Here’s my third and final book review of CHARM CITY SPEC authors and hopefully a helpful guide for your favorite book lovers during the 2019 holiday season. Did I choose these books because of the beautiful colors on the covers? If so, it was unconscious. I CONSCIOUSLY chose these two books because they have fantastic ideas, lyrical prose, and are so immersive that you will have a book hangover when you’re finished.
BLACKFISH CITY by Sam J. Miller
Genre: Speculative fiction, YA, dystopia
Premise: (back cover) When a strange new visitor arrives in a floating city in the Arctic – humanity’s last hope after the ravages of climate change – the city is entranced. She’s riding an orca and has a polar bear at her beck and call. She’s called “the orcamancer,” and she very subtly unites four desperate people to stage unprecedented acts of resistance. By banding together, they will learn shocking truths about themselves – and save their city before it crumples under the weight of its own decay.
Who would love it: Well, according to Miller’s Twitter account (@sentencebender), anyone who is “a fan of polar bears…or killer whales…or bad-ass lesbian grandmothers.” Me. I’m a fan of all three. But, that doesn’t touch on Qaanaaq, the actual floating city he’s built, or the story of both refugees and elite within that city, or mysterious broadcasts or nanobonding. People who are fans of those things will also love this book.
Favorite character: Too difficult! I’ll go with a favorite moment instead.
The polar bear opened his eyes and looked at Kaev.
In the instant of that eye contact, Kaev felt like he had broken free of his body. A happiness surged through him, warm as the sun, blissful as a thousand orgasms. The peace he’d felt while sitting there had been ten times greater than the joy of fighting, but this new sensation was ten times greater than that peace had been.
“Hello, Kaev,” Dao said. He and his soldiers had their backs to the grid edge; they could not see the polar bear. “You’ve been sitting here for a long time. I’ve got to presume that means you wanted us to find you.”
But Kaev could not hear him.
We are one, he thought, eyes locked with the animal’s.
Miller’s debut THE ART OF STARVING won the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction. His newest book DESTROY ALL MONSTERS dropped on 7/2/19.
THE LESSON by Cadwell Turnbull
Genre: Science Fiction
Premise: An alien ship rests over Water Island. For five years the people of the US Virgin Islands have lived with the Ynaa, a race of superadvanced aliens on a research mission they will not fully disclose. They are benevolent in many ways but meet any act of aggression with disproportional wrath. This has led to a strained relationship between the Ynaa and the local Virgin Islanders and a peace that cannot last.
A year after the death of a young boy at the hands of an Ynaa, three families find themselves at the center of the inevitable conflict, witness and victim to events that will touch everyone and teach a terrible lesson.
Who would love it: Wilton Barnhardt says, “I came for the aliens and a war of the worlds. I stayed for the deadpan St. Thomas humor, the complicated, charming, sexy island folk, and Turnbull’s delicious prose.”
Favorite character: Most people know that I have a soft spot for the familial, for the moments that ground fantasy in a web of relationships. Here’s our intro to Derrick (who is much more respectful that MY teenaged son).
Fifteen days before
“Aren’t you going to close the door?” Patrice asked.
“Grams said I can’t close the door if I have a girl in my room.”
“We grew up together.”
“That’s the problem. You grown now. Can’t have you up in my room with the door shut.”
Patrice glared at him, communicating all she could.
“Her words,” Derrick said.
“Boy, don’t you close that door!” Grandma Reed yelled from the living room.
“I know, Grams.”
“Come here for a second!”
“Be right back,” Derrick said. He grabbed some home clothes as he left to change out of his school uniform.
Patrice sat on Derrick’s bed.
Final Thought: Now I have to look up Turnbull’s Asimov’s short story “When the Rains Come Back” (made the Barnes and Noble’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy’s short fiction roundup in 2018) and Nightmare story “Loneliness is in Your Blood” (selected for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018.