Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: dystopia
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-07-18 17:35
Corpora Delicti - Manna Francis
Corpora Delicti - Manna Francis


Corpora Delicti is the 9th and so far most recent part in Manna Francis' The Administration series (aka TA). I guess most of my followers here are unfamiliar with it, therefore I'll use the first part's blurb as a short introduction:


There are no bad guys or good guys. There are only better guys and worse guys. One of the worse guys is Val Toreth. In a world in which torture is a legitimate part of the investigative process, he works for the Investigation and Interrogation Division, where his colleagues can be more dangerous than the criminals he investigates. One of the better guys is Keir Warrick. His small corporation, SimTech, is developing a "sim" system that places users in a fully immersive virtual reality. A minnow in a murky and dangerous pond, he is only beginning to discover how many compromises may be required for success. Their home is the dark future dystopia of New London. A totalitarian bureaucracy controls the European Administration, sharing political power with the corporations. The government uses violence and the many divisions of the feared Department of Internal Security to maintain control and crush resistance. The corporations fight among themselves, using lethal force under the euphemism of "corporate sabotage," uniting only to resist attempts by the Administration to extend its influence over them. Toreth and Warrick are more natural enemies than allies. But mutual attraction and the fight for survival can create unlikely bonds.


My love for this series knows no bounds, and it makes me a bit sad that, outside a group of hardcore fans, it's relatively unknown. It's often called m/m romance or slash, but those labels give a rather false impression. I'd describe The Administration as political thrillers set in a dark dystopia, an all-too-plausible world with all-too-plausible characters; an intricate mix of police procedural, soap opera-like family gatherings, foodporn, and porn-porn, with a heavy dose of the best and most realistic pansexual BDSM I've read up to this date. Unfortunately, this mix is somewhat of a niche product; the BDSM could scare off fans of police procedural, and people looking for juicy m/m action could be disappointed by the sometimes really dry procedural parts. And who wants to read corporate dystopias in this day and age anyway, when the real thing is waiting just outside the door?


So, yeah, somewhat of a niche product. But a very, very good one.

Corpora Delicti wasn't the most exciting adventure for our boys Toreth and Warrick. After a time of political unrest and personal challenges, they find themselves sharing a flat and dealing with the aftermath of a revolt that almost destroyed the Administration and their relationship. While Toreth has do deal with a case of, at first glance, quite boring white collar crime, Warrick wants to find answers to a personal question tormenting him. Although Toreth's case turns out to be a lot more murderous and complex than it seemed, and Warrick's stupid moves could endanger his life, the professional threats in this volume are rather low-level – especially compared to the emotional intensity of #6, First Against the Wall, and #7, Family Values.


Meanwhile, their relationship not only stagnates, but seems to make steps backwards. This has never been a conventional romance, it has never been a healthy relationship, but here even I felt like screaming: „Warrick, please get the fuck out!“ It's mostly Toreth – unfaithful, but deadly jealous - being a careless jerk, and Warrick putting up with it because his pet-torturer is the only one who can give him what he needs, the sense of losing control. Warrick gets off on fear (Francis is uncommonly explicit about this fact here), and Toreth provides the edge of real danger. And of course he is good at their game; he knows what to do because he tortures people for a living, a fact Warrick conveniently ignores most of the time. He's tiptoeing around Toreth, trying not to provoke him, constantly finding excuses for his bad behaviour – and if that doesn't ring all warning bells, then I don't know what's fucking wrong with you, but at some moments in this book the relationship skipped into the actual abusive. The repeat performance with Sara, Toreth's admin, is just the bitter icing on the cake. But just when I've begun to hate him - and such is the brilliance of Manna Francis - I'm back alone with Toreth and realize once again that he lacks the emotional maturity for any kind of meaningful relationship, is too disconnected from his own feelings to understand what others could possibly be experiencing. He's violent, he's dangerous, and Francis is careful not to glorify or romantisize his behaviour – and yet he's all too easy to like (if you're me, that is).

Analysing the relationship and analysing Toreth is half the fun when reading these books. Is he a sociopath or is he not? I don't think he is, although he displays signs of antisocial behaviour patterns. I've recently learned about alexithymia, and it seems to fit Toreth quite well. Maybe with the exception of „scarcity of fantasies“, because he's not lacking imagination when it comes to developing kinky scenarios for Warrick.


Stories and relationships in TA often make me feel uncomfortable. As far as I am concerned, that's one of the greatest qualities of the series, together with Manna Francis' crisp and clear prose, the realistic dialogue, and her outstanding character development. While Corpora Delicti was less intense than some of its predecessors, on this account it didn't disappoint. Most of all, it feels like an inbetween-book, setting up higher stakes for the next sequel; first through the meddling of one powerful and oh-so-very annoying Administration division, and secondly through not only rising tension between our boys, but with introducing possible competition for Toreth in form of a new co-worker for Warrick, who happens to be just his type and a lot saner and safer and less frustrating than torture-boy. I hope one day we will see how that plays out.


Given the subject matter, this series comes with all kind of content warnings, most importantly for torture and sexual violence/rape. It's rarely very explicit, but I find the implications to be even worse. Well, this is no pleasant world, these aren't pleasant characters, and while the books are very, very good, they are not exactly light-hearted.


Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-07-16 03:12
A Meeting at Corvallis
A Meeting at Corvallis - S.M. Stirling

I am done with this series.  


A Meeting at Corvallis, the third book in first Emberverse trilogy, unfortunately didn't return to the magic of the 1st in this series.  Too much battle info-dumping, not enough people behaving believably.


That said, I did cry


at the death of Mike Havel

(spoiler show)



But I'm just done.  If I want the minutia of military campaigns and what people ate, I'll go read some L.E. Modesitt Jr. At least his villains aren't such caricatures. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-07-03 03:58
A Clockwork Orange -- wow.
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

I'm now going to allow myself to see this film, now that I've read the entire book, including the redemption/change final chapter that was so gallingly removed from the US versions for so long. I've never seen Kubrick's film because I knew I wanted to read the book first. This is marked as "dystopia" and I'm having a bit of trouble differentiating it from regular old life.. Not sure what that says about me.


For some reason the entire time I read this - from the very first scene, I kept thinking "what if these were girls?," "What if Alex was an Alexa?" (or just a female Alex, actually.) Every section I saw both the way Burgess wrote it and then I'd sit back and wonder how it would be perceived if the narrator was female. Would this be a classic novel if Alex was a 17/18-year-old girl? And what would we think of the Ludovico technique if it was used on a girl? I mean, we do use this technique - not exactly, but some very similar techniques, for various reasons still (as troublesome as that is.) I'll let you all play that little gender game on your own, but I couldn't stop doing it (which is sort of maddening, actually.) 


I've only read two other books by Anthony Burgess (Earthly Powers and A Dead Man in Deptford.) From what I've read, he could probably easily have written this with a female narrator - he was versatile. His introduction to this corrected American edition is pretty awesome all by itself, and he shares that this is not one of his favorite works.


I'm actually just sort of gobsmacked by this novel. I have no idea how much I liked or disliked it. I don't know that I felt like or dislike, but I'm really really glad to have read this story because it's just amazingly original -- despite having read many rip-offs, and the ethical questions are overwhelming. I'll be puzzling through them for quite some time, actually. 


I'm glad the final chapter was included in the version I bought (I'd been trying to buy it for a while and kept ending up w/ old copies that lacked the final metanoia.) I've had a period of life-change come from pure exhaustion myself. I wasn't murdering people, but I was not doing good things either. There is a point when the trouble to make trouble (for oneself or others) actually can just be too much. 


Oh, I have so many thoughts on this & I'm too beat to write more tonight. I wanted a place-holder b/c I finished another book too, and this needs to come before it in my blog.  I'll try to rent the film by next week, & maybe I'll amend this with a book/film review.


Like Reblog Comment
review 2018-06-19 01:43
We -- a prototypical dystopian novel
We - Yevgeny Zamyatin,Clarence Brown

D-503, a true believer in the authoritarian future he finds himself in, has his faith in the structures of society shaken by love. <-- a quick and dirty recap of We, D-503's diary.

The world-building in these older dystopias is very different from today's, but you can draw a straight line from We (the first novel banned by Soviet censors in 1921) to a TV show I've only seen advertised in recent years about a dome over civilization, and of course everything in between. (The dome in We is described only as something between their society and what lies outside, and it's there so people aren't soiled by nature, not because people have ruined nature.)


D-503 sets out in his diary to show an unknown reader how glorious his mathematically logical "unfreedom" is. How happiness can only be found with the help of state doctrine, one that says freedom will lead to complete havoc and therefore ruin the beautiful order in their society, where even sex is organized by the state - lest the mess of personal, private love ruin everything.


It's easy to see how this could be attractive in the abstract, and how absurdly comical it is too. Can a perfect, ordered collective actually make someone happy? Can there be a perfectly ordered collective? The knowing me says of course not, but people always want to order things, to make them less complicated and more logical. Humanity is messy, and D-503 learns this when he falls in unsanctioned lust and love. Love is anarchy, both in the book and when I really think about it (which makes my brain hurt.) Love is the most illogical, but biologically imperative, thing humans do.


Zamyatin doesn't rail against the state as much as I expected. Instead he reveals through increasingly confused and unsure diary entries what it means to be an individual, one who exists not just as a cog in a wheel, but one who exists also for his own purposes, with his own ideals.


This is a deep work that can be seen on a variety of levels, but I found it most gratifying as a rumination on how complication and chaos are vital to living a full, satisfying life, despite how much we'd all like it to be otherwise with our lists and rules. To truly live, must we allow for some disorder, some illogic, some freedom?


Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-06-13 13:19
The perfect way to end the series. A must read for #dystopia genre lovers and those who love great characters.
UK2 (Project Renova Book 3) - Terry Tyler

I was offered an ARC copy of this novel and freely chose to review it.

I have read and reviewed the two previous books in the Project Renova series, by Terry Tyler, had read great reviews about the third book in the series, and was eager to catch up with the characters after what had happened in the previous two books. I will try not to spoil any of the surprises in the novel, but I want to advise anybody thinking about reading this book that they are written as a series and they should be read in the right order (first Tipping Point, then Lindisfarne, and UK2 third), as the story and the characters’ arcs grow as it goes along, and it is the best way to fully enjoy the story. There is also a compilation of short stories about some of the characters called Patient Zero (I have that one on my list but haven’t managed to get to it yet), but it is possible to follow the story without having read that one, although I’m sure you’ll feel curious enough to grab that one as well when you’ve finished the three main books.

I thoroughly enjoyed UK2. The novel is divided into three parts, and big events (and big secrets) are discovered in each. Readers who have been following the series will have been eagerly waiting for some of the things that happen in part 1, but in this novel, the action is divided between what is happening in Lindisfarne and what takes place at UK Central (the planned new capital of the UK post-virus). The brains behind UK Central are trying to gather as much of the population together as possible and that means some of the characters choose to move, and readers are given the chance to see how they are affected by their new circumstances. Their fates seem very different, to begin with, but, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that things are not as they seem.

This book is told from a large number of points of view. Many of the characters are given a voice, and here most of them tell the story in first-person, therefore allowing us to see them as they really are, rather than as the personas they try to portray to others. Some of them come out of it very badly (yes, Dex, I’m talking about you) but in other cases, we see characters who grow and develop in front of our eyes. This might come at a cost, but we get the sense that it is well worth it. There are brief interludes written in the third person, some about characters we know whose circumstances change, and others from an omniscient narrator, giving us an insight into what is going on in the world at large and helps create even more tension and anticipation.

The characters remain consistent throughout the series, and there are clear developmental arcs for them. Vicky fluctuates but after some more bad news manages to bounce back, Lottie remains one of my favourite characters and gets some new allies, and there are some surprises, like Flora, who slowly but surely comes into her own. I also enjoyed getting to know more about Doyle, who is another one of the characters who grow through the series, from being quite self-centered and doing anything for a quiet life, to developing a backbone and taking risks.

The quality of the writing is excellent, as usual in this author’s work. There is a good balance between fast-paced action and slower and more reflective moments, but there are gruesome and cruel scenes and sad events that take place as well, as should be the case in the genre. It’s impossible not to think about current politics and wonder what would happen if something like this took place. Let’s say that it feels scarily realistic at times and the novel is great at exploring how human beings can react when faced with extreme situations, with some becoming a better version of themselves, and others… not so much. But, this book is far from all doom and gloom and I loved the ending, and I think most readers will do as well. (Yes, I could not help but cheer at some point!) My only regret was that I had to part with the characters that have become friends by now, but I was reassured by the author’s promise to publish some companion novellas and another novel set in the far future.

Even if you’ve read the other two novels some time ago, you don’t need to worry because the author has included a link at the very beginning of the novel that allows readers to read a brief summary and catch-up on the action so far.

A great follow-up and closing (sort-of) to the Renova Project series, and one that shouldn’t be missed by anybody who’s been following it. A great ending, a beginning of sorts and a reflection on what extreme conditions can do to the human spirit. Unmissable.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?