I picked up this book to read because of the author. I had read and loved NOS4R2, Heart Shaped Box, The Fireman, and was looking forward to reading his new novel. I soon realised, however, that rather than a full length novel, this book was a collection of 4 novellas, all connected with the theme of Strange Weather. Continue reading
My Facebook feed frequently features posts urging us to Save The Bees; I now know what to do if I find a bee on the ground (feed it sugar water in a teaspoon and move it to safety); my friends and I are wont to shake our fists and rant at Monsanto and GM crops. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is known outside of apiarist circles and Continue reading
I’ve been reading a lot of sci-fi recently, especially that written by writers who are neither American or Western European. I have found their slightly different take on the genre refreshing. In the west, the idea of travelling to distant worlds tends to tie in with the expanse of empire and world domination. Unsurprisingly, sci-fi from the east takes a slightly different viewpoint. of course, I could be forcing my own world view onto what I read, but I digress.
Jakub Prochazka is the first Czech astronaut and will be the first to encounter a band of purple dust hovering in space and behaving in ways the scientists on earth can’t explain. His eight month mission is to go and bring some samples back to earth for analysis. But his mission, as expected, does not go to plan.
As his mission progresses we see in flashback the story of his early childhood, his father’s collusion with the communist regime and eventual downfall, his life with his grandparents and the brief yet important relationship with his wife, Lenka.
It is her decision to leave him while he’s on his mission that seems to trigger his breakdown and we are left to decide whether Hanus, the spider-like alien who shares his ship, is real or a figment of his deteriorating mind.
To say too much more would be to spoil the book. Kalfar has created an interesting everyman, perhaps his father’s son, who seeks glory and meaning at the expense of those he cares for most. The book is almost contemporary which lends a layer of realism to the story. As other reviewers have said, this is literary science fiction and there is one passage I have highlighted on my copy which I will go back to and read time after time. I may have cried.
Is this an original tale? No, not really, but how many of those are there? I found myself reminded of other books and other films as I read on, but this is by no means a rip off of any other tale. Spaceman of Bohemia is a very enjoyable read and it has stayed with me since I finished it a couple of days ago. I expect that like Hanus, it may haunt me for a while yet. Excellent.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
I can’t believe I forgot to write a review for this book when I read it.I have been a bit busy and ill over the past few months, but that’s no excuse for me not to recommend such a wonderful title as this.
I am a sucker for steampunk and this title by the talented Liesel Schwarz hit the button for me. I must admit to not having read the first book in the series, but I don’t believe this reduced my enjoyment of the story at all.
Eleanor Chance is the oracle, a human with the ability to connect to another world, a world where evil is commonplace, and when an army of automaton zombies begin to wreak havoc on London, she and her colleagues )including Madame Bathory, famed Vampire and wife of Dracula) take it upon themselves to put an end to the terror. As expected, things don’t go exactly to plan and we leave Eleanor on a mission to find her husband who has been “zombiefied”, for want of a better term.
There is a great sense of adventure in this novel and, as seems to be common among the steampunk genre, the heroine is strong and able…and just a little foolhardy. While at times one could be forgiven for likening the automated army to Doctor Who’s Cybermen, there is enough invention and uniqueness in the story to make any such thoughts fleeting.
If you like your novels with polished brass, flying ships and fin de siècle fog, you won’t go wrong with A Clockwork Heart.
The narrator of this epic tale (nearly 800 pages) is William Wilkie Collins, author of the Woman In White and friend of Charles Dickens. When Dickens, his young mistress and her mother survive the Staplehurst Rail Disaster, he tells his friend about the atrocities he saw and how he tried to help. He also tells Collins about a man he sees there who appeared to be going around, hastening the injured to their death. He describes this man as being tall and thin, essentially bald with small, sharp teeth and a nose that was but two slits in his face. On closer examination the figure had no eyelids – they appeared to have been cut off – and had two fingers missing. In a quiet, sibilant voice the man introduced himself
to Dickens as Drood. And it is Wilkie Collins’ and Dickens’ fascination with this character that permeates the rest of the book.
But you’d be mistaken for thinking the book was actually about Drood.
The book is about a friendship that deteriorates because of jealousy and pettiness; it is about rich men’s flirtation with the lower and dangerous classes; it is about the paranoia and hallucinations Collins experiences as a result of his increasing dependence on first laudanum, and then smoked pure opium to alleviate his ‘rheumatic gout’ (or syphilis, caught from one of his ‘periwinkles’); it is about mesmerism, writing, novels, debt, mistresses, Victorian society, doppelgangers, murder, pride and getting old. And through all of this Drood makes his presence felt even though he appears in person very seldom.
I read mainly at night and during the day I would find myself thinking about the book and yearning to go back into the world it created, much like Wilkie Collins found himself fixating on his next visit to Lazaree’s opium den. I loved the world Simmons created and found his formal, Victorian English easy to understand and evocative of the era without going overboard and becoming a pastiche. The character of Collins changes throughout the story, going from affable to cold and heartless and the twist before the coda of Wilkie’s old age surprised me. Is it believable? Probably not, but it was acceptable within the suspended belief the book creates.
I finished the book a few days ago and I miss it. I miss my nightly excursions into Simmons’ London in the company of Collins and Dickens and still find myself thinking about Drood and his world. And if that doesn’t tell you how highly I’d recommend it, I don’t know what would.
Do you believe in sin? Do you believe that your sin can mark you? This is what happens in Richard Robert’s superb book Wild Children.
Told in five ‘acts’ and from 5 different perspectives, we follow the story of six different children, each turned into a wild child by some unspecified sin. From the first girl, Jenny, seduced by a Wolf boy into running away to become wild, to a boy seeking to repent from his sins by consuming the misery of others, an almost angelic dove-child, two devoted brothers and a young priest ordered to help destroy the very thing he was becoming himself, Wild Children casts a spell over the reader which remains long after the end of the book.
The Wild Children are eternally young – they never grow up, although they can die – and are equally patronised by the rich and feared by the church. There are elements of this story which remind me of Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy and, like that book, although the protagonists are children, the story is very adult and, at times, dark.
We are never told what the sin is or why the children take on some level of animal characteristics but when the book ends it leaves the possibility of another beginning and, possibly, a sequel.
Robert’s prose is lean and flowing and he successfully captures the different voices of each character’s perspective whilst still maintaining a cohesive voice for the entire book.
I loved this book and I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented author.
I have always found carnivals and traveling fairs very sinister places; places where the ‘freaks’ and dispossessed gather together and, at least in my imagination, seduce the unaware into the underworld, never to be seen again. It seems I’m not alone in my madness as Carniepunk, an anthology of urban fantasy stories set in and around traveling fairs, proves.
There is a wide variety of stories in this book and many, like ‘The Werewife’ by Rachel Caine (one of my favourites) have a dark, surreal, nightmarish quality to them.
For me, the best story in the collection is ‘The Demon Barker of Wheat Street’ by Kevin Hearne. Here, the author manages to blend his vision of hell with comedy – a psychic dog who sees “…a poodle in my future” – very successfully. I was glad to see that the short story takes place within a world created by the author in other books and novellas. I’ll certainly be checking those out soon.
One or two of the tales were a little ‘teenage’ for my tastes, particularly The Cold Girl, again by Rachel Caine, but in an anthology, it’s rare to love every story equally.
If you are a fan of urban fantasy or have a fascination for Carnivale, you could do worse than read this collection of short fiction. A good read.
Successful psychiatrist David Druas has a thriving practice, an attractive secretary and caring friends. He also has Hans Werner, a patient who sees doors that aren’t there. In order to destroy his patient’s delusion, David performs the Invocation of The Doors ritual, just as his patient did. At first, he notices no change but after Werner leaves, Druas begins to see the doors too. And when he opens the doors and travels through them, he sets in motion a chain of events which end in him being framed for murder.
I was intrigued when I read the synopsis of Daniel Brako’s Doors. It sounded like an interesting and challenging book and I was excited to read it. But…
Sadly, there is a ‘but.’
The book is quite short, too short really to do the fantastic premise real justice. The narrative would have been strengthened by the author taking more time to explore the characters and let them show themselves to us through their actions. It was hard to care about characters I wasn’t given the time to bond with.
The story is well told, apart from the odd clunky phrase here and there: “Falling in love with David Druas was as easy as walking through fallen leaves, the kind that crunch pleasantly underfoot.” Or how about “Celeste’s thoughts began swirling like a washing machine set to tumble dry.” Hmmm.
While the plot isn’t new – Philip K Dick’s The Adjustment Bureau is very similar – I had hoped that Brako would bring something new to the party. And I feel sure that he would have had he but taken more time to tell the story. We didn’t spend nearly enough time in the worlds on the other sides of the doors or exploring Druas’s relationships with the other characters, each of which, I believe, would have led to a more satisfying read.
The author bases his story on a non-linear structure which I really enjoyed, jumping back and forward in time so that we are told only what we need to know at any given point of the tale. A good choice.
This book may not have lived up to my expectations, but the author obviously has talent and a vivid imagination. I hope that the next Daniel Brako book I read has more flesh on its bones than this one.