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review 2018-03-19 17:58
Sojourn / R.A. Salavtore
Sojourn - R.A. Salvatore

Far above the merciless Underdark, Drizzt Do'Urden fights to survive the elements of Toril's harsh surface. The drow begins a sojourn through a world entirely unlike his own--even as he evades the dark elves of his past.


Third volume of back-story for Drizzt Do’Urden, drow fighter extraordinaire. This is the volume that connects to the Icewind Dale novels which Salvatore wrote before the Dark Elf Trilogy.

Our hero makes the shift from living as an exile in the Underdark to an existence in the unfamiliar world above ground. While he wasn’t accepted in his birth society because of his sense of morality, he is now judged according to his racial background by those who he meets along the way. Can he find people who will acknowledge that he is not an evil drow? Will he finally find someone to call friend and assuage his life-long loneliness?

Once again, the plot is driven by fight sequences, something which Salvatore seems to prefer writing. There’s a lot of dark brooding, but not much real self-reflection by the characters. Perfect for the brooding teen, not so great for the non-brooding older woman. Still, the books are fun to read and short enough to be ideal for a quiet evening at the end of a work-week.

Book 276 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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review 2018-03-19 16:32
Gap into Vision / Stephen R. Donaldson
The Gap Into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge - Stephen R. Donaldson

Beautiful, brilliant, and dangerous, Morn Hyland is an ex-police officer for the United Mining Companies--and the target of two ruthless, powerful men.  One is the charismatic ore-pirate Nick Succorso, who sees Morn as booty wrested from his vicious rival, Angus Thermopyle.  thermopyle once made the mistake of underestimating Morn and now he's about to pay the ultimate price.  Both men think they can possess her, but Morn is no one's trophy--and no one's pawn.

Meanwhile, withing the borders of Forbidden Space, wait the Amnioin, an alien race capable of horrific atrocities.  The Amnion want something unspeakable from humanity--and they will go to unthinkable lengths to get it.


Although this is the first series by Donaldson that I can stand to read, I still can’t say that I love it. I’m not sure that I even like it. There really isn’t one character that I can actually identify with—there are one or two that I’m interested in and want to know what happens to them, but I can’t say that I like them. Mind you, that’s not necessary for a novel but it does make it easier reading.

The aliens in this universe seem to take a cue from Octavia Butler’s Oankali in her Xenogenesis series. Donaldson’s Amnioin also seem to be rather echinoderm-like and are interested in acquiring humans for genetic purposes. Selling someone to the Amnioin is seen as the ultimate evil in human trafficking. But when there’s money to be made, you know that some human is going to try to make deals with them—and it’s rather like trying to make deals with the Fae. You need to watch your wording and make sure you know all of the ramifications before you sign on the dotted line.

If you’ve got any issues with rape scenes, you won’t have made it past the first book. That said, don’t expect that to stop in this book. Morn actually has to go to sick-bay at one point, to get repaired after particularly rough treatment by Nick Succorso. Donaldson doesn’t go into graphic detail, thankfully, but there are more than enough hints to be horrifying.

The cynicism evident in the book is a bit depressing too—everyone seems to be on the take somehow, even the police force that Morn used to belong to. She followed her parents into that occupation and had taken pride in their upstanding reputation—this is yet another thing that gets taken away from her, along with her personal agency.

Book 275 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2018-03-13 19:31
"Rosewater" by Tade Thompson - excellent Future Africa Science Fiction
Rosewater - Tade Thompson

"Rosewater" is a startlingly original piece of Science Fiction, set in Nigeria in 2066.


It's been a long time since I've encountered a powerful new voice in Science Fiction that combines new ideas with a distinctive storytelling style.


Tade Thompson takes a fresh look at the concept of alien invasion and how people in Nigeria would react to it.


His aliens are genuinely alien in how they think and behave. The concept of an alien-generated Xenosphere that enhances the ability of some humans in an almost supernatural way is original and intriguing. The society reacting to the aliens seems to be a plausible extrapolation of modern-day Nigeria.


Reading "Rosewater" reminded me of reading William Gibson's "Neuromancer" for the first time, way back in the nineteen-eighties:  the excitement of finding  and immersing myself in something so fresh it was overwhelming, something that subtly subverted traditional science fiction views on everything from what heroes do through to how people and technology interact; something which, while being innovative and strange seemed rooted in an understanding of how the world really works on a day to day basis.

Tade Thompson's Xenosphere is as revolutionary as Gibson's Cyberspace. His hero is not a hero at, just a man trying to stay alive and make sense of his gifts. His world is venal, violent and vigorous. It's a wonderful mix.


The non-linear storytelling moves effortlessly back and forth along the timeline, carrying current events forward at a pace while slowly revealing the past that shaped the main character.


Much of the strength of the book comes from the main character, an uneducated man, with a violent past, slowly losing his taste for the fleshly pleasures that drove his younger self, he has a distinctive thinking style, at once reflective and pragmatic. Here's an example of how he describes suddenly becoming aware that he knows something:

It is a certainty, not just a conviction, the way believing in God is a conviction, but believing in gravity is a certainty .

This is a book that is packed with ideas and violence in almost equal measure. It's about realism and struggle rather than optimism and escape.




I think Tade Thompson is a talent to watch in SF in general and in the current wave of Future Africa Fiction in particular.  I'll be checking out the rest of his work.


Here's an  interview with him in Interview in Short Story Day Africa





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review 2018-03-12 14:21
Exile / R.A. Salvatore
Exile - R.A. Salvatore

Hostile in ways that a surface-dweller could never know, the tunnel-mazes of the Underdark challenge all who tread there. Among these souls are Drizzt Do’Urden and his magical cat, Guenhwyvar. Exiled from his drow homeland, Drizzt must fight for a new home in the boundless labyrinth. Meanwhile, he must watch for signs of pursuit—for the dark elves are not a forgiving race.


The books in this series have the virtue of being quick & easy to read, perfect for a Friday evening after a long work week. This is book two of Drizzt’s back story—wherein he lives by himself in the tunnels of the Underdark until he can’t take the solitude anymore and seeks companionship with mixed results.

As one of my cousins pointed out to me, Salvatore writes great fight scenes and they are very much on display in this installment. In fact, the book is basically a series of fights, stitched together with a very little bit of plot. I will also give Salvatore credit for inventing some great Underdark creatures and cultures for Drizzt to fight with.

Book number 274 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2018-03-06 17:42
"Binti - Binti #1" by Nnedi Okorafor - outstanding Science Fiction
Binti - Nnedi Okorafor

One of the things that keeps me reading Science Fiction is its ability not just to help me imagine possible futures but to look differently at the present. "Binti", which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella, is an excellent example of a new wave of Future-Africa science fiction that is generating vivid and original new futures while giving me access to an African-centric mindset.


For me, though, having a smart idea is not enough to generate outstanding Science Fiction. I also want to see strong, engaging characters that are more than just a mechanism for moving the plot along and I want writing that adds to my enjoyment in its own right.



In "Binti" Nnedi Okorafor delivered all of these things. She gives us a first-person account from a sixteen-year-old math genius who is the first of her people to leave her village and take up a place in the galaxy's leading university. On the way there, bad things happen that place her at the centre of a deadly conflict of cultures that she must find a way of resolving if she is to survive.


The world-building is original and fascinating and done with such skill that, even in something of novella length, it is unobtrusive because our focus is on Binti herself: her pride in her heritage, her love for her family, her need to do math at the highest level, her struggle to leave home, her grief for what is taken from her, her fear of her own imminent death and her courage in choosing a way forward. It is wonderful, compelling stuff.


Along the way, I came to understand that I had never thought of what it is like to be labelled "tribal", to be proud of that tribe, to know clearly that your tribe is part of you and to take comfort in that but to know also that your mind is hungry for more and different. It helped me understand how Euro-centric my thinking is. Not surprising perhaps, they are my tribe after all.


The only criticism I have of the book is the resolution, which felt a little too rational to me, especially considering how many academics were involved in arriving at it.

Still, Nnedi Okorafor is an academic, so perhaps she is better informed than I am or just fundamentally more optimistic.


robin-miles-by- jordan-matter-2016-600x415My enjoyment of the novella was significantly enhanced by Robin Miles' narration.


She gives an outstanding performance as Binti and brought this work to life



Listen to the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample of her work

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/222069018" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]


Watch the video below to hear Nnedi Okorafor's TEDtalk on Future Africa Science Fiction, including a reading from the beginning of "Binti".


[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt0PiXLvYlU?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0&w=560&h=315]


I have two Nnedi Okorafor books in my TBR pile "Home" which is the sequel to "Binti" and "Lagoon" which tells of an alien invasion in a future Nigeria.

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