Monthly roundup culture consumed – November 2016

Hope everyone has had a great November, and you’re not freaking out about how close Christmas is all of a sudden.

Books

As foreshadowed last month I finished Revenger by Alistair Reynolds during November. This is an excellent book. Set in the far, far future, the matter in the solar system has been reconfigured to be a lot of small planetoids, using tame black holes and other sciencey things to maintain things like gravity at Earth levels. There have been a series of civilisations that have risen and fallen in this environment, and as a result the planetoids are littered with the junk of many civilisations, some of it much more advanced than the current civilisation. Treasure hunting spaceships travel between worlds, and the whole thing has an 18th century naval adventure feel to it. I won’t give away much of the plot – you should go and read this book.

I started another couple of books – a new anthology edited by Jim Butcher called Shadowed Souls and the second book in Ken Liu’s Dandelion Dynasty series, The Wall of Storms. Not far enough through either to have much to say as yet, although I can say that I really enjoyed Liu’s last book, and this one seems to be continuing on in a very satisfying way.

TV

I’ve been watching The Expanse on Netflix. The special effects on this series are amazing, and while it is a while since I read the book, the plot seems to follow pretty faithfully. Still got a couple of episodes to go, but a great show so far.

A couple of years back I watched the first two episodes of the sci-fi series Orphan Black, and while I enjoyed them I never got around to watching any more of it. I watched the first couple of episodes again in November, and again enjoyed them but I’m not finding myself drawn back to them. I’m going to try to power through at least a few more episodes – I’ve heard so many good reviews of this series and I feel like I’ve missed an essential part of the shared community experience.

The new Australian animated series Pacific Heat has started. At the time of writing, I’ve only watched the first episode. Very much like the American series Archer – same style of animation, very similar premise. I suspect the series will take a few episodes to find its feet – the humour was a bit hit and miss. The voice actors are a lot of the crew from the D-Generation (an Australian phenomenon) so there is a nostalgia angle here as well. If you’ve watched Archer and liked it, give this a go.

Movies

Didn’t go to the movies at all in December, but I did finally get around to watching The Martian. I found it surprisingly enjoyable. In some ways it is very old fashioned sci-fi, where the main enemy is a cold, uncaring universe and the problems can be solved by science and engineering. But Matt Damon played the main character with just enough wry humour to make him sympathetic and as a result the movie kept me very much hooked in.

Other

One of the podcasts I really like, Tea and Jeopardy, is starting its annual “Advent Calendar” style run – with very short episodes being published every day in the lead up to Christmas. An excellent podcast – usual format is a speculative fiction author interview with a small “radio play” around it.

Another favourite podcast, Sheep Might Fly, has just started a new audio story –  “Dance, Princes, Dance” by Australian author Tansy Rayner Roberts.

So, what have you been up to?

Monthly roundup culture consumed – October 2016

I’m a bit late with my October roundup – many apologies.

Books

I finished the first book in Tansy Rayner Robert’s Mocklore series, Splashdance Silver – more detailed review to come for the Australian Women Writers reading challenge.

For anyone who has read and enjoyed Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, the latest book (Mistborn: A Secret History) is a fun read. No point reading this book by itself – it only really makes sense if you’ve read the other books (or at least the first trilogy). If you’re a fan of the other books, you’ll like this one. It runs parallel to the original trilogy, fills in a  few blanks and brings back a favourite character. However, I must admit it has been quite a while since I read the original story and I spent half of this book trying to remember how it all fit together.

And finally I started on Revenger by Alistair Reynolds – more to say next month once I’ve finished.

TV

I finished Luke Cage on Netflix – an excellent series. It was very refreshing to watch a show that deals with themes of masculinity, but does it in a way that is respectful to women. I loved the nods to the seventies as well – even though it is set in the modern day, it had a 70s aesthetic which was cool. I kept expecting the theme song from Shaft to kick in. It was also good to see Rosario Dawson playing a larger role in this series. Clearly she’s going to be the person that pulls the heroes from Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist together, but she had a much bigger role in this series.

I just realised that The Expanse is also on Netflix. I’ll definitely be watching that one, the special effects and general look of it is amazing. Really liked the books, and keen to see a solar system sci fi series.

Movies

Got away to a movie in October – went to see Marvel’s Dr Strange. In some ways a very different Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, in other ways a lot of the same formula. I liked the way they brought magic in, some of the scenes were very trippy (a bit like Inception with buildings twisting and gravity going all weird). Enough humour to keep me interested as well.

Other

A lot of family and work related activity in October, so not much more from me.

So, what have you been up to?

Monthly roundup culture consumed – September 2016

I hope September treated everyone with dignity and respect. I’m afraid my culture consumption has been a little light on this month – too many work events and family obligations preventing a good read!

Books

I finished Lois McMaster Bujold’s Falling Free (Book 1 in the Vorkosigan Saga). I enjoyed the book, but my initial concern that it didn’t seem to contain anyone called “Vorkosigan” in it was born out. I am assuming that it was some kind of prequel book, that has been listed as Book 1 for anyone wanting to read chronologically? In any case, the book was a good story, but not enough to make me immediately want to pick up another in the series. I’m told I should definitely try the next one, Shards of Honour, which I might do in the fullness of time.

I started the first book in Tansy Rayner Robert’s Mocklore series, Splashdance Silver. It is interesting to go back and look at the earlier work of an author you admire. I won’t say much here, because I’ll probably do a full review once I’m finished the book.

TV

You know what I did? I got lazy and missed the last couple of episodes of the second series of Marvel’s Agent Carter on Channel 7’s catch up TV. Really kicking myself on that front – now I’ll have to wait to be able to obtain it through alternate legal means to find out how the story ended. Very disappointing. I believe that is the last series of Agent Carter, which is a damn shame.

Have been catching up on the latest series of Musketeers, but must admit to be finding it harder going this series. Not exactly sure why, I think the clash of modern sensibilities with the realities of a 14th century French monarchy are starting to overwhelm the show. Still, there is still a nice balance of both swash and buckle, so I keep going back.

Lots of the DC universe TV series are starting up this week – Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow. I’m in two minds about a couple of these series – almost ready to let some of them go. I might give them each a few weeks and see how I feel.

Speaking of superheroes, I watched the first episode of Luke Cage on Netflix last night. Looks really good – that is one superhero show I’ll definitely be sticking with.

Movies

Besides taking my daughter to see Secret Life of Pets I’ve been once again cinema free this month. I’m considering going along to see The Magnificent Seven, but that isn’t really SF so not much point in mentioning it.

I did watch the extended cut of Batman vs Superman on Blu-ray last week. It’s still not the best superhero movie of the year, but I did find that the extra material plugged a few gaps for me and made the movie seem a bit more coherent. I especially felt that Lois Lane came out seeming much more well rounded, which was good.

I rewatched Captain America Civil War as well (a father’s day gift). I really like Spiderman. Just sayin’.

Other

Issue 219 of Antipodean SF is out now, including my eBook versions (I actually got them done on time this month).

I have an Xbox, but I don’t really play it much anymore. I did, however, purchase a new game – Deus Ex – recently, which I’m looking forward to giving a whirl. I’ve always been a sucker for an futuristic augmented human game (harking back to my favourite game back in the day, System Shock).

From a writing perspective, things have been meandering along slowly. I’ve almost finished a first round of edits on my 27,000 word novella, The Reclaimers. Next I’ll be typing out the first 20,000 or so words of a science fiction novel or novella (depending on how much more story there is in it). I quite like the characters in this one, so looking forward to revisiting them (I hand wrote the story about 6 months ago).

So, what have you been up to?

Monthly roundup culture consumed – May 2016

So, what did everyone else do in May?

Books

Not a lot on the reading front this month. I’ve been picking away at a Star Wars novel, based on the Rebels TV series (which finished its second season this month as well). At the moment I only seem to be reading a page or two each night. That will have to change.

TV

Are any of you watching The Magicians, the new TV show based on the Lev Grossman novel of the same name? We’re only a few episodes in, but it seems pretty good. A more sophisticated fantasy than a lot of the shows on TV at the moment – I’m liking it a lot more than the Shannara Chronicles for example. Well worth watching if you get a chance, but I’ll save final judgment until the end of the first season.

Also finished Supergirl, Flash and Arrow through the month, although I must admit both were getting a bit stale by the end. The Flash in particular is getting silly, with alternate dimensions and timelines. The end was particularly bad – after fighting and saving at least two universes, the Flash went back in time and changed everything. Crazy stuff to create faux-drama. I’ll probably keep watching next season, but I’ve been preferring the Marvel Netflix superhero series.

Movies

I went to see the X-Men movie X-Men Apocalypse. It was very visually spectacular, with an OK but not super-interesting storyline. If you like mutants, you have probably already seen this. If not, wait until it becomes available through streaming or something.

Other

I’ve been “patreon-ising” a podcast, Sheep Might Fly, where author Tansy Rayner Roberts reads some of her short fiction (both old and new). This month she completed an original story called “Glass Slipper Scandal” in her Castle Charming universe (scandal-mags in a fairytale kingdom). A very enjoyable story, and I’ll be looking forward to the next “Castle Charming” story. Roberts has moved on to a story from her Love and Romanpunk book, “Julia Agrippina”.

Monthly roundup culture consumed – April 2016

So, what did April have in store for me?

Books

Not a lot of reading through April. I’ve been reading a lot of Tansy Rayner Roberts work lately (see recent reviews of Musketeer Space and Sheep Might Fly), and decided to have another crack at her crime series (writing as Livia Day). I didn’t love the first book in the series (see my review of A Trifle Dead) but recent reading/listening has reminded me how much I enjoy Roberts prose, so I decided to give the series another chance with Drowned Vanilla.

I enjoyed the book more than I did the first one. The characters felt more grounded this time around, and when combined with Roberts/Day’s delivery, I found myself more attached to the story.

I don’t think I read much more than that through April, it was a very slow reading month.

TV

The Flash is starting to annoy me a bit. There was a recent episode where the Flash gave up his powers to save someone, only to put millions of people under the sway of a psychopathic superpowered mad-man. It was silly, and clearly done only to further an increasingly unrealistic plot. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ll watch pretty much any superhero show and sheer bloody mindedness will probably keep me going with the series. But if it doesn’t improve soon, The Flash might have the distinction of being the first superhero show that I’ve given up on.

My daughter and I have been watching the Clone Wars cartoon series and the Rebels cartoon series, both set in the Star Wars universe. It has been fun to watch something with my daughter, and we’re both really into both shows. We’re getting towards the end of the Clone Wars, so soon we’ll only have Rebels to keep us going. I’ve found that watching Clone Wars has made watching Episodes I  – III a lot easier. Having a lot more story time with Annikan Skywalker when he is an actual hero makes his fall from grace more moving. There was an episode of Rebels recently where Annikan’s former apprentice comes face to face with Darth Vadar and realises who he is, and that was a lot more emotional than anything the movies have managed to produce. Lots of fun.

I watched the first episode of the US TV series House of Cards and I think I’m going to be hooked. More on that later.

And season 5 of Teen Wolf has come back onto Foxtel, which is excellent. I’ve rabbited on about Teen Wolf in other posts, so I won’t continue that here, but as a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the 21st century” type show, it has a lot going for it.

And finally, I can’t not mention Game of Thrones. We’re only a couple of episodes in, and I still find it compelling watching. I can’t believe how fast the hour goes by! I’ve read a lot of critiques, and I intellectually agree with a lot of it, but I can’t deny the fact that I love watching the show.

Movies

Captain America: Civil War was a great movie – lots of fun, and with very interesting fights. The last couple of Avenger movies have suffered from having bad guys who are very “same same”, robots, generic aliens etc. The fights got a little repetitive after a while. But in this movie, by pitting superheroes up against each other you got much more variety. Hero A uses Power X against Hero B, which gets trumped by Hero C and Power Y. The combinations and permutations were very entertaining.

The plot was intelligent enough, and they avoided enough cliches to make it hard to guess where they were going.

And of course Spiderman (my favourite superhero of all time) was a lot of fun to watch.

Coming Up

Looking forward to some XMen action at the movies in a couple of weeks. Also, trying to pick my next Australian Women Writers Reading Challenge book.

What about you? Anything juicy that you’ve been consuming?

Sheep Might Fly (a fiction podcast) by Tansy Rayner Roberts – a review

Australian Women Writers' Challenge 2016This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2016 Reading Challenge. All my 2016 AWWC reviews can be found here.


Sheep Might Fly

I’ve been on a bit of a Tansy Rayner Roberts kick of late (for example see my recent review of Musketeer Space, and I’m currently reading her crime novel Drowned Vanilla). What got me onto this dash was listening to Roberts new podcast, Sheep Might Fly.

Sheep Might Fly is a fiction podcast, with Roberts alternating between “reprint” and original fiction. She seems to be taking longer short fiction works, and dividing it up into bite sized chunks which she is releasing on a weekly basis. Roberts narrates the stories herself.

This is another innovative form of releasing fiction into the world, from an author who is clearly experimenting with all the new world of publishing has to offer. Her serial release of Musketeer Space, use of Patreon and now this venture into audio delivery of fiction has been interesting to watch. Combined with her more traditionally published fiction, Roberts seems to have really embraced the “hybrid author” approach championed by writers like Chuck Wendig (amongst many others). I love seeing people branch out and try so many different things, it’s the only way we’re going to find out what works in the 21st century for publishing..

Roberts launched the podcast with a 10 part serial, Fake Geek Girl”, which was originally published in Review of Australian Fiction Volume 14, Issue 4. From the website:

Meet Fake Geek Girl, the band that plays nerdy songs at the university bar every Friday night, to a mixture of magical and non-magical students: lead singer Holly writes songs based on her twin sister Hebe’s love of geek culture though she doesn’t really understand it; drummer Sage is an explosive sorcerous genius obsessing over whether Holly’s about to quit the band to go mainstream; shy Juniper only just worked up the nerve to sing her own song in public and keeps a Jane Austen themed diary chronicling the lives and loves of her friends. When the mysterious, privileged Ferd joins their share house, everything starts to unravel…

 

Line by line, this story is trademark Roberts, with a playful wit and real focus on character development and relationships. In a remarkably short space of time, Roberts is able to provide enough world building elements to really whet a readers appetite. The characters are marvellously drawn, with Roberts switching voices deftly as she switches the point-of-view character. I loved listening to the piece week on week, but I must admit I only just felt like I was getting to know the characters and world when the story finished rather abruptly. The central mysteries of the story (will Holly leave the band? What’s up with the mysterious Ferd?) are wrapped up neatly, but I was left wanting more. I hope we see some expanded fiction set in this same world soon.

At the time of writing (early May 2016), Roberts has started on her second story, “Glass Slipper Scandal”. Again from the website:

Charming is a kingdom where fairy tales come true, which has been bad news for its troubled royal family, but good news for the gutter press that thrives on the scandals and gossip provided by their teenage Princes Gone Wild. Kai is a rookie reporter at the Charming Herald. Dennis is a new Royal Hound, charged with protecting the self-destructive princes from disaster. 

Disaster arrives in a pumpkin coach… The story of the century is wearing glass slippers… and Castle Charming will never be the same again.

I’m only four episodes in, but I’m liking the premise again for this one. I’ll be interested to see how long this story goes for – it could be wrapped up rather quickly, but again I see real potential for how the story could move forward and expand.

If you’ve read and enjoyed any of Roberts work, I’d highly recommend downloading Sheep Might Fly and giving it a go. Excellent bite sized morsels of fiction, delivered free of charge to your electronic device of choice. Can’t ask for more than that!


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Musketeer Space by Tansy Rayner Roberts – a second review

Australian Women Writers' Challenge 2016This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2016 Reading Challenge. All my 2016 AWWC reviews can be found here.


musketeers_FINAL_small

Now a little while ago I did a review of Musketeer Space by Tansy Rayner Roberts that was a bit of a cheat, in that Roberts was publishing the book at the rate of one chapter each week, and I was only about half way through. I was doing a bit of cleaning up on this site last week, and I realised I never went back and gave any final thoughts. You can read my original review here.

From Goodreads:

Musketeer Space is a (mostly) gender-swapped retelling of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas as a space opera.

The Three Musketeers is a messy, uneven, glorious romp of a novel, and with Musketeer Space the plan is for the story to remain essentially intact despite the addition of advanced technology, racial and sexual diversity, and a whole lot of women with swords.

When last we spoke of this book, I was on chapter 33 (around half way through the book) and going strong. So how about the rest of the book? Well, the wit remained sharp. The characters remained well rounded. The diversity remained broad. The adaptation to a space opera setting remained clever.

I was interested to see how Roberts would keep in line with the original text, when so much of the context was incredibly different. For the most part, the underlying construction and plot lines were remarkably consistent, and the use of a wide array of sexual orientations meant that relationships could be maintained even where some gender swapping from the original characters had taken place. But for all that drive for consistency, the novel remained fresh – a real feat all things considered.

Now, as a warning for the faint hearted, there is so much sauce in this book you could bottle it and hold a sausage sizzle. This very much fits in with the tone of the novel, and due to the afore-mentioned diversity of sexual orientation there is pretty much something for everyone as the plot rolls on.

And speaking of the plot, it is a very satisfying read from that point of view.  I found that part quite remarkable, given that Roberts was writing a few weeks ahead of publication and that introduced some real risk of inconsistency that come from an inability to go back and change an earlier chapter that was already written. The threads of the story came together very well, and I think most readers would be satisfied by the conclusion.

As I said in the previous review, if you’re a fan of Roberts’ work, you should get yourself a copy of Musketeer Space. Stretching my memory back, I don’t recall a lot of science fiction in Roberts’ body of work, but hopefully this will be the harbinger of much more to come.

Now, I got the book in eBook form for being a Patreon supporter, but a quick scan of the internet doesn’t seem to throw up anywhere where a new reader might source the book in that form. The original blog posts are still available and can be found here.

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 – January & February 2015

Welcome to the first monthly roundup post for 2015. Can you believe it is March already? The pace of year scares the bejeesus out of me, I don’t mind telling you.

Earlier in the month I reviewed The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby, and what an excellent read it was. Go and check out the review. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Welcome back.

I also went back a bit in time I read Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy (plus bonus novella). I usually review Australian authors separately, however the trilogy is from a while ago and Garth Nix is popular enough that I very much doubt he needs my signal boost! The individual titles of the series are SabrielLirael and Abhorsen. I enjoyed the world building and background to the story, the late 19th-early 20th century feel of the non-magic land and the fantastic world “over the Wall”. The stories were interesting, but I must admit the head-hopping between characters was quite distracting and kept throwing me out of the story. I note that Nix has recently released a prequel Clariel – still deciding whether to purchase that one.

Brandon Sanderson’s latest YA novel Firefight was released and I had a quick read through. I enjoy Sanderson’s writing, and Firefight is another fast paced, interesting read with an interesting premise. Apart from the main character’s “bad metaphor” schtick (which was very distracting and felt quite forced) I enjoyed the ride. I also read his short novella Mitosis which is set between the two books in the series. I’ve probably succumbed to a shameless grab for cash from the hordes of Sanderson fans, but it was only a small amount of money and was a good read in and of itself. One of the things about Sanderson’s writing that I’m thinking a lot about is how he maintains a certain high octane pace through his books. It’s something that I think is missing from my own writing and reading these 1.5 books has given me a lot to think about.

My power drive through True Blood continued at lightening pace, and in late February we finished season 7, and therefore the whole series. I enjoyed True Blood more than I thought I would – the delivery of a few of the characters was hilarious (Eric, Pam and Jason in particular for those that have watched the show). The seventh season did feel like a bit of a clumsy add-on – I suspect it probably should have ended towards the end of season 6. Still, all up some great genre television.

I finally got the chance to listen to the sci-fi radio play series Night Terrace on a Sydney – Wollongong – Canberra – Sydney drive one weekend. My 6 year old daughter listened to it with me, and was quite taken by it all. “Is there any more of that Eddie show?” she asked me just the other week. If that’s not an endorsement for a second season, I don’t know what is. Very funny and clever writing, if you haven’t checked it out you should be very disappointed in yourself.

I’ve been to the movies more than normal over the last couple of months. Actually out to the cinema. I know, I was surprised too. I enjoyed the final instalment of The Hobbit although I don’t think I’ll need to see another CGI orc for quite some time. Penguins of Madagascar was hilarious – it is great that one of my kids has got old enough to justify me going to see goofy cartoons. Big Hero 6 was a surprisingly good super hero animation – Ms 6 loved it too. I definitely didn’t take her to see Kingsmen – that movie has a LOT of violence, but so over the top that it is hard to be too grossed out. Very much enjoyed that too. Most recently we saw The Imitation Game which is a very good bio-pic of Alan Turing’s life and well worth a look if you’re interested in the history of computing.

And it wouldn’t have been the holiday season without watching the Doctor Who Christmas special. I enjoyed it – some very funny Santa Claus action. But was it just me or did it seem like the ending was left open so Jemma Coleman could make up her mind about staying on with the show at the last minute? Probably just me.

I enjoyed Tansy Rayner Robert’s Musketeer Space prequel novella Seven Days of Joyeux, all about the lives of the three Musketeers pre-Dana. If you’re reading along with Musketeer Space, the novella adds some great depth to some of the main characters and fills in some interesting backstory. If you’ve been thinking of investing in this interesting experiment in serial novel writing, Seven Days of Joyeux is an excellent way of trying before you commit to a whole novel.

In preparation for watching the movie on Foxtel, I reread Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card during the holidays. It has been very many years since I read the book, and I was struck by the bleakness of the narrative and the extent to which Ender perpetrates such  atrocities in the name of survival. An interesting blast from the past, although I don’t feel particularly compelled to read any more of the series.

I’ve recently finished Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. I’ve read reviews that say “Pride and Prejudice with magic thrown in”, which about sums it up. Kowal is one of the presenters on the podcast Writing Excuses, and I’ve heard her talk about the series of books, in particular how she has combined the base characters with different styles of novels (e.g. regency “manners” novel, heist novel etc). I’m interested in reading more of them, to see how she does it. The writing was good and the story pulled me through – not normally my cup of tea but a refreshing change.

I also finished Cold Comfort & Other Tales by David McDonald, but I’ll write that up separately.

That’s all for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to?

Kaleidoscope edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios – review

This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2014 Reading Challenge. All my 2014 AWWC reviews can be found here.



Kaleidoscope

OK, I’m cheating a little bit here. I’ve decided to review a collection of short stories that are not all by Australian women for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014. Indeed, they are mostly not by Australian women. But wait, before you throw your monitor at the wall in disgust and walk out I have reasons.

  1. It is from an Australian small press that is run by a woman (Alisa Krasnostein).
  2. It has stories by three Australian women (Tansy Rayner Roberts, Faith Mudge, Holly Kench) and one New Zealander (Karen Healy), which is almost Australian.
  3. One of the editors is an Australian woman. OK, it’s the same woman as in 1. above, but in a completely different role. Editor versus publisher. Come on, it still counts as a third reason.

So, if you’re still not buying what I’m selling, then you should stop reading the review here. But you’ll be sooorrrryyyyy!

Kaleidoscope was a crowd funded anthology that sought out YA speculative fiction that was written by a diverse range of writers and featured diverse characters (e.g. people with a disability, mental illness, suffering marginalisation because of race or religion or sexual orientation etc). However the mandate of the book was very clear – while characters needed to have a diverse background, they were not to be defined by their background. I particularly liked the requirement that characters were not to be “cured” of their diversity. Kaleidoscope is a mature treatment of the issues of diversity in the speculative fiction scene, and for that alone I’m hoping it is a sign of much more diverse fiction to come.

(As a side note, and because I’ve justified this review in part by pointing at an Australian small press run by an Australian woman, I might insert a plug here for Twelfth Planet Press. TPP has been supporting Australian women authors and championing this kind of diversity for quite a few years. Alisa Krasnostein, the owner of the press, is also one of the voices on Galactic Suburbia – a must-listen podcast for anyone interested in advancing the conversation on gender equity in the speculative fiction scene. If you haven’t already, go and check out their offerings, in particular the Twelve Planets series which has showcased some fantastic Australian women writers over the last few years. I’ve reviewed all the Twelve Planets books so far for the AWW challenge (including most recently Secret Lives by Rosaleen Love) – if you have even the slightest interest in understanding what is happening in the Australian speculative fiction field, you need to read these books!)

I won’t talk about all the stories, but as this is a AWW review I will briefly mention the stories by Australian women.

Cookie Cutter Superhero by Tansy Rayner Roberts opens the collection. The story is set in a world where superhero producing machines have appeared in  major centres around the world and people are selected at random to do a stint as a superhero. It tells the story of Joey, a young woman with a physical disability who has “won the lottery”. It is a funny, and not very below the surface, dig at the comic book industry, well written with Roberts’ trademark snarky style. Very nice opening to the book.

Signature by Faith Mudge was one of my favourite stories in the book, which focuses on the dangers of entering into a deal with Fate. Well written and characters that were well fleshed out, especially considering how little space there was to do it.

Holly Kench’s Every Little Thing gives a few twists on the trickiness of love spells. I enjoy Kench’s writing style, and this story was well constructed and a delight to read.

And for completeness, I will mention that I also enjoyed New Zealand’s Karen Healy story Careful Magic, which focuses on the perils of being a bastion of order in a chaotic world. Healy’s story hinted at a much bigger world, and left me with the desire to read other stories set in the same world.

There are also stories by Australian male writers Garth Nix, Dirk Flinthart and Sean Williams, as well as an array of international authors including Ken Liu, Sofia Samata, Jim Hines and John Chu.

As long term readers of the blog know, YA is not my favourite genre to read. I don’t mind young protagonists as such, but as I complete my transformation into a cranky old man I find myself less and less engaged by some of the themes that seem to resonate with teenagers. I also find the more restricted use of language (i.e. slightly simplified and “cleaned up”) creates more of a distance in the work. Some of the stories in Kaleidoscope suffered from this for me – the writing was excellent, but I found myself unable to “get into” the stories.

That minor (and particular to me) quibble aside, this is an excellent anthology and I commend it strongly to you. If you have ever despaired at the lack of variety in who is represented in speculative fiction, this is the book for you. If you love YA oriented speculative fiction, this is for you. Highly recommended.

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


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Musketeer Space by Tansy Rayner Roberts – review

This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2014 Reading Challenge. All my 2014 AWWC reviews can be found here.



Musketeer Space

OK, more cheating. I’ve selected Musketeer Space by Tansy Rayner Roberts for my next review and the book isn’t even finished yet. “Why?” I hear you ask. “How? Isn’t your cheating just getting super blatant now?”

All valid questions, but stick with me people. Have I ever steered you wrong?

Musketeer Space is the latest endeavour by Tasmanian based speculative fiction author Tansy Rayner Roberts. It is a gender swapped retelling of The Three Musketeers, in a space opera setting. In an interesting twist though, Roberts is writing the book in serialised form. She is releasing a chapter each week on her website, and has invited patronage through the Patreon system, where interested subscribers can pay to support her writing efforts. There are also a variety of perks depending on the level of subscription that you enter into (including an eBook of the whole novel once completed).

So a book you can read for free, but if you want to tip some money in you can also consider (and call) yourself a patron of the arts. What’s not to like?

At the time of writing, Musketeer Space is at chapter 33 and a little over half way through the story. One of the reasons I wanted to review it at this point was to signal boost an endeavour which is interesting both creatively and from a business standpoint. I’m fascinated with how people are experimenting with new forms of publishing in the internet age, and this is a great case study to follow.

A note on the Patreon model. It very much is a patronage relationship you’re entering into. For an effort like this that goes for at least 12 months, even at the lowest contribution of $1 per month you would be over-paying for an eBook if that was your only goal (I don’t know how much Roberts will charge for the eBook at the end of the process, but I very much doubt it will be $12). So unlike something like a Kickstarter campaign, you are not “pre-purchasing” the final product. You are making a conscious decision to support an author create a work that wouldn’t other exist – very much like patrons of a bygone age, just distributed through the power of technology.

To the story itself. The prose is characterised by Roberts’ sly wit, and filled with feisty, brave and competent characters. It has been very interesting to watch Roberts adapt the original storyline, and the choices she has made to accommodate both the new setting and new genders. The Three Musketeers was originally a serialised novel as well, and the parallels have been interesting to watch there too.

There is a lot of humour in the book, and if you enjoyed any of Roberts’ other books (e.g. The Creature Court trilogy) you’ll love Musketeer Space.

The pacing is excellent, especially considering the need to stick to the overall structure of the original text. Roberts balances action with emotion in the stories, and has created some very well rounded characters that it is very easy to care about.

As a part of meeting one of the targets of her Patreon campaign, Roberts has recently (as of Christmas 2014) released a novella length Christmas themed prequel to Musketeer Space called Seven Days of Joyeux. I haven’t read it yet, but extra content is just another reason to get on board this Musketeer road train!

In summary, this is a great book that is supported by an innovative funding mechanism. I’d highly recommend that you all go directly to the Patreon page and throw your support behind an Australian author doing interesting things in this brave new age of the internet.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads (although a cut down version of this review without the Patreon discussion). View all my Goodreads reviews.


Creative Commons License

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