Book Review – Accessing the Future: A Disability-Themed Anthology of Speculative Fiction

25831873

Goodreads Synopsis:

The fifteen authors and nine artists in this volume bring us beautiful, speculative stories of disability and mental illness in the future. Teeming with space pirates, battle robots, interstellar travel and genetically engineered creatures, every story and image is a quality, crafted work of science fiction in its own right, as thrilling and fascinating as it is worthy and important. These are stories about people with disabilities in all of their complexity and diversity, that scream with passion and intensity. These are stories that refuse to go gently.

Review:

So this is the third book I’ve read so far for Sci-Fi month over on Twitter but I’ve decided to review it first just because it’s so fantastic. I bought this a while ago on Amazon when I had some money left on a gift card then forgot about it for a while until this month. I’ve been trying to focus on reducing my physical TBR pile for Sci-Fi month (especially as then I can take a photo at the end of them all in a nice stack) but I just had to make an exception for this as it sounded fantastic.

Before we even get to the stories, there is a fantastic introduction which discusses the fact that not only does this attempt to represent a diverse range of disabilities, but it wants to ensure the people portrayed are equally as diverse, acknowledging that a lot of disability awareness focuses on straight white people. I was very impressed with that and glad to know they were making a conscious effort to be as inclusive as possible.

The range of disabilities represented is very interesting ranging from physical to mental, including even discussing how many disabilities are due to culture and so one story is focused on imagining what a future would be like where grief is considered a disability. I won’t say too much about the stories themselves but there is a fantastic range and I really enjoyed them all. It’s hard to pick a favourite since all the characters are brilliant and well portrayed.

Along with short stories, there are also several pieces of artwork. Each piece of artwork is followed by a description of the image for those who are unable to see it, which I was particularly pleased to see in a collection focused on disabilities. Unfortunately, there is not an audiobook version yet but I hope there will be one eventually to make it even more accessible. Even though my sight is fine, there were details mentioned in the descriptions that I hadn’t noticed which helped enrich my enjoyment of the art. My favourite piece of artwork though is definitely the cover, which was one of the reasons I bought the book in the first place.

I highly, highly recommend this collection. It’s incredibly diverse and full of great sci-fi. I’ve already got several friends to buy it just because I’ve been gushing about it so much and if it was possible to gift Kindle books in the UK, I’d definitely have bought it for several more.

Book Review – The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett

13327362

Goodreads Synopsis:

Membership in the razor neck crew is for life. But when Taggert, who can heal and hurt with just a touch, receives a call from the past he is honor bound to try and help the woman he once loved try to find her daughter. Taggert realizes the girl has more power than even he can imagine and has to wrestle with the nature of his own skills, not to mention risking the wrath of his enigmatic master and perhaps even the gods, in order keep the girl safe. In the end, Taggert will have to delve into the depths of his heart and soul to survive. After all, what really matters is family.

Review:

I got this book in a Humble Book Bundle and so knew almost nothing when I started reading it other than the fact that I loved the name. This is an urban fantasy novel which is a genre that I don’t read that much however this has certainly made me want to read more as I adored it.

The main thing I love about this book is the fact that all the characters have different powers. Taggert, the main character, is able to heal while other characters have powers such as creating illusions. Not only this, but the characters are all very diverse with a range of different ethnic backgrounds.

The novel starts off in Morocco with Taggert who then travels to London and is on the hunt for a missing girl. Taggert is also able to change his appearance and so because of this, the book tackles issues such as racism in a subtle way. There is one particular scene in a taxi that I really enjoyed that deals with racism and class differences and it’s all very natural as it’s something that the characters obviously have to deal with in their everyday lives.

The writing can be a bit weak at points, however it is the authors first book so that’s understandable and I still thoroughly enjoyed this entire novel and am keen on reading more of his work. I’d definitely recommend this and again, this would fit into a couple categories in the Fantasy Bingo challenge.

Book Review – Sea Foam and Silence by Lynn E O’Connacht

30640172

Goodreads Synopsis:

Be careful what you wish for…

She warned of the pain. She did.
But no warning can prepare you.
Nothing can.

How could I have known
What it is like on the dry sand?
We just watched.

It’s hard, not being able to ask
Questions, though I have learned some speech
With my hands. ˆ_ˆ

I miss my sisters.

I have made friends here.
I have laughed with them,
Learned with them, played with them.
I love them.

She said I would die if he loves someone else.
Will I die? At the beginning I wanted to. It hurts
So much. Life isn’t easy, will never be easy, but…
I don’t want to become sea foam.

Review:

This is another book I read thanks to the fantastic Ace Book Club on Twitter and when they announced it I thought it sounded amazing! A little mermaid re-telling in verse with an asexual character? Wow! Unfortunately, this book was just not for me, however, the reasons I didn’t love it were all personal to me and so other people will likely love it for the exact reasons I didn’t enjoy it.

First I’ll start with the writing itself. It’s written in verse and I’m a huge fan of verse novels. Unfortunately, this is in free verse and so to me and my background in very strict forms it was something I struggled with a lot. However, to people that aren’t used to verse novels then free verse is the perfect way to introduce them to the concept because it’s much easier to read. It’s also written in first person and I’m also not a big fan of that. There are also a lot of emoticons used in the text and again, that’s just my personal preference but all these things combined to make me really dislike the way it was written but since it was so short, I kept reading the entire thing. What I’d say is that the extract from Goodreads is a perfect example and if you enjoy that, you’re likely to enjoy it all.

Now that we’ve got the parts I didn’t like out of the way, let’s focus on the amazing parts. For example, the world building in this is really, really good. Unfortunately, we’re restricted a lot in what we see due to the first-person narrative and so just get wonderful glimpses of mermaid society. I also really enjoyed the characters and their interactions and although the main character seemed incredibly naive at points which is something I usually dislike, it makes total sense for somebody not used to human society to appear very naive. I shouldn’t really need to mention it given that it was for Ace Book Club so seems self explanatory but obviously the fact that there are asexual characters was another fantastic inclusion and I really enjoyed that interpretation (Not only is the main character asexual, she also definitely seems aromantic too)

Despite personally not being a fan, I would definitely still recommend this to others because it was just my own personal preferences that stopped me from enjoying it and there was nothing objectively bad about it – I’m just super picky in my verse narratives and found it difficult to get over that. However, for those that enjoy free verse (or have never read any verse narratives) then you should definitely read it as the world and the characters are just enchanting and you’ll be left wanting to know so much more and wishing you could spend more time with them in the fantastic world that has been created.

Book Review – Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver

31938167

Goodreads Synopsis:

The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.

The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.

Regan, stealth and reconnaissance expert with a lizard’s scales and snake’s eyes, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. His ability to disappear into thin air isn’t enough: he needs an escape, and he’ll do anything for a chance. Unluckily for him, Hans, a ghostly boy with a chilling smile, knows just the thing to get one. It starts with a little murder.

But instead of ending a man’s life, Regan starts a new one of his own. He turns away from that twisted path, and runs into Evelyn, fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now Regan has a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.

They join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and her wife Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.

Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Unfortunately, Hans isn’t above playing dirty, lying, cheating, manipulating… and holding Regan’s memories hostage until he gets his way.

Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…

Review:

Gosh, I’m not quite sure where to start with this novel because I just adored it so much. Seriously, it’s probably going to be one of my top novels of the year because it’s just amazing in so many different ways.

First off, I got a free review copy of this through AceBookClub on Twitter which is a fantastic book club and I’d definitely recommend it. It’s so nice and refreshing to read stories that don’t focus on romance. They’re ace. Literally.

So, the summary from Goodreads is comprehensive enough that I don’t really need to discuss much in terms of the plot and instead I’m going to focus on the amazing characters. They’re all just so wonderful with a range of interesting powers such as Rose, one of my favourites, whose power revolves around plants. Also, three of the characters are in a healthy polyamorous relationship with a child that’s been established before the novel starts and so it’s just full of lovely love for each other and their child. Rose has a prosthetic leg (made by one of her wives), Regan suffers from anxiety and Evelyn is trans and there is a small section focusing on the importance of using the correct pronouns when referring to her. And of course, because this was for AceBookClub there are of course asexual characters. As you can see from the book cover, the characters are also from a range of ethnicities with a large variety of skin colours.

While reading this book, I was constantly delighted to discover more and more diversity while also enjoying a fantastic plot. It was super enjoyable to read and I just fell in love with all the characters and I was so happy to see parts of my identity represented in a really amazing setting and in characters with lots of fantastic powers. The entire book was just a delight and I ended up finishing it way before AceBookClub which is why this review is so late as I wanted to wait until they’d finished before posting it and then it was February and I was only posting reviews of black authors.

I highly, highly recommend this book and I’ll probably be constantly recommending it all the time because it’s just that great. I also have a review of one of the short stories, Runtime, which is a prequel and serves as a great and cheap introduction to the world of Parole if you’re not sure about making the commitment to buying the book.

Book Review – The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

19095646

Goodreads Synopsis:

For years, Rafi Delarua saw his family suffer under his father’s unethical use of psionic power. Now the government has Rafi under close watch but, hating their crude attempts to analyse his brain, he escapes to the planet Punartam, where his abilities are the norm, not the exception. Punartam is also the centre for his favourite sport, wallrunning – and thanks to his best friend, he has found a way to train with the elite.

But Rafi soon realises he’s playing quite a different game, for the galaxy is changing; unrest is spreading and the Zhinuvian cartels are plotting, making the stars a far more dangerous place to aim. There may yet be one solution – involving interstellar travel, galactic power and the love of a beautiful game.

Review:

Before I start my review, I need to make it very clear that this book is a sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds and so I recommend not reading this if you’ve not read that because it may contain minor spoilers.

So, as I said this is a sequel although it’s more a companion novel than a direct sequel as it focuses on a minor character from the first book and although several of them do appear in this, it’s only as small cameos and not for very long.

In the first book, Rafi’s father was discovered to be abusing his Psi abilities and was arrested and Rafi, having similar abilities, was sent to a school to learn how to control himself. This book starts off with Rafi at the school where he is very interested in a sport called Wall Running. He then runs away from the school to another planet, Punartam, with his friend Ntenman where he starts making connections and learning about the society there which follows some strict rules regarding social connections. As we follow Rafi and his journey, a lot of things are going on in the background in the galaxy and Rafi ends up involved with these events due to his skills.

It’s hard to review this book as there are some things I absolutely adored, and some things I really didn’t enjoy. For example the book would often change perspectives between different characters but would not make it clear this was happening. It would have been a bit nicer for this to be made more obvious as although I was able to quickly spot it most times, it did sometimes take me a sentence or two to realise that it was now Ntenman’s POV rather than Rafi’s. Another thing is that I just didn’t connect to the characters the same was as I did to Delarua and the rest of the crew from the first book. I found it interesting reading about them, but I didn’t feel so engrossed in their lives that I had to know more. Indeed, I kept reading not for Rafi but for the worldbuilding which continues to be excellent and I really enjoy all the glimpses of the different planets and societies in this Galaxy. I also enjoyed the fact that it was a Sci-Fi novel that focused a lot on a sport as that’s something I don’t often see and so was quite refreshing. I definitely grew to enjoy the book more as I read, and I feel that having read it once, a second read-through would make it more enjoyable (indeed I re-read the very beginning which made a lot more sense after reading and did enjoy it a lot more than the first time where I was slightly confused)

So yes, this is a difficult book to discuss as although I did end up really enjoying it, it is very different from the first book and I can definitely see it disappointing a lot of people who are expecting a direct sequel. As I said, the worldbuilding in it continues to be excellent and I would still recommend it because of how much I like Karen Lord but I would want to make sure people are aware of what they’re getting into. I did notice a lot of negative reviews based on the fact that people didn’t realise it was a sequel  and I can definitely understand that as although it could stand alone, it’s going to be a lot more confusing if you don’t already know the information about the civilisations we learn in the first book.

Book Review – Butterfly Fish by Irenosen Okojie

25730083

I picked this book up from the library both for #DiverseAThon and because it seemed like a perfect choice for task number 2 of the Read Harder Challenge – “Read a debut novel”. I didn’t know much about it before I started, but the cover really appealed to me and the blurb sounded interesting.

The book focuses mainly on two characters. Joy is a young woman in modern day London, coping with the death of her mother and has received a strange inheritance of a brass head and the diary of her grandfather. Adesua is a young woman from a village in the Benin Empire (now Nigeria) and has just been chosen as the latest wife of the King. She is given a gift of a brass head by him and has to deal with the jealousy of the other wives. The book alternates between the two of them, along with a couple of chapters focusing on Queenie, Joy’s mother, and then also starts sharing entries from the diary. The book is a journey, focusing on Joy discovering more about the history of her family and all the characters are linked together by the brass head.

The writing in this book is an absolute delight to read, the descriptions and choice of language is wonderful and made you want to read slowly and savour it. My favourite character was Adesua and I would keep reading to get back to her chapters. I found it quite slow to start as at the beginning, I was not the biggest fan of Joy but I grew to like her more as the book went on and by the end I was hooked. All the characters are really well developed, including all the side characters like the wonderful Mrs Harris, Joy’s neighbour, and the various settings were fantastic. I really enjoyed reading about Benin and plan to read some non-fiction to learn more about the empire.

This is a book I would definitely recommend, particularly to those readers who enjoy magical realism.

8 Sci-Fi Books featuring Muslim characters to add to your TBR list!

There’s been a lot on Twitter recently about #MuslimShelfSpace and one genre I’ve not seen mentioned much is that of Sci-Fi, so I present to you a list of Sci-Fi stories featuring Muslim characters to add to your to-read list.

6993091

 

ISTANBUL: QUEEN OF CITIES. Here histories, empires, and continents meet and cross. It is the mid-twenty first century and Turkey is a proud and powerful member of a European Union that runs from the Atlantic to Mt. Ararat.

In the sleepy Istanbul district of Eskiköy stands the former whirling dervish house of Adem Dede. Six characters’ lives revolve around it.

Over the space of five days of an Istanbul heat wave, these lives weave a story of corporate wheeling and dealing, Islamic mysticism, political and economic intrigues, ancient Ottoman mysteries, a terrifying new terrorist threat, and a nanotechnology with the potential to transform every human on the planet.

 

223379

 

In medieval Baghdad, a penniless man is brought before the most powerful man in the world, the caliph himself, to tell his story. It begins with a walk in the bazaar, but soon grows into a tale unlike any other told in the caliph’s empire. It’s a story that includes not just buried treasure and a band of thieves, but also men haunted by their past and others trapped by their future; it includes not just a beloved wife and a veiled seductress, but also long journeys taken by caravan and even longer ones taken with a single step. Above all, it’s a story about recognizing the will of Allah and accepting it, no matter what form it takes.

13239822

In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups—from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif—the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the state’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancé is the “Hand of God,” as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground.

When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen.

132694

 

In a decadent world of cheap pleasures and easy death, Marid Audrian has kept his independence the hard way. Still, like everything else in the Budayeen, he’s available…for a price.
For a new kind of killer roams the streets of the Arab ghetto, a madman whose bootlegged personality cartridges range from a sinister James Bond to a sadistic disemboweler named Khan. And Marid Audrian has been made an offer he can’t refuse.

The 200-year-old “godfather” of the Budayeen’s underworld has enlisted Marid as his instrument of vengeance. But first Marid must undergo the most sophisticated of surgical implants before he dares to confront a killer who carries the power of every psychopath since the beginning of time.

189173

Four centuries after humanity has colonized the galaxy, information freight companies are used as an alternative to electronic communication. On one of her frequent trips into deep space, Katmer Al-Shei, owner of one of the smaller information companies, is accused of smuggling artificial intelligence. When Al-Shei tries to clear her name, she uncovers conspiracy after conspiracy, all set against the backdrop of a looming war.

 

 

7695933

 

Written for the discerning science fiction reader, the book races from the creation to apocalypse and from the ordinary to utter insanity, while the fire smoldering between the words may indeed set preconceptions alight. He who doesn’t lose himself doesn’t understand or he who understands loses himself. Translated seamlessly by English writer and translator Feyza Howell.

 

 

18309979

 

HWJN is the #1 selling Arabic book in Saudi, it is a mix between fantasy, SciFi and romance. While most people get excited about legends of spirits and genies (Jinn) and pass it on as the listen to it with awe and horror (after adding their own spices to it); here comes Hawjan. The young Jinni who is in his early nineties to redefine our understanding of the Jinn world that resembles ours in so many ways, still it is a parallel dimension to ours. He shares his tale so that we can live it through a “human” perspective regardless of the differences between our two worlds.

 

26203561

 

How would the world look like if major historical events in the Islamic world played out differently? How would technology develop?
#Yaqteenya is an alternate history novel that explores those questions from an Middle Eastern point of view, in a setting that is part SciFi and part fantasy.

Yaqteenya is facing its first civil war, To save it from it self, Al-Baz needs to break its #1 law and leave Yaqteenay to find answers about the truth that the rulers of the land.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Are there any books I missed out that you think should be included? Let me know!

All the descriptions and cover images are taken from Goodreads. Clicking on the cover image will bring you to the relevant Goodreads page.

#DiverseAThon 2017

6yx_cffm_400x400

So, I’m taking part in the #DiverseAThon over on twitter that’s running for the rest of the week and I’m very excited about it. The most exciting thing is definitely going to be seeing all the wonderfully diverse books people are reading and I expect my tbr list is going to be significantly larger at the end of the week.

I’m very much a “mood reader” and dislike planning out what I’m going to read too much. If I have a huge list, that’s fine because something is bound to appeal but for this, I’ve decided to just pick three books that I’m really excited about reading and then the rest will be picked as I go.

So, the three books I’m definitely planning on reading are:

16248223

 

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

 

30626608

 

Award-winning translator and author Ken Liu presents a collection of short speculative fiction from China. Some stories have won awards; some have been included in various ‘Year’s Best’ anthologies; some have been well reviewed by critics and readers; and some are simply Ken’s personal favorites. Many of the authors collected here (with the obvious exception of Liu Cixin) belong to the younger generation of ‘rising stars’.

 

 

 

 

27969081

“A seamless blend of fantasy and Latinx culture, Labyrinth Lost feels both strikingly authentic and badly needed: in the overwhelming white world of YA literature, a cast of characters comprised almost entirely of people of color—combined with a fantasy world both inspired by a non-white culture and written by a member of that culture—is sure to change the lives of many teens who rarely see themselves reflected in the books they read. But there is another layer of importance to the novel, and that is Alex’s bisexuality. Presented matter-of-factly, without any cheesy plot twist attached, her bisexuality becomes visible but not defining, and the mere fact of its healthy portrayal makes it essential to a group of queer people long erased in mainstream media.” —Lambda Literary

 

A couple other books on my tbr list that I might get around to are Huntress by Malinda Lo, Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed and Beauty and Cruelty by Meredith Katz.

Book Review – Augustown by Kei Miller

30988454

I picked this up from the library from their display of quick reads because the cover was just so striking. I’d briefly heard of it before and it was on my Goodreads to-read list and so I figured I would give it a shot, knowing almost nothing about it.

The book is set in the fictional area of Augustown in Kingston, Jamaica, which is based on a real area called August Town. It follows the story of a family and the events that occur after a young boy called Kaia comes home in tears, having had his dreadlocks cut off by his teacher. His great aunt, Ma Taffy, tells him a story of the flying preacherman to calm him down while they wait for his mother to return home. His mother Gina, or Miss G, works for the headmistress of the school and has her own secrets. The story is short, but delightfully written and I really connected with all the characters.

All the characters are very well developed, and even the ones I disliked (such as the teacher) were still well rounded and interesting to read about. The book jumps between the present day and the past with Ma Taffy’s story and is a delight to read. One thing I particularly enjoyed was the use of Jamaican Patois in the novel which really helped to immerse me in the atmosphere and it was very interesting to figure out what the words meant.

I adored this book and found the writing absolutely fantastic so not only do I highly recommend it, I’m also definitely adding the authors other books to my to-read list and I hope they will be just as wonderful.