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.

The Gift Of Joy by Ian Whates

Book Cover The Gift Of Joy by Ian Whates

This book was part of the EdgeLit 2016 goodie bag.I thought it was an interesting choice. I’d heard of Whates but never read one of his books. This was is a collection of unrelated short stories. Whilst all science fiction these stories embodied the wealth of different ways that the genre has provided a diverse variety of settings and ways to tell a story.

Whilst I enjoyed all the stories in this book the most enjoyable bit of the book for me wasn’t in the stories, it was between the stories. No that wasn’t wasn’t me attempting to be clever I actually meant the spaces between the stories. After each story the author talks about the story. Whether it be that he wanted to write something based on that part of London or whether it was a particular type of dystopia that he’d always wanted to try there was something different after each story. This could have been a disaster but wasn’t. Partly from the endearing honesty and passion that comes across but mainly because every time I read the anecdote after a story I knew exactly why Whates had written the story. For me this added a new layer of interaction and feeling of being involved in the story. I loved that and would love to see this done again.

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would and only part of that is due to the anecdotes. I’d recommend buying this book just for them but the stories are well worth a read too.

I am Slaughter by Dan Abnett

I am Slaughter by Dan Abnett

I loved the title of this story. As I read through I thought I knew why it was called that but then there was another reason. These two reasons were opposed and created an interesting tension in my mind. I can’t wait to see how these clash and live up to the title.

It was a good idea to get Abnett to write the first book in this series. He has a way of creating lots of threads that are needed later on in a series without it seeming contrived and cluttered. The story flowed nicely.

At the start of this book the empire was strong with barely a threat to the central systems in generations. The old ways being replaced with pandering politics which seems scarily like a modern British parliament to me. Not a great sign. Sure enough as soon as the veneer was pulled back there were cracks the size of my credit card bill.

Some of my favourite Abnett books have been about the Inquisition. Ravenor and Eisenhorn gave me hours of pleasure. To see this side of the Ordos was really interesting for me. I particularly enjoyed the interplay between the head Assassin and the Inquisition senate representative. These two are used to performing duties that others deem unsavoury but that are required to protect the throne from enemies within, without and beyond. This created a tension to their interplay that seemed more dangerous and significant than the slaughter of a Space Marine Chapter.

I am reading this series in the form of audio books and the quality of the reading has been excellent without being hammy and overdone. I’ve already ordered the whole series. This is well worth a read.

Doublethoughts by Akala

Doublethoughts by Akala

I tried for a while to decide on words to describe Akala. It was a lot more difficult than I expected. Best known as a Grime rapper Akala to me he represents so much more. From his TED talk and Hip-hop Shakespare Company to his articulate and intellectual dismantling of the quasi-logic of British racist politicians through to his Oxford Union history talk. I could go on and cite dozens more fascinating things that Akala has been involved in but You’ll enjoy it and learn more if you go looking for yourself. You may be wondering why I’d mention these things before talking about a poetry book. This wasn’t just a collection of Grime lyrics laid out as a poetry book. This was a genuine poetry collection.

The book itself was a paperback. Akala self-published this material to maintain control of his supply line. Could he have made more money through other channels? Possibly. I admire the way he does everything he can to be responsible for his art. It can’t have been easy. When I read a small press or self-published book I always feel the paper. The quality of the paper can often tell you a lot about how much a piece of work is valued. As expected the paper used for this book was of good quality and a great medium for this work.

There was a utopian/distopian futuristic story to the first part of this collection. It centred around the strength of ignorance as a method of control. What I liked most about this part was not only how I could see it in how our own society is developing but how the seeds that control were already present now and a long way back in the past. It would be hard to talk about this book without mentioning slavery and the control of the proletarians throughout our history. I won’t. I don’t have the skill or intellect to do it anywhere as well as Akala does. The power of his delivery also conveyed his passion and knowledge on every page.

The second section of this book was more of the kind of collection and structure of poems that I am used to. The content though was hard hitting and thought provoking. There was one poem called Yours and My Children that I read over and over again. It really hit me hard. Part of me wanted to put the whole of that poem on here to show you but that would take away from discovering it where it should be found in this book. Below is the chorus that I still have echoing through my head several days after reading it.

Chorus

Kids in Iraq: Yours and my children
Kids in Iran: Yours and my children
Afghanistan: Yours and my children
Even Sudan: Yours and my children
Kids in Brazil: Yours and my children
Police drive by the favela and just kill them
Kids in Brazil: Yours and my children
Police drive by the favela and just kill them

Yours and My Children by Akala taken from Doublethoughts

The third and final section of this book showcased some of Akala’s amazing Grime. It included the lyrics to his seminal Fire in The Booth session and I found it fascinating to slow it down and really try to digest what he was saying. There was purpose and education in what he said not just in this section but throughout this collection. I’m finding it hard to be objective about this book because as with most things about Akala I found it thought provoking and belief challenging. I really hope Akala releases more material like this.

 

 

The Emperor Expects by Gav Thorpe

The Emperor Expects by Gav Thorpe

I didn’t so much read this as I did listen to it. I like audio books but they cost a lot more than I can afford more than once in a while. You’ll notice I didn’t say it was expensive. When everything involved is factored in I think that £20 was a fair price for this product. I bought this directly from the Black Library because I try to put money as close as I can to the content creators. This story was excellently narrated by Gareth Armstrong and had a great sense of gravitas.

This was the third book in The Beast Arises series. I hadn’t read the first two in the series and chose this one for a couple of reasons. Firstly the blurb made this sound like a book I would enjoy but more importantly it was by Gav Thorpe. For a gamer of my age the 3rd and 4th edition 40K codexes were things that I routinely broke the spines of through overuse (and that is without considering some of the really cool 40K novels written by Thorpe).

I wasn’t disappointed. There was a great variety of action in this book. From personal combat and system wide ship conflict to the political machinations of the High Lords of Terra.  The multiple threads of this story converge in to a shock ending that means I can’t possibly avoid buying the fourth story in the series. Whilst the politics of the Imperial Navy and their protracted tactical battles were interesting I love anything to do with The Inquisition. Throw in Assassins and you get a story that felt made for me.

I just need to decide whether to save up for the audio books or the physical books. For those really invested in making sure they have a whole series there is an option to buy the whole series in advance at a discount. This at first might sounds silly but I personally  hate it when I’ve read most of a series and it gets canned. This way there is a pretty good chance the series will complete if people have already paid for it. There are worse things to do with your money.