All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Patricia is a witch who can communicate with animals. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird, but their lives take different paths… When they meet again as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world and live up to his reputation in near-future San Francisco. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, working hard to prove herself to her fellow magicians and secretly repair the earth’s ever growing ailments. As they attempt to save our future, Laurence and Patricia’s shared past pulls them back together. And though they come from different worlds, when they collide, the witch and the scientist will discover that maybe they understand each other better than anyone.
I was warned that the first few chapters aren’t great, and to power through them because the rest of the book is worth reading. Well, that happened. I got to page 19 and texted @Vicorva to check if it really did get better, because I wanted to throw the damn thing at the wall. (I didn’t. She’d lent me the book, and I don’t like damaging other people’s beloved copies). She said yes, it did get better, and so I flipped ahead to Chapter 12.
It does get better. It’s a weird world, a weird concept, with magic and technology mixing, an AI gone rogue, birds that talk, robots with emotions, witches and healers and tricksters. It’s a love story, and one about saving the world, and one about decisions and consequences. The style is flippant and direct and quick-paced, and I loved that; it’s a nice read. I think the beginning could have done with being re-written at the end, if you see what I mean – it was definitely slow to start, lacking that ‘voice’ that brings the rest of the book to life. It’s a shame, as it is a good read that I simply wouldn’t have continued with if it hadn’t been for the encouragement of another reader.
So…if you like magic and technology and weirdness and character writing, or if you liked Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, then try it. Push through the first few chapters and keep at it. It does get better.
Ps. This was one of my Discoverability Challenge books.
Silent City by G R Matthews
This is the first in the Corin Hayes novella series.
In the Corporation owned cities life is tough. All Hayes wants is money and a bar to spend it in. He is about to learn that some jobs in the abyss can be killers. For a man who has lost everything, is life even worth fighting for?
Corin Hayes was a fish-suit diver in a Corporation city deep in the ocean, able to get where the subs couldn’t, ensuring the city foundations remained stable…until he caused an accident. Now he drinks to forget and tries to dodge the people who want to beat him up – until he’s offered another assignment.
The worldbuilding is interesting; undersea cities are the norm after a disaster on the surface, and human life is relegated to the bottom of the oceans. While the city and the surrounding world (and accompanying politics) is an interesting setting, I didn’t entirely warm to Hayes to start with; he reminded me too much of the bitter noir detectives with their cynical attitudes and bad drinking habit. It didn’t help that a typo early on left me with a nagging confusion about the child who died (it’s fine, it’s fixed in the ebook!) and I wasn’t entirely sure about the direction of the plot – I was a little worried that it was going to devolve into cliché. Hey, I’m cynical. Bite me.
The story itself is part thriller, part almost military spy novel…Hayes is recruited to visit a ‘silent city’, part of the ongoing battle with another power, an almost cold-war situation of submersibles and listening stations spread across the ocean. Add in some political tangles, traitors and hidden motives, and Hayes’ own personal issues, and it’s a tense ride. I warmed to the story after the first few chapters as the plot took over, and while I did get slightly lost at the very end (which is possibly either my reading skills being Fail or just that it isn’t too clear) the story did keep me hooked.
While the plot for this story gets (mostly) wrapped up, there are a few loose ends and extra hints that hopefully play out in the next novella in the series, Nothing Is Ever Simple.
In The Land of Giants by Max Adams
This is a non-fiction walk (and motorbike ride) through the Dark Ages of Britain – through the remainders of the lands, circles, forts, houses and monuments left by those left behind after the Romans retreated. It’s billed as part travelogue, part historical study.
I admit…I haven’t enjoyed it. I’ve been reading it piecemeal, and while it’s interesting, it’s frustrating. I don’t know enough about the places he’s visiting to be able to see them – I need a book of maps and a photograph gallery alongside this, damnit! Adams’ way of describing things is just tantalising enough that I need imagery as well, and it’s frustrating that there’s so little. The history isn’t entirely helpful, either; again, I just don’t know enough! I’m not uniformed by any means (hey, classical scholar, albeit for the period before – but I have picked up some Dark Ages stuff) but I simply can’t keep track of what’s where and who. It means I’m reading this with a sort of “meh, ok” feeling, resigned to missing half of my information and trying to enjoy the admittedly beautiful descriptions Adams gives of the places he’s visiting.
So – frustrating, if beautiful prose in places. If you know your Dark Ages then definitely pick this up, but if you have middling to no knowledge, don’t bother.