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The Babylon Eye by Masha du Toit

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Elke Veraart used to be a gardag handler, working with modified canines. After losing her canine partner, an altercation led her to prison. And it is there her old bosses have pulled her from. They will free her, and keep her free, if she does this one thing for them:

Locate a gardag that has gone missing with her handler inside the Babylon Eye. There is just one catch- gardags are illegal within the Babylon Eye.

The Babylon Eye is a beautifully written story rich with a mix of people and cultures all set within a world where the Real has become intertwined with the Strange. du Toit does a magnificent job making the world of the Strange come vividly alive, luring readers to turn page after page so they can see more, learn more, meet more of the deeply human and effortlessly diverse cast of characters. The Babylon Eye will appeal to fans of the harder scientific edge of the science fiction genre, as well as those who crave the exploratory excitement that can make the genre so vivid and full of imagination.

And through it all is the love of a woman for the dogs she has raised, trained, worked and fought beside.

The Babylon Eye has a little of bit of something for everyone, and it all pulls together into a story that is absolutely enthralling and will keep you reading far longer than intended. Highly recommended.

 

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Empire of Dust by Jacey Bedford

Cara has been in and out of trouble, and Ben is going to be her quick ticket out of the current batch. A very powerful man is very unhappy with Cara, and the things she is carrying around in her head.

It was supposed to be a quick ploy, a use and move on situation, leaving her and Ben far from entangled. But Cara’s past caught up with her far faster than she had anticipated and her need for Ben turns out to be a more involved affair.

Ben has a past of his own, but he is not trying to run from it- he is trying desperately to untangle a series of events that went so very wrong.

Empire of Dust is the first Psi-Tech novel from Bedford- a science fiction novel that holds the core of the genre close to its heart. That is a good part of what will keep a reader turning pages- a love of the genre. Bedford gives us dangerous space travel, colonization of new worlds, a conflict between those who embrace the trappings of the new era and those who reject them. She gives us a time when children are tested for psionic talent- children who show innate skill can be outfitted with implants to facilitate their use. Such implants are expensive, and Psi-Techs will spend their time working off the debt in the service of one mega-corporation or another.

Bedford’s vision of the future is well thought out, cohesive, and populated with a strong cast of diverse characters. Highly recommended for readers who are fascinated with psionic powers in all permutations, who enjoy stories about exploration and colonization, and those who love a good plot riddled with skewed motivations and sketchy pasts. I look forward to reading more from Bedford.

Rider by Joyce Chng

I should know better than to start anything Joyce has written before bed. It guarantees I will be up long past my bed time. Happens every time.

But oh, what a problem to have. Joyce has a way with words that makes mundane things like getting to bed early enough to be well rested for work tomorrow seem irrelevant, far away. As soon as I started Rider, I more or less knew I was doomed to be up with the sun, and I was quite alright with that. The desert world she brings us to, with its encroaching sands and talented Agri-seers working with plants to try and keep the dunes at bay and people fed, is so real and dangerous and engrossing and is peopled with characters that breathe and hurt and love. I was content to be held captive.

Lifang has always been able to make plants sing, and so she ends up selected for the Agi-seers. But she dreams of being a Rider, like her sister- one of the humans partnered with the intelligent Quetz that were discovered with the planet. Humans have a partnership with the Quetz, a sort of understanding. But there are the Quetz, and then there are the Hunters, their wild cousins. And before Lifang leaves to join the Agi-seers she encounters a Hunter at a waterfall, and that encounter will change her life.

One of the things that stands out most about Rider is the culture that Joyce has woven so tightly throughout this alien world she has created. The humans are rich with it, but so are the Quetz. One of Joyce’s strengths as a writer has always been her ability to make cultures sing out to her readers. Nothing is ever shallow or simple and it adds just an enjoyable beauty to everything she creates.

Rider is a YA novel, but I would encourage adults to take it for a spin. Allow yourself to be captivated by a coming of age story that is as familiar as it is alien and let yourself grow along with Lifang.

Dominion by C.S. Friedman

I carried battered, loved copies of the Coldfire Trilogy with me through multiple moves and a seemingly endless progression of life changes. After a devastating flood they were some of the first books I worked to replace. The characters of the trilogy are like old friends- every now and then I get the urge to check in on them, revisit scenes and passages I particularly liked. Occasionally I take a weekend and reread the series, and every time I wish there was just a bit more for me to dig into. My love of the antihero started with Gerald Tarrant.

So it was with unabashed glee that I stumbled upon Dominion and tossed aside all that I had planned for the evening to read. I had not expected a new Tarrant story, had not known one was in the works, and as a result reading was one of the most wonderful evenings I have had in quite some time. For fans of the original trilogy, it takes place well before the trilogy proper, detailing when Tarrant first enters the Forest and how he makes it his own. It is dark and beautiful and frightening and perfect. Dominion is true to the trilogy I love, while adding more meat for me to chew on. It is a novella- so it is short, but makes every word count.

It is only a matter of time before I give in and give the trilogy another read.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Coldfire Trilogy, it is a horrifying and satisfying look at human emotion and ambition all tucked in a science fiction/fantasy setting that is unsettling and different than anything I have come across since. I highly recommend giving it a read.

Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette

“On the landing, the roses of the Queen of Elfland, as clamorous as trumpets, continued to shout their glory to the uncomprehending house.” (‘Sarah Monette, Somewhere Beneath Those Waves, pg 185)

Like the Queen of Elfland’s roses, the stories contained in ‘Somewhere Beneath Those Waves’ will sing out their glory long after the reader had turned the final page. Contained within are captive figureheads and selkies, dragons and dreams and all the hopes and nightmares caught in between. The stories whisper of love and terror, and kept me up late into the night with a driving need to keep reading. The stories are all so very different, but are told in such a starkly elegant voice a reader cannot help but be compelled to pay attention.

For me, the stories that stood out most were ‘Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland’- a haunting story about love and lust and reasons humans are not meant to love faeries, ‘Katabasis: Seraphic Trains’- an atmospheric and elegant piece about inspiration and the darker corners of human motivation, ‘Amante Doree’- an almost historical piece with spies and issues of gender and acceptance, ‘Under the Beansidhe’s Pillow’- a short, gorgeous piece about the bits of culture and its spirits that immigrated to America, and both ‘A Night in Electric Squidland’ and ‘Imposters’- two stunning bits of urban fantasy with truly likable characters.

This collection should be on everyone’s shelf. It has a story for everyone, from fairy tale to horror and back again, each story unique and yet somehow still pulling the collection together as a whole.

CryoBurn by Lois McMaster Bujold

Every now and then I somehow forget how much I love the character of Miles Vorkosigan. The wonderful thing is this never lasts for long.

Cryoburn was an unexpected present. I knew it was out, and I knew I was going to enjoy it just as much as the rest of the series, but seeing as I picked up The Warrior’s Apprentice back when I was just starting high school it was more like getting back in touch with an old friend then reading another book in a series. I grew up, in all the important adult decisions sort of way, on this fellow. I may not have accidentally ended up owning a mercenary fleet, but there were experience parallels.

I didn’t know what to expect from Cryoburn. So much has happened and changed throughout the series. What I read was perfect. It is quintessential Miles- manic and brilliant. There are kidnappings, misplaced bodies, dirty politics and sketchy economics. The whole of the book may have taken place planet-side, but as with everything that involves Miles, it feels so much bigger. And the ending was executed flawlessly. I am ever fascinated with a series that manages to come to a natural end. Cryoburn settles everything- not neat and tied with a bow- but there is enough resolution that when I finished the last page I was utterly content with how things were.

Now, I need to go grab my copy of Shards of Honor and merrily start the annual reread.