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Fly Girl's Cabinet of Curiosities

curated by Thornton Rigg

Category

science fiction

From Darkest Skies : Sam Peters

… absorbing SF/crime thriller …
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An absorbing SF/crime thriller with strong characterisation surfing above some inventive and intricate world building.

Government Agent Rouse returns to the distant planet of Magenta to continue his duties whilst secretly investigating the murder of fellow agent and wife, Alysha.  He has brought with him an illegal AI shell of her, built from her data footprint.  Can Rouse find out what really happened on that train whilst tackling corporate crime and the drugs trade on Magenta?

I enjoyed Sam‘s characterisation, Rangesh in particular, and his sure way with dialogue.   He uses the contrast between Rouse’s grief and the team banter to great effect; and the novel also explores a human’s personal and intense relationship with AI.   It reads as though it was great fun to write and there’s clearly room for a sequel.

Recommended.

Cover design moment: Unfortunately, as this is an ARC, there’s no trace of a designer credit on the copy but – huzzah! – it has a WHITE background and strong, clear image.  UPDATE: Thanks to a heads up from Carole Heidi the design company is the brilliant Black Sheep.  Their website is here.

Sam’s biog reads: a mathematician, part-time gentle-person adventurer and occasional screenwriter who has seen faces glaze over at the words ‘science fiction’ once too often. … Has more hopes than regrets, more cats than children, watches a lot of violent contact sport and is an unrepentant closet goth.

This book is the second review in my British Books Challenge 2017.

From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters will be published by Orion on 20 April 2017.  Emily at Emily’s Bookshop lent me her review copy.  Thanks, Em!

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Black Light Express : Philip Reeve

... high adventure and dazzling inventiveness …

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Philip’s second book in this Railhead series continues to follow Zen Starling and Nova, the  almost human Motorvik.  His nuanced cast include Chandni Hansa, a “Popsicle Girl” because she was deep frozen in prison; the reluctant empress, Threnody; and the broken hearted Kobi Chen-Tulsi.  His individual style of storytelling builds sympathy and curiosity as they perform unexpected heroic acts amidst their bewilderment and wonder travelling across the New Worlds.  They  encounter terrifying aliens such as the deliciously feline Kraitt whilst all the time riding trains and running through Gates towards the mysterious Black Light Zone.

There’s a continuation of the gentle love story between Zen and Nova and the constant allure of the  Rail Network singing out across the galaxies but, perhaps what will stay with me the most, is the dazzlingly  inventiveness of his world.   He conjures visions of the mysterious Guardians constructed out of virtual code;  Uncle Bugs with his smiley face; and, as always, the sentient, singing trains of the Network Empire.

Highly recommended.

Cover design moment: A sequel to the first Rail Head design – again with the fore edge decoration – put together by designer Jo Cameron and her colleagues at OUP, using work by the brilliant Ian McQue.  You can see more of his work here.

Black Light Express was published on 6 October 2016 by Oxford University Press.  I bought my copy from Emily’s Bookshop. YAY.

Judging a Book by its Cover : Favourite Designs of 2016

I’ve been blogging for just about a year now and, during this time, I am gradually appreciating just how important the cover designs are and just how much thought goes into each one.   So I thought I’d take a moment to celebrate some of the truly brilliant covers that have passed through my hands.  My favourites complement their novel’s theme and genre whilst creating a stand out design to attract the browsing customer.

In no particular order, my top five are:

Beetle Boy by  M.G. Leonard.  These gorgeous illustrations are by Barcelona illustrator, Julia Sarda Portabella.  A link to her website is here.  I love the whole joie de vivre of the concept including the fore edge decoration – which is an added bonus.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.   The UK cover was designed by Cherie Chapman from the Harper Fiction team featuring an illustration by Philippines-based artist, Kerby Rosanes; it’s absolutely brilliant.  A real asset to the novel.  Here’s a link to Jay’s blog post where Cherie describes the design process.  I think it is so much better than the US design.

Blade and Bone by Catherine Johnson.   I loved this cover with its old engraving style and the clever use of colour to create a Tricolour impression.  The wonderful illustrator is Royston Knipe.  His website is here.

Cogheart by Peter Bunzl.   With Peter’s visual background in animation, it’s not surprising that the book has a great cover created by Kath Millichope, Fiction Designer at Usbourne.  There’s a lovely post by Middle Grade Strikes Back which includes an interview by Kath and the design animated by Peter.  The illustrations are by a wonderful American artist,  Becca Stadtlander.  Her work really enhances the story.  You can see more of it here.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I thought, on first picking it up, this was an old Fifties style design.  Of course, it’s a stylish remake by the Italian twin sisters, Anna and Elena Balbusso.  Their website is here.

Revenger : Alastair Reynolds

… perfect escapism …

An entertaining adventure about the sisters, Adrana and Arafura, who escape a genteel bankruptcy by signing up on Captain Rackamore’s sunjammer, travelling through space scavenging ancient technology from highly protected planets.

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The girls are both “bone readers,” who can pick up traces of spacecraft communication using skulls from an ancient civilisation and so are valuable members of his hard-bitten crew.  Experienced writer, Alastair Reynolds has developed a beautifully constructed universe with plenty of room for sequels and introduced a likable protagonist in Fura as she grows up fast amidst treachery and bravery, robots and alien artefacts.  He uses a fair bit of Victorian slang to suggest a pirate/sea dog atmosphere which I found slightly irritating but the story romps along to a satisfying climax.  A perfect escapist read.

Alastair Reynolds is the award-winning author and astrophysicist best known for his Revelation Space and his Poseidon’s Children series.

Cover design moment: The UK cover is a stylish update on the standard and old fashioned hard boiled SciFi design with a stand-out spine in contrasting red.  The designer has not been credited in the ARC and I couldn’t find any reference to them – even in the Cover Reveal GollanczBlog post … UPDATE : Thanks to a heads up from Carole Heidi the design company is the brilliant Black Sheep.  Their website is here.

Revenger will be published by Gollancz on 15 September 2016.  I read a copy lent to me by Emily at A Festival of Books.  Thanks, Em!

Chasing the Stars : Malorie Blackman

… love story, whodunit, psychological thriller in space …

This is a great read.  It’s a love story, a whodunit and a psychological thriller set on a space ship fleeing across28693621 enemy territory.  The narrative races away from the start with a splendid jeopardy piece showing the protagonist, Vee, as a very determined and compassionate girl – and the pace rarely slackens.   Sudden “accidents” and personal tensions amongst the desperate crew grow to a satisfying conclusion – and the hint of a sequel.

The story is told through the entwined narratives of the main characters, Vee and Nathan.  This approach gives the reader delicious insights, and humour, into the many misunderstandings  of their love affair.

I also enjoyed Malorie’s light referencing of multi-ethnicity, the class divisions and her take on marriage!

NB: There are some sex scenes – not too graphically  biological …but definitely a Young Adult book.

 

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