A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an unexpectedly good book. His Ragged Company is a little bit western, a little bit steampunk, and infused with a kind of subtle magic that defies definition– it just is. Like the sun rising in the east or the stars turning overhead, odd people gravitate to the town of Blackpeak, Texas, and odd things happen there. In this regard, the first half of His Ragged Company is reminiscent of the writing of Ursula K Le Guin and Charles de Lint.

When weird things start happening around –and to– resident sheriff Elias Faust, he doesn’t wonder much about it. As the strange incidents and their resulting body count begin to grow, it becomes clear that there’s more threatening the small mining town than the occasional group of bandits.

Continue reading “Review: His Ragged Company”

In my last blog post, I reviewed Vladimir Nabokov’s most controversial work of fiction, Lolita. Prior to that, I reviewed Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and today I’ll be completing this three-book review series by covering Invitation to a Beheading. I recommend reading these reviews in order, because I’ll also be covering how the author’s past seeps into his writing and criticizing some of his common themes.

Content warning for mention of pedophilia.

Continue reading “Vladimir Nabokov Part Three – Invitation to a Beheading”

In my last post, I began reviewing three of the works of author Vladimir Nabokov, starting with Pale Fire. Today I’ll be reviewing the author’s best-known and most controversial work, Lolita. Grab a cup of something caffeinated and buckle up, because this is going to be a long one.

Content warning for pedophilia, sexual assault, child abuse, domestic abuse/domestic violence, gaslighting, misogyny, and racism. This review pulls no punches, and I’m not going to gloss over any of the ugliness espoused within this book.

It’s not surprising to me that despite his pedigree, writing career, and status in society, Vladimir Nabokov initially had a hard time finding a publisher willing to print this story. What does surprise me is the literary acclaim it garnered later, and the starry-eyed praise it received. Take this quote from the back cover of the copy I borrowed, for example:

“The only convincing love story of our century.” –Vanity Fair

I’d like to have a word with whoever approved using this quote to describe Nabokov’s ode to pedophilia– because, out of all the things Lolita is and isn’t, the thing it absolutely isn’t the most is a love story.

Perhaps the best lesson that can be taken from the accolades this story has received is just how deeply entrenched and socially normalized pedophilia is– and how badly that needs to change.

Continue reading “Vladimir Nabokov Part Two – Lolita”

Until recently, Vladimir Nabokov was not a name that was familiar to me. I’ve heard of Lolita and its ugly reputation, but I was surprised to find that the same author wrote numerous other novels. One of these was Pale Fire, an excerpt from which is used in K’s baseline test in Bladerunner 2049.

…and blood-black nothingness began to spin
A system of cells interlinked within
Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

–Vladimir Nabokov, “Pale Fire”

This excerpt alone is, to me, really good. It inspired me to pick up a copy of Pale Fire at my local library and read the rest.

Continue reading “Vladimir Nabokov Part One – Pale Fire”
Cover of Ketcel by Chad Deal

Some stories are just that: stories. Simple. One dimensional. Easily digestible entertainment.

Some stories are much, much more than that. Some are complex conductive elements comprised of dozens of vibrant, glowing fibers, woven together specifically to guide us into the psychedelic cyberpunk future that might be.

Chad Deal’s Ketcel is the latter.

Continue reading “Review: Ketcel”
Cover of Agent G Infiltrator by C. T. Phipps

“The International Refugee Society has twenty-six cybernetically enhanced ‘Letters,’ and for the right price, they’ll eliminate anyone.”

Agent G: Infiltrator by C. T. Phipps is a science fiction espionage thriller with underlying themes of cyberpunk trans-humanism. The book description reminds me of the Hitman franchise, but initially Agent G comes across as more of a cyborg James Bond than an Agent 47. For example, G states that he gets paid exorbitant amounts of money for his work, yet during his first mission his assistant and fancy gadgets seem to do much of the heavy lifting.

Not being a huge Bond fan, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this definitely isn’t a 007 clone. While there are plenty of Machiavellian machinations going on within the Society and lots of fancy technology at play, the meat of the story is thoroughly original, and quite a bit deeper than expected.

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Cover of Alpha Bots by Ava Lock

Bi-curious Stepford Wives + femme Fight Club
In a small town where all the women are AI, a corrupt policewoman picks a fight with a drug-cooking housewife, igniting a provocative rivalry that could wind up killing all the men.

I stumbled across Alpha Bots on Twitter, and it immediately caught my eye. Interesting author: check. Eye-catching cover: check. Intriguing description: check. I picked up a copy, and I’m really glad I did. Here’s why.

Continue reading “Review: Alpha Bots”

Liquid Cool cover

I’m told you’re supposed to start book reviews with something positive. Liquid Cool isn’t the worst book I’ve ever read. It’s not the most offensive, or the most appalling. It isn’t even the most poorly edited. But that’s probably the extent of the positive things I can say about it.

Liquid Cool passes itself off as cyberpunk detective novel, but calling it that is a bit of a stretch. Cruz is a laborer in generically-named Metropolis. He restores cars and does odd jobs, none of which are particularly interesting, or of much interest to him. What Cruz really wants is to be a detective.

Movie poster for Blade Runner 2049

A few weekends ago I finally got around to watching Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited addition to the cyberpunk phenomenon that started with Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And I have to say, I’m impressed. 2049 far exceeded its predecessors.

In this review I’ll discuss what I liked and didn’t like about the movie. I’m also going to talk about some disagreements I have with the underlying premises of the original book and film. There will be mild spoilers. If you haven’t watched 2049 yet, I highly recommend you do so! This review will be waiting for you when you get back.

“Faced with the exhausting task of building mechanical trees that produce the precious oxygen they breathe, the Greenleigh orphan slaves piece together clues about the existence of a possible forbidden paradise beyond The Wall. To find the truth, shatter the illusions, and free the children, Joy must entrust the aid of an unlikely ally who harbors dangerous secrets.”

Christina Rozelle’s The Treemakers has a lot going for it: it’s a story about a group of child slaves attempting to find their way out of captivity. They’re tough and spunky. They’re even likable at times (although my favorite character was Smudge, the mysterious guide the children meet partway through the story.) The world is strange and imaginative, and the author has a knack for thorough descriptions.