This week, I’m reading three short, recently published books, by authors I always enjoy. Two of them are Audible Originals. I have a growing respect for this label. The editors seem to be picking a wide variety of fresh, exciting and relatively short books that you can’t find anywhere else. I’m reading the second novella in Faith Hunter’s ‘Junkyard Cats’ series and another speculative fiction offering from Derek B. Miller. My last pick is a very rare thing, a Stephen King novel that comes in at under 250 pages. That’s practically a novella by Stephen King standards.
I’m hoping for a week where I’m so engaged with my books that I find myself staying up late to find out what will happen next.
‘Junkyard Bargain’ – Junkyard Cats #2 by Faith Hunter (2021)
I read ‘Junkyard Cats’ in January 2020 and was delighted with it. Here’s what I said:
This novella crackles with energy and is stuffed with ideas.
Faith Hunter has embraced Science Fiction in a way that makes it her own. There’s the same level of weapon’s lust that was a constant in the Jane Yellowrock series but THESE weapons are truly scary. Set a few decades in the future and with the intervention of scavenged alien tech to speed things along, Faith Hunter has imagined AI Hive-Mind directed Nano-technology-enabled weaponry that is both plausible and innovative. Then she’s rolled in biker culture with the Motorcycle Clubs becoming a line of defence against the invading machines sent by the Chinese. Finally, she’s come up with a kick-ass heroine, this time one trying to live a quiet life, who is no longer quite human (nothing supernatural – think tech mutation) and a pride of junkyard cats with enhanced sentience and the ability to share what they’re seeing with each other.
Now the second book is out and I want to dive right in. I suspect Junkyard Cats will become Faith Hunter’s ‘Murderbot Diaries’.
At the moment, ‘Junkyard Bargain’ is only available as an Audible Original. The ebook version is scheduled for release in six months.
I’m hoping that this episode will be as good as the first and that I don’t have to wait twelve months for the next one.
‘Quiet Time’ by Derek B Miller (2021)
Derek B. Miller is one of my favourite authors and this year he’s releasing three books. ‘Radio Life’ was the first. ‘Quiet Time’ is the second.
If you’re not familiar with him, I recommend this interview ‘Writer Derek B Miller: ‘I’m exploring how to fix a broken world’
Derek Miller is an American who has spent most of his working life in Europe, working for the UN on international relations and peacebuilding. He’s an adjunct senior fellow at the Pell Centre for International Relations and Public Policy, Salve Regina University (Rhode Island), and research associate at the Centre on Conflict, Development, and Peacebuilding at the Graduate Institute, Geneva. All of which gives him a lot of similarities with the main character in ‘Quiet Time’.
In the article Derek Miller describes ‘Quiet Time’ as:
“the most personal story I’ve written and draws heavily from my life. There are two main families and one of them is Jewish (not the protagonists, but the other family). It’s a very New England story, but speaks to social media, school violence, inter-cultural classes, middle age and relationships and sex, the challenges of growing up in this new tech/comm environment… lots of good stuff. It’s a fun and big story with a lot of comedy and dialogue”.
I’m hoping for something fast, brave, thoughtful and dotted with humour.
Click on the SoundCloud link below if you’d like to hear Derek Robert giving a reading of the first chapter of ‘Quiet Time’.
‘Later’ by Stephen King (2021)
Three things call to me about ‘Later’:
- It has a kid for the main character. King is often at his best when he’s writing about kids. They seem to release something in his writing. ‘The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’ is still one of my favourite King novels. In an interview recently, King said:
The thing that interested me the most about Jamie was this is a talent that he was born with, and he kind of accepts it as just part of his world view, the way that you would if you were born with a club foot or born blind. You would become used to that situation because you’d not known anything different. It’s not like, say, Johnny Smith from “The Dead Zone” who is an ordinary guy and then he has this accident and he wakes up and he’s got this ability to see the future.’
- ‘Later’ crosses the boundaries between horror and suspense, with a little crime thrown in. I like it when King does that. It makes things unpredictable. I also like that makes the supernatural just another element in the suspense rather than the whole deal.
- ‘Later’ is fairly short. That usually means the idea is focused and the storytelling is tight.
I’m looking forward to having a new favourite Stephen King character in Jamie Conklin.