companion with each step, thanks to the oblique scar left by the direwolf last Fall.

The old woman he encountered in one of the shelters reclaimed from a flatlands hell crater had tried to minister to him, but the scar tissue had already formed, and her potions were far too weak to repair damaged cartilage. Being maimed didn’t bother him as much as the fact that having to leave her alone again, she died two days hence, probably by the same pack that had struck at him, as evidenced by the sign of the carrion birds circling above her hut.

But heartstrings weren’t something he could afford. She had refused to go with him when he asked. The reluctant ranger told her the plague to the East was spreading by rats and sand hares, had consumed his community, and that the only safety was his destination, the half-mythical city beyond the western foothills. But she said she’d made her peace with the high desert and the hell lands. Her husband and five sons had died during the first disaster, and being of prairie stock, she chose to stay, to tend their graves, living off of a meager garden, wearing sackcloth and ashes.

She never said her name or how long she’d been alone, but he kept seeing her face, cut and grooved with wrinkles like a river delta as step by step, limping, praying to the Glow with each gasp of pain, he kept walking.

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The Sacrificed

alternate universes“I can’t do it, Erickson. I’m no killer.” Rafael Isaiah Johnson had traveled back in time 172 years to stop a global extinction event and save the human race, but the man he hoped to enlist as an ally, Austin Randolph Erickson had another idea, a murderous one.

The two men, one a Hispanic-African-American who wouldn’t be born for another 135 years was standing in the other man’s kitchen between the refrigerator and the stove, the exit to his back, while the opposing person, a white American man of Scandinavian ancestry was facing him and holding out the butt of a loaded semi-automatic Glock 20. The drawer to his left and second from the top was still pulled open.

“You’ve got to do it, Johnson. I believe you. I believe all of the holographic evidence you brought with you, that my unborn son is the key in time, the critical element in preventing the reversal of the effects of climate change. Take the gun. If I don’t exist, then he won’t be born.”

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