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MT Anderson

Candlewick Press (2002)

ISBN: 978 0 7636 2259 6

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

American writer MT Anderson’s Feed is a remarkable story. Set in the dying years of a planet earth stripped of its natural resources, it traces a brief few months of a group of teenagers as seen through the first person viewpoint of Titus.

The story begins on a frat visit to the moon, where the teen friends try to grab underage thrills. Titus becomes enraptured with Violet, an enigmatic teenager whose home schooling has given her an altogether different view of their lifestyle.

Titus and his mates are über consumers, linked into an all pervasive feed through neural nets. They can barely take a breath without being bombarded by advertisements for goods recommended based on buying patterns. They are a vacuous bunch, ignorant thanks in part to corporatised education of history or politics, either present or past, with little to no awareness of current events outside the latest fashion trends. Even the lesions slowly eating their flesh are turned into fashion statements rather than warnings of a world on its last legs; one in which the environment is so toxic everyone lives in climate controlled bubbles. Read the rest of this entry »

James SA Corey

Expanse, book 2

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 9781841499901

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

This review contains spoilers for Leviathan Wakes, the first in this series.

Leviathan Wakes centred primarily around two characters: James Holden, somewhat reluctant captain of a fairly small spaceship who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then things got worse; and a detective straight out of the pulps, whose obsession with finding a missing girl took him all sorts of interesting places and got him involved in some very, very messy stuff.

When Caliban’s War opens, Miller (the detective) is gone, and Holden is trying to figure out what to do with his now-smaller crew on his very shiny, somewhat illegal and quite fast Rocinante. But events begin with two completely new characters. In the Prologue, a young girl is taken from her creche and shown a man who is not a man; in chapter one, a Martian marine watches her platoon get slaughtered by something monstrous, which doesn’t react like it ought to. Both of these events indicate fairly obviously that the molecule that caused all the fuss in Leviathan, and which crashed on Venus at the end of that novel – but clearly didn’t get destroyed – is Up To Something. And we go from there.  Read the rest of this entry »

Pyrotechnicon, Being a True Account of Cyrano de Bergerac’s Further Adventures among the States and Empires of the Stars, by Himself (dec’d)

Adam Browne

Coeur de Lion Publishing (2012)

ISBN: 978 0987 158 734 (e-book)

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

Dated on the day of the author’s death, this work is unabashed in its address to the reader: life after death, take it as read, in whichever way you wish. For this tome, purportedly by Cyrano de Bergerac, famed duellist, satirist and free thinker of the early 1600s, is the third book – until now, merely dreamed about – of Cyrano’s science fiction trilogy, of which the first two volumes were published shortly after this death.

It begins with a kidnap of fair Roxane by a foe best described as a billiard table. There are houses made of birds. People with lanterns for heads, whose speech is illuminated upon their face most eloquently. Language, improbability, a Sun King made God, tongue in cheek and turn of phrase, death, all have their place in this remarkable journey, and some are less challenging than others. Read the rest of this entry »

Feed (2010 – ISBN: 9780316081054), Deadline (2011 – ISBN: 9780316081061), Blackout (2012 – ISBN: 9781841499000)

Mira Grant

Orbit

Conversational Review  with Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Tehani Wessely

HERE BE SPOILERS!

This series is impossible to review in full without spoilers for preceding books. Up front, know that we WILL be discussing major spoilers for all three books. PLEASE do not continue unless you have no intention of reading this (very excellent) science fiction thriller (with zombies), or you REALLY don’t mind spoilers!

Last chance – SPOILERS AHEAD!

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David Brin

Tor (2012)

ISBN: 9780765303615

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

I believe this is the sort of novel that people might be thinking of when they suggest science fiction is ideas heavy but character and/or plot light. I’d never really understood that accusation of modern SF … until now.

Let me first talk about the positives. There are some really, really awesome ideas here. The basic premise that drives the plot is a first-contact one, but done in a fairly unusual way: a crystal snatched from orbit, activated by human touch and sunlight, that appears to contain alien life of some sort. The unfolding drama of the knowledge revealed – and how it changes, or at least develops, over time – and how humanity deals with it is a genuinely fascinating take on Fermi and all the other variations on ‘where are the aliens, what will they do when they get here, and how will we respond?’ That’s the plot, boiled down to its essentials; and it was fairly intriguing.

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Venero Armanno

UQP (2012)

ISBN: 978 0 7022 3915 1

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

Brisbane writer and academic Venero Armanno returns to his family’s roots in Sicily again for his latest novel, Black Mountain. Armanno, who won the now defunct Queensland Premier’s Literary Award in 2002 with The Volcano, describes his latest as speculative fiction, and rightly so, though the speculative elements are a slow build.

Black Mountain opens with Mark, living an isolated life on the coast, more in love with books than people, who is set on a short detective trail when he finds out a creature from his dreams has also appeared in a novel published many years before. This leads him to Cesare Montenero, a Sicilian writer whose story takes up the bulk of Black Mountain, told as a biography. Cesare started his life as a child labourer in brutal sulphur mines before escaping and being raised in a far more genteel manner by Don Domenico Amati.

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Marianne de Pierres

The Sentients of Orion, Book 4

Orbit (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-84149-759-4

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Transformation Space is the fourth in a series, following Dark Space, Chaos Space and Mirror Space. De Pierres has created a complex and layered world, and as such some elements will be a little difficult for new readers to follow. However, I’ve read only the first of the series and was able to follow a substantial part of the plot without trouble; this suggests that the setting and worldbuilding may be the biggest challenge for new readers to get their heads around.

Despite the gaps in my knowledge of the plot, overall this novel – and probably the series – is rewarding. The world is convincing and interesting; the plot complex but easy to follow; and the bulk of the characters are interesting (although not all of them are sympathetic). It is not clear whether this is the final in the series; it could be read that way, but there are enough slightly loose ends that I would not be surprised if there was one more volume to follow.

Jo Anderton

The Veiled Worlds, book 2

Angry Robot (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-85766-156-2

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Lorraine Cormack is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

Suited is the second in a trilogy, the sequel to last year’s Debris. It continues a strong story and good character development, as well as significantly expanding our understanding of the world in which it is set. It’s a strong novel; like its predecessor, it is something of a cross-genre novel, although Suited skews more towards science fiction than the first novel did. Unsurprisingly, it has most to offer people who have read the first novel, but many readers new to the series will also enjoy Suited.

In Debris, Tanyana fell from her privileged position as a talented and strong pion builder. Well respected and financially well rewarded, she had a comfortable life with access to the higher echelons of society in Movoc. When a dreadful accident robs her of all this, she discovers undercurrents to her society she had previously been unaware of. Specifically, she discovers that not everyone can see pions, the elements of matter that everyone manipulates without a second thought every day. Except not everyone can; some people can’t see pions and thus can’t use them; they can see only the waste they leave behind. And although these people are vital – if debris collectors don’t do their job, the unseen debris builds up and causes all kinds of malfunctions – they are nevertheless despised. Scorned by society, paid barely enough to live on, treated as little more than slave labour.

And now Tanyana is one of them.

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Julianna Baggott

Pure, book one

Headline Book Publishing (2012)

ISBN: 9780755385492

Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn

Pure is the first book in the post-apocalyptic YA trilogy by Julianna Baggott.

Nine years prior, the Detonations occurred. The presumably-nuclear explosions killed many, and those who survived were physically fused to whatever they were holding or touching during the Detonations.

Pressia is an almost-sixteen-year-old survivor of the Detonations who barely remembers the time Before. The bombs left her with a hand fused to a doll’s head and a crescent-shaped scar on her face. Others bear different scars – her grandfather has a fan fused into his throat, and others bear glass or metal in their skin. Some are fused to other humans or animals, and still others, known as Dusts, are fused to the very earth.

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Walter Jon Williams

Dagmar Shaw, book 3

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 9780316133395

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

This is the third book in Williams’ series about Dagmar Shaw (the others are This is Not a Game and Deep State). It therefore contains spoilers for those two books.

This one is not like the others because Dagmar is not the main protagonist. Instead, she moves onto the sidelines, becoming a somewhat shadowy, sometimes even fearsome, mover and shaker. I was a bit surprised by this change because Dagmar had worked so very well in the others; she’s a character I developed a great rapport with. To see her from the perspective of someone else – someone to whom she is a stranger, and quite strange – was disconcerting. It does mean that someone could very easily read this without having read the other two; having read the first two it meant that I had a greater trust than Sean, the narrator, could have in her. Which distanced me slightly from Sean, and meant that I kept expecting great things from Dagmar.

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