lexlingua: (typing...)
Name: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword
Author: Ann Leckie
Publisher: Orbit Books
Cover Art: John Harris
Awards: Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction Association, Arthur C. Clarke, Locus
Audio: Recorded Books (Book 1); Hachette Audio UK (Book 2)

Ancillary Justice exploded in the SFF sphere last year and won almost every award the genre has to offer, with good reason. It’s no easy feat, world-building on this level, with a character of this level of integrity and grit, and a thrilling, convoluted, galvanising plotline to boot. Think Star Wars, combine it with Inception and Artificial Intelligence, and you will still fall short of Ancillary Justice. I can give the book(s) no higher praise. After Cordelia's Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold, Ancillary Justice is definitely my favourite SciFi book.

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From what I last heard, there are plans of turning these books into TV shows. Can’t wait.
lexlingua: (UserPic)

'Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.'
(Matthew Ten, Verse Twenty-Nine)

I find this book extremely difficult to describe, more difficult than it was to read it. The Sparrow raises some uncomfortable questions about our perception of and our (according to the book, unfounded) expectations from God. Mary Russell does a spectacular job of blending science and religion in this book, and for both agnostics and believers alike, this is a story that will send you reeling.

The Sparrow is based in the future, and revolves around Emilio Sandoz, a devout Jesuit priest and a good man whose friends love him, and the strength of whose devotion to and belief in God inspires everyone around him equally. Sandoz’s biggest virtue is that he is not without flaw and that he recognizes this, but it is also true that he has the faith which can move mountains. And boy, is his faith tested.

Emilio and a few of his closest friends are sent to a planet four light years away from earth, a planet called Rakhat, as part of a top-secret space mission in the search for extraterrestrial life. The bond among these seven travelers is a beauty to behold: they are like a close-knitted family, and I especially loved the wit of Anne Edwards, the fellow medic among them. I did find it odd that this motley group went off without space protection suits, vaccinations, defence weapons, alternative fuel supply, etc. to Rakhavat; how did they become so optimistic about meeting aliens of whom they knew nothing? Ah, but maybe Emilio’s faith inspired them to take a giant leap of optimism – anyway, this is a minor point, and our group does reach Rakhat safely and succeeds in making “first contact” with the aliens there. Russell paints the alien life well: she makes it seem alien and eerily beautiful at the same time, and it’s our Earth group which is outlandish there.

In the seventeen earth years (please apply theory of relativity here) that follow, something goes horribly wrong with that space mission. Only Emilio survives from the original group, and when he finally returns to earth, he is a broken, bitter and sickened man facing accusations of prostitution and infanticide – grave crimes for a Jesuit. The media is out for his blood even as he convalesces in a Jesuit home, and the Jesuits themselves want him to “confess” and tell all. Emilio himself has lost the love for God that he was once characterized by. This is what Emilio says:
Read what happened... )
lexlingua: (Contemplation)
When you read the other urban fantasy works out these days—with those badass heroes and heroines in leather and hijinks and fancy weaponry—McKillip’s Ombria in Shadow seems a tamer work in comparison. It was hard for me to get started with the book—the scenes were too rustic, the heroine too commonplace, the hero too subdued. You may have heard of ‘cozy mysteries’; Ombria in Shadow seemed like a ‘cozy fantasy’. But give it a few chapters, and Ombria will reel you in with the elegance of the words and the charm of uncomplicated blacks and whites.

The reason I am talking of blacks-and-whites may not resonate with you. In today’s fantasy works, there is too much scope for greys. You may sympathize with villains, heroes may fall in honour, persons with dubious character may turn out to be the lynchpins (or the traitors).

Ombria is not a tale of who is the villain or will the villain remain a villain. It’s a tale of two cities, Ombria and her shadow city, and the magic to access these cities and harness their power. The imagery in the books is so potent that you will constantly have an impression of nostalgia, of old faded vintage photos, of dusk and shadows. I don’t know many authors who can strike at me with such forceful imagination as McKillip.

The tale is simple. There is a malevolent being, Domina Pearl, who wants to gain power over the city of Ombria and the shadow city too. She kills the king, throws out his mistress, imprisons or murders his supporters, ensorcells the young prince, and blackmails the hero, who is a bastard with no legitimate claim to the throne. Of course, she does other evil stuff too, but into her way comes a waxling (a sort of halfling) named Mag, whose mistress is a powerful sorceress in her own right. How these persons cross paths and meddle with each other’s lives is curious and endearing.

I read The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier some time back, and the story was too remarkably similar to Ombria— twin cities, an evil sorceress desperate to harness their power, the bastard and his halfling sister. Is this a common topic then—the magic of twin cities? I found the similarities in the two books odd and uncomfortable, but maybe that’s just me.

Warning: the ending will surprise you and leave you thinking for a long time.

Rating: 8/10
 
lexlingua: (Divinity)
This is the sequel to one of my top 10 SFF books, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I have no idea why I delayed reading it for so long. May be I wanted to save it for some rainy day, and indeed, it brought me out of my recent SFF jadedness with a wham! It helps if you have read its prequel, because in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the stage gets set for – spoilers ahoy! – the murder of goddess Enefa by one of the other two gods, Bright Itempas. Itempas is the god of the light and order, but as punishment for his heinous mad deed, he is banished from the god world, stripped of his powers, and is cursed to live among the mortals (whom he so disdains) for the rest of, well, for some undefined time till he learns his lesson. This second book in the trilogy thus gives us a deeper look into the world where the power basis of religion has been shifted, i.e. into the “broken kingdom”.

Itempas learns his lessons – unintentionally, of course-- by the hands of a blind mortal woman, Oree Shoth, who takes him, in his suicidal, sorry state, without knowing that he is, was, a god. I find Oree to be one of the most fascinating characters I have ever read. She is accessible to her reader, in the sense that she is a brilliant mix of logic and emotion (very different when juxtaposed with the arrogant god she has sheltered), and though she thinks herself powerless, she is the pivotal point in the struggle born of old hatred. Itempas was never a kind, benevolent god, and was never a likeable character, but the course of redemption in the book was something quite marvellous. He gets “humanized” and yet gets glorified in the book in a way that makes me speechless with wonder.

The book seemed to be a lot about genocide and the inevitable repercussions of thoughtless racial murder. It also seemed, to me, to revolve around the curious relationship between gods and their worshippers, how a god’s powers are dependent on his/her worshippers’ devotion. Without faith, a god too becomes powerless to act. For that is Itempas’ fate. There are godlings (children of the gods) being murdered all over, to investigate which incidents the aristocratic, autocratic priests come down, and in which madfare, Oree Shoth gets embroiled. Itempas is obliged to protect Oree with his measly powers, though really, its Oree doing all the protecting. There is a scene where the priests turn against him to attack him, not knowing that he is the very god whom they worship. It's appalling and so well-written; god proposes, man disposes.


Once again, Jemisin wows you with her amazing world-building. The mythology is detailed and intricate, and even a few words on the page pull you into a new realm of imagination: the World Tree, the void, the floating city of Sky, the Shadow worlds… I am sure there are other reviewers who have done more justice to the imagery in the books.

You have got to read this series (or hear its audiobook brilliantly narrated by Casaundra Freeman)

Rating: A stupendous 10 out of 10
lexlingua: (Contemplation)

I know they say that don’t judge a book by its cover. But who can resist being drawn to The Flame of Sevenwaters, when its cover art has been sketched so beautifully by John Jude Palencar? Seriously, this artist has contributed to the most —according to me—gorgeous cover art ever, including the ones for the Inheritance series, Angels of Samaria series, books by Charles de Lint, and of course, the Sevenwaters series. What is curious is that unconsciously each one of these has been a favourite of mine at one point or the other.

Flame of Sevenwaters cover   

Anyways, skipping past the art... The Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier is the sixth book in the series, and its story is just as gorgeous as its cover. Maeve, a girl who was burnt and scarred permanently by a fire (previously described in one of the books) caused by certain evil forces, was sent away by her family to her healer aunt for better care and safety. Now it is time for Maeve to return home after ten years— to a place called Sevenwaters.

Here's the Amazon Book Blurb:

Maeve, daughter of Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, was badly burned as a child and carries the legacy of that fire in her crippled hands. After ten years, she’s returning home, having grown into a courageous, forthright woman with a special gift for gentling difficult animals. But while her body’s scars have healed, her spirit remains fragile, fearing the shadows of her past.

Sevenwaters is in turmoil. The fey prince Mac Dara has become desperate to see his only son, married to Maeve’s sister, return to the Otherworld. To force Lord Sean’s hand, Mac Dara has caused a party of innocent travelers on the Sevenwaters border to vanish—only to allow their murdered bodies to be found, one by one.

When Maeve finds the body of one of the missing men in a remote part of the woods, she and her brother Finbar embark on a journey that may bring about the end of Mac Dara’s reign, or lead to a hideous death. If she is successful, Maeve may open the door to a future she has not dared to believe possible…

Read the review... )
lexlingua: (Contemplation)
The Bulfinch Encyclopedia of Mythology states that the twelve most illustrious knights of Emperor Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire were called Peers, for the equality that reigned among them, and were called Paladins, because they were the inmates of the palace and companions of the king. Lois McMaster Bujold took this term and applied it to the hero of her 2003 book, The Paladin of Souls, for which she got her fourth Hugo Award. 
The Paladin of Souls is a fantasy work, set in Chalion, a land where religious practice is split among the Five Gods- Father of Winter, Mother of Summer, Son of Autumn, Daughter of Spring, and the Bastard (God of death). The Five Gods put a curse on Chalion a long time back, and the after-effects of the curse are still upon the land and its people, especially the middle-aged widowed queen mother, Ista. Ista, who hates the Gods for what they did to her, is tired of her protected and straightcoated life in the palace and decides to go on a phony holy pilgrimage to escape.

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lexlingua: (Contemplation)

I had heard many people commend Robin Hobb as a brilliant SFF author, so I finally decided to start off her booklist with The Liveship Traders Trilogy

 
Robin Hobb & her Liveship Traders Trilogy Book-Set

This set of books is about the Vestrit trading family of Bingtown, whose head, in his will, bestowed the family ship—The Vivacia – on his eldest daughter Keffria, and by proxy, her husband, Kyle. This was a terrible shock to Althea, his younger daughter, who is a spirited, independent and highly competent woman who has been trained since childhood to become a sailor.


The inheritance of a liveship is no trivial matter, because it basically is a ship with a soul, memory and even the five senses. The figurehead of the ship, carved usually as a man or woman, can talk, guide the crew, and brave bad weather at sea—so such magical liveships are very conducive to trade. These ships are carved out of some special kind of wood (“wizardwood”) by the people of the Rain Wilds, and are loaned to Bingtown traders.

 


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lexlingua: (fanfiction)

Ten Books I’d Like to See Made into MovieS

Some books are just dying to be made into movies, and I thought that maybe I should make a list of my own recommendations, as urged by The Broke and the Bookish (the ones in bold are my special selections). Most books in this list belong to the fantasy genre, and I apologize for not putting in more of mystery or contemporary fiction!

1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel


Every law student is made to read the case of R versus Dudley and Stephens, in which three sailors were accused and convicted for eating the flesh of a human co-passenger when stranded in the sea for months without food. Being a law student myself, this book shook me when I first read it, because the Life of Pi brings in this conflict in one of its climax scenes.

The Life of Pi is about this young devout zookeeper’s son from India, who is stranded at sea for years with a ferocious tiger, and the challenges he faces during this time, one of them being the temptation of cannibalism when starved for food. The book won the Booker Prize, and is also one of my top ten books. The movie would be a lot like Tom Hanks’ Cast Away, methinks.



2. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Clarke took ten years to write this tome, and my review here is the mad rave of a diehard fan. Two men investigating the disappearance of magic from England, the tragic rift between them, the ominous Raven King as the villain, and the hero’s wife being betwitched and kidnapped… all the plot elements of a major fantasy movie! If you liked The Prestige or The Illusionist, you would positively lurve this movie on screen, especially with the huge capacity for special effects that this one has.

I reached out my hand; thought and memory flew out of my enemies' heads like a flock of starlings;
My enemies crumpled like empty sacks.
I came to them out of mists and rain;
I came to them in dreams at midnight;
I came to them in a flock of ravens that filled a northern sky at dawn;
When they thought themselves safe I came to them in a cry that broke the silence of a winter wood . .

Read the rest of the list... )


lexlingua: (Potter)

Well, I have long tried to evade Kim Harrison's The Hollows series, which are already way past the 10-book mark. I don't know why I have tried to avoid them, they are a dark urban fantasy series, the kind I like the best. Maybe I thought they would be too much like Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, which are well-plotted but far too cutesy for me.

Kim Harrison's series revolves around Rachel Morgan, a witch who's a runner (or police officer) for Inderland Security (IS). The IS is the police for the paranormal species of societty, like weres, vampires, banshees, pixies, witches, demons, etc. The IS was established some 40 years ago, when humankind mutated into paranormal creatures due to a virus in bio-engineered tomatoes. Anyone who's seen the movie Contagion can tell that viruses spread like zatt! through innocent-looking food and cause much epidemics.

In book 1, Dead Witch Walking, Rachel's not happy with the kind of chores she's getting as a runner. She's being treated badly, not being paid well, given shoddy jobs-- and she's just about had it. She quits her job. Unfortunately (ha!), the IS doesn't let anyone quit their job so easily. Rachel is now being hunted down by the IS, which is why she is 'dead witch walking'.


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