One of my favorite things in sci-fi is the question of what it means to be human, and when do machines cross that line into being truly alive, capable of free will, of questioning their makers, of wanting to be a part of this thing called “life”. “Urban Heroes” leans hard into that question and I love it. You have the main character, Calista, who is on the run from the uprising between man and machine she was accidentally a part of. Calista is a pilot, which means she has an almost symbiotic relationship with her ship all for the low, low price of trading her arm for a robotic one. Calista runs in with people who have more machine parts then actual machines, and yet they are offered more rights than the true robotic AI populating their world. Which is occupied by floating cities now that the world has kind of crumbled away, or something. With Calista is Axton, who pretty much everyone and their mother wants to get their hands on. Why? That is slowly teased out over the course of this very short book, and I loved the tragedy that was Calista and Axton. This book makes you think, question what is truly alive, breaks your heart, and leaves you wanting more. Maybe too much more?
We’ve all heard the tale of King Arthur. How his Knights of the Round Table fought against Morgana le Fey and her army of darkness. Arthur eventually perished, becoming a legend of what chivalry was supposed to look like, how knights were to behave, and the romanticized version of Camelot was born. Now meet Judy Avery: an incredibly young—as in 19 years-old—PhD candidate who has based her dissertation on the fact that the fairy tale has some truth to it. Watch as she presents this dissertation to her own father, who is a scientist to the core, who uses—you guessed it—science to dispel things like Arthur and his Camelot. Judy faces disappointment, is told she needs to rethink her direction, and as a kind of weird joke, is sent to the place where Camelot is meant to be, but is now a cheesy tourist trap. Cue that it’s anything but, and Judy is in for a big surprise. I really love Arthurian fantasy retellings, I love that this was a gender reversal for who is “king”, but I had a hard time connecting to Judy.
Ok guys, I need you to suspend some disbelief with me real quick as I introduce you to this incredibly topical, but also incredibly quirky book. Meet “Threshold” the story of Ooolandia (a world like ours but with the extra “o”) where humanoids and animals all work and live together. As in the animals talk and have jobs, but also still function as animals and hunt each other. See what I mean about the quirkiness? But Ooolandia is in trouble. The population has become so fixated on changing nature to do what they want, that they have completely destroyed the ecosystem on their never ending quest for MORE. The only ones to see what the business running Ooolandia is doing is the Department of Nature, run by a monkey and a really smart mouse—more quirkiness! Plagued by what they see, and others don’t, it’s up to them to open the populace’s eyes before it’s too late. Ok so you have these smart, talking animals, plus a lot of mythical creatures, and they are all on a quest that revolves around climate change, and trying to get the people who deny what’s going on to see how everyone is connected. See how relevant that subject is to our current world? Honestly, this book shouldn’t have worked, but it does! It so, so does!
“Demon’s on the Dalton” is the second in the Hell Hole’s serial trilogy, and picks up pretty immediately from where the first in the series left off. Although, this book spends a decent chunk early on recapping and re-familiarizing the reader with what happened in the first novella, so if you don’t read the first one, I don’t think you’ll be totally lost, though I do think the excitement of the first book is higher than in the second. We get Angela’s perspective this time as our trio of survivors race across the Dalton. The majority of the story is spent with our characters in their vehicle, barely able to stop to pee on the side of the road before all manner of hell spawn is on top of them. Their mission is still primarily to survive, to get to Fairbanks, and safety. But as the U.S. military mobilizes and starts their counter attack, their mission shifts, becoming more than just survival, but helping the powers that be to end the unending wave of demonic creatures that are pouring into our world.
“An Honest Policy” is a satirical commentary on the American voting system that was inspired by Reddits’ Writing Prompts boards. It’s a quick novella full of snarky wit, humor and an eldritch god-like entity who has decided he—it?—has had enough of the lies and the extremes of the political parties. Qym—the god’s name is much longer, so hopefully he doesn’t kill me for the abbreviation—is running on one very honest and straight forward policy: if elected president, he will murder everyone. No foreign policies, no questions on healthcare or family values, everyone will be equally dead. Tom, the Conservative extreme-esque opponent to Qym and a seasoned politician, has only ever lied to people. He’s only ever done and pandered to who and what is necessary in order to achieve his political goals, including having a fake family. Tom may not be honest, but he’s also not promising murder, so he’s pretty caught off guard when he starts losing to this ancient deity, and badly. So the question becomes if Tom can win and “save” America, but really, the story’s focus is on the circus that is politics and the echo chamber that prime time media allows us to fall into. The commentary is not subtle, no “side” is right, no one is good. It’s frustrating, but very entertaining, and unnervingly close to home—minus the murderous god thing, of course.
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