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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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review 2018-03-01 22:11
"The Dispatcher" by Jon Scalzi
The Dispatcher - John Scalzi,Zachary Quinto

"The Dispatcher" is a novella-length piece of speculative fiction, written from the point of view of an almost-but-not-quite anti-hero, that explores the impact of on VERY big change in the natural order of things: murdered people come back from the dead.


If you can swallow that completely-unexplained hey-strange-shit-happens premise, then the rest of the book is fairly logical working through of the consequences, wrapped around an investigation into the apparent abduction of a Dispatcher.


The writing is sparse and functional but very effective. The voice of the main character has a hard-boiled detachment that would be consistent with being able to do his chosen line of work. The puzzle and how it is solved are entertaining. The idea is original and is manipulated with skill.


There wasn't much by way of emotional engagement and none of the characters makes it beyond what's needed for them to carry out their function in the plot.


John Scalzi kept everything moving along at a good pace. Zachary Quinto's narration was well-judged: lively without being melodramatic. It was an enjoyable, undemanding four hours.

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review 2018-02-26 18:20
The Lost Plot / Genevieve Cogman
The Lost Plot - Genevieve Cogman

In a 1930s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force, fedoras, flapper dresses and tommy guns are in fashion, and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon vs dragon contest. It seems a young librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can't extricate him there could be serious political repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai find themselves trapped in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They'll face gangsters, blackmail and fiendish security systems. And if this doesn't end well, it could have dire consequences for Irene's job. And, incidentally, for her life . . .


I admit I am very much a fan of Irene Winters and the Invisible Library series. So much so that I will actually be purchasing a copy of this, book 4, to become part of my Nursing Home Collection (all those books that will make the transition with me to said nursing home when the time do come).

I read too damn fast—The Lost Plot went by much too quickly. It is action-packed, putting Irene in many tight spots, between gangsters, plotting dragons, and unpredictable fae assassins. Luckily, she and Kai have been through several of these rodeos before and they are pretty good at judging what their partner will do.

The ending, while obviously leading us on towards book 5, was nearly perfect! I know that I’ve previously been a fan of Irene + Vale, but after book 4, I am really shipping Irene and Kai. It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind!

Ms. Cogman, bring on book 5! And could I be lucky enough that you are planning more?

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