Peter Tieryas, United States of Japan (2016)

My first ARC 🙂 Yay! Thanks to Angry Robot’s Robot Army programme, we got early access (through NetGalley) to the ebook of United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas. Thanks, Angry Robot! Book will be published in the beginning of March, and I got to read it already, so it’s only fair that I’ll write a few words about it 😉

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It is, of course, The Man in the High Castle with mecha, the cover (I love it!) tells us as much. It’s more than that, surely, but that’s the first thing that comes to a reader’s mind and the author doesn’t hide his inspirations:

United States of Japan wouldn’t exist without some wonderful people. Obviously, the first person I want to thank is Philip K Dick who inspired me a great deal growing up, especially through The Man in the High Castle. Even though we’re very different writers, he’s had a huge influence on me and helped me to view the world in a completely unique light. (from Acknowledgements)

Another bow to Dick – similar plot device. In the classic book, a novel depicting alternative history within alternative history – a world where Axis won the war (differently than in our world, but still) is central to the plot. Here – it’s a computer game based on the same assumption, that’s a great idea for our times :)!

It is, ultimately, a very different book than its great predecessor, and one that deserves to be judged on its own merits. And I’m conflicted about how to judge it. It was a brave project to attempt writing spiritual successor to PKD’s masterpiece, probably too ambitious, but the result is an interesting book, though one not suited for everybody. A strong stomach is required, for one. An ability to either forgive protagonists a lot, or to enjoy a book while despising most of the characters – also helpful.

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Emma Newman, The Split Worlds (2013)

I like urban fantasy. I’m not a big fan, but I’ve read a couple dozen. The first series I really enjoyed was Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, recommended to me by Ola. At first I couldn’t get into Dresden Files, but now I preach the genius of Jim Butcher. 2013 was a year when I discovered British urban fantasy. It started with excellent “Courts of the Feyre” series by Mike Shevdon, then I discovered Ben Aaronovitch and his novels about “ethnically challenged” London police officer.

Of course, now that I think about, my first English urban fantasy was “Neverwhere”. Gaiman’s masterpiece I’ve read as a novel and graphic novels, listened to in audio form, and watched a TV mini-series (IMHO the weakest version of the story). It was great…

Another British author I discovered was Emma Newman. Beautiful voice (professional narrator and she has her own podcast, very entertaining “Tea and Jeopardy”, nice short stories available online, great covers:

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Wesley Chu, Tao Trilogy (2013-2015)

Fat loser meets snarky alien. Gets in shape. Fights war over control of humanity’s evolution. Gets a girlfriend. Not in order of importance.

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A trilogy based on a very cool idea. Written by a guy that, thanks to this trilogy, escaped his boring finance work to become a pro writer. Published by Angry Robot, great little company despite its hipster tendencies. Lots of great British urban fantasy (Newman, Shevdon), good heroic fantasy, very interesting covers (Blackbirds). And interesting business ideas, you can buy a seasonal pass to get or their books in electronic format. If you hate all that is good, traditional and physical 😉

The basic premise of the series goes like that: a long time ago an alien ship crashed on Earth. Aliens, a race called “Quasing” where extremely unsuited to inhabit our planet. They needed different atmosphere, and, to survive, unable to live alone, they started to posses the creatures of Earth. Firstly – dinosaurs. Soon – homo sapiens, species they judged most likely to develop a science able to allow the Quasing to rebuild their ship and get back to their planet.

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