Mark and I are both up with new reviews this week at SFFWorld. One an SF thrill ride (my book reviwe) another an alternate history/steampunk (Mark’s book review)
It isn’t often that a book surprises me, but that’s exactly what happened with James K. Decker’s The Burn Zone. I’d seen some good reviews run through my tweet stream and realized I needed to give the book a try, and I am very glad I did:
Though The Burn Zone is the first novel to be published under the James K. Decker byline, the author published the Revivors trilogy under the name James Knapp, a zombie-noir series which began with the novel State of Decay. I read and enjoyed that novel and see some of the same sensibilities here in The Burn Zone. A non-stop narrative pace kept the plot moving, the pages turning, and this reader guessing which fork in the road the story would take. The noir-ish and gritty feel of The Burn Zone evokes a similar used, grimy, and dirty future as did State of Decay; there’s a clear inspiration from Blade Runner in Decker’s writing.
The novel takes place in the fictional city of Hangfei, which Decker set in a future analogue of China, based on some of the locations and character names. Smartly, he doesn’t specify the nation is China. As the novel progresses and Sam learns more about the haan and their relationship to our world since their ship crashed nearly fifty years ago, the full scope of the aliens effect on Earth becomes much more far ranging than either Sam or this reader could have expected.
Mark dives into a great looking steampunk debuy from Liesel Schwarz, A Conspiracy of Alchemists:
This is a steam punk romance, in all senses of the word. There’s a love story, combined with a love of technology and some travel across Europe to strange and exotic places. Despite its obviousness (in that it’s pretty clear where it’s going from the beginning) there’s enough energy and enthusiasm here to make this an enjoyable read.
I found this reminiscent of the Studio Ghibli anime movies, which to my mind can only be a good thing. There’s a real joy in the storytelling and it comes across as you read it. Generally the dialogue’s not wincingly twee, the places visited give the reader a definite itch to travel there and the plot’s quite entertaining, although it probably is not one to think about for too long.