Monthly roundup – November and December 2014

Once again I’ve been somewhat lax, both with my summaries and with this website in general. In my (somewhat poor) defence, I have been flat out at work in the lead up to the end of the year. I love the organisation I’m working for at the moment, and my new role gives me the chance to work with some fantastic people. But it is busy. Very, very busy.

On a related note, I understand a couple of those fantastic people from work have decided to find out a bit more about my life outside of the office by tracking me down online. Hi Sally and Robyn in particular!

So, a summary of both November and December reading and watching. Many of the books mentioned below are due a full review as a part of my commitment to the Australian Women Writers 2014 Challenge, so not much detail will be provided here. I’ve got 6 reviews to write over the next couple of days.

Regular readers will know that I read the first book in Jo Spurrier’s Children of the Black Sun series earlier in the year (Winter Be My Shield). The plot was compelling enough that I continued on to read the second and third books in the trilogy over the last couple of months – Black Sun Light My Way and North Star Guide Me Home. Both will add to my AWW challenge total, so nothing further to add here.

As many of you would know, I’ve also been reading Musketeer Space – Tansy Rayner Robert’s gender swapped retelling of The Three Musketeers, set in a space opera universe. I’ve continued on with my reading, and I’m almost up to date. Even though the story isn’t finished yet, I’ve decided to do a review of the first half for AWW, mostly as a signal boost for the book, which I’m enjoying very much.

I’ve also finished Kaleidoscope – the anthology released by Twelfth Planet Press. Given the Australian publisher and stories by some Australian women in the book, I’ve also decided to review Kaleidoscope for AWW.

Rounding out my AWW reading for the year are two further books from Twelfth Planet press – Secret Lives by Rosaleen Love and The Female Factory by Angela Slatter and Lisa Hannett. Like the above, they’ll both be reviewed on this site soon.

I’ve found the AWW challenge interesting in 2014. It is the third year I’ve undertaken the challenge, and in previous years I’ve breezed in, finishing much earlier in the year. In 2014 I was reading right up until late December in order to consume my 10 books by Australian women writers. I’m going to reflect on this a little more in my end of challenge post, just as soon as I’ve written up the remaining reviews!

Having enjoyed Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie earlier in the year, I’ve gone on to read the sequel Ancillary Sword. These are very good space opera, with some continuing fantastic reflections on the nature and impact of colonisation. I particularly like the representation of the main character (Breq), who used to be the AI controlling a whole space ship, and able to split her focus between multiple “ancillaries” (dead bodies animated and controlled by the AI) – now reduced to a single ancillary. The way she sees the world is coloured by this experience – I found the voice of the novel to have a freshness that I quite enjoyed. I’ll definitely be reading the third book in the trilogy when it comes out.

The Wild Card series, which I began re-reading as an exercise in nostalgia more than anything else, released a new book, Lowball, over the last couple of months. I enjoyed it more than some of the recent Wild Card books – it was a continuation of the Fort Freak storyline, and has that mosaic novel kind of feel. If you like the Wild Card universe, its well worth checking out. If you don’t (or have never dipped your toes into the Wild Card waters), this isn’t the place to start.

Having now read all the Wild Card books that have come out as eBooks, I came across another wildcard book – this time a graphic novel called The Hard Call. I enjoyed it – the story focused on one of my favourite characters (Croyd Crenson) and the art gave life to the strangeness of the Wild Card universe in a way that was very different from just reading prose. Having said that, I do prefer the novels – they have more depth.

I also read the next in the Long Earth series, The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. I like the conceit of this series, the existence of multiple Earths that humanity can “step” into. The evolution of the world of the books has been quite satisfying, as humanity spreads out across the multiverse. Good writing, excellent dialogue, but I found myself without much more to say than in previous reviews.

Rounding out my reading was Keith Stevenson’s first novel, Horizon. I try to review and promote Australian works more broadly, so I think I’ll be writing a full review on this one too (the unwritten reviews are starting to form a log-jam!). Very enjoyable though – especially if you like science fiction on the more realistic end of the spectrum. Get out and buy a copy, don’t wait for my review!

In terms of genre television, I’ve started on two main series. The Flash has recently started playing on Foxtel. I enjoy Arrow, from which The Flash is spun off, so I thought I’d give it a go. OK so far, but need a few more episodes to form a full opinion.

I’m somewhat late to the True Blood party, but with the final season now out and Foxtel having all 7 seasons available through their on demand offering, I decided to wade in. I’ve watched seasons 1 and 2, and have just started on season 3. I like the way the world is coming together – the politics of the supernatural world are starting to come into focus. Interesting structure of episodes, with almost every episode finishing with a very deliberate cliffhanger that get resolved in the first few minutes of the next episode. I can see it would have been very successful at building a loyal base. I also like that it is set in small town southern USA – a very different starting point than most shows. Season 2 was a lot better than season 1, and I think I’m in for the long haul.

This is turning into a long post, so I’ll leave it there. Stay tuned for more AWW reviews over the next few days.

Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

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