Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

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It’s May Day 1983 in Great Britain…

This is how Garth Nix’s latest Urban Fantasy The Left-Handed Booksellers of London starts. Published 22 September 2020.

Don’t you just want to know what the title means? And if there are left-handed booksellers, are there right-handed ones, too? And ambidextrous ones?

As I said in the title of this post, this UF is set in May of 1983. We follow Susann, who has just turned 18 and is moving to London to earn a bit of money before her first term at art school starts. Her mother gave her a few names of friends, who Susann intends to visit. Alas, on her first evening at her uncle’s place, she encounters her first Left-Handed Bookseller of London. Needless to say that this is where the fun starts. Susann will have to run for her life and learn about the secret world hiding behind the bookshelves of the regular world.

I liked it all. The characters are wonderful and lovable, or hate-able. The world-building is very inventive. Yes, it’s an UF built on the UK of the 1980s, using all the fads and fashions of the time. As soon as you enter the world of the booksellers though, you see the genius behind Nix’s work. It’s all believable. And that’s what makes a good UF for me. The pacing is medium to fast, which works well, given that the whole story takes place within the month of May.

Definite recommendation!

5/5 Stars

PS: there are ambidextrous booksellers *squeal* – Where can I apply? 😉

October Buddyread Reveal

Wow, the Otherland-Team really surprised us this time. Neither of us expected their pick for this month’s buddyread: Natalie Zina Walschots’ Hench.

It’s – and here I go by the blurb alone:

A sharp, witty, modern debut, Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.

Natalie Zina Walschots, Hench – blurb

Our buddyread plan is to read it over the next four weeks, starting today. The book has 399 pages. We’ll read to page 99 until next week Tuesday, then until page 196, the next section is up to page 293, and the final bit brings us to page 399. I’m curious as to whether we can stick to this plan. It’s supposed to be a fast paced read, we might not be able to stop ourselves.

The Necromancers are back

… or in other words, the second book in Tamsyn Muir’s Locked Tomb Trilogy hit the shelves; Harrow the Ninth was published 4 August, 2020.

It’s a bit tricky to talk about the book without giving too much away. Harrow starts several months after the point where Gideon the Ninth left us with a cliffhanger. Harrow is a new Lyctor now and should be training to be a full Lyctor soon, but something is off. You’ll notice this right away due to the unusual POV. The other Lyctors around her, as well as God, have strange habits, interesting names and are more fully-fleshed people than deities that need to be worshipped should be.

I enjoyed this “middle book” very much, mainly because it does NOT suffer from Middle-Book-Syndrome!!! Muir manages to propel the story forward and give Harrow enough room to develop her character further. There is a cast of familiar and new secondary characters that enrich the mystery of what is going on around Harrowhark the Lyctor.

I am looking very much forward to getting my grubby hands on Alecto the Ninth. The epilogue of Harrow might have teased at her story.

5/5 Goodreads stars

Everyone loves Murderbot

Murderbot is a security bot who hacked themself, is addicted to serials, and tries to make its way in a world where they would be instantly killed/reset if someone discovered them. Additionally, Murderbot constantly has to save humans either from the harm they try to bring to themselves or other catastrophes.

It has been some time since I read All Systems Red, the first of the Murderbot novellas, by Martha Wells. But I had a recent discussion with my boyfriend, who mostly listens to audiobooks while driving and slowly moves his way through my favorite books: He complained that he did not know any female sci-fi authors. He only listens to German audiobooks, and I am pretty devastated by the small number of audiobooks available that fit the pretty loose description of > sci-fi, female author, in German <. But there was Murderbot.

I devoured the other books in an effort to keep up, and now, after 4 novellas and a short story, I love Murderbot even more. I have read the English books, and cannot say anything about the quality of the translation or audiobook narration, but the novellas are a fantastic read.

Murderbot resonates very much with me, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the next book!

Seven more books, please!

I was so excited when I heard about this book! Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elisabeth May is the start of a space opera duology and was an incredibly good read.

The Tholosian Empire is run by a cruel dictator and an AI that programs its citizens to obey. This is the story of seven rebels trying to bring it down. And it kicks ass.

The authors take the feeling of Star Wars, mix it with heists and sprinkle a fast-paced storyline on top. It works incredibly well and I would wish for a movie adaptation of this instead of Star Wars Episode “Let’s cut out diverse characters”.

I’ve already been a fan of Laura Lam’s books, and I’ll definitely check out Elisabeth May’s books.

Nuns in Space

I know it sounds weird, but Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather is indeed about nuns in space. It portrays the lives of the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita as they navigate among the stars on their mission of mercy.

So far I have enjoyed every single Tor novella I picked up, and this one is no exception. While the nuns’ initial mission was to spread the Catholic faith, their main focus has become answering calls for help, healing and blessing people. Although it is about a convent, there is not too much of a religious backdrop. At first it is a little difficult to differentiate between the sisters, but after a short while they evolve into a very diverse and interesting cast of characters. Even their Reverend Mother has something up her sleeve.

The plot itself revolves around what happens when the sisters answer a distress call from a recently visited colony. The sisters prove to be tough, intelligent and capable of making hard decisions to help others.

A really interesting aspect of the story is the convent’s ship, Our Lady of Impossible Constellations. In this version of the future, ships are living, breathing organisms bred for the different requirements of space travel and trade. I wondered how it wold be to live inside one of those ships, always hearing a faint heartbeat wherever you go.

It is always impressive when an author manages to build such an interesting world in the form of a novella. I would love to read more set in the same universe.

Sci-Fi Déjà Vu

Truel1f3 by Jay Kristoff, the third and final book in the Lifel1k3 series, published 30 June 2020.

Unpopular opinion: I didn’t like this book. “Talking true“, in retrospect, I didn’t like the whole series.

The plot gave me constant déjà vu. The parallels to Mr Kristoff’s other series were blatantly obvious; not to mention the parallels to other sci-fi works. The name-calling and racism annoyed me to no end. And yes, there can be too much sarcasm and snark in a novel’s dialogue. I’m not going to make a list of all the things that raised my hackles, it’d put me in lots of “barney” with the hardcore fans.

So, I am leaving this series with a bitter aftertaste that’ll certainly cling to the roof of my mouth for some time.

2/5 Goodreads stars

Revenger Series Review

About a month ago I finished the Revenger triology by Alastair Reynolds, consisting of the books Revenger, Shadow Captain, and Bone Silence. It took some time before I could review it properly, because somehow these books are really different from your typical YA reads. Before I explain why, let me give you a brief overview of the start of the story:

The Ness Sisters, Fura and Adrana, are teens in a near bankrupt family on one of many habitable small worlds scattered in the sun system. They sign up with Captain Rackamore, an honest treasure hunter. He and his crew specialize in opening baubles, objects in space that only open under specific circumstances and by the right hands. In these baubles wait traps and treasures, and sometimes even more creepy things. On the outskirts of the habitable zone lurks the myth of Bosa Sennen and her ship with black sun-sails.

Unlike Alastair Reynolds’ other books, this is not hard sci-fi. The world-building is rather subtle instead of lots of sciency sounding explanations. It is considered YA, but I think that is mainly motivated by a) the teen protagonists and b) the more accessible story-line. There are a few points that differ from your typical YA story: no romances, the age of all other characters has a wide range, and the protagonists actually think about what they are doing.

The made up words for things were a bit confusing, for example “lungstuff” instead of air or oxygen, which broke my immersion a bit. Otherwise, I really loved this story about the Ness sisters and their adventures. Not all questions get answered, but a lot are.

The adventures of the Ness sisters make up a fantastic triology without middle book syndrome. Characters, their agendas, and circumstances change, and the second book, Shadow Captain, circumnavigates the trap of feeling like it is setting the stage for Bone Silence.

I would not describe the books as fast-paced, but to me, there weren’t any unnecessary lengths either. Things happen in their own time, and I enjoyed it much more than those stories with crazy coincidences where everything happens at once. It certainly adds to the space opera feel of the whole story.

4/5 stars

YA tropes in space

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

My buddyread with TheLadyDuckOfDoom of the second book in the Aurora Cycle turned out as expected, we were both rather underwhelmed. Is it Middle Book Syndrome again? Or is it just the two of us, who think that the plot twists were obvious from light-years away, they seemed to wave their disruptor rifles, too. The two of us might also just have consumed too much Sci-Fi in our lives? Let’s just say, the ideas weren’t new. Chapter 28, for example, came as no surprise to either of us.

Things we both rolled our eyes about were Tyler’s “dimples that can explode ovaries at thirty meters” – Oh, really, we’re in the 24th century and haven’t given up on this sort of sexism? Also very annoying, the casual racism against Kal. Again, 24th century, do we have to call him a “Pixieboy”? And if so, why doesn’t anyone call his sister a ‘Pixiegirl’?

That said, just because the plot took obvious turns and there were the usual YA problems and tropes woven into it, the writing was good. Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman clearly know how to spin a yarn, tell a story, and make you laugh at stupid jokes and clever banter.

As is often the case I listened to the audiobook while reading the book, the narration was excellent. Kudos to the narrators!

3/5 Goodreads stars

Of Humans, Spiders, Paul & Others

Children of Ruin is the sequel to Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. These are fantastic science fiction books that deal with evolution, and what could happen if different species went through an evolutionary uplift.

Attention! This review contains spoilers for Children of Time, so be warned.

The book follows two storylines: The first is a second expedition from old earth to a star system with a suitable planet in the Goldilocks zone. One of the scientists has a very special little project concerning octopuses.

The second follows Humans and Portiids in search of other habitable planets. Naturally, they arrive at the same system where the other expedition arrived thousands of year ago, finding the system not only habitable, but also inhabited.

Every character has a humanoid name, and I have to admit every octopus I’ll ever meet will be called Paul in my head. Adrian Tchaikovsky has the incredible talent to make non-human life relatable without making it seem human. I don’t know how he does it, but it is an amazing read.

I can really recommend this series for everyone interested in sci-fi, evolution and inter-species communication.

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