Tag: Martha Wells


Review – All Systems Red

Posted 21 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of All Systems Red by Martha WellsAll Systems Red, Martha Wells

All Systems Red is the diary of a self-proclaimed murderbot — a part organic, part synthetic construct designed to protect groups of colonists, and perfectly capable of going wrong and killing them all. Hence, Murderbot — although our Murderbot has disabled the system that they think caused them to do that, and manages to take pretty good care of its little group of prospectors while also mainlining a ton of soaps and whatever other entertainment programs come its way.

I found it all very entertaining, but there was a more serious aspect, too: the Murderbot’s misanthropic attitude and even anxiety about interacting with humans, especially without its suit and opaque helmet on as a buffer. Thus the interactions with the team were a little sad as well as funny — if not sad, perhaps the right term would be invested with pathos, especially as they interact more and more with their employers (contractors? not sure quite what the term should be).

I was a little disappointed by the ending, leaving behind the established team. Obviously there’s gonna be more Murderbot, but… with a new cast otherwise? Boo. I was just getting to like ’em.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – City of Bones

Posted 3 April, 2015 by in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of City of Bones by Martha WellsCity of Bones, Martha Wells
Review from 15th July, 2013.

I don’t know what to think of this book. It’s my first Martha Wells book, and I’m promised some of her others are even better: this one is beautiful in its attention to detail, its careful worldbuilding. I enjoyed a lot that this is fantasy and post-apocalyptic work at the same time: we’re talking magic here, not science, not even science that looks like magic. This is what I’ve hungered for — a one-shot fantasy story that isn’t focused on romance or anything other than solid characters and a solid plot.

There’s a lot of really fascinating aspects to this world. There’s some interesting gender stuff going on with the main character, Khat. He’s part of an engineered race who are like humans but have various modifications to better suit the conditions of their post-apocalyptic world. One example being their ability to tell where north is by instinct. Another being the fact that both men and women can bear young in pouches. Then there’s the fact that the kris — Khat’s people — are sought after by some high class women because they can’t interbreed with humans: it’s not high class men taking advantage of poor women, but the other way round (in effect). And the high class women all have very short hair, while high class men wear veils. One of the main characters, Elen, has a powerful role to begin with and becomes more powerful in her society as the story goes on; the ruler’s heir is a woman.

At the same time, there’s some possessiveness around women and an expectation that they’ll stay home and have children, so it’s not quite turned completely around.

Khat is a great character: tough, smart, but not infallible and not all-knowing. I can believe in the people around him, the bonds he has to others — I love the awkwardness with Elen at the end, and the comfortableness he always has with Sagai because Sagai understands Khat isn’t going to confide everything in him. I liked that the “bad” characters aren’t completely one-sided (except the Inhabitants and perhaps the Heir), and though I saw it coming, I liked what became of “mad” Constans.

I love the details of the world, the fact that water is a commodity — which isn’t a hugely original idea, but which fits so well here and isn’t used as some kind of dystopic problem, but just as a background to the story, a part of the system of commerce and trade.

I really enjoyed the fact that this is sort of a fantastical Indiana Jones with aristocratic scheming moving the pieces, too. The details of the relics, the academic discussions around them… That’s my world, really, at least on the literature side of things, and it’s lovely to have a hero for whom that is a big draw.

There’s a lot of genuine sense of wonder and beauty, here, and the author steers away from a too-convenient ending. People die, friendships are stillborn, and the world ticks on as before with the person who made that possible barely rewarded. Very enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Wells’ stuff.

Rating: 4/5

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Farewell to Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A

Posted 20 June, 2014 by Nikki in General, Giveaways / 60 Comments

I was really sad and shocked today when I was scrolling through twitter and saw this sudden announcement from Angry Robot:

As you will be aware, Angry Robot Books has a history of innovation and we continue to go from strength to strength. We’re constantly trying out new concepts and new ideas, and we continue to publish popular and award-winning books. Our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our crime/mystery imprint Exhibit A have – due mainly to market saturation – unfortunately been unable to carve out their own niches with as much success.

We have therefore made the difficult decision to discontinue Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, effective immediately, and no further titles will be published from these two imprints.

A few links:
The announcement
A former intern’s farewell
Gwenda Bond’s reaction post
Kim Curran’s post
The Bookseller’s article
The Bookseller reports on potential sales from Osprey
Commentary from Fantasy Faction
Kameron Hurley’s post
Sean Cummings’ post
Laura Lam’s post
Laura Lam giveaway (INT)
Rachel Neumeier’s post
Strange Chemistry book giveaway (INT)
Blog hop

That’s not all that’s out there by a long shot, but that should give everyone an idea of the fanbase those imprints had out there, and how shocking the news was for everyone. I’ve been a fan of Angry Robot and everything they do for a while, especially since I won the Robot for a Day competition (where I met the staff and the blogger who was at that point their intern, Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts). I have a huge backlog of their stuff to read, from all three imprints, but I think I might spend this weekend finally getting round to books by Kim Curran, Laura Lam, Gwenda Bond, etc.

The good news is, the books already published will still be supported by Angry Robot, and rights for future books are reverting to the authors. The bad news is that various books that were slated to come out in the next few months won’t be, some series aren’t going to be finished (at least not with Strange Chemistry), and some authors don’t know where they can go next.

I’m going to follow the example of one of the posts linked above and do a giveaway of some of my favourite Strange Chemistry books. Comment with which you want to be entered for, and I’ll pick at random on the 1st July. You can enter for multiple books, but you will only win one. If you would prefer ebooks, we can probably arrange something, but the idea is that I will buy copies via The Book Depository and send them straight to you. I want to encourage new readers to get their mitts on these books and generate some buzz that might help the authors place future books with publishers! And yes, this is international.

So, without further ado, the giveaways:

  • Martha Wells, Emilie & The Hollow World.
  • Sean Cummings, Poltergeeks.
  • Rachel Neumeier, Black Dog.
  • Cassandra Rose Clarke, The Assassin’s Curse.
  • Winner’s choice of any book from Strange Chemistry or Exhibit A.

And honestly? I wish it could be more. I have so much sympathy with all the authors and staff affected. Let’s give them a good send off!

ETA: So, the winners! Grace won Emilie & the Hollow World; majoline won Poltergeeks; Erin won Black Dog; ameliazane won The Assassin’s Curse; Jessica won the winner’s choice (and chose Gwenda Bond’s Blackwood). All of them have been emailed and all of them responded already, so the books have been ordered and are en route.

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Review – Emilie & the Sky World

Posted 23 January, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Emilie and the Sky World by Martha WellsEmilie & The Sky World, Martha Wells

I was pretty excited for Emilie & The Sky World, so I moved it up the reading queue when I got the ARC, along with the previous book which I only recently finished. It really is a great girl’s own adventure story, with plenty of strong, capable women and some intriguing other races — in the previous book, Rani and Kenar, in this book, Hyacinth. I love that while Wells has a fertile imagination, she doesn’t tell all she knows — Hyacinth leaves at the end of the book, with so many questions still hovering around it.

The Emilie books are very fast-paced, and I agree with people who say they feel quite slight. Definitely not the same audience as City of Bones (my other read by Wells), but it’s not the book’s fault if it doesn’t work with an audience it’s not meant for. I mean, it’s on the Strange Chemistry imprint, not Angry Robot: I’m expecting YA, and that’s what you get here — perfectly pitched, to my mind.

There are a couple of nitpicks, maybe. Emilie vacillates a bit between being a total kid and a capable person, but… that happens, with teenagers, so it isn’t so strange. I enjoyed the realism of her relationship with Efrain, her younger brother, and the bit at the end where she resolves things with her uncle. It isn’t perfect — it’s awkward as heck — but it feels genuine.

Also loved the casual inclusion of an LGBT relationship. It just feels so… normal. Martha Wells isn’t making that dumb mistake of just taking the mores of our (past) societies just to borrow the steampunk motifs that work for her. I like that a lot.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 23 January, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
The last thing I read was the Ultimate Hawkeye comic, I think. Not a big fan. And before that, J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Archive, which again, not a big fan of. Before that, though, it was Emilie & the Hollow World (Martha Wells), which makes a great girl’s own adventure story.

What are you currently reading?
Fiction: Emilie & the Sky World (Martha Wells), the sequel to the book mentioned above! It’s an ARC and I’m very much enjoying it. I wanted to finish it today, but work got in the way…

Non-fiction: Through the Language Glass: Why the world looks different in other languages? (Guy Deutscher). It’s fascinating to read a longer explanation of the issues like the Ancient Greek epithet for the sea, the “wine-dark sea”, and why that arose from seeing colour differently.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Black Dog (Rachel Neumeier), as she’s stopping by my blog on her blog tour (post coming up on 31st January, if I remember rightly), from my ARCs. I also want to start on Stolen Songbird (Danielle L. Jensen).

And then there’s also What Makes This Book So Great (Jo Walton), which I will be buying in the morning. (Not now, I don’t need another excuse to procrastinate and get distra

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Review – Emilie & The Hollow World

Posted 18 January, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of Emilie & The Hollow World by Martha WellsEmilie & the Hollow World, Martha Wells

I’ve only read one of Martha Wells’ books before, but that was enough to make me a fan. Compared to that one, City of Bones, Emilie & the Hollow World is a much more simplistic story, but I still enjoyed it a lot. Someone described it as a “girl’s own adventure” story, which I think is pretty accurate. The main character Emilie is resourceful: I don’t understand people who are criticising it saying she spends the first half of the book just following people around. She runs away from home, stows on board a ship, saves someone’s life with impulsive action, and immediately starts making sensible suggestions to the crew of said ship.

Now, if you were to say she’s a bit wish-fulfillmenty, well yeah, maybe. But heck, I loved Emilie’s adventures and her resourcefulness; I don’t see why it should be odder for a girl to be plucky and resourceful than for a boy. There’s also people complaining that she doesn’t act like a Victorian girl, but… this isn’t meant to be set in the Victorian period? It’s plainly another world entirely, for all that the vaguely steampunkish trappings might make you think it’s just alternate Victoriana, and there’s a hint of Victorian-ish morals around Emilie’s family. Still, those’re parallels; that doesn’t mean Wells has to stick with it.

Which brings me to another point I really liked — the world-building. I expected that, from the standard City of Bones set, and while this is lighter, that imagination is still there. I loved, for example, the half-underwater city. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything quite like that before. There’s other stuff to appreciate, too, like the casual flipping of gender roles where Rani talks about Kenar pining for her, and when they reunite, she spins him around in her arms!

Overall, very much looking forward to my ARC of Emilie & The Sky World.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 17 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 1 Comment

Some other blogs I follow do this meme, every Tuesday, and it seemed like a good idea. So! This week the top ten theme picked by The Broke and the Bookish is “top ten new-to-me authors in 2013”. This is pretty hard — I’m rubbish at picking top tens — but hey, with this one I just need to use Goodreads and look among my four and five starred books for this year, and hopefully I should be able to figure something out. They will not, I warn, be in any particular order.

  1. Cassandra Rose Clarke. I loved The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, which reminded me of a more daring, personal The Positronic Man (Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg). All sorts of themes which I love, and there’s something so powerfully sensual about it, too — there’s a physicality to it that surprised me and moved me.
  2. Georgette Heyer. I think I may technically have read one or two of her detective novels in 2012, but I kept away from her Regency romances, because I thought that was obviously not my thing. How wrong I was! The Talisman Ring, The Reluctant Widow and The Grand Sophy were probably my favourites. Heyer’s romances are actually way more fun (for me) than her detective novels, and often wickedly funny too.
  3. Karen Lord. I’ve only read part of The Best of All Possible Worlds, but I’m enjoying it, and I really loved Redemption in Indigo. Folk-story type narration and structure, awesome female characters, etc.
  4. Martha Wells. I’ve only read City of Bones, but I loved it. Non-traditional gender stuff, avoids the easy way out, lots of tasty, tasty world building. I think I’ve bought almost all the rest of her books as a result.
  5. Franny Billingsley. Oh my goodness, Chime. Just, oh my goodness. I loved the narration, the magic, the things it said about abuse and surviving and living again. I also enjoyed The Folk Keeper and Well Wished — less so, and they’re less touching/heavy subjects, but they’re a lot of fun too.
  6. Arthur C. Clarke. Yeah, I know, I’m a bit late on this one. But I really enjoyed 2001: A Space Odyssey. I didn’t realise that I’d enjoy his writing style so much — I had him sort of filed away as maybe like H.G. Wells, interesting for ideas but not quite entertaining. Wroooong.
  7. Lord Dunsany. Yeah, again, I know. I read Time and the Gods and am determined to spend more time reading his stuff: it’s just the sort of mythic, rich stuff I can really dig into.
  8. C.J. Sansom. I’ve been meaning to read his stuff for quite a while, but this year I finally got round to it. I enjoy his writing style, and while there are bones I have to pick with the Shardlake books, I do enjoy his way of portraying that time period and his choice of protagonist.
  9. Chris F. Holm. About time another Angry Robot author showed up, doncha think? I love Dead Harvest, etc: it’s funny, it’s a good pastiche of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett et al., and the covers are amazing. I just had so much fun reading these books.
  10. David Weber. He and Aliette de Bodard fought a fierce battle for this last spot, but he won. I loved On Basilisk Station, despite many flaws I could find in it. I mean, ten pages of exposition slap bang in the middle of an epic space chase/battle. WHAT. But still. I love Honor and I’m looking forward to reading more of the series.

I’m being good and sticking to the letter of the law: only a top ten. The top ten books I read in 2013 is coming up not next week but the week after: goodness knows how I’ll manage with that. But for now, off I go to bury my nose in the pages of I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Alan Bradley).

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