Wednesday, 30 January 2019

The Wretched and the Beautiful by E Lilly Yu

A timely story about refugees.

But these are not Syrians crossing borders, these are aliens crash landing on a beach and asking for protection from a ravaged homeworld.

It doesn’t take long before humans that are affected by the integration start to resent it and the ugly bigotry toward “the other” begins.

Yu has taken the highest traditions fo SF to reflect ourselves back to us.

The story is short and brings home the message effectively.

I was so happy to have read it.

E. Lilly Yu's website -

E Lilly Yu

Monday, 28 January 2019

Extreme Frontiers: Racing Across Canada by Charley Boorman - Book Report #255

Being Canadian it’s always interesting to get a foreign perspective on my home.

I was happy to read that the people Boorman met along the way were open, helpful and friendly. 

From region to region he tried to participate in activities that reflect the land, history and people. 

To be honest, I found the narrative a bit clunky during the first third but that was just me adjusting to his voice.  Once I got comfortable with his writing style I found myself smiling and engaging with the book.  I was reading it at every opportunity and tore through it rather quickly.

Honestly, the bit where he was mountain climbing in the Rockies made my heart race.  There were some scary parts of that climb where I was glad it was him doing it and not me.

It’s a rare occurrence to be sad that you are reaching the end of a book, which is a real compliment to Boorman. I wish he would have taken a dip in the Pacific, turned around and rode all the way back again.

I was happy to see he has many more books to his credit and I am looking forward to reading them.  However, I have both The Long Way Round and The Long Way Down which I haven’t read yet.  Having seen both adventures on DVD, I’m sure there will be some interesting perspectives in them.  It’s good to know I still have some Charley Boorman to read.

This is a comfortable read where, by the end, you will feel like you’ve met a charming, honest and good man.  That is excellent company to keep.

Charley Boorman’s website -

Charley Boorman

Monday, 21 January 2019

A Newfoundlander in Canada by Alan Doyle - Book Report #254

My goodness do I love me some Alan Doyle.

The man is an inspiration with his positive outlook on life.

Reading this book was a charming exploration of Canada recounted through his younger self on his first coast-to-coast tour with Great Big Sea.

His impressions of each province made for a nice structure for the book.  I especially liked how he was able to understand how each place differed from his home and to see how it all fits together to make a country.  Canada is not a homogeneous country but a collection of regions who's character is determined not just by the people but by the land and weather as well.

Doyle also gives us a glimpse into the life of a touring band.  It's not an easy existence being confined to a beat-up van driving for countless hours on empty highways.  It is a real test of friendships to be cooped up for so long.

I came away from reading this book wanting more.

I certainly hope that Doyle keeps writing, there is something warm about his voice that I find attractive.

Recommended.  Highly.

Alan Doyle's website -

Alan doyle

Friday, 18 January 2019

Carnival Nine by Caroline M Yoachim

What a wonderful story.

Touching and familiar but wholly original to me. 

In it, we follow the life of a young wind-up girl who, presumably, lives in the house of a master modeller. 

Her world is a quiet one but when the carnival train pulls in she is swept up in the romance of joining them and exploring her world. 

But life is seldom as simple as that.  For every new beginning, something must end.  In this case, it is the guilt of leaving her family behind. 

I loved the warmth and humanity of this story. 

The author is extremely talented. 

Highly recommended. 

Caroline M Yoachim -

Caroline M Yoachim

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Last Refuge by Roger McCoy

Not being much of a Voyager fan I could still appreciate the story on its own merits.

That said, it was obviously meant to flesh out a previous episode where a plot thread was left dangling. 

I liked the structure, using flashbacks of a crime to expand on the story at hand. 

Part of what makes tie-in fiction so comforting is that the reader already understands the world, how it functions and the main players in it. 

I felt McCoy had a perfect grasp of the characters voices and created a compelling and satisfying expansion of this part of the franchise. 

A lovely way to spend some downtime. 

Monday, 14 January 2019

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe - Book Report #253

Nothing better than a book about books and reading.

This is a memoir of books that were important to the author but this is not a stuffy look at an elitist reader.  Many of his selections are modern bestsellers and I simply love how the author's thesis is to illustrate how any book can contribute to understanding the world.

To prove his point I have started asking, "What are you reading?"  when I am with friends or meeting somebody new.  This query can generate a conversation like nothing else.

Another idea I found compelling was from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book A Gift from the Sea.  To mangle her quote   “Choose whenever possible the unknown over the familiar because it is more enriching."

The author was funny and unafraid to reveal himself.  I felt like I met an interesting person.

Terrific stuff.

Will Schwalbe -

Will Schwalbe

Sunday, 13 January 2019

ZeroS by Peter Watts

This was a military SF story set in a dystopian future.

A dying soldier is given a second chance by agreeing to be uploaded where his consciousness can then be installed into combat bodies and sent on mission after mission.

Eventually, he realizes the nature of his work and begins to wonder if he has made a tragic mistake.

While reading this, I kept thinking of how John Scalzi used a similar premise to recruit soldiers in his Old Man's War series.  The trouble is that the older you get the more you come to see the world in your own way and question authority.  It can be difficult to control veterans.

I liked the story enough but part of what frustrated the protagonist frustrated me as the reader.  In battle, he is kept from seeing the whole field of engagement so neither could I.

It was a well-told story written by a skilled author.

Peter Watts' website -

Peter Watts

Friday, 11 January 2019

Church of Birds by Micah Dean Hicks

A dark fantasy about a boy who had been cursed to be a swan for six years.

When the curse was lifted he was only partially restored being left with one arm and one wing.

What would life be like for a kid if he had that kind of disfigurement?

The story was well written, I felt for the kid, but dark fantasy is just the kind of story that doesn't work for me.  It's a genre thing.

Micah Dean Hicks website -

Micah Dean Hicks

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue by Charlie Jane Anders

This was an interesting, though odd, look at a twisted kind of eugenics.

It was a horrifying story of watching the transfer of life energy and consciousness from a person of "questionable" ethics to the body of a dead person, who had displayed better moral character.

Oh, it was an ugly situation made worse by the desire of the transferred to live.


Charlie Jane Anders' website -

Charlie Jane Anders

Monday, 7 January 2019

A Flag For Canada by Rick Archbold - Book Report #252

Having lived under the maple leaf flag my entire life I found this book to be fascinating.

Creating a flag independent from Britain stirred up a lot of emotions in the Canadian public at the time. 

Understanding how complex it was to boil a country down into such a simple design made me thankful for the people who dedicated so much energy into the task. 

The photography was lush and the historical significance of each iteration of our flag could not have been conveyed without them. 

I originally purchased the book in a fit of patriotism during the Canada 150 celebration year. 

I am glad I finally read it. 

Here are some real contenders:

The Canadain Red Ensign

The Pearson Pennant

13 pointed maple leaf

There is also a group who is suggesting our current flag be modified to better reflect the English and French duality that was Canada.  I use the word "was" because Canada is more about pluralism than ever before.  The English - French duality is fast becoming blurred.  That said I find the modified version quite attractive.  However, if it came to a vote, I would rather keep our current flag.

Proposed Canadain Unity Flag
Rick Archbold

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast by Gwendolyn Clare

Oh my.

A disturbing and grotesque look at the hubris of war.  We follow the journal entries of the Emporer's vintner, who follows behind the battle lines to take stock of the conquered countries' wine offerings.

This story left me breathless and staring out the window.

Stunning work.

Gwendolyn Clare's website -

Gwendolyn Clare

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Spider-Man Noir by David Hine with Fabrice Sapolsky - A Graphic Novel Review

I blew the dust off my copy of Spider-Man Noir before going to see the movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Ten years ago I was enjoying the look and tropes of the 1930’s pulp fiction.  Marvel put out a series of Noir books that seemed to lend themselves well to the period.

What they did with Spider-Man was clever in how it was adapted for the 1930's.

I must say,  this is not your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.  Oh no, he is very much a deadly vigilante.

I liked this book very much, from the design of the costume to the nod to that other "Spider" who occupied pulp fiction at the time and to the dark tone of the story.

If you're looking for something different, but still familiar you might want to chase this book down.

I was impressed at how Marvel was unafraid to challenge the cannon of this iconic character.

Well done!


David Hine -

Fabrice Sapolsky -

Friday, 4 January 2019

The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant by Rachael K Jones

This was quite the entertaining and entirely creepy story about a group of escaped cyborgs looking for freedom.

On one hand, it is an exploration of human ingenuity and obsolescence.  On the other, a look at free will and trying to rise above one’s station.  There is also a poke a social media tied in with machine logic.

It read like something Douglas Adams could have written albeit on one of his darkest, most depressed days.

There was an ick factor here that made me wrinkle my nose but it was darkly funny too.

This story stayed with me for a couple of days.

Rachael K Jones' website -

Rachael K Jones

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The Big Downtown by Jack McDevitt


Murder and mayhem in the wake of a hurricane make for a compelling mystery.

To be honest, this story barely qualifies as SF, not that it's a bad thing, but if you take away the flying cars and holograms you've simply got a straight-up mystery here.

It was a good mystery too.  The author kept the plot moving along with some complicated relationships and motivations.

I liked this one very much.

Jack McDevitt's website -

Jack McDevitt

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

My Reading Goals for 2019

Slow down.

2018 was a frantic reading year.  142 posts vs my next highest year, 2012 with 89.

Short stories added to the post count because I believe they required individual consideration.  But I felt rushed all year long mostly because I would borrow armloads of books from the library which all had to be returned within a short period of time.

I did not have the chance to relax into stories and books as I was always thinking about the next title.

In 2019 I will try to remove the time limit and concentrate on the books that I own.  I have four bookshelves and a dozen boxes filled with work that is just waiting for me to pick up. I will blow the dust off these books and enjoy them without the urge to push through.

I mean to savour my reading.