The Politics of Bone Meal

When they retrieved Sergeant Julia Hart’s body from the vacuum, they ground her bones down to extract their nutrients. The crew sifted her teeth from the meal and planted her in the biodome. Three weeks later, an edible flower bloomed in the same spot saving what was left of Flight Crew B.

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

The Gurkha and The Lord of Tuesday

The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday is a book you can immediately sink your teeth into. It starts in a melting mountain peak. The djinn king, Melek Ahmar, slowly blinks to life in a tired withered state as he tries to figure out how long he’s been asleep. His brash and arrogant voice is made humorous by how little he actually knows about his environment.

The story is told from two perspectives. His and the “sheriff” of Kathmandu, Hamilcar Pande when the Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday wander into his town. Pande is a more earnest character who’s rather content in the world he lives in. He doesn’t have much to do since serious crime isn’t really an issue for the city. He has the authority to work as Karma’s feet on the ground.

The story is the two circling each other. The former causing chaos while the other investigates them. We meet a whole cast of interesting characters throughout the story.

Layered on top of this is a science fiction story. The setting is a distant future ruled by micro-climates and human augmentation which does away with sickness and injury. We see conflict between magic and technology. The book also shows a world of what would happen when placed in what looks like a utopia. People are assigned value based on their good deeds. And even the zeroes in this society want for nothing. I found this world fascinating especially as it goes into what can make people happy there and is it possible to live in true contentment.

But even though the book touches these themes, it’s never weighed down by them. The story is about power, vengeance, and accountability. Despite all that, it still keeps i light and fun and that’s by the strength of its characters.

It’s also a quick read. No more than 170 pages and it goes by so fast. It you’re the least bit curious, you should pick it up.

My Rating:

Kindred [Review]

KindredThe Skinny: Dana, an African-American woman in the 1970s, finds herself constantly forced back into the antebellum South. Each time she saves the son of a plantation owner’s son, Rufus, and forced to play the part of the slave until she’s transported home. But each stay proves increasingly dangerous.

Kindred was an interesting book to dive into. I’ve been meaning to dig into an Octavia Butler book for a few years now and after an eventful bookstore trip, I decided to pick up this one first. It took several months after to unearth it from my TBR pile and I wasn’t disappointed.

One of the things that I found most interesting about this book (and what it’s most often remarked on in reference to it) is how it blends genres. Of course, there’s sci-fi with its time-traveling element but there’s also historical fiction. It uses futuristic elements to explore the past which I always find an interesting premise. The story more specifically fashions itself after the traditional slave narratives where former slaves recount the horrors of their experience. At the time, they were more utilized for advocacy purposes by abolitionists to bring an end to the institution. Think Harriet Jacob’s Incidents from the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) or Narrative of a Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845).

Articulating how I feel about books like these are difficult. I’m not quite sure about my decision to read this so soon after Homegoing.  I was hit by the same feelings, hurt by the emotional rollercoaster, musing over the same thoughts long after finishing.

It’s another book that touches on the impact of chattel slavery and its dehumanizing effects on the human soul. How slaves are forced day by agonizing day to making the best from a terrible situation. Like Homegoing it also takes on the impact of erasure, where family lines are cut, blurred or erased completely due to the institution. I would like to say that this was a difficult read due to the brutality of the narrative but I’ve read books like this before both fictionalized and not. It was hard to read but it was a harshness that I’ve grown used to.

Despite the last statement, this book does manage to set itself apart by its characters and how they interact with each other. The relationship that develops between Dana and Rufus was one plagued with strife (to put it extremely mildly) but it was underpinned by an intrinsic trust built on the other’s preservation. Seeing how this plays out throughout the course of the narrative kept me engaged throughout. Dana coming to terms with the era, interacting with the various people within and her place within it was also something that kept me feverishly turning through the pages.

This book has a lot of heavy moments–a lot of painful moments–but I recommend it to anyone curious about the period. It’s an excellent historical narrative and a great introduction to Octavia Butler.

My Rating:

 

4 half stars

Dark Matter [Review]

dark matterYou all will find out pretty quickly that one of my favorite genres of literature (movie, podcast, what have you) are thrillers and mysteries. It was why I was so excited to dig my teeth into this book.

Dark Matter is wild. It’s more than wild, it’s improbable and yet I couldn’t stop reading.

It’s a thriller with a sci-fi twist. A sci-fi twist with a romantic subplot. A romantic subplot with an underlying universal message about the dynamics of choice and finding your own meaning on what makes life worth living.

The main crux of the story deals with the multiverse theory and it deftly handles the subject. It’s accessible enough to not get lost in the more sci-fi elements because its story is rather simple once you strip it down to its basic elements.

It’s a love story—simple and sweet. Jason Dressen just wants to get home to his wife and son. This one hope carries him through all the strangeness and horror that he’s confronted with.

I’m also fairly intrigued by the convolutedness that is this story’s multiverse theory. Touching this beast of a concept could make or break a story but with this one there was never a time where I sat back and thought “Now hold on a minute….” I did stop but it was with going through the motions of the character where we were both struck by the odds that are continually stacked against him. Based on the craziness set up, I think it ended satisfactorily.

There are loose ends but the story avoids definitive conclusions. The whole premise underlying the narrative is that we can never be sure of the choices we make—we can never be sure if they were the right ones and there’s no true way of knowing.

Regret is unavoidable but we can’t wallow in it. Life moves on but so must we. The problems begin when we continually beg the question. The story begins when someone rather close to the narrator gets selfish and wanted the “what if” and built something to cheat the system.

If it wasn’t obvious, I loved Dark Matter in all its craziness.

My Rating:

4 Stars_2

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter [Review]

Strange CaseThe Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter was an okay book. It’s one of those reads that I came away with no extreme feelings one way or another. Not because it was bad (though there were questionable elements) but because it was familiar in a way that wasn’t in its favor. Particularly its plot construction and characters.

The plot was interesting. I’m a sucker for a good mystery and, if you make it engaging enough, I’ll let it take me anywhere. It’s why I struggled to put the book down when the plot really got going. It also helps that the book pays spectacular homage to some Gothic/Victorian stories. It was awesome seeing the children of Jekyll, Hyde, Frankenstein, Rappacinni, Moreau work along Holmes and Watson to solve this mystery. Every name referenced had me wondering if I heard it before and to have certain suspicions confirmed sent my Gothic lit geek heart soaring.

In other ways, however, the mystery was also somewhat predictable. It didn’t really feel like it had any weight—especially since (spoiler warning) I felt like none of it was ever truly solved. I mean, certain parts of it were solved but the actual meat of it was left kind of hanging there and left for sequel baiting (here’s a bias: not a big fan of that. If you set up a primary mystery at the beginning, solve that one!).  There were other story elements that really undermined it but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Another thing that the book did alright were its characters. Their exchanges were fun to read and there was some nice witty dialogue that kept me amused throughout. These monster girls were interesting. I loved learning about their backstory and how they viewed themselves in the world but there was something that felt rote in their construction.

The problem was that none of them really stood out to me. They were familiar character types (the uptight one, the wild carefree one, the quiet smart type, the rough and tumble “don’t give a bad word” type, so on and so forth). Familiar character types aren’t inherently bad (let’s make that clear) but if they’re not given the proper time to flex their character muscles to distinguish themselves from other similar characters, it’s really hard to get invested. I felt none of them were truly fleshed out enough to break outside their character molds.

My main issue with this book is how the book is constructed. It’s riddled with tangents. Action, dialogue, scenes are consistently broken up by character exchanges. I know that these dialogues are meant to give character to the story, clueing the reader into bits of background and foreshadowing. More often than not, however, it took me out of the story and spoiled the mystery at points. This element really undermined the suspense and plot at times. I learned to get used to it as the narrative progressed but the little pang of annoyance every time the characters cut into a scene never left me. It tended to endear me to the characters less (Get out the way of your own mystery!!!).

This book ended up being a solid three for me. I didn’t feel too strongly about it but I didn’t hate it either.

My Rating:

3 Star