Friday, January 08, 2016

Friday Round-Up: Bowen, Corey & O'Keefe @SFFWorld and @SFSignal Mind Melds

Wow, I haven’t posted a round up since last year (hack joke), but seriously, it has been over a month and that’s a longer time between Round Ups than usual. Not sure what that bodes for the future, but there it is.

As my Millions….and MILLIONS readers are probably aware, I posted my annual (and tenth!) Reading Year in Review on Monday. It turned out to be a really good year, if you want to take a gander at the SFF books published in 2015 that I enjoyed the most head over there. But in this post you’ll find some of the recent things I’ve posted to SFFWorld and SF Signal.

As it turned out my Mind Meld from March SFF Series That Hooked us After the First book was the top (most viewed) Mind Meld post for 2015, and my Mind Meld on giving Authors a Second Chance (September) is also on the list.  Of course, the fact that "hooked" posted early in the year gave it more time to be viewed than all but 2 mind melds last year.

My Mind Meld for December was posted just before Christmas (and it turned out to be one of the top SF Signal posts for December!), wherein I asked A.M. Dellamonica, Bob Milne, Kristen Bell , Troy L. Wiggins, Mieneke van der Salm, Kallen Kentner, Stefan Raets, Kat Hooper, The G (from Nerds of a Feather), Martin Cahill, Ardi Alspach , and Sarah Chorn

I finished off December with two reviews at SFFWorld and began 2016 with one review. Here goes...

Just about a month ago, my review of Lila Bowen (AKA Delilah S. Dawson) Wake of Vultures, one of the most honest and raw (in an excellent way) fantasy novels I read:

At the start of the novel, Nettie is a slave in all but name to her foster parents, and she isn’t too happy with them or her situation. They treat her horribly and she has no recompense. When a strange creepy fellow arrives on their farm, and Nettie fights for her life until she manages to defeat the creature making it dissolve into black sand, Nettie has an awakening. She can see things that normal people are unable to see. She leaves her home to join the Double TK Ranch where she poses as a boy and her considerable skill at breaking horses gives her the acceptance, friendship, and value-recognition she needs and deserves. In parallel to that, a Skinwalker (shapechanger) named Coyote Dan befriends her and helps Nettie come to grips with her new supernatural life. She can see vampires, witches and all sort of supernatural and weird entities. Dan sets her up with the Texas Rangers who combat these baddies. When Nettie was first sucked into the weird world, she became entangled with Pia Mupitsi, a monstrous child thief and Coyote Dan acts as a mentor to her through much of the story as Nettie comes to grips with how she fits into this new world she sees.

Another element I appreciated about Wake of Vultures, and this goes hand in hand with the “realness” of the protagonist, is the honest, unwavering nature of the entire narrative. Bowen doesn’t shy away from the bloody scenes, the difficult character scenes, the challenging themes and topics. In short, Wake of Vultures is a brave, bold novel of human truth set against a dark, magical backdrop. It is perfectly paced and engaging from start to finish.

My last review of 2015 turned out to be for a book that immediately leapt to the top of my favorites list, the latest Expanse installment from James S.A. Corey, Nemesis Games:

Here in Nemesis Games, James S.A. Corey changes the script again, by breaking up the crew of the Rocinate into its individual parts: Alex Kamal, Naomi Nagata, Amos, and James Holden. Not only that, a good portion of the narrative takes place on Earth, so in many ways, Nemesis Games is a risk. Worry not, though: the powerful storytelling and engaging characterization from previous volumes are shining through as The Expanse continues to reshuffle the deck with each installment.

If finding a new habitable planet on the other side of giant portal (let alone 1,000 planets) wasn’t game changer enough, what Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck do to Earth is well…earth shattering. A terrorist attack, unfortunately, is something resonates all too well in this day and age (Goddamn it, as I write this there was a terrorist attack on a Mosque in California) and there is some very introspective and pointed charged discussion between Naomi and her former lover Marcus surrounding the attack (Chapter 33). It is one of those central moments in a novel where so much of the ideological confrontations throughout the series seem to be nearly exemplified in one conversation.

My first review of 2016 is also a debut, and an impressive one at that. Steal the Sky the first installment of Megan E. O’Keefe’s Scorched Continent series:

Steampunk and magic on the raw, dusty frontier provide the backdrop for Megan E. O’Keefe’s debut novel, Steal the Sky. Our protagonist, Detan Honding, is stuck in a backwater mining town with his sidekick Tibs. Their airship is in a state of disrepair, but he’s given an opportunity to steal a ship from a ruthless figure in the community. Because the job, of course, doesn’t go smoothly, Detan soon finds himself under the scrutiny of the woman who employed him – Watch Captain Ripka, a local gang boss – Commodore Thratia Ganal (with the endearing nickname of Throatslitter), and a doppel. What’s a doppel you ask? A doppel is an illusionist/shape-changer who can assume the visage of anybody, which makes it difficult for Detan to always know with whom he’s speaking. But our roguish hero didn’t get far in life by being slow-witted

Of course the natural comparison for Detan is Malcom Reynolds, he of Serenity/Firefly. O’Keefe evokes a similar feel of the raw frontier as did Whedon’s space-western. Where O’Keefe raises the stakes is the judicious inclusion of magic and enhancing the western setting with steampunk elements.

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