K. Eason, Nightwatch on the Hinterlands (2021)

Author: K. Eason

Title: Nightwatch on the Hinterlands 

Format: e-book

Pages: 416

Series: The Weep #1

An opening to a new series set in the Rory Thorne universe, Nightwatch on the Hinterlands is a fast-paced SF noir mystery inspired by WH40K and D&D, featuring a duo of unlikely allies embroiled in a conflict that starts small but grows exponentially – and quite satisfyingly – throughout the book. 

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Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination (1956)

Author: Alfred Bester

Title: The Stars My Destination

Format: e-book

Pages: 258

Series: –

Bester’s SF classic, Tiger, Tiger!, renamed later to The Stars My Destination for the American market, remains one of his most popular and highly valued novels. Praised for originality as a forerunner of cyberpunk, and for respect for classics as a SF retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo (and clear inspiration from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Blake’s Songs of Experience), The Stars My Destination remains an immensely readable book. It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly 70 years old, as the prose and the meta-level of skilfully interwoven references and tropes are still very, almost cuttingly fresh. 

There is a lot to like in this novel, certainly; intriguing ideas, masterful worldbuilding, fast-paced and delightfully twisty plot. The only problem I had with this book was the characters themselves 😉 And it is, sadly, a rather big problem, all the virtues of Bester’s novel notwithstanding. But ad rem.

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Karel Čapek, War with the Newts (1936)

Sometimes I buy a book just because it’s pretty. It can be something I already read and might never re-read, sometimes it’s a new one for me, often it waits years for its turn. Karel Čapek’s War with the Newts I read almost immediately, and I’m quite certain I’ll be revisiting. If not for a full re-read, then at least to browse the illustrations, as this is one of the best-illustrated books I own, not only because the pictures look pretty, but also because they are fully integrated within the story.

I was additionally motivated when I noticed Jeroen from A Sky of Books and Movies started reviewing Čapek, first R.U.R. and then War with the Newts itself. His review is highly recommended as it puts the book in the context of its times and similar genre fiction. I’ll try to add a bit to that, but I’ll concentrate on my edition, one that is sadly only available to Polish and German-reading audiences.


Author: Karel Čapek

Illustrator: Hans Ticha

Title: War with the Newts / Válka s Mloky in the original Czech, also translated as Salamander Wars, but the Polish title of this edition is Inwazja jaszczurów which literally means Invasion of the Lizards

Format: hardcover

Pages: 368

Series: Świeżym okiem (With a fresh eye…) – yay, there will be more of these beautiful editions, next one – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber: Subtle Architecture of Treason

This is our post for Witch Week 2021: Treason and Plot, organized by the inestimable Chris of Calmgrove and Lizzie of Lizzie Ross. Witch Week is a yearly event happening in the last week of October, in tribute to Diana Wynne Jones’s third Chrestomanci book focusing on all things fantastical. This year, however, instead of concentrating on Halloween and thereabouts, we’re taking a closer look at the history of the Guy Fawkes’ gunpowder plot, the British tradition of Bonfire Night, and various treasonous activities causing rot in states, real and imagined.

We chose Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber as our topic for this year’s Witch Week for two reasons: first, Zelazny’s untimely death in 1996 caused a curious silence around his works, so that he’s no longer a well-known author and his novels have been slowly sliding into oblivion in recent years. He remains an author’s author, mentioned here and there by the new generations as a source of inspiration, but in our opinion he deserves wider recognition. Secondly, The Chronicles of Amber, a series of ten books that can safely be classified as fantasy, though discussions can be had whether it’s epic or urban, or something else altogether, is a wondrously complex latticework of betrayal, double dealing, plots within plots, lethal mysteries and hard-bitten protagonists somewhere between noir detectives and medieval knights.

Ola: Well, there’s a third reason. Both Piotrek and I love Amber, and needed little excuse to return to this fantastic world ;). Zelazny’s a great author in general, though uneven at times. But his best works are among the best the genre has to offer, and even his mediocre ones boast of unique imagination, propensity for audacious literary experimentation, and sensitivity to language that’s at once precious and highly uncommon. Incidentally, a novel perfect for a Halloween reading, and also containing a lot of treason, backstabbing, and plots to conquer the world, is his A Night in the Lonesome October.

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Aliya Whiteley, From the Neck Up and Other Stories (2021)

Author: Aliya Whiteley

Title: From the Neck Up and Other Stories

Format: e-book

Pages: 368

Series: –

Other: Short story collection

A collection of 16 short stories from the murky border of fantasy, horror and science fiction. Whiteley has a penchant for infusing the mundane with the strange and the uncanny, successfully punching holes in the surface of our perception of everyday life with her creepy little tales. She is a skillful writer, seemingly seamlessly combining lightness of style and a wide range of topics with socio-philosophical observation. As usual with collections of short stories, the quality is uneven – but I did find a few gems here, and I’m quite happy I gave this anthology a chance.

As usual, I will review and rate each story separately and in conclusion I will give a general rating which may, or may not, be a simple average of the stories’ scores.

Brushwork 8.5/10 stars

A cli-fi novella, almost 80 pages long, about a world roughly resembling that from Snowpiercer: the Gulf Stream stopped, the land started becoming colder and colder, the vegetation died off under heavy snow and frost, and only corporate farms offer a possibility of a secure live – for the price of freedom. There is a lot going on in this novella: reflections on aging and the division between young and old; meditation on living with one’s past regrets and difficult choices; inequality and terrorism, slavery and trust. It’s one of the strongest stories in the collection, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

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