Monthly Archives: July 2019

Review of Normal, by Warren Ellis

I borrowed a copy of Warren EllisNormal from the local library.

Description from Goodreads:

Some people call it “abyss gaze.” Gaze into the abyss all day and the abyss will gaze into you.

There are two types of people who think professionally about the future: Foresight strategists are civil futurists who think about geoengineering and smart cities and ways to evade Our Coming Doom; strategic forecasters are spook futurists, who think about geopolitical upheaval and drone warfare and ways to prepare clients for Our Coming Doom. The former are paid by nonprofits and charities, the latter by global security groups and corporate think tanks.

For both types, if you’re good at it, and you spend your days and nights doing it, then it’s something you can’t do for long. Depression sets in. Mental illness festers. And if the abyss gaze takes hold there’s only one place to recover: Normal Head, in the wilds of Oregon, within the secure perimeter of an experimental forest.

When Adam Dearden, a foresight strategist, arrives at Normal Head, he is desperate to unplug and be immersed in sylvan silence. But then a patient goes missing from his locked bedroom, leaving nothing but a pile of insects in his wake. A staff investigation ensues; surveillance becomes total. As the mystery of the disappeared man unravels in Warren Ellis’s Normal, Adam uncovers a conspiracy that calls into question the core principles of how and why we think about the future–and the past, and the now.

Review:

I read this in one sitting and really enjoyed it. I liked the way you could feel how fragile Adam is and how aware of their own brokenness the other inmate/patients are. The book also manages to pack quite a lot of commentary on the current-future state of earth and society into a small number of pages, largely without ever overtly speaking to any individual topic.

Review of The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark

I borrowed a copy of P. Djèlí Clark‘s The Haunting of Tram Car 015 from the local library.

Description from Goodreads:

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 returns to the alternate Cairo of Clark’s short fiction, where humans live and work alongside otherworldly beings; the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities handles the issues that can arise between the magical and the mundane. Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr shows his new partner Agent Onsi the ropes of investigation when they are called to subdue a dangerous, possessed tram car. What starts off as a simple matter of exorcism, however, becomes more complicated as the origins of the demon inside are revealed. 

Review:

This was only a novella. So, here’s a short review for a short book. I basically loved this. I adored Hamed and his new partner Onsi. I loved the setting and the world. I thought the dialogue was sharp and the story satisfying. My only complaint is that on occasion I felt like the tone of the dialogue was inconsistent. But for the most part I just loved this.

There is also a free short story called A Dead Djinn in Cairo, on the Tor website, that is set in the same world, with a minor crossover of characters. I loved it and recommend reading it.

Review In a Badger Way, by Shelly Laurenston

I borrowed a copy of Shelly Laurenston‘s In a Badger Way from the local library.

Description from Goodreads:

Petite, kind, brilliant, and young, Stevie is nothing like the usual women bodyguard Shen Li is interested in. Even more surprising, the youngest of the lethal, ball-busting, and beautiful MacKilligan sisters is terrified of bears. But she’s not terrified of pandas. She loves pandas. 

Which means that whether Shen wants her to or not, she simply won’t stop cuddling him. He isn’t some stuffed Giant Panda, ya know! He is a Giant Panda shifter. He deserves respect and personal space. Something that little hybrid is completely ignoring.

But Stevie has a way of finding trouble. Like going undercover to take down a scientist experimenting on other shifters. For what, Shen doesn’t want to know, but they’d better find out. And fast. Stevie might be the least violent of the honey badger sisters, but she’s the most dangerous to Shen’s peace of mind. Because she has absolutely no idea how much trouble they’re in . . . or just how damn adorable she is.

Review:

This was really just horrible: juvenile, stupid and basically plotless. I could give it credit for being grammatically sound and edited, but I had to force myself to finish it. So, I’m not going to encourage this puerile idiocy. There were far too many jokes about farting on people, dog shits and releasing anal glands. I want to ask if the author thinks her audience is 12; but the book has lots of good reviews. So, someone somewhere likes it. Just not me. 

I admit I got the occasional chuckle, and I suspect a lot of what made me grit my teeth at the ludicrously over the top antics of this group was probably also meant to be funny. But I just wanted to ask if no one in Laurenston’s professional life is able to reign her in just a little bit. The petite woman doesn’t just shift into a large tiger/honey badger. No, she shifts into a TWO TON animal. No one is just smart or talented, everyone is a GENIUS or a PRODIGY. Stevie doesn’t just have anxiety, she has a crippling phobia of a certain sort of shifter (that doesn’t even make sense in context). There is no spark between the H & h. She just decides they are together and he spends the whole book saying they’re not, until they have sex and then he stops and they’re together. 

I love a bit of humor in my PNR. I abhor a slapstick collection of too-dramatic-to-believe schticks. AND THAT’S ALL THIS BOOK IS.