Adrian Tchaikovsky, Shards of Earth (2021)

Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky

Title: Shards of Earth

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 561

Series: The Final Architecture #1

For a long time, Tchaikovsky was my go-to author. I still contend that his Shadows of the Apt series is among the very best of epic and military fantasy out there. It’s a huge commitment, sure, 10 books getting consecutively bigger, as if Tchaikovsky was bent on proving that a book can be a weapon, too 😉 – not unlike Erikson in that regard – but if you do commit, you’ll be rewarded. Children of Time, Tchaikovsky’s first foray into SF, was great, too. Making spiders the protagonists of the book was a wonderful choice, giving the book a unique perspective and gravitas. Afterwards, however, it was more of a hit and miss. He seemed to produce books non-stop, like an upgraded version of Sanderson, and with similar results. I still rather enjoyed his fantasy novella Made Things, as well as his SF novella One Day All This Will Be Yours, but was thoroughly disappointed in his SF novel Bear Head. It seemed that Tchaikovsky had already used all his unique and original ideas, and started treading water, indulging in overused tropes and lazy structures. It was all still reasonably well written, but redundant, or even verging on ad-hoc political commentary. I stopped reading everything he was putting out. But when I saw several fellow bloggers praising his new SF novel, Shards of Earth, I decided to give it a go. So thanks, Jeroen and carol. and Nataliya!

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Gideon Defoe, An Atlas of Extinct Countries (2021)

Author: Gideon Defoe

Title: An Atlas of Extinct Countries

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 304

Series: –

First, let’s celebrate: our 501st post and 501 followers over seven years of blogging! Thanks, guys, for being with us!!! 😀

Photo by ViTalko on Pexels.com

Secondly… Sorry to celebrate with a review of this particular book, but, alas, it can’t be helped 😉

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R.J. Barker, The Bone Ship’s Wake (2021)

Author: R.J. Barker

Title: The Bone Ship’s Wake

Format: paperback

Pages: 493

Series: The Tide Child #3

First things first: I actually managed to finish a trilogy by R.J. Barker, so I feel very self-congratulatory. Yay me! Secondly, though, I only managed to finish it because, unlike The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, this one was interesting enough for me to follow it to the end ;). Although I might have made a strategic error in waiting with the review, as my initial enthusiasm waned somewhat. Still, it’s a pretty decent book, almost right to the end.

The two earlier installments, The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships, were very enjoyable seafaring yarn: tall ships, pirates, remote islands, sea dragons, storms and adventure, and a dream of Libertalia thrown in the mix. The motif of changing the unfair status quo, of fighting for social justice for the outcasts and the unfit, of challenging the rule of the dominant caste – all this for me formed the backbone of the previous two books. While The Bone Ships focused mostly on character development, the broader intrigue and worldbuilding became more apparent in the Call of the Bone Ships. I expected The Bone Ship’s Wake to offer some resolution to the above quandary, to show us how the idealistic dream can be realized, at least in part, in the very strict, increasingly beleaguered societies of constant scarcity. Woe is me. I guess I expected too much.

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Barry Hughart, Bridge of Birds (1985)

Author: Barry Hughart

Title: Bridge of Birds

Format: paperback

Pages: 278

Series: The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox #1

This story is advertised as “a novel of an Ancient China That Never Was.” It’s a very subtle claim, one that gives an insight into what type of novel Hughart wrote: wistful, whimsical, full of wonder, benevolently sarcastic, witty and self-aware, and most importantly, incredibly optimistic. I really didn’t know how much I needed such a book – until I read it.

“RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

IT IS THE PLAGUE OF

THE TEN THOUSAND

PESTILENTIAL PUTRESCENCES!”

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Kate Wilhelm, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976)

Author: Kate Wilhelm

Title: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

Format: paperback

Pages: 251

Series: –

Let’s start with the accolades: Kate Wilhelm’s short novel won both Hugo and Locus Awards upon publication in 1977. Praised as one of the best books on clones (!), it remains surprisingly relevant despite the murky and outdated science. An ambitious take on individuality, creativity and the need for security disguised as cli-fi (before cli-fi was a thing ;)), Wilhelm’s novel is in essence a meditation on what it is to be human. 

But ad rem. The world in Wilhelm’s novel is at the brink of collapse: the pollution reaches levels that slowly kill off all living organisms, making them infertile, diseases run rampant, economic and security crises loom large. Sounds familiar? Amidst this suffering and gloom the Sumner family prepares for the end of the world. They have been smart, thrifty, and populous, and now it looks like they might just make it: in their own vast lands shielded by old forests and rivers from the worst of urbanisation they build hospitals and mills, laboratories and manufactories – and have the brains and the means to ensure their survival.

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