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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE SHIVERING GROUND AND OTHER STORIES by Sara Barkat For those who dare get lost in the beauty of the writing and the magic of other worlds #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you something that defies easy definitions. Ah, a word of warning. The book will be published (if there are no delays) on the 1st of December, so it might not be available for immediate download if you read this post on the day of its publication, but you could reserve it and won’t have to wait too long for it.

The Shivering Ground and Other Stories by Sara Barkat

The Shivering Ground and Other Stories by Sara Barkat

The Shivering Ground blends future and past, earth and otherworldliness, in a magnetic collection that shimmers with art, philosophy, dance, film, and music at its heart. 

A haunting medieval song in the mouth of a guard, an 1800s greatcoat on the shoulders of a playwright experiencing a quantum love affair, alien worlds both elsewhere and in the ruined water at our feet: these stories startle us with the richness and emptiness of what we absolutely know and simultaneously cannot pin into place.

 In the tender emotions, hidden ecological or relational choices, and the sheer weight of a compelling voice, readers “hear” each story, endlessly together and apart.

~

“The word ‘original,’ as a compliment, is both overused and quite often misused. But sometimes it’s the only word that will do. Sara Barkat is an original. Her imagination is imperious; she wields words as she pleases, in ways that delight and unsettle. In this, she reminds me of Emily Dickinson. Reading her, I expect you will agree. Don’t miss the opportunity.”

—John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture (1995-2016)

Author Sara Barkat

About the author:

Sara Barkat is an intaglio artist and writer with an educational background in philosophy and psychology, whose work has appeared in Every Day Poems, Tweetspeak Poetry, and Poetic Earth Month—as well as in the book How to Write a Poem: Based on the Billy Collins Poem “Introduction to Poetry.” Sara has served as an editor on a number of titles including the popular The Teacher Diaries: Romeo & Juliet, and is the illustrator of The Yellow Wall-Paper Graphic Novel, an adaptation of the classic story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

https://sarabarkat.com/bio

My review:

I write this as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity to read and review an early ARC copy of this special collection…

I enjoy short stories, but I rarely read anthologies or collections of them, other than those of authors I already know and whose writing I love. However, although I had never read this author’s work before, there was something compelling and utterly different about this book, and the cover and the title added to the appeal.

Although I’m not sure what I was expecting to read, the stories were surprising and extremely varied. Some seemed to be set in the present (or an alternative version of the present), some in the past (or a possible past), some in a dystopian future, some in parallel universes, and the characters varied from very young children to adults, and from human beings to a variety of “Others”. Some of the stories are very brief, some are long enough to be novellas (or almost), and they are written from all possible points of view: first person, third person (in some cases identified as “they”), and even second person. I usually would try to give an overview of themes and subjects making an appearance in the stories, but that is notably difficult here. The description accompanying the book gives a good indication of what to expect, and if I had to highlight some commonalities between the stories, I would mention, perhaps, the desire and need to connect and communicate with others, in whatever form possible, and to create and express one’s feelings and thoughts, through any medium (music, painting, writing, sewing…),

These short stories are not what many readers have come to expect from the form: a fully developed narrative, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, although usually providing fewer details and not so much character development as we would find in a novel, and often with a surprising twist at the end that can make us reconsider all we have read up to that point. Barkat’s stories are not like that. They rarely have a conventional ending (even when they do, it is open to readers’ interpretations), sometimes there are descriptive passages that we aren’t used to seeing in short narratives, and the plot isn’t always the most important part of the story (if at all). The way the story is told, the style and beauty of the writing, and the impressions and feelings they cause on the reader make them akin to artworks. If reading is always a subjective and personal experience, this is, even more, the case here, and no description can do full justice to this creation.

Despite that, I decided to try to share a few thoughts on each one of the stories, in case it might encourage or help other readers make their own minds up. I’d usually add here that I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, but these are not that kind of stories either.

1. The Door at the End of the Path. A wonderful story full of vivid descriptions of a young girl’s imagination, her internal life, and a reflection of the heavy toll the difficult relationship of the parents can have on their children.

2. Conditions. A glimpse into the relationship between a brother and a sister, where the best intentions can have the worst results, set in a world that is half-dystopia, half an alternative present, with more than a slight touch of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

3. The Eternal In-Between. A dystopia set during a pandemic, with plenty of steampunk-like fancies, and an ode to the power of imagination.

4. The Mannequin. A dystopian world epitomized by the willingness of its subjects to undergo quite an extreme and symbolic procedure to keep the status quo in place.

5. Brianna. A very special retelling of a fairy-tale story that digs dip into the psychological aspects and the effects such events would have over real people, especially if it was a fate repeated generation after generation. One of my favourites.

6. Noticing. A story with a strong ecological theme, a generous dose of fantasy, some beautiful illustrations and eerie pictures, an endorsement of the power of stories, and a strong warning we should heed. Both terrifying and breathtakingly beautiful. Another favourite.

7. Entanglement. A short but compelling story/metaphor of a love affair, and/or the possibility of one.

8. The Day Before Tomorrow. Although set in a very strange and dystopic society, it is a Young Adult story of sorts, and the relationship between the two main characters feels totally natural and everyday, despite the extremely unusual surroundings. Perhaps our stories never change, no matter what might be happening around us. A hopeful story I really enjoyed.

9. It’s Already Too Late. Very brief, very compelling vignette with a very strong ecological message. A call to forget about our excuses and the reasons to carry on doing nothing.

10. The Shivering Ground. A sci-fiction/fantasy/dystopian story that might seem utterly sad and pessimistic, but it is also moving and (I think) hopeful.

11. A Universe Akilter. A wonderful story that kept wrong-footing me, as if the ground the story was set on kept shifting. A Universe Akilter indeed! It starts as the story of the breakup of a romance, seemingly because the man has been caught up cheating, set some time in the past (many of the details and the way the characters behave sound Victorian, but there are small incongruous details that pop up every so often and others that seem to shift), but as the story progresses, it becomes the story of a (possible?) love affair in parallel universes (the universe of our dreams, perhaps), that influences and changes the life of the protagonist, making him discover things about himself and his creativity he would never have considered otherwise. This is the longest story in the book and one that might especially appeal to readers of dual-time or time-travel stories (although it is not that at all).

 

As usual, I recommend those thinking about reading this collection check a sample of it. The stories are quite different from each other, but it should suffice to provide future readers with a good feel for the writing style.

I could not help but share a few paragraphs from the book, although as I have read an ARC copy, there might be some small changes to the final version.

 

All the wreckage, all the ruin, and the ground was brilliant red. Every morning, he would wake to more of the world ending, and the earth laid out a scarlet cloak as though waiting for an emperor to arrive.

 

He wishes, desperately, that he could remember the sound of her voice hen she still knew innocence; that he had thought to fold it in his pocket with the mementos of another life.

 

Perhaps being a mis-turned wheel in a spinning globe is only as it should be after all, when in the spring, the scent of mint and apple blossoms fills the acres behind you.

 

But, surely, I wondered, interpretability only goes so far. To go further would be to strike out onto one’s own adventure, breaking the mass of the art’s finished illusion.

 

I wouldn’t say I “understood” all the stories, or I got the meaning the author intended (if she had a specific design for each one of her stories), but I don’t think that is what this collection is about. Like in an exhibition of artworks, the important thing is what each one of them makes us feel, what thoughts and reflections they set in motion, and how much of an impression they leave on us.

I don’t recommend this book to readers looking for traditionally told short stories, with a clear beginning and end, and a satisfying conclusion. On the other hand, readers seeking something outside the norm and happy to: explore new worlds, try new experiences, ponder about meanings and possibilities, and get lost in the beauty of the writing and the magic of the words, should read this collection. It’s too beautiful to miss.

 Thanks to Rosie and the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember, if you’ve enjoyed it, to like, share, click and comment. Stay safe, keep smiling, and dare to explore all the wonderful worlds books can take us to. 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Adventures in Mythopoeia by John Dolan (@JohnDolanAuthor) For lovers of mythology, adventures, great characters, and fabulous writing

Hi all:

I’m back! I’m back in the land of easier internet access, so I hope I’ll be able to keep up with you all, although the holiday proved a bit busier and more challenging than I expected, and that means I have much more to do and didn’t manage to read as much as I expected. So things might be slow-going for the next few weeks, but I hope to get going at full speed soon(-ish).

I hope you are all well, and I bring you a book by one of my favourite authors, which I’m sure many of you already know. And this is quite a read!

Adventures in Mythopoeia by John Dolan

Adventures in Mythopoeia by John Dolan

“It was neither the best of times, nor the worst of times. It was somewhere in the middle. ”

Pádraig O’Breasail – publican, drunk and ex-Arsenal footballer – is up to his neck in debt to the Chinese gangster Mingzhu Tang. With time running out, the desperate Irishman goes for a tarot card reading at Driscoll’s Circus hoping to find a way out of his predicament.

Meanwhile, the world is descending into anarchy and his nephew Jason is considering quitting his job as a male escort.
Plus, there’s the little matter of the sheep…

So begins a modern-day epic drawing on the Greek Myths, Don Quixote, the Quest for the Holy Grail and Carl Jung’s treatise on UFOs. Packed with dark humor and eccentric characters, Adventures in Mythopoeia will take you on a madcap journey of criminality, enchantment, laugh-out-loud gags and British weather.

Bring your umbrella.

https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Mythopoeia-John-Dolan-ebook/dp/B08MF2M6TZ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adventures-Mythopoeia-John-Dolan-ebook/dp/B08MF2M6TZ/

https://www.amazon.es/Adventures-Mythopoeia-John-Dolan-ebook/dp/B08MF2M6TZ/

Author John Dolan

About the author:

“Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.”

John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between Thailand and the UK.

He is the author of the ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ mystery series and the ‘Children of Karma’ mystery trilogy. 

My review:

I have been following John Dolan since he started publishing books, and I am a devoted fan. He is one of those authors whose new publications bring joy to my heart, and I’m happy to recommend his novels to all and sundry. His name and his series always come to my mind when I think about detective novels with memorable main characters in unforgettable settings, and he is one of those gifted authors who manage to combine gripping plots with a cast of players that jump out of the page and become people we get to care about. Given all this, you won’t be surprised if I tell you that I did not hesitate in getting a copy of his newest publication, even though it promised to be something quite different from anything the author had written before. 

Well, it does deliver on its promise, that’s true, although it is also true that followers of the author’s career will recognise the writing style, the wit, and sense of humour, which are also Dolan’s trademark, and will be familiar with some of the excursions the plot and the characters’ thoughts take down philosophical and moral alleys, which are totally relevant when we consider the ambition of the author’s project in this book. As he explains at the end of this long volume (it is long in pages, but it is short if we consider how many stories and characters we can find inside, what a long historical period it encompasses, and how dynamic it feels when reading it), he had initially thought of writing three volumes to cover a large variety of mythological motifs, but when he realised the stories had become extremely intertwined, and there were far too many connections to find a satisfying way to split it up without disrupting the flow, he decided to write the whole story and publish it in a single volume. And it works, because although it seems impossible at the beginning, when one starts reading the prologue and the different parts, we soon realise that everything is interconnected, that characters that might seem to only play a minimal part in the story, might reappear again later in some important role, and the protagonists move around the British Isles, experiencing a variety of events, participating in all kinds of quests, reinventing themselves, and living several lives in one.

I am not even going to try to summarise the plot or to go into a lot of detail about what happens. The description, sparse as it is it, contains enough information to entice readers who are not afraid to try something different, and who are happy to explore stories with a bit of everything: classical Greek tragedies, Old Testament-style stories, pagan myths, Arthurian legend, more than a touch of the magical and paranormal, fate and destiny gone awry, archaeology true and imagined and its share of enigmatic objects, modern politics, race rage, life in the circus, travelling on a barge, characters setting off in their peculiar quests (for adventure, independence, knowledge, or all of the above), time-warps, talking cats and other fabulous pets, UFOs, cheating husbands, murderous gangs, assorted religious beliefs, love, hatred, revenge… Oh, and not forgetting the end of the world as we know it. I have not been all-inclusive, believe me. Readers who are as knowledgeable and well-read as the author —polymath is no exaggeration— will have fun discovering all the references and the origin of the many stories and characters. I confess that although I recognised some, I missed many, and I didn’t have the in-depth knowledge to get all the nuances even for those that I spotted, but I had a whale of a time nonetheless, and I agree with the author’s assertion that it is not necessary to know all the original stories to enjoy the book or follow the plot. You only need a bit of imagination, a willingness to go on a wild ride, and a sense of fun.

Those readers who like to be in the know and check everything don’t need to worry: the author explains which stories he took as a basis for the main narratives, and who the different characters correspond to. And those who worry about getting lost, don’t. On the one hand, this is not that kind of story. There are many connections, but things do come to a clear resolution at the end (although I wouldn’t talk about a happy ending, per se. This is not that kind of story, either). The story is told in the third person, from multiple characters’ points of view, but these are clearly signposted in the text, and the titles of the different chapters are descriptive enough to pinpoint where we are and what we are going to be reading about. Other worries? Well, there is a bit of everything people might feel offended by: violence, racism, prejudice, murders, suicide, sex, even incest, although none extremely explicit, and always in keeping with the mythological theme and the original sources. Although many of the reflections and the underlying issues are far closer to reality than we’d like to admit, I doubt that anybody embarking on the adventure, and with a previous knowledge of the author, will feel outraged or upset by the story, other than, perhaps, by the fates of some of the individual characters (my alliances changed over time, although Don and Dora are strong contenders to the title of my favourites, but other than two or three of the bad apples, I would happily meet and have a drink with most if not all the characters that make an appearance in this book). People who don’t want to read anything related to viruses and/or other causes of massive and mysterious destruction of human life might be advised not to attempt this book. Anybody else, if you have doubts if the book will suit your taste, I’d advise, as usual, to check a sample of the book. As it is quite long, it should give you a good idea of how you’ll feel. And, don’t worry. As I’ve said, there are no cliffhangers.

I won’t talk about suspension of disbelief. Let’s not be ridiculous. What does belief or disbelief have to do with mythology? If you have a sense of wonder, love adventures, accept that in life there should be a balance between joy and pathos, and know that there are stories much bigger than ourselves, and we are not the centre of the universe, I am sure you’ll love this book. If you have enjoyed Dolan’s previous novels, you’ll have a ball with this one, and you’ll spot a few familiar names along the way. I can’t wait for what the author will come up next. Whatever it is, I know it will be amazing.

 Thanks to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading and being patient, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep safe, and keep reading!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog LEGACY (PROJECT RENOVA #4) by Terry Tyler (@TerryTyler4) The brightest jewel in the series recommended to those who love complex storytelling. #post-apocalyptic

Hi all:

Today I bring you the fourth book in a trilogy! Yes, what can I say? We writers sometimes can’t let go. Best laid plans and all that. To be honest, I hope the author keeps going…

Legacy. Project Renova #4 by Terry Tyler
Legacy. Project Renova #4 by Terry Tyler

Legacy (Project Renova #4) by Terry Tyler

‘Out of all the death and destruction has come the freedom to be who we really are.’

A hundred years after the world was devastated by the bat fever virus, the UK is a country of agricultural communities where motherhood is seen as the ideal state for a woman, new beliefs have taken over from old religions, and the city of Blackthorn casts a threatening shadow over the north of England. Legacy travels back in time to link up with the characters from Tipping Point, Lindisfarne and UK2.

Seventeen-year-old Bree feels stifled by the restrictions of her village community, but finds a kindred spirit in Silas, a lone traveller searching for his roots. She, too, is looking for answers: the truth behind the mysterious death, forty years earlier, of her grandmother.

In 2050, Phoenix Northam’s one wish is to follow in the footsteps of his father, a great leader respected by all who knew him―or so his mother tells him.

In 2029, on a Danish island, Lottie is homesick for Lindisfarne; two years earlier, Alex Verlander and the kingpins of the Renova group believe they have escaped the second outbreak of bat fever just in time…

Book #4 of the Project Renova series rebuilds a broken country with no central government or law, where life is dangerous and people can simply disappear … but the post-Fall world is also one of possibility, of freedom and hope for the future.

Amz UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Legacy-Project-Renova-Book-4-ebook/dp/B07JNC9K6Z

Amz.com

https://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Project-Renova-Book-4-ebook/dp/B07JNC9K6Z

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author

Terry Tyler is the author of eighteen books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Legacy’, the final book in her post apocalyptic series. She is currently at work on a new dystopian novel, set in the UK, twelve years in the future. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 14th-17th century), and sociological/cultural/anthropological stuff, generally. She loves South Park, Netflix, autumn and winter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM/

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this novel but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have been following Terry Tyler’s Project Renova from the beginning (you can check my reviews for Tipping Point, here, for Lindisfarne, here, and for UK2, here)and loved all of the novels, getting more and more personally involved in the adventures and with the characters, that became part of the family, as it progressed. When a trilogy comes to an end and you see readers wondering what happened next and pestering the author for more, you know this is not just another dystopian adventure.

Before I get into the detail of this novel, which is fabulous in case you’re wondering, I must say that my recommendation is to read the four novels in the intended order. The series is written to be read as a whole, and the books are not independent. Although this novel introduces many new characters, to fully appreciate the project (yes, I know) and the overall effect, you need to be familiar with the complete story so far. But don’t worry, though, if it’s been a while since you’ve read the other novels, because the author includes a link to “the story so far” before the new novel starts, so you’ll be able to quickly refresh your memory.

This is the most structurally complex novel of the series. Although all the books are narrated by several characters, and that is the case here too, and in UK2 we had different settings as well, this novel takes us back and forth in time. After a brief interlude that follows directly on from the last novel (and there are a few of those interspersed throughout the text, but very brief), Part One is set in 2127, a hundred years later, and we go back to Norfolk, where we meet Bree, a young girl who lives there, and Silas, a traveller.  This gives us an opportunity to learn what has happened in that period all over the UK, at least in large strokes, and also to meet two young people that, at least to begin with, we don’t know how they relate to the rest of the plot. Part Two goes back to 2089 and we learn about Sky, who lives in a Northern settlement called Blackthorn. Although she lives a life of luxury, we soon learn that she is in a minority, and the place sounds like a dystopian nightmare (if you’re familiar with Huxley’s Brave New World that part of the story will give you pause, and women will be particularly horrified by that possible future), so it’s not surprising that she ends up taking a fairly extreme decision. Part Three is set in 2050, and in this case we follow the next generation of some of the characters we had left in the last novel, particularly Phoenix. Part Four, set only two years after the last novel, in 2019, reunites us with Lottie, my favourite character of the series (and I’m not the only one).  Part Five is set again in 2127, and we see what happened next to Bree and Silas and we get a sense of how the whole story fits and see the bigger picture. And the last bit of the story, back in 2027, answers a question that most people will be wondering about.

Does this mean the story is confusing? Not really, but if you’re trying to find connections and work out who everybody is from the start, you might feel a bit lost. My advice would be similar to what I used to tell people who were reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury: even if you can’t see where things are heading, keep reading, because it will all fall into place. And it is fabulous. In fact, the way of telling the story works wonderfully well to emphasise the theme of legacy, the fact that family lines, and especially people’s behaviour, mark those who come into contact with them and is carried through the generations. The structure made me think of novels such as Cloud Nine, and movies like Pulp Fiction, and if you enjoy a bit of a challenge when it comes to the way a story is told, this will add to your enjoyment.

The epic story (a saga) is narrated in the first person in the present tense by the different characters, and that gives it immediacy, making it easier to connect with them, even when sometimes we might know that things are not what they seem to be, and at times we might know much more than the characters do, and that give us a fascinating perspective.  The story works well, and as I said, everything fits in, but the author has a particular skill for creating vastly varied characters that are totally believable, and like them or not, we can’t help getting involved in their lives. Lottie continues to be my favourite character, but Bree and Silas are great as well, and their relationship is heart-warming without being overly sweet. Both of them have doubts and reservations, and they prove their feelings with actions, rather than meaningless words. Even the less likeable characters have a heart (well, at least the ones we meet personally) and I was surprised when I felt sorry for some of them, whom at first I had thought of as unredeemable.

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail, because the story has to be read. The writing is fabulous, descriptive enough without ever getting boring, and the characters and the events narrated will make you think about known historical figures, religious beliefs, and about what moves society, and what is truly important.

I am pleased to read in the author’s note that she is thinking about writing some novellas and possibly a novel set in one of the places we visit here.  Although I loved the story and the ending as well, I know I’ll keep thinking about the series, and I won’t be able to resist further incursions into this world. And yes, I’ll be one of the readers pestering the author for more.

Thanks to the author for another fantastic book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview ARTEMIS by Andy Weir (@andyweirauthor) A great caper story, with fun characters, not too deep, but with plenty of technical and scientific information to keep your brain going

[amazon_link asins=’1250119243,B00SN93AHU,0553418025,B017S3OP34,1451678193,178274164X,1426214685,1452134359,1681774461′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f895054e-a5c7-11e7-b739-912cdef9bbe8′]

Hi all:

I’ve brought you the review of a book I read a few weeks back but didn’t want to share until it was closer to the release date. Artemis will be published tomorrow, so I thought this would give you a chance to get it if you fancied it, but you wouldn’t have to wait too long to read it. As I was preparing this post, I realised that I had not shared the review of Andy Weir’s first book, The Martian, here, so I’m now wondering if there are more books whose reviews I’ve shared elsewhere but not here… Oh well…

Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis by Andy Weir
Ever had a bad day? Try having one on the moon…

WELCOME TO ARTEMIS. The first city on the moon.
Population 2,000. Mostly tourists.
Some criminals.

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. She lives in a poor area of Artemis and subsidises her work as a porter with smuggling contraband onto the moon. But it’s not enough.

So when she’s offered the chance to make a lot of money she jumps at it. But though
planning a crime in 1/6th gravity may be more fun, it’s a lot more dangerous…

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Artemis-Andy-Weir-ebook/dp/B06ZZMYC4G/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Artemis-Andy-Weir-ebook/dp/B06ZZMYC4G/

Author Andy Weir
Author Andy Weir

About the author:
ANDY WEIR was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.
https://www.amazon.com/Andy-Weir/e/B00G0WYW92/


My review:
Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.
I read Weir’s The Martian shortly after its publication (I discovered it through NetGalley. Many thanks again), before it became a movie, and loved it. Although I regularly recommend books to people I know, this must be one of the recent books I’ve recommended to more people. (In case you want to check my review, I published it on Lit World Interviews and you can check it here). Because of that, when I saw the ARC of the author’s new book was available on NetGalley, I requested it. A few days later I also received an e-mail from the publishers (well, their PR company) offering me a copy as I’d reviewed The Martian. Good minds think alike and all that. I read the book a while before its publication but I don’t expect there would be major changes with the final version.
So, how is the book? Well, I loved it. There aren’t that many books that make me laugh out loud, but this one did. Is it as good as The Martian? That’s a difficult question to answer. It is not as unique. It is very different, although in many ways it’s quite similar too. I suspect if you didn’t like The Martian you will probably not like this one either. The story is a first-person narration from the point of view of a young woman, Jazz Bashara. She lives in Artemis, the first city in the Moon, and has lived there since she was six years old (children are not allowed in the Moon until they are a certain age, although that had increased by the time of the story, so she’s probably one of the few people who has been there almost from birth, as most are immigrants from Earth). Nationality is a bit of an interesting concept in this novel (people are from wherever place on Earth they come from, but once in Artemis, they are in a Kenyan colony… I won’t explain the details, but the story of how that came to pass ends up being quite important to the plot), as are laws, work, money, economy, food… Based on that, Jazz is from Saudi Arabia, although she impersonates women from other nationalities through the book (even in the Moon, otherness unifies people, it seems). Like its predecessor, the story is full of technical details of how things work (or not) and how different they are from Earth. Jazz is a quirky character, foul-mouthed at times, strangely conversant with American pop culture, including TV series, music, etc., extremely intelligent, and like Mark in the first novel, somebody who does not express her emotions easily (she even admits that at some point in the novel). She also has a fantastic sense of humour, is witty, self-deprecating at times, one of the boys, and does not tolerate fools gladly. She is a petty criminal and will do anything to get money (and she’s very specific about the amount she requires), although we learn what she needs the money for later on (and yes, it does humanize her character). Her schemes for getting rich quick end up getting her into real trouble (she acknowledges she made some very bad decisions as a teenager, and things haven’t changed that much, whatever she might think) and eventually she realises that there are things we cannot do alone. Although she does commit crimes, she has a code of conduct, does not condone or commit violence (unless she has to defend herself), and she can be generous to a fault at times. On the other hand, she is stubborn, petulant, anti-authority, confrontational, and impulsive.
There is a cast of secondary characters that are interesting in their own right, although we don’t get to know them in depth and most are types we can connect easily with as they are very recognisable. (Psychology and complexity of characters is not the main attribute of the book). Most of Jazz’s friends are male (so are some of her enemies), and we have a geeky-inventor type who is clumsy with women (although based on the information we are given, Jazz is not great with men either), a gay friend who stole her boyfriend, a bartender always after creating cheap versions of spirits, a rich tycoon determined to get into business on the Moon, no matter what methods he has to use, and Jazz’s father, a devoted Muslim who is both proud of his daughter and appalled by her in equal measure.
The plot is a caper/heist story, that has nothing to envy Ocean’s Eleven although it has the added complication of having to adapt to conditions on the Moon. Although there is a fair amount of technical explanation, I didn’t find it boring or complicated (and yes, sometimes you can guess what’s going to go wrong before it happens), although when I checked the reviews, some people felt that it slowed the story down. For me, the story flows well and it is quick-paced, although there are slower moments and others when we are running against the clock. As I’m not an expert on the subject of life on the Moon, I can’t comment on how accurate some of the situations are. Yes, there has to be a certain suspension of disbelief, more than in The Martian because here we have many characters and many more things that can go wrong (the character does not only fight against nature and her own mistakes here. She also has human adversaries to contend with), but we should not forget that it is a work of fiction. Some of the reviews say there are better and more realistic novels about the Moon. As I’m not a big reader on the subject, I can’t comment, although I can easily believe that.
The other main criticism of the novel is Jazz’s character. Quite a few reviewers comment that she is not a credible woman, and her language, her behaviour, and her mannerisms are not those of a real woman. I mentioned before that she is ‘one of the boys’ or ‘one of the lads’. She seems to have mostly male friends, although she does deal with men and women in the book, not making much of a distinction between them. For me, Jazz’s character is consistent in with that of a woman who has grown up among men (she was brought up by her father and her mother is not around), who feels more comfortable with them, and who goes out of her way to fit in and not call attention to her gender by her behaviour and/ or speech. She is also somebody who has not been encouraged to be openly demonstrative or to share her feelings, and although she is our narrator, she does not talk a lot about herself (something that was also a characteristic of the Martian, where we did not learn much about Mark himself). In Artemis, apart from the first person narration, there are fragments that share e-mails between Jazz and a pen (e-mail) friend from Earth. Those interim chapters help us learn a bit more (however fragmented) about Jazz’s background; they also give us a sense of how things are on Earth, and, although it is not evident at the beginning, fill us into some of the information the narration has not provided us. Although she is not the most typical female character I’ve ever read, she is a fun woman and it’s very easy to root for her (even if sometimes you want to slap her). She does act very young at times, and hers is a strange mixture of street-wise and at times naïve that some readers will find endearing although it might irritate others. The book’s other female characters are as hard and business-like as the men, and often the most powerful and intelligent characters in the book are female (the ruler of Aramis and the owner of the Aluminium Company are both females, one from Kenia and one a Latino woman). Both seem to be formidable, although nobody is pure as snow in this novel and everybody has some skeletons in their closets. Although gender politics per se are not discussed (Jazz notes physical differences between her and other characters as is relevant to the plot, and makes the odd comment about her own appearance) one gets the sense that in Artemis people are accepted as they are and they are more concerned about what they can bring to the community than about their gender or ethnicity.
I agree with some of the comments about the dominance of references to American culture and even the language used is sometimes full of American colloquialisms. There is no clear explanation given for that, other than to assume that media and the Internet are still mostly full of content produced in the US, but even mentions of news and feeds about other countries are not elaborated upon.
I highlighted a lot of the book, but I don’t want to test your patience, and as it was an ARC copy, it is possible that there might be some minor changes, so I’d advise you to check a sample of the book to see if you like the tone of the narration. Here are a few examples:
If my neighborhood were wine, connoisseurs would describe it as “shitty, with overtones of failure and poor life decisions.”
My cart is a pain in the ass to control, but it’s good at carrying heavy things. So I decided it was male.
(Only Americans wear Hawaiian shirts on the moon.)
I left without further comment. I didn’t want to spend any more time inside the mind of an economist. It was dark and disturbing.
In summary, a great caper story, with fun characters, not too deep, but with plenty of technical and scientific information to keep your brain going. I’d recommend reading a sample of the novel, because, once again, you’ll either click with the style of the narration and the characters, or you won’t. I did and laughed all the way to the end of the book. And, if you’ve not read The Martian… well, what are you waiting for?

Thanks to NetGalley, to Penguin Random House/Ebury for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

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Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview THE LAST DETECTIVE by Brian Cohn (@briancohnMD) #RBRT A symbiosis of the genres of the noir detective novel and science-fiction with a hero with a dark-sense of humour and a heart

Hi all:

Today I bring you another of the books I’ve reviewed as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. And it’s a fabulous one.

The Last Detective by Brian Cohn
The Last Detective by Brian Cohn

The Last Detective by Brian Cohn

It’s been two years since the invasion.

Two years since the slicks came to our planet and herded humanity together like cattle, placing us under constant watch in the few cities that remain. The lucky ones are left to their own devices. The unlucky few are rounded up and carted off to labor camps to face an unknown fate.

Former homicide detective Adrian Grace was cut off from his family, but has somehow managed to survive. When one of the slicks is murdered, they ask him to find the killer. He reluctantly agrees, and in the course of his investigation witnesses the best, and the worst, that humanity has to offer: a plot to escape the labor camps; a pending war between an in-your-face councilwoman and the corrupt city mayor; and a priest who claims to have befriended the dead alien. But worst of all, he stumbles onto a conspiracy that puts the fate of the entire city in jeopardy. In the end, Detective Grace discovers that the killer might just be the last person he would have suspected.

A story about betrayal, redemption, faith, fear, and hope, The Last Detective is a thrilling look at what happens to humanity when our world crumbles around us.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Detective-Brian-Cohn-ebook/dp/B01MSUR137/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Detective-Brian-Cohn-ebook/dp/B01MSUR137/

About the author:

Brian is an ER doctor practicing in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives with his beautiful wife and their two rambunctious children. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama where he grew up loving to read. His passion for books continued through his college career at the UNC-Chapel Hill, and traveled with him back to Alabama where he attended the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He moved to St. Louis for residency training, met his wife, and fell in love with both her and the city itself. He has been practicing emergency medicine for over a decade and loves helping people every day, but turned to writing as a creative outlet.

A self-professed nerd, Brian has long enjoyed everything science fiction, from books to TV and movies. He is also a huge fan of great mysteries and thrillers, and is a sucker for a surprising plot twist. He writes the kind of books that he would want to read, reflecting a deep-seated curiosity about what motivates people to do the things they do.

When he’s not busy writing and taking care of patients, Brian loves to run, play with his children, and spend quiet time watching TV with his wife. If he can only figure out how to do all three things at once, he’ll finally have it made.

https://www.amazon.com/Brian-Cohn/e/B01MYVF8I0/

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Amber for organising Rosie’s Book Review Team and for providing this great opportunity for reviewers and authors to meet. If you’re an author, check here how to submit your books to the team.

I don’t read many purely science-fiction books (I’m not a big fan of lengthy descriptions, and world-building can take a fair amount of space while I generally care more for characters) but I’ve read a few recently that I’ve enjoyed, enough to make me pay more attention to sci-fi offerings. Some novels combine sci-fi with other genres and that usually brings them onto more familiar territories. This novel is one of those cases. It is a fairly classical (in style) noir detective novel:  you have the disenchanted detective who has left the police disappointed with the way things are done now (in his case, though, there was an alien invasion on Earth that all but destroyed Humanity’s achievements and progress over centuries [no electricity, limited access to fuel, no telephones, no TV, no democracy]… Humans have become prisoners, rationing of food has come back, and aliens control access to the few resources left, and they send humans to ‘labor camps’ somewhere outside of Earth with some cooperation from the human ‘authorities’) and who is called back because he’s the only one who can solve a murder. Now that the police have become no more than puppets of the aliens (also called ‘slicks’, because of the peculiar aspect of their skin), there is nobody else who still remembers how things were done. This is a DIY police procedural novel (no computers, no DNA analysis or blood tests, only very basic gathering of evidence and use of deductive powers, almost back to Conan Doyle or Christie) with a main characters, Adrian Grace (a very apt name, as we discover), who has probably lost everything and who describes himself as being ‘addicted’ to detective work. There might be other reasons (read excuses) why he chooses to accept the case of the murder of a Slick (they have somewhat of a herd mentality and do not hurt each other but it seems unthinkable that a human would dare to try and kill one of them) but the main one is because he misses being a detective.

The story is told in the first person, present tense, from Grace’s point of view, and it follows the chronological order, with the main action taking place over only a few days. Although he has fallen quite low, he hasn’t reached the level of others, and he is smart, witty, and has a rather black sense of humour that is what keeps him going.  Although he does not dwell for too long on his circumstances, or those of humanity (the novel starts with a brief chapter that takes place right at the moment when the aliens arrive, that allows us a glimpse into Grace’s work before normal life came to an end, and we get to meet his partner, Yuri, who is missing by the time the main action of the novel starts), he is harder in appearance than in reality. He trusts his instincts; he suspects everybody but is also quick to believe in first impressions and happily accepts as a partner a young female detective, whom he trusts from very early on (because he needs somebody to trust). Grace reminded me of many of the hard-boiled detectives of old, but he is not violent by nature and avoids guns if he can help it, and in contrast to more modern models, he is witty but not foul-mouthed. He drip-feeds us details about his life (he was brought up a Catholic, he was married with kids, he talks about his mother’s death when he explains his lack of faith…) and he still looks after his father. His relation with his father is heart-warming, despite the terrible situation, and it only reinforces the fact that we are dealing with a human being and not a collection of clichés. Although I’m very partial to unreliable narrators, Grace is not one of them, at least not by design. This being a mystery, we are not always given always given all the information, but if we are misguided, it is because Grace is mistaken or wrong-footed (by others or himself).

The book is not heavy on descriptions and the world the book describes is like a ghost of our world, like those empty and abandoned towns we sometimes see on TV that have fallen prey to disasters (economic, natural, or man-made). We have human beings that have lost their purpose, groups of religious extremists (the Abandoned, who sustain God has abandoned Humanity), resistance groups, and the aliens can also function as stand-ins for many dictatorial regimes bent on the destruction of all opposition (Nazi Germany comes to mind, but many other, recent and distant, would also fit the bill). Some of the humans are complicit with the regime whilst others are not what they seem to be. The book allows for reflections on the nature of society, politics, religion (there is a priest that plays an important part), family, betrayal, guilt, and ultimately hope. Grace is not always right, but he has not lost his humanity, and he is a realistic character we would all like to befriend.

This is a tremendous book, where the science-fiction and the detective genre work in symbiosis and create a novel that is more than the sum of its parts. Recommended to fans of both genres, especially those who don’t mind experimentation within the genre, and in general to people who enjoy fiction that pushes them to think whilst keeping them turning the pages.

Thanks to Rosie and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

 

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Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Rosie's Book Team Review

#Bookreview RBRT HELL HOLES: WHAT LURKS BELOW (VOL. 1) by Donald Firesmith (@DonFiresmith) Science,horror, fantasy, paranormal and plenty of action #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

Today I bring you a review of a novel that, depending on how you look at it, either fits in many genres or doesn’t fit in any. It’s set in Alaska, that as you know I want to go and visit in the future, but after reading this… I still want to go, but perhaps I’ll be watchful for holes.

Hell Holes. What Lurks Below (Vol. 1) by Donald Firesmith
Hell Holes. What Lurks Below (Vol. 1) by Donald Firesmith

Hell Holes: What Lurks Below (Volume 1) by Donald Firesmith Science,horror, fantasy, paranormal and plenty of action.

A geologist, his climatologist wife, two graduate students, a local newspaper reporter, an oil company representative, and a field biologist travel to one of dozens of huge holes that have mysteriously appeared in the tundra of the North Slope of Alaska. Their mission is to research these strange craters that threaten financial and environmental catastrophe should they open up under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline or any of the many oil wells and smaller pipelines that feed it. Unfortunately, a far worse danger lurks below, one that threatens to destroy all of humanity when it emerges. Who will survive the demonic invasion to flee south towards the safety of Fairbanks?

Here, my review:

I received a free ARC copy of the book and I voluntarily decided to review it. I am also sharing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Hell Holes is an intriguing book and one difficult to classify. Set in Alaska, the prologue already gives us a hint about what is to come, but once we start reading the account written by Professor Jack Oswald, we get taken in by the mystery of the holes, and by the hypotheses suggested, sending us in the direction of science-fiction. The explanations and the possible scenarios are plausibly rendered and the fact that Oswald’s wife, Angie, studies the effect of climate change, add to the interest, although that line of investigation doesn’t last long.

The plot turns soon when the holes prove to be dangerous in more ways than one, and paranormal and fantastic elements become more important as the plot moves on. There are also horror elements, like the monsters and the destruction and killings, and we do get more than a few hair-raising moments.

As often happens with some of these genres, there is a fair amount of exposition, regarding the set-up of the different pump stations and oil fields, and later about the supernatural elements (as one of the characters is revealed to be completely different to what we thought at first sight). As there is a description of the different Hell inhabitants later on after the end of the story, it might feel somewhat repetitive.

The book is also very short, even more than it looks like when we check the pages, as the end comes at around 80% of the book length, and the rest is taken by a summary/description, a cast of hell characters, a brief biography of the author and a longish sample of the next book, that follows (with a slight overlap) from the first one. From the sample, we see that the second book in the series is narrated by Professor Oswald’s wife.

The novel (novella) is plot-driven, and once the chase is on, the book moves quickly and never lets off, and we don’t have much chance to notice that we do not know the characters in detail, and there is plenty of room for development. The first person narration would seem to allow for a more in depth knowledge of the main character, but although there are some glimpses of guilty feelings and a strong sense of responsibility that make Oswald come across as a good man, this is after all supposed to be an account written by him for other eyes, to do with facts not feelings, and it does not dwell much on subjective matters. There might be time to get to know the characters more during the series but one suspects that the action will continue taking pride of place in the next novels.

There are series where it doesn’t matter where you start reading (or it matters less and it’s possible to read any novel and enjoy it in its own right without feeling you’re missing the context). This is not the case here, as although the story seems to be told from different points of view in the different books, it is all the same story. And in case you hate cliff-hangers, the book ends up in a worrying twist/hook. But, fear not, because if you read the sample of the next book at the end, at least that hook is solved.

The book is an easy and quick read and an action-filled one that you’ll imagine as a TV series or a movie with no difficulty. If you’re a stickler for specific genres and strong characters it might not suit you, and you might question some of the details, but if you’re looking for an entertaining read that moves easily between genres, and don’t mind investing in a series, give it a try.

hell-holes-what-lurks-card

A few links, both to the author and to the book (and yes, he makes wands!):

Author Websites/Webpages: DonaldFiresmith.comAmazonBookBubBooklifeFacebookGoodreads,ScribdSmashwordsWattpad 

Personal:  About.MeFacebookGoogle+TwitterWebsiteWikipedia

ACM Distinguished Engineer: LinkedInResearch Gate,  SEISlideshare 

Hell Holes: What Lurks Below: AmazonApple iBooksBarnes and NobleCreateSpaceGoodreadsIndigoKoboSmashwords

 Wand Maker: EtsyFacebookWand Shop

Thanks to the author for providing me a copy of the book, thanks to Rosie for her fabulous team of reviewers, thanks to all of you for reading, and you know what to do: like, share, comment, and CLICK!

 

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Book review Book reviews New books

#BookReview and new book The Other Side of Philip K. Dick: A Tale of Two Friends by Maer Wilson (@MaerWilson) , Tim Powers (Foreword). A portray of a time, a man and a dear friend. (And some free books)

Hi all:

Today I bring you a new book (the author belongs to one of the groups of authors I joined early on in my career and where I learned the little I know, ASMSG, Authors Social Media Support Group) by Maer Wilson. Although I’ve known her for a while, I hadn’t managed to read any of her books, but when she offered an ARC of her newest and I read what it was about, I couldn’t resist. And don’t worry, the book was published earlier this week (on the 9th of August) so you won’t have to wait. Ah, and read until the end, as another author of the book reminded me that in the ASMSG website readers can access free books by the authors in the group, and some of mine are there too!

Maer Wilson was very kind and sent an excerpt and extra material, so you can get a better sense of what her book is like.

The Other Side of Philip K. Dick by Maer Wilson
The Other Side of Philip K. Dick by Maer Wilson

The Other Side of Philip K. Dick: A Tale of Two Friends by Maer Wilson  (Author), Tim Powers (Foreword)

“As a literary figure, Philip K. Dick is popularly perceived as a crazed, drug-addled mystic with a sinister Third Eye. Nothing could be further from the truth – the Phil I knew was a warm, humane, very funny man. Maer Wilson understands these truths far better than I, and The Other Side of Philip K. Dick casts a welcome shaft of daylight upon the real PKD, as opposed to the dark, distorted caricature Dick has become.” Paul M. Sammon, Author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner

PKDteaser1

What is the truth behind the legend of Science Fiction great, Philip K. Dick?

 

In spring, 1972, Phil Dick moved to Fullerton, CA, where he met Theatre student Mary (Maer) Wilson. Amid marriage proposals, marathon talk-fests and a love for music and films, they forged a strong friendship that would last the rest of his life.

 

Wilson’s quirky, yet unflinchingly honest, memoir reveals a funny, compassionate and generous man. She captures an inside view of one of our literary greats – a brilliant writer who gave the world some of its most revered Science Fiction.

 

“I found this book engrossing and authentic – a truthful and serious account of the last part of Phil Dick’s life by someone who was a fundamental part of it and who has the skill to write about it. There is evident love and friendship in this book, but also honesty. This was the Phil Dick I knew.” James P. Blaylock, World Fantasy Award-Winning Author

 

You can pre-order ebook versions now.
The paperback will be available on August 9, 2016

 

Amazon Kindle – https://goo.gl/nQ12tW

Amazon Paperback – https://goo.gl/Nvx1H0

Barnes & Noble Paperback – http://goo.gl/GzEVxz

Barnes & Noble Nook – http://goo.gl/o92tkr
iTunes – https://goo.gl/LDArxc
Kobo – https://goo.gl/uax6Fm

Goodreads – https://goo.gl/WFdQZy

Smashwords – https://goo.gl/zbBGE9

 

 

Maer Wilson Author Pic

 

Maer Wilson’s Bio

After a successful career being other people, and later teaching others the many tricks of that trade, Maer Wilson has decided to be herself for a while. Turns out she’s a writer.

Maer first met Philip K. Dick in 1972 when he moved into the apartment across the hall from her in Fullerton, California. They remained close friends until his death in 1982. Maer was always an avid reader, but it was Phil who introduced her to science fiction, and she fell in love with the genre, later expanding into most aspects of Spec Fic.

When she’s not writing, Maer plays online video games, teaches college and reads. Maer is a partner in Ellysian Press, a small publishing house. She lives in the high desert of Southern Nevada with her two poodles.

Named 2015 Fantasy Author of the Year by AuthorClassifieds.com, Maer’s books include the recent Apocalypta Z. Her Modern Magics series includes the novels Relics, Portals, and Magics, as well as novelettes and stories set in that universe. Maer recently contributed to, compiled and published the charity anthology, The Dark Dozen. She is currently working on a science fiction novel, Truthsayer.

You can find all Maer’s books and novelettes at Amazon and other online retailers. For more info, you can visit Maer’s website at http://maerwilson.com/.

A few links so you can check other books by the author:

 

Maer’s Website:  http://maerwilson.com/

The Other Side of Philip K. Dick Website:  http://goo.gl/C4fWp8

Maer on Amazon:  http://goo.gl/a2BiU2

Maer on Barnes & Noble: http://goo.gl/YGe8ug

Maer on Facebook:  https://goo.gl/KRgX2k

Maer on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/MaerWilson

Maer at Goodreads:  https://goo.gl/oFvUuZ

Maer at Pinterest:  http://goo.gl/BLweoV

PKDteaser2

Excerpt

“But first let’s set the scene.

It’s April, 1972 in Fullerton, California around 7:00 PM. The sun has set and the night is cool, balanced between full spring and hints of summer. Can you feel the slight breeze?

The street is Quartz Lane. Some of the many apartment buildings in the area line the short road. We’re going to go to the first complex on the right, just past the church. There’s a small courtyard and the residents all have their curtains drawn. Most are translucent and clearly show the light from the apartments. But there. That first apartment on our right? The one upstairs. Yes, that one with the light shining through a gap in the curtains.

And the one across from it. The light isn’t as bright, but we need to note that one, too.

We can almost hear the giggles of two girls as we make our way up the stairs and fade through their door. Shhh… We’ll be as quiet as the ghosts from the future that we are.

The scene is set. The actors and orchestra are in their places as the curtain rises.

The stage lights come up.

The conductor taps his baton on the music stand.

 

The music begins.

 

 

Chapter 1 – At First

“It happened back when I was still immortal.”

 

Praise for The Other Side of Philip K. Dick

“I found this book engrossing and authentic – a truthful and serious account of the last part of Phil Dick’s life by someone who was a fundamental part of it and who has the skill to write about it. There is evident love and friendship in this book, but also honesty. This was the Phil Dick I knew.” James P. Blaylock, World Fantasy Award-winning Author

 

“As a literary figure, Philip K. Dick is popularly perceived as a crazed, drug-addled mystic with a sinister Third Eye. Nothing could be further from the truth – the Phil I knew was a warm, humane, very funny man. Maer Wilson understands these truths far better than I, and The Other Side of Philip K. Dick casts a welcome shaft of daylight upon the real PKD, as opposed to the dark, distorted caricature Dick has become.” Paul M. Sammon, Author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner

 

“The strongest piece of writing I’ve read in years. Wilson’s pacing is perfection. The Other Side of Philip K. Dick is filled with laughter and the kind of love only true friends can share. Even if, for some reason, you’ve never heard of Philip K. Dick, you will fall in love with him and Wilson. The ending had me crying, like “end of the Notebook” crying. Utter perfection.” M. Joseph Murphy, Author of the Activation series

 

“There are many tales of epic friendships, but there is one huge difference here: The Other Side of Philip K. Dick is real. Wilson’s prose gives us an inside view into two minds, a genius and a young girl. Through her eyes I am left with one thought — this is a man I wish I had known.” –Danielle DeVor, author of the Marker Chronicles.

 

“Frank and revealing. One part faithful memoir, one part a wonderful evocation of Phil’s final 10 years. Writing with crisp clarity, Maer’s humorous anecdotes wonderfully evoke both the times and the man. Her conversational prose sparkles with truth and winning story-telling. Best of all, this warm tribute replaces the oft-told myths about Phil with unique insights into his caring, compassionate and generous nature.” Daniel Gilbertson, Friend of PKD

 

“As a fan of Dick’s fiction, I was engrossed by these amusing, insightful, and poignant reminiscences of the last ten years of his life. Wilson evokes a human portrait of a warm, funny, unassuming man who was a good friend to a young student. This memoir is well-written and heart-felt. It illustrates not only the private world of a great writer but what it was like to be young in the seventies in California.” Carol Holland March, Author of The Dreamwalkers of Larreta

PKDteaser3

 

My review:

I received an ARC copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I thought I’d get a couple of things out of the way before I gave my opinion of the book. This is the first book by Maer Wilson that I’ve read. I’m aware she writes fiction but haven’t read any of her novels yet. The second thing is that I’ve read some of Philip K. Dick’s novels, but I’m not a connoisseur of his work and I have but a passing acquaintance with his life. Like a lot of people I’m more familiar with some of the film adaptations of his science-fiction novels than I am with the original books (but I must say one doesn’t forget easily reading one of his books and notwithstanding my undying love for Blade Runner, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is imprinted in my brain).

This book is not a biography of Philip K. Dick, or a memoir of Mary (Maer) Wilson, although it does have elements of both. The author sets up the scene and explains clearly what she intends to do at the opening of the book. This is the story of her friendship with the writer that spanned the last ten years of his life. She does not justify his behaviour, she does not provide a critical analysis of his work, and she does not go on a research digging expedition trying to discover who the true Philip K. Dick was. After many years of reading works about the man she got to know quite closely, and not recognising the versions of her friend those books created, she decided to share the man she knew. She acknowledges that he might have been different when he was younger and that perhaps he presented differently with different people. (In fact she has an interesting theory about the matter that makes perfect sense to me, but although not a true spoiler, I’ll leave you to read it yourselves).

Mary Wilson met Philip K. Dick when she was a young theatre student, and although she goes to great pains to try and remember and record the things as they happened at the time (and as her young-self experienced them), the older (and of course wiser) Maer Wilson can’t help but sometimes despair of her younger counterpart. As all young people, and especially somebody preparing from a young age for an acting career, the young Mary thinks she is immortal and the centre of the universe. She accepts friendships as they come and does not question either motives or reasons. She does not inquire why an older man (when they meet she doesn’t even know he’s a writer) is living with a young student or why he would want to make friends with people who are twenty five years his juniors. The way she writes about the young Mary reminded me of Herman Melville’s Redburn, where the older writer can’t help but reflect on the naïveté and inexperience of his younger self. (Not that she is all that naïve as she acknowledges that the writer had a crush on her and she handled it remarkably well, but she’s neither humble nor always wise).

The author does not aim to discover where Philip K. Dick was coming from or what happened during the periods when they lost contact, for example when he got married and his wife wasn’t keen on his younger friends, or when Mary was living with a boyfriend and so busy with her theatrical performances that she couldn’t always make time for a social life. She does not try to make up for gaps or recreate things that she was not witness too. She does include photographs of events relevant to the narration, drawings, etc., and has obtained some of the correspondence a common friend had kept, but in its majority, the book is made up of anecdotes, conversations and events that the writer remembers in plenty of detail, as would be expected of somebody talking about a close and dear friend. I also got the sense, from the book and the foreword, that Dick had remained a topic of conversation for his group of friends and some of the episodes mentioned have been reminisced upon more than once.

As it has been noted often (and is also mentioned in the foreword of the book), anybody who attempts to tell somebody else’s story, ends up telling his or her own, and the author gives us a wonderful insight into ten years of her life, from her years as a student, performing and putting on plays, to having her own theatre company, and working herself to exhaustion. It is a vivid portrayal of a type of life, a place and a period, that will make readers wish they were there, going to watch A Clockwork Orange with Philip K. Dick, or meeting Ridley Scott to talk about Blade Runner. It isn’t a glamorous story or a celebrity autobiography (thankfully!), and it has ups and downs, moments of enlightenment and regrets, happy moments and doubts and what ifs, but that’s what real life is like.  The author writes as if she was telling her memories of Dick to a close friend, or perhaps as if she was retelling herself the episodes she recalls, trying to puzzle together and order her thoughts, to grab hold of her experience and not let go. It is an intimate and reflective style of writing that makes the reader feel close to both actors and events.

I personally enjoyed getting to know both the author of the book and a bit more about Philip K. Dick, the friend of his friends. This is not a book for somebody looking to acquire facts and figures about Dick, or a comprehensive biography, warts and all. It isn’t a book that talks in detail about his writing (although there are references to his comments at the time and the stories he shared), and it isn’t a gossip column trying to settle grudges (and sadly this is not the first non-fiction book I read where the people really close to somebody are pushed aside by the individual’s official family when s/he is no longer able to do anything to prevent it). This book will be of interest to people who want to find a new dimension, a more personal one, to Dick the man rather than the myth. And also to readers who want to experience the era of the 1970s (and early 80s) in California as it would have been for a very talented and artistic group of friends. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall at some of those meetings. That’s not possible but at least I have this book.

Thanks to Maer Wilson for giving me the opportunity of reading and reviewing her new book, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, and CLICK!

Ah, and another author from the group, Carolynne Raymond (from Lady Maverick Publishing) has written a great post for readers so they can access some books by this talented group, and all for FREE! Check it here! (And yes, one of mine is available there).

Categories
Guest authors. Classics

#Guestclassicauthors Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Mother and daughter who helped change everything.

Hi all:

Happy Friday. As you know I’ve been revisiting some of my posts about classic authors (I promise I’ll try to find time to do some new ones soon, but I was surprised when I realised it had been three years already since I posted this one,  and I’m keen on making sure they are in my new blog too) and people seem to enjoy discovering (or in some cases rediscovering) them. As I’ve been talking a lot about mothers recently, with anthologies and events, it seemed of justice that I should share again the post about Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley. Two fascinating women who did much to change the way women were seen. And both lives, unfortunately, marked by personal tragedy. Here they are.
As you well know I like to bring you classic authors on Fridays. This time I thought I’d bring you a mother and daughter. Although unfortunately Mary Wollstonecraft died when her daughter (also Mary) was only a few days old (I’ve read 10 or 11) the two make a very interesting combination. Both are interesting women, both broke conventions (in the case of the mother, in particular, that haunted her reputation for years, even centuries, to come) and both are examples of the will to be yourself and to discover your own gifts and create yourself.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft.

There are many detailed biographies and I won’t attempt to give you all the details of her fascinating (although short, she died of puerperal fever at 38) life. I’ve left you some links but feel free to investigate by yourself.

She was born in London, in April 27th 1759. Her father has been described as violent (there are mentions of Mary sleeping across the door of her mother’s bedroom to prevent her father from beating her up) and very poor at managing his financial affairs and that resulted in the family having to move often. Her mother died in 1780 and she decided to earn a livelihood, not easy for a woman of a certain class and education at the time (as we’ve noted before, working class women have always worked. Women in rural areas have always worked in the fields apart from keeping a home and family). With her sister Eliza (who had left her husband and child encouraged by Mary) and fried Fanny, they established s school in Newington Green (1784). Based on her experiences there she wrote a pamphlet called Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787).

When her close friend Fanny died (in 1785), Wollstonecraft went to work as a governess in Ireland. Although the children of the family really loved her she did not enjoy the job and never got on well with lady Kingsborough, taking her as a model of the worst of aristocratic women, only interested in their appearances, vanity and status. She went back to London three years later and started working with Joseph Johnson, helping him set the Analytical Review, and becoming a regular contributor. She wrote one of her best-known works A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792. She denounced the position of women in society advocating for them to have access to the same educational opportunities as men (she also advocated for women’s vote).

In the same year whilst visiting a friend in France (it was the time of the French Revolution and many English intellectuals visited) she met Captain Gilbert Imlay, an American timber merchant. They started living together although they never got married and she had a daughter to him, Fanny. The relationship was fraught with problems and she visited Scandinavia in an attempt at keeping the relationship going, although he left her. She wrote: Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark that became her most popular book of the time. She tried to commit suicide twice (once by drowning jumping into the Thames, the other one possibly by Laudanum poisoning).

Back in London she met again William Godwin, founder of philosophical anarchism. Although both were against marriage, they did get married when she got pregnant. She had a baby girl, Mary, but had a difficult labour (18 hours) and the manual removal of the placenta resulted in infection and she died a few days later (10th of September 1797).

Godwin published her unfinished work Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman, where she gave voice to a prostitute and also acknowledged female sexual desire, a scandal at the time. He also wrote a biography giving a detailed account of her life, including her suicide attempts and having had a child whilst unmarried and that gave prominence to the scandal rather than to a serious view of her work. In more recent times her work has been greatly vindicated by the interest of feminist historians and also philosophers and educationalists.

 

Links to Mary Wollstonecraft:

In Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Wollstonecraft

BBC History:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/wollstonecraft_01.shtml

Spartacus Educational:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Wwollstonecraft.htm

Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wollstonecraft/

OregonState page and link to read A Vindication of the Rights of Women on line.

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/philosophers/wollstonecraft.html

Another link to A Vindication of the Rights of Women

http://www.bartleby.com/people/Wollston.html

Free Links to her books and writings (See also above for internet links):

Vindication of the Rights of Women:

http://www.amazon.com/Vindication-Rights-Woman-ebook/dp/B004TP7JMO/

Letters on Sweden, Norway and Denmark:

http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Sweden-Norway-Denmark-ebook/dp/B004TP232U/

Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman

http://www.amazon.com/Maria-Wrongs-Woman-ebook/dp/B0083Z4KAK/

mary-wollstonecraft-shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Born in London on 30th August 1797 (we know all about that). Her father William Godwin looked after her and Fanny (Mary’s first child by Imlay). Although it wasn’t a very formal education, her father had plenty of connections and she had access to interesting ideas and met some of the most brilliant thinkers and writers of the time when she was still very young (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth), including her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. She liked to read and daydream and also started writing at an early age.

Her father re-married Mary Jane Clairmont in 1801 but Mary never got on well with her step-mother. She had two children from a previous marriage and had a son with Godwin. Mary got on well with one of her stepsisters, Jane.

In the summer of 1812 she went to Scotland to stay with friends of her father, William Baxter and his family.

In 1814 (still very young) she started a relationship with Percy B. Shelley who had been a student of her father and was still married at that time. They ran away together accompanied by her stepsister (Jane Clairmont) and that alienated her from her father. They got married on 1816 when Shelley’s wife died (committed suicide).

They travelled through Europe and Mary lost two children. In 1816 during a summer when they were in Switzerland with Jane Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori, on a rainy day and after reading ghost stories, famously Lord Byron suggested that each one of them should try and write their own horror story. Mary Shelley started writing Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. (I understand that Polidori wrote a vampire story…) The finished version was published in 1818. This was published anonymously. The book was a big success and as Percy Shelley had written the introduction many thought it was his.

Her relationship with Shelley was difficult, they lost two other children but she had a son, Percy Florence (1819) who lived to be an adult. Her husband drowned whilst sailing in 1822.

She had to support herself and did it by writing (that wasn’t very easy for a woman at the time). She wrote several novels, including a science-fiction book (The Last Man, a dystopian novel). She also dedicated herself to promote her husband’s work.

She died of a brain cancer on 1st February 1851. She is buried at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth alongside her father, mother and the ashes of her husband’s heart.

William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin,...
William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, St Peter’s Churchyard, Bournemouth (Photo credit: Alwyn Ladell)

Frankenstein is and will remain her most famous work; it has an enduring hold on people’s imagination, and it has seen many adaptations, to theatre, TV, film…

Links to Mary Shelley:

Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Shelley

New World Encyclopaedia:

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Mary_Shelley

Links to movies based on her writings:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0791217/

Biography.com page:

http://www.biography.com/people/mary-shelley-9481497

 

Free Links to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s books:

Frankenstein:

http://www.amazon.com/Frankenstein-ebook/dp/B0084BN44Q/

Proserpine and Midas:

http://www.amazon.com/Proserpine-and-Midas-ebook/dp/B000JQUO92/

Mathilda:

http://www.amazon.com/Mathilda-ebook/dp/B00849RPGQ/

The Last Man:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Man-ebook/dp/B00847OOMG/

Thanks for reading. And don’t forget if you’ve enjoyed it to comment, share and CLICK!

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