Apr 14, 2015

Book Review – The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

the-water-knifeI have enjoyed (if that’s the right word) Bacigalupi’s vision of the near future in his young adult works, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities.  In The Water Knife, he returns to adult fiction and by adult I mean that the story is reasonably complicated and deals with mature concepts.

The Water Knife depicts a near future where state and corporate factions fight for water rights in a crumbling South West America (Nevada, California, Utah, Texas Arizona). The situation is not quite open warfare, a federal government still exists but states act to protect their borders from refugees (Texans get it bad in this future) moving from the poorer states.

The story focuses largely on a reporter and a water knife(a trouble shooter / trouble starter for one of the states) as they become embroiled in a search for old water rights that could upset the well laid plans of powerful entities.  It’s fast paced, full of shootouts between gun toting Texans, Hispanic gangs and agent provocateurs from any entity in the market for making money off of misery.  There’s torture and violence of the kind you’d expect in a world of failing states who can’t supply their populace with clean water or sewerage and who have really given up on caring.

The Times anointed Bacigalupi as a successor to William Gibson, and while The Water Knife, isn’t cyberpunk, it’s a future unevenly distributed, with corporations and foreign powers beginning to carve out influence for themselves in a union that is slowly failing.  A slow apocalypse, an eco-thriller, an action adventure,The Water Knife is a fast paced and dirty look at what might happen when the water all but dries up and the lawyers are all but finished determining who owns the rights to what’s left.

I suspect that the novel is firmly grounded in some of the issues surrounding water rights in the South Western states today and The Water Knife has that edge of realism, the world seems only to have been extrapolated out by a number of decades. Indeed the kind of jockeying for access to rights observed in The Water Knife doesn’t appear to be that much different to what occurs with companies exploiting exploring for fracking opportunities in a number of countries.

It’s not message fiction (unless perhaps you don’t think there’s any climate change), it’s firmly bedded down in moral greyness  Indeed talking about distribution, it wouldn’t be hard to find situations and themes presented in The Water Knife existing in third world countries now or in the  last 20 or 30 years, the difference here is of course the setting is the US.

It was a quick read, enjoyable and interesting for its focus on a more plausible slow apocalypse.  This is good sci-fi examining the issues we face now and suggesting where we might end up.


This book  was an Advanced Reading Copy.

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Apr 12, 2015

eBook Review – The Lost Mask (Book 2 of The Bone Mask Trilogy) by Ashley Capes


I was really delighted and surprised by Ashley Capes debut in the fantasy genre (see my review of Book 1). I felt that for a debut novel, City of Masks, showed considerable polish. I think Capes has backed up well with The Lost Mask, all of our favourite characters and villains are here and there’s some interesting developments in world building that further expand on the world of City of Masks.

In many ways The Lost Mask is a typical book two in a trilogy, you will need to have read book one.  Capes is sparse on the info dumping paragraphs some authors/publishers include to bring readers up to speed( indeed I hesitantly suggest he hasn’t included any) and considering it’s only a year since book one was released fans shouldn’t need a reminder of who Vinezi or Ain are.

The major change I feel is a subtle shift in tone. With The Lost Mask,  I feel we have moved from a intrigue/thriller to adventure fantasy.  We still have the same set of beloved characters, but plot lines have crossed and so this book feels much more like King Oseto’s story to me.  There is less skulking in secret passages and imagining the carved faces of the Mascare, more dealing with the management of a dead and poisonous Sea Beast and preparing for open war.

In The Lost Mask, Sophia and Notch have teamed up in search of Sophia’s father who has fled to the Bloodwood.  Flir and Luik are employed in devising a plan for ridding the city of the Sea Beast carcass( which is poisoning the bay and the populace), and preparing for an imminent invasion.  The trouble caused by Venezi simmers and the truth behind the Greatmasks grows steadily more apparent. Seto, now King, realizes a long held ambition only to come face to mask with what that ambition is going to cost him.

I did enjoy book one for its fantasy cloak and dagger - the atmosphere created by the culture of the Mascare.  I felt that this element was missing in The Lost Mask (hence my comment about tone) but what the reader gets in exchange broadens the concept and the history behind the masks and the power of the Sea Beast’s bones. Like a good second book it broadens our understanding of the world and increases the stakes.

Unlike City of Masks, The Lost Mask finishes on a cliff hanger of sorts and leads us into what will be an interesting conclusion in the final book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and hoped that we might see this series make a mark in the Aurealis or the Ditmars. Nevertheless if you like well paced fantasy with originality of concept, check this series out. 

This review is based on an early eArc provided by the author.

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Apr 3, 2015

Guest Post: Realism and Disability in the Apocalypse by Holly Kench


What is Defying Doomsday?

Apocalypse fiction rarely includes characters with disability, chronic illness and other impairments. When these characters do appear, they usually die early on, or are secondary characters undeveloped into anything more than a burden to the protagonist. Defying Doomsday will be an anthology showing that disabled characters have far more interesting stories to tell in post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction.

Defying Doomsday will be edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, and published by Twelfth Planet Press in mid 2016. Defying Doomsday is currently crowdfunding via Pozible. To support the project visit: http://pozi.be/defyingdoomsday


And now some words from Holly:


Realism and Disability in the Apocalypse

by Holly Kench

I’ve heard some people argue that having disabled characters in apocalypse fiction is unrealistic.

Apparently, in science fiction, the reanimation of the dead is possible. So is an alien invasion. But a disabled person surviving during an apocalypse? Now that’s just silly. We can only take suspension of disbelief so far, and that is the line.

I’m going to be honest. I don’t know that I’d survive long during an apocalypse. I have no idea how to fire a gun; I don’t know how to light a fire without matches; and I have no desire to live in a world without chocolate.

But I don’t really see my physical impairments as a particular problem. Of course, it depends on the apocalypse, and, sure, I’ll need to remember to loot the pharmacy before I head to the supermarket. But I’ve got a high pain tolerance, a solar charger for my iPad, and about as much chance as the next person of surviving a zombie hoard by covering myself in waste product.

So why aren’t there more people like me, more disabled people, in apocalypse fiction? You know, apart from the chocolate issue.

That’s a question Tsana Dolichva and I want to put to the test in an anthology dedicated to exploring tales of disabled characters in apocalypse fiction. Defying Doomsday will be an anthology of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories, featuring disabled, chronically ill, mentally ill and/or neurodiverse protagonists. We are currently holding a crowdfunding campaign through Pozible to fund the anthology. To support the campaign or to preorder a copy of Defying Doomsday, visit: http://pozi.be/defyingdoomsday

Your support is greatly appreciated! You can find out more about Defying Doomsday at our website or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


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