Book Review: Perfections – Kirstyn McDermott

What would her mother think now, if she knew of all the times her eldest daughter had ignored that advice? Those hurried, hopeful encounters in her teens. The desperate calculation of her early twenties. Until she could no longer convince herself that Dr Chiang may have been wrong. Until, finally, she forced herself to give it up. To pack it away. The desire, the longing, the need which she felt for near her entire life. Curled within her heart. Within her broken, bloodless womb. Only rarely, now, does she hear them. The ghosts of those children she can never conceive.

Perfections: Kirstyn McDermott

Busy, busy, busy…and barely blogging :(. I’ve been trying to finalise this review for a week now! 

A great dark urban-fantasy story; satisfyingly true to its Australian setting. Kirstyn writes some great dialogue, and has a deceptively smooth writing style; she makes the reader comfortable before expertly ratcheting up the tension. Some excellent twists and dark events, although I got the feeling that she pulled a few punches. It’s enjoyably creepy – a fine lighter horror read. Recommended.

I was provided a free electronic copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Continue reading 
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Book Review: Big Planet by Jack Vance #VintageSciFi

Claude Glystra rose towards consciousness like a water-logged timber. He opened his eyes; vision reached his brain.

He lay on a low bed at the rear of a plank-walled cottage. With a feverish movement he propped himself on an elbow, stared out the open door; and it seemed that he was seeing the most wonderful sight of his life.

He looked out on a green slope, spangled with yellow and red flowers, which rose to a forest. The gables of a village showed through the foliage-quaint gables of dark brown timber. The entire landscape was drenched in a tingling golden-white radiance; every colour shone with jewel-like clarity.

Jack Vance – Big Planet

That’s right – two Vance reviews in a single day! And why not – he’s well known, amazing prolific, and his books are hella short. Given my goal of 70 books this year, I’m seriously appreciative of Jack’s brevity :).

That said…I’m sorry Mr Vance, this one just wasn’t very satisfying.

Big Planet – 3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

Big Planet: a huge planet two or three times the size of Earth, has an atmosphere and gravity similar to Earth’s (apparently it is almost devoid of metals and is correspondingly less dense). Principally occupied by the indigenous plants and animals, Big Planet has been gradually settled by the flotsam and jetsam of mankind. Too big and too far away for Earth to directly control, and without metals or other resources to otherwise make the place valuable, fringe societies and extremist groups have headed to Big Planet for hundreds of years, each seeking to carve out a little slice of their concept of freedom. Many of these have devolved into small kingdoms and empires run by tyrants and despots.

A group of nine Earthlings lead by Claude Glystra have headed to stop the arms and slave trade on Big Planet, but crash land in the territory of one of worst of these despots – the Barjarnum of Beaujolais – and are forced to attempt a 40,000 mile trek across the dangerous planet to the Earth zone for safety.

Review

This book was fine – OK even – but there were some real flaws.

Firstly, Big Planet is the LAZIEST naming of a fictional place since Mt Doom. Big Planet might be what it’s called by the uneducated masses, or maybe as a nickname, but apparently this planet is listed as ‘Big Planet’ in the star charts. I’m sure this leads to no confusion at all. Ugh, I just couldn’t take it seriously. (Of course, I live in Australia where we literally have a desert called ‘The Great Sandy Desert‘, so perhaps I’ll just shut up about lazy place names…)

Actually, now I think about my last review…Joe Smith? Vance wasn’t one for stretching when it came to naming anything!

Its not a hard scifi story so I didn’t expect Martian levels of science or believability, but even so the basic plot got me offside from the beginning. Trek 40,000 miles? Earth is just over 24,000 miles around. These guys formed a serious plan to effectively circumnavigate the globe. Twice. On foot. This isn’t a typo either – Vance makes this twice-round-the-Earth comparison himself in the book, and yet still went ‘Yep. Sounds like a reasonable plan, and totally not the ravings of an insane person’.

Perhaps needless to say, this really blew a hole in the suspension of disbelief for me.

Moving past this, Big Planet is a fascinating place with an interesting clash of imaginative cultures and creatures…each of which we see for two or three pages before they move on, generally after killing one of the party members. I know I criticized monoculture scifi in the previous review, but the opposite extreme wasn’t any better. There was no identifiable focus, no substance to any interaction with these multitudes of peoples. We see a single feature (which then defines them) and we keep walking. I think this was my main issue here – the book is only 150 odd pages, and Vance just introduced too many tribes/gangs/villages where the people were immediately antagonistic to our sorry little band. They wash past the reader without leaving impact or furthering the plot (which is pretty simple in the first place). I think that cutting the number of these interactions by half and exploring those left in more detail would have been a significant improvement.

Regarding the characters; they are almost all male with one single young, woman who is (surprise surprise) the love interest. Midway through the book a few more attractive young women bargain their way into the group, basically offering themselves as slaves…Which was a bit weird in my opinion. And most of the male characters are empty shirts as well, with only our hero Glystra taking any real actions or holding any conversations. Everyone else seems content to walk around, follow Glystra, and wait patiently for the planet to murder them.

I suppose I am being a little hard on Vance with this one, as he has a writing style I like, and his stories, (including this one) have some very good moments. But honestly Big Planet is just an ordinary scifi tale, with too little plot to hang its creative alien dressing on.


Another submission into the Vintage SciFi Not-a-Challenge hosted by Little Red Reviewer. If you’re interested in checking some other vintage scifi reviews out, I suggest that you check out some of the links she has posted!

Cheers

KT

Book Review: Son of the Tree & Houses of Iszm by Jack Vance #VintageSciFi

My first Jack Vance reading, I found these two fun, classic, scifi stories, each being quite different from the other but with a thin connecting botanical theme. Both soft sci-fi stories, these were creative and imaginative tales with some deeper political aspects I was pleasantly surprised by (given their brevity). Some quality vintage sci-fi (that I picked up for $2.50 in a second hand sale – win!).

I wanted to get at least one review into Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Sci-Fi month that finishes at the end of January, and this certainly qualifies. Houses was published first in 1954, whilst Son was published in 1951. Classic pulpy American scifi, I can see why Vance has his adherents – these are a couple of well-written, well-paced, space operas, each with a touch of mystery whodunnit included for flavour.

Heads up though – I thought the characters and plot were far better in Son than those in Houses.

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Brief Book Review: The Female Factory (Twelve Planets Book 11) – Lisa L Hannett & Angela Slatter

Skin, flesh and fat parted, a layer cake of white, red and yellow. The Matron was enlisted to sponge any seepage while Dr Dalkeith snipped and sliced and sawed, though what liquids Miss Habel once had inside her were now thickened, sludges in varying shades of expiration. The notes he took in his own scruffy journal, mid-dissection, were of little interest to Avice, but she watched avidly as he created the accompanying sketches. Unless she was mistaken, the good doctor would soon submit another article to The Lancet, since the Royal Society in London had, thus far, consistently rejected his treatises on the theory and practice of surgery. But a paper detailing the physiognomy of transported criminals? That, surely, would one day see his name printed in the Society’s Philosophical Transactions.

The Female Factory: Lisa L Hannett & Angela Slatter

Fascinating and entertaining, bizarre and grotesque, this is a great collection of four speculative fiction short stories from two Australian authors. Touching on topics that some may find challenging, this book explores aspects of body horror and dark fantasy from a very female perspective. Continue reading

Book Review: Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath #1) by Chuck Wendig

Sinjir winces, then stabs out a foot to catch the beast in the knee: a common weak point among the humanoid beings. But it’s like kicking a tree. Thud. The Herglic just looks down, then snorts. The alien lets go of the boy’s bound wrists and grabs Sinjir with both hands – hands big enough to tie a speeder bike into a pretzel twist. But slippery hands too, and Sinjir slides out of the grip and quickly goes for another weak point – the creature’s throat. He flips around, trying like hell to get his arms around the creature’s neck, but oops, no such neck exists. The Herglic chuckles, then jams his massive frame right, then left, each time smashing Sinjir into the wall – Wham! Wham!

Sinjir sees stars, his brain shook up like a cocktail.

A voice. Her voice. The Zabrak’s.

“The nose,” she says.

Then thrusts the heel of her hand forward.

Smashing it right into the Herglic’s nose.

The alien howls, his eyes squeezing shut. Some kind of saline slime-snot begins pooring out of his nasal perforations, and the poor lug slaps at his snout like it’s on fire.

“Get the boy,” she says.

Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath #1) Chuck Wendig

A fun and exciting book that is a departure from Chuck’s regular ‘profanity-rich’ work. It’s solid tie-in sci-fi that I think does a good job of capturing the old (and new again) Star Wars vibe.

I enjoyed it.

Disclaimer: I am a CASUAL Star Wars fan. I’ve watched and enjoyed the orginal movies and watched and…well I’ve watched the prequels. Ive read a single movie novelisation by a Donald F Glut. I have read exactly zero of the Star Wars Expanded universe. I personally don’t think my casualness makes a difference to my review, but hell, you might think it does and so I’ve put it here at the start. Continue reading

A Bundle of Brief Book Reviews: Writing Advice: Part Two

photo credit: via photopin (license)

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Here we go for the second segment of my Writing Advice Book review bonanza!!! Fights! Weirdness! Weird-fights! Let’s go!

Actually all these exclamation marks make this post sound far more exciting than I can feasibly deliver. Excuse me while I dial it back at bit.

Ahem.

Reviews.

Yes.

Let’s continue.

In Part One I reviewed:

In Part Two I cover:

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A Bundle of Brief Book Reviews: Writing Advice (Part 1)

photo credit: via photopin (license)

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Hi folks – doing a bit of catch up at the moment, covering a few book reviews I got too lazy to do towards the end of 2015. I thought that I might cover off on a few very brief reviews on a similar topic – Writing Advice. I’m still holding onto delusions of eventually developing into a writer, and so in last year I consumed large amounts of guidance and advice from a range of authors to develop my writing process, to refine and improve what talent I have, and to inspire my imagination.

Books on writing advice (as well as blogs, twitter, articles etc) are some of the best guidance you can get, but it’s important to realise that every author is different, as are you. No one else’s method is guaranteed to suit you, and I firmly believe that continuous practice and experimentation is the best way to figure out ‘your way’. So my advice is to read many books on writing, check a range of blog posts and quotes on the different ways to do thing, and try them out until you find what works for you. After all this research? Well…‘you do you’, as it were.

That said…some advice books are better than others, so I’m  happy to give you my view of the following four books:

Part one (below):

Part two (in the next post):

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