Saturday, October 30, 2021

 My Review of. . .

A Desolation Called Peace

This is the second book in the ‘Teixcalaan’ series by Arkady Martine, and it rounds off the story in a profoundly satisfying way. Here’s a taster from the back cover blurb.

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.

In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.

Their failure will guarantee millions of deaths in an endless war. Their success might prevent Teixcalaan’s destruction—and allow the empire to continue its rapacious expansion.

Or it might create something far stranger . . .


Our story continues several months after the events in A Memory Called Empire. Nineteen Adze is now emperor, acting as regent until Eight Antidote comes of age. Three Seagrass has received a promotion of sorts, and now works within the Ministry of Information under the 3rd Secretary. And Mahit Dzmare has returned home to Lsel Station to take a break from state affairs for a while so she can recharge her batteries before returning to the fray.

All nice and cozy. . .

If only life was that easy.

This is the Teixcalaanli Empire, don’t forget, and cutthroat politics is always eager to peek out from beneath the thin veneer of high society sophistication. And it soon does.

As the blurb highlighted, an alien armada is making its presence felt along the far reaches of Teixcalaanli space. They are strange and mysterious. Unfamiliar in their practices and customs. And definitely creatures who cannot be classed as ‘people.’

One of the Empires most highly decorated and proficient fleet captains – Nine Hibiscus, recently promoted to Yaotlek for outstanding service – is sent to determine the danger, and act accordingly. A mammoth, complicated task, for tens of thousands of lives are under her immediate care, as are the billions more throughout the empire if she fails. And the aliens possess physics-defying technology, and an almost preternatural ability to know what’s happening everywhere at once, allowing them to anticipate her every move.

She needs help. And that help arrives in the form of Three Seagrass and Mahit Dzmare, who, it transpires, are having to deal with conflicts of their own. (This IS the empire, don’t forget, and everyone is out to get you, no matter how high your station or who you work for.)

A predicament Nine Hibiscus soon comes to appreciate. The situation demands she tread carefully, Very carefully. This is a first contact scenario with a species who appears to be outwardly aggressive. But is that really the case? Or is it merely because they can’t establish an effective way to communicate? Yes, Nine Hibiscus is tiptoeing on thin ice, and she finds it difficult to maintain her balance with rivals out to upstage her at every turn, and spies from the various government departments concealed within the fleet itself. You’d think everyone would be on the same side? But no, those spies serve masters with their own agendas, and it makes a volatile situation almost incendiary.

Excellent stuff!

It really is. I found A Desolation Called Peace to be an intelligent, thoughtful and refreshingly different take of the usual ‘Space Opera’ slant. And to my mind, it highlights the dangers of assuming ‘humanity’ can’t possibly belong to those whose culture and appearance are so far removed from what YOU think is normal, that you come to look on them as extermination fodder. Oh, how karma can bite!

A promising debut series. I’m keen for more.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

 My Recollections Of. . .

A Memory Called Empire

Leading a solitary, somewhat reclusive existence as I do, I nevertheless keep an eye out for something good to read. This is another of those authors who were mentioned within the expansive, Arcadian entity that is Black Gate. And as I’ve come to appreciate, if they make a recommendation, then I’d be silly not to listen.

A Memory Called Empire is well worth a read. Here’s the back cover blurb.


Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn't an accident―or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan's unceasing expansion―all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret―one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life―or rescue it from annihilation.


So, what do we get?

Mahit Dzmare is from a small, self-contained colony out of the edges of the vast Teixcalaanli Empire called Lsel. The colonists are a rather proud society who extend the depth of their cultural heritage  by the use of IMAGO implants; tiny, sub dermal devices that allow the personality, skills and memories of important people to be ‘recorded’ and passed on to a suitably matched host.

That’s how we’re introduced to Mahit Dzmare. She is selected to replace the former ambassador to the Teixcalaanli court – Aghavn Yskandr – whose death, along with the circumstances surrounding it, is suspiciously devoid of detail. (And this from a society where every aspect of life is recorded, analyzed, and used to update an almost omniscient planet-wide AI that serves the goals of the emperor). Or does it?

Another hurdle is presented in that the imago devices should contain the very latest memories of the former recipient, but in Dzmare’s case, Yskandr hasn’t been home in fifteen years. So, not only is she unprepared to walk the tightrope that awaits her, but she obviously wants to know what happened to the former ambassador. And THIS shortfall lays the basis of our story. One where Dzmare’s rose-tinted view of an idealistic, wonderfully balanced and cultured civilization is brought crashing down amid a cauldron of political ambition, imperialistic ideals, and outright xenophobia toward anyone who isn’t pure Teixcaannli. Yes, intrigue abounds in a nicely crafted little whodunit investigation that, while uncomplicated, remains intriguing enough for you to want to keep reading to get to the bottom of the mystery.

I will admit that it took me a little while to get comfortable with Arkaday Martine’s writing style. But once I had, I found the story to be a pleasing balance of ‘space-opera scope meets small-town girl’ trying to keep her head above water in a place that will chew you up and spit you out if you let it. And Martine does that rather well, as you get the clear impression that while Dzmare almost drowns in an oceanlike society filled with legends, history, partisan propaganda, and the very latest hi-tech wizardry, she’s never been more alone in her life. A nice touch that keeps things real.

I look forward to seeing how the story progresses in, A Desolation Called Peace.

Amazon Review

Thursday, October 7, 2021

 Fan-tastic Goings-On Over At Fanbase Press

I've always been a fan of Fanbase Press, and have followed them for a number of years. So long, in fact, that I remember when they were called Fanboy Comics. And really, who wouldn't be a follower? Fanbase Press are an award-winning comic book publisher and geek culture website.
They celebrate fandom in all its guises; produce new and distinctive works; and conduct interviews, reviews and podcasts that span the whole spectrum of everything and anything that is uber-cool.

And THAT's why I was particularly pleased to be interviewed by none other than Fanbase's Editor-in-Chief, Barbra Dillon regarding the recent release of my latest book:

IX Genesis

A IX Origins Novel

Why not take a trip over to Fanbase Press and see what happened as I chat with Barbra regarding aspects of my writing process, my inspiration, and discuss the impact stories can have on readers, and why authors should always strive to look beyond the simple entertainment factor of storytelling so that they can really connect with the hearts and minds of their followers.

It's all good stuff.
And it can all be found here, at. . .

Fanbase Press

Saturday, October 2, 2021

 Discover How I lost Myself In. . .

The Space Between Worlds

This is another of those books I was attracted to after reading about it on Black Gate Fantasy. And thanks to them, I’ve rather enjoyed myself.

Here’s the cover blurb:


'My mother used to say I was born reaching, which is true. She also used to say it would get me killed, which it hasn't. Not yet, anyway.'

Born in the dirt of the wasteland, Cara has fought her entire life just to survive. Now she has done the impossible, and landed herself a comfortable life on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, she's on a sure path to citizenship and security - on this world, at least.

Of the 380 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but 8.

Cara's parallel selves are exceptionally good at dying - from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn't outrun - which makes Cara wary, and valuable. Because while multiverse travel is possible, no one can visit a world in which their counterpart is still alive. And no one has fewer counterparts than Cara.

But then one of her eight doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, and Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined - and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her earth, but the entire multiverse.


Interesting eh?

And it is. Imagine a post apocalyptic world struggling to recover from a war that all but ruined the planet. And while mankind survived, it’s now a world of division. There are those who live a life of plenty within their walled cities, and those who eke out an existence in the ruined – albeit it slowly recovering – wastelands outside.

If you live inside a city, you have everything you could possibly need: security; safety; the best hospitals and medical care; education and employment. (You get the idea). Life is good . . . as well it should be, for the star of their society discovered the means to travel between dimensions to parallel worlds; a secret process by which they ‘datamine’ information and technology and anything else that can be used to improve their own scientific advancement.

But travelling between worlds is dangerous. That’s why you’ll never find city-dwellers volunteering for the job. And really, why would they when there’s an endless supply of candidates just waiting for an opportunity to earn decent money – if only for a short while – and the possibility of full citizenship if they do well.

Enter Cara, a traverser with a penchant for survival. As the blurb reveals, of the 380 realities discovered so far, she’s only alive in 8 of them. Sheer coincidence? Or is there something more insidious, more duplicitous behind those figures?

Well, we certainly find out in an engaging adventure that – although set in a bleak and miserable world – nevertheless lets the sun shine through. It’s a tale about survival. Of love gone wrong and hope for a better future. Of the determination to improve. To see things to a conclusion without giving up. Our characters are human. Flawed and broken. Their interactions are colored by their social, cultural and racial differences, allowing for an engaging dialogue that keeps things real. Well placed plot twists and an easy pace keep the story moving along nicely, until you find yourself at a poignant end that you didn’t quite expect. (Kudos there).

This is the first book I’ve read by Micaiah Johnson, and from what I’ve seen, I know it won’t be the last. The Space Between Worlds, a fresh slant on a well-used trope. And a darn good read to boot!