Marco's readings

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I have finished reading in 2017.
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Currently Reading
The Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead (2016)
Publisher review: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven - but the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
Started: Apr 16 2017
Currently Reading
ぐり と ぐら の あいうえお

by なかがわ りえこ (2002)
Publisher review: 「あいうえお」から「ん」まで、50音を文頭においたリズミカルな文と、ぐりとぐらが登場する楽しい絵でお届けする言葉遊びの絵本。お出かけに便利なかわいい小型絵本です。
Started: Mar 15 2017
Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3)
by James S.A. Corey (2013)
Publisher review: For generations, the solar system -- Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt -- was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark. Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Mar 30 2017 Finished: Apr 16 2017
The Last Novelist
by Matthew Kressel (2017)
My review: This is the (short, but quite enjoyable) story of an old science fiction writer living in a future where interstellar travel is possible, and internet has evolved to the point that humans are directly connected at the brain level. It is now possible to record experiences and feeling, and this new recordings are now the common form of entertainment, replacing writing. Our old writer is likely the last one in his profession, and knowing that he has a short time to live, he decided to move to a far away star, and to wrap up his latest book. Once there, he will encounter a young native, Fish, that will have a deep impact on his remaining days. (★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2017 Finished: Mar 30 2017
A Brief History of Time
by Stephen Hawking (1998)
My review: I had been wanting to read this book for a long time, and when I saw that a new and updated version was released, I decided it was finally the time to read it. The book is extremely enjoyable, I devoured half of it in a day, and I end up staying up late reading few nights in a row.
The book is very accessible to anyone, you do not need any scientific background to enjoy this book. A good half of the book covers high school physics, at a very high level. The other half, the most interesting one, goes beyond the standard curricula, and covers more recent developments in terms of quantum physics, time, and black holes. I found remarkably enlightening Dr. Hawking's proof that the thermodynamic time arrow, and the psychological time arrow must have the same direction.
While I loved the book (I really did!), I wish that the various topics were covered in more detail, even if that would require some math to be thrown in. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 26 2017 Finished: Mar 29 2017
Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
My review: It was definitely not what I expected, and definitely not the typical post-apocalyptic novel. Instead, I discovered an audacious, dark, literary novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse. This is the only example of a book featuring a non linear timeline, a book where the narrative switch back and forth between the years before, during, and after the collapse, that actually works, and works very well. Station Eleven is the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them...
Mandel wavs a story with many threads, that adroitly cross each other when least expected, forming a breath taking tapestry. This is a really incredible book, that I strongly recommend to everybody. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 17 2017 Finished: Mar 25 2017
Red in Tooth and Cog
by Cat Rambo (2016)
My review: What a beautiful short story! It is not a surprise that it was nominated for the Nebula award (unfortunately the author decided to decline the nomination, to leave space for less established new authors in the field).
The story is set in a near future, where all appliances comes with advanced AI, and are able to recharge themselves, and self-repair. One day Renee, taking a lunch break from work, decided to talk a walk in a nearby park, and eat her food outside. She sits on a bench, and she puts down her smart phone to open her food, when something grab her phone and run. Was it one a rogue appliance, one of those appliances that were discarded, but refused to be recycled, and ran away to live in the park?
This story explores the eternal question: what is life, in an original, and moving way. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 16 2017 Finished: Mar 17 2017
by Diana L.
My review: The book is currently going through the last round of reviews. I promised the author to not leak anything about it... so I will replace this placeholder review with the real one, once it gets released. It is a great book! Stay tuned for more info. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 14 2017 Finished: Mar 15 2017
Sabbath Wine
by Barbara Krasnoff (2016)
My review: A beautiful short story, and Nebula award nominee, set in the America during prohibitionist, adroitly speaking about xenophobia, and the violence it triggers.
This is the story of Malka, the young daughter of a Jewish man, deeply involved in the labor movement, and of David, the son of a store owner, illegally selling alcohol during prohibitionist. David says he is dead, but Malka dismiss the claim as baseless: everybody knows that you cannot touch ghosts, and she has no trouble pinching David.
The encounter of the two young children, and the desire of Malka to introduce David to the customs of her ancestors, will bring the two men together.
Started: Mar 12 2017 Finished: Mar 14 2017
Seasons of Glass and Iron
by Amal El-Mohtar (2016)
My review: This is the story of Tabitha, and Amira. Their stories, and their roles are the archetypal stories and roles of women in fairy tales. The same fairy tales that we still read to our children, often without realizing how misogynistic they are. One day, as Tabitha walks around the world to repent for having revealed to her mother she was a victim of abuse, she meets Amira. Their encounter will deeply change their lives, their way of thinking, and of living. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 11 2017
Things With Beards
by Sam J. Miller (2016)
My review: A very interesting piece, touching very interesting topics like race relations, queerness, and otherness in America. The writing is quite good, the plot entertaining and interesting to read. I particularly enjoy how the two types of otherness, the one created by centuries of social discrimination, and the fictional blend and reinforce each other in the story. What I found troubling was MacReady's participation to a terrorist attack, and the fact that the author does not seem to see that act in a bad light. This stained what would have been otherwise an amazing short story. (★★★)
Started: Mar 11 2017 Finished: Mar 11 2017
Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea
by Sarah Pinsker (2016)
My review: This is the story of Bay, a scavenger living in solitude on scraps washed ashore by the current, and a rock star, that washed ashore among the scraps. We slowly learn about this post-apocalyptic world, and about the characters, and their past. It is a memorable story, with sublime writing, and well-rounded fascinating characters. I just wish the ending was more satisfying... and I really hope the author will come back to this fictional world and tell us what happens next. (★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station
by Caroline M. Yoachim (2016)
My review: An hilarious "chose your own adventure" story, making fun of a future health care system that unfortunately is very similar, from many points of view, to our existing one. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
The Unknown God
by Ann Leckie (2017)
My review: I loved Leckie's Imperial Radch space opera, and I was eager to read more from who I consider one of my favorite authors. This story was very different from what I read before: it is not a science fiction piece, debating identity and colonialism. The Unknown God is a fantasy piece, set in a world of many Gods, where they can decide to walk among man. Aworo, Lord of Horses, god of the Western plains, decides to take human form, to try to understand why humans often do the unexpected... An almost theological reflection of life, that I really enjoyed, but for the ending, that was a little too unclear to me. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
This is Not a Wardrobe Door
by A. Merc Rustad (2016)
My review: A beautiful short story, written by somebody that grow up reading Narnia, and rebelling against the rule that prevents grown-ups to go through the gate. As other reviewers said, this is a nostalgic revisitation of an old trope, and a rebellion against it. Last, but not least, despite the short length of this work, the characters are well drawn and well rounded. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
Come See the Living Dryad
by Theodora Goss (2017)
My review: A sublime short story, something that reads like a memoir, and that sits between historical fiction and mystery. Come See the Living Dryad by Theodora Goss is the story of contemporary woman investigating the murder of an ancestor suffering from a rare disease who was a famous sideshow attraction in the nineteenth century. The disease, Lewandowsky-Lutz dysplasia, is unfortunately real, as was the exploitation of the sick and deformed in freak shows. The reader is left wondering how much of this story is fictional, and how much is real. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 09 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories
by Jason Sanford (2016)
My review: Our future Earth have been saved from Human greed, and ecological destruction by a miracle that may be technological, or may be magic: the grains. The grains choose few humans, the anchor, to be their vessels to protect the land. The other humans are forced to wonder, forced to spend a life without a home, where each stop cannot last more than few days.
A magical and touching short story, with a solid and original world building, and memorable full rounded characters. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
Nevertheless She Persisted
by Kameron Hurley (2017)
My review: This book is the work of many famous sci-fi and fantasy female authors celebrating international woman day, with short work of fiction. The story are all inspired by the following 3 short phrases: She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted. Three short lines, fired over social media in response to questions of why Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the floor of the United States Senate on February 7th, 2017, for daring to read aloud the words of Coretta Scott King. As this message was transmitted across the globe, it has become a galvanizing cry for people of all genders in recognition of the struggles that women have faced throughout history.
Each author offers her unique interpretation. While the results are uneven, some are noteworthy. I particularly enjoyed Seanan McGuire's Persephone (that also touches themes of the ills of high income inequalities), Alyssa Wong's God product (thematically less fitting than the others), and Maria Dahvana Headley's Astronaut (based on a real history). (★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2017 Finished: Mar 08 2017
Extracurricular Activities
by Yoon Ha Lee (2017)
My review: While this novelette is part of a longer saga (The Machineries of Empire series), it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story (as I did). I really enjoyed the world building, and I am left wanting to read more stories set in this fictional world.
If you are looking for a space opera, with entertaining character, and worlds with different cultures coming in contact, this may be a good pick for your next book. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 04 2017 Finished: Mar 07 2017
The Orangery
by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (2016)
My review: The story is told by two narrators, both connected to the same place, the Orangery, a special natural preserve that shelters women that escaped from the abuse of men, turning into trees. One of the narrator is the guardian, living a life of solitude and isolation at the center of the orangery. The other narrator is the guide, bringing new people every day among the verdant residents. I liked the story, I liked how it borrows elements from the Greek mythology, and how they are used as allegories for the gender dynamics through history. If the plot has just been a little thicker, this could have been a little masterpiece. (★★★)
Started: Mar 02 2017 Finished: Mar 04 2017
Losing Heart Among the Tall
by A.M. Dellamonica (2017)
My review: This is the second short story set in the fiction world of Stormwrack, and I am starting to fall in love a little with its characters. The story is entertaining, and can be easily read as stand-alone without having read the book series (as it did for me).
The crew of the Nightjar find a merman of the fleet wounded and stranded in the ocean, and Gale and Parrish work to find out who would assault a member of the nation of Tallon's intelligence service. They soon discover a plot that could shake the foundations of the fleet. (★★★)
Started: Mar 01 2017 Finished: Mar 02 2017
The Electric Executioner
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: I did not like this story, the characters, and their reactions, were not credible to the point that it was impossible for me to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the story. And I am not going to mention the usual xenophobic elements Lovecraft is infamous for.
The unnamed narrator of this story recounts his work as auditor and investigator for the Tlaxcala Mining Company. The assistant superintendent of its mine in Mexico's San Mateo Mountains has disappeared with the financial records, and the narrator is tasked with the job to recover the documents. He doesn't know the thief, Arthur Feldon, and has only "indifferent" photos to go by. Tracking Feldon won't be easy, for he may be hiding in the wilderness. The trip proceeds very slowly because of a series of train problems that cause huge delays. While stuck on the train, the narrator meets somebody clearly dangerous and crazy... Because apparently it is enough to look at somebody strange face expressions to decide that he is dangerous, and that's a good idea to shoot him. (★)
Started: Feb 26 2017 Finished: Feb 26 2017
You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay
by Alyssa Wong (2016)
My review: I am usually not fond of stories with a western flavor, but Alyssa Wong managed to write one I did like, and quite a lot. This is the story of Ellis, a young boy with a very deep connection with his land, the desert, and with mysterious powers. Ellis is being raised by Madame Lettie, the owner of the local brothel, and the second wife of his dead father. In the brothel, Ellis make himself useful with odd jobs, and sometimes as a ware for the not always straight customers.
The story starts three months after a mysterious incidents at the mines, that were the economical fulcrum of town, and three months after the violent death of Ellis' father... (★★★★)
Started: Feb 25 2017 Finished: Feb 26 2017
Fuzzy Nation
by John Scalzi
My review: This book is a reboot of a classic sci-fi story, Little Fuzzy. John Scalzi wrote this book as a way to honor one of his favorite books, and to tell the story in his unique way.
The protagonist of this story is Jack Holloway, an egocentric prick, living as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying with the only company of his dog, Carl. Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth. But there's another wrinkle to ZaraCorp's relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species. Then a small furry biped, trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute, shows up at Jack's outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp's claim to a planet's worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed... and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the "fuzzys" before their existence becomes more widely known. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 14 2017 Finished: Feb 23 2017
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies
by Brooke Bolander (2016)
My review: A very interesting, and very fine example of message fiction, focusing on women rights, and rape. Given the brevity of the story, it is hard to say anything about it, without spoiling it. I would just say that it is a great piece from a Hugo / Nebula / Sturgeon / Locus finalist writer. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2017 Finished: Feb 16 2017
Forest of Memory
by Mary Robinette Kowal
My review: In a near future, where an augmented humanity is always connected to the net, nobody is ever alone.
Katya deals in Authenticities and Captures, trading on nostalgia for a past long gone. Her clients are rich and they demand items and experiences with only the finest verifiable provenance. Other people's lives have value, after all. But when her A.I. suddenly stops whispering in her ear she finds herself cut off from the grid and loses communication with the rest of the world. The man who stepped out of the trees while hunting deer cut her off from the cloud, took her A.I. and made her his unwilling guest. There are no Authenticities or Captures to prove Katya’s story of what happened in the forest. You’ll just have to believe her… (★★★)
Started: Feb 12 2017 Finished: Feb 14 2017
by Lavie Tidhar (2013)
My review: I am a big fan of some of Lavie Tidhar work, and after reading his The Old Dispensation, I wanted to read more from the same author. I discovered this short story on the tor website, and I decided to give it a try. It is a decent story, but there is nothing of the magic of some of his later work. If you are trying to decide which book of this author to pick up, I would recommend something more recent.
This story is set in a near future when different being trapped inside human bodies, are finally set free to be what they are. (★★)
Started: Feb 11 2017 Finished: Feb 11 2017
The Old Dispensation
by Lavie Tidhar (2017)
My review: This is probably the best short fiction work I read this year, with incredible and fascinating world building. I really hope the author will write more stories set in this fictional world.
The old dispensation is a space opera adventure set in a universe controlled and run by Jewish religious authorities. An enforcer is sent to a distant planet where he discovers an android who changes his mind about what is right and wrong.
Started: Feb 10 2017 Finished: Feb 11 2017
The Phantom in the Maze
by Michael Swanwick (2015)
My review: Another entertaining story set in the world of the Mongolian Wizard. I was expecting this to be the last and final, but it is definitely not: while entertaining and well written, The Phantom in the Maze does really little to advance the plot. In this installment of the series Ritter is sent to Scotland to investigate a murder taking place in a military research facility investigating time, and how to bent it... (★★★)
Started: Feb 09 2017 Finished: Feb 09 2017
The Pyramid of Krakow
by Michael Swanwick (2015)
My review: In this installment of the Mongolian Wizard series, Ritter is sent as a spy to Poland, recently conquered by the enemies. In there he will come in close contact with the horrors taking place behind enemy lines, and he will discover the source of power behind the Mongolian Wizard.
I really enjoyed this story, and it feels like the author is setting up the stage for an epic finale. (★★★)
Started: Feb 09 2017 Finished: Feb 09 2017
The Night of the Salamander
by Michael Swanwick (2015)
My review: In this installment of the Mongolian Wizard series, Ritter is investigating the murder of Martel, a power field marshal, with the power to bent the will of everyone around him to the utmost devotion.
Angélique de La Fontaine, a powerful surgeon, joins Ritter in the investigation...
While I really like this series, and the role of Angélique in this story, this is my least favorite episode. The description of the homophobic society Ritter lives in, left me a little disturbed. (★★)
Started: Feb 07 2017 Finished: Feb 09 2017
The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight
by E. Lily Yu (2016)
My review: An interesting story, that follows the structure and some of the plot elements of the classic fairy tales, but none of their sexist undertones, and morals. This is the story of a woman, escaped from a violent and angry family, that found power in witchcraft, and fell and sacrifice herself for an unworthy knight. (★★★)
Started: Feb 07 2017 Finished: Feb 07 2017
The Sound of Salt and Sea
by Kat Howard (2016)
My review: In a world where the dead are given to the sea, and once a year the sea gives them back for three days, the death horses rider have an important role: they need to guide the dead back to the sea before they transform from benevolent spirits, into ravenous blood thirsty creatures. The horse rider are carefully picked, and they need to follow tradition. All the signs points to Rowan to be the next one... (★★★)
Started: Feb 05 2017 Finished: Feb 05 2017
The Green Knight's Wife
by Kat Howard (2016)
My review: For centuries the green knight challenge has been the same. The contenders arrive with the changing of the weather, ushered in by winter’s cold. Once a year, at the beginning of December, those silly boys who think challenging the green knight means that they are brave. All of them so eager to test their worth on the edge of the narrator husband's axe. Contender kings, and knights have been replaced by CEOs and venture capitalist, but nothing has changed... until this year. (★★)
Started: Feb 05 2017 Finished: Feb 05 2017
The Greenest Gecko
by Ploy Pirapokin (2017)
My review: While the story is set in a near future country of Pailand, it is very relevant in today world. The greenest gecko is a chilling reminder of how we all can be easily manipulated by the powerful.
After an unusual public incident in which the frail, elderly President is revitalized, geckos are now considered to bring good luck. At the Ministry of Merit, Fon is secretly in charge of building the next Gecko Mortar for the president for life family, to be deployed during the president's son's eightieth birthday. She is honored to be assigned this duty and works diligently to create and deliver this extraordinary machine. (★★★)
Started: Feb 04 2017 Finished: Feb 04 2017
Life in Stone, Glass, and Plastic
by José Pablo Iriarte (2016)
My review: A beautifully written, moving short story, dealing with love, memory, and Alzheimer.
An elderly man of South American descent, Sergio, is working two jobs to be able to support himself, and his dearly loved wife, that has been cognitively impaired (Alzheimer?) for years now. One day, he is asked to clean up a beautiful and very unusual graffiti on the side of the building. Sergio will try, but that graffiti will prove quite a challenge to remove... (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 04 2017 Finished: Feb 04 2017
Passing Strange
by Ellen Klages (2017)
My review: Passing Strange is a moving love story, set in an historically accurate 1940 San Francisco, with a sprinkle of magic in it. While the story touches complex issues like xenophobia, homophobia, and the horror of wars, the main characters are women that stick together, and find happiness and love.
The city of San Francisco was, for the times, a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer "authentic" experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and places like Mona's, in the twilight world of forbidden love, where the discriminated, and persecuted outcasts from conventional society can meet. Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where mystery, science, and art intersect.
Last, but not least, kudos to Gregory Manchess, and Christine Foltzer, for the incredible cover, that is featured in the story itself. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 27 2017 Finished: Feb 03 2017
The Eye of the Swan A Tremontaine Story
by Kelly Robson (2016)
My review: The Eye of the Swan, is a stand-alone tie-in short story by Kelly Robson, set in Tremontaine, a fictional world multiple writers are contributing to. In Tremontaine social advantage is best achieved through duels of wit and steel. Mind your manners and enjoy the chocolate in a dance of sparkling intrigue, (★★★★)
Started: Jan 27 2017 Finished: Jan 27 2017
by Cory Doctorow (2002)
My review: A fantastic short sci-fi fiction centered around the concept of body hacking, written by somebody that must be a software engineer, entertaining and fascinating for everybody, but strongly recommended to all the software engineers in the Silicon Valley. This is the story of Murray Swain, one of the many computer scientist in the valley, devastated by the death of his best friend Liam. [spoilers removed] (★★★★)
Started: Jan 26 2017 Finished: Jan 27 2017
The Maiden Thief
by Melissa Marr (2016)
My review: An exquisite dark fairy tale novelette about a teenager whose town is plagued by the annual disappearances of girls and young women. The young protagonist fears for her sister to be taken, and urge the town to take action. But her sister is taken next, and her father blames her for it. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 27 2017 Finished: Jan 27 2017
Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage
by Alix E. Harrow (2016)
My review: An interesting alternative history novelette, set during the Westward expansion of the European Colonist, around the Mississippi area. Oona is born by the encounter of the Europeans with the First nation american, and she is despised by both as not belonging to either cultures. She has the power of the western people: by tracing rivers in ink on paper, Oona pins the land down to one reality, allowing the Europeans to settle the American land. This means betraying her people. Can she escape the bonds of gold and blood and bone that tie her to the Imperial American River Company? (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2017 Finished: Jan 26 2017
The Virtual Swallows of Hog Island
by Julianna Baggott (2017)
My review: In The Virtual Swallows of Hog Island, a programmer finds himself working for the self-proclaimed Bad-Boy of Virtual-Reality Therapy. While his boss is breaking new ground and breaking the rules and his coworkers are engaging in questionable uses of the latest technology, the lonely programmer is in a state of mourning over his deep personal losses and must figure out his own form of therapy.
I loved the premises of this story: a psychologist creating a virtual world to expose his clients to experiences to help them cope and conquer their problems. I was very disappointed by the story ending though (I will not say anything to avoid spoilers). (★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2017 Finished: Jan 25 2017
A Dead Djinn in Cairo
by P. Djeli Clark (2016)
My review: What a beautifully intriguing and entertaining alternative history novelette!
The story is set in a 1912 Cairo (Egypt) where somebody has perforated the wall between our world, and the supernatural one, opening the gates for djinns and angels to enter in our reality. The Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine. What starts off as an odd suicide case for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha'arawi leads her through the city's underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and plot that could unravel time itself. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 24 2017 Finished: Jan 25 2017
The Atonement Tango
by Stephen Leigh (2017)
My review: This novels is set in the Wild Cards world, a fictional universe that have been shared by many different authors for more than a quarter of a century. This and other stories can be fully appreciated as stand-alone.
In the "wild card" Earth, a virus has spread across the globe. The few survivors are often left disfigured, and with strange powers. There are called the jokers, rejected by society. Few lucky ones, the Aces, keeps the normal human appearance, but have extraordinary super powers.
This stories focuses on few Jokers, that have leveraged their unique physical traits, to create music. A single act of terrorism kills the majority of the band members, and changes the life of the surviving Michael “Drummer Boy” Vogali forever. Now without his band, Joker Plague, Michael must figure out a way to rebuild his life... and seek revenge. (★★★)
Started: Jan 23 2017 Finished: Jan 24 2017
The Forever War
by Joe Haldeman
My review: A horrifying cautionary tale about the machinery of war and its human cost. The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand, despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy that they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. A reluctant conscript drafted into an elite Military unit, Private William Mandella has been propelled through space and time to fight in the distant never ending conflict; to perform his duties and do whatever it takes to survive the ordeal and return home. But "home" may be even more terrifying than battle, because, thanks to the time dilation caused by space travel, Mandella is aging months while the Earth he left behind is aging centuries. Despite the inaccuracies of his 1996 and 2007 projections, the book does not feel dated, and it is as relevant today, as when it was written. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2017 Finished: Jan 23 2017
Microbiota and the Masses: A Love Story
by S.B. Divya (2017)
My review: I really like this story, I wish it had a more satisfying endings. Moena is a scientist, that lives in a world of her own making, sealed off from the deadly pathogens of Bangalore in her own personal biome. But when she meets Rahul, a beautiful man working to clean up his city, her need for him draws her into the danger of outside. Will she risk her life work, her health, and her life, to follow her heart? (★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 17 2017
A Pest Most Fiendish
by Caighlan Smith (2016)
My review: A steampunk short story, featuring Miss Pippa Kipling and her automaton companion, the Porter, in their (paid) quest to exterminate pests of the supernatural variety. What should be a typical job in your average haunted cavern soon derails in an inconveniently undead fashion. Even with the aid of her gadget collection and the Porter s prowess, this task may prove fatal for Miss Kipling or worse, rip her petticoat.
I really hope to see more of Miss Pippa and Ms The Porter in the future, they make up an entertaining duo.
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
A Human Stain
by Kelly Robson (2017)
My review: I usually am not too fond of Gothic horror novelette, but this one was adroitly written, and it features quite remarkable characters. Helen in particular is memorable, and I wish we could see more of her in the future (even if the ending precludes it). She is a colorful British expatriate at loose ends who is hired by her friend to temporarily care for his young, orphaned nephew in a remote castle-like structure in Germany. As you can imagine, the offer turns out to not be the good deal it initially appeared to be. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Seven Salt Tears
by Kat Howard (2017)
My review: A beautiful short story that reads like a fairy tale set in today world. The main character, Mara, is a young girl, raised by the ocean, by a single mother fond of fairy tales of mermaids, and fantastic sea creatures. The mother teaches Mara about the powers bestowed to women to calm or stir hurricanes, until one day, [spoilers removed] (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
by Karin Tidbeck (2013)
My review: An interesting sci-fi short story, set in a future where space exploration has brought humans to the far reaches of our galaxy. One of the so many colonized world is the colony of Kiruna, a satellite orbiting around a big gas giant. The biologist Petr moves to this minor, half-abandoned colony, to follow his passion for lichens. While there, he meets the village outcast Aino, and he soon fall for her. But that's just the beginning, as he soon discovers, Kiruna has some very unique characteristics...
Great story, memorable characters, entertaining writing. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Infomocracy (The Centenal Cycle, #1)
by Malka Ann Older (2017)
My review: An incredible, eye opening literary achievement. In this book, Malka Ann Older, reflects on modern democracy, and the role of information, in a fictional, yet so realistic and so close to ours in too many ways fictional world. It's been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything's on the line. With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain? (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 08 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
by A.J. Hartley (2016)
My review: This is a novelette set before the events of Steeplejack, but it can be read, and appreciated as stand-alone (I did).
The story is very well written, and hard to put down. It deals with some of the worst of our historic inheritance (i.e. colonialism, and xenophobia), and it presents those in a fictional context. It is the story of Anglet Sutonga, that while down to earth and realistic, she still dreams of rising above the impoverished streets of Bar-Selehm. When an opportunity comes along, will she take it? And what does she risk in order not to throw away her shot? (★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
by Karin Tidbeck (2016)
My review: In 2013, Karin Tidbeck wrote Sing, a short story with memorable characters, and an entertaining plot. 3 years later the author bring us back to Kiruna, and tell us more of what happened after the events in Sing. While Listen is a good story, it lacks some of the magic of the first novel. This said, I would love to read more about the Kiruna colony, and Aino. (★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Stochastic fancy: play the game and find true love
by Charlie Jane Anders (2016)
My review: An entertaining and satirical short story, illustrating some of the ills of direct democracy. Stochastic fancy: play the game and find true love is set in a dystopian future, where virtual and augmented reality are always on. The main character, a robot psychologist, is very depressed, and hide herself in KloudsKape, to try to distract herself from her loneliness. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Super Bass
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2013)
My review: I am a big fan of Kai Ashante Wilson. I particularly enjoyed his award winning The Devil in America, and his story set in the Wildeep fictional universe. I was eager to read some more by the author, and I discovered this novelette published by Tor. It is a good story, and I can see in it some hints of the themes, greatness, and craft of his later work.
It is the story of Gian, that returns to Sea-john from the Kingdom's wars certain that he has skills beyond killing, death and destruction. He needs to prove to himself that love is just as strong, if not stronger, than his hate. The Summer King gives him this opportunity. (★★★)
Started: Jan 08 2017 Finished: Jan 08 2017
Grandchild of the Gods
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2016)
My review: A very short story, set in the world of A Taste of Honey, providing more information about the intriguing fictional world of Kai Ashante Wilson. While interesting, the short length of the story limits its appeal. (★★★)
Started: Jan 07 2017 Finished: Jan 08 2017
Lightspeed Magazine, June 2016: People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue (Lightspeed Magazine, Issue #73)
by Nalo Hopkinson
My review: Lightspeed destroy is an annual initiative focusing on the writings of traditionally underrepresented minorities. The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction special issue exists to relieve a brokenness in the genre that's been enabled time and time again by favoring certain voices and portrayals of particular characters. It brings forth a very diverse set of talented authors, some very well-established, and other very newm from around the globe to present science fiction that explores the nuances of culture, race, and history. People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! is 100% written and edited by people of color. It features twenty original, never-before-published short and flash fiction stories, plus five classic reprints, by the likes of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler (believe it or not, I never had read anything from them before... I was blown away!). It also includes an array of nonfiction articles, interviews, and book reviews; and more than two dozen personal essays from people of colo(u)r discussing their experiences as readers and writers of science fiction. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2016 Finished: Jan 06 2017