Outliers: 2016: Volume 1 (Outliers Saga)

Outliers 2016 Cover

This book was a collaboration between Jonathan Ward, Alec McQuay, James Fadeley, Robbie MacNiven, A.R. Aston, Manuel Mesones. For me the biggest downside to this book was that there were not more graphical elements like the luscious cover art. I’d loved to have seen a picture of Meld in New York. That would have been epic. If you haven’t read Outliers: The Shape Of Things To Come I highly recommend it. The format for this book was a lot more traditional than the primer and that could have spoiled this book for me, but it didn’t. I did find the odd memo and email worked well in this book but would have liked a couple more.

In some ways reading this felt a bit like watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D but there was a more gritty and realistic feel to it. I liked the fact that there wasn’t a binary confrontation. The different factions twisting and bumping together really added a depth to the story and had me itching to see how alliances and confrontations would change the balance of power.

It wasn’t until near the end it twigged that Snapshot was the character binding everything together. He was an unusual character and not at all the character I thought I’d be following. I was really impressed by how the characters developed seamlessly across the stories by different authors without appearing to compromise the voices of the individual authors.

I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next installment.

 

 

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

Book Cover House of Shattered Wings

Although I’m a fan of Aliette de Bodard I didn’t plan to buy this book.  I’ve never really been a fan of Paradise Lost and the plethora of fallen angel stories it has been inspired. Then I watched a video of the author being interviewed at Eurocon by Ian Whates and I knew I had to read it anyway.

As with everything Aliette de Bodard does this book took a simple and well used premise and twisted it until as the reader I forgot all about the premise. Sometimes after reading a book I’ll go and do some research about one thing or another, but one of the things that really made this book stand out for me was that at least a couple of times I stopped reading to go research something. The one that stood out for me was the symbolism of the Banyan tree. I now have an unhealthy fascination with looking at old and gnarly fig trees.

I have always been fascinated by food and food in fiction  when done well can be amazing. There was one line about the small of jasmine rice that evoked really strong memories for me. These references seem quite subtle as you read them but seem to have a massive effect.

This book could easily have come across as a clash of cultures and a battle of superiority not of the protagonists but on one religious tradition over another. It didn’t. I loved the way I was left feeling that regardless of your background we’re all doomed with that inkling of hope and redemption there to keep us sane.

As usual Aliette de Bodard has nail-gunned this one straight in to my brain and it is going to take me a while to get parts of this book and the ideas it has raised out of my head, and that is a great thing.

The Race by Joan De La Haye

The Race by Joan De La Haye

When I first saw this cover I didn’t like it. I’ve never been a fan of scantily clad female warriors (stop laughing) in fiction. In this case it made sense in some ways. This story was very much Running Man meets Xena with more than a little new world order conspiracy theory thrown in.

Like most of the author’s work there was a definite South African feel to this book. The slight differences from the usual British or American viewpoints has captured my attention yet again. This was a short fast-paced story that was effortless to read. There were no complications to get in the way of the pacing that I thought was vital to the feel of The Race.

I enjoyed this book. It was a great way to escape the daily grind and at the end I was left wondering ‘what if?’, and for me that has always been the hallmark of a successful book.

Outliers: The Shape of Things to Come (Outliers Saga Primers Book 1)

Book Cover Outliers

It would have been easy to view this as a trailer or an advert, because it was. There was much more to this than a simple advert though. This “book” had a wonderful look and feel. Why did I put bunny ear quotes around the word book? It didn’t feel like a book. It felt like a dossier. A collection of seemingly disparate materials brought together by a subtle thread. I could almost see the papers spread out across my desk. As an old role-playing gamer (I’m both old and played them for a long time) this felt like a particularly intriguing background section of a game. If you’ve ever played Achtung! Cthulhu the layout is similar but the artworks does seem crisper in this. The artwork really begs the reader to buy a paper copy or use a high quality screen to read it on. The different textures on the different letters and documentation worked really well to section things without obvious chapter headings. I liked that as it flowed really well.

This was more than a shiny bauble. For A Fistful Of Diamonds in particular was a particularly enjoyable read. It had vivid characters, a story that made sense and some twists on morality to get my head around. This story added punch and a feeling that it mattered. I really cared by the end of this. I’d have bought this just to read that story.

I finished this taster wanting more, much more. If this group of writers manage to pull together a lot of content at this level as coherently as they did here then it could be something spectacular.

 

 

And The Fox Crows by V.C. Linde

Book Cov er And The Fox Crows By V. C. Linde

Stephanie Johnson did an amazing job with this cover. My wife rarely says anything about the books I read but she said wow when she saw this cover. Upside down it kind of looked like lady bits, but that might just have been me projecting.

This book was all about foxes. I liked the way Pan was used to place the foxes within the world. This book challenged me as a reader. The thing that I liked the most was also the thing that made this difficult to read as a whole. These poems because of their origins have a different structure and rhythm. After reading the whole book in one go (it is about fifty pages so not that impressive) I went back and read each poem one at a time. It worked better when I did it that way as  I could focus on that poem rather than the overall flow that I usually look for.

I enjoyed this collection and was disappointed that there were not more poems as I could happily have read more. Foxes for me have always been a sign of wilderness. Even in an urban environment they seem to embody what it is to be out there alone in the wilds. That came across really well in this book.

Eve of War Edited by Mhairi Simpson and Darren Pulsford

Eve of War Cover Art

This book is yet another anthology from Fox Spirit. This is yet another example of their high quality work. I can’t remember a single typo that stopped the flow of my reading and that is something I really cherish in a book. This was a well structured and coherent tome that just worked. It has a different feel to other books by this publisher. The descriptions of the combat scenes were well thought out and I could see myself stepping through them in a way that I hadn’t felt in this kind of anthology before. It seemed like the authors wanted this book to feel like the movements were real rather than trying to exaggerate or try to create new body dynamics. I am pretty sure more skilled martial artists than me could re-create most of the combat with ease.

About three quarters through this book I was expecting to say that all of these stories are on a level and that there were no glaring dips in quality. That was until I read Lucille by Alec McQuay. That story hit me hard. It was so emotional not just because of the writing but by how it reminded me of my nan. I could easily see my nan’s inherent sense of justice and inability to accept bullying to lead her in to a similar situation. I’m not sure quite how to describe why I liked this story so much other than because of the raw emotion it engendered. I think I need to read that story a couple more times once it has settled in to me brain. The final story in this book was by Chloe Yates and yet again she made me laugh and entertained me. When I die I want Yates to write my epitaph because she is the mistress of one liners.

 

 

Wolf At The Door by Theresa Derwin

Wolf At The Door by Theresa Derwin

I’ve read a few stories by Theresa Derwin and I have always enjoyed her take on zombies. I’m not sure anybody else would have written a romantic comedy for zombies. I was looking forward to reading this to see what else the author could bring to the table.

I have read too many stories that fail at writing a period story to take anything for granted. This book manages to somehow manage a tone that suggests Victorian to me without resorting to obvious and heavy handed word choices. There was a light touch to the language that made me think the author had an old soul.

If the author had left it there this would have been a solid collection of stories, but she didn’t. There was a time warp between stories that was surprisingly easy to detect just from the author’s voice. Each time period had a completely different sound in my head. I didn’t need to think about the specific words or any titles about when a particular story was set. Everything I needed was there just below the surface.

I really enjoyed this book and will probably come back to it at some point to enjoy the voices.