Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review | The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

Review by Christine Tursky Gordon

Turkey in 2027 is a member of the EU, the meeting point of West and East, and of Christianity and Islam, a place of nanotech sweatshops, power struggles, hidden and open religious history, and the driving pulse of business amongst the heat and the smell of spices. Cosmopolitan, crowded, dynamic Istanbul seeps through on every page; McDonald captures the culture, the voice, and the atmosphere of the city just as evocatively as he did for readers in Brasyl.
In The Dervish House McDonald pulls together disparate characters whose stories dovetail in a seven-day-long ticking clock buildup of tension. A boy with a damaged heart sees a terrorist explosion on a tram through the remote camera on his BitBot and realises that someone else also has a hidden robot watching those who flee the aftermath. Necdet runs from the tram, amazed to be alive, but soon starts seeing djinns and spirits interwoven with the scenes of his daily life. Leyla misses the explosion, misses her job interview but finds work in a relative’s nanoware startup and must negotiate with both family and local criminal groups to secure funding. Adnan snorts nanoware brain enhancers just like his commodity trader colleagues, but he plans a massive fraud involving radioactive Iranian gas while his antique trader wife Ayse is offered an outrageous sum to quietly find a mythical artefact. Greek-out-of-water Georgios is a retired economics professor with a poisoned past of radical activism who is suddenly, incongruously invited to join a government think tank.
The implications of the terrorist attack trickle slowly into the open as the characters follow their own paths, looming larger and darker than anything the government could have expected. McDonald has created a rich, vivid thriller that is beautifully written.

This review first appeared in the Aurealis Magazine subscriber newsletter.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Win a Pamela Freeman omnibus edition of The Castings Trilogy in our February Subscriber Newsletter Competition

The good folks at Orbit have given us TWO copies of Pamela Freeman's omnibus edition of The Castings Trilogy, taking in the books Blood Ties, Deep Water and Full Circle. The success of this trilogy helped Pamela secure a worldwide contract with Orbit for another series of books. It is an excellent series indeed!

Subscribers to Aurealis Magazine should refer to this month's aurealisXpress newsletter for details on how to enter.

Book Review | Sunshine State by James Miller

Little, Brown
Review by Lachlan Huddy

It’s all looking rosy for Mark Burrows at the outset of this near-future fever dream. Sure, there's some unfortunate more-or-less-global devastation wrought by climate change, but Burrows's native Britain has escaped the worst of it and the retired spy is looking forward to fatherhood. Cue the One Last Job. Burrows is called back into service and shipped out to Florida—better known now as the Storm Zone care of, well, guess—in pursuit of his ex-comrade and brother-in-law, Charles Ashe. Ashe has become something of a messiah to the various minorities and extremist groups who, unwelcome in an America now run by iron-fisted evangelical Christians, call the Storm Zone home. So begins Burrows’s descent into, yes, the heart of darkness. Nothing wrong with ripping off an English classic so long as your head and heart’s in the right place, and Miller’s intentions are fittingly noble in seeking to highlight the dangerous political forces at war for America’s soul. Of course Sunshine State suffers in comparison to its forebears (Ashe’s sympathetic villain also owes much to Milton's Lucifer of Paradise Lost), but playing runner-up to the canon is no shameful thing. Some have complained of Miller’s overwrought prose, and to be sure the pages turn a little purple at times, but it isn’t wanton; the technique builds atmosphere and sucks the reader irrevocably into the mind of a maddening man and a mad, mad world.

This review first appeared in the Aurealis Magazine subscriber newsletter.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review | Diamond Eyes by A.A. Bell

Harper Voyager

Into the life of a strange, demented, violent woman, cruelly constrained in an asylum, comes a new therapist with his own issues. Ben is the first person to get through to Mira. He begins to probe the dissociated world that she lives in; she is blind, but seems to see, and has extraordinary multi-faceted reflective eyes. As he begins to draw her out, he takes her back to visit the strange tree-home where she was raised. Meanwhile, two scientists are working on an infallible lie-detector using physiological and psychological input.
These two, in cahoots with Ben, begin to unravel just what it is that Mira ‘sees’. Then someone is murdered… Mira was not physically present, but she ‘saw’ what happened! Wild cross-country chases, layers of authority where the corrupt and the well-meaning are indistinguishable, and a lovable mischief-making asylum inmate whose deafness is a counterpoint to Mira’s blindness. What a rare and special tale! A. A. Bell has that much beloved faculty of good science fiction writers—she takes areas of science that are already understood, and squeezes them just a bit further so that the scientific basis of her story has a grounding in fact.
This review first appeared in the Aurealis Magazine subscriber newsletter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

Review by Carissa Thorp

Miles Vorkosigan, Imperial Auditor (ie Investigator) of Barrayar, travels to the planet Kibou-daini to look into the business of cryo-preservation, an industry which is an obsession on Kibou-daini and has shaped the planet’s culture and political structure for ill. Fate provides Miles with access to the real story behind the PR and gives him the opportunity to protect Barrayar’s interests as well as undo an injustice.
I'm a big fan of Bujold and have been really looking forward to another Vorkosigan novel. It was worth the wait, especially because of the promising complications birthed by this novel for future books. However, this isn't a book I'd recommend to someone who hasn't read any Vorkosigan books before. Thankfully, because of the generosity and forward thinking of Baen and Bujold, I can let readers know that all Bujold's novels in this universe have been made available to download as ebooks, in a variety of formats, providing newcomers a way to try out the series, become addicted from the first chapter, then go out and buy all the books in hard copy, including Cryoburn. Which one do I recommend you start with? Cordelia's Honor, an omnibus edition that includes the novels Shards of Honor and Barrayar, starring Miles' mother and father; they provide a great background of the "universe" and the history of major series characters. It’s where I started and they remain among my favourites.

This review first appeared in the Aurealis Magazine subscriber newsletter.