Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Shattered Minds

Shattered Minds is set in the same universe as False Hearts and can be read as a standalone. Whilst this review is spoiler free please bear in mind that Shattered Minds does contain some spoilers for False Hearts, so if you want to read both, they are best read in order.

The images segment and flash before her. A bee. A rose. A thorn. A drop of blood. Mismatched eyes. Over and over, until they blur together.

Sudice have the market monopolised when it comes to implants, augmenting lives with extra information and connecting everyone. Carina used to work for them as a neuroprogrammer but now she is a zealot, a zeal addict, who spends as much time in the zealscape as she can. There she can kill in a virtual environment, with no real life guilt. It quells the impulses she fears. She is destroying herself, and society is happy to let it happen.

Zeal was introduced in False Hearts and it is probably easier to fall into this world and accept the story with that background. However Laura neatly gives enough information to fill in a new reader without it seeming too recappy. Zeal is used to prevent violent crime in this society, a drug that is used in combination with something like a VR chair. Supposedly the only people to get addicted are those predisposed to violence, so the authorities are happy to leave them to die.

Of course, Carina wasn't always like this, didn't always feel the urge to kill. That started some time when she was working for Sudice. Her memories subdued, she starts to understand the truth when one of her ex-colleagues sends her a message direct to her head. He's dead, killed by Sudice, and he wants her to bring them down. In order to unlock the information that will implicate them, she must access five memories.

As the memories are unlocked, more is revealed about Carina and how she came to be like she is. They also show how far Sudice have gone, crossing the line in pursuit of progress or just plain greed.

Roz will siphon everything from that shattered mind until nothing is left.

People tend to trust large technology companies with huge amounts of information. We don't read terms and conditions and updates are accepted without a second thought. But what if these companies had direct access to your brain? Would you be happy for someone to reprogram you if it "fixed" your problems and would you still be you?Shattered Minds leaves plenty of food for thought as well as being a technologically advanced mystery, a real page-turner towards the end.

There are a few characters you will recognise from False Hearts but mostly it follows Carina and The Trust, an underground group of hackers determined to undermine Sudice's grasp on the human race. Bonus points for the floating mansions in the Hollywood Hills.

Shattered Minds is published by Tor and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 15th June 2017. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Top Ten Most Anticipated

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's TTT topic is most anticipated books for the second half of this year. I think some of mine a pretty obvious, but for once there are lots of series books coming out that I cannot wait for! The fact that Tower of Dawn was listed as a Chaol novel before the title was announced makes me super excited for that. I have missed him. And the world of His Dark Materials is coming back! Squee!

The Forever Ship by Francesca Haig
Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff *

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust) by Philip Pullman*
Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas*

The Potion Diaries: Going Viral by Amy Alward
The Sun's Domain by Rebecca Levene

Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor*

*UK covers not yet revealed

Monday, 29 May 2017

The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist

The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist is a short novella (or long short story) reworking The Little Mermaid with a modern twist. It follows a scientist who studies the atargati, an intelligent species that live in the depths of the ocean.

People in general call the atargati mermaids, but Dr Cadence Mbella finds that insulting. They aren't mythical creatures but an advanced people who we should show some respect to. But humans being humans, they have an unending curiosity for new and different things. The doctor herself is pretty curious. Curious enough to give up everything in pursuit of knowledge and love?

I remember trying to convince myself I hadn’t fallen for Aíoëe because I didn’t know her. Within the first hour of spending time with her, I knew I was wrong. She’s only talking to me, I can’t talk back, but—she’s everything I yearn for in a person of any species. Curious. Cerebral. Witty and caring in the ways I wish I was.

There's plenty about colonialism and the exoticism of other cultures, the casual racism that often happens when people aren't familiar with other races. The view of the military when they capture an atargati is particularly believable. The atargati are genderless and the protagonist is queer, which she feels helps her better understand them. People project a female gender onto them just because of what they look like, but their culture has no concept of this. The story shows how gender is sometimes not relevant in who you fall in love with.

Maybe I don’t have a definition.

In places it's a little obvious, especially where it talks about non-binary gender, but I suppose if you're hoping to educate through your stories, maybe you need to do this. I prefer a more subtle approach personally and I think I would have worked out the messages without them being spelled out. Still, an entertaining little tale to while away an otherwise boring commute.

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Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Fallen Children

As a huge fan of John Wyndham I was intrigued to see what David Owen would do with this Midwich Cuckoos inspired young adult novel. The thing about the original Midwich was its close-knit community, where the village rallied round to help the mysteriously pregnant women. Sadly in this contemporary council estate setting, there is nothing of the sort.

When the residents of Midwich Towers fall asleep simultaneously, Keisha is streaming (on something similar to Twitch) and her viewers witness it but switch off before they can see her being dragged away from the camera. In the end, four young women become pregnant, three of whom are teenagers. You can imagine the assumptions people will make about these teen pregnancies from the estate.

A teenage girl who isn't ready, who should have been able to do better than this, who let herself down. Except that's not quite right and I force myself towards the truth of it: they see exactly what they expect of a girl like me.

The Fallen Children explores how difficult it is for young people to escape their circumstances. In part this is shown through the reactions to the pregnancies, but also through Keisha's ex who borrowed money from the estate's drug dealer to better himself and the alien children themselves. They are good kids but people expect the worst from them just because of where they live.

It touches on the violation of these girls and how they feel no one will believe them. Whilst the characters react to their offspring differently, there is a lack of connection for some. How do you love the child born out of rape? Never mind that they might not be human. It reflects the experience of young mothers in general, who might not be ready for the responsibility or prepared for the practicalities of raising a child.

I can't be to blame for how he turns out. It can't be my responsibility. I was born in the block, and it trapped me into this life. My attempts to escape were futile.

Maida is a young Muslim girl who feels empowered when she realises what the children can do. I think it goes to her head a bit. Unfortunately her influence, combined with a lack of motherly love from another, ends up doing more damage than good. Children are somewhat a product of their environment but a good parent should lead them in the right direction. There is a scene near the ends which is so powerful and moving. Poor Zero, is all I can say without spoilers.

I found it a little slow to get going but loved it by the end. The different narrative voices aren't that distinct so it took we a while to differentiate the characters. I'm not sure we really needed the story line about the inappropriate teacher either.

Oh yeah, and this book has been released with 360 different colour variations of the cover! Go forth and find your favourite now.

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Book Source: Purchased

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Summer Reading List

Rather than doing this week's Top Ten Tuesday Summer Reads topic, I thought I'd just share my summer reading list. Bex is encouraging everyone to share them on the Ninja Book Box forum and I created my list a couple of weeks ago so I have actually made some progress. Maybe I shall come back and update this with reviews as the summer progresses!

1. The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig
2. Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed (3/5)
3. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
4. Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (4/5)

5. One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton
6. Geekerella by Ashley Poston (3/5)
7. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (4/5)
8. Release by Patrick Ness

9. Shattered Minds by Laura Lam (4/5)
10. The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord (2/5)
11. Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge
12. Shark Drunk by Morten Strøksnes

13. Moxyland by Lauren Beukes
14. The Next Together by Lauren James
15. Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi
16. The Lonely City by Olivia Laing

17. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
18. The Little Homo-Sapiens Scientist by S.L. Huang (4/5)
19. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (4/5)
20. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (4/5)

21. The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah
22. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
23. The Fallen Children by David Owen (4/5)
24. The Dog Who Dared to Dream by Sun-mi Hwang

As always with these things, I will likely go off-track and there's already some extra books I know I'll read before the summer's out.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Ink and Bone

Imagine a world where the Great Library of Alexandria still stands and Gutenberg's press was suppressed leaving the great institution as the gatekeeper of the written word. That's where Rachel Caine's Great Library series is set. Oh and England is at war with Wales.

There is no place in the world for librarians who lack the will to defend books against wars, rebels, and Burners. Books cannot fight for themselves.

The way the Codex works is a sort of magical ereader, with the Library sending approved texts to a blank whenever the reader wants them. With physical books only circulating on the black market, this raises the concerns many had about a behemoth in charge of ebooks. That when the content and distribution falls to one organisation, they control and censor what people read. Texts can disappear at any moment or the words altered.

It also touches on privacy and ownership by giving every citizen a journal. This is personal and every child is encouraged to pour out their inner thoughts for the rest of their lives. When they die, the book becomes part of the Library. Can anything be truly private with a link to the library though? There are also burners, the terrorists of this world, who believe their words should die with them.

The destruction of Rayy taught us that calculated politics and unthinking rage – make no mistake, the two are sometimes hand in hand – are the greatest threats knowledge can face.

The story follows Jess Brightwell, the son of a book smuggler, who is sent to the Library to compete for a coveted position as a scholar. It is a bit slow to start, with the emphasis on world-building over characters in the first half. I'm not sure I ever really connected with Jess, but I loved some of the other characters and the whole concept is plenty of fun. It definitely picks up a lot near the end and there are loads of little snippets that are really quite relevant to our modern world. I already have the second book and I'll definitely be giving it a go sometime.

The truth was what the Library wanted it to be.

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Book Source: Purchased