This Friday, I’ve picked books that look at the world differently:
‘The Bathwater Conspiracy’ by Janet Kellough (2018) a detective story in a transformed future, solving a crime that shouldn’t exist any more.
‘Firewalkers’ a novella by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2020) about the underclass in a near-future dying Earth who risk their lives to keep the rich alive.
‘When We Were Vikings’ by Andrew David MacDonald (2020) the story of a cognitively challenged young American woman trying to live her life to the Viking code.
‘The Deathless Divide’ by Justina Ireland (2020) is the sequel to the incredibly good ‘Dread Nation’, following Jane and Katherine as they try to survive in an alternative America where the Civil War was interrupted by the rise of undead ‘Shamblers’.
The Bathwater Conspiracy by Janet Kellough (2018)
Janet Kellough is a Canadian writer best known for her Thaddeus Lewis mysteries, detective stories set in early nineteenth-century Canada. I’d meant to start there until I found that her latest book is a speculative fiction novel that sounds intriguing.
‘The Bathwater Conspiracy’, is a detective story set in a post-apocalyptic world where serial killers disappeared when the Y chromosome was eliminated and where admitting the existence of a serial killer, never mind hunting one down, is an act of political subversion that requires secrecy, especially when you’re a Detective normally assigned to ‘Tiresome Tasks’ – ‘a grab-bag of cases that were high-labour and low.resolution, like missing persons and vandalism ‘ and you’re just supposed to sign-off on whatever official explanation the Gendarmes National Security Corps gives you.
How could I resist a well-told mystery wrapped in a speculative fiction frame that explores gender politics, religion and the ethics of genetic manipulation?
‘Firewalkers’ by AdrianTchaikovsky (2020)
Adrian Tchaikovsky is a prolific, high-profile British SFF writer whose books are remarkably diverse. My experience of his books is mixed. I love his standalone ‘Dogs Of War’ novel about genetically enhanced animals being used as soldiers but I couldn’t get into his very popular ‘Children Of Time’ series.
I picked up ‘Firewalkers’ because it speaks to a topical theme: the very wealthy insulating themselves from the consequences of the environmental collapse that they have become wealthy by accelerating.
In a near-future dying Earth, where the surface is uninhabitable, the rich survive in enclaves powered by solar panels on the surface while they wait to depart for a planet that hasn’t been destroyed. The solar panels are, maintained by an underclass of ‘Firewalkers’ who risk their lives daily and for whom Earth is the only home they’ll ever have.
‘When We Were Vikings’ by Andrew David MacDonald (2020)
‘When We Were Vikings’ looks at the world from the point of view of twenty-one-year-old, Zelda, a woman who embraces the Viking ethic of doing things that will make you legendary. Her deepest wish is to become a Valkyrie. On a day-to-day basis, her challenge is to make a life for herself in a world where most people see her as ‘cognitively challenged’ while she sees herself a hero in the making.
Zelda was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which she knows makes a difference but she strongly believes that people create their own legends by their actions and she is determined to look after her tribe: her older brother and some close friends.
This is Andrew MacDonald’s debut novel. I’m hoping it will create a believable and upbeat story that shows how the world looks to the brave, whatever their challenges.
Take a look at the trailer on YouTube to see how the book is marketed.
‘Deathless Divide’ by Justina Ireland (2020)
I was so blown away by Justina Ireland’s ‘Dread Nation’ last week, that I moved straight on to the sequel ‘Deathless Divide’ before I’ve even had the time to write a review of the first book.
‘Deathless Divide’ carries straight on from the end of ‘Dread Nation’ but with some interesting changes in format. Where each chapter of ‘Dread Nation’ was told from Jane’s point of view and was preceded by part of a letter (either from Jane to her mother or the other way around), in ‘Deathless Divide’ the chapters alternate between Jane’s point of view and Katherine’s. with Jane’s chapters being preceded by a Shakespeare quote and Katherine’s by a Bible verse. This adds a new perspective, broadens the action and is a great way of building the relationship between the two women.