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Book Review: The Ghost Line

The Ghost Line Andrew Neil Gray & J.S. Herbison

Title:

The Ghost Line

Author:

Andrew Neil Gray, J.S. Herbison

Genre:

Sci-Fi

Book procurement:

Received a copy for Gamecca Magazine from Tor.com.

Synopsis:

The luxury cruise ship the Martian Queen was decommissioned years ago, set to drift back and forth between Earth and Mars on the off-chance that reclaiming it ever became profitable for the owners. For Saga and her husband Michel the cruise ship represents a massive payday. Hacking and stealing the ship could earn them enough to settle down, have children, and pay for the treatments to save Saga’s mother’s life.

But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider’s web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.

Book Review:

First Thoughts

The synopsis paints quite a fascinating picture doesn’t it. I remember describing it as a “what if” Titanic story intermingled with the sentient aura of the Overlook Hotel from Stephen King’s The Shining. It’s nothing like that at all. From the get go, you get a sense of character focus, where it’s more about the crew than it is about the ship itself. The ship becoming a means to an end, leading to character growth.

The Story

The story follows Saga and Michel, a husband and wife hacker team. With them is Gregor, the pilot of their ship the Sigurd. The crew is hired by the mysterious Wei to recapture a luxury cruise spaceship named the Martian Queen. Once a prosperous liner travelling between Mars and Earth, the ship has been decommissioned for twenty years and floats through space between the two planets. The ship is still in tact and seems the perfect score, perhaps too perfect. But the pay will set Saga and Michel for life, and allow Saga to pay for her mother’s medical fees.

However, once inside the ship they realize they may have bitten off more than they can chew. The ships A.I. appears to be defunct, but unexplained phenomena begin to occur. Lights coming on. The casino abuzz with figures who once roamed the ship. It becomes clear to the crew, especially Saga, that not all is as it seems.

Writing

The story is told from Saga’s perspective, written in third-person. It is much more a story about Saga than it is about the Martian Queen or the crew. The writing takes a very emotive approach, where we see all the things that Saga and Michel have to deal with, Gregor’s own dismantled life, and Wei’s suspicious behaviour once they are aboard the cruise ship. These, however, appear as side notes to Saga’s own thought processes and poignant introspection.

From within the ship, the writing flows into more of a mystery. There’s hardly any technical jargon or sci-fi heavy concepts, although they are definitely present. Instead the writing focuses on how Saga feels about the job, Wei, her mother, and the curious happenings that they attribute to the ship. Of course there are some ominous moments that creep through the story but nothing really scary.

Apart from Saga,who is very well written, the other characters fall to the wayside. We get a glimpse of their personalities yet not enough to truly set them apart. They are only noticeable because there are so few characters to focus on anyway.

The writing is not flowery or filled with prose, but the nostalgia is undeniable.

Final Thoughts

The ending was not predictable at all, although in hindsight I should have seen it coming. Especially considering that the focus was barely on the ship, but the crew inside the ship. In the end I enjoyed this novella. Not in the ghost story kind of way, but the emotional investment kind of way. Much like the Stephen King books I love so much.

Rating: An unexpected 4 out of 5


The Ghost Line was published on July 10, 2017.

 

Are you an author who wants your book reviewed? Contact me on my site: NthatoMorakabi.com

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The Fortress at the end of Time – Review

Title: The Fortress at the End of Time

Author: Joe M. McDermott

Genre: Sci-Fi

Book procurement: Received a copy for Gamecca Magazine from Tor.com.

Synopsis:

In The Fortress at the End of Time, humanity has expanded across the galaxy by use of ansible and clone technology, but an enemy stands in their way—an enemy alien in concept as much as physiology. Ronaldo Aldo is a clone stationed in the back-end of nowhere—a watch station with a glorious military past, but no future. He’s desperate to prove himself worthy of ascension—of having his consciousness broadcast to a newer clone, far away from his current post at the Citadel.

Review:

First Thoughts

Sci-fi and I are good friends. Not the best, but good. Like that friend you talk to occasionally and have a great time with but won’t talk to for months until you meet again. Yeah. That’s sci-fi to me alright.

The Fortress at the End of Time was very vague in its synopsis. I guess they were trying to keep the whole story a mystery, so I couldn’t get a sense of what I should expect. From the get go I was thrust into this technologically advanced world where humans get cloned, and it is the clone that get’s shipped off to where the original is needed. And they have with them, all the originals memories. And this is the story of one clone of many – Ronaldo Aldo.

Ronaldo Aldo is my name. There are as many of me as there are colonies.

~Ronaldo Aldo

The Story

Ronaldo Aldo is a clone sent off to a remote watch station, the Citadel, with a glorious military past. It was there that humanity made an impressive stand against an unknown, apparently alien, enemy. Now they stand watch for a possible, inevitable counter attack although none think it will come. Yet someone must watch just in case. In truth the Citadel is nothing more than a decaying way-station where clones spend the rest of their lives in routine boredom. There is every level of bureaucracy as one can expect and the corruption that comes with it.

The novel plays out from Ronaldo Aldo’s first person perspective. It is a written confession of a grievous crime he’s committed, but to get to it, he explains how it all began. From his last night as his original self – a graduate at the War College – to his clone self assigned to the Citadel, and the life there. It is a story of self-discovery and budding existential crises. A story of a clone who realises the monotony of his existence and hopes to one day change it.

Knowing the self is vital to clones, psychologically, and more so at a posting like the Citadel. If we perceive no origin, and there is no place but the Citadel, and all else is just a story, then I would prefer not to uncover the truth.

~Ronaldo Aldo

There is also a religious context to the story. A way, I think, J.M McDermott addresses the idea that no matter how much we progress as a species technologically and scientifically, there are things that even those cannot answer. Later in the book, Ronaldo gets to visit one of the colonies off Citadel. One of his few joys. There he goes to a monastery with a unique number of characters who question the military life and its absolutes. One of which asks whether people reborn through the ansible as clones, have their souls transported too.

Writing

The writing is truly captivating. I did not get a sense of the author (in the writing itself) at all but the view of the main protagonist. As though I were truly reading his confession here on my own Earth substation. It is authentic and real. No unnecessary flowery talk but a near-narcissistic, emotional wreck expunging of life. He just does his duty regardless of the obvious, unspoken occurrences by those who realise that they are stuck forever on the Citadel, and nothing will ever change that.

I was pushed to this great act by the station, the military protocols, and the lies I was told about transcendence. I sinned against the devil and beat his game. By grace of God, my sin against the devil is the triumph of my life.

~Ronaldo Aldo

Final Thoughts

 

I was rooting for Ronaldo, while at the same time wanting to punch him in the face. The decisions he made sometimes were infuriating. Then again, imagine knowing you’re a clone, sent off to some random corner of the galaxy where a corrupted bureaucracy rules and everyone knows and exploits it. A place where suicides are common. Where you have no hope of ever leaving the dreary, indifferent world you’ve been throw in to.

What would you do?

I do not deny my guilt, and will never deny it.

~Ronaldo Aldo

Rating: An entangled 3 out of 5


The Fortress at the End of Time was published on January 17 2017.

Did you know:

An ansible is a category of fictional device or technology capable of instantaneous or faster-than-light communication. It can send and receive messages to and from a corresponding device over any distance or obstacle whatsoever with no delay. The term ansible is broadly shared across works of several science fiction authors, settings and continuities.

In The Fortress at the End of Time, the McDermott uses the ansible as an instantaneous cloning tool.

Are you an author who wants your book reviewed? Contact me on my site: NthatoMorakabi.com

The Five Daughters of the Moon

Title: The Five Daughters of the Moon

Author: Leena Likitalo

Genre: Historical Science Fantasy

Book procurement: Received a copy for Gamecca Magazine from Tor.com.

Synopsis:

Inspired by the 1917 Russian revolution and the last months of the Romanov sisters, The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo is a beautifully crafted historical fantasy with elements of technology fueled by evil magic.

The Crescent Empire teeters on the edge of a revolution, and the Five Daughters of the Moon are the ones to determine its future.

Alina, six, fears Gagargi Prataslav and his Great Thinking Machine. The gagargi claims that the machine can predict the future, but at a cost that no one seems to want to know.

Merile, eleven, cares only for her dogs, but she smells that something is afoul with the gagargi. By chance, she learns that the machine devours human souls for fuel, and yet no one believes her claim.

Sibilia, fifteen, has fallen in love for the first time in her life. She couldn’t care less about the unrests spreading through the countryside. Or the rumors about the gagargi and his machine.

Elise, sixteen, follows the captain of her heart to orphanages and workhouses. But soon she realizes that the unhappiness amongst her people runs much deeper that anyone could have ever predicted.

And Celestia, twenty-two, who will be the empress one day. Lately, she’s been drawn to the gagargi. But which one of them was the first to mention the idea of a coup?

Inspired by the 1917 Russian revolution and the last months of the Romanov sisters, The Five Daughters of the Moon is a beautifully crafted historical fantasy with elements of technology fuelled by evil magic.

Review:

First Thoughts

Writing book reviews for Gamecca has been an interesting journey. I’ve been introduced to some amazing books and authors, and some really drab books. I don’t really have a choice, just a list of books to read (which I am very grateful for, I mean free books!) so not all of them are “up my alley.”

The Five Daughters of the Moon didn’t start off as “up my alley” although I was definitely intrigued. By the end of it I was drawn right into the world, characters, and story. Sometimes you just got to give a book a chance.

The Story

The book is based on the Romanov sisters. As the book “The Romanov Sisters” says about them,

“The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses—Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov—were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle.”

In that regard, Leena Likitalo did an amazing job of showing this prestige. Even keeping the fact that the sisters used to sew gems into their garments, among many other historical facts. While the novel is based on the sisters, Leena did take a lot of creative freedom. There were originally only four sisters and their youngest brother Alexei, in the novel it’s five sisters. She also changed their names and a little bit of their stories. However reading this novel and the history of the sisters, you can see a lot of correlation. Also, the setting of this story takes place in a science-fantasy world.

We follow each of the sisters lives and experiences, seeing varying situations from each sister’s perspective. The focus is mainly around Gagargi Prataslav, a Sorcerer-Scientist, who has built a contraption known as the Great Thinking Machine. Only this machine is more than what it seems, and each of the sisters begin to slowly realise what the machine will mean to the Crescent Empire.

It is a story of intrigue, drama, betrayal and family. Of a broken society and how each sister tries to live with their life, especially when everything comes crashing down.

That is the role of the younger daughters. To be ignored and forgotten.

~ Merile, Five Daughters of the Moon.

Writing

 

Each chapter is from the perspective of the different sisters, usually starting with the youngest and ending with the oldest. This provides interesting insights into each of the sisters, building up a sense of foreshadowing which is then explained in the next sister’s view. This was done really well, where each sister had a particular way that they provided their view. Sibilia wrote in a diary and that’s how she “spoke”, while Merile focused on her pets, and so on.

Each sister was also unique in personality and there was no doubt who was who (even with the name at the beginning of the chapter). We see how the youngest look up at their older sisters and the persuasions of a young child in a royal family. The oldest sisters were all about finding love and being responsible. The contrasting personalities made for a good read.

The writing style was also flowery. From the world building, to character descriptions and how scenes played out. I liked this style and I felt like I was in the particular room being described. Like I could see each of the sisters, their mother, the Gagargi, etc.

Gagargi Prataslav strides toward us. The heels of his boots clack loudly against the floor. His black robes billow behind him as if he were riding the wind. His dark eyes gleam with pure malice.

~Alina, Five Daughters of the Moon.

Final Thoughts

I realised I couldn’t write female characters as well as Leena because I’m a guy. There are intuitive observations that a female writer has that I have yet to see in many male authors. It was a refreshing take. Also, the little details taken from the actual historical account that were included in the novel added ingenuity to the novel. Great work.

“I have looked into the past and present. But neither of them hold the solution for the problem we face.”

~ Gagargi Prataslav, Five Daughters of the Moon.

Rating: An interesting 4 out of 5


The Sisters of the Crescent Empress (The Waning Moon #2) will be published on the 7th of November 2017.

Did you know:

The Romanov family were executed in Yekaterinburg on the night of 16th-17th, July 1918. – Romanov Family Execution. Don’t worry, the novel doesn’t end with an execution.


Are you an author who wants your book reviewed? Contact me on my site: NthatoMorakabi.com

The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy

Danielle Cain is a queer punk rock traveller, jaded from a decade on the road. Searching for clues about her best friend’s mysterious and sudden suicide, she ventures to the squatter, utopian town of Freedom, Iowa. All is not well in Freedom, however: things went awry after the town’s residents summoned a protector spirit to serve as their judge and executioner.

Danielle shows up in time to witness the spirit—a blood-red, three-antlered deer—begin to turn on its summoners. Danielle and her new friends have to act fast if they’re going to save the town—or get out alive.

 


Margaret is an itinerant author, editor, and photographer whose interests include forest defense, anarchism, and the serial comma.

Website: birdsbeforethestorm.net


This book was exactly what I needed when I was craving a dose of good horror. There was even a point during the night (after reading) when I was standing in the kitchen, in the dark, expecting a blood red deer to be standing there, waiting to chew my heart out of my chest.

*shivers*

Wednesday Book Review: Mapping the Interior

Title: Mapping the Interior

Author: Stephen Graham Jones

Genre: Horror

Book procurement: Received a copy from Tor.com for Gamecca Magazine Vol 8 Issue 94.

Synopsis:

Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.

The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you’d rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.

Review:

First Thoughts

I came away from this book feeling deeply troubled in a way that only good horror stories can manage. It’s not just about the innocence of young Junior during the whole narration, but his naivety that only makes things worse. As a Native American, moving into an obscure neighbourhood, there are a number of challenges they already have to face.  Let alone a mother hoping to raise two boys after their father dies mysteriously at the reservation. And Juniors little brother already has his own learning problems.

And that ending though, gee I was not expecting that. Troubled indeed.

Writing

The writing is fast paced. Moving between the scenes with clarity and a touch of mystery. Told from the perspective of an older Junior, we see just how traumatic his childhood was, following the dark silhouette of his dead father disappearing through a doorway. The desperation of a child hoping to reconnect with his father, regardless of the monster he may have become. It is melancholic woe pushing this story forward.

 

At the same time, there are a number of horrific episodes that occur. I loved it! I mean… you know… its horror. How Junior is driven by hope through all of these numerous episodes is in itself naive and just sad. Yet brings a realism that I could relate to.

There are a number of characters who appear alongside Junior. His brother has a learning disability that makes him the target of bullies. Junior’s mother is struggling to rebuild her life, as her kids always come first. Junior himself sees his role as both big brother and man of the house. It’s a story of broken people in a broken world.

Final Thoughts

While I may classify this book as a horror, it reminds me of the Stephen King sort of horror. Where the story is not about the evil entity roused from an Indian burial ground (Classic King ain’t it?) but a story about the people who have to deal with it. It’s a story about Junior, and his brother, his mother, and the community. And it’s a great read.

Rating: A melancholic 4 out of 5


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Wednesday Book Review: Cold Counsel

cold-counsel

 

Title: Cold Counsel

Author: Chris Sharp

Genre: Fantasy

Book procurement: Received a copy from Tor.com for Gamecca Magazine Vol 8 Issue 90.

Synopsis:

In Chris Sharp’s new epic fantasy Cold Counsel, Slud of the Blood Claw Clan, Bringer of Troubles, was born at the heart of the worst storm the mountain had ever seen. Slud’s father, chief of the clan, was changed by his son’s presence. For the first time since the age of the giants, he rallied the remaining trolls under one banner and marched to war taking back the mountain from the goblin clans.

However, the long-lived elves remembered the brutal wars of the last age, and did not welcome the return of these lesser-giants to martial power. Twenty thousand elves marched on the mountain intent on genocide. They eradicated the entire troll species—save two.

Aunt Agnes, an old witch from the Iron Wood, carried Slud away before the elves could find them. Their existence remained hidden for decades, and in that time, Agnes molded Slud to become her instrument of revenge.

For cold is the counsel of women

Review:

Got permission from my editor to post the Gamecca book reviews here so there’ll be more regular. The reviews in the magazine have a max 200 word count so I’m expanding.

I actually didn’t read the synopsis to this book before I selected it, which happened to be a good thing. It is merely the introduction to a grander story that slashes it’s way onward. Intermingled with a lot of Norse mythology, Cold Counsel was a book I enjoyed far more than I thought I would.

It follows the story of Slud. He doesn’t seem to be the sharpest knife in the kitchen, merely a fantastically large brute who has been raised by Aunt Agnes, a witch living in a dark forest called Iron Wood. His upbringing is brutal, riddled with tests and challenges and tales of great battles between gods and monsters. All of this, is merely a taste of the unfolding story.

The writing flows really well. You get a sense of the characters and the world around them clearly. Good vivid descriptions incorporating the senses like smell, and sight, and sound, that it was easy to imagine Slud’s exploits during the course of the story. The characters are also given so much life. From Neither-Nor and his almost eccentric paranoid nimbleness to the seething anger that boils within Aunt Agnes.

A really fantastic novel, unfortunately quite short, but engaging and fun.

Rating: A riveting 4 out of 5

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