Review: Radicalized by Cory Doctorow

Review: Radicalized by Cory DoctorowRadicalized by Cory Doctorow
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genres: science fiction, short stories
Pages: 304
Published by Tor Books on March 19, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

From New York Times bestselling author Cory Doctorow, Radicalized is four urgent SF novellas of America's present and future within one book

Told through one of the most on-pulse genre voices of our generation, Radicalized is a timely novel comprised of four SF novellas connected by social, technological, and economic visions of today and what America could be in the near, near future. Unauthorized Bread is a tale of immigration, the toxicity of economic and technological stratification, and the young and downtrodden fighting against all odds to survive and prosper.

In Model Minority, a Superman-like figure attempts to rectifiy the corruption of the police forces he long erroneously thought protected the defenseless...only to find his efforts adversely affecting their victims.

Radicalized is a story of a darkweb-enforced violent uprising against insurance companies told from the perspective of a man desperate to secure funding for an experimental drug that could cure his wife's terminal cancer.

The fourth story, Masque of the Red Death, harkens back to Doctorow's Walkaway, taking on issues of survivalism versus community.

My Review:

This is my first Cory Doctorow, and probably won’t be my last. I’ve seen his columns in Locus, where he predicts the future -sorta/kinda – but hadn’t read any of his books. When this popped up on my radar, it seemed like the time.

The advantage of collections is that the individual entries are generally shorter. I could always bail if it didn’t work for me. That didn’t happen – although I occasionally wanted to stop out of sheer terror.

The disadvantage of collections is that they are sometimes uneven. That didn’t happen here either. What did happen is that the stories get darker as they go. The first one isn’t exactly light-hearted, but does end with a glimmer of hope.

And that glimmer is the last light we see. The stories, and the futures that they posit, get progressively darker from there.

What this is is a collection of very-near-future dystopias. This is a future so close that we can see it from here. It seems to be mining a similar vein as If This Goes On, the recent collection edited by Cat Rambo – although these stories feel closer. A bit too close.

Unauthorized Bread is the first story in Radicalized, and it’s the one that ends in that glimmer of hope I mentioned. Not that there isn’t plenty of darkness in the middle. This story is about a lot of things, particularly the way that immigrants and others at the lower end of the socioeconomic lottery are marginalized and demonized. That message seemed fairly overt.

The less overt message, but still very much present, is the message about just how different “choice” looks from the perspective of people who have the societal privilege of being able to always choose between good, better and best, as opposed to those who are squeezed into the position of being forced to choose between terrible, awful and least bad.

But the plot is also a slightly terrifying extension of digital rights management – frequently a horror story all by itself – from the world of music, video and software to the world of appliances. We’ve seen the start of this, when Keurig introduced DRM into its line of coffee makers, allowing them to restrict use of the device that you own to pods that they authorize. Think about that, scale it up, and then shake in fear – and caffeine withdrawal.

The Model Minority is where the chill really sets in in this collection. But in the end, it ultimately felt sad. The future is posits is frightening, and all too plausible – even, perhaps likely. But this is one where I really felt for the character, and he ends up in a very sad place by the end. And so should we all.

The protagonist of this piece is a superhero who is meant to be Superman without ever naming him such. (DC would probably object – with lawyers). But he’s an alien whose current mundane identity is named Clark and whose girlfriend is a reporter named Lois. And he has a rich friend named Bruce who also has a secret identity. You connect the dots.

The story here is what happens when our hero is confronted with blatant racism. He witnesses a bunch of white cops pull a black man out of his own car and beat him nearly to death while putting on a show for their body cameras. Superhero steps into save the man being beaten, and attempts to get him proper medical treatment and a fair trial.

And it all goes pear-shaped, as we all expect it to. The system is designed to protect the cops and demonize the innocent black motorist. The media gins up, the way it does, to make it seem like the arrest and brutal beating are all the fault of the victim – because he’s black. The more our hero tries to help the man, the more trouble he causes, not only for the original victim, but also for himself.

Because when he threatens that fragile white majority with evidence of their own racism, they turn on him rather than look inside themselves. As they do. As we do.

The title story in this collection is a story about the weaponization of what is now the quiet desperation of families who are about to lose or have lost a beloved family member. Not because their condition is untreatable, but because their health insurance company refuses to pay for treatment.

Combine that with a big “what if?” What if those quietly desperate people treated health insurance company executives and employees exactly the same way that abortion providers are “treated” by the so-called right-to-life movement – with doxxing and harassment and terrorist attacks. This is purely my interpretation of the story, but it feels right. And ends up making the story about whether the ends justify the means – a contemplation that is itself frightening.

Last but not least, The Masque of the Red Death. On the surface, it’s the story of a prepper’s dream that turns into a prepper’s nightmare. A whole bunch of smug one-percenters are so certain that they’ve figured out how to survive the coming collapse of civilization – and that they will emerge from their hidden sanctuary fat and happy and ready to be back on top of the new civilization that they are just certain will be exactly like the old one, and that they’ll rule it.

Discovering that they have planned for everything except for their own humanity – and their hubris – takes this tale from chills to downright horror in quick steps. This is one of those cases where the road to hell is paved with bad and thoughtless intentions that the thinkers believe are good – at least for them.

Thinking about it, however, it strikes me that this story also ends in a glimmer of hope – just not for its initial protagonists.

Escape Rating A+: Science fiction in general, and this author in this collection in particular, is at its thought-provoking best when it comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. These stories do much more of the latter than the former, and are all intensely well-done in ways that will make the reader think – and squirm.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-17-19

Sunday Post

I don’t know about you, but the whole Daylight Saving Time thing is still kicking me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love that it is light later into the evening. But I want that hour back, and next November is a LONG time from now. By then, I’ll be used to it and not want to give up the light. Uniform time serves a purpose – Daylight Saving Time no longer does. Or, at any rate, switching back and forth no longer does.

On a brighter note, this past week included our 14th wedding anniversary. It both seems like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and only yesterday, all at the same time. And it’s been wonderful from that day to this. I’m looking forward to LOTS more.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Snow Much Fun Giveaway Hop is Patricia

Blog Recap:

B Review: Mahimata by Rati Mehrotra
B+ Review: Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton
A+ Review: The Chaos Function by Jack Skillingstead
B Review: Murder on a Midsummer Night by Kerry Greenwood
Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop
Stacking the Shelves (331)

Coming This Week:

Radicalized by Cory Doctorow (review)
Hell Squad: Griff by Anna Hackett (review)
The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear (review)
Lonen’s Reign by Jeffe Kennedy (review)
The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons (review)

Stacking the Shelves (331)

Stacking the Shelves

I can’t call this a small stack, but it is slightly less large than the past few!

For Review:
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
The Alchemist of Lost Souls (Bianca Goddard #4) by Mary Lawrence
Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer
End Transmission (Galactic Cold War #3) by Robyn Bachar
The Extinction Agenda by Michael Laurence
Five Unicorn Flush (Reason #2) by T.J. Berry
Hell Squad: Griff (Hell Squad #17) by Anna Hackett
Lonen’s Reign (Sorcerous Moons #6) by Jeffe Kennedy
The Resurrectionist of Califo by Wendy Trimbold and Alicia Zaloga
A Silken Thread by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Singapore Sapphire (Harriet Gordon #1) by A.M. Stuart
Tightrope (Burning Cove #3) by Amanda Quick
Time’s Demon (Islevale #2) by D.B. Jackson
The Triangle by Dan Koboldt, Mindy McGinnis and Sylvia Wrigley

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Click here to enter

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop for 2019, hosted by Bookhounds.

Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? We’ve lived places that really, really did, like Chicago where they turn the river green, and places where they mostly don’t. I don’t remember much of a fuss in Anchorage – although I could be wrong about that. I’m actually not too sure about Atlanta, but then we are way, way out in the ‘burbs.

We were in our favorite Greek restaurant over the weekend and they were all done up for St. Patrick’s Day, which seemed both festive and just a bit off. Not that it’s not great that everyone kind of celebrates everything, but it also felt like a bit of a mismatch.

Admittedly, not as much of a mismatch of coloring the Chicago River green every year. Of course, the Chicago River has also been engineered to flow the wrong way, so what’s a little temporary color change compared to making the water run backwards?

Tell us about your St. Patrick’s Day for your chance at  your choice of either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a book (or books) up to $10 in value, from the Book Depository.

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For more bookish prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

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Review: Murder on a Midsummer Night by Kerry Greenwood

Review: Murder on a Midsummer Night by Kerry GreenwoodMurder on a Midsummer Night (Phryne Fisher Mystery #17) by Kerry Greenwood
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical mystery
Series: Phryne Fisher #17
Pages: 250
Published by Poisoned Pen Press on February 6, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The Hon. Phryne Fisher, languid and slightly bored at the start of 1929, has been engaged to find out if the antique-shop-owning son of a Pre-Raphaelite model has died by homicide or suicide. He had some strange friends - a Balkan adventuress, a dilettante with a penchant for antiquities, a Classics professor, a medium, and a mysterious supplier who arrives after dark on a motorbike. Simultaneously, she is asked to discover the fate of the lost illegitimate child of a rich old lady, to the evident dislike of the remaining relatives.

With the help of her sister Beth, the cab drivers Bert and Cec, and even her two adoptive daughters, Phryne follows eerie leads that bring her face-to-face with the conquest of Jerusalem by General Allenby and the Australian Light Horse, kif smokers, spirit guides, pirate treasure maps, and ghosts.

My Review:

I was doing the bounce thing, where I kept picking up different books and bouncing off. It’s not that any of my choices were bad books, because honestly I didn’t get far enough to tell. They just didn’t grab me. They weren’t what I was in the mood for. Not that I could exactly tell what I was in the mood for!

When I’m in that kind of reading doubt, I reach for comfort. I reach for a book that I know will wrap me in its pages and transport to a familiar world with characters that I’ve become fond of. Having seen a Facebook post reminding me that the Phryne Fisher movie is in post-production, I decided it was time to visit Melbourne and see what Phryne was up to.

This particular adventure of Phryne’s involves two cases that aren’t in the least related to each other, as well as, let’s call them interludes, that seem to be coming out of nowhere – until they neatly tie one case up at the end.

One case is a suicide-that-isn’t, wrapped up in a treasure hunt that somehow leads to Blackbeard the Pirate and his lost treasure troves. The other is more prosaic and mundane, a lost child, a missing heiress, a spot of blackmail and a whole lot of not-so-petty theft. Stirred well with a nasty bit of family drama.

Escape Rating B: A part of me says that this was far from the most compelling of Phryne’s cases. At the same time, I was compelled to finish it in an evening. It was simply the right book at the right time for me.

I think that the reason that it worked so well was that it’s been a few months since I dipped into Phryne’s world. And while the cases aren’t as dangerous as some she’s been involved with, her voice sparkled in the solving of them.

Also, this particular story focused a great deal on Phryne’s relationships with the many people who have become part of her circle. The not-a-suicide case came by way of her socialist sister, who found common cause with red-raggers Bert and Cec, and had a great time doing their own little bit of investigating.

Sister Beth seems to be the book character for whom Aunt Prudence is the TV series substitute, and I must say I like Beth a whole lot better. Between the involvement of Beth and Lin Chung’s ingenuity in the resolution of one of the two plots, it’s easy to see why this was not one of the stories that was filmed.

On the other hand, the interactions between Phryne and her family-of-choice, particularly her relationship with her adopted daughters (yes, there are two in the books) and her appreciation of BOTH Mr. and MRS. Butler and their work for and with her, are quite lovely.

Dot’s foray into her own bit of investigation involving theater history and the keepers thereof was absolutely filled with bright spots.

To make a long story short, this is one of Phryne’s adventures that is marvelous for readers who are already involved in the books rather than just the TV series, and who are itching for a chance to visit with their friends.

I had a ball.

Review: The Chaos Function by Jack Skillingstead

Review: The Chaos Function by Jack SkillingsteadThe Chaos Function by Jack Skillingstead
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genres: science fiction, thriller, time travel
Pages: 304
Published by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on March 19, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

For readers of the best‑selling novels Sleeping Giants and Dark Matter, an intense, high‑stakes thriller with a science‑fiction twist that asks: If technology enabled you to save the life of someone you love, would you do so even if it might doom millions?   Olivia Nikitas, a hardened journalist whose specialty is war zones, has been reporting from the front lines of the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. When Brian, an aid worker she reluctantly fell in love with, dies while following her into danger, she’ll do anything to bring him back. In a makeshift death chamber beneath an ancient, sacred site, a strange technology is revealed to Olivia: the power to remake the future by changing the past.    Following her heart and not her head, Olivia brings Brian back, accidentally shifting the world to the brink of nuclear and biological disaster. Now she must stay steps ahead of the guardians of this technology, who will kill her to reclaim it, in order to save not just herself and her love, but the whole world.

My Review:

There’s a quote from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that goes,

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

This is a story about what happens when someone has the power to lure that Moving Finger back to cancel more than half a line – but does not – as no human does – have the wisdom to determine whether that cancellation was, or was not, the right thing to do.

This book was simply a wow.

Of course, it’s also just a bit more complicated than that. Also just saying it’s a wow isn’t really an informative review – although it certainly is succinct.

At first, this seems like a near-future dystopian novel, until it isn’t. And then it is again. And then it isn’t.

Still confused? I think it’s intentional – at least on the part of the story.

Olivia is an investigative journalist chasing a story in Aleppo, Syria, just a little more than a decade from now. Her world doesn’t feel much different from ours in time, only in place. The seemingly permanent, perpetual civil war/uprising/revolution/counterinsurgency/whatever that she is covering is worlds away from the comfortable life that still very much exists back in the US.

But Olivia makes her living covering what she calls the “Disaster”. A disaster that could be anywhere, and often is – just not back home. Also a disaster that seems to be a direct consequence of actions taken in our present, as the Syrian conflict that she is covering is the war to overthrow Assad, which has its roots in our now.

She’s attempting to cover violations of the current, tentative peace agreement when she, her guide and her aid worker-lover get caught in the crossfire – and the world changes.

And changes again. And again. And it’s all Olivia’s fault… Really, it is.

Brian is killed in that crossfire, and Olivia finds herself in the basement of the building she was trying to investigate, his blood still on her hands, when she finds an old man who has been tortured taking his last breaths. Something jumps from his corpse to her living body, and burrows itself into her brain.

When she makes a wish that Brian hadn’t died – he isn’t dead. But the world has changed, and not for the better.

That’s the point where things get very, very hairy. And then they get worse.

Since it’s all Olivia’s fault, it’s up to her to fix it if she can. Because the needs of the many really do outweigh the needs of the few or of the one – even if that one is someone she loves.

Escape Rating A+: This is still a wow.

I believe that the reason this is such a wow is that there are multiple ways to look at the story, all of them equally valid – as they should be. This is, after all, a story about the butterfly effect – for a butterfly with extremely large wings.

From the very beginning, I saw multiple connections to this story. Something about the atmosphere in war-torn Aleppo recalled for me the atmosphere of The Children of Men by P.D. James. The stories aren’t actually alike, but the worlds felt similar.

Once Olivia discovers her ability to change the future, the way that it worked was extremely similar to Ia’s ability in the military SF series Theirs Not to Reason Why. Like Ia, Olivia is trying to find the best of all possible outcomes, no matter how slim a chance it is, and make it happen. The difference is that Ia knows how to use her power, and Olivia most definitely does not.

But it’s the different, and all equally awful, portraits of the way that the world goes mad that push the story forward at breakneck speed. Each of Olivia’s attempts to save Brian results in greater and greater disasters. A weaponized smallpox epidemic. Nuclear powers, blaming each other, fingers on too many triggers, wiping out each other’s major cities and food producing regions. And it gets worse from there.

(I haven’t seen the world go so far past hell in a handbasket so fast since the early books in S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse)

The source of Olivia’s new-found power throws in a cult of conspiracy theorists as well as a chase around the world. The ability to control the future is a power that has been closely guarded – and extremely contested – for centuries. And no one’s vision of “better” remotely resembles anyone else’s.

But there’s a reason why I started with Omar Khayyam and ended with Spock. Because the story in The Chaos Function is also, writ large and with even more deadly consequences, the story of the classic Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever. And the ending is just as necessary, and just as heartbreaking.

Review: Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton

Review: Glory Road by Lauren K. DentonGlory Road by Lauren K. Denton
Format: ebook
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Southern fiction, women's fiction
Pages: 368
Published by Thomas Nelson on March 19, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Written in Lauren Denton's signature Southern style, Glory Road tells the story of three generations of women navigating the uncertain pathways of their hearts during a summer that promises to bring change--whether they're ready for it or not.

At thirty-eight, garden shop owner Jessie McBride thinks her chances for romance are years behind her and, after her failed marriage, she's fine with that. She lives contentedly with her fiery mother and her quiet, headstrong daughter. But the unexpected arrival of two men on Glory Road make her question if she's really happy with the status quo. Handsome, wealthy Sumner Tate asks her to arrange flowers for his daughter's wedding, and Jessie finds herself drawn to his continued attention. And Ben Bradley, her lingering what-could-have-been from high school days who's known her better than anyone and whom she hasn't seen in years, moves back to the red dirt road. Jessie finds her heart being pulled in directions she never expected.

Meanwhile, Jessie's fourteen-year-old daughter, Evan, is approaching the start of high school and trying to navigate a new world of identity and emotions--particularly as they relate to the cute new guy who's moved in just down the road. At the same time, Jessie's mother, Gus, increasingly finds herself forgetful and faces a potentially frightening future.

As all three women navigate the uncertain paths of their hearts and futures, one summer promises to bring change--whether they're ready for it or not.

My Review:

Good things come in threes, and so it proves in this lovely story of three generations of the McBride women. Take that as a hint that, in spite of Goodreads characterizing this as a romance, it’s really women’s fiction or relationship fiction. While romances do occur within the pages of this book, the backbone of the book is the relationship between the women and not the men who find their way into – or back into – their lives.

Also, in spite of the Amazon classification of Glory Road as both “Christian” and “Historical”, it isn’t either. This is a contemporary story set in a small (very small) Alabama town. And even though the book is published by noted Christian publisher Thomas Nelson, there’s nothing particularly religious or inspirational in the story, although the romantic aspects are downright squeaky clean.

I like a good romance. It doesn’t have to get to the bedroom to qualify as romance – and I like a well-written “fade to black” better than a risible risque scene. I didn’t notice that no one did anything more than kiss, and very little of that, until I finished and thought back on the story. So it works.

But what is it?

The McBride women all live on Glory Road just outside tiny Perry Alabama. They are all at crossroads in their lives. How those crossroads intersect, and how they walk along after, both together and separately, is what makes the story.

Gus McBride is nearly 70. She’s happy to have her daughter Jessie and granddaughter Evan back on Glory Road, but at the same time has become aware that proximity means that the secret she is trying to hide even from herself will be exposed sooner rather than later. Gus isn’t ready to deal with the Alzheimer’s disease that took both her mother and grandmother, and is now overtaking her.

Evan is about to enter 9th grade – she’s starting high school. It’s a new school and a whole lot of new opportunities. She’s growing up and starting to push boundaries. And she’s making new friends, including the older boy who has just moved into Perry with his dad. Evan has her first crush on Nick Bradley, not knowing just how history is both repeating – and not.

Jessie is the sandwich between her mother Gus and her daughter Evan. She has put behind her past with Evan’s wayward father, and has figured out why her marriage didn’t work. She spent her high school years pretending to be someone she wasn’t, and her ex fell in love with that pretense and not the person she really is.

The person Jessie really is isn’t that perky, blonde, highlighted cheerleader. She’s the quietly introspective woman who owns Twig, the local gardening shop. And she’s the person her best friend all those years ago, Ben Bradley, fell in love with.

Ben has returned to Glory Road, and has brought his son Nick. A boy who would have been theirs if things had gone differently. There’s a chance they might this time. Or it might be too late. Or Jessie might make the same mistake all over again.

Escape Rating B+: This was, just like my reading of The Hideaway a couple of years ago, lovely. Not quite as unexpected this time around.

Three is a powerful number, and the three McBrides are powerful women, albeit in different ways. While their stories are individually interesting, the relationship between them powers the story as it switches perspectives from one to another but always making clear the depth of the bond between them.

Evan’s story is the easiest. She’s only 14, her entire life is still before her. This is the summer of her first real crush, her first serious testing of her mother’s boundaries, the deepening of her quest to discover the person she’s meant to be … and the escalating fear over her grandmother’s badly hidden illness.

Gus’ story is both tragic and uplifting, as she faces both the fear that has dogged her for her entire adult life – and the man who is willing to stand beside her in the dark days ahead. She both comes to terms with what the future will bring her, and reaches out to wring all the happiness possible from the days yet to come.

But the lion’s share of the story is Jessie’s. She is caught at multiple decision points, and the crises they bring to her life make her examine who she’s been, who she is, and who she wants to be. They also make her both appreciate her comfort zone and make her willing to step out of it.

She’s worried about her mother’s increasing forgetfulness. She’s also worried about her business, as a nearby “big box” store has opened and is stealing more than a few of her formerly faithful customers.

And her ancient laptop computer gives up its ghost in the middle of it all. Thanks to the aforementioned big box store, money for a replacement is absolutely nowhere in the budget. Then Ben comes back to town and offers to fix it.

Jessie’s relationship with Ben Bradley recalls the famous quote by John Greenleaf Whittier, the one that goes, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.” Back in high school, Jessie and Ben were best friends. He was the only one besides her family who knew the real Jessie McBride. But their comfortable friendship ended when Ben confessed that he loved Jessie – and she didn’t respond. Instead, she let her popular friends pull her away from the man who loved her and the life that might have been.

A life that would probably have worked out better than her marriage to a man who wanted the perky, popular Jessie she pretended to be. A road not taken that Jessie has never stopped thinking about.

Now Ben is back in Perry, and they might have another chance to see what they might be. But Jessie is also involved with another flashy charmer like her ex – admittedly one who’s a bit more down to earth and sees the person Jessie is now a bit better. But someone who represents a life bigger and brighter than Perry, and a life she left behind.

With everything else going on in her life, the world outside of Perry seems mighty tempting for a brief while.

It’s pretty obvious to the reader who represents Jessie’s best future and happiest self. Watching her figure that out for herself is the charm of the story. And this reader was definitely charmed.

TLC
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Review: Mahimata by Rati Mehrotra

Review: Mahimata by Rati MehrotraMahimata by Rati Mehrotra
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy
Series: Asiana #2
Pages: 480
Published by Harper Voyager on March 5, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A young female assassin must confront the man who slaughtered her family, risk her heart, and come to terms with her identity as a warrior and as a woman in this thrilling fantasy from the author of Markswoman.

Kyra has returned to the caves of Kali, but her homecoming is bittersweet. She no longer knows what her place is. Her beloved teacher is dead and her best friend Nineth is missing. And gone, too, is Rustan, the Marksman who helped her train for the duel with Tamsyn--and became far more than a teacher and friend.

Shaken by his feelings for Kyra and the truth about his parentage, Rustan has set off on a quest for answers. His odyssey leads him to the descendants of an ancient sect tied to the alien Ones--and the realization that the answers he seeks come with a price.

Yet fate has plans to bring Kyra and Rustan together again. Kai Tau, the man who slaughtered Kyra’s family, wages war on the Orders of Asiana. Hungering for justice, Kyra readies herself for battle, aided by her new companions: the wyr-wolves, who are so much more than what they seem. And determined to keep the woman he loves safe, Rustan joins the fight to ride by her side.

But will this final confrontation ultimately cost them their love . . . and their lives?

 

My Review:

The Asiana duology (yes, this is the second of two and there are only two) is set 800 plus years after a global catastrophe on our Earth. This is the story of the fantasy-like (or fantasy-lite) “civilization” left behind after a war that almost literally ended all wars – by wiping out a huge chunk of any population that might fight those wars.

But human beings are stubborn, in both good and bad ways. We came back as a species, and as this story begins, it looks like yet another war to end all wars has already begun – complete with weapons of mass(ive) destruction.

That the guns are called “kalashiks” is kind of a dead giveaway that this is our Earth and not someplace else. It’s not that another race of bipeds won’t/wouldn’t/hasn’t come up with the equivalent of assault weapons, it’s that this reader doubts that said other race would also spawn the languages that gave birth to the name “Kalashnikov”.

I digress and yet I don’t. The long-ago and long-lost past is part of the deep background of this story – and in a strange way also a part of its future. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

The story in Mahimata is a continuation of the story from Markswoman, and this can’t be read without having read the previous. Nothing will make sense otherwise. I’m actually glad that my reading of Markswoman wasn’t all that long ago, because Mahimata drops the reader right where that book left off.

This is a story where what goes around ultimately comes around, and karma is indeed a bitch. But our heroine Kyra is as much its victim as anyone else in the story.

Once upon a time, a man kidnapped and raped her mother, resulting in, well, Kyra. That same man returned to her mother to kill everyone in her clan, except Kyra. Who is, in the way of such stories, fated to kill him in his turn.

It’s what happens in the middle that makes the story. And one hell of a story it is.

Escape Rating B: I’m giving the rating early so that I can talk about what I did and didn’t like about the book. Because there’s a whole lot of like and not much dislike, except for one thing – which I’ll get to in a minute.

This is a story that put me in that rare approach/avoidance trap. I desperately wanted to know how it ended but I didn’t want it to end. The world that has been created in the wake of exactly whatever the apocalypse was is fascinating. The Orders of Peace, of which our heroine’s Order of Kali is just one of several, are dedicated to keeping the general population of the tribes safe from predators both without and within.

But while their purpose is a noble one, so much of their origin and history has been lost that much of what they have come to believe is neither true nor in the best interests of either the orders or the general population. They’re slowly killing themselves off, leaving the field wide open for a tyrant to bring unity through subjugation. The Orders are no longer strong enough to take care of such problems before they become big ones.

Which leaves our heroine and her friends and companions in a position where they will have to throw away much of what they think they know in order to face a danger which will overwhelm their world if they don’t act.

At the same time, the Asiana duology is also Kyra’s coming of age story. When we began in Markswoman, she was just about to take the step that graduates her from apprentice to markswoman. As her story continues, she finds herself in almost a constant state of examining the acts she has already committed with eyes that have become sharpened by experience.

An examination which often leaves her wondering just how she could have made so many huge mistakes, or have been so much of a fool. Her experiences may not have brought wisdom, but they have certainly brought clarity – even if nearly always too late.

However, and this is where we get to the things that gave me mixed feelings, while the epic battle and everything that led up to it was awesome and fascinating and grabbed me completely, the SFnal elements that underpin the way this world works felt more like a tease than anything that gelled into coherence.

I realize that is also how it is for the people of Asiana, that their scientific past has moved into myth and legend, but the way that Mahimata comes to its epic conclusion relies on those SFnal elements – and it didn’t stick the dismount. The story is great, the war has consequences, evil is vanquished – in a way that was very cool – and good, or at least not-evil triumphs.

But the extremely understated romance between Kyra and Rustan came to a kind of forced happy ending, using those SFnal elements as a kind of deus ex machina. It would have felt better, or truer, or more realistic, if one of them had paid the ultimate price for their victory. Or at least that would have made more sense.

Your mileage, as I always say, may vary.

The ending doesn’t erase just how much I loved 90% of the story. In the end, in comparison with an Olympic gymnastic routine, the routine was beautiful, but viewing this story as the gymnast in the analogy, it just didn’t stick that dismount.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-10-19

Sunday Post

Did you remember to “Spring” your clocks forward last night? Or did your clocks take care of that themselves? And isn’t the whole concept of “Daylight Saving Time” getting just a bit ridiculous?

Review-wise, this week turned out to be pretty interesting, just not necessarily in a good way. It began and ended with books that I much anticipated – only to have them both fall more than a bit flat. C’est la reading vie. Your mileage, of course, may vary. A tremendous number of people thought that both books were the bee’s knees, but for me they just didn’t live up to their predecessors.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the Snow Much Fun Giveaway Hop

Blog Recap:

B Review: Wild Country by Anne Bishop
A- Review: Jacked Cat Jive by Rhys Ford
B+ Review: Hunting Game by Helene Tursten
B+ Guest Review by Amy: Orb by Gary Tarulli
C+ Review: The True Queen by Zen Cho
Stacking the Shelves (330)

Coming This Week:

Mahimata by Rati Mehrotra (review)
Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton (blog tour review)
Titanshade by Dan Stout (review)
The Last Act by Brad Parks (review)
Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Stacking the Shelves (330)

Stacking the Shelves

There’s a part of me that is afraid, very afraid, that the stacks for the rest of the year are all going to look like this. I have things for my committee, things to review for the LJ and thing that just looked good. And I have a lot of them.

So many books, so little time!

For Review:
The Assassin of Verona (William Shakespeare Thriller #2) by Benet Brandreth
The Austen Playbook (London Celebrities #4) by Lucy Parker
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell
Forever Wolf (Legend of All Wolves #3) by Maria Vale
The Ghost Manuscript by Kris Frieswick
The Guest Book by Sarah Blake
The Invited by Jennifer McMahon
Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
Never Deny a Duke (Decadent Dukes Society #3) by Madeline Hunter
The October Man (Rivers of London #7.5) by Ben Aaronovitch
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Run Away by Harlan Coben
Seven Blades in Black (Grave of Empires #1) by Sam Sykes
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker
Theater of Spies (Tales from the Black Chamber #2) by S.M. Stirling
The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Doctor Who: Scratchman by Tom Baker, read by Tom Baker! (audio)

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