Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres – a review

This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2015 Reading Challenge. All my 2015 AWWC reviews can be found here.


Peacemaker is the latest novel by Australian veteran author Marianne de Pierres, and was the winner of the 2014 Aurealis award for Best Science Fiction novel (the Aurealis awards are Australia’s premium judged awards for speculative fiction).

The book is set in future Australia, where urban sprawl has gone to an extreme. Ranger Virgin Jackson works in Birrimun Park, a sort of US Wild West style theme park, which also happens to be some of the only outback land still accessible to citizens. Jackson is self reliant and somewhat anti social. She seems to like her life, but it gets overturned when she comes across a murder in the Park. The rest of the novel follows her attempts to find out what is going on around her.

I liked the milieu and general world building of the book. There were intriguing glimpses into how Australia had evolved as a society over a longer period of time. The combination of the urban and the outback style settings made for an interesting contrast, and I was genuinely curious to find out more about how this society operated.

I was surprised that this won the science fiction category. While it is set in the future, the tropes and the style of writing seemed to lend themselves better to an urban fantasy categorisation. The supernatural elements are emphasised significantly more than the technology, and the protagonist’s disdain for modern society also takes away from any sort of futuristic feel.

I didn’t engage well with the main characters. I found Ranger Jackson a little irritating and the enigmatic US Marshall a little cliched. I did, however, enjoy the array of secondary characters. There was enough to flavour the world though, and highlight the different facets of the world de Pierres has created.

The writing was solid and well done – rich enough to draw you in but with an enviable economy. The pace was fast and the plot was interesting.

I did, however, find it hard to orient myself in the book. For instance, I walked away with the impression that the eastern seaboard was one big city, but I don’t think that could be right. We’d be talking over 2000km of city. That seems unlikely in the timeframe in question. I probably got that wrong. Issues like that kept dropping me out of the story though and I found it hard to completely immerse myself in the book.

Overall this was a solidly written and well put together book. Unfortunately, it didn’t 100% gel with me and I doubt I’ll be seeking out the sequels. However, this was mostly personal taste and I can recommend it for those that like the idea of urban fantasy in a more futuristic setting.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

Monthly roundup – June and July 2015

So, my website has been neglected for the last couple of months – work has been a bit crazy and I’m running very behind on a whole lot of extra-curricular stuff.

So, let me catch you up gentle reader.

I’ve read a few books over the last couple of months, all of which I enjoyed. I finally read Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Set in the England of the industrial revolution, it follows the exploits of Dodger, a young man who scours the sewers of London for treasure that others have flushed away. I’ve been putting off reading this book, knowing that it was the last new pure Pratchett I’m every going to read. It was good, amusing all the way through and with the great turn of phrase I expect from a Pratchett novel. It was strange reading something that wasn’t set in Discworld, but it was a refreshing change (as much as I love Discworld novels!). Recommended if you’re a Pratchett fan.

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of The Big Smoke by Jason Nahrung. Nahrung is one of my favourite authors, and The Big Smoke didn’t disappoint. I’ll be writing a full review soon, but in the meantime if Aussie vampires in Brisvegas sounds intriguing, get out and buy the book (and Blood and Dust, the first book in the duology, which I reviewed here).

Moving more internationally, I inhaled The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, which has featured on many of the speculative fiction award lists this year. An excellent novel, it follows a half-elf-half-orc who unexpectedly inherits the throne when his father and older half-brothers unexpectedly die in an accident. The main character is very sympathetic, and the writing very clean. A real page turner, I read the book in a couple of sittings. I can see why it has received so many accolades. One of the best fantasies of the year.

Peripheral by William Gibson was also very enjoyable, if not the same kind of page turner. Based on the premise that people in the future find a way to communicate with the past through a computer system, it is part science fiction, part murder mystery and part thriller. It took a little bit of effort to get into the book, but once there I really enjoyed it. Well written and the trademark Gibson  extrapolation of current technology gives much food for thought.

I decided to read the winners of each novel category of the 2015 Aurealis Awards to keep my eye on the Australian scene. I started with Peacemaker  by Marianne de Pierres, winner of the Best Science Fiction category. I’ll be doing a full review for the Australian Women Writers Reading Challenge, but in short it was a good novel solidly executed, but I don’t know that I’ll be rushing back for the second book in the series.

Next off the mark was The Dreaming Pool by Juliet Marillier. I really enjoyed this book. There was an element of “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, because I had completely the wrong idea about the book from the title and the cover. Once again, I’ll be writing a full review for the AWWC but well worth reading.

I’m taking a short break from my Aurealis reading to look at The Long Utopia by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett (more Stephen Baxter than Terry Pratchett, mores the pity – nothing against Stephen Baxter, but I do miss Pratchett’s writing). About as expected so far.

TV wise, like everyone I watching through to the end of Game of Thrones season 5, and have spent the requisite amount of time worrying about Jon Snow’s fate. That’s probably enough – there have been a lot more written about GoT everyone else on the internet, and I find myself without anything interesting to say.

I started watching Dark Matter, which has the distinction of being a science fiction show actually set on a spaceship. I hadn’t realised I’d been missing that until I got about half way through the first episode and thought “<insert deity of choice>, I love spaceships”. A good premise (everyone waking up with amnesia) and very competently executed so far. I’m hooked.

I also started watching Defiance season 3. For a show that was released primarily to sell a computer game, I’ve found Defiance quite compelling. There has been a bit of a clear out of old characters, but I’m still liking the show. If you haven’t watched the first two seasons, I probably wouldn’t advise starting at season 3.

I started watching The Messengers but abandoned it after 1.5 episodes. I’m not a religious man, but I can be convinced to watch angel/demon shows (for instance Supernatural), but I’ve decided I only like them when the angels are almost as bad as the demons.

On the superhero side of things, Gotham has been getting better and better. It is dark – very gritty with characters having to make some nasty choices (one of them, for instance, had to scoop her own eyeball out. It made sense at the time). I’ve always liked the Batman tale, and this exploration of the pre-origin story has grabbed me more than I thought it would. Worth persevering with if you like Batman but didn’t like the first half of the season.

I also just finished Arrow season 3, which was about as I expected. I’ve heard a lot of commentary panning the flashback format of the show, but I really like it. I’m enjoying having Oliver Queen’s backstory filled in, and having the flashbacks track exactly 5 years behind the main action works for me.

Agents of SHIELD was competently executed, and lets face it, I’m just a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I enjoyed watching it, I’m struggling to find anything interesting to say about it. So, lets just stick with “if you like the MCU, you’re probably watching AoS already” and leave it at that.

12 Monkeys was an interesting time hopping adventure. Based loosely around the Bruce Willis/Brad Pitt movie of the same name, it included an interesting take on time travel that remained mostly coherent. I remained interested enough to see it through to the end, just to see how everything played out. I liked the end, pointing everything at “you can’t escape destiny”, then pulling a fast one in the last scene. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the second season.

Wayward Pines started off in an intriguing way. A ten episode season, I was surprised when they revealed the mystery at the heart of the story about half way through. It changed the nature of the narrative quite dramatically. I didn’t mind not having Lost levels of irritating and contrived mystery, but it has made me wonder where the show could possibly go from here. I may start the next season, but I make no guarantees about finishing it.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve started in on the new seasons of Teen Wolf and Falling Skies. More on them next month.

I even got out to see a couple of movies. Imagine what you think the Entourage movie will be like. Picture it in your mind. You’ll be pleased to know that it is exactly what is hovering in your pre-frontal cortex. If you liked the series, then it is a bit of nostalgia. If not, don’t bother.

I really enjoyed Ant Man. It was significantly funnier that I was expecting, and after the ever escalating plots of the last few MCU movies, it was nice to have something with a manageable scale. A good stand alone movie as well if you haven’t kept up with the franchise.

And finally I popped out to see Mission Impossible this weekend. Pretty good non-stop explosions and Tom Cruise may be a fruit loop, but he is an incredibly fit fruit loop. Either special effects are getting really good, or Mr Cruise does a LOT of his own stunts. Lets face it, we all know that we’re going to wake up one day to the headline “Tom Cruise Dies Performing Bloody Stupid Stunt”. Still, in the meantime it makes for some spectacular, if mindless, entertainment.


Dark Space by Marianne de Pierres – review

Dark Space by Marianne de Pierres

This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2013 Reading Challenge. All my 2013 AWWC reviews can be found here.

Dark Space is the first of the Sentients of Orion series by Marianne de Pierres. The storyline primarily follows three characters – Baronessa Mira Fedor, a member of the planet Araldis’ aristocracy and born with a genetic makeup that allows her to interact directly with living spaceships, Trinder Pellegrini the spoiled son of Araldis’ planetary ruler and Tekton, an influential citizen of the planet Lostol chosen as a candidate to interact with a recently discovered powerful entity some think is God.

These three point of view characters are interesting selections. All of them are from positions of great wealth and privilege. None of them is particularly sympathetic (although for entirely different reasons). I think the reader is meant to side with Mira, but I found it hard to warm to her.

With three unsympathetic main characters you’d think the story would be in trouble, but the way the storylines interact really works. You see glimpses of the potential for growth in Mira and Trinder, and Tekton is so self centred and devious I found myself cheering for him. So while the characters were not sympathetic, I found them compelling. Just as good in my books.

The world building behind the story was comprehensive and consistent. There is plenty of ground setting in this first book for the rest of the series to build on. The cultures of the various planets and societies referenced, the implications of “humanesque” vs alien sentients and the technology were all well thought through and supported the story.

Italian is not the first culture you expect to see represented in a space opera. This created an interesting point of difference from a lot of other books. The repressed role of women on Araldis provided the source of a lot of the conflict in the novel. It was interesting to think about how some cultural traits that we consider backwards could flourish if the cohort who supports them were to get their own planet.

The plot was enjoyable, with plenty of political intrigue and short bursts of action. Interesting questions were raised and story arcs begun. I’ll certainly be tracking down the rest of the books in the series to see how the story unfolds.


I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

Creative Commons License
This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.